America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

50 Killed at Pulse Gay Club in Orlando; Deadliest Mass Shooting in U.S. History

Pulse attack, Orlando, Florida, 12 JUN 2016
Omar Saddiqui Mateen shot more than 100 people and took several hostage before he was killed by police in what is being called a terrorist attack. Mateen called 911 at the time of the attack to pledge allegiance to ISIS and mentioned the Boston bombers in the call. He had been investigated by the FBI in the past for possible ties to Islamic extremism.

The shooting began around 2 a.m. The gunman ran into the club and took hostages. Around 5 a.m. authorities used an armored vehicle to break down the door of the building and end the attack. "It appears he was organized and well-prepared," Orlando Police Chief John Mina said. The shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun and "some type of (other) device on him."

Who was Omar Mateen?

Police have identified the gunman in one of the most deadly mass shootings in modern American history as 29 year-old Omar Mateen.

Authorities say that Mateen attacked the gay nightclub pulse in Orlando, Florida with a revolver, AR15 assault rifle and a suspected explosive device. After the assault on around 320 people in the nightclub 50 were confirmed dead and 53 were taken to hospital, many in serious medical conditions.

Omar Mir Seddique Mateen was born in New York and his parents are originally from Afghanistan. He worked as a security officer at G4S Secure Solutions and while his Fort Pierce apartment was searched by police a neighbour commented to CNN that he worked as a security guard at the courthouse in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Mateen was interviewed not once, but twice by the FBI in 2013 and 2014. According to Ron Hopper, head of the FBI in Orlando, Mateen appeared on their radar after he made “inflammatory comments” to co-workers alleging possible “terrorist ties.”

“Ultimately,” Ron Hopper said, “we were unable to verify the substance of his comments, and the investigation was closed.”

Mateen was questioned again in 2014 about a possible connection with Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, an American known to have carried out a suicide bombing in the Syria conflict. The FBI, again, drew a blank and concluded that there was no “substantial relationship” between Mateen and Abu-Salha – following this, they closed both investigations on him and did not place Mateen on any terrorism watch lists.

According to the BBC, FBI officials said that Mateen appeared to “have leanings towards” a radical Islamist ideology.

Around 20 minutes before attacking Pulse nightclub, Mateen allegedly dialled 911 and pledged his allegiance to the terror group ISIS. According to reports, during the call he also mentioned the Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

In the hours following the horrific crime, Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusifiy, told press that he was violent towards her, mentally ill and “obviously disturbed, deeply, and traumatised.”

Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News that his son had become angry when he saw two men kissing in Miami, and he believed that could be related to the shooting.

Police believe Mateen rented a car and drove to Orlando to carry out the horrific attack in Pulse. TMZ report that local authorities believe Mateen specifically chose his target because it was a gay club.

Less than 24 hours after the attack on Pulse, the terror group ISIS claimed responsibility for the killings.

In a message posted on a site associated with the ISIS news agency Amaq, they described the attacker as “an Islamic State fighter.”

US officials have cautioned that they had no conclusive evidence of any direct connection with foreign extremists.

“So far as we know at this time, his first direct contact was a pledge of bayat [loyalty] he made during the massacre,” a US counterterrorism official told The Telegraph. “This guy appears to have been pretty screwed up without any help from anybody.”

Source: CNN, June 12, 2016, Gay Times, June 13, 2016

"LGBTQ people face the threat of terror daily. The terror of those who sustain heterosexual and cisgender supremacy. The terror of religions that condemn us. The terror of political parties that work to deny us full citizenship. The terror of elected officials and candidates who attack us. The terror of school authorities who look the other way as we are being bullied. The terror of media that spread hate speech. The terror of families who turn their backs on us or who in words or silence make it clear they see us as inferior. All of them have blood on their hands."
-- G. Koskovich, LGBTQ historian and activist

"We cannot fathom the sheer hatred that would lead someone to shoot down more than a hundred complete strangers gathered in their community’s own safe space to innocently celebrate. Last night’s massacre at an Orlando gay bar is the latest senseless tragedy to befall our country and, poignantly, one of our many minority communities who continually struggle for their basic freedom and security. We cannot overstate our sorrow and grief on behalf of all the victims and all who love and care about them.

Sadly, attacks of this nature do not require “radicalism.” Anti-LGBTQ+ hatred is simply too engrained in our country and around the world to be explained away as an exception. Violence of this type happens several times every day in the U.S., but usually on a smaller scale that escapes most of our notice. This crime has brought it once more to our full attention. Be it Orlando, or Charleston, or Colorado Springs, we are reminded all too often that we can be chosen as victims for merely seeking to be our authentic selves."
-- Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation

“This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or a house of worship or a movie theater or a nightclub. We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. To actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
-- President Barack Obama

Across The World, Shock And Condemnation At Orlando Massacre

The Castro (San Francisco) mourns the Orlando victims
The Castro (San Francisco) mourns the Orlando victims
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — From across the world, officials and public figures are expressing condemnation and shock over the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 50 people dead and dozens more hurt.

