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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…

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi on hunger strike after ominous prison transfer

Hopes for a pardon for the writer are fading, worries his wife who lives in Sherbrooke, Que., and posted that her husband was taken to a remote Saudi prison reserved for those who have received a final verdict.

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes for his liberal writings, has started a hunger strike after being transferred to a remote penitentiary, his wife has announced.

In a post on her Facebook page, Ensaf Haidar said that her husband’s hopes of a pardon have been dashed because Shabbat Central Prison, where he was taken Thursday, is reserved for those prisoners who have received a final verdict.

“We are very alarmed at the prison administration decision to transfer my husband to the Shabbat Central and fear it may lead to the resumption of his flogging,” wrote Haider, who lives with the couple’s three children in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

“We hold the prison administration responsible for any harm that Raif may suffer.”

Badawi’s supporters have been pushing for a review of his case, buoyed by Quebec’s offer of an immigration certificate in June and word from the Saudi supreme court that it was reviewing his case.

Last month, Swiss Foreign Minister Yves Rossier announced that negotiations for Badawi’s pardon were in the works.

“We have been given hope repeatedly that the issue is still not resolved,” said Elham Manea, a spokesperson for the family. “So from that perspective, we are trying to understand what’s happening.”

Badawi, the founder of a Saudi liberal blog, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison, and a fine of more than $325,000 for insulting religious authorities. 

Badawi received the first 50 lashes on Jan. 9 in Jeddah, but his punishment has since been postponed indefinitely.

Badawi’s family is desperate, said Manea. “They want him back.”

“The only hope we have is King Salman and a royal pardon.”

A collection of Badawi’s writings, 1,000 Lashes, has been published in Quebec and in October, the European Union awarded him the prestigious Sakharov Prize for human rights.

Source: The Star, Marco Chown Oved, December 10, 2015

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