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Showing posts from September, 2016

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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Donald Trump and the Central Park Five: the racially charged rise of a demagogue

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In 1989 five young black men were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman jogging in New York City. Leading the charge against them was a real estate mogul whose divisive rhetoric can be found in his presidential campaign today
Yusef Salaam was 15 years old when Donald Trump demanded his execution for a crime he did not commit.
Nearly three decades before the rambunctious billionaire began his run for president – before he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, for the expulsion of all undocumented migrants, before he branded Mexicans as “rapists” and was accused of mocking the disabled – Trump called for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York following a horrific rape case in which five teenagers were wrongly convicted.
The miscarriage of justice is widely remembered as a definitive moment in New York’s fractured race relations. But Trump’s intervention – he signed full-page newspaper advertisements implicitly calling for the boys to die – has been gradual…

USA: Support for death penalty lowest in more than 4 decades

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As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the 1st of 2 death penalty cases in this year's term, the share of Americans who support the death penalty for people convicted of murder is now at its lowest point in more than 4 decades.
Only about 1/2 of Americans (49%) now favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 42% oppose it. Support has dropped 7 % points since March 2015, from 56%. Public support for capital punishment peaked in the mid-1990s, when 8-in-10 Americans (80% in 1994) favored the death penalty and fewer than 2-in-10 were opposed (16%). Opposition to the death penalty is now the highest it has been since 1972.
Though support for the death penalty has declined across most groups, a Pew Research Center survey conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 among 1,201 adults finds that most Republicans continue to largely favor its use in cases of murder, while most Democrats oppose it. By more than 2-to-1, more Republicans (72%) than Democrats (34%) currently favor the death …

Catholic Bishops of Nebraska Say Death Penalty 'not necessary to protect society'

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The 3 bishops in charge of the 375,000 Catholics in 350 Nebraska parishes have officially come out as opponents of the death penalty, as the issue takes center stage with a statewide vote coming in November.
On Thursday, Tom Venzor executive director of the Catholic Conference of Nebraska and public policy voice of the 3 Nebraska bishops, says the bishops all agree that the death penalty "is not necessary to protect society."
This comes just 1 month before Nebraskans will vote to either keep the repeal of the death penalty, that state legislators made law in May of 2015, or to bring back the option of the death penalty.
The recommendation from the 3 bishops, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha and Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of the Grand Island diocese, comes as no surprise with all 3 pledging their support for the initial repeal of the death penalty in 2015.
They said at that time they don't believe that the penalty of death is a just option.
&…

Saudi Arabia lied to UN about child executions

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Saudi Arabia told a UN committee last week that it does not sentence children to death, despite submitting written evidence in which it admitted people can be executed for crimes committed aged 15, anti-death penalty charity Reprieve has found.
The Saudi delegation told the UN’s child rights committee last Wednesday that, “The crime must have been committed by a perpetrator who is an adult at the time in order for them to be sentenced to capital punishment.” The delegation claimed that “the age of liability is always 18”.
However, this was directly contradicted by Saudi Arabia’s written evidence to the same UN committee, which contained a buried admission that children as young as 15 can face the death penalty, although the execution is not carried out until they turn 18.
Earlier this month, Reprieve wrote to Theresa May and urged the British prime minister to raise the cases of Ali Al-Nimr, Abdullah Al-Zaher and Dawood Al-Marhoon, three juveniles who were sentenced to death in the K…

Rodrigo Duterte 'happy to slaughter' drug addicts as Hitler did Jews

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has compared his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust, saying he would kill as many addicts as Hitler did Jews.
"Hitler massacred three million Jews... there's three million drug addicts. I'd be happy to slaughter them," he said.
At least six million Jews as well as other minorities are known to have been killed by the Nazis.
Mr Duterte has overseen a bloody crackdown on drug users and dealers since taking office in June.
Official figures say more than 3,000 people have been killed in police operations or by vigilantes.
The bodies of those killed are often left out in public, with signs listing the crimes they were accused of.
The president has openly said he would "kill 100,000 criminals" to reduce crime in the Philippines.
'Disgusting rhetoric'
Mr Duterte was speaking in Davao, the city where as mayor he implemented a tough anti-crime policy and was accused of sanctioning death squads to kill criminals.
He told…

UK trained hundreds of guards at Bahrain’s death row prison, new report finds

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The FCO funded training for hundreds of prison guards at Bahrain’s death row jail, where an innocent man faces imminent execution after ‘confessing’ under torture, a new report by anti-death penalty charity Reprieve has found.
Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a state-owned Belfast business, received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry. In 2015 more than a dozen NI-CO experts worked with Bahrain’s prison staff at jails where systematic torture took place, and trained as many as 400 guards who work at Jau, which holds prisoners awaiting execution.
Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, highlights the case of one death row inmate, Mohammed Ramadan, a former policeman and father of three young children who was tortured into making a false confession.
The UK Foreign Office paid NI-CO to train Bahrain’s Ombudsman to handle complaints about abuse by security forces. However, the watchdog refused f…

