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Showing posts from November, 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…

When a Kid Kills His Longtime Abuser, Who's the Victim?

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The perplexing double standards of death penalty politics.
You could hardly open a Pennsylvania newspaper in 2012 without running into a story about the prosecution of sexual predators or their enablers. The case of Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State football coach convicted of abusing 10 boys, was all over the headlines. Two Philadelphia grand juries, in 2003 and 2011, had documented a massive cover-up of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church that would end up with two priests and a monsignor going to prison—the latter was the first senior church official in the United States convicted of endangering children by covering up abuses by priests under his supervision.
In July 2012, after yet another priest was arrested, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams lauded the alleged victim for speaking out after years of silence: "As we have learned," Williams said, "it is extremely difficult for sexual abuse victims to admit that the assault happened, and then to actually repor…

USA: LGBT defendants face bias in death penalty cases, but you wouldn't know it from the data available

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The capital punishment trial of Calvin Burdine in Texas is famous.Burdine's lawyer fell asleep multiple times during the October 2000 murder trial, prompting a retrial.
But the fact that the lawyer made derogatory comments about his client, a gay man, did not garner as much attention. And the prosecutor's statement that "sending a homosexual to the penitentiary certainly isn't a very bad punishment for a homosexual" was not the cause for the retrial. While there is an abundance of data on racial, gender and geographic bias influencing death penalty convictions, data are not collected on bias against LGBT defendants - but case studies across the nation show that discrimination exists.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the death penalty information center, said the kind of argument used against Calvin Burdine is not uncommon in death penalty cases involving LGBT defendants.
"To convince the jury or judge that they should take the life of a defendant, they …

Accused gunman in Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack could face death penalty, legal experts say

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Flowers have been laid, candles lit and prayers offered.
But on Monday, attention is likely to shift back to Robert Lewis Dear Jr. in what could be Colorado's next death penalty case.
As questions mounted Sunday ahead of the first court appearance for the man accused of opening fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, some legal experts say one thing is clear: Prosecutors may seek the death penalty.
"When I saw events unfold, that was my thought: I thought this possibly could be a capital crime," said Colorado Springs attorney Jennifer Stock, a veteran defender of 1st-degree murder cases. She, like many others across the country, followed the mayhem in media reports.
The early legal questions came as the toll of the state's latest mass shooting became clear, signs of strain emerged among local law enforcement agencies, local agencies consoled grief-stricken witnesses and the investigation stretched into a 3rd day at the shooting site.
An Iraq War veteran and a…

Pakistan Army Chief signs death warrants of four terrorists involved in APS attack

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The 4 terrorists were sentenced to death by military courts.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif approved on Monday the execution of six terrorists sentenced to death by military courts.
"Chief of Army staff today signed black warrants of four hardcore terrorists involved in APS Peshawar massacre," the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) reported.
The four terrorists including Maulvi Abdus Salam S/O Shamsi, Hazrat Ali S/O Awal Baz Khan, Mujeeb ur Rehman alias Ali alias Najeeb Ullah S/O Gulab Jan and Sabeel alias Yaya S/O Atta Ullah were sentenced to death by military courts in August this year after they were convicted of involvement in the Taliban massacre of 134 children at an army-run school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014.
The decision of their execution comes a week after President Mamnoon Hussain rejected mercy pleas of convicted terrorists on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's advice.
Army says the men belonging to a banned organization played a major …

Bangladesh: 20 sentenced to death; HC urged to uphold 152 death sentences

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High Court urged to uphold death penalty of 152 BDR mutiny convicts
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam today prayed to the High Court to uphold the lower court verdict that sentenced 152 convicts for killing 74 people including 57 army officials in the 2009 Pilkhana mutiny.
74 people, including 57 army officials, were slain in the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) mutiny on February 25-26, 2009 at the force's Pilkhana headquarters in Dhaka.
In November 2013, a Dhaka court sentenced 150 soldiers of BDR, now Border Guard Bangladesh, and 2 civilians to death, and jailed 161 for life for their involvement.
It also gave rigorous imprisonment, ranging from three to 10 years, to 256, mostly BDR soldiers. The remaining 277 were acquitted.
A total of 844 people, 823 of them BDR personnel, stood trial in Bangladesh's biggest criminal case in terms of the number of accused and convicts.
Source: The Daily Star, November 30, 2015 (wr)

Cop among 3 to walk gallows for killing 9-yr-old boy
A Sylhet court to…

Community of Sant’Egidio USA appeals to stop all state sanctioned executions during the Holy Year of Mercy

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Appeal letter by the Community of Sant’Egidio USA to stop all state sanctioned executions during the upcoming Year of Mercy
This year, Pope Francis announced the worldwide Holy Year of Mercy, due to commence on December 8th, 2015.
Following on from Pope Francis widely expanding actions for hope and healing, peace and justice during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, together with the Community of Sant’Egidio and many people of goodwill around the country and world, we appeal you to apply executive clemency in capital cases in the United States during the Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis calls on all citizens of the world to be merciful and strive to create a better society. The Holy Year of Mercy is a chance to start that journey, to bring a new hope and to emphasize the merciful side of humanity. 
In the spirit of Mercy, I want to sign this petition and join the Pope, the Catholic Church and the people of the Community of Sant’Egidio to appeal to States’ Governors to put a hold on executions duri…

