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Showing posts from December, 2015

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Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

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Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

A rare peek at San Quentin's death row, and conversations with inmates awaiting their fates as political battles swirl

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With the debate over capital punishment in California poised to intensify again in 2016, state corrections officials provided a rare glimpse Tuesday of death row, where hundreds of condemned men await the outcome of legal and political fights that have blocked any executions for nearly a decade.
Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard previously denied access to death row, telling The Times it would be too dangerous. But this month he ruled that "there is a legitimate interest" and allowing media access "makes good sense." On Tuesday, nearly two dozen media members were allowed on portions of death row for about six hours.
They were ushered through the four housing units that hold condemned inmates. Journalists were shown San Quentin State Prison's crowded and noisy East Block — largely unchanged since its construction in 1930 — and the newly opened death row psychiatric ward, the first of its kind in the nation.
In both places, large numbers of men lay curled on …

Three Prisoners Hanged in Western Iran

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Iran Human Rights (DEC 29 2015): On Saturday December 26, three prisoners on death row for alleged drug offenses were reportedly hanged at Parsilon Prison in Khorramabad (in the province of Lorestan, western Iran).
According to the human rights group, HRANA, the names of the prisoners are: Behrouz Amiry, Rahman Kazemzadeh, and Ali Hasanvand.
Hours before they were hanged to death, a video was released showing the three prisoners pleading for their lives.
Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary, have been silent on these three executions.
Source: Iran Human Rights, December 29, 2015

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Filipino Murder Convict Executed in Saudi Arabia

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A Filipino murder convict was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after failing to meet the demand of the Sudanese victim's family for payment of $1 million to save him from the death penalty, officials said.
Joselito Lidasan Zapanta's execution was carried out after his family and the Philippine government managed to raise only 23 million pesos ($488,000), said Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose.
The victim's family refused to sign an affidavit of forgiveness that would have spared Zapanta the death penalty unless it was paid 48 million pesos ($1 million), setting a two-week deadline earlier this month for payment, Jose said.
Zapanta, a 35-year-old tile-setter, was convicted of murder and robbery by a Riyadh court in 2010.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the government "has undertaken and exhausted all diplomatic and legal efforts, and extended consular and legal assistance to preserve the life of Mr. …

China: Man who spent 11 years on death row compensated 1.27 million yuan

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A Chinese man condemned to death three times for murder and who spent 11 years on death row before being cleared was awarded 1.27 million yuan ($200,000) compensation, reports said Tuesday.
Zeng Aiyun, once a graduate student at Xiangtan University in the central province of Hunan, was convicted in 2004 of murdering a fellow student and sentenced to die.
The verdict was set aside three times on appeal and new trials ordered, but on the first two retrials in 2005 and 2010 Zeng was again condemned to death.
Finally the Xiangtan Intermediate People's Court exonerated him for lack of evidence at his fourth trial in July.
It awarded him 1.27 million yuan in compensation on Monday, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The court found another student to be the sole killer, it added. 
Chen Huazhang -- previously sentenced to life as Zeng's accomplice -- poisoned the victim out of jealousy, Xinhua said, and laid a false trail to implicate Zeng.
Zeng said he was not satisfied with the comp…

Thailand beach murders: A flawed and muddled investigation

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From the moment their bodies were discovered on a Thai beach on 15 September last year, the investigation into the deaths of British backpackers Hannah Witheridge and David Miller has been a muddled affair.
Information from the police has been hazy, contradictory and sparse.
Miss Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk, and 24-year-old Mr Miller, from Jersey, were found bludgeoned to death on the southern island of Koh Tao.
The first officers on the scene were local police with rudimentary training and apparently no idea how to seal off a crime scene, with tourists wandering through it for days afterwards.
Thailand's best-known forensic scientist, Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, whose institute was not allowed any involvement in the investigation, testified at the trial that the crime scene had been poorly managed and evidence improperly collected.
Instead of limiting their comments to what they knew about the crime, the Thai police threw out a barrage of speculation about who the culprit might b…

Japan hanged prisoners days after lawyers’ call for death penalty review

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The executions of two death row inmates on Friday was a blow to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which only last week reiterated a call for a moratorium on hangings and for a national debate on the matter.
In a position paper released on Dec. 9, the lawyers’ body urged the Justice Ministry to set up a panel to review Japan’s adherence to an “inhumane” punishment.
On Friday, the JFBA condemned the executions that day of convicted murderers Sumitoshi Tsuda, 63, and Kazuyuki Wakabayashi, 39.
“We strongly protest the latest round of executions,” it said in a statement. “We demand that the government disclose more information regarding the death penalty and start a public discussion on the abolition of capital punishment.”
In its report last week, the JFBA said 140 nations had abolished capital punishment as of the end of 2014, many of them against public opinion. It said Japan’s political leaders should grasp the initiative and not hide behind opinion-survey figures purporting t…

