FEATURED POST

America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Houston father accused in honor killings begins death penalty trial

Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan
Opening statements are set to begin Monday in the death penalty trial of a Jordanian immigrant accused in a pair of “honor killings” that shocked Houston.

Ali Mahwood-Awad Irsan’s prosecution is the first death penalty trial this year in Harris County, and the first one since District Attorney Kim Ogg took office in January 2017, although special prosecutors have been appointed. Ogg recused her office because one of her top lieutenants had been connected to the case before joining the administration.

The trial, before state District Judge Jan Krocker, is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Irsan, a 60-year-old Jordanian-American, has been behind bars since his arrest in April 2015. He was charged with capital murder because his alleged crime involved multiple victims — his daughter’s best friend, Gelareh Bagherzadeh, an Iranian medical student and activist, and his daughter’s husband, Coty Beavers, 28.

Both slayings, authorities said, were driven by the anger of Irsan, a conservative Muslim, over his daughter Nesreen’s decision to marry Beavers, a Christian from Houston.

Bagherzadeh, 30, was gunned down in January 2012 while driving toward her parents’ Galleria townhome. Her friends and supporters initially thought the death was an assassination ordered by the government of Iran. Prosecutors believe he also fatally shot Beavers 11 months later in the couple's northwest Harris County apartment.

Isran was sentenced in 2015 to four years in federal custody after being convicted of an unrelated case involving the theft of disability benefits. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ordered Irsan to serve almost four years for his role in defrauding the Social Security Administration for more than a decade and to pay $290,651 in restitution.

In 2015, Irsan, his wife and another daughter were sentenced to federal prison for the Social Security scheme, and prosecutors charged Irsan and his son, Nasim Irsan, 24, with capital murder.

Irsan’s wife, 40-year-old Shmou Ali Alrawabdeh, faces murder charges in the case. She is being prosecuted in a separate case for the killing of activist Bagherzadeh.

His daughter and Nasreen’s sister, Nadia Irsan, 33, faces a stalking charge connected to the slayings.

To secure a death sentence, special prosecutors Anna Emmons, Jonathan Stephenson, and Marie Ann Primm will have to prove the killings, almost a year apart, were part of the same criminal scheme.

In Texas, killing two people in furtherance of the same criminal enterprise is a capital crime. Two slayings by the same person with divergent reasons would be two murder charges.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Brian Rogers, June 25, 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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