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…

Indonesia will not abolish death penalty, Legal Affairs Minister says

Indonesia: Stop executions!
Indonesia: Stop executions!
Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto has stressed that the government would not consider abolishing the death penalty, and therefore there was no need to evaluate prevailing laws.

"This is our law. Despite some pressures on us, we have our national legal jurisdiction," Wiranto said on Tuesday.

The death penalty is a harsh punishment, he said, but it is needed to protect many people from the dangers of narcotics and related crimes.

Wiranto's statement ran directly against that of Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung, who said that the government and House of Representatives planned to evaluate the death penalty.

Human rights groups and the international community have long urged the government to abolish or adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, saying that it is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which has also failed to create a deterrent effect.

Indonesia executed 4 drug convicts in the early hours of last Friday, with further legal processes sparing the lives of 10 other death-row convicts who were slated to be killed.

Source: The Jakarta Post, August 3, 2016

Nusakambangan: What it was like waiting for death

Merri Utami
Merri Utami
Merry Utami, 1 of the drug convicts spared from execution, narrates her experience to her lawyer and a human rights activist

She had already accepted her fate.

On Thursday, July 28, Merry Utami, an Indonesian on death row, sat in her isolation cell, ready to die. Later than evening, at 12:45am on Friday, 4 convicts were executed via firing squad.

She was transferred to Nusakambangan execution island from Tangerang prison on Saturday, July 23 - the same day she was told her final appeal had been rejected. The move to the island meant looming death.

Merry, 42, had lived in Tangerang since she was imprisoned in 2004, after she was arrested in Soekarno-Hatta international airport in Jakarta the year prior, for having 1.1kg in her bag.

No female convicts are detained in Nusakambangan. In the past, transfers of female convicts to the island meant they were going to be executed in the coming days.

Then, her priest visited her on the island, to prepare her spiritually and emotionally for death. It was agreed that it would be her priest who would identify her body post-execution.

And finally, visits from her family. Merry's daughter, accompanied by her 2 young children - a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old - came to visit Merry on the island, off the coast of Cilacap.

Merry knew she was next to be executed, but the government had been mum about details. Because embassies of foreign convicts are usually informed 72 hours before the death penalty is carried out, and because some embassies found out about their nationals on death row on Tuesday, many believed the executions would take place Saturday midnight.

But by Thursday, the unusual amount of activity on Cilacap port, the closest entry point to Nusakambangan island, carried an air of foreboding.

Coffins were seen being transported into the island. The ambulances that carry the corpses after execution drove through. Spiritual advisers came and went.

And the most telling, the firing squad arrived.

On the list to be [executed] were 14 alleged drug convicts - 10 foreigners and 4 Indonesians. Of the 10, 1 each from Pakistan, India, Senegal and Zimbabwe, and 6 from Nigeria. Merry was the only woman.

Desperate to live

Merry so desperately wanted to live that on Saturday, when she was moved to the execution island, she made a sudden decision to change her lawyer.

According to Yuni Asriyanti of women's rights group Komnas Perempuan, her former lawyer was a wealthy, pro-bono lawyer whom Merry was shy to approach, feeling she owed him something. In a last minute attempt to save her life, Merry decided to seek the legal help of the Legal Aid Institute, which has represented past death row convicts.

The organization soon publicized Merry's case and shared her story - a domestic worker and an unknowing drug mule, who they said was duped into trafficking drugs by a Canadian man who had gifted her with the handbag where the heroin was found.

Yuni said that Merry, who is usually "cheerful, happy and relaxed" was "down and confused" on Monday, when it had sunken in that she was going to die.

But Merry still held on to hope she would be spared.

In a letter dated Tuesday, July 26, and addressed to Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Merry asks for "mercy and leniency from you to lessen my sentence."

While Merry maintains her innocence, it is necessary to admit to wrongdoing when asking for clemency.

"With utmost respect, I, Merry Utami, beg your forgiveness for what I have done to this country... I hope Mr. Jokowi, with mercy, you can forgive all I have done," she wrote.

The letter, said Yuni, was suggested by her daughter.

Waiting for death

On the daughter's final visit on Thursday, hours before she was scheduled to be executed, Yuni said Merry's daughter described her mother as "better and stronger," and "more at peace," having "accepted" her fate.

Arinta Dea, Merry's lawyer, said on that day, Merry "prayed for 20 hours straight."

And then night fell and the thunderstorms came. As it grew dark, the hour of execution loomed closer.

All 14 were in their individual isolation cells when the process began.

"She (Merry) heard the sound of the doors open. Then one by one, the inmates were taken to be executed," Arinta told Rappler, as narrated to her by Merry.

"The first convict who was taken to be executed was Freddi (Budiman). She knew because Freddi passed her isolation room. While for the other 3 convicts, she only heard the sound of the doors open."

Merry was already dressed in the clothing given to her - clean, white clothing, so they could write a black mark right above her heart. Shooting target for the firing squad.

"She said she was ready and accepted that she will die."

'She thanked God a thousand times'

In the end, only 4 of the 14 who were scheduled to be executed, ultimately faced the firing squad.

Indonesian drug lord Budiman, Nigerians Michael Titus Igweh and Humphrey Jefferson, and Senegalese Seck Osmane were executed at 12:45 am.

Merry and the other inmates waited for their turn, knowing 4 had already been taken to be killed.

They waited in their isolation cells, awaiting their own deaths, awaiting the walk to the execution pole where they would be tied, blindfolded, and shot by the firing squad.

After about 6 hours of waiting, at around 6am, Merry recalled to Arinta that "suddenly all the doors were opened."

"They came out and hugged each other. Then the prosecutors told them they were not going to be executed," Arinta said.

What ensued was sheer relief and celebration.

"She was very happy. Just like the other inmates. They laughed and told each other how they felt. She thanked God a thousand times."

6-hour wait

If Merry's narration is accurate, this would mean officials did not tell the convicts themselves that they were spared - until 4 hours after the rest of the world knew.

At about 2am, officials held a press conference and told media that only 4 were executed and the 10 would be spared.

But the 10 themselves did not know until the sun rose from the sky.

"Waiting like that, wondering when will it will be your turn is already a punishment," Arinta said.

Yuni and Arinta, along with Merry's daughter, were among a small group who visited Merry in Cilacap prison where she was moved on Friday at 10:30am, hours after she was spared from execution.

This is when Merry narrated her experience.

"She is great and cheerful," Yuni said, when describing Merry's disposition after she was spared.

Merry's daughter was also overjoyed upon seeing her mother, giving her a hug and a kiss.

But Arinta said they will not rest until Merry is freed.

Source: rappler.com, August 2, 2016 (wr)

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