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Showing posts from August, 2018

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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

US: Where the public stands on key issues that could come before the Supreme Court

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The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin confirmation hearings on Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
If confirmed, Kavanaugh would replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July after 3 decades on the court.
In a Pew Research Center survey just after Kavanaugh's nomination, Americans were divided: 41% said he should be confirmed, 36% said he should not and 23% offered no opinion. 
There was far more agreement over the importance of the selection itself: 83% of U.S. adults said the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is important to them personally, including 63% who said it is very important.
Ahead of the Senate's deliberations over Kavanaugh, here's a look at where the public stands on some of the major legal, political and social issues that could come before the justices in the years ahead, based on surveys conducted by Pew Research Center.
Abortion
Little public support for overturning Roe v. Wade as of 2016
The high court'…

Nebraska: Death row inmate Lotter argues sentencing procedure is unconstitutional

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John Lotter took his latest shot at getting off death row Thursday when his lawyer attacked the constitutionality of Nebraska's capital sentencing law.
Sentenced to die for the 1993 triple-homicide that inspired the film "Boys Don't Cry," Lotter has filed multiple unsuccessful appeals and post-conviction motions during his 22 years on death row. On Thursday, Lotter's attorney told the Nebraska Supreme Court that the state law violates a defendant's constitutional rights to a jury trial and due process because it gives judges the final say when imposing death sentences.
That's a problem because the U.S. Supreme Court has said juries must determine the facts necessary for a death sentence, said Rebecca Woodman, an attorney from Lenexa, Kansas, who represents Lotter.
"Nebraska is the only active death penalty state without a sentencing structure that allows a jury to make the central findings of fact to impose a death sentence," she said.
Nebraska…

Taiwan carries out 1st execution in 2 years amid anti-death penalty pleas

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Taiwan executed a death-row inmate on Friday, the 1st execution carried out under President Tsai Ing-wen's government and despite ongoing calls from rights groups to abolish the death penalty.
Lee Hung-chi was executed at a jail in southern Kaohsiung city Friday afternoon by firing squad, according to the justice ministry, for killing his ex-wife and 5-year-old daughter in 2014.
Lee stabbed his ex-wife to death outside the kindergarten their 2 daughters attended and then took 1 of the girls to his car, where he attempted to commit suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Lee survived after they were rescued but the girl died 2 months later despite treatment.
"His actions were brutal and ruthless ... and inflicted irreparable harms to the victims' families," deputy justice minister Chen Ming-tang told reporters, adding that the court had ruled there was no likelihood of Lee reforming.
Taiwan resumed capital punishment in 2010 after a 5-year hiatus, with the death penalt…

Death row inmates ask for execution by firing squad to avoid ‘torturous’ drug cocktail

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The four men in Tennessee cited the lethal injection of Billy Ray Irick, who appeared to suffer during his August execution
In the minutes before his execution, Billy Ray Irick knew two things: He was suffocating and he was involuntarily paralyzed, according to court documents, a fate that four Tennessee death row offenders seek to avoid.
In a legal challenge filed last week, the Tennessean reported that the four condemned inmates — David Earl Miller, Nicholas Todd Sutton, Stephen Michael West and Larry McKay — proposed alternative execution methods to the state’s three-drug cocktail. The men alleged a firing squad would be more humane than the lethal injection Irick suffered through.
Irick, executed on Aug. 9 for a 1985 rape and murder, was the first to receive the state’s new three-drug cocktail. Miller, whose execution is scheduled for December, would be next to die.
Execution viewers watched the first chemical administered; it was midazolam, a sedative.
Irick’s stomach moved up an…

India: Man gets death penalty for murdering four of family

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Mohali, August 28 - The CBI court here on Tuesday awarded death penalty to Khushwinder Singh (45), who had murdered four members of a Fatehgarh Sahib family 14 years ago.
Khushwinder, a resident of Suhavi village in Fatehgarh Sahib district, had pushed Kulwant Singh (45), latter’s wife Harjit Kaur (40), daughter Ramandeep Kaur (17) and son Arvinder Singh (14) into the Sirhind canal on June 4, 2004. Only the bodies of Kulwant and Ramandeep were found.
The judge handed out the death sentence under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on the convict. The court also awarded life imprisonment, along with a fine of Rs 5,000, under Section 364 (kidnapping or abduction in order to murder) of the IPC and four-year rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs 5,000 under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence).
Khushwinder had also murdered six members of another Fatehgarh Sahib family, who were close relatives of his wife Manjit Kaur, in the same manne…

