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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…

Mauritanian court upholds death sentence for 'blasphemous' blogger

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An appeal court in the west African state of Mauritania has upheld the death sentence of a blogger accused of blasphemy, a judicial source told AFP on Thursday.

Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, who has also been named as Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, was initially handed the death sentence in 2014 on charges of "apostasy".

The appeal court on Thursday upheld the sentence but downgraded the charge from apostasy to the lesser charge of being an "infidel" after the blogger repented, the source said.

The source added that Mkheitir could still be pardoned by the Supreme Court "if they find that his repentance is sincere".

The accused, aged in his thirties, was arrested in 2014 after uploading an article onto the internet that authorities considered blasphemous.

The original announcement of the death penalty was met with public celebrations in two Mauritanian cities.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International has designated Mkheitir "a prisoner of conscience".

"He wrote a post on a blog criticising people who use religion as a means of discrimination and injustice," said Gaetan Mootoo, a west African specialist at Amnesty International.

He was "jailed for having exercised his right to free speech in a peaceful manner," Mootoo added.

Source: Agence France-Presse, April 22, 2016

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