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Iran Execution Trends Six Months After the New Anti-Narcotics Law

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IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS (MAY 28, 2018): On Monday, May 10, 2018, Iran Human Rights (IHR) reported the execution of Kiomars Nasouhi, a prisoner sentenced to death for drug offenses. This execution is the first drug-related execution registered by IHR since the latest amendment to the Anti-Narcotics Law was enforced on November 14, 2017.
According to reports by IHR, at least 77 people, among them three juvenile offenders have been executed between January 1. and May 20, 2018. Four were hanged in public spaces. Of the reported executions 62 were sentenced to death for murder, seven for Moharebeh (being an “enemy of God”), seven for rape, and 1 for drug offenses. For comparison, it is reported that during the same period in 2017, at least 203 people were executed, 112 were executed for drug offenses. The significant reduction in the number of executions in 2018 seems to be due to a temporary halt in drug-related executions as the number of executions for murder charges were nearly the same as …

Texas: The accused Santa Fe shooter will never get the death penalty. Here’s why.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis
The high school junior accused of gunning down 10 students and teachers at a Santa Fe school is facing a capital murder charge - but he’ll never face the death penalty, even in Texas.

Though Dimitrios Pagourtzis was charged as an adult and jailed without bond, even if he’s found guilty he can’t be sentenced to death because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. And in the Lone Star State, he can’t be sentenced to life without parole as the result of a 2013 law that banned the practice for minors.

“In Texas, after the Supreme Court’s decision, they passed a law that basically says that it’s a life sentence if you’re under 18 at the time of the crime,” said attorney Amanda Marzullo, executive director of Texas Defender Services. “The Court has said that it is cruel and unusual to execute an individual who is under 18 at the time of the offense.”

The Santa Fe High School student admitted to the mass shooting that killed 10 and wounded 10 others early Friday, according to court documents. He planted fake explosives and selected his targets so as to spare the students he liked, he later told police.

For an adult, that sort of crime could lead to the death chamber. Murders involving multiple victims can be charged as capital offenses, and for adults that leaves two options: death or life without parole.

At one time, those options were both on the table for teens, too. But then in 2005, Christopher Simmons, a Missouri killer condemned to die, won a landmark case in the Supreme Court.

After surveying practices in death penalty states, the justices decided that the national consensus was against executing minors. Only a few states - including Texas - were the outliers still carrying out death sentences for those convicted of crimes committed as minors.

Aside from considering prevailing norms, the court weighed in on traits that make teenage criminals different - and possibly more sympathetic - than their adult counterparts.

“The court looked at teen offenders and said that juveniles are categorically different from adults in several very important ways,” said Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center.

Among those considerations: teens were more immature, more prone to peer pressure and more likely to have a shot at rehabilitation, the justices said.

“The court was aware that some kids may do horrible things,” Dunham said. “And some individual kids might have sufficient moral culpability to be punished as adults. But as a class, the courts said, the distinctions between juveniles and adults were so significant that juveniles should not be subject to the death penalty.”

Before the court’s decision, Texas had been the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders, Dunham said. Across the nation, there were 22 convicts executed for crimes committed as juveniles - and more than half of them were in Texas.

After the court eliminated the practice, in June 2005 Gov. Rick Perry commuted a slew of death sentences to life, removing 28 prisoners from death row, including 12 from Harris County.

I want to live
Then in 2012, the Supreme Court took it one step further when the justices struck down mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles. The following year, Texas legislators passed a law making life with parole - instead of life without parole - the only sentencing option for minors charged with capital crimes.

For life sentences where parole is an option, Marzullo said, the first chance at release comes after 40 years in prison.

Whether or not he’s ultimately convicted, the accused Santa Fe shooter will be behind bars for the foreseeable future.

During his first court appearance Friday night, a judge opted to hold him without bond.

"At the moment he's in solitary confinement," Judge Mark Henry said after the teen's first court appearance Friday evening. "He's going to be here a while."

Source: chron.com, Keri Blakinger, May 18, 2018


10 dead, 13 injured in shooting at Santa Fe High School


Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.
Sante Fe, Texas (KTRK) -- A 17-year-old carrying a shotgun and a revolver opened fire at a Houston-area high school Friday, killing 10 people, most of them students, authorities said. Thirteen people were confirmed to be injured during the shooting.

