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Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

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ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases because it is “an attack” on the “dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a definitive shift in Roman Catholic teaching that could put enormous pressure on lawmakers and politicians around the world.
Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism, the collection of beliefs for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The revision says the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
“I think this will be a big deal for the future of the death penalty in the world,” said John Thavis, a Vatican expert and author. “People who work with prisoners on death row will be thrilled, and I think this will become a banner social justice issue for the church,” he added.
Sergio D’Elia, the secretary of Hands Off Cain, an association that works to abolish capital puni…

Ohio man with execution set for July 18 blames killing on ‘homosexual panic’

Robert Van Hook
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A condemned killer is asking the Ohio Parole Board for mercy, saying he experienced a “homosexual panic” of self-revulsion before killing a man he picked up at a bar more than 30 years ago.

Death row inmate Robert Van Hook was sentenced to die for fatally strangling and stabbing David Self in Cincinnati in 1985. 

Van Hook fled to Florida afterward, where he was arrested and confessed.

At the time of the killing, Van Hook was suffering from long-term effects of untreated mental, physical and sexual abuse as a child and was depressed that his life seemed to be falling apart, his attorneys argue.

He also was “troubled by increasing questions about his own sexual identity,” his federal public defenders said in a May 17 filing with the parole board.

They also said he was improperly questioned by a Cincinnati police detective after he was arrested in Florida, and should have been provided an attorney.

The parole board planned to hear arguments on Thursday for and against Van Hook’s clemency request. 

Republican Gov. John Kasich has the final say. Van Hook’s execution is set for July 18.

Prosecutors dismiss Van Hook’s “panic” claim as nonsense, saying he made a practice of luring gay men to apartments to rob them.

“This is a man who had cynically manipulated homosexuals for years. He posed as a gay; he frequented bars that were gay and he preyed on vulnerable victims who were gay,” the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office said in a Tuesday filing with the board.

Prosecutors also note Van Hook has an extensive history of violence while incarcerated, including stabbing a fellow death row inmate in November.

The so-called “gay” or “homosexual panic” defense has come under fire in recent years. 

Five years ago, the American Bar Association urged governments to pass laws limiting the defense, saying a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity should not be blamed for a criminal defendant’s violent reaction.

Earlier this year, Illinois became the second state after California to prohibit the defense. The Rhode Island House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to ban it.

Authorities say Van Hook, 56, met Self at the Subway Bar in downtown Cincinnati on Feb. 18, 1985. 

After a couple of hours they went to Self’s apartment where Van Hook strangled the 25-year-old Self to unconsciousness, stabbed him multiple times in the neck and then cut his abdomen open and stabbed his internal organs, according to court records. 

Van Hook stole a leather jacket and necklaces before fleeing, records say.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Van Hook’s death sentence in 2009.

Source: The Associated Press, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, May 24, 2018


Condemned killer who strangled and stabbed gay man pleads ‘homosexual panic’ to avoid execution


Gay panicA murderer on death row has asked for mercy, blaming his crime on “homosexual panic.”

Robert Van Hook, 56, has been sentenced to die for murdering David Self in 1985. 
He met Self at the Subway Bar in Cincinnati, Ohio, before the two went together to Self’s flat.

It was here that Van Hook strangled Self until he was unconsciousness before stabbing him multiple times in the neck.

The murderer proceeded to cut open his abdomen before stabbing his internal organs, court records show.

He stole a leather jacket and necklaces from the flat before fleeing to Florida.

Van Hook made the appeal to Ohio Parole Board ahead of his scheduled execution on July 18, according to the Associated Press.

In their filing with the board, his attorneys argued that the murderer had suffered mental, physical and sexual abuse when he was young, and was depressed as a result.

He was also “troubled by increasing questions about his own sexual identity,” according to his lawyers.

Prosecutors have rubbished Van Hook’s ‘homosexual panic’ plea, explaining that he had a history of going home with gay men in order to steal from them.

“This is a man who had cynically manipulated homosexuals for years,” the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office wrote in a filing.

“He posed as a gay, he frequented bars that were gay and he preyed on vulnerable victims who were gay.”

According to the prosecutors, Van Hook has committed violent acts since being imprisoned, including stabbing another convict on death row in November.

The ‘gay panic’ defence has only been banned in two states, with Illinois becoming the second in January.

California was the first state to outlaw the defence, and many more states including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are expected to follow suit this year.

The ‘gay panic’ defence often does not hold up in court and lawyers who have attempted to use it in cases have rarely been successful.

Source: Pink News, Josh Jackman, May 24, 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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