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Showing posts from June, 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…

Juvenile Offender Faces Execution in Iran

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According to the Iranian state-run news agency, Rokna, a juvenile offender identified as Farshid, 22, is facing execution after he was sentenced to death at the age of 16 for the charge of murder. There is no information available at this time regarding where Farshid is detained.
Farshid reportedly told the judge that he was a child when he committed the crime and that he has since changed for the better and realized the huge mistake he made.
According to reports, the names of Farshid's parents are not listed in his case file, only his lawyer is representing him. In a court sesson, his lawyer reportedly requested for Article 91 of the Islamic Penal Code to be implemented in client's case, however, the Judge did not agree and sentenced Farshid to death.
According to Article 91 of Iran's revised Islamic Penal Code, it is up to the presiding judge's discretion to deem the juvenile mature enough to understand the nature of the offense: "In the cases of offenses punis…

Czech Republic: "Last Address" project commemorates victims who were executed by Communist regime

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The country's Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes on Tuesday launched a new project to commemorate victims of former Czechoslovakia's communist regime. Called "Last Address", the idea was inspired by similar initiatives in Russia. Within the project, plaques will be installed at victims' final addresses - recalling their lives and what they stood for, for which they died.
Tuesday is the 67th anniversary of the execution of Milada Horakova a member of parliament and democrat found guilty in a notorious show trial in 1950 staged by Czechoslovakia's Communist regime. The death penalty was carried out in spite of last minute pleas for clemency from the likes of Albert Einstein and the Pope. The day has seen a number of commemorative events honouring her memory but also that of others who suffered and perished as enemies of the regime. "Last Address" focusses on those who never came back.
Michaela Stoilova, the main organizer of the project …

Ohio can use 3-drug combination to resume executing those on death row, appeals court says

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The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday said it would allow the state of Ohio to use a certain 3-drug mixture to carry out lethal injections, paving the way for the state to resume executing those on death row.
The full court's opinion, decided 8-6 mostly along the court's conservative-liberal split, reverses a preliminary injunction granted by federal magistrate Judge Michael Merz in Dayton in January, as well as a three-judge appellate panel's April decision to uphold the injunction while the case heads to trial.
Merz found there is a "substantial risk of serious harm" in using midazolam, a sedative that is one of the three drugs the state endeavors to use in executions.
Judge Raymond Kethledge, a George W. Bush appointee writing for the majority, wrote that "some risk of pain 'is inherent in any method of execution -- no matter how humane.'" He also wrote that people have differing views on whether the potential for pain is accept…

Miami murder conviction to test Florida's new death-penalty law

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12 jurors deliberated just half-an-hour Wednesday before convicting a man of murdering a security guard outside a popular North Miami-Dade restaurant.
Now, they will become the 1st jury in Miami to be asked to agree unanimously on meting out the death penalty.
Wednesday's verdict came 3 months after Florida lawmakers changed the law so that jurors must agree in unison when handing down execution as punishment for murder.
The same jury will reconvene later this summer to consider Silver's sentence. DNA on a bloody ski mask was the key evidence.
At closing arguments on Wednesday, prosecutors said Silver - dressed in black and wielding a 9mm pistol - targeted 62-year-old Solmeus Accimeus as he sat in his car at closing time outside Esther's Restaurant.
Intending to rob the guard, Silver walked up to the car and fired at the guard, penetrating the man's aorta, spraying blood all over the gunman, prosecutors said. Moments later, as he fled, Silver threw away the ski mask, …

Texas: Surviving bad lawyers just got tougher for death row inmates

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For inmates on death row, having a bad lawyer just got deadlier.
In a ruling Monday against a Texas death row inmate who claimed his lawyer failed to argue his case adequately, the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts could not review prisoners' claims that their state appeals lawyers were ineffective, resolving an issue that had split courts across the country.
The decision makes it harder for death row inmates who had poor legal representation to make that part of their appeals, a particular issue for poor inmates who likely have court-appointed lawyers in the early stages of their cases.
"It does perpetuate a system of inequality," said Sean O'Brien, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law who has argued several capital punishment cases and served as the director of many of the school's criminal defense law clinics. "It gives the state a reward for giving prisoners incompetent lawyers in state post-conviction.... That&#…

Capital Punishment and Extreme Mental Torture

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The death penalty, the Supreme Court claims, is an act of retribution; so whatever suffering the condemned endure is part of the price they pay for their crimes. Punishment, after all, is meant to inflict pain. And while the Court disapproves of any form of physical abuse of prisoners (such as beatings, prolonged sleep deprivation, or withholding food and water or necessary medications), thus far it has ignored mental suffering endured by men and women condemned to death. In the Court's reasoning, even though life sentences without parole are available, only a "death for a death" will do. In Gregg, the Court says: "Retribution is an expression of the community's belief that certain crimes are themselves so grievous an affront to humanity that the only adequate response may be the penalty of death." And, as I noted in my letter to Pope John Paul II, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that killing human beings is not an assault on their dignity. Thus, by legal…

