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Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

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ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases because it is “an attack” on the “dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a definitive shift in Roman Catholic teaching that could put enormous pressure on lawmakers and politicians around the world.
Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism, the collection of beliefs for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The revision says the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
“I think this will be a big deal for the future of the death penalty in the world,” said John Thavis, a Vatican expert and author. “People who work with prisoners on death row will be thrilled, and I think this will become a banner social justice issue for the church,” he added.
Sergio D’Elia, the secretary of Hands Off Cain, an association that works to abolish capital puni…

Texas: A Death Sentence for $1.25

John Henry Ramirez
John Henry Ramirez
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 Texas with his family, and was arrested in 2008. Ramirez pleaded not guilty, but the jury returned a quick guilty verdict. DNA evidence found Castro's blood in Ramirez's van; strands of Ramirez's DNA were found on Castro's body. During the punishment hearing, the defense only called one witness - Ramirez's father - though according to court records, Ramirez asked they not call a second witness. Ramirez has since admitted that he didn't want his family history dragged into the case.

Ramirez's direct appeal was denied in 2009. He filed for relief in 2010, arguing that trial prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder was committed during a robbery; without the underlying felony, Ramirez would've likely been sentenced to life in prison. Appellate attorneys also claimed that prosecutors at Ramirez's trial conducted an "improper" elimination of potential jurors, and that Ramirez was erroneously shackled during trial, which unfairly tainted the jurors' view of their client. Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied his plea in 2012, as did the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last February. In May, Ramirez appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was denied 5 months later.

Last week, Corpus Christi news network KIII released a short interview with Ramirez. He said: "I'm not going to ask [Castro's family] to forgive me 'cause I think about it and I don't know how I'd react if someone killed a close family member - a father or a brother. I know it's hard. I wouldn't want to ask them to forgive me, I just want to ask them to know that I'm sorry."

Ramirez would be the 3rd Texan executed this year. Kosoul Chanthakoummane, previously scheduled for execution on Jan. 25, saw his death date rescheduled for July 19. (His attorney Gregory Gardner told the Chronicle that the forensic science used to convict him at his trial has since been debunked.)

Source: Austin Chronicle, January 26, 2017

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