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Showing posts from October, 2015

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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Todd Willingham remembered at 16th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty

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Todd Willingham was remembered by anti-death penalty supporters and activists at the 16th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 24, 2015, on the South Steps of the Texas Capitol.
Six exonerated death row survivors lead the 16th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty: Alfred Dewayne Brown, Ron Keine, Shujaa Graham, Sabrina Butler, Gary Drinkard, and Edward Mpagi. (More here)
In addition to these six living, breathing survivors of death row, some people at the march carried photos of Cameron Todd Willingham, an innocent person executed by the State of Texas in 2004.
Recommended reading:

Trial By Fire, The New Yorker, David Grann, September 7, 2009 - The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and th…

Indonesia faces another "emergency" requiring the death penalty: child sex abuse

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Jakarta. The Indonesian government’s watchdog for child protection has demanded that convicted pedophiles face stiff prison sentences, including the possibility of death, in addition to a government proposal for forced chemical castration.
“We would like to see pedophiles chemically castrated, of course, but this should be an additional punishment, because in our opinion they still have to be sent to prison for at least five years,” Erlinda, the secretary general of the Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (KPAI), said on Tuesday as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
The 2014 Child Protection Law stipulates mandatory sentencing of five to 15 years for sex crimes against minors. Erlinda, though, says the law should be revised to include the possibility of the death sentence.
The KPAI has joined a chorus of support from conservative groups and politicians for the government’s plan to introduce a regulation permitting the chemical castration of convicted pedophiles. Critics, though, point o…

USA: Why the death penalty might come to an end

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In a speech last week at the University of Minnesota, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said "it wouldn't surprise me" if the death penalty became a thing of the past in the United States.
He could even imagine it happening during his tenure, he said - which, considering he's 79, would presumably be soon.
But how close is the Court to actually ruling capital punishment unconstitutional?
MPR News' Kerri Miller spoke to David von Drehel, Time Magazine editor-at-large, and Carol S. Streiker, professor of law at Harvard Law School, about the realities of the issue. Drehel is the author of "Among the Lowest of the Dead," a history of the modern death penalty.
"I would say within 20 years, absolutely," Streiker said of the end of capital punishment.
Drehel and Streiker discussed many of the issues that would contribute to such a ruling.
Public support is waning
Public support for the death penalty has been dropping since the 1990s, when a record …

Federal judge wants Arizona to identify its execution drugs

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A federal judge on Wednesday said he won't resume a civil rights lawsuit against the state of Arizona until it reveals which execution drugs it has in its possession.
The order issued Wednesday requires the state to tell the court which drugs it has and which of the four drug combinations it plans on using when it resumes executions. The lawsuit was put on hold last year, and the state wants the lawsuit to continue. Attorneys have until Nov. 18 to respond.
The state will comply with the judge's order, Department of Corrections spokesman Andrew Wilder said. Dale Baich, a federal death penalty defense attorney, said the order "maps out a reasoned and serious approach for the next steps in this litigation."
Meanwhile, Arizona is battling the federal government over a seized $27,000 shipment of sodium thiopental, an execution drug banned in the U.S. Arizona and Texas have tried to import the drug, but the Food and Drug Administration says that is illegal.
Death penalty …

Singapore: Belgian charged with son's murder to be assessed by psychiatrists

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41-year-old Philippe Graffart, the Belgian citizen charged with murdering his son (5 years old) at their Singapore home, will stay in police custody for 4 more weeks so he can be assessed by psychiatrists, reports the local press.
Philippe Graffart was found wandering in the vicinity of the police station near his home in the early hours of the morning at the beginning of October. 
He had physically harmed himself. 
The police found the body of his son Keryan in his flat an hour later. 
The boy was showing signs of strangulation.
Graffart was charged with murder and remanded in custody on October 7th. 
He and his former wife had been fighting over custody of their son. 
Philippe Graffart will appear before the court on November 25th and faces the death penalty if he is found guilty.
Source: Brussels Times, October 29, 2015
Related article: Belgian expat's murder charge sparks discussion about the death penalty in Belgium, October 10, 2015 Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltyn…

Florida executes Jerry Correll

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Jerry Correll, 59, was executed tonight by lethal-injection at Florida State Prison in Raiford. He was pronounced dead at 7:36 p.m.
Jerry Correll was scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m., but it appears the state waited on a last appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court denied Correll's stay of execution around 6:40 p.m. without comment. He was executed after 7 p.m.
Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying Correll's execution should be delayed while the court decides whether Florida's capital punishment system is constitutional.
The system says the jury's vote on whether to impose a death sentence is only advisory with the judge making the final decision.
Breyer also said keeping a prisoner on death row for 30 years constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
The Orlando man was sentenced to die for stabbing to death his ex-wife, Susan, their 5-year-old daughter Tuesday, and Susan's mother and sister in 1985.
McKinley Lewis, communications dire…

