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Anthony Ray Hinton Spent Almost 30 Years on Death Row. Now He Has a Message for White America.

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Anthony Ray Hinton was mowing the lawn at his mother's house in 1985 when Alabama police came to arrest him for 2 murders he did not commit. One took place when he was working the night shift at a Birmingham warehouse. Yet the state won a death sentence, based on 2 bullets it falsely claimed matched a gun found at his mother's home. In his powerful new memoir, "The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row," Hinton describes how racism and a system stacked against the poor were the driving forces behind his conviction. He also writes about the unique and unexpected bonds that can form on death row, and in particular about his relationship with Henry Hays, a former Klansman sentenced to death for a notorious lynching in 1981. Hays died in the electric chair in 1997 - 1 of 54 people executed in Alabama while Hinton was on death row.
After almost 30 years, Hinton was finally exonerated in 2015, thanks to the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI. On April 27…

Calls to abolish death penalty grow louder in Japan

Iwao Hakamada and his sister, shortly after his release from death row.
Iwao Hakamada and his sister, shortly after his release from death row.
Country's legal community will declare its opposition to capital punishment amid concern over miscarriages of justice

Japan is expected to come under unprecedented domestic pressure over its use of the death penalty when, for the first time, the country's legal community calls for its abolition next month.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers and hundreds of other legal professionals, said it would declare its opposition to capital punishment at a meeting in early October due to growing concern over miscarriages of justice.

The declaration will put the federation at odds with the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, whose administration has executed 16 people since it took office in late 2012.

Successive Japanese governments have resisted pressure from the UN, the EU and human rights groups to abolish the death penalty.

"If an innocent person or an offender who does not deserve to be sentenced to death is executed, it is an irrevocable human rights violation," Yuji Ogawara, who heads a bar association panel on the death penalty, was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency.

"There are still lawyers who support the death penalty, but I think we have developed an environment that enables us to seek its abolition."

The federation will call for an end to capital punishment by 2020, when Japan hosts a UN congress on crime prevention and criminal justice. It said life sentences without the possibility of parole should be considered as an alternative.

Japan and the US are the only G7 countries that continue to execute prisoners, while more than 140 countries have abolished the death penalty either by law or in practice.

Doubts about the safety of convictions grew in 2014 after Iwao Hakamada was released having spent more than 45 years on death row. A court ordered a retrial in Hakamada's murder case, amid suggestions that police investigators fabricated evidence against him.

The former professional boxer had been sentenced to hang in 1968 for the murders 2 years earlier of a company president, his wife and their 2 children.

In addition, 4 death row prisoners were found not guilty after being granted retrials in the 1980s.

Japan has resisted calls to end capital punishment, citing opinion polls showing high levels of support for its retention. Public backing for the death penalty remained strong during the trials of people accused of taking part in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, in which 13 people died and thousands were injured.

In a damning 2009 report, Amnesty International accused Japan of subjecting death row inmates to "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment. Prisoners typically spend many years in solitary confinement, and only learn of the timing of their execution, by hanging, hours before it takes place.

Amnesty recently criticised Japan for executing or placing mentally ill and intellectually challenged prisoners in solitary confinement.

Legal experts welcomed the federation's decision. "Having Japan's largest human rights protection body come out in favour of eliminating the death sentence will have a huge impact," Prof Kana Sasakura from Konan University in Kobe told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

There are 124 inmates on death row in Japan, 89 of whom are seeking retrials, according to the justice ministry.

Source: The Guardian, September 21, 2016

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