Iran: The death penalty is an inhumane punishment for death row prisoners, their families and society as a whole

"Whether guilty or not, the outcome of the death penalty is the same. In Iran, the death penalty is by hanging, and it takes from several agonising seconds to several harrowing minutes for death to occur and for everything to be over."

Every year several hundred people are executed by the Iranian authorities.
According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and other human rights groups, death row prisoners have often no access to a defence lawyer after their arrest and are sentenced to death following unfair trials and based on confessions extracted from them under torture. 
These are issues which have been addressed in IHR’s previous reports. The current report is based on first-hand accounts of several inmates held in Iran's prisons and their families. The report seeks to illustrate other aspects of how the death penalty affects the inmate, their families and, as a consequence, society.
How does a death row inmate experience his final hours?
Speaking about the final ho…

Alabama and capital punishment 2017: From the execution chamber to legislature

Holman prison, Alabama
With both arms strapped to a gurney convicted cop-killer Torrey McNabb raised both middle fingers and told the state of Alabama "I hate you mother****ers" just before he was shot up with a lethal combination of drugs on Oct. 19.

Whether it was from the execution chamber at Hollman Correctional facility in Atmore, or inside the state legislature, the death penalty continued to make news across Alabama in 2017.

Alabama also continued to be an outlier from the national downward trend of states executing inmates, according to one national report.

Of the nation's 23 executions this year, 75 percent took place in four southern states: Texas, Arkansas, Florida, and Alabama.

Texas had seven executions, Arkansas four, and Florida tied Alabama each had three executions - McNabb, Tommy Arthur, and Robert Melson.

McNabb was convicted of the 1997 murder of Montgomery police officer Anderson Gordon. Arthur, known as the "Houdini of Death Row" for avoiding seven previous executions through legal maneuvers for his conviction in a 1982 murder-for-hire, was executed May 25. Melson, who was convicted in the 1994 triple slaying at a Gadsden fast-food restaurant, was executed June 8.

And Alabama is set to execute two more in early 2018.  

According to report from the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that researches the death penalty and provides public information on the issues surrounding executions, 81 executions were scheduled in 2017 across the nation, but 58 were never carried out.

"Across the political spectrum, more people are coming to the view that there are better ways to keep us safe than executing a handful of offenders selected from a random death-penalty lottery," said Robert Dunham, the group's executive director. "There will be times when numbers fluctuate - particularly following historic highs or lows - but the steady long-term decline in the death penalty since the 1990s suggests that in most of the country, the death penalty is becoming obsolete."

The report also notes a Gallup Poll from October that shows 55 percent support for capital punishment across the nation, the lowest since March 1972.

DPIC says it does not take a position for or against capital punishment. 


Alabama did change the way it handled death penalty cases in 2017 - viewed as good or bad depending on where you stand on capital punishment.

Earlier this year, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that said juries, not judges, have the final say on whether to impose the death penalty in capital murder cases--a policy every state but Alabama had already done away with. Because of that law, judges can no longer override a jury's recommendation, whether the jury recommends life in prison or the death penalty. The law does not apply retroactively to prisoners already awaiting execution. The center stated in its report that an estimated 20 percent of all Alabama death sentences had been the product of judicial overrides.

Alabama is still the only state to allow a non-unanimous jury to impose the death penalty-- under state law, a jury can send an inmate to death row on a vote of 10-2, which the DPIC refers to as an "outlier practice."

Shortly after the judicial override bill was passed, the legislature enacted the "Fair Justice Act" to expedite executions by reducing inmates' access to appellate courts. The act shortens time allowed for death-penalty appeals and has gained criticism from death row exonerees, like Anthony Ray Hinton, and defense attorneys across the state.

Hinton said he believes if the Fair Justice Act had been enacted years ago he would have been executed before he was released in 2015 after new tests on the murder weapon in his case could not connect him to the slayings of two fast-food managers in the 1980s.

Alabama's death chamber
Information from the DPIC says eight states carried out 23 executions during 2017, which is half the number of seven years ago and the second lowest total execution number since 1991. The federal government and 14 states sought to impose 39 new death sentences this year: The second lowest annual total since 1972. This year was also the seventh concurrent year fewer than 100 death sentences were ordered across the county.

According to information listed on the Alabama Department of Corrections website, there have been 26 inmates put to death in the state in the past decade. In 2016, there were two after a more than two-year hiatus due to legal wrangling and attempts to get a new source of execution drugs. 

And Alabama has scheduled executions for two inmates in 2018: Vernon Madison on Jan. 25, and Doyle Lee Hamm on Feb. 22. 

In November, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Madison-- who claimed to be mentally incompetent and was granted a stay of execution in 2016-- can be executed.

Madison, 66, is one of the state's longest-serving death row inmates. He was convicted in the April 1985 slaying of Mobile police officer Cpl. Julius Schulte.

In May 2016, Madison was set to die by lethal injection, but hours after the scheduled execution the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding a lower court's stay.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed that decision, meaning Madison is competent and can be executed.

Hamm, 60, has been in prison since December 1987. He was convicted in the murder of Patrick Cunningham, an employee of Anderson's Motel in Cullman who was killed during a robbery.

Attorney Bernard E. Harcourt, Hamm's lawyer and a professor of law and political science at Columbia, said earlier this month when the execution date was announced that Hamm is terminally ill and that execution would constitute "cruel and unusual punishment." Hamm has been battling cranial and lymphatic cancer for over three years, his attorney said. According to documents filed by Harcourt, treatment for the illness has compromised Hamm's veins, and lethal injection would likely cause "cruel and needless pain."

"What we're litigating right now is the specific venous protocol for lethal injection as applied to Doyle's situation, given his lymphatic cancer, rather than the general cruelty of the drug cocktail in Alabama," Harcourt wrote. "Overall, I have to say, it's inhumane to execute somebody who's at the end of his life suffering and battling with cancer."

The DPIC report also noted the Alabama case of death row inmate James McWilliams, McWilliams v. Dunn, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its case precedent gave an indigent defendant the right to an independent mental-health expert to assist in evaluating, preparing, and presenting his defense. The Court held that Alabama had violated McWilliams's right to due process when the trial court denied his lawyer's request to consult with an expert to review mental-health records about his client that had been produced on the eve of the penalty-phase hearing, according to the report.

Source: AL.com, Ivana Hrynkiw, December 29, 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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