The Execution of Joseph Wood

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An execution of a man in Arizona with a new cocktail of drugs was supposed to take about 10 minutes. It took almost two hours, the longest execution in U.S. history
The following is a script from "The Execution of Joseph Wood" which aired on Nov. 29, 2015. Bill Whitaker is the correspondent. Ira Rosen and Habiba Nosheen, producers.
In July of last year, Joseph Wood was strapped to a gurney in Arizona's death chamber. His execution, by lethal injection with a new cocktail of drugs was supposed to take about 10 minutes. It took almost two hours -- the longest execution in U.S. history.
When lethal injections were introduced in 1977, they were supposed to be a more humane form of capital punishment. Instead the process has become a messy testing ground for unproven, toxic drugs.
At the heart of the problem: pharmaceutical companies have banned the use of their drugs for capital punishment -- partly under pressure from death-penalty opponents. Without access to the lethal ag…

Inmates Accuse Arizona of Experimenting with Lethal-Injection Drugs

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A group of 5 condemned prisoners this week asked the U.S. District Court in Phoenix not to lift a moratorium on executions instituted after a botched 2014 lethal injection, arguing that the Arizona Department of Corrections has not properly addressed concerns about the drugs used for the procedure.
A federal judge in November 2014 ordered the DOC to halt executions until the agency shared a protocol for lethal injection that included, among other things, a list of drugs to be used. The DOC released the information in October, but the inmates, represented by lawyers from the Federal Public Defenders Office, contend that it is "impossible to know" how the department will proceed because the protocols are too vague.
The DOC reserved the right to "change any aspect of the procedure, at any time, for any reason, with no notice," lawyers wrote. Given the department's "demonstrated pattern of extraordinary departures from their written procedures, there is a …

Confusion over Nebraska's execution drugs

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OMAHA, Neb. —New questions are arising about Nebraska's effort to obtain the drugs needed to execute prisoners on death row.
Federal sources stated that the Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration said they have no idea what Nebraska officials are referring to when discussing that they're 'working with' Federal Agencies.
Gov. Pete Ricketts said during an October news conference that the state is working with the DEA, trying to get execution drugs from India.
Agents in St. Louis said that no one had spoken to Nebraska about this and officials at the DEA headquarters stated that nothing has changed, like they said weeks ago, the DEA will not approve the importation of this drug.
The governor's corrections director also told state senator's that he is working with the Food and Drug Administration, but a senior-level official in the agency's headquarters said the only word that matters is the court order blocking sodium thiopental impo…

'Kill us alongside our children' defiant activists' mothers tell Saudi king

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The mothers of 5 young Saudi prisoners sentenced to death by beheading made a passionate plea to the king to spare their sons' lives. The appeal followed reports that the Gulf kingdom is poised to execute more than 50 people convicted of terrorism.
In a public letter the women said the verdicts against the young dissidents, including Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, were based on confessions extracted under torture and the related trials fell short of international standards.
"The sentences handed down to our children are unique in the history of Saudi justice," the letter read. "As mothers of young men both deprived of their right to liberty and facing an unknown fate that may deprive them of their right to life, we demand that the Saudi government drop their sentences and order their retrial."
It concluded: "We stress that we will only stay silent over this crime if they kill us alongside our children." It was signed by Naima Ali al-Matrook, Fatima Hassan al-…

Sri Lanka urges Saudi not to stone to death maid for adultery

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Sri Lanka said on Friday it was calling on Saudi Arabia to pardon a domestic worker sentenced to death by stoning after she admitted committing adultery while working in the Arab nation.
An official from Sri Lanka's Foreign Employment Bureau said the married 45-year-old woman who was working as a maid in Riyadh since 2013 was convicted of adultery by a Saudi court in August.
Her partner, also a Sri Lankan migrant worker, was given a lesser punishment of 100 lashes on account of being single.
"She has accepted the crime 4 times in the courts. But the Foreign Employment Bureau has hired lawyers and have appealed against the case," Upul Deshapriya, spokesman for the Foreign Employment Bureau, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"The appeal is going on. Also from the foreign ministry side, they are in negotiation with the Saudi government on a diplomatic level."
Officials from the Saudi Embassy in Colombo did not respond to requests from the Thomson Reuters Found…

