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'Express lane to death': Texas seeks approval to speed up death penalty appeals, execute more quickly

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Texas is seeking to speed up executions with a renewed request to opt-in to a federal law that would shorten the legal process and limit appeals options for death-sentenced prisoners.
Defense attorneys worry it would lead to the execution of innocent people and - if it's applied retroactively, as Texas is requesting - it could potentially end ongoing appeals for a number of death row prisoners and make them eligible for execution dates.
"Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," said Kathryn Kase, an longtime defense attorney and former executive director of Texas Defender Services.
But a state attorney general spokeswoman framed the request to the Justice Department as a necessary way to avoid "stressful delays" and cut down on the "excessive costs" of lengthy federal court proceedings.
Robbie Kaplan, co-founder of the #TimesUp movement, says sweeping changes to laws in recent years have dissuaded attorneys from taking on har…

Five expats sentenced to death for killing employer in Qatar

Doha, Qatar
A criminal court in Qatar this week has sentenced 5 men in absentia to death by firing squad for murdering their boss.

According to court documents, the incident took place in January 2014.

4 of the men who were convicted are from Bangladesh: Rebon Khan, Din Islam Aziz al-Rahman, Muhammad Rashid Muhammad and Muhammad Ruseil. A 5th, Sahtaj Sheikh, is from Nepal.

They had been charged with 1st degree, premeditated murder, theft and forgery. The men were not in Qatar when the verdict was read on Dec. 31, 2015.

What happened

According to court testimony, the victim and several of his employees had gone to an under-construction home at 6am on Jan. 9.

At some point, the 5 defendants threatened the rest of the workers and shut them into a bathroom, closing the door. The defendants could be observed holding hammers.

Some of the men trapped in the bathroom testified that while inside, they heard loud voices and screams from the victim, but added that they were too scared to call the police.

The victim's body was found the next day by his brother, who had gone to the construction site searching for him after his wife reported him missing.

A forensics report stated that the victim was struck several times on the head with hammers, resulting in his death.

After the employer was killed, the defendants stole the victim's smart card, the court heard.

They then used an electronic device to issue exit permits for themselves by entering the victim's data and making it look like as if he had agreed to the issuing of the permits.

The court documents did not include the name and nationality of the victim.

Kafala debate

The case comes less than a year after a Doha court sentenced 4 other expats in absentia to jail time for abducting 1 of their Qatari sponsors.

Those defendants were acquitted of an attempted murder charge, but had been found guilty of beating and robbing the sponsor.

They had also forced him to sign their exit permits before they left Qatar.

The verdict prompted a flurry of debate about Qatar's restrictive kafala sponsorship system, with critics saying freedom of movement should be a universal right, and the defendants may have had no choice but to resort to extreme measures.

Others, however, countered that torturing a person is always unjustified and breaking the law is not the answer.

Source: Doha News, January 3, 2016

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