The massacre Sunday at the Pulse Orlando nightclub is now being called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

In France, the Eiffel tower will shine in the colors of a rainbow on Monday night to honor the victims. Paris City Hall will pay its respects when American and rainbow flags will fly.

France feels deeply the horror of deadly attacks after the November terror attacks on a music hall, restaurants and bars and the main sports stadium killed 130. That was preceded by attacks on a satirical newspaper and a kosher grocery store. All were claimed by the Islamic State group.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron have sent messages of condolence from Britain for the attack, which killed 50 people at a gay nightclub.

Buckingham Palace says the queen sent a message to President Barack Obama saying: “Prince Philip and I have been shocked by the events in Orlando. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been affected.”

J.K. Rowling also said one victim of the Orlando killings worked on the Harry Potter Ride at the Universal Studios theme park.

The author tweeted a picture of 22-year-old Luis Vielma in a Hogwarts school tie, and said: “I can’t stop crying.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it’s important to continue with “our open, tolerant life” following attacks such as the mass shooting at an Orlando gay club.

Speaking during a visit to China on Monday, Merkel said that “we have a heavy heart” over the fact that “the hatred and malignancy of a single person cost over 50 people their lives.”

She added: “We are firmly determined, even when such murderous attacks put us into deep sorrow, to continue with our open, tolerant life.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin says in a letter to President Barack Obama that Israel stands “shoulder to shoulder with our American brothers and sisters” after the attack on the LGBT community.

Rivlin sent his condolences, saying there is “no comfort for those who have had their loved ones torn away from them.”

The Orlando attack has dominated news in Israel, which has seen a wave of Palestinian attacks in recent months. On Wednesday two Palestinian gunmen killed four people at a popular shopping and restaurant area in Tel Aviv. LGBT groups in Israel planned rallies and other support for the community in Orlando.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah says the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history is a “senseless act of terror and hate” and that “Palestinians stand with the American people in this difficult time.”

The statement made no direct reference to the LGBT community. Homosexuality is deeply taboo in the conservative Palestinian society as it is throughout most of the Arab and Muslim world and in Saudi Arabia, judges can issue the death penalty for same-sex relations. Gay Palestinians tend to be secretive about their social lives and some have crossed into Israel to live openly safely.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told the Cabinet as he opened the weekly meeting live on television on Monday morning that the Orlando attack “tells us that terrorism knows no religion, boundary and geography. Terrorism must be eliminated.”

He says that Afghans “do not support terrorism but the victims of terrorist attacks” and offered his condolences to the people and government of the United States. “Our hearts and minds are with our U.S. partners.” He also urged “collective actions to end such attacks.”

Pakistan’s former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf condemned the Orlando shooting, saying “this is a sobering reminder that extremism and terrorism are on the rise.”

Musharraf, who is facing court cases at home but left Pakistan in March for treatment abroad, says on his Facebook page the world must “address the root causes of global terrorism to suck the oxygen out of the extremist narrative of hate, intolerance, bigotry and the promotion of obscurantist ideology that is radicalizing vulnerable Muslims around the world.”

Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry says the government strongly condemns the “terrorist attack” that took place in Orlando, adding that the escalation of such assaults requires a doubling down of efforts on the part of the international community to eliminate “this disgusting phenomenon.”

Last year, 27 people were killed by an Islamic State suicide bomber in Kuwait during prayer at a mosque in the capital.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the Orlando mass shooting and called for concerted international efforts to “face criminal acts that target civilians.”

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry condemned the Orlando attack “in the strongest possible terms,” and offered condolences to the American government and people. “Egypt stands next to the American people in these difficult times, offering sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishing the injured a speedy recovery.”

Egypt’s statement urged for international solidarity and a “firm, comprehensive approach to confronting terrorism, which knows no borders or religion, and is incompatible with all humanitarian principles and values.”

The United Arab Emirates, home to the Western-friendly metropolises of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, condemned “the terrorist attack” in Orlando, expressed its solidarity with the United States and called on the international community to work to “eliminate the scourge of terrorism.”

China’s official Xinhua News Agency issued a statement saying President Xi Jinping had telephoned his American counterpart Barack Obama to express his condolences over the Orlando shootings.

Xi was quoted as saying that “on behalf of the government and people of China, I convey to President Obama and the American government and people my deepest sympathies, sincere condolences and deep grief for the victims.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has condemned the Orlando nightclub attack and expressed condolences to the victims and their families.

Abe told reporters Monday in Oita that “Japan stands together with the people of the United States” and that “this despicable act of terror cannot be tolerated.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the Orlando mass shooting was “an attack on all of us, on all our freedoms, the freedom to gather together, to celebrate, to share time with friends.”

He said he spoke with the U.S. ambassador to Australia, John Berry, “and formally conveyed to him Australians’ sympathy, condolences and resolute solidarity in the face of this shocking act of hate and terror.”