The shooting was the nation's deadliest such attack since the massacre in Florida that gave rise to a campaign by teens for gun control.

The suspect was identified as Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

The suspected shooter, who is in custody on murder charges, also had explosive devices, including a Molotov cocktail, that were found in the school and nearby, said Gov. Greg Abbott, who called the assault "one of the most heinous attacks that we've ever seen in the history of Texas schools."

Authorities offered no immediate motive for the shooting. The governor said the assailant intended to kill himself but gave up and told police that he did not have the courage to take his own life.

Late Friday afternoon, Pagourtzis appeared before Galveston County Magistrate Judge Mark Henry. During the appearance, the teen acknowledged understanding the charges against him, only saying "yes, sir" and "no, sir" when asked questions. He was ordered held without bond.

Pagourtzis plays on the Santa Fe High School junior varsity football team and is a member of a dance squad with a local Greek Orthodox church. Acquaintances described him as quiet and unassuming, an avid video game player who routinely wore a black trench coat and black boots to class.

NRA approved
The suspect used a shotgun and .38-revolver obtained from his father, who owned them legally, Abbott said. It was not clear whether the father knew his son had taken them.

"It's been happening everywhere. I've always kind of felt like that eventually it was going to happen here too," Santa Fe student Paige Curry said. "I don't know. I wasn't surprised. I was just scared."

Governor Abbott also confirmed during a press conference Friday afternoon that 10 people were wounded in the shooting.

The wounded included a school police officer who was the first to confront the suspect and got shot in the arm.

Michael Farina, 17, said he was on the other side of campus when the shooting began and thought it was a fire drill. He was holding a door open for special education students in wheelchairs when a principal came bounding down the hall and telling everyone to run. Another teacher yelled out, "It is real!"

Students were led to take cover behind a car shop across the street from the school. Some still did not feel safe and began jumping the fence behind the shop to run even farther away, Farina said.

"I debated doing that myself," he said.

Witnesses say the shooting took place in an art class on campus between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. Students were evacuated from the building, and backpacks were searched before they were transported to Alamo Gym at 13306 Highway 6 to be reunited with their parents.

We thought it was a fire drill at first but really, the teacher said, 'Start running,'" student Leila Butler said.

Donald Trump offered his condolences amid the tragedy.

Friday's assault was the deadliest in Texas since a man with a semi-automatic rifle attacked a rural church late last year, killing more than two dozen people.

Santa Fe is roughly 36 miles outside of Houston. According to the Texas Education Agency, the high school enrollment is about 1,400 students.

Source: abc13.com, The Associated Press, May 19, 2018


Texas school had a shooting plan, armed officers and practice. And still 10 people died.


Plans to avoid "this"
SANTA FE, TEX. — They, like so many others, thought they had taken the steps to avoid this.

The school district had an ­active-shooter plan, and two armed police officers walked the halls of the high school. School district leaders had even agreed last fall to eventually arm teachers and staff under the state’s school marshal program, one of the country’s most aggressive and controversial policies intended to get more guns into classrooms.

They thought they were a hardened target, part of what’s expected today of the American public high school in an age when school shootings occur with alarming frequency. And so a death toll of 10 was a tragic sign of failure and needing to do more, but also a sign, to some, that it could have been much worse.

“My first indication is that our policies and procedures worked,” J.R. “Rusty” Norman, president of the school district’s board of trustees, said Saturday, standing exhausted at his front door. “Having said that, the way things are, if someone wants to get into a school to create havoc, they can do it.”

The mass shooting — which killed 10 people and wounded 10 others in this rural community outside Houston — again highlighted the despairing challenge at the center of the ongoing debate over how to make the nation’s schools safer. It also hints at a growing feeling of inevitability, a normalization of what should be impossible tragedies.

The gunman in Santa Fe used a pistol and a shotgun, firearms common to many South Texas homes, firearms he took from this father, police said. So there were no echoes of the calls to ban assault rifles or raise the minimum age for gun purchases that came after the shooting three months ago in Parkland, Fla.

Most residents here didn’t blame any gun for the tragedy down the street. Many of them pointed to a lack of religion in schools.
Most residents here didn’t blame any gun for the tragedy down the street. Many of them pointed to a lack of religion in schools.

