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2018 Death Penalty report: Saudi Arabia’s False Promise

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With crown prince Mohammed bin Salman at the helm, 2018 was a deeply violent and barbaric year for Saudi Arabia, under his de facto leadership.
PhotoDeera Square is a public space located in front of the Religious Police building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which public executions (usually by beheading) take place. It is sometimes known as Justice Square and colloquially called Chop Chop Square. After Friday prayers, police and other officials clear the area to make way for the execution to take place. After the beheading of the condemned, the head is stitched to the body which is wrapped up and taken away for the final rites.
This year execution rates of 149 executions, shows an increase from the previous year of three executions, indicating that death penalty trends are soaring and there is no reversal of this trend in sight.
The execution rates between 2015-2018 are amongst the highest recorded in the Kingdom since the 1990s and coincide with the ascension of king Salman to the t…

Florida executes Eric Branch

Eric Branch
FLORIDA -- The state executed a man for the 1993 rape and murder of a Florida college student Thursday.

Authorities say 47-year-old Eric Scott Branch was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. Thursday after a lethal injection at Florida State Prison.

Eric Scott Branch, 46, was found guilty for the 1993 rape and murder of Susan Morris in Pensacola. 

Authorities said Branch attacked Susan Morris in January of 1993 as she walked to her car at the University of West Florida. 

Branch dragged Morris into a nearby wooded area, where he beat, strangled, and sexually battered her. 

Branch then left Morris' body in a shallow grave and stole her car to flee the state. 

Branch was previously convicted for the 1991 sexual battery and beating of a 14-year-old girl in Indiana.

He was also convicted in Bay County, Florida for another sexual battery. 

His execution was put on hold at 6 p.m., pending final appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court rejected the appeals without comment.

Branch becomes the 1st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Florida and the 96th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1979.  Only Texas (547) Virginia (113) and Oklahoma (112) have executed more condemned inmates since the death penalty was re-legalized in the USA on July 2, 1976.

Branch becomes the 4th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1469th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. 

Sources: BayNews9, Rick Halperin, February 22, 2018


Man yelled "murderers" and thrashed on gurney during execution


Execution gurney in Florida's death chamber
A Florida inmate convicted of raping and killing a college student decades ago screamed and yelled "murderers!" 3 times, thrashing on a gurney as he was being put to death Thursday. The governor's office said Eric Scott Branch, 47, was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. Thursday after receiving a lethal injection at Florida State Prison.

Branch was convicted of the 1993 rape and fatal beating of University of West Florida student Susan Morris, 21, whose naked body was found buried in a shallow grave near a nature trail.

Just as officials were administering the lethal drugs that included a powerful sedative, Branch let out a loud, blood-curdling scream, thrashed about on his gurney and then yelled "murderers! murderers! murderers" before falling silent with a guttural groan.

Moments earlier, he had addressed the corrections officers in the room with him by saying that, instead of them carrying out the death sentence, it should have been Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, both Republicans.

"Let them come down here and do it. I've learned that you're good people and this is not what you should be doing," Branch told the officers.

Asked whether Branch's scream could have been caused by the execution drugs, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Glady said afterward that "there was no indication" that the scream was cause by the lethal injection procedure. She said that conclusion had been confirmed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

After Thursday's execution, the Morris family issued a statement saying they are still mourning the victim's death a quarter century ago.

"25 years ago, Susan's life was suddenly and brutally extinguished. We have grieved for her longer that she was with us. Yet because of who she was ... she will never be forgotten by those who love her," said the statement read out by the victim's sister, Wendy Morris Hill.

Outside the prison, Herman Lindsey joined anti-death penalty protesters. Lindsey, a former death row inmate who was exonerated in 2009, said he wants to see the practice abolished.

"There's no way to guarantee we're not killing innocent people," he said.

Evidence in the case shows that Branch approached Morris after she left a night class on Jan. 11, 1993, so he could steal her red Toyota and return to his home state of Indiana. He was arrested while traveling there.

In denying one of Branch's appeals, the Florida Supreme Court noted that the crime was particularly brutal.

"She had been beaten, stomped, sexually assaulted and strangled. She bore numerous bruises and lacerations, both eyes were swollen shut," the justices wrote.

Branch also was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Indiana and of another sexual assault in Panama City, Florida, that took place just 10 days before the fatal attack on Morris, court records show.

The jury in his murder case recommended the death penalty by a 10-2 vote under Florida's old capital punishment system, which was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016. The high court said juries must reach a unanimous recommendation for death and judges cannot overrule that. Florida legislators subsequently changed the system to comply.

One of Branch's final appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court involved whether he deserved a new sentencing hearing because of that jury's 10-2 vote in his 1994 trial. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the new system of sentencing does not apply to inmates sentenced to death before 2002.

Branch claimed in a last-minute appeal that the Florida court's decisions on which inmates get new sentencing hearings and which do not is unfair and arbitrary. In court documents, Branch's lawyers say this prohibits about 150 Florida death-row inmates from having their sentences reviewed.

The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, rejected that appeal Thursday and one other Branch's attorneys had filed.

The Florida Supreme Court had denied a stay of execution in the Branch case on Feb. 6, leaving him with only limited appeals in federal courts.

Corrections Department spokeswoman Michelle Glady said Branch had been visited by his daughter Thursday morning and refused a meeting with a spiritual adviser.

Elsewhere, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spared the life Thursday of a convicted killer shortly before the man's scheduled execution for masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother.

In sparing the life of Thomas "Bart" Whitaker about an hour before he was scheduled for lethal injection, Abbott accepted the state parole board's rare clemency recommendation. Whitaker's father, Kent, also was shot in the 2003 plot at the family's suburban Houston home but survived and led the effort to save his son from execution. Abbott commuted the sentence to life without parole.

In Alabama, Doyle Lee Hamm was sentenced to die Thursday evening for the 1987 death of a motel clerk during a robbery. But Hamm fought his death sentence, arguing there was a risk of a botched execution because of damage to his veins due to lymphoma and other illnesses. The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday evening temporarily delayed the lethal injection procedure as it considered his request for a permanent stay. The execution was eventually called off.

Source: CBS News, February 22, 2018


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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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