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The Aum Shinrikyo Executions: Why Now?

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With the execution of Aum Shinrikyo leader and six of his followers, Japan looks to leave behind an era of tragedy. 
On July 6, 2018, Japanese authorities executed seven members of the religious movement Aum Shinrikyo (Aum true religion, or supreme truth), which carried out the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack and a series of other atrocities. None of the seven of the executed men were directly involved in releasing the gas on that tragic day; four of those who did remain under a death sentence, and their executions may be imminent.
The seven executed were involved in planning and organizing the various crimes committed by Aum. Asahara Shoko (born Matsumoto Chizuo), was the founder and leader of the movement, having developed the doctrinal system instrumental to Aum’s violence and its concept of a final cosmic war of good (Aum) against evil (the corrupt material world and everyone — from the Japanese government to the general public — who lived in it). Asahara is believed to have given …

Alabama AG's office seeking three more executions

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich
Alabama AG Steve Marshall and Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Wednesday that the state is seeking to conduct more executions this year.

Marshall visited Mobile on Wednesday to speak at a class educating local law enforcement officers on how to handle digital evidence in violent crime cases, and took questions from media afterward. Asked if his office planned to pursue additional executions, Marshall said "we've made an additional request" to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the state's motions to set execution dates for three death row inmates. According to information provided by Marshall's office, the three cases in question are:

- Torrey Twane McNabb - McNabb has spent 18 years on death row, since being convicted of fatally shooting Montgomery Police Officer Anderson Gordon in September 1997. McNabb was convicted on two capital murder counts, one for killing Gordon while he was on duty, one for killing him as Gordon sat in his patrol car. McNabb also was found guilty of two additional counts of attempted murder. The jury voted 10-2 in favor of the death penalty on the two capital murder counts.

- Jeffrey Borden -- Borden has been on death row for 22 years after being convicted of the 1993 murders of Cheryl Borden and Roland Harris. The murders took place at a family gathering in Gardendale on Christmas Eve; according to a summary presented at trial, Borden had traveled from Huntsville to Gardendale to deliver his three children by Cheryl Borden, his legally separate wife. After Cheryl Borden arrived on the scene, Jeffrey Borden shot her in the back of her head outside the house in the presence of the children. Borden then shot Roland Harris, his wife's father, in the back as Harris tried to run into the house. The jury recommended death on a 10-2 vote.

- Doyle Lee Hamm - Hamm has spent 29 years on death row since being convicted of the 1987 murder of Patrick Cunningham. Cunningham, an employee of Anderson's Motel in Cullman, killed during a robbery that apparently netted about $410. In the course of the investigation, Hamm confessed to the murder; in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to lesser offense, two accomplices testified against him.

Alabama has executed two death row inmates so far this year - Tommy Arthur on May 25 and Robert Melson on June 8.

While some states have had trouble securing adequate supplies of the drugs used in lethal-injection protocols, Marshall indicated that will not be an impediment if the court sets execution dates for Hamm, Borden and McNabb. "Yes, we have the means," he said, when asked if the state would be able to follow through.

"I'm kind of fond of the death penalty"


Though Marshall did not bring up the topic of the death penalty in his address to the group of officers assembled for Wednesday's event, Mobile County District Atttorney Ashley Rich did. Rich told officers she couldn't stay at the event because she had to be in court later Wednesday in a capital murder case that was being retried.

"I tried it about 10 years ago," Rich said of the 2008 conviction of Garrett Dotch, accused of killing his ex-girlfriend in 2006. "We got the death penalty. And we have this pesky little group called the Equal Justice Initiative that likes to hire fancy lawyers in New York pro bono and spend millions of dollars trying to repeal the death penalty in the state of Alabama.

"Well, I'm kind of fond of the death penalty," said Rich. "I think we need the death penalty in the state of Alabama, so we're continuing to fight the Equal Justice Initiative and big law firms who have millions of dollars and want to come down here and reverse all of our death penalty cases."

In a 2015 Public Service Activities report by international law firm Covington and Burling, the firm said it was representing Dotch in a retrial. "The firm previously was successful during the state habeas process in obtaining full relief from his capital sentence, for both the guilt and penalty phases," it said. "The firm also previously represented Mr. Dotch in his direct appeals. Mr. Dotch was referred to Covington by the Equal Justice Initiative."

In a 2016 report after Dotch's conviction was vacated, Covington said that it had "petitioned the trial court for post-conviction relief on multiple grounds. For one thing, a juror had failed to disclose in voir dire that his wife had been murdered a few years earlier in circumstances very similar to the crime of which Mr. Dotch was accused. For another, trial counsel performed virtually no investigation into Mr. Dotch's life, family, and background, and, as a result, failed to discover powerful mitigating evidence about horrific neglect and abuse suffered by Mr. Dotch throughout his life." Covington said the decision to vacate the conviction was "extremely rare in Alabama, and it will be important precedent for the state's death-penalty bar."

Rich said Wednesday that Marshall was helpful in giving her office and local law enforcement "the resources that we needed to re-try this capital murder and death penalty case and get the death penalty again. And we're going to. We're going to try this case again."

Source: AL.com, Lawrence Specker, Kent Faulk, August 2, 2017

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