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Showing posts from January, 2017

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Will the Supreme Court Kill The Death Penalty This Term?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court add the fate of the death penalty to a term already fraught with hot-button issues like partisan gerrymandering, warrantless surveillance, and a host of contentious First Amendment disputes?
That’s the hope of an ambitious Supreme Court petition seeking to abolish the ultimate punishment. But it runs headlong into the fact that only two justices have squarely called for a reexamination of the death penalty’s constitutionality.
Abel Hidalgo challenges Arizona’s capital punishment system—which sweeps too broadly, he says, because the state’s “aggravating factors” make 99 percent of first-degree murderers death-eligible—as well as the death penalty itself, arguing it’s cruel and unusual punishment.
He’s represented by former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal—among the most successful Supreme Court practitioners last term. Hidalgo also has the support of several outside groups who filed amicus briefs on his behalf, notably one from a group including Ari…

South Carolina: Judge sends sealed files in Dylann Roof case to state court

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The South Carolina judge overseeing the upcoming state trial of convicted church shooter Dylann Roof will review sealed federal court records dealing with Roof's mental competency, which might prevent the need to evaluate him again.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ordered that transcripts from Roof's competency hearings, psychological evaluations and records from defense experts be sent to Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson.
Roof, 22, was sentenced to death earlier this month in federal court for the slayings of 9 parishioners as they prayed during a June 2015 Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. A jury had found him guilty of 33 charges including hate crimes and obstruction of religion.
After fielding requests from Roof's legal team, Gergel twice found Roof competent to stand trial. The hearings on Roof's mental competency were closed to the public over objections from media outlets including The Associated Press.
Against Gergel's own advice,…

Iran: 4 Prisoners Hanged on Drug Charges

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On the mornings of Monday January 23 and Wednesday January 25, 4 prisoners were hanged in 2 different prisons on drug related charges.
According to close sources, at least 2 prisoners were hanged at Karaj's Ghezel Hesar Prison on January 25 on drug related charges. 
The prisoners have been identified as Majid Askari and Rahman Nourian. They were reportedly transferred from their prison cells to solitary confinement two days before their execution.
"Majid was arrested 6 years ago for one kilogram and 100 grams of crystal meth, and he was sentenced to death by the revolutionary court," a source close to Mr. Askari tells Iran Human Rights.
Iran Human Rights had warned about the imminent executions of Mr. Askari and Mr. Nourian.
Close sources also report on 2 executions which were carried out at Maragheh Prison on January 23 on drug related charges. The prisoners have been identified as Iraj Ghafouri and Hossein Fatemi.
"Iraj Ghafouri was arrested approximately 4 years…

World Psychiatric Association warns Pakistan’s Supreme Court over executing mentally ill

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The World Psychiatric Association has warned Pakistan not to execute a severely mentally ill man.
Khizar Hayat, a former policeman, could be hanged as early as next week. A stay preventing his execution expires on Monday (30th) unless judges agree to lengthen it.
In a statement issued today, the Association of over 200,000 psychiatrists worldwide said it was “extremely concerned” by plans to execute Hayat. It added that his “execution would be an irreversible miscarriage of justice.”
Hayat was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in 2008. After eight years of treatment with powerful anti-psychotic medications, his symptoms remain as serious as ever, leading to a diagnosis that his schizophrenia is treatment resistant.
His case has close parallels with Imdad Ali, another mentally ill prisoner who was set to be executed at the end of last year.
In Ali's case, Pakistan’s Supreme Court commented that schizophrenia is a “recoverable disease” and it does not fall within t…

Philippines to lose leverage in negotiating clemency for its OFWs on death row abroad

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The Philippines stands to lose its leverage in negotiating clemency for its overseas workers on death row abroad amid talks of reviving the death penalty in the country, a non-government organization said Thursday.
Amnesty International (AI) campaign program coordinator Wilnor Papa said there are about 88 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on death row in different countries who fear their impending death, but the death penalty is something being discussed in their home country.
"We would lose leverage in making deals, discussing, and asking for clemency from different government because we execute our citizens. What's going to stop them?"
On Wednesday, Filipina domestic worker Jakatia Pawa was executed with 3 others. She was sentenced to death by the Kuwait's Court of Cassation in 2010 for the killing of her employer's 22-year-old daughter.
In the Philippines, a House panel has endorsed the death penalty bill to the plenary, where it will be subjected to debates …

Federal judge: Ohio's 3-drug death penalty cocktail poses 'substantial risk of serious harm'

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A federal magistrate judge on Thursday barred the use of a 3-drug cocktail the state of Ohio planned to use to execute death-row inmates, declaring the method the state prefers to be unconstitutional.
Magistrate Judge David Merz of Dayton also halted the executions of 3 inmates scheduled to be executed in the coming months, 2 of which came from Northeast Ohio.
Merz, in his 119-page order, ruled that there were enough problems with all 3 of the drugs Ohio intends to use in its execution protocol to warrant this disallowance. 2 states, Arizona and Florida, have discontinued the use of 1 of the drugs, named midazolam.
"The Court concludes that use of midazolam as the 1st drug in Ohio's present 3-drug protocol will create a 'substantial risk of serious harm' or an 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' as required by (Supreme Court precedent)," Merz wrote.
The ruling is a success for the inmates challenging Ohio's execution protocols and anti-death-penal…

