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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

New York truck attack suspect 'spent a year planning'; Donald Trump tweets that he ‘should get death penalty’

Sayfullo Saipov
The main suspect in the New York truck rampage that killed eight people on Tuesday has told investigators he began planning the attack a year ago.

Sayfullo Saipov, 29, said he intended to kill as many people as possible and "felt good" about the Halloween attack.

The Uzbek immigrant, who faces federal terrorism charges, says he was inspired by so-called Islamic State. He was shot and injured by police at the scene.

US President Donald Trump tweeted that he should receive the death penalty.

The charges filed against Mr Saipov are federal, which means the government can override New York state's ban on capital punishment.

What did the suspect say?


Mr Saipov appeared in court in a wheelchair 24 hours after mowing down cyclists and pedestrians on a bike lane in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday.

Six people died at the scene and two more in hospital. Twelve people were injured, four of whom remain in critical condition.


What we know and don't know


Prosecutors say Mr Saipov spoke freely to them, waiving his right to avoid self-incrimination while in custody.

According to federal court papers, he said:

  • The attack was a year in the planning and he carried out a trial run with a rental truck last month
  • He intentionally chose Halloween because he believed there would be more people in the streets
  • He originally planned to target the Brooklyn Bridge as well
  • He wanted to display Islamic State (IS) flags on the truck, but decided not to draw attention to himself
  • He was inspired by 90 graphic and violent propaganda videos found on his phone - in particular, one in which IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asks what Muslims are doing to avenge deaths in Iraq.

Mr Saipov was charged with one count of providing material support and resources to IS and another count of violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

New York Police's Deputy Commissioner John Miller said the suspect appeared "to have followed almost exactly to a 'T'" IS instructions on how to carry out such an attack.

The FBI says they have located a second Uzbek man, 32-year-old Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, who was wanted for questioning in connection with the attack.


Who is the suspect?


Sayfullo Saipov had reportedly lived in Tampa, Florida, before moving to Paterson, New Jersey.

He arrived in America from Uzbekistan in 2010 and is a legal resident of the country. Uber confirmed he had been working as a driver for them.

CBS News quotes an intelligence source as saying he was known to US authorities after his name was associated with the subjects of FBI counter-terrorism investigations in 2015.

The source says he had some contact with individuals who were considered radicalised extremists, at least one of whom was Uzbek. It is unclear whether those being investigated were in the US or overseas.

It is not known if Mr Saipov, who was not the main focus of the investigation, was interviewed at that time by the FBI.

What has been the reaction?


New York has increased the police presence at key transport hubs, and there will be additional uniformed and plain-clothes police on duty at Sunday's New York Marathon.

President Trump said he was taking steps to end the diversity lottery programme - the immigration system under which the suspect entered the country.

But on Thursday, the US president drew back from an earlier call to send the suspect to the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suggesting it would take too long.

The administration says it has not ruled out adding Uzbekistan to a list of countries in the president's proposed travel ban.

The mayor of New York City and the governor of New York state have both praised the resilience of New Yorkers - and urged people not to "politicise" a tragedy that took eight lives.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio also suggested New York's strict gun control laws had ensured that high-powered weapons could not get into the hands of terrorists.

How did the attack unfold?


The attacker rented the truck from a New Jersey branch of retailer Home Depot on Tuesday afternoon before driving to New York City and entering the bike lane, police said.

Video cameras show the van driving at very high speed, appearing to target bike riders and pedestrians.

After the truck collided with a school bus, the truck driver emerged and brandished what appeared to be two weapons.

Mr Saipov was shot and wounded at the scene by an NYPD officer who was alerted to the attack by witnesses.

Knives, a paint gun and a pellet gun were recovered from the scene.

It was the deadliest terror attack in the city since the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in 2001.


Who were the victims?


A group of five Argentine friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their college graduation were among the dead.

The men - all aged 48 or 49 - were named as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferrucci.

Belgian officials said Anne-Laure Decadt, a 31-year-old from Staden in Flanders, was also killed. 

Three Belgians were wounded.

Two other victims, both Americans, have been identified as Darren Drake, 32, and Nicholas Cleves, 23.

Source: BBC News, November 2, 2017


Trump tweets that suspect in NYC terrorist attack ‘should get death penalty’


donald trump
President Trump waded deeper Thursday into the legal procedures ahead for the suspect in the New York City terrorist attack, saying he wishes he could ship him off to Guantanamo Bay and urging for the death penalty.

The series of tweets, which began shortly after midnight, staked out a White House position well ahead of the courts. It also sharply broke with long-held traditions of senior public officials holding back comments that could appear to undermine the legal process and possibly complicate proceedings.

In an early morning tweet, Trump wrote that he “would love” to send the suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, to the military-run detention site at Guantánamo, but lamented it might take “longer than going through the Federal system.” Trump also repeated his call for Saipov to face capital punishment.

“Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantánamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system,” Trump wrote.

“There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed,” Trump added moments later. “Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!”

Hours earlier, Trump expressed outrage at reports that Saipov asked for the Islamic State flag to be hung in the hospital room where he was treated for gunshot wounds during his capture by police after Tuesday’s rampage.

“NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!” Trump wrote.

His tweet deviated from an unwritten rule that presidents shouldn’t express themselves on the outcome of pending criminal cases. Public comments that someone is guilty or should be punished in a certain way can and do play into the hands of defense lawyers if and when cases go to trial.

The lawyers for Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his base in Afghanistan in 2009, argued unsuccessfully that candidate-Trump’s comment that he was a “traitor” would taint any trial. While a military judge said Trump’s comments were “disturbing,” he did not feel it necessary to dismiss the case. Bergdahl ultimately pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

Eight people were killed and a dozen injured on Tuesday when Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant, drove a rented truck into people walking and cycling on a New York City bike path, federal authorities claim. Authorities charged Saipov with providing support to a terrorist organization, alleging the Islamic State inspired him to carry out the attack.

“In court papers, federal authorities said that Sayfullo Saipov told the FBI that he began planning his attack a year ago, though he settled on using a truck as a weapon only two months prior,” The Washington Post reported.

The tweet was one of many from Trump since the attack in New York.

After the attack, Trump wrote several tweets calling for tougher vetting processes of immigrants, in particular calling for an end to the State Department program known as the Diversity Visa Lottery. In several of these, he tweeted at the Fox News show “Fox & Friends.”

He also attacked Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who in 1990 introduced the House bill that helped create the visa program, in an open effort to associate Schumer with the attack.

Source: The Washington Post, Travis M. Andrews, November 2, 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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