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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…

Hope of sentence cut for Bali Nine after penal code revision

Matthew Norman
Matthew Norman
The six remaining Bali Nine drug-smugglers jailed for life in Indonesia may soon be looking at the prospect of reduced prison sentences. On the eve of their 11th anniversary behind bars, the convicted drug couriers have a ray of hope in the form of a revised penal code, which is slated to go before ­Indonesia’s parliament in a few months.

The draft revision, viewed by The Weekend Australian, offers the prospect of reduced life sentences. If it is approved, a new legal framework would facilitate well-behaved prisoners who have served 17 years of their life terms being released on parole.

The president also has authority to grant remissions or clemency at any time.

The six Bali Nine couriers — Martin Stephens, 39; Matthew Norman, 29; Michael Czugaj, Si Yi Chen and Scott Rush, all 30; and Tan Duc Than Nguyen, 32 — have been desperate for fixed terms to enable them to earn remissions and early release.

Only inmates not serving life or death sentences are entitled to remissions at present, although there is also scope in the draft for well-behaved inmates facing the death penalty to be downgraded to life or 20 years.

Bali Nine ringleaders Myuran Suku­maran and Andrew Chan were executed on April 29 last year for their parts in the 2005 plot to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin from Bali to Australia.

Bali's Kerobokan Prison
Bali's Kerobokan Prison
Yesterday Norman, who has monthly tests to prove he is drug-free, conveyed from Kerobokan jail that there was fresh hope. He has been applying to downgrade his sentence to 20 years for the past five.

Newcastle woman Renae Lawrence, 38, the one female and only member of the Bali Nine with a fixed 20-year term, is scheduled for parole, possibly next year after numerous­ remissions for good behaviour. Her scheduled release date was 2026.

After being on the backburner for about 18 months, the draft revision is the first tangible hope the six have of gaining fixed terms. All their legal avenues have been exhausted.

Under current legislation, drug convicts are ineligible for reductio­ns. It is unknown if President Joko Widodo would downgrade such sentences. In late 2014, before two batches of executions including Chan and Sukumaran, he said Indonesia was facing a drugs scourge that needed “shock therapy”.

Stephens’s former lawyer Wirawan Adnan believes Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly will revise the law. “So there is hope,’’ he said.


Source: The Australian, D. Cassrels, April 2, 2016 (local time)

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