Texas death row inmate loses at U.S. Supreme Court, could face execution date

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Texas death row inmate Monday, making Erick Davila's case ineligible for review in federal court.
A Texas death row inmate whose case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court could now face an execution date after the justices ruled against him in a 5-4 decision Monday morning split among ideological lines. The man was convicted in the 2008 shooting deaths of a 5-year-old girl and her grandmother in Fort Worth.
The question before the high court in Erick Davila's case was whether claims of ineffective assistance of counsel during state appeals should be treated the same as during the original trial. Appellate courts throughout the country have ruled differently on the issue, a situation that often prompts the Supreme Court to step in. In the Monday opinion presented by Justice Clarence Thomas, the justices ultimately decided that the different types of lawyers should not be treated the same, making Davila's case ineligible for co…

Former Florida Chief Justice Says Death Penalty Process Faces Chaos

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A former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court says the state’s death penalty process will be left in “chaos” as a result of recent court decisions involving how the process is administered.
In the past, a jury would recommend whether someone convicted of murder should be given the death penalty. The jury’s recommendation could be a simple majority. But, the final decision as to whether a person would receive the death penalty was left up to the judge.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that giving the judge the final say violated a defendant’s right to a trial by jury. The high court also took exception with a majority vote, saying the jury’s decision on the death penalty needed to be unanimous. (1)
Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature enacted a law requiring a unanimous jury decision before a person can be sentenced to death.
The rulings mean that approximately 150 inmates on Florida’s death row can now request a new sentencing hearing to determine if their death sentences wil…

Deputy governor-elect to establish sharia tourism zone in Jakarta

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Deputy governor-elect Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno said on Tuesday that he planned to establish a sharia tourism zone in Kwitang, Senen, Central Jakarta.
Sandiaga explained that he had been inspired to build such a zone after he visited Ali bin Abdurrahmad Al Habsyi, better known as Habib Kwitang, at Ar Riyadh Mosque in Kwitang on Tuesday.
Kwitang is known among local Muslims for its regular learning forums held by a local Islamic center.
"I think it will be interesting if there is a religious tourism zone [in the area], which is properly arranged with tents. Hence, mobility can be ensured," Sandiaga said as quoted by wartakota.tribunnews.com.
He said he planned to realize the idea by building home stays in the area after his inauguration as Jakarta deputy governor in October.
He expressed hope that the tourism zone would support small and medium enterprises in Jakarta.
Source: The Jakarta Post, June 28, 2017

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A Presumption of Guilt

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People of color in the United States, particularly young black men, are often assumed to be guilty and dangerous. In too many situations, black men are considered offenders incapable of being victims themselves. As a consequence of this country’s failure to address effectively its legacy of racial inequality, this presumption of guilt and the history that created it have significantly shaped every institution in American society, especially our criminal justice system.
Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African-Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were brutal public murders that were tolerated by state and federal officials. These racially motivated acts, meant to bypass legal institutions in order to intimidate entire populations, became a form of terrorism. Lynching had a profound effect on race relations in the United States and defined the geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of African-Americans in ways that are still evident…

13 Chinese sentenced to death for drugs offences as thousands look on in public trial

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Eight executed immediately after open hearing in a stadium in notorious drug producing area of Guangdong province
Two courts in southern China’s Guangdong province sentenced 13 people to death for producing and selling drugs at a public trial in a stadium in the city of Shanwei watched by some 10,000 people, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The Shanwei Intermediate People’s Court and the Lufeng People’s Court handed out sentences on Saturday for 18 people, the report said, without giving the names of the accused or details of the charges.
Five were given suspended sentences. Of the 13 sentenced to death, eight were executed immediately after the trial.
The city of Lufeng, which is administered by Shanwei, is notorious for making and trafficking drugs. 
In 2014 more than 3,000 paramilitary personnel, police and border guards from Guangdong raided a village near Lufeng and seized three tonnes of crystal meth. 
Nearly 200 people from the village, which has a population of 14,000…

The Death Penalty and Mental Illness: An Evolving Standard?

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The use of the death penalty in the Americas dates to the 15th century when European settlers brought with them the practice of capital punishment. Because nowhere in the US Constitution is capital punishment explicitly addressed, the death penalty was imbued with intrinsic constitutionality by the Founding Fathers. The Fifth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment (due process clause) of the Bill of Rights have attempted to provide guidelines on how capital punishment should be handled. The Fifth Amendment states that "no person shall be held to answer for a capital [crime], unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury," while the Eighth Amendment states that "nor cruel and unusual punishments [be] inflicted."
Although the death penalty was viewed as an acceptable form of punishment at the time the US Constitution was created, it did not take long for various states to begin to limit or even ban such practices. The 1st state to do so was Mi…