“It’s not the guns. It’s the people. It’s a heart problem,” said Sarah Tassin, 61. “We need to bring God back into the schools.” 

Texas politicians are pushing to focus on school security — the hardening of targets. 

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he planned to hold roundtable discussions starting Tuesday on how to make schools even more secure. One idea he and other state officials mentioned was limiting the number of entrances to the facilities. Rep. Randy Weber (R-Tex.) said Congress eventually would consider legislation focused on “hardening targets and adding more school metal detectors and school police officers.”

But the horror in Santa Fe shows that there are limits there, too. 

Norman said he saw school security as a way to control, not prevent, school violence. And the school district had some practice. In February, two weeks after the Parkland shooting, Santa Fe High went into lockdown after a false alarm of an active-shooter situation, resulting in a huge emergency response. The school won a statewide award for its safety program.

“We can never be over-prepared,” Norman said. “But we were prepared.”

His school board approved a plan in November to allow some school staff members to carry guns, joining more than 170 school districts in Texas that have made similar plans. But Santa Fe was still working on it, Norman said. People needed to be trained. Details needed to be worked out, such as a requirement that school guns fire only frangible bullets, which break into small pieces and are unlikely to pass through victims, as a way to limit the danger to innocent students.

All of these efforts, Norman said, are “only a way to mitigate what is happening.”

The search for red flags about the gunman’s intentions continued Saturday — another familiar hallmark of school shootings. 

Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the 17-year-old student who police said confessed to the shooting, was being held without bond at a jail in Galveston. Wearing a trench coat, he allegedly opened fire in an art class, moving through the room shooting at teachers and students, and talking to himself. He approached a supply closet where students were barricaded inside, and he shot through the windows saying “surprise,” said Isabelle Laymance, 15.

The gunman shot a school police officer who approached him, then talked with other officers, offering to surrender. The entire episode lasted a terrifying 30 minutes, according to witnesses and court records.

The Pagourtzis family released a statement Saturday saying they are “shocked and confused” by what happened and that the incident “seems incompatible with the boy we love.” 

Nicholas Poehl, the Galveston attorney for Pagourtzis, said his client appeared “pretty dazed” when he met with him Saturday and that it would take time for him to learn what happened.

The alleged gunman’s classmates and parents said they saw no signs of trouble before the shooting, though some said he had seemed somewhat depressed in recent months.

Bertha Bland, whose grandson is good friends with Pagourtzis, said she knew the teenager well and described him as “an outstanding kid” and a good student. 

Scott Pearson, whose son played football with Pagourtzis, described him as a quiet, normal kid. He didn’t talk to him much when he took him home from football practices, but he never got the impression that he was dangerous. He noticed that Pagourtzis regularly wore a trench coat but didn’t think much of it.

Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.“Kids do weird stuff,” Pearson said. “I don’t understand when my son wears a hoodie out in 90-degree heat, either.” 

Pagourtzis improved as a football player between sophomore and junior years, moving from second to first string as a defensive tackle on the junior varsity squad, according to Rey Montemayor, an 18-year old senior quarterback. 

Pagourtzis spent a lot of time in the weight room. Eventually Pagourtzis, who wore number 69, was doing reps of 185 pounds on the bench press.  “He worked hard,” Montemayor said. “Even got stronger than me.”

On the team, Pagourtzis was well liked and respected, even though he mostly kept to himself, ear buds in his ears in the hallways and in the locker room. He was “very normal, cool,” Montemayor said. “He would joke around but was also quiet — not an open book.”

Local and federal officials revealed little new information about the shooting or the investigation on Saturday. So far, investigators have not found any link to terrorism or political extremism in the suspect’s background that would offer a motive for the attack, according to a person close to the investigation.

The evidence recovered in the first day of the probe suggests that the gunman was a disturbed young man without any particular ideology, though it is still early in the investigation and new facts could emerge, the person said.

Authorities here said police reacted as they should have to the shooting incident, praising the initial response, which included two school police officers trying to intervene, though they have not yet provided details of the interaction that led to the teen’s surrender. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry described the quick actions of the school police officers as “very critical.” 

