FEATURED POST

Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Image
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…

Impending Execution of Chijioke Stephen Obioha in Singapore: A Door to Hope

Nigerian national Chijioke Stephen Obioha
Nigerian national Chijioke Stephen Obioha
Very soon, yet another individual is about to be executed in a state sanctioned hanging. According to Amnesty International, the date for the execution of Chijioke Stephen Obioha (a Nigerian national) has been set for this Friday, 18 November 2016.

On 9 April 2007, Chijioke was found in possession of more than 2.6 kilograms of cannabis, exceeding the statutory amount of 500 grams that under Singapore law triggers the automatic presumption of trafficking. 

Also in his possession were keys to a room containing additional prohibited substances, leading the authorities to presume him guilty of possession and knowledge of the drugs. 

In August 2010, an appeal against Chijioke’s conviction and sentence was rejected. 

In 2013, when amendments to Singapore’s mandatory death penalties laws kicked in, Chijioke initially refused to make use of his right to resentencing. 

In April 2015, his clemency appeal was rejected and his execution was set for May 2015. Just one day before the execution, he was allowed to apply for resentencing. 

Following legal advice that he would not qualify as a “courier” under the amended laws, Chijioke withdrew his application for resentencing. This led to the lifting of the stay of execution on 24 October 2016 and the setting of the execution date.

Chijioke has endured more than 9 punishing years in prison. He has been detained not for the purposes of treatment nor rehabilitation but for the purposes of awaiting execution. He has faced unprecedented mental anguish. 

Changes to the law in 2012 gave him a glimmer of hope but this was again snatched away from him. To our knowledge, Chijioke’s case is possibly the longest delay of an execution in Singapore’s history till today.

In Pratt and Morgan v Attorney-General for Jamaica, the Privy Council held that the delay of 5 years and 6 months which had elapsed since an accused’s conviction amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and breached his constitutional right not to be deprived of life.

A Door towards Hope


Arguments showing any prolonged delay in the execution of an accused could be capable of being a violation of human rights, as inhuman and as degrading. A plethora of international human rights instruments prohibit torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This prohibition is also found in numerous domestic constitutions.

Studies on death row inmates reveal that delays and uncertainties cause depression, loss of the sense of reality, personality distortions, physical and mental deterioration. 

Judges in several American and Indian decisions have decided that though the death penalty itself may not be cruel per se, lingering delays in solitude with the knowledge of impending extinction that amounts to cruelty.

There was opportunity for Singapore to address the question of delay in death row in 1995. In Jabar v Public Prosecutor the accused had been languishing in jail for over 5 years awaiting execution. His lawyers placed reliance on Indian cases and the Jamaican case of Pratt and Morgan, however, the Court of Appeal found “dubious” reasons to distinguish those cases and the one before them.

The Court in Jabar’s case concluded that the situation in Singapore was markedly different because the death penalty was mandatory here unlike India. 

In contrast to the position held during Jabar’s case, Singapore’s mandatory death penalty regime had seen changes in 2012 to give discretion to judges in certain circumstances especially drug trafficking cases.

Also, the Court in Jabar overlooked the fact that the unambiguous finding by the Indian Supreme Court was that supervening events might render a lawfully and justifiably imposed death sentence unlawful.

We argue that the fact that the sentence is mandatory does not detract from the mental anguish and torment he had to endure as a result of the delay.

At this stage, we are not challenging the judicial death penalty sentence itself, but rather to its execution after such an inordinate delay.

We place little emphasis on the duration of the delay itself as this may cause unnecessary controversy in semantics in what is deemed as “unreasonable delay”. 

It should also not matter also whether it was the accused himself who caused the delay as it would be acceptable for him to take every step conceivable to turn his ill fate around.

As a way forward, we wish to emphasise on the actual effects or consequences of the delay in depriving his life and personal liberty.

The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and several other local and international human rights groups are working tirelessly to campaign on behalf of Chijioke to halt the execution.

The impending execution of Chijioke is clearly unlawful under international law and arguably under Singapore law. We are looking to work closely with our Nigerian counterparts and international community to make a difference.

We call upon the Singapore Government to reconsider its decision and commute the death sentence imposed on Chijioke.

Ravi,
Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

Background


Nigerian national Chijioke Stephen Obioha is set to be executed in Singapore on November 18,  2016, Amnesty International reported on Thursday.

Mr. Obioha was sentenced to death on December 30, 2008 after being arrested on April 9, 2007 for the possession of cannabis. He was found with over 2.6 kilograms of cannabis, an offense which, under Singapore law, mandates the death penalty.

Mr. Obioha appealed his sentence in August 2010, maintaining his innocence, but the court refused to commute his death penalty down to a prison sentence.

According to Amnesty International, in Singapore, the burden of proof lies on the defendant rather than the prosecutor. The human rights organization explained that this is a violation of the right to a fair trial.



⚑ | Report an error, an omission; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; send a submission; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Iran: Three Hand Amputations, Four Hangings Carried Out in Qom

Iran: Woman Asylum Seeker Lashed 80 Times After Being Deported From Norway

Iran: Three executions carried out, two in front of large crowds

Gambia: President Barrow Signs Abolition Of Death Penalty Treaty

Texas Child Killer John Battaglia Found Competent for Execution

Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Two Myanmar migrants make final appeal in Koh Tao murder case

Seventeen Hanged in Various Iranian Prisons, One in Public

Kenya: Man to hang for stealing toothpaste and toothbrush

Judge warns death row inmate to keep Nevada's execution manual secret