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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…

Yemeni executed for child rape and murder

Yemen: People gathered to watch the execution of Muhammad al-Maghrabi.
Yemen: People gathered to watch the execution of Muhammad al-Maghrabi.
SANAA (Reuters) - A man convicted of raping and murdering a three-year-old girl was executed in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Monday in front of hundreds of onlookers, the first public execution there since 2009.

"Security was very tight, because authorities were fearing a revenge attack by armed men from the Bani Matar tribe to which the girl's family belong," said Reuters photographer Khaled Abdullah who witnessed the scene.

The police van transporting Muhammad al-Maghrabi, 41, to Sanaa's Tahrir Square was escorted by five police patrol vehicles. The execution drew a large number of onlookers, some perched up telegraph poles and many watching from rooftops.

The crowd started to shout "Allah is the greatest" when Maghrabi arrived.

"The man was escorted from the van to the middle of the square, and then the place turned to a complete chaos and I fought for a position to take pictures," Abdullah said.

"He tried to talk to the executioner, a police officer who was calmly smoking a cigarette as he stood next to him before pointing his AK-47 to his back from a very close distance.

"Soon he fired around four shots, and people realized that it was done, they rushed to the place and tried to take the body, but the police were able to take the body to the van and drove through the crowd out of the square."

Yahya al-Matari, the father of the murder victim, Rana al-Matari, told reporters after the execution he was satisfied.

"This is the first day in my life," he said. "I am relieved now."

Yemen has been devastated by more than two years of civil war between its Saudi-backed government and Houthi fighters who seized parts of the country in 2014 and 2015.

Source: Reuters, July 31, 2017


In TV Spectacle, Man Convicted of Child Rape-Murder Is Executed in Yemen


The execution took place in a public square in Sana, Yemen, and was televised.
The execution took place in a public square in Sana, Yemen, and was televised.
SANA, Yemen — In a televised execution attended by thousands of Yemenis chanting approval, a man convicted of raping and killing a toddler was placed face down in a public square in Yemen’s capital on Monday and shot with an automatic weapon at point-blank range.

While public executions are not new in Yemen, the broadcast of this one, conducted by the Houthi rebels who have controlled the capital for more than two years in a calamitous civil war, was somewhat unusual.

The egregiousness of the offense and public outrage over it may have played a role in the decision to show the execution on TV, as a way of mollifying the victim’s family and portraying the Houthis as vigilant against crime.

The condemned man, identified by Yemen’s Saba News Agency as Mohammed Saad Mujahid al-Maghrabi, 41, was found guilty by a Houthi-run court of the attack on Rana al-Matan, a 3-year-old girl.

Court officials, the victim’s family and news agencies were invited to attend, Saba reported. It said a crowd numbering in the thousands had converged around the clearing in Sana’s Tahrir Square where the execution was carried out.

Many spectators held cellphone cameras aloft to record it. Some were perched on telephone poles and rooftops.

Shamsan Alyafaei, a 23-year-old university student, said he and some other spectators had learned of the execution on Sunday from messages on WhatsApp and Facebook. Some people arrived at 7 a.m., more than two hours beforehand, to get a good view, and held banners that read “Justice has won,” and “Rana’s blood won’t be in vain.”

Mr. Alyafaei said there had been talk that the condemned man was mentally unstable. Still, he said of the outcome, “as long as it was based on a judicial verdict, it’s fine.”

Abdulkareem Ziraei, 32, a news photographer, estimated that 10,000 people were in the square for the execution and that the overwhelming majority had approved. Many yelled “long live justice!” he said, as the executioner discharged his weapon into Mr. Maghrabi’s back.

News photographs showed Mr. Maghrabi lying on his stomach with hands bound behind him as a uniformed soldier or police officer standing right over him opened fire.

A Reuters dispatch from Sana quoted Yahya al-Matari, the father of the girl, as saying afterward that he felt justice had been served. “This is the first day in my life,” he was quoted as saying. “I am relieved now.”

The child was killed on June 25, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, a joyous Muslim holiday that signifies the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, is overwhelmingly Muslim.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war between the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, and a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which views Iran as a regional threat. The war’s impact also has placed much of the country on the verge of famine and contributed to a cholera outbreak that has sickened roughly 400,000 Yemenis.

Source: The New York Times, Shuaib Almosawa, and Rick Gladstone, July 31, 2017

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