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Showing posts from January, 2018

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Anthony Ray Hinton Spent Almost 30 Years on Death Row. Now He Has a Message for White America.

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Anthony Ray Hinton was mowing the lawn at his mother's house in 1985 when Alabama police came to arrest him for 2 murders he did not commit. One took place when he was working the night shift at a Birmingham warehouse. Yet the state won a death sentence, based on 2 bullets it falsely claimed matched a gun found at his mother's home. In his powerful new memoir, "The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row," Hinton describes how racism and a system stacked against the poor were the driving forces behind his conviction. He also writes about the unique and unexpected bonds that can form on death row, and in particular about his relationship with Henry Hays, a former Klansman sentenced to death for a notorious lynching in 1981. Hays died in the electric chair in 1997 - 1 of 54 people executed in Alabama while Hinton was on death row.
After almost 30 years, Hinton was finally exonerated in 2015, thanks to the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI. On April 27…

Iran: Authorities execute young man in exceptionally cruel circumstances

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Amnesty International is outraged by reports that the Iranian authorities have executed a young man convicted of murder who was only 15 years old at the time of the crime.
The organization learned that 22-year-old Ali Kazemi was hung earlier today in prison in Busher province. His execution was scheduled and carried out without any notice given to Ali Kazemi's lawyer as required by Iranian law.
"By carrying out this unlawful execution, Iran is effectively declaring that it wishes to maintain the country's shameful status as one of the world's leading executioners of those who were children at the time of their crime," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
"This is nothing short of an all-out assault on children's rights, as enshrined in international law, which absolutely bans the use of the death penalty against someone who was under 18 years of age at the time of the crime."
"It is…

Texas executes William Rayford

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Dallas man put to death for murder committed while on parole for earlier slaying
A Dallas man who was already on parole for the murder of his estranged wife when he stabbed and strangled his ex-girlfriend in 1999 begged for forgiveness and thanked God with his final breaths before his Tuesday night execution.
"I've asked God to forgive me. Please find it in your hearts to forgive me," William Earl Rayford said before he died by lethal injection at 8:48 p.m.
The 64-year-old asked his victim's family for forgiveness and promised to keep them in his prayers, according to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman.
"By no means am I happy for what I've done. I have asked the Lord to forgive me," he said. "Tell my kids I'm sorry for being a disappointment. Thank you. God bless. I'm ready warden."
The execution, which took 13 minutes to carry out, was delayed more than two hours in light of a pair of pending Supreme Court appeals, incl…

My First Night on Death Row as an Innocent Man

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Anthony Graves was convicted in 1994 for killing 6 people in 1992. He was exonerated in 2010 after having served 18 1/2 years in prison, 16 of which were spent in solitary confinement and 12 of which were on death row. 
The prosecutor in Graves' case was eventually disbarred for misconduct, and Texas had to pay Graves $1.45 million in compensation for the damage the state had done to him. 
Graves now works at the ACLU of Texas as the Smart Justice Initiatives Manager. 
Below is an excerpt from Graves' recently published book, "Infinite Hope: How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement, and 12 years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul" (Beacon Press, 2018). It is reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.
Early November 1994: Entering the Lion's Den
I arrived at death row on November 1, 1994, the same year director Frank Darabont turned Stephen King's novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" into the now classic movie about a wrongfully …

Texas man set for execution hopes Supreme Court cases will stop his death

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William Rayford, a 64-year-old death row inmate convicted in the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, is hoping 2 previous U.S. Supreme Court cases will be the key to stopping his execution Tuesday.
William Rayford's lawyers are hoping 2 recent U.S. Supreme Court cases will stop his execution set for Tuesday night.
In multiple last-minute appeals, the 64-year-old death row inmate claims his sentencing trial in the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend was tainted by racial prejudice and that he was wrongly denied federal funding to further investigate evidence that could have persuaded a jury to give him a lighter sentence. His legal team said these issues "mirror" those of the recent cases the high court heard of fellow death row inmates Duane Buck and Carlos Ayestas and should therefore serve as reasons to put off his death.
Rayford has been on death row for 17 years. He was convicted in Dallas County for the kidnapping and death of 44-year-old Carol Hall. In November 1999, Ra…

