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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 …

Court overturns Indiana death sentence in 'stun belt' case

John Stephenson
(Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Friday threw out the death sentence for a man forced to wear a "stun belt" during the penalty phase of his trial for a 1996 triple murder in Indiana.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago said John Stephenson, 54, was prejudiced by his lawyer's failure to object to the belt, which lets an officer administer an electric charge to prevent a prisoner from misbehaving in the courtroom.

A box on the belt that contained electric wires had been hidden under Stephenson's shirt but visible as a bulge to jurors, four of whom had been aware of the belt.

Stephenson had also worn the belt during his eight-month trial, but never acted up.

Though the appeals court upheld Stephenson's conviction, Circuit Judge Richard Posner said the belt "contaminated" the penalty phase of his trial.

"The fault is certainly not Stephenson's; it's his lawyer's, for failing to object to his client's having to wear a stun belt, given the absence of any reason to think his client would go berserk in the courtroom," Posner wrote.

A spokesman for Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Stephenson's lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The appeals court said Indiana can ask a jury to reimpose the death penalty if Stephenson does not wear the stun belt, or ask a judge to impose a lesser penalty.

Stephenson was convicted of murdering three people inside a pickup truck at a rural intersection in March 1996.

The case is Stephenson v Neal, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-1312.

Source: Reuters, Jonathan Stempel, August 4, 2017

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