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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Taiwan: Chang Ho-ling escapes execution

The High Court yesterday commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence handed down to Chang Ho-ling, who was convicted of the murder of his wife and 2 daughters in a case that has wound through the courts for 10 years.

The ruling has sparked controversy and protests from the victims' relatives and the judiciary, along with members of the public, who believe life imprisonment is too lenient.

Chang, now 49, was found guilty of using ether to asphyxiate his wife, Tsai Ting-yu, and their 2 young daughters at their home in New Taipei City in 2006, then tampering with the crime scene to make it look like suicide through gas poisoning. After a forensic investigation pointed to murder, Chang confessed.

Chang had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman surnamed Su, who reportedly advised Chang to do away with his wife and daughters to start a new life with her, and in an effort to please his new lover, Chang filmed the killing of his wife for Su to watch, the courts found.

As the case went through the courts, judges upheld the original ruling of 2 death sentences for Chang for the murders of his daughters and 1 life prison term for murdering his wife.

However, the latest ruling commuted the death sentence because judges said there remains a possibility of Chang's rehabilitation, citing a psychiatric report.

The mother of victim Tsai Ting-yu spoke out yesterday to condemn the judiciary.

"The judges were too lenient on Chang," she said. "Before, the ruling was always the death sentence. Now all of a sudden it has changed to a life sentence. We cannot accept it and we will appeal this decision."

She broke down in tears when talking to reporters.

"For 10 years, I have attended all the trial hearings. It has drained my mind and taken a toll on my failing health. I cry every day when I think about my daughter and my granddaughters. The sentencing was too lenient. The courts have not given us justice," she said.

Lin Hung-sung, the prosecutor who pursued the case and brought the charges against Chang, also said it was not right that Chang should escape the death penalty.

"I felt very bad today when I heard the ruling. Even I cannot accept it, so how can the victims' families accept this decision?" Lin said. "The ruling must be appealed so justice can be served."

Source: Taipei Times, April 29, 2016

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