Iran: At least 2 hanged in Urmia, prisoner executed in Shiraz

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Iran Human Rights (Jan 29, 2018): At least two prisoners were hanged at Urmia Central Prison on murder charges.
According to a close source, on the morning of Sunday, January 28, at least two prisoners were executed at Urmia Central Prison (Darya). The prisoners were sentenced to death on murder charges.
Moreover, another prisoner named Hamdollah Mohammadpour, who was scheduled to be executed on the same day, was able to win the consent of the plaintiff by paying four hundred million Tomans (nearly 88400 dollars) and returned to his cell.
According to Kurdistan Human Rights Network, the executed prisoners were identified as Mehran Behshad from ward 14 and Farhad Alba from ward 3-4.
According to some sources, the number of executions was more than two but it has not been confirmed yet.
The execution of these prisoners has not been announced by the state-run media so far.
Execution in Shiraz
Iran Human Rights (Jan 22, 2018): A prisoner was hanged at Adelabad Prison in Shiraz on the cha…

Malaysia couple spared death for starving Cambodian maid

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A Malaysian couple who were on death row for starving their Cambodian maid to death saw their sentences reduced to 10 years in prison last week, according to Malaysian rights organisations.
Chin Chui Ling and her husband, Soh Chew Tong, were initially convicted of homicide in 2013, but the appeal court handed them the death sentence for murder in 2015. On Thursday the Federal Court of Malaysia again reduced the charge to homicide.
Cambodian maid Mey Sichan went to Malaysia in 2011, and was found dead in 2012 weighing just 26.1 kilograms with marks of physical abuse.
Glorene Das, executive director of Malaysian human rights organisation Tenaganita, told reporters that, while her organisation did not support the death penalty, the 10-year sentence was unacceptable.
"There needs to be a stronger sentence for ending a human life," she said.
Glorene added that memorandums of understanding to send workers to Malaysia weren't sufficient protection as they did not hold perpetra…

Knesset Considers Changing Law to Apply Death Penalty to Convicted Terrorists

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Israel has confronted terrorist attacks for many decades, but in all of those years, the Knesset and the public have not seriously considered whether the justice system should sentence convicted terrorists to death. Instead, despite allowing punishment by death for a narrow range of crimes that might plausibly be applied to terrorism offenses, Israel has continued to apply a de facto moratorium on the death penalty.
A recent Knesset bill that would introduce the death sentence for terror-related murder in Israel has broken the decades of relative silence on the matter. With the backing of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, members of the Yisrael Beiteinu party proposed the bill and saw it through preliminary approval in a plenary session of the Knesset. It is now pending before the committee on constitutional and legal matters for further debate and preparation for additional readings. The proposal has 2 elements. The 1st amends Israel's Penal Law to stipulate that a person conv…

Washington state: Exonerated man urges end to death penalty in Bremerton speech

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Kirk Bloodsworth, the 1st person to be exonerated from a death sentence by DNA testing in the United States, spoke to an audience at the Emmanuel Apolistic Church in Bremerton on Saturday about his experiences being imprisoned as an innocent man.
In 1984, Bloodsworth was arrested for the rape and murder of 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton in Baltimore County, Maryland. He was sentenced to death in 1985.
Bloodsworth spent a significant portion of his time incarcerated reading and studying, and detailed to the audience the breakthrough in his quest for innocence, which came while reading "The Blooding" by Joseph Wambaugh, a chronicle of the 1st use of DNA testing in a criminal case to convict a serial killer in England.
"DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid. Took me almost 10 years to learn how to pronounce that," Bloodsworth said. "I didn't know at the time that those 3 letters were my get-out-of-jail and freedom card."
The event was hosted by Witness to Innocence, a …

Florida rejected 40 death penalty appeals in a week

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TALLAHASSEE — After issuing another batch of 10 rulings Friday, the Florida Supreme Court this week rejected a total of 40 death-penalty appeals on similar legal grounds. 
The 40 appeals all were filed on behalf of Death Row inmates who received their sentences before June 2002, though the Supreme Court’s decision to release four large batches of rulings in a week was highly unusual.
The appeals stemmed from a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida and a subsequent Florida Supreme Court decision. 
The 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found Florida’s death-penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries.
The subsequent Florida Supreme Court ruling said juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty. 
But the Florida Supreme Court made the new sentencing requirements apply to cases since June 2002. 
That i…