USA: Death Penalty Use in 2015 Declines Sharply

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By all measures, use of and support for the death penalty continued its steady decline in the United States in 2015. The number of new death sentences imposed in the U.S. fell sharply from already historic lows, executions dropped to their lowest levels in 24 years, and public opinion polls revealed that a majority of Americans preferred life without parole to the death penalty. Opposition to capital punishment polled higher than any time since 1972.
The numbers also pointed to the increasing geographic isolation of the death penalty and its disproportionate overuse by a handful of jurisdictions. Fewer states and counties imposed death sentences, and 93% of executions were concentrated in just 4 states. 16% of all the new death sentences imposed in the country came from a single California county and — while nearly every state requires juries to unanimously agree to a death sentence — more than a quarter of the nation’s new death sentences were imposed by judges in two states after j…

Thailand backpacker murders: Myanmar asks for death sentence review

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Army chief calls on Thailand to review evidence against two Burmese migrant workers whose sentencing for murder of British backpackers has sparked anger in Myanmar
Myanmar’s army chief has called on Thailand to review the death sentence against two Burmese men for murdering a pair of British backpackers.
General Min Aung Hlaing asked Thailand for a “review of the evidence” against the two men, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo (also known as Win Zaw Htun) were found guilty on Thursday of killing David Miller, 24, and the rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, whose battered bodies were found on a beach in the southern Thai diving resort of Koh Tao in September 2014.
The defence accused the police of bungling their investigation and using the men as scapegoats – a charge authorities deny.
The verdicts have sparked anger in Myanmar with daily protests held outside the Thai embassy in Yangon and at border crossings with the country’s eastern nei…

Five suspects face death for armed raid in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

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Manama: Saudi Arabia’s prosecution has requested the death penalty for five suspects, four Saudis and one Yemeni, who raided a commercial complex in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
Investigations revealed that the five suspects plotted an armed attack on the commercial facility after they learned that there were 1.5 million Saudi riyals kept inside the safe.
Two members of the gang, one of them wearing a military uniform, led the attack carrying guns, while the others monitored the place, searched the shoppers and the employees in the shop and took their mobiles and money, Saudi daily Okaz reported.
Witnesses said the attack was carried out at noon when the shops were about to close for prayers and that the gang held 10 shopkeepers hostage.
The gang members told them the action was part of an anti-money laundering operation for the general intelligence service and ordered them not to resist them and to obey their commands.
The gang eventually escaped with 400,000 Saudi riyals which they …

OFW saved from Saudi death row

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Millionaires pay blood money in exchange for Pinoy driver’s freedom
SAUDI authorities have reportedly released a Filipino driver who was incarcerated for his alleged involvement in a car accident that killed an Indian man after his bosses paid the P2.8 million “diyya” or blood money in exchange for his freedom, a newspaper in Saudi Arabia reported Saturday.
Under the Shariah law which prevails in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, the “diyya” is the financial compensation paid to the victim or heirs of a victim in the cases of murder, bodily harm or property damage.
Paying the “diyya” which in Arabic means “blood money,” is an alternative punishment to “Qisas” or equal retaliation. The amount of compensation is determined by the Shariah court and reportedly depends on the victim’s religion and percentage of responsibility.
According to the Arab News, the two Saudi millionaires who “donated” the 225,000 riyal blood money owned the company where the unidentified Filipino was working.

Connecticut death row inmates remain in legal limbo despite ruling

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WETHERSFIELD -- Conditions on Connecticut’s death row remain unchanged more than four months after the Connecticut Supreme Court found the state’s death penalty unconstitutional.
But Correction Commissioner Scott Semple said he is working to change a policy that requires those inmates to be in restraints any time they leave their cells.
Defense attorneys predicted after the August ruling that the 11 inmates currently housed on death row at Northern Correctional Institution would be reclassified and join the general prison population.
But prosecutors are hoping to overturn the Supreme Court ruling when they argue another death-penalty appeal in January.
Semple says until the legal issues are resolved, the inmates will remain where they are.
Source: The Associated Press, December 26, 2015
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California: Death penalty supporters seek to speed up executions

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Death penalty supporters got the state’s go-ahead Thursday to collect signatures for a November 2016 ballot measure aimed at speeding up executions, raising the prospect that voters will be asked to choose between toughening California’s death penalty law and repealing it.
The new initiative would require the state Supreme Court to rule on capital cases within five years. It would also limit death penalty appeals, set strict deadlines for filing appeals and seek to expand the pool of death penalty lawyers. Any attorney who now accepts court appointments to represent impoverished defendants in criminal cases would also have to take on capital cases, regardless of experience.
Another provision would eliminate the currently required public comment period before the state can approve a new single-drug execution method, which officials have proposed to replace the current three-drug executions.
Supporters of the measure say it would reduce by at least half the period, typically 25 years o…