“Together, at home and abroad, we continue the fight against terrorism and stand up for the values of our free nations,” Turnbull said.

The mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub happened shortly after a same-sex kiss was removed from a production of the musical “Les Miserables” in Singapore, and after the government said it would look into rules of foreign funding for gay pride parades like Pink Dot.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Facebook: “Another senseless shooting. — It just goes on and on. The madness is not going to stop.”

The prime minister of Muslim-majority Malaysia, Najib Razak, said he was “horrified” by the Orlando mass shooting. “Islam abhors killing of innocent people,” he tweeted.

A few Malaysians, using pseudonyms, wrote on social media that they approved of the attack at the gay nightclub because the victims were “sinners,” but they were quickly condemned by many others.

Source: CBS, June 13, 2016

Islamic scholar says the government - not vigilantes - should have executed Orlando gays

Less than 3 months ago, Islamic scholar Farrokh Sekaleshfar gave a talk at the Husseini Islamic Center just outside Orlando where he said that the sentence for people who are found guilty of homosexuality should be death. Despite this, he is condemning Orlando shooter Omar Mateen for massacring 50 gay people in a club this weekend.

In an interview with Fusion, Sekaleshfar explained that even though he believes in the death penalty for homosexuals, he doesn't think that gives anyone the right to go out and massacre them at a nightclub. He also noted that four people need to witness a gay person having sex in order for them to be convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death.

"I never gave the call to a death sentence," he said, while claiming that his remarks had been taken out of context. "I was explaining what Islamic law - in a country whose people democratically desired Islamic law to be exercised - states in relation to NOT homosexuals, but rather in relation to when the act of anal copulation is executed in such an aforementioned public."

For the record, this is what Sekaleshfar had to say in late March about the proper Islamic penalties for homosexuality:

Death is the sentence. There's nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence ... We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals, it's the same. Out of compassion, let's get rid of them now.

It's entirely possible that someone could hear this declaration and use it as justification to take it upon themselves to kill gay people - after all, if an Islamic scholar says "let's get rid of" gay people now, most people listening won't be attuned to the nuances of when it is or isn't purportedly "appropriate" to kill homosexuals just for being themselves. The easier path is to just say, "Killing homosexuals is wrong."

Source: rawstory.com, June 13, 2016

Was Orlando Gunman Omar Mateen a Self-Hating Gay Man?

Former wife of Omar Mateen says he might have hidden his gay identity out of shame

The former wife of the Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, has told The New York Times that her ex-husband might have been gay and closeted, reinforcing reports that Mateen was a regular at Pulse nightclub and that he’d kept profiles on gay dating apps like Grindr and Jack’d.

Mateen, who killed 49 people and injured 53 in the early hours of Sunday morning, was a frequent patron at Pulse according to several people interviewed by the Canadian Press.

“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith, adding that he didn't believe Mateen could be enraged by the sight of two men kissing. “That’s straight-up crap,” he said. “He’s been around us. Some of those people did a little more than [kiss] outside the bar. ... He was partying with the people who supposedly drove him to do this?”

Smith's husband, Chris Callen, told The Canadian Press that Mateen had frequented Pulse for the last three years.

And 71-year-old Jim Van Horn, who lost three friends in the shooting, told the Associated Press that Mateen was a “regular” at the Pulse nightclub. “He was a homosexual and he was trying to pick up men,” he said. “He would walk up to them and then he would maybe put his arm round them or something ... That’s what people do at gay bars.” He added, “I think it’s possible that he was trying to deal with his inner demons, of trying to get rid of his anger of homosexuality.”

Meanwhile, two men have now come forward to claim having communicated with Mateen on gay dating apps. One, Kevin West, described meeting Mateen on the app Jack’d a year ago, and then again within the last three months. Another man, Cord Cedeno, said he'd seen Mateen at the bar in Pulse with a drink. “He was open with his picture on the sites; he was easy to recognize,” Cedeno told The Washington Post.

The revelations, if true, sow more confusion around Mateen's motives. Was he in Pulse because he wanted to kill LGBT people in particular, or because it was a place with which he was familiar? In the bathroom of the nightclub, where many of his victims died, Mateen talked a lot about Islamic State and Syria, but not at all about gay people, according to a survivor who gave his name to The New York Times only as Orlando.

Yet if he was gay or bisexual, Mateen was clearly not at peace with who he was. In a video interview posted to Facebook on Monday, Mateen's father, Seddique Mateen, expressed bewilderment at his son’s attack, only to then suggest that it was for “God [to] punish those involved in homosexuality.”

It’s the kind of language we hear from Bible-thumping pastors as often as from radical imams. How that culture played into the toxic stew of influences that drove Mateen to commit his appalling crime it may be too early to know, but the more details that emerge, the more complex this story becomes.

Source: OUT, Aaron Hicklin, June 14, 2016

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