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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…

Mary Jane Veloso: what happened to the woman who escaped execution in Indonesia?

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
Filipina who was temporarily spared at 11th hour, as the Bali Nine pair and six others were killed, remains on death row amid uncertain future

A woman who was temporarily spared death by firing squad last year remains on death row in Indonesia with her life precariously wagered on an slow-moving court case.

Mary Jane Veloso won sympathy in her home country of the Philippines, as well as within Indonesia, after she said she was duped into smuggling drugs. And in a shock turnaround, Indonesian president Joko Widodo – known as Jokowi – delayed her killing with a temporary reprieve just hours before she was due to be executed in April 2015.

Indonesia shot dead eight others that night, including two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who fought a years-long campaign for clemency and were part of the Bali Nine heroin-smuggling ring. Four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian were also killed.

Sparing the domestic worker and mother-of-two was unexpected and several Filipino newspapers wrongly reported on their front pages the next day that she had been killed. The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran the headline: “Death came before Dawn.”

But in the year that has passed, the outburst of joy and relief has given way to a lengthy human trafficking trial in the Philippines and no guarantees that Veloso will be taken off death row even if she can prove she was tricked.

Migrante International, a group that promotes the rights of overseas Filipino workers, says Veloso’s life depends of the speedy trial and conviction of her accused traffickers, Maria Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.

But the group complains that the defence has employed delaying tactics by filing motion after motion to keep the case in the early stages of legal proceedings.

“Mary Jane is still facing the threat of execution,” Migrante International vice-chair Rina Anastacio told the Guardian. “Unfortunately the trial is going very slowly.”

Hours before Veloso was due to be killed last year, Sergio handed herself in to police in Manila, and the Philippines president, Benigno Aquino, made an appeal to his Indonesian counterpart on the basis that Veloso would be needed as a witness in the case against her alleged recruiter.

Key to the last-minute reprieve was that the Philippines invoked a regional treaty (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations mutual legal assistance treaty, or Asean MLAT) signed to fight transnational crimes in south-east Asia, which obliges Indonesia to help provide Veloso as a witness to the human trafficking court case.

Filipino officials have travelled to Indonesia to discuss the case that they hope can save her life.

Activists fear that Veloso, who has already been convicted in an Indonesian court, could yet be executed if the trial is overly delayed, as she is being kept alive only to give testimony. Her supporters want the Indonesian government to allow Veloso to fly home so she can testify in person in court.

They hope a swift conviction in the Philippines will show that Veloso was a pawn and might persuade Indonesia to spare her life.

The plan is far from certain. Indonesian officials suggest executions could restart again this year after a short hiatus, and the attorney general said in January the country was “ready” to execute Veloso.

Attorney general Prasetyo told Rappler: “We will look at the verdict, perhaps the verdict can be new evidence to appeal for clemency from the president. But surely Mary Jane will not be free from punishment. The fact is that she smuggled drugs to Indonesia.”

Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer and political analyst at Indonesia’s Universitas Jenderal Achmad Yan, said Veloso’s story resonated with Indonesians who, like Filipinos, have a large emigrant population, some of whom are exploited. “Lots of people here in Indonesia were against her execution because her story was so close to home … it’s not unlike Indonesians in the Middle East.”


Source: The Guardian, Oliver Holmes, April 28, 2016

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