Three hanged in Khorramabad, western Iran

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NCRI - Iran's fundamentalist regime on Saturday hanged three men in a prison in Khorramabad, western Iran.
The three men were identified as Behrouz Amiri, Rahman Kazemzadeh and Ali Hassanvand.
They were hanged at dawn in Parsiloun Prison. All three had been accused of drugs-related charges. They had been transferred to solitary confinement on Friday.
The mullahs’ regime on Thursday hanged a group of eight prisoners collectively in the central prison in Qazvin, northern Iran.
Another eight prisoners were hanged en masse on Tuesday, December 22, in Qazvin Prison.
On Wednesday, December 23, the mullahs’ regime hanged five people in a prison in Kerman, eastern Iran. Also on Wednesday two people were hanged in the notorious Qezel-Hesar Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran.
Following the December 17 adoption of the 62nd United Nations General Assembly resolution censuring human rights abuses in Iran, the Iranian Resistance's President-elect Maryam Rajavi called on the UN Security …

8 Hanged On Christmas Eve in Northern Iran; 26 Hanged between Dec. 22 and 24

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Iran Human Rights, December 25, 2015: Two prisoners were hanged in the Ghezelhesar prison of Karaj (west of Tehran) on December 23, according to Iran Human Rights (IHR) sources in Iran.
The prisoners were identified as "Mehdi Khorram" and "Ebrahim Khorram" and were in their 30's. Both the prisoners were convicted of drug offences and were held in Unit 2 of Ghezelhesar prison.
IHR has received pictures of the prisoners. Iranian authorities have not announced the executions yet.
Several thousand prisoners sentenced to death for drug offences are held in the Ghezelhesar prison.
Iran Human Rights, December 25, 2015: Eight prisoners were hanged in the prison of Qazvin, northwest of Tehran, reported the official website of the Iranian Judiciary in Qazvin.
The prisoners were all convicted of drug offences and hanged on 24. December. Seven of the prisoners were identified as "Sajjad H.", "Ali B.", "Maher B.", "Habib M.", &quo…

Is this really the end for America’s death penalty?

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Long ago in 1992, the aides of Bill Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, knew all about the inability of the governor of Arkansas to keep it in his trousers. The public was let in on the secret when Clinton’s former mistress, a nightclub singer of the type boys’ mothers once warned were nothing but trouble, announced their relationship.
Clinton lied. The mistress produced tapes of their intimate conversations. The Clinton camp’s fallback position that “everyone lies about sex” did not play well. Everyone may lie, but few want to be lied to, particularly when the liar is a presidential candidate asking for their trust.
Fortunately for Clinton, Arkansas had a convict called Ricky Ray Rector on death row. He had murdered a police officer and turned his gun on himself. Somehow he survived and Clinton flew back home to ensure his execution went ahead without hindrance, even though Rector was so brain damaged he could not have understood the charges against him.
I don’t think Chri…

Saudis commute maid’s stoning death sentence: Sri Lanka

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Colombo: A Saudi Arabian court has commuted the death-by-stoning sentence passed on a Sri Lankan maid convicted of adultery, the government in Colombo said on Wednesday.
“We have succeeded in getting the death sentence overturned. Our concern was to make sure that the original sentence was not carried out,” Harsha de Silva, the deputy foreign minister, told reporters in Sri Lanka’s capital.
“The government of Sri Lanka wishes to acknowledge and appreciate the good offices of the Saudi authorities,” De Silva said.
“The sympathy, understanding and the concern expressed, and assistance extended, by many other parties is also noted and deeply appreciated.”
De Silva said the woman would now serve a “short jail sentence” but details on the exact time that she would have to remain behind bars were not yet clear.
The 45-year-old married mother of two, who has not been named, was convicted of adultery in August after her arrest in April last year.
She was sentenced to death by stoning, while …

More drug convicts to be executed next year: Indonesian Attorney General M Prasetyo

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Attorney General M Prasetyo has stressed that a third round of drug convict executions will be carried out next year.
He has yet to add further details with regard to schedule or the number of convicts that the government expects to execute.
“The executions will be implemented in 2016. This should become our focus. Law enforcement should keep moving ahead,” said Prasetyo at the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Minister’s office on Wednesday as quoted by kompas.com.
The third round of executions should have been carried out sometime this year, but the executions were delayed due to economic reasons. It is commonly feared that further executions will hinder the flow of investment into Indonesia.
To date, 14 drugs drug convicts have been executed. The previous executions received strong criticism from anti-death penalty activists and caused the souring of diplomatic relations with a number of countries including Brazil and Australia.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff responde…

Myanmar migrants found guilty of killing British backpackers, sentenced to death

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A Thai court on Thursday sentenced two Myanmar migrants to death for the murder of two British backpackers on a resort island last year, in a case that raised questions about police competence and the judicial system in Thailand.
Human Rights Watch called the verdict "profoundly disturbing," citing the defendants' accusations of police torture that were never investigated and questionable DNA evidence linking them to the crime.
Win Zaw Htun and Zaw Lin, both 22, have denied killing David Miller, 24, and raping then murdering Hannah Witheridge, 23, last year on the island of Koh Tao. Their defense attorney said they planned to appeal.
Miller and Witheridge's battered bodies were found Sept. 15, 2014, on the rocky shores of Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand known for its white sand beaches and scuba diving. Autopsies showed that the young backpackers, who met on the island while staying at the same hotel, suffered severe head wounds and that Witheridge had be…