Lawyer Julian McMahon named Vic Australian of the Year

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Leading up to the execution of Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, their lawyer Julian McMahon solely focused on their case.
Refusing to take on any new paying clients, the 2016 Victorian Australian of the Year worked tirelessly to try to save them from the death penalty.
For more than 12 years, he has worked without payments for Australians facing the death penalty abroad.
His clients include Van Tuong Nguyen in Singapore and George Forbes in Sudan, among others.
Leading up to the executions of Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Mr McMahon remained wholly focused on their case, not taking on any new clients.
Premier Daniel Andrews attended the Victorian Australian of the Year Awards on Wednesday night and applauded Mr McMahon and other recipients for their work in the community.
"They are truly inspirational and great role models for Australians young and old," Mr Andrews said on Wednesday night.
"Their dedication and commitmen…

Vietnamese man sentenced to death for brutal slayings of 4

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A court in the northern province of Yen Bai on Wednesday handed down the death penalty to a man for killing four people in a family, including a two-year-old boy, in a mountainous village in August.
Thousands of local residents flocked to the outdoor trial to witness the end of one of the most brutal murder cases this year.
Dang Van Hung, 26, was found guilty of murdering 32-year-old Tran Van Long, Long's 20-year-old wife Phan Thi Hoa, his two-year-old son and his sister-in-law on August 12.
Hung confessed that he killed Long and the others after an argument over disputed farm land and water stream with Long.
Hung and the victims are relatives.
According to the indictment, on the afternoon of August 12, Hung was working on a field.
After he picked up a fight with Long, he kicked Long in the face and knocked him down.
Seeing the attack, Hoa tried to call her father on the phone for help.
Long then tried to run away. Hung chased after him and slashed him on the back with a knife.

European Parliament Urges Protection for Edward Snowden

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BRUSSELS — The European Parliament narrowly adopted a nonbinding but nonetheless forceful resolution on Thursday urging the 28 nations of the European Union to recognize Edward J. Snowden as a “whistle-blower and international human rights defender” and to shield him from prosecution.
On Twitter, Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents about electronic surveillance by the American government, called the vote a “game-changer.” But the resolution has no legal force and limited practical effect for Mr. Snowden, who is living in Russia on a three-year residency permit.
Whether to grant Mr. Snowden asylum remains a decision for the individual European governments, and thus far, none have done so.
Still, the resolution was the strongest statement of support seen for Mr. Snowden from the European Parliament. At the same time, the close vote — 285 to 281 — suggested the extent to which some European lawmakers are wary of alienating the Uni…

On Senate Floor, Bernie Sanders Calls for Ending the Death Penalty

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A day after Hillary Rodham Clinton said she opposed abolishing the death penalty, Senator Bernie Sanders took to the Senate floor on Thursday and declared that “the time is now for the United States to end capital punishment.”
In seizing an opportunity to appeal to liberals who might be disappointed with Mrs. Clinton’s views, Mr. Sanders asserted that ending the death penalty was “the right point of view,” arguing that the government “should itself not be involved in the murder of other Americans.”
“I would rather have our country stand side-by-side with European democracies rather than with countries like China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others who maintain the death penalty,” Mr. Sanders said.
He added that “at a time of rampant violence and murder all over the world,” the United States government should “say loud and clearly that we will not be part of that process.”
“I think that those of us who want to set an example — who want to say that we have got to end the murders and the vio…

Syria: ISIS murders gay couple by throwing them off rooftop

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ARA News reports that Islamic State militants in Syria executed two Syrian men on Tuesday by throwing them off the rooftop of a hospital, charging them with “committing buggery.”
“One of them was identified as Shadi from the city of al-Asharah, and the other one was named Ibrahim from the village of Maizilah,” an anonymous source told ARA news. “The two young men were allegedly a gay couple. 
The brutal execution took place in front of a crowd of people in central Deir ez-Zor, watching the victims being thrown off the building.”
“Daesh accuses people of being gay only on the basis of some superficial information without any investigation,” civil rights activist Raed Ahmed told ARA News. “The Islamic law bans homosexuality, but the brutal punishment by Daesh has never been witnessed throughout history.”
The extremist group has executed dozens upon dozens of “gay” men in the areas of Syria and Iraq that it controls.
Source: LGBTQ Nation, October 29, 2015

Find related content hereReport …

Court Again Denies DNA Tests in Swearingen Case

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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for the second time Wednesday reversed a state district judge’s order that would have allowed East Texas death row inmate Larry Swearingen to test DNA from evidence in his murder case.
Swearingen, 44, was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, then a Lone Star College student in 1998. 
He was sentenced to death in 2000. His execution date has been set and stayed multiple times.
The death row inmate has argued that he couldn’t have killed Trotter because he was in jail when she was murdered, and DNA testing would prove that someone else committed the crime. 
State District Judge Kelly Case twice granted Swearingen’s requests for evidence to be tested. 
Montgomery County prosecutors appealed each time, and now, the state’s highest criminal court has sided with the state again.
Each time, the court ultimately has ruled that results from DNA testing would not have overcome the “mountain of evidence” establishing Sweari…

