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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

OFW saved from Saudi death row

Public execution in Saudi Arabia
Public execution in Saudi Arabia
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.

“A local court has sent a letter to the prison to release the Filipino and consider the case closed,” the report said.

The Filipino was driving a van in Al Rass town in Al Qassim province when he accidentally hit the victim who was killed instantly. It was not specified in the report when the incident took place.

Help urgently needed for OFW on death row

The mother of another Filipino who is on death row in Riyadh, also in Saudi Arabia, on Saturday renewed her appeal for help in raising the blood money needed to save her son from execution.

According to OFW rights advocate Susan Ople, Ramona Zapanta, mother of Joselito Zapanta, came to see her Saturday and pleaded for help.

“The Sudanese family is asking for P48 million, which is still a long way from the P23 million that the Zapanta family with the help of the government had raised,” Ople told The Manila Times.

The amount collected is being kept in a Saudi bank account under the name of the Philippine Embassy.

Zapanta, who hails from Bacolor, Pampanga, left for Saudi Arabia in 2007 to work as a tile-setter.

“Unfortunately, the Sudanese family has refused any amount lower than their demand of P48-million. This means that the Zapanta family needs to raise P25-million in a span of two weeks, or maybe less, considering that a royal decree had already been issued for the implementation of the sentence,” Ople said.

The Zapanta family is expected to hold a press briefing this week to publicly appeal for help, Ople added.

Ople said the Zapanta family needs to raise the remaining amount a few weeks or the Saudi authorities will impose the death sentence.

Ople said Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Ezzedin Tago has confirmed that Zapanta’s case has become extremely urgent.

“We are talking about weeks here, hence the need for the family to go public in order to seek everyone’s help,” Ople said.

Fr. Jerome Secillano, head of the public affairs committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), called not only for prayers but also for donations to raise the remaining amount.

He also called on the Aquino administration to do all it can to help Zapanta.

“We challenge our government officials to exhaust all possible remedies to stay the execution and possibly gain the freedom of our kababayan,” Secillano said.

Source: The Manila Times, December 27, 2015

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