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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Pakistan set to execute mentally ill man despite medical evidence

A severely mentally ill man faces hanging on Tuesday in Pakistan despite a medical report that diagnosed him as “insane”. Pakistan has signed international agreements banning the execution of mentally ill prisoners.

Former electrician Imdad Ali was sentence to death in 2002 over a shooting. Last year his sentence was upheld by Pakistan’s supreme court which claimed Mr Ali was mentally sound because he had fled the scene of the crime.

However, the judge did not consider a medical report, commissioned by the prison governor, which had diagnosed Mr Ali with paranoid schizophrenia.

The doctor’s report said that, “This illness significantly impairs the person’s rational thinking and decision making capabilities. Hence, in my opinion he is an insane person.”

This crucial evidence was not submitted at Mr Ali’s appeal hearing, meaning the Supreme Court ruled that “There is not one iota of evidence to suggest that the appellant was suffering from any type of lunacy.”

Mr Ali comes from a poor family with a history of hereditary mental illnesses. At his original trial, Mr Ali’s wife stated that she had tried to get her husband sectioned in the years before the shooting. The judge refused to accept this evidence as the doctor who saw him at the hospital was not produced as a witness. During his 16 years on Pakistan’s death row, Mr Ali’s mental illness has worsened. He has spent the last three years in solitary confinement after fellow inmates complained of his manic episodes in which he would speak loudly and uncontrollably.

A ‘black warrant’ was issued for Mr Ali’s execution earlier this year but his execution was stopped at the last minute.

Pakistani prison authorities have in the past advised against the execution of mentally ill prisoners, including a woman called Kanizan Ahktar, reportedly telling journalists that, “The only obstacle to her hanging is her mental condition, otherwise, she would have been executed already”.

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“Imdad Ali is a severely mentally ill man who is set to be executed at dawn on Tuesday. There is an abundance of evidence that Imdad was mentally ill at the time of his arrest which should have saved him from death row years ago. Instead he was left to languish in appalling prison conditions for over 16 years. The Government has just days to consider the evidence and stop the execution - otherwise it will be a miscarriage of justice that can never be reversed”.

Source: Reprieve, September 17, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications@reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine.oshea@reprieve.org

Rights group urges Pakistan not to hang mentally ill man


Pakistan must not hang a mentally ill man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, a rights group said today, after a court issued a warrant for his execution next week.

Death row prisoner, Imdad Ali, who is around 50 years old, was sentenced to death for the murder of a religious teacher in 2002.

"Imdad Ali is mentally ill and has suffered years without proper treatment," a report by local watchdog the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) said, adding he had been diagnosed as a "paranoid schizophrenic".

JPP said it had filed an appeal against a Lahore High Court decision last month which dismissed pleas that Ali could not be executed on the basis of his mental illness.

His medical condition should be looked into, as well as the extenuating circumstances that had aggravated his mental illness during his lengthy time on death row, the organisation argued.

Ali's execution has been scheduled for September 20, it said. Prison authorities have sent a letter -- seen by AFP -- to his relatives asking if they want a final meeting with him the day before his execution in the town of Vehari.

JPP executive director Sarah Belal said Pakistan would violate its international legal commitments if it executed a mentally ill person.

"Executing Imdad will exemplify Pakistan's failure to abide by its international legal commitments that forbid the death penalty for persons suffering from mental disabilities," Belal told AFP.

"Knowing what they do about his condition would make his hanging a most serious crime."

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD), which Pakistan ratified in 2011, guarantees the "inherent dignity" of individuals with disabilities, she said.

Pakistan reinstated the death penalty and established military courts after suffering its deadliest-ever extremist attack, when gunmen stormed a school in the northwest in 2014 and killed more than 150 people -- mostly children.

Hangings were initially reinstated only for those convicted of terrorism, but later extended to all capital offences.

The country has executed over 400 people since resuming hangings in December 2014, according to new research by Reprieve, a British anti-death penalty campaign group.

Source: Business Standard, September 17, 2016

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