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Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

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Rodney Reed’s death sentence was suspended. But researchers say other current cases raise similar doubt about the guilt of the accused.
The number of executions in the United States remains close to nearly a three-decade low. And yet the decline has not prevented what those who closely track the death penalty see as a disturbing trend: a significant number of cases in which prisoners are being put to death, or whose execution dates are near, despite questions about their guilt.
Rodney Reed, who came within days of execution in Texas before an appeals court suspended his death sentence on Friday, has been the most high-profile recent example, receiving support from Texas lawmakers of both parties and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, who urged a new examination of the evidence.
Mr. Reed has long maintained that he did not commit the 1996 murder for which he was convicted. And in recent months, new witnesses came forward pointing toward another possible suspect: the dead…

Pakistan Executes Four Involved in School Terrorist Attack

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Pakistan on Wednesday executed four men convicted of involvement in a terrorist attack on a school last year that left 151 people dead, most of them schoolchildren, police officials said.

Maulvi Abdus Salam, Hazrat Ali, Mujeeb ur Rehman, and Sabeel, who was identified by only one name, were found guilty by military courts in August of providing funds, transportation and other assistance to the militants who stormed the school. The military said the men were members of Toheed Wal Jihad, a group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban.

The scale and manner of the attack, which targeted a military-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December last year, sparked shock and anger in Pakistan, prompting the government to ramp up antiterrorism operations across the country. It also lifted a moratorium on executions and established special military courts to try terrorism cases.

The four men were executed Wednesday morning at a prison in the northwestern city of Kohat, police officials said, the first death sentences carried out over the Peshawar attack. The men’s appeals in higher courts failed, and last month President Mamnoon Hussain rejected their mercy petitions. Representatives or families of the four couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Pakistan has been changed after the Peshawar tragedy. The brutal and merciless killings of our children convinced us that the perpetrators of such crimes do not deserve any mercy,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said last month, after he advised Mr. Hussain to reject their appeals. “The death sentence awarded to the four terrorists, in fact, was the will of the entire nation.”

The government lifted its moratorium on executions in December last year, initially limiting them to terrorism cases. It later resumed executions in all cases, with 297 people hanged after the school attack, as of Nov. 29, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Members of Pakistan’s legal community unsuccessfully challenged the establishment of military courts in the Supreme Court in August, arguing that the move could threaten the fundamental rights of citizens. The government denied there was any such threat, saying those convicted by military courts could appeal in higher civilian courts.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Qasim Nauman, December 2, 2015

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