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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Singapore: Drug trafficker from Ghana hanged after clemency plea rejected

Changi prison, Singapore
SINGAPORE - Convicted drug trafficker Billy Agbozo was executed last Friday (March 9) after he failed in his clemency plea.

Agbozo, 39, a Ghanaian national, had been found guilty and sentenced to death on July 4, 2016, for trafficking 1.63kg of methamphetamine here in his luggage in April 2013.

The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of methamphetamine trafficked is more than 250g.

Agbozo was "accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process", said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

CNB added that 1.63kg of methamphetamine is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 1,210 abusers for a week.

Agbozo had travelled by plane from Accra to Dubai on April 4, 2013, before boarding a plane bound for Singapore. He arrived here the next day and planned to spend five nights here.

But he was stopped by checkpoint inspectors who screened his luggage - a black haversack and a red-and-black suitcase.

White, crystalline substances were found in the wall of the haversack and the inner plastic casing of the suitcase. The substances contained 1.63kg of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of about $135,600.

His appeal against his conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in February last year.

His petition to the President for clemency was also turned down.

Source: The Straits Times, Samantha Boh, March 12, 2018


Ghanaian drug trafficker hanged in Singapore after clemency plea rejected


Noose
Singapore has executed a Ghanaian man for drug smuggling, rejecting his plea for clemency.

Billy Agbozo,39, was found guilty and executed last Friday (March 9), more than 4 years after his arrest.

He had travelled by plane from Accra to Dubai on April 4, 2013, before boarding a plane bound for Singapore. He arrived at Singapore's Changi Airport the next day and planned to spend five nights in the Asian country.

But he was stopped by checkpoint inspectors who screened his luggage - a black haversack and a red-and-black suitcase.

According to straitstimes.com, A White, crystalline substances were found in the wall of the haversack and the inner plastic casing of the suitcase. The substances contained 1.63kg of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of about $135,600.

Details of his recorded telephone conversation with an unknown caller in twi were also captured and presented as evidence against him.

He was arrested and found guilty of illegally importing controlled drugs under the Country's Misuse of Drugs Act.

It not yet known the arrangement made between Ghana and Singapore and whether Accra presented a plea.

His appeal against his conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in February last year.

His petition to the President for clemency was also turned down.

Under Singapore law, trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin brings a mandatory death sentence.

But reforms that came into effect in 2013 gave judges discretion on certain cases.

Those convicted of drug trafficking can have their sentences commuted if they aid police and acted merely as couriers, according to the latest changes.

The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of methamphetamine trafficked is more than 250g.

Agbozo was "accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process", said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), as quoted by straitstimes.com.

CNB added that 1.63kg of methamphetamine is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 1,210 abusers for a week.

Human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Singapore for imposing the death penalty, saying its use of the death penalty shows flagrant disregard for human life.

Amnesty International in October Last year called on Singapore to the end the death sentence immediately.


Flagrant disregard for human life


Singapore’s continued reliance on mandatory death sentences, which violate international law has received widespread condemnation across Human Right groups.

Amnesty International in its 2017 report, said the act meant that dozens of low-level drug offenders have been sent to death row in recent years.

“Singapore likes to paint itself as a prosperous and progressive role model, but its use of the death penalty shows flagrant disregard for human life," it said.

"The country relies on harsh laws that overwhelmingly target drug offenders on the lower rungs of the ladder, many of whom will come from disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Chiara Sangiorgio, Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Adviser."

Source: GhanaWeb, March 12, 2018


Singapore’s Death Penalty Claims Another Life


Screenshot from "Apprentice" by Boo Junfeng (2016)
Moratorium on Executions Needed as a Step to Abolition

Singapore authorities have taken another life with the execution of Ghanaian Bill Agbozo for transporting 1.63 kilograms of methamphetamine. Agbozo, who was arrested on April 5, 2013 at Changi Airport, was hanged on Friday after his appeal for clemency was rejected.

While Singapore does not make public the scheduling of executions, reports indicate that another execution will take place on March 16. Singapore should, instead, end its use of capital punishment.

Under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, the courts must apply the death penalty for drug offenses involving more than specified quantities. The only exceptions are if the court finds the defendant is merely a courier and the prosecutor certifies that the defendant provided “substantial assistance in disrupting drug trafficking,” or if the defendant proves he or she is suffering from an “abnormality of the mind.” These limited exceptions to what is otherwise a mandatory death penalty provide little hope for defendants.

As I know from my time prosecuting drug cases in New York City, couriers rarely have information sufficient to provide “substantial assistance in disrupting drug trafficking.” In the case of Agbozo, while the court found that he was “acting as no more than a courier,” the prosecutor did not provide the required certification and Agbozo was sentenced to death.

International human rights law restricts the use of the death penalty to only “the most serious crimes,” which the United Nations has defined as “intentional crimes with lethal or other extremely grave consequences.” The UN Human Rights Committee and the UN expert on unlawful killings, Christof Heyns, have condemned using the death penalty in drug cases.

Most countries have abolished the death penalty outright, while dozens have adopted a de facto moratorium. Singapore, by contrast, reaffirmed its use of the death penalty in 2012 – US President Donald Trump recently praised Singapore specifically for executing drug dealers. Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances as an inherently cruel and uniquely final punishment that deserves no place in modern society. It is time for Singapore to call a moratorium on executions on its way to ending this barbaric practice.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Linda Lakhdhir, March 13, 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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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning