2018 Death Penalty report: Saudi Arabia’s False Promise

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…

Appeals court dismisses lawsuit filed by Arkansas judge barred from hearing death-penalty cases

The ban followed Griffen's participation in an anti-death-penalty rally at the state Capitol and a silent anti-death-penalty protest near the Governor's Mansion.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a central Arkansas circuit judge's lawsuit over being removed from hearing death-penalty cases must be dismissed.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who is also a Baptist minister, alleged in a lawsuit that the Arkansas Supreme Court justices violated his federal civil rights and retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights when they permanently banned him April 17, 2017, from presiding over death-penalty cases.

The ban followed Griffen's participation in an anti-death-penalty rally at the state Capitol and a silent anti-death-penalty protest near the Governor's Mansion. The protests took place the same day Griffen issued a temporary restraining order blocking the state from using one of the drugs in its lethal three-drug cocktail, effectively stopping executions at least until a longer hearing could be held a few days later. The drug's manufacturer had sought the order, saying the state illegally obtained the drug.

In an April 12 ruling, U.S. District Judge James Moody refused to dismiss Griffen's lawsuit against the individual justices in their official capacities, saying Griffen had presented sufficient facts to state a plausible claim.

But the justices from the state's high court asked the appellate court to order Moody to correct a "clear error" that they said he committed by refusing to dismiss the allegations.

In the ruling released on Monday, the appellate court said that Griffen's claims were not plausible

"[The Arkansas high court's order] does not prohibit Judge Griffen’s free exercise of religion: it does not 'compel affirmation of religious belief,' 'punish the expression of religious doctrines,' 'impose special disabilities on the basis of religious views,' or 'lend its power to one or the other side in controversies over religious authority,'" U.S. Circuit Judge Duane Benton wrote. "Rather, the order reflects neutral principles applicable to all judges who exhibit potential for bias."

Griffen's attorney said he was disappointed in the ruling and planned to petition the full 8th Circuit appeals court to review the case.

"We are as resolute as we have ever been, and we fully intend to restore Judge Griffen's constitutional rights," Mike Laux said.

Griffen is also facing ethics charges brought by judicial regulators. The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission special counsel last month formally accused the judge of nine violations of the Arkansas Judicial Canon, all stemming from his attendance at the prayer vigil and anti-death-penalty protest.

Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Associated Press, July 2, 2018

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