Bangladesh: 2 opposition leaders face imminent execution after serious flaws in their trials and appeals

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2 opposition politicians face imminent hanging for crimes committed during the 1971 Independence War after serious flaws occurred in their trial and appeal processes, Amnesty International said today.
In 2013 Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury were sentenced to death by the country's International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) on charges of war crimes and genocide at trials that failed to meet international standards for fair trial.
Both men had their convictions and sentences upheld on appeal in June and July this year respectively, and in the government's haste to see more war crimes convicts executed, both have now had their appeals process sped up. The UN has stated the ICT fails to meet international fair trial standards.
The 2 men will have their review petitions, which are effectively their last appeals, heard on 2 November. If their convictions are upheld there is no legal way to overturn their death sentences.
"Their trial and appeals process wer…

Pakistan: Murder convict executed

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A murder convict was executed at Dera Ghazi Khan Central Jail on Tuesday. 
Police said Abdul Majeed, son of Ghulam Hussain, resident of Chah Gulwala in Taunsa tehsil, had murdered his brother Ali Ahmad and his nephew Abdul Aziz on November 22, 2002. 
Police said they had had a dispute over who would use the family's tractor. 
Ratera police had registered a case against him. 
Additional District and Sessions Judge Ishtiaq Ahmad had sentenced him to death on April 29, 2003. 
Majeed had appealed his case in the superior courts but they upheld his sentence. 
The president had rejected his mercy plea. 
He was hanged on Tuesday and his body was handed over to his family.
Source: The Express Tribune, October 28, 2015
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Singapore: President rejects clemency plea of Malaysian in unique case

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President Tony Tan has rejected the clemency appeal of Malaysian Kho Jabing to be spared the death sentence.
The 31-year old from Sarawak, along with an accomplice, Galing Kujat, were arrested in 2008 for the murder of 40-year old Cao Ruyin.
Mr Cao, a Chinese national, was bludgeoned to death by the 2 in Geylang during a robbery where he was robbed of his mobile phone and was beaten with a tree branch and died from his injuries 6 days later.

In 2010, both Kho and Kujat, who is also a Malaysian, were found guilty of the charges and were sentenced to death.
The 2 men appealed their sentences in 2013.
The Court of Appeal (CA) upheld Kho's conviction and sentence; but it allowed Kujat's appeal, and substituted his conviction for murder with an offence of robbery with hurt. The CA then sent his case back to the High Court for re-sentencing.
Kujat was then given 18 years and 6 months imprisonment, and 19 strokes of the cane.
In 2013, the government introduced changes to the mandato…

The Death Penalty: Myths & Realities

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Myths and Realities provides ‘quick answers to common questions’ about the death penalty.
The ‘myths’ covered, for example, include: ‘The death penalty keeps societies safer’, ‘the death penalty is applied fairly’, ‘there is nothing in international law to stop countries using the death penalty’, and ‘victims and relatives are in favour’.
The booklet is interactive in format – allowing readers to read the myth and turn over a flap to discover the reality.

We hope it will be a useful guide for activists and advocates of abolition, giving them the arguments they need to tackle common pre- and misconceptions.

This publication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union.

Penal Reform International (PRI) is an independent non‑governmental organisation that develops and promotes fair, effective and proportionate responses to criminal justice problems worldwide.
MYTH O1 - “The death penalty keeps societies safer.”BASIS OF BELIEF: “When there are harsh sentences for…

Exonerated death row inmate can sue Ohio: state supreme court

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An Ohio man who spent six years on death row for a double murder he did not commit can pursue a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the state, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
Dale Johnston, 82, was found guilty in 1984 of murdering his stepdaughter and her fiance and sent to death row where he remained until his conviction was overturned in 1990.
He was released from prison after a court granted a motion to suppress his initial police interrogation and a series of rulings found that prosecutors failed to disclose key evidence and that testimony from a hypnotized witness was inadmissible.
Johnston sued Ohio for wrongful imprisonment in 1993, but a court ruled he had not proven he did not commit the murders.
After police reopened the case in 2008, Chester McKnight pleaded guilty to the murders and three years later Johnston won in a second wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the state.
An appeals court overturned Johnston's victory, finding that a state law amendment…

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi wins EU's Sakharov rights prize

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BRUSSELS, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for insulting Islam and for cyber crime, was awarded the European Union's prize for human rights and freedom of thought on Thursday.
Badawi received the first of his 50 lashes in January, prompting strong criticism in Western countries of the kingdom's human rights record, including its restrictive laws on political and religious expression and the status of Saudi women.
This month in London, he was given the International Writer of Courage award and was co-recipient of the PEN Pinter Prize.
Saudi Arabia's ambassador in London on Monday threatened "potentially serious repercussions" for its ties with Britain unless a more respectful discourse developed.
British lawmaker Syed Kamall, a member of the European assembly who nominated Badawi for the EU prize, said, "Saudi Arabia can lock up the man and they can lash him, but they will only strength…