Texas: A Death Sentence for $1.25

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John Ramirez goes to the gurney for a murder committed during a robbery
John Henry Ramirez, 32, gets Texas' next dose of lethal injection on Thursday, Feb. 2. He was sentenced to death in 2008 after murdering Pablo Castro in Corpus Christi during an alleged robbery.
In July 2004, Ramirez and 2 female friends jumped Castro outside of the convenience store where he worked. Nueces County prosecutors charged that Ramirez and his friends spent the night cruising around town looking to rob people for drug money when they spotted Castro taking out the trash. Ramirez attacked the store clerk with one accomplice, beating him, and stabbing him 29 times. They also allegedly stole $1.25 from Castro's pockets before returning to the van where the other accomplice waited. A police chase ensued, but Ramirez escaped. His 2 friends were caught, and eventually testified against him.
Ramirez evaded arrest for 4 years, spending time in Mexico, where he became a father. He eventually returned to T…

Texas executes Terry Edwards

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43-year-old Terry Edwards was put to death by lethal injection late Thursday for the $3,000 holdup at a Subway restaurant where 2 employees were gunned down in 2002.

Edwards died of lethal injection at 10:17 p.m. at the state's death chamber in Huntsville, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark in a statement.

“Yes, I made peace with God. I hope y’all make peace with this," Edwards said before he was put to death, according to the statement released by Clark.
Multiple appeals before the high court temporarily delayed the punishment for more than 3 hours. Edwards' attorneys had asked the justices to reopen his case to investigate claims that a court-appointed lawyer earlier in the appeals process provided deficient help by abandoning him. The court 2 weeks ago agreed to review the case of another Texas death row inmate who raised claims about poor legal help.
Another appeal before the high court Thursday night raised questions about whether the pent…

Texas: For Elderly Inmates, There's More Than One Way to Die on Death Row

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Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas - its history, how it's changed, whom it affects and its future. From Texas Standard:
Death row inmates often spend decades between the day they're sentenced and the day they're executed. That can be due to many factors - from lengthy appeals to the state being unable to get the drugs it needs to carry out executions.
In the meantime, inmates age. Some are dying of natural causes. Such was the case last April when 2 inmates passed away - one right after the other.
Texas faces many challenges treating inmates' health on a limited budget. To understand, we must look at inmates' overall living conditions. Conditions differ between the more than 230 men and the 6 women on death row in Texas.
In a way, the lives of the women on death row are exceptional. They wake up in their cells, head out to a job, and then socialize or exercise until sundown when they're…

Utah representative sponsoring two death penalty bills

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A battle is brewing over the death penalty on Utah's Capitol Hill.
Representative Paul Ray says the state needs to send a strong message about what's going on across the country.
"We have people that are out across the country who are out targeting and trying to kill police officers, because of who they are. We want to say, you know what, in Utah we're not going to do that. We're going to get some protections," said Ray, (R) Clearfield.
Ray is sponsoring a bill he says will create those protections.
It would require prosecutors to seek the death penalty for anyone who targets and kills an officer or member of the military.
He says it would then be up to a jury to decide if the sentence should be carried out.
The ACLU of Utah is waiting to see the wording of the bill, but says there are some potential problems.
"We know from Supreme Court rulings that it is not constitutional to have a mandatory punishment for any type of crimes. So, having the death pen…

Nebraska execution protocol nears approval with confidentiality change

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The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services apparently will strike a paragraph from its proposed execution protocol that would authorize the supplier of lethal injection drugs to remain confidential.
The department has reviewed testimony from a Dec. 30 public hearing on execution protocol, proposed at least one change and forwarded its proposed protocol to Attorney General Doug Peterson. Now, it's in the hands of Gov. Pete Ricketts' Policy Research Office.
The protocol was revised shortly after Nebraskans voted in November to continue using the death penalty. That vote came after the Legislature voted to repeal it and substitute life in prison for first-degree murder convictions.
The newly revised protocol would allow the Corrections Department to use available drugs for lethal injection of condemned inmates and would have kept the source of those drugs confidential. It would give only the inmate information on what drug(s) would be used and in what quantity 60 days befo…

UK must play no role in Trump torture – Reprieve

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The Prime Minister must ensure the UK plays no role in a revived US torture programme, human rights organization Reprieve has warned today, after President Trump said that he believes ‘torture works.’
Mrs May was questioned in Parliament yesterday ahead of a meeting with the President later this week, but did not say whether she would raise Britain’s opposition to torture during her trip.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson pointed to the UK’s torture policy – known as the ‘Consolidated Guidance’ – in response to questions from reporters. However, the Government recently scrapped statutory oversight of the policy, meaning there is no independent body tasked with ensuring it is applied.
The policy itself contains loopholes: it does not require the agencies to inform ministers when they know or expect Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CIDT) to take place. It also allows the agencies to continue working with torturers if they believe they can “mitigate risk” through “reliable reass…

Iraq: Execution of 31 piles injustice on top of bloodshed

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The mass execution of 31 men in Iraq, which was announced yesterday, for their alleged role in mass killings in 2014 is further proof of the Iraqi authority's blatant disregard for human rights and misguided use of the death penalty in the name of security, said Amnesty International.
Local authorities confirmed to Amnesty International that they yesterday received the 31 bodies in Samarrah, Salah al-Din governorate, which were then transferred to the city's hospital for purposes of being collected by their families, who have commenced to do so. 
The executions took place on Friday, January 20, 2017.
The men, whose "confessions" were extracted under serious allegations of torture, were convicted following deeply flawed and speedy trials, over the killing of 1,700 military cadets at Speicher military camp near Tikrit in June 2014. 
The armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for those killings.
"This is the 2nd time in less than 6 mo…