In Saudi prison, artist facing death says he’s no atheist

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Riyadh: A Palestinian artist sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for apostasy was quoted by a local news website Thursday as saying that he is not an atheist and that his case centres around a personal dispute he had with someone.
Ashraf Fayadh gave the interview to Makkah Online from inside a prison in Abha, the southwestern city where he has been held since January 2014. He said a Saudi college student he knew filed a complaint to religious police accusing him of being an atheist and trying to spread atheism through a book of poetry he wrote.
Religious police detained Fayadh for a few hours after the complaint was filed and then released him, he said.
Fayadh said his poetry book was then sent to a council of clerics for their assessment of its content. The council deemed parts of the book atheistic. He said the Arabic book, called “Instructions Within”, was published in Lebanon in 2008 and has not been published in Saudi Arabia.
“I am not an atheist and it is impossible that I could…

7 Executions in North & South Iran - Including Kurdish and Pakistani Prisoners

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Iran Human Rights (NOV 26 2015): According to the Baluchestan Activists Campaign, five people were hanged at Minab Prison (in Hormozgan province) on the morning of Tuesday November 24. 
The prisoners were reportedly executed for alleged drug related offenses; one of the prisoners was Kurdish and another was a Pakistani citizen. 
The names of the three other prisoners have been reported as: Mousi Kadkhodaie, Shokrollah Baluchi, and Ali Faramarzi. The names of the two other prisoners are not known at this time.
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network reports on two executions at Tabriz Central Prison (in East Azerbaijan province) which were carried out on Wednesday November 25. 
The prisoners, Reza Purna and Nouralodin Purna, were hanged for drug related offenses.
According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, 600 people are estimated to be on death row in Tabriz Central Prison. 
In response to the high number of prisoners awaiting execution, Iran's Judiciary has in recent weeks begu…

Indonesia: BNN Chief Settles on East Java Island for Drug Prison

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Jakarta. Indonesia’s controversial anti-narcotics czar says he has found the ideally located island on which to build a prison for drug offenders – but that the lack of native wildlife is somewhat of a downer.
Budi Waseso, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief, has raised eyebrows with his plans for an isolated drug prison guarded by crocodiles, tigers and piranhas, and on Thursday said he had found a great location – the island of Kangean off the coast of East Java’s Sumenep district.
The remains of a former prison still stand on the island, and Waseso said they could be renovated to house drug offenders. The lack of native wildlife, though, is a downer, he said.
“But we can always build a river which will be infested by crocodiles and piranhas,” Waseso said during a visit to East Java on Thursday as quoted by Tempo.
He added the island’s remote location placed it beyond the reach of cellular coverage, which meant inmates would not be able to continue running their drug rings fr…

Australian Federal Police changes policies to avoid another Bali 9 situation

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Were the Bali Nine case to occur now, Australian Federal Police could still provide information to Indonesian authorities without first seeking ministerial approval.
That's because guidelines, adopted in 2009, require the minister to approve cooperation with foreign police forces in possible death penalty cases once arrests have been made.
In the Bali Nine case, no-one had been arrested when the AFP tipped off Indonesian police about a group of Australian drug traffickers.
They soon were, with ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran executed in April this year.
But the AFP now says it does things differently.
AFP assistant commissioner Scott Lee said the organisation focused on senior leaders of organised crime groups.
'In recent days and weeks we have had individuals that we are aware of who are travelling offshore as drug couriers,' he told a parliamentary inquiry in Canberra on Friday.
'We have taken active decisions not to communicate that information.'
A…

Vietnam Passes Law Abolishing Death Penalty for 7 Crimes

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Death sentences imposed on corrupt Vietnamese officials will now be commuted to life in prison if they pay back at least 75 percent of the illegal money they made.
The online newspaper VnExpress said the new regulation was part of the revised Penal Code that an overwhelmingly majority passed in the National Assembly on Friday.
Under the revision, which takes effect July 1, 2016, the country also will abolish the death penalty for seven crimes: surrendering to the enemy, opposing order, destruction of projects of national security importance, robbery, drug possession, drug appropriation, and the production and trade of fake food.
The revised law will also spare the lives of those who are 75 years old or older.
The ruling Communist Party has made fighting corruption one of its top priorities.
However, some lawmakers had voiced opposition to the changes when they were debated in the assembly in June, arguing that they would weaken the fight against corruption.
"This would create a …

Young Prisoner Hanged in Public in Northern Iran

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A young prisoner charged with rape was hanged to death in public in Meyami, Semnan. 
Iranian state-run media Javan News has identified the prisoner by the initials A.M. and stated his age as "about 30 years old." 
Iranian officials have not released any more information about the case, making it unclear whether the prisoner was over the age of 18 at the time of his arrest.
Commenting on the execution, Abbas Ali Akbari, the head of Meyami's Judiciary, says: "The offender was arrested for committing several counts of rape and was sentenced to lashings and death."
Source: Iran Human Rights, November 26, 2015

Call to save death row prisoner aged 15 at time of alleged crime
The Iranian Resistance calls for measures to save the life of Mr. Salar Shadi Zadi, a young prisoner on death row who was merely 15 at the time of his alleged crime, and asks all international human rights dignitaries and organizations to protest this barbarity and medieval viciousness, and to ta…