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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Stop the hanging of paraplegic man Abdul Basit

Abdul Basit
Abdul Basit
How is it possible to hang a man who is paralysed from the waist down?

This is the grim question now in front of the Pakistani authorities – Abdul Basit is a paraplegic man who once again faces the prospect of being hanged in his wheelchair.

The stay of execution granted in January has now ended, and the Pakistani authorities may now be gearing up to go ahead with this cruel spectacle. But there is hope – the Pakistani authorities have tried to execute Basit three times in the last year, and each time we’ve succeeded in stopping it.

We have the law and the international community on our side. UN experts have already confirmed that this death sentence is illegal and should be commuted immediately. Now, it’s up to us to amplify this condemnation. We need to make sure the Pakistani authorities know that the cruelty of what they’re planning is plain for all to see, and that this execution is opposed by people all around the world.

President Mamnoon Hussain has the power to stop this cruel and illegal execution – can you email him now to help make sure he does the right thing?

Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, at over 8,000 people – and the authorities have hanged over 380 people since December 2014. Now that Basit’s stay of execution has ended, we don’t have a moment to lose if we’re going to make sure he’s not next.

"The last two stays [of execution] have given me a hint of hope that Mr. President acknowledges that I am a helpless paralyzed man who cannot even stand on my feet. I don’t know what will happen when my stay expires. I don't know if they will hang me or let me live." Abdul Basit

Pakistan's Supreme Court said that the execution must comply with prison procedure - but the rules contain no provisions for hanging prisoners in wheelchairs.

Yet after three last minute stays, the government has still not called a permanent halt to the execution, or even explained how it plans to kill this severely disabled man in a way that complies with its own rules.

We need to make sure the Pakistani authorities know that the cruelty of what they’re planning is plain for all to see, and that this execution is opposed by people all around the world.

President Mamnoon Hussain has the power to stop this cruel and illegal execution – can you email him now to help make sure he does the right thing?

It is hard to believe that the authorities are so determined to push ahead with this cruel spectacle that Basit is facing a fourth attempted hanging. As our team continues to challenge this execution in the courts, it is vital that as many of us as possible condemn this brutality – the more of us who speak out, the better chance we have of saving Basit’s life.


Thank you for all you do,

Maya Foa
Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, April 26, 2016

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