Isabelle Laymance was in art class when she heard gunshots. She and seven other students barricaded themselves in a supply closet in Santa Fe High School. (The Washington Post)

Armed teachers.
Santa Fe Independent School District Police Chief Walter Braun said at a news conference that the police officer wounded in the shooting was in “critical but stable condition” at a hospital. He said his officers “did what they were trained for. They went in immediately.”

Some students, escorted by police, were briefly allowed back on the school campus to retrieve backpacks and their vehicles. But the high school remained cordoned off as a crime scene.

The town did not come to a standstill as it dealt with the aftermath of the shooting: People still ran errands and had yard sales and barbecues. The community library closed “out of respect for the victims,” but organizers of a library benefit sale decided to hold their event as planned in the lobby and parking lot. The Santa Fe High baseball team was still scheduled for a playoff game Saturday night.after canceling one on the day of the shooting.

The shooting didn’t seem to rattle beliefs or prompt the calls for change that followed the Parkland shooting. Norman Franzke, 69, whose granddaughter safely escaped Santa Fe High, noted that guns have been part of the culture here for generations. When he attended, students kept shotguns on racks in their pickups, ready for hunting after school.

“I don’t think this will change the mentality of this community,” Franzke said. “There may be some changes in how kids enter and leave school. But even then, he was a student, so he would still have had access.”

At Red Cap restaurant, a popular diner down the road from the high school, the sign outside no longer advertised fried green tomatoes and Boudin balls. It had been changed to read “Prayers for Santa Fe.”

Inside, Tassin, who works at Red Cap, teared up as she thought about all the teens and their parents who stop in there. She considers them family. But she didn’t blame guns for Friday’s shooting. She didn’t blame mental health. She didn’t know where to lay blame. There had been so many school shootings. And now, at Santa Fe High. 

Something was going on, she said. But she didn’t know what.

Source: The Washington Post,  Todd C. Frankel, Brittney Martin, Tim Craig and Christian Davenport, May 19, 2018


It’s time to designate the NRA a domestic terrorist organization


Assault rifle USA
Question #1: Do you hear “Yanny,” “Laurel,” or something entirely different?

Question # 2: Do you consider it as “common-sense gun safety regulations,” as “an assault on our basic freedoms and on the Second Amendment,” or something entirely different?

While the first question depends on one’s internal neural wiring and on the differences in electronic devices, the latter hinges on many factors, including one’s social, political, regional, and spiritual environment and development.

For those who see firearms regulations as freedom killing, consider that more students and school personnel have been killed in schools across the U.S. than have military service members in international trouble spots since Donald Trump has taken office as the 45thPresident on January 20, 2017.

Though we cannot blame Trump personally for these shooting deaths and injuries, he along with legislators who accept money and support from gun lobbies, most notably the National Rifle Association, are complicit in the epidemic that plagues our nation.

It is no mere coincidence that conservative anti-science legislators who oppose environmental regulations that could save our planet also oppose limits on the manufacture, type, and sales of firearms that could save lives.

They appear to care even less that overhunting by private individuals and commercial hunters has resulted in dangerous depletions and extinctions of several species. In addition, the lead from spent bullets that has seeped into the soil and ground water contaminates the environment and seriously threatens our health, all with little governmental monitoring.

Anti-regulation advocates march lock stepped under the banner of “Personal Freedom and Control.” But ask yourselves how free are we when students fear going to school, and parents worry they may never see them return home alive? How much control do each of us really have in a country with a virtual limitless supply of and access to firearms?

On average, each year gun violence snuffs out an estimated 11,000 human lives, over three times the number of people killed on 9/11, with another 22,000 taken in accidental firings and suicide.

The U.S. government has long since defined groups like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS as terrorist organizations.

Now as reports surface of a tragic shooting by a 17-year-old at Santa Fe High School in Texas, with an estimated 9 students and 1 teacher killed and another 10 people injured, when will we finally designate the NRA and other so-called “pro-gun” groups what they really are: domestic terrorists organizations?!

For us to begin to tackle this scourge of death and to deploy a certain amount of freedom and control, volunteer and vote out members of all legislative and administrative bodies with an NRA rating of A, B, or C or who accept any of their blood money.

Source: lgbtqnation.com, Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld, May 20, 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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