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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…

Bali Nine: Artist Ben Quilty welcomes Myuran Sukumaran's paintings to Australia

"Myu's paintings safely and finally back in Australia."
"Myu's paintings safely and finally back in Australia."
The final paintings by Bali Nine ringleader Myuran Sukumaran have arrived back in Australia, almost a year after his execution in Indonesia.

The delivery of the death row artworks was announced on social media on Friday afternoon by Sukumaran's mentor and friend, Sydney artist Ben Quilty.

The Archibald winner posted a photo of wooden boxes and wrapped canvases to Facebook and Twitter with the caption: "Myu's paintings safely and finally back in Australia."

It comes more than 10 months after Sukumaran and fellow convicted Bali Nine drug smuggler, Andrew Chan, were executed by firing squad on Indonesia's Nusakambangan island on April 29 last year.

The western Sydney pair were arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Bali and spent the next decade in Kerobokan Prison.

They were dubbed the "godfather" and the "enforcer" of the nine-person drug syndicate.

"Self portrait after our new arrivals, A bad sleep last night", by Myuran Sukumaran, April 25, 2015
"Self portrait after our new arrivals, A bad sleep
last night", by Myuran Sukumaran, 05/25/2015
One of Sukumaran's lawyers reached out to Quilty in 2012 after his imprisoned client expressed a desire to learn how to paint.

With the artist's guidance, Sukumaran began teaching classes to rehabilitate other inmates.

He was awarded an associate degree in fine arts from Curtin University just months before his death.

Some of his most haunting works are believed to be among the cargo, including one of the Indonesian flag dripping with blood and a self-portrait with a gaping hole in his chest where his heart should be.

The oil painting was transported off the island, still wet, by his lawyer Julian McMahon during a three-hour visit at Besi Prison just days before Sukumaran's death.

A month earlier, Sukumaran revealed a painting of Indonesian President Joko Widodo with the inscription "people can change" after his final plea for clemency was denied.

The 34-year-old's paintings became noticeably darker as his execution date drew near.

It is not yet known whether they will be exhibited.

Source: ABC.net.au, AAP, March 11, 2016


Artist Ben Quilty faces his reflection for Self Portrait on Paper exhibition

Ben Quilty
Ben Quilty
ARCHIBALD Prize-winning artist Ben Quilty has created a piece for the Bouddi Foundation’s Self Portrait on Paper exhibition, which asked 24 of Australia’s most highly regarded artists to distil themselves on to a single sheet of white paper.

What he discovered? If you truly turn the mirror on yourself, then you are forced to face the reflection.

Quilty’s piece, titled simply Self Portrait 2016, shows the “madness, reflects a sort of intensity” spilling over from the hectic start to his year — travelling to refugee camps with World Vision, an experience he said was incredibly moving.

Though, he said, “last year was worse”.

Quilty’s friendship and mentor relationship with Bali Nine member Myuran Sukumaran lasted for three years until the convicted drug smuggler was executed in April last year.

Over those years, Quilty saw Sukumaran confront his own self-portraits and harness the power of looking inward.

“Young people, and Myuran in the most extreme sense, have a very meaningful experience of the world right in front of them,” he said.

“He had a bigger life experience than anyone I ever met.

“I quite often find people are afraid to look, but the most interesting things happen at home, the things that make what it is to be a human in 2016 as opposed to any other time in history.”

Click here to read the full article (+ paintings)

Source: dailytelegraph.com.au, March 11, 2016

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