Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

Rodney Reed’s death sentence was suspended. But researchers say other current cases raise similar doubt about the guilt of the accused.
The number of executions in the United States remains close to nearly a three-decade low. And yet the decline has not prevented what those who closely track the death penalty see as a disturbing trend: a significant number of cases in which prisoners are being put to death, or whose execution dates are near, despite questions about their guilt.
Rodney Reed, who came within days of execution in Texas before an appeals court suspended his death sentence on Friday, has been the most high-profile recent example, receiving support from Texas lawmakers of both parties and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, who urged a new examination of the evidence.
Mr. Reed has long maintained that he did not commit the 1996 murder for which he was convicted. And in recent months, new witnesses came forward pointing toward another possible suspect: the dead…

China to further reduce the number of crimes under the death penalty

Chinese police officers demonstrate the standard execution procedure.
China will continue to remove the number of crimes under the death penalty in the future, Chinese experts said, ahead of a new round of reviews of the draft Criminal Law.

The 12th Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) began a 6-day meeting on Monday, during which it will review amendments to the Criminal Law, China News Service reported on Monday.

The report said the Criminal Law has been amended several times since 1997, and major amendments include imposing the death penalty on fewer crimes.

"The amendments to the Criminal Law should adapt to society. China has been removing the number of crimes under the death penalty and will continue to do so," Ruan Qilin, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times on Monday.

However, not as many crimes will likely be removed under the death penalty this time since amendments were made just two years ago, Ruan said.

In 2015, China's amendments to the Criminal Law removed nine crimes under the death penalty, including arms and ammunition smuggling, possession of nuclear materials, counterfeit currency, illicitly raising funds, arranging for or forcing another person to engage in prostitution, obstructing a police officer or a person on duty from performing his duties, and spreading rumors to mislead others in wartime.

The death penalty may spark public outrage if handled inappropriately, which would eventually lead to social conflicts, Liu Dalai, a lawyer from the Beijing Lianggao Law Firm, told the Global Times.

But Liu said China should not abolish the death penalty "since it helps to deter some criminals and is applicable to certain crimes which severely harm the country and society.

Aside from amendments to the death penalty, another urgent task is to include the explanation for the national anthem law in the Criminal Law, Ruan said.

The national anthem law came took effect on October 1, and states that it is now illegal to use the national anthem at funerals, "inappropriate" private occasions, commercials or as background music in public places.

Those who maliciously modify the lyrics, play or sing the national anthem in a distorted or disrespectful way could be detained for up to 15 days, and even be held criminally liable, the law says.

"The law has already taken effect, but penalties have yet to be explained in the amendments, along with regulations on insults to the national anthem in Hong Kong," Ruan said.

Hong Kong football fans booed China's national anthem before an Asian Cup qualifying match between Hong Kong and Malaysia on October 10.

The meeting is also scheduled to examine drafts of other laws, including the Anti-Unfair Competition Law, e-commerce law, and law on public libraries.

Source: Global Times, October 31, 2017

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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