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

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"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…

Attorney driven by belief that even worst offenders deserve fair trials

Jury box
The angry emails, phone calls and letters began shortly after she first stood in court to represent the man accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering Reagan Tokes.

"The thing I heard most was, 'How do you sleep at night?'" Diane Menashe said. "I get that a lot."

After 20 years as a criminal defense attorney, much of it spent trying to save defendants' lives in death-penalty cases, Menashe knows the job comes with its share of public scorn. But none of her previous cases triggered as much hostility as her defense of Brian L. Golsby, a convicted sex offender who abducted and brutalized the 21-year-old Ohio State University student before fatally shooting her.

Kort Gatterdam, who teamed up with Menashe in defending Golsby, said she endured more criticism than he did for handling the case, largely because she's a woman.

"It particularly appalled people that she would dare defend this accused rapist and killer," he said. "That's why she took more of a hit."

Her willingness to take on such a case, he said, "says a lot for her character."

For Menashe, 44, it boils down to a strong opposition to the death penalty and a commitment to the proposition that everyone charged with a crime, "no matter how egregious," has a constitutional right to a fair trial.

She estimated she has represented about 30 death-penalty defendants in her career, at least a half-dozen of whom have gone to trial. Her most high-profile client before Golsby was Daryl Lawrence, sentenced to death in 2006 by a federal jury for killing Columbus Police Officer Bryan Hurst during a bank robbery.

Menashe recently was appointed, along with defense attorney Frederick Benton, to the case of Quentin L. Smith, facing the death penalty in the February shooting deaths of 2 Westerville police officers. She also is representing clients in 2 death-penalty cases pending in federal court.

"I think the death penalty is barbaric," she said. "The studies show that it's not a deterrent, and it's actually more expensive than putting someone in prison for the rest of their life."

Menashe said she's felt that way since at least the 10th grade, when an examination of the death penalty in a government class cemented her opinion. She had decided back in the 2nd grade that she wanted to be a lawyer after playing one in a school play in her hometown of Seattle.

"I represented Tommy the Toothbrush," she said.

Menashe had a privileged upbringing, thanks to a father who owned food brokerage and marketing companies. But she felt a calling to represent criminal defendants with whom she has little in common.

"I come from real affluence," she said. "My clients for the most part are impoverished and not well-educated. I went to private schools, boarding school in California for my last 3 years of high school. I've traveled the world. When I see someone who doesn't have any advantages and no support system, it really hits me hard. Every day, I think about how incredibly fortunate I am."

Her father, Jack Menashe, said 2 words always come to mind when he thinks of his daughter. "She's competitive and she's tough," he said.

"She easily could have taken over management of my businesses," had that been her goal, he said.

Diane Menashe went off to Purdue University to play softball, but instead decided to join the rowing team. She excelled at it for four years and, for three summers, was selected to participate in the U.S. Women's National Team Pre-Elite Camps, a collegiate feeder system for the Olympic and national teams.

She got her undergraduate degree in political science and headed to Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, where she got the chance to participate in an actual death-penalty case through a criminal-law clinic.

"It was an absolutely eye-opening experience," she said. "It was clear ... this is definitely what I want to do."

Menashe earned her law degree in 1998 and came to Columbus for a job with the Ohio public defender's office in the death-penalty division. 2 years later, she was co-counsel in her 1st death-penalty case, in Champaign County Common Pleas Court.

She spent 3 years as a public defender and has been in private practice since, always on her own, never joining a firm. "I feel like there's something to be said for doing it all on your own," Menashe said. "When you rise, you rise, and when you fall, you fall."

She always has a co-counsel, as the law requires, when she handles a death-penalty case. Her most-frequent partner has been Gatterdam, whom she met at the start of her career when he ran the trial section for the state public defender's office.

"Our skill sets are drastically different, and they complement each other," she said. "He loves motion practice and writing. Not me. The best part for me is to stand up and give a closing argument without any notes."

Their personalities are different, too, Gatterdam said.

"She's blunt," he said. "Her personality, if you don't know her, can be off-putting. She doesn't sugar-coat anything. That honesty is a positive. Maybe, at times, some would think it's not a good strategy, but it's worked pretty well for her."

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Colleen O'Donnell was just beginning her career at the same firm where Gatterdam worked when she met Menashe.

"She's very direct in how she communicates," O'Donnell said. "She's so honest and direct and prepared that she can catch people off-guard. As a woman, it was something I admired. I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to emulate it in my career, and I don't know that I have, but I really appreciated her example."

O'Donnell, like Menashe, is a resident of Grandview Heights and has gotten to know her away from the courthouse. As intense as she can be in a courtroom, she has another side, O'Donnell said.

"She is able to separate herself from her work. She's lighthearted, funny and easygoing."

Assistant U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, who has been the opposing counsel in several of Menashe's cases in federal court, said "she's kind of fun to be in trial with."

"A lot of trials her and I do involve very violent crimes, very tragic," he said. "She is able to blow off steam with some humor at sidebars or when we're talking about the case. A lot of it is gallows humor."

Menashe's favorite method of stress reduction is through frequent workouts at a gym in Grandview.

"I go there religiously, 6 days a week probably," she said. "Exercise is critical to me. It's how I keep my sanity."

She also spends as much time as possible with friends, including her boyfriend of 4 years, Matt McCune, who is in the commercial real estate business and competes in Ironman triathalons.

Her toughness was never tested more than in 2003 and 2004, when she fought charges that she tampered with evidence and obstructed justice in the murder case of a police officer in New Vienna, a Clinton County village.

Village officials were accused of destroying documents in the case. The officer told investigators that Menashe, his attorney, had encouraged him to gather up those documents.

Her freedom and her career were on the line until she passed a polygraph examination and the felony charges were dismissed.

"It was an absolutely horrible experience," Menashe said. "It financially broke me. It's a testament that it didn't break my spirit. I think there are a lot of defense attorneys who would have hung it up."

That "dark time" left her with "good perspective," she said. "It goes to the point that innocent people do get charged with crimes."

Golbsy didn't fall into that category. The evidence against him was so overwhelming that she and Gatterdam knew from the beginning that their job was to prevent a death sentence.

Menashe even took a different approach than usual in her closing argument to the jury during the sentencing phase of the trial.

"In other death-penalty cases, I've said, 'Give him life' or 'Give him a life sentence,'" she said. "But I felt like there wasn't anyone who would want to give Brian Golsby anything because his actions certainly hadn't deserved that. So the wording I used in Brian's case was, 'Don't kill him.'"

She is proud of the result of the March trial, in which the jury convicted Golsby of the crimes but spared his life. He is serving a sentence of life without parole.

It isn't lost on Menashe that she had a lot in common with Golsby's victim, "a young woman trying to do the right things: working, going to school, trying to be a good friend, girlfriend and daughter. But that's separate and apart from the fact that Mr. Golsby deserves the right to a fair trial and due process."

Some members of the public understood that. Menashe estimates that 20 % of what she heard was supportive.

She saved a hand-written letter from a Westerville woman who saw television coverage of the trial.

"I am not excusing his crime any more than you were, but I was deeply touched as I watched you defend this broken and outcast soul," the woman wrote. "It took a lot of courage on your part to even take this case."

The letter serves as "a great reminder of why I do this work," Menashe said.

Source: Columbus Dispatch, May 28, 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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