Jury for Dylann Roof's federal trial will be chosen from pool of 748 people

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Some 748 prospective jurors in the upcoming Dylann Roof federal death penalty trial have been picked to go on to a second, more intensive, phase of jury screening that will begin Nov. 7.
The 748 who survived the initial screening process this week were picked over a 2 1/2 day period that began Monday in a small federal courtroom in Charleston.
About 3,000 were initially summoned for this week's screening process. Federal Judge Richard Gergel had said he would like to come up with a pool of 700 potential jurors.
This week's screening went faster than expected. By around noon Wednesday, the court had surpassed that goal and wound up with 748 - a number that should be more than enough to produce a final jury panel of 12 jurors and 6 alternates.
Reasons some potential jurors were excused this week included child care or work-related duties.
The 748 who survived the initial screening this week have filled out extensive questionnaires about their lives and any reservations they mig…

Manipulating a witness? Montana DOJ used controversial medical expert to defend lethal injection protocol

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The ACLU says Attorney General Tim Fox has some explaining to do.
Confronted with a challenge to the state's lethal injection cocktail, the Department of Justice leaned on a controversial medical expert last year to argue the sedative it planned to use to kill 2 death row inmates would work as quickly as Montana law requires. But Auburn School of Pharmacy Dean Lee Evans didn't say what state attorneys needed him to - at least not initially.
Evans' evolving testimony became a central issue at trial, ultimately backfiring when a Helena judge struck down the drug protocol in October 2015 and effectively put a moratorium on the death penalty in Montana. Now the parties who won the case think they know why Evans seemed to change his professional opinion: because Fox's attorneys told him to.
That's what evidence uncovered after trial suggests, they allege in March filings. 6 months later, they're still awaiting a judge's order so they can try to prove it.
"T…

Leader of Indonesia gang which raped, murdered girl sentenced to death

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An Indonesian court on Thursday sentenced to death the leader of a gang of men and boys who raped and murdered a schoolgirl in a case that prompted the president to take steps to impose harsher punishments for attacks on children.
The gang leader, Zainal, was sentenced to death in a court on Sumatra island. 4 other men were jailed for 20 years for their roles in the April attack on the 14-year-old in the western island by a group of 14 males, including eight boys.
Sexual violence against women and children is common in Indonesia but gang rape is unusual.
The case shocked the world's fourth most populouscountry and prompted President Joko Widodo to sign a regulation allowing for harsher punishments for child rapists, including death and chemical castration.
The regulation is pending approval in parliament.
"Because of the sadistic nature of the crime ... the court sentences Zainal to death," said presiding judge Henny Faridha.
The youngest member of the gang was 13 years…

Iran: Eight Prisoners Executed on Murder and Moharebeh Charges

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Iran Human Rights (SEPT 29 2016): Eight prisoners sentenced to death for murder and Moharebeh (enmity against God) charges were reportedly hanged at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (Alborz province, northern Iran) on Wednesday September 28.
According to close sources, on Thursday September 22, eleven prisoners at Rajai Shahr were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. 
The execution sentences of eight of them were reportedly carried out on Wednesday. 
The other three prisoners were returned to their cells after their executions were stopped by the complainants on their case files.
A close source who asked to be annonymous has confirmed the names of the prisoners: Ali Rabizadeh, Majid Gonjehali, Adnan Anwar, Hossein Karimi, Mohammad Jafari, Karim Hatamzadeh, Farajollah Hatami, and Mehdi Alizadeh. 
According to the source, Karim Hatamzadeh was executed on Moharebeh charges related to armed robbery, the other seven were executed on murder charges.
Additi…

Iran: 7 inmates executed on drug charges

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Seven prisoners were recently executed in southern Iran on drug related charges.
Iran Human Rights (SEPT 29 2016): Seven prisoners sentenced to death for drug related offenses were reportedly hanged at Minab Central Prison (Hormozgan province, southern Iran). 
According to close sources, the executions were carried out early morning on Tuesday September 27. 
Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about these seven executions.
The prisoners were reportedly transferred from their wards to solitary confinement on Sunday September 25 and were permitted to have their immediate family members see them for the last time on Monday. 
The names of the prisoners have been confirmed to Iran Human Rights by close sources as: Khodabakhsh Balouch, Ali Balouch, Chaker Balouch, Mohammad Mohammad Zehi, Majid Nariman, Mehdi Moradi, Mohammad Ghourchizadeh.
Iranian authorities continue carrying out executions for drug offenses, even though last month, a top judic…

The Philippines should not reinstate the death penalty, even for Peter Scully

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Bringing back a flawed system to kill a rotten individual means that we dispense with the individual but are stuck with the system
There have been calls to reintroduce the death penalty in the Philippines as the trial of alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully takes place and horrific details of the crimes he is accused of emerge.
The abolition of the death penalty in south-east Asia isn’t so much a movement that has swept through the region as a fragile mosaic. In the countries that don’t execute the line is held – but tenuously. And in some countries where they do execute, there’s the sense that it could turn. There are unofficial moratoriums or death sentences handed out that don’t lead directly to the gallows, just a lifetime in jail.
Japan has the death penalty and its use is shrouded in secrecy, but the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers, said it would declare its opposition to the death penalty at a meeting in early October d…