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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Maria Exposto: Can she avoid execution?

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto
News that a Sydney grandmother was sentenced to death for smuggling drugs into Malaysia sparked shock, alarm and condemnation across the globe.

However anti-death penalty advocates hope a final appeal and a relaxation of the country's strict anti-drug laws will save Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto from the execution chamber.

Ms Exposto, 54, yesterday suffered a cruel blow after a prosecution appeal saw her December acquittal overturned in a Malaysian court.

The Cabramatta grandmother now has the right to appeal the sentencing, with her lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah revealing he expects her to win and walk away.

Malaysia has a mandatory death penalty for anyone found guilty of carrying more than 50 grams (1.75 ounces) of an illegal drug.

The country's politicians last year voted to abolish mandatory death sentences for drug offences but those changes have not yet come into affect, AFP reported.

The country also didn't execute anyone for drug offences last year, according to Harm Reduction International.

Elaine Pearson, Australian director for Human Rights Watch, told 9news.com.au yesterday's judgement was very disappointing.

“Maria’s lawyers have said they will file an appeal with the Federal Court, which is the court of last resort," she said.

"While Malaysia amended the Dangerous Drugs Act in December 2017 to abolish the mandatory death penalty, in fact all they did was allow discretion to impose it if the person  was merely a carrier and "has assisted law enforcement in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia.

"The new government’s election manifesto called for an end to the mandatory death penalty but instead the Malaysian government should abolish the death penalty in its entirety.”

Melbourne barrister and human rights advocate Julian McMahon said Malaysia has around 1100 people on death row.

"It executes a very small number of people in any one year," the President of Reprieve Australia said.

"One of the strictest laws concerning mandatory death penalty was relaxed for some offences."

Mr McMahon, who has worked for Australians on death row overseas including Bali Nine members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, said recent election results in Malaysia appeared to reflect a yearning for change and improvement.

"There is a lot of talk in Malaysia at the moment about improving the law and individuals are questioning the future of the death penalty."

Rose Kulak, Individuals at Risk Coordinator, at Amnesty International expressed shock and disappointment at the ruling.

"It is always an absolute tragedy when anyone is sentenced to death and Amnesty International is gravely concerned to hear the news that Malaysia handed down a death sentence to Sydney woman Maria Exposto," she said.

"Malaysia must not sentence Maria Exposto to death. The worldwide trend is away from the death penalty and it's time for Malaysia to stand on the right side of history.

"Amnesty International is opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances. It is a violent punishment that has no place in today’s criminal justice system." 

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop condemned the use of the death sentence and released a statement saying that the Australian Government would "continue to provide full consular assistance" to Ms Exposto.

"Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all people," Ms Bishop said.

Amnesty International Australia condemned the sentencing and urged Malaysia to "stand on the right side of history".

Ms Exposto was found with 1.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine at Kuala Lumpur Airport in 2014.

Ms Exposto initially claimed she fell for an online romance scam and was lured into carrying the drugs by a 'Captain Daniel Smith', who identified himself as a US soldier based in Afghanistan.

The Malaysian judge who acquitted her last year told a court that her love for her online boyfriend was believable and was convinced the grandmother was unaware of the drugs in her bag.

Source: 9news.com.au, Debra Killalea, May, 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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