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2018 Death Penalty report: Saudi Arabia’s False Promise

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With crown prince Mohammed bin Salman at the helm, 2018 was a deeply violent and barbaric year for Saudi Arabia, under his de facto leadership.
PhotoDeera Square is a public space located in front of the Religious Police building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in which public executions (usually by beheading) take place. It is sometimes known as Justice Square and colloquially called Chop Chop Square. After Friday prayers, police and other officials clear the area to make way for the execution to take place. After the beheading of the condemned, the head is stitched to the body which is wrapped up and taken away for the final rites.
This year execution rates of 149 executions, shows an increase from the previous year of three executions, indicating that death penalty trends are soaring and there is no reversal of this trend in sight.
The execution rates between 2015-2018 are amongst the highest recorded in the Kingdom since the 1990s and coincide with the ascension of king Salman to the t…

Supreme Court rejects Rodney Reed request for DNA testing

DNA testing
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, who has been trying without success to have crime-scene evidence tested for DNA, saying the results could prove his innocence.

The decision, delivered without comment from the court, ended Reed’s bid to have the evidence tested under a state DNA law but opened another avenue to pursue — a federal lawsuit arguing that blocking access to the tests violates the Bastrop man’s civil rights.

“Rodney Reed has asked for DNA testing of crime scene evidence that would unquestionably have been tested if the murder were investigated today,” said Bryce Benjet, Reed’s lead lawyer.

Prosecutors have fought to deny Reed access to the evidence for about four years, arguing that it would not be helpful in solving the 1996 Bastrop-area murder of Stacey Stites because the items had been contaminated by repeated handling during and after Reed’s trial.

Reed’s lawyers claim he is innocent and want to test crime scene evidence that was likely touched by the killer, including Stites’ clothing and two pieces of the belt used to strangle her, to determine if modern testing methods can reveal skin cells and other DNA-bearing evidence.

New techniques can filter out or identify extraneous DNA, the lawyers argued.

However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the request in an 8-0 ruling in April 2017, saying problems with the chain of custody of the evidence raised questions about contamination and serious doubts that DNA testing would produce reliable results.

Reed’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling, arguing that the Texas court misinterpreted the state DNA law’s chain-of-custody language, which requires testing to be done on evidence that has not been “substituted, tampered with, replaced or altered.” The Texas court invented a contamination exception that is not part of the law, they said.

Efforts will be made to have lawmakers correct the court’s “restrictive and unconstitutional” interpretation of the DNA law when the Legislature meets in the first half of 2019, Benjet said.

“The Texas Legislature has repeatedly corrected the Court of Criminal Appeals by amending the DNA law, and we are confident in the coming year that the Legislature will again express their overwhelming support for DNA testing to ensure that innocent men and women are not wrongfully imprisoned or executed,” he said.

In the meantime, Reed will turn to the federal courts for help, Benjet said.

“Although we had hoped that the Supreme Court would immediately take up the constitutional issues raised by the denial of DNA testing, we are also aware that the court has recognized a separate procedure for federal review of DNA cases through a civil action,” he said.

Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz has not yet returned a call seeking comment.

This is a developing story.

Source: statesman.com, Chuck Lindell, 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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