4 given death penalty in three cases for raping minors in Rajasthan

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DGP says police officials directed to take swift action
Jaipur: Four persons have been given death penalty in three cases of rape of minors in Rajasthan since March, when the state introduced a provision for capital punishment if the rape victim is up to 12 years of age, a top police officer said here.
Rajasthan Director General of Police (DGP) O.P Galhotra said that all police officers have been directed to take swift action in cases of POCSO Act and file charge sheet in courts.
The Rajasthan government had passed The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2018 in March entailing death penalty for rape convicts if the victim is up to 12 years of age.
Galhotra, in a statement, said that a rape case was registered at Jhalawar Kotwali on 14 February in which the victim was a six-year-old girl. 
A charge sheet was filed on 28 February in court after the probe was completed in 16 days. 
The court sentenced the accused to death on 24 August, 2018.
Three other accused, two in Barmer and …

DNA hearing in Julius Jones death penalty case set for Sept. 7

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (Thursday, August 30, 2018) – On Friday, September 7, Oklahoma District Court Judge Bill Graves will preside over a hearing about a procedural question related to DNA testing in the case of Julius Jones, a death row prisoner who has always maintained his innocence for a 1999 murder.
The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. in Judge Graves’ courtroom #800, in the Oklahoma County District Court, 320 Robert S Kerr Ave, in downtown Oklahoma City.
The hearing in Jones v. Oklahoma will address the question of whether the district attorney’s office will be able to communicate directly with the DNA testing facility, which is testing a red bandana that the state neglected to test nineteen years ago.
The bandana is currently being tested for DNA at the expense and direction of Jones’ attorneys. The state recently agreed to this procedure.
“This evidence should have been tested 19 years ago,” said Dale Baich, federal public defender for Jones. “There is always a concern that wit…

Florida Supreme Court rejects death penalty appeals

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday rejected appeals by three Death Row inmates in decades-old cases, including the 1991 murder of a Fort Pierce police officer.
The rulings were part of a long line of similar decisions in cases rooted in a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
In one of Thursday’s cases, justices turned down an appeal by Death Row inmate Billy Leon Kearse, who was convicted in the murder of Fort Pierce police officer Danny Parrish during a traffic stop, according to court records.
In another case, justices rejected an appeal by Death Row inmate Stephen Todd Booker, who was convicted in the 1977 murder of 94-year-old Lorine Demoss Harmon in Alachua County.
In the third case, justices denied an appeal by Ian Deco Lightbourne, who was convicted in the 1981 sexual battery and murder of Nancy O’Farrell in Marion County.
Each of the appeals related to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst v. Florida and a subsequent Florida Supreme Cou…

Texas death row inmate Ruben Gutierrez granted stay of execution after last-minute change of attorney

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A last-minute change of attorney has netted a stay of execution for the Brownsville killer convicted of murdering an 85-year-old woman with a screwdriver nearly two decades ago.
Ruben Gutierrez, who has long professed his innocence, was scheduled to die by lethal injection on Sept. 12 - the 20-year anniversary of his arrest. But last month, his existing attorney asked to be removed from the case, and the new lawyers who took over realized they needed more time.
"Through no fault of his own, Mr. Gutierrez is before this Court less than a month before his scheduled execution with counsel who were appointed to his case within the past ten days," his new lawyers wrote in a court filing.
READ MORE:Brownsville man convicted of stabbing 85-year-old woman with screwdriver gets execution date
The Cameron County man was sent to death row following the 1998 slaying of trailer park owner Escolastica Harrison. The elderly woman didn't trust banks, so she'd stowed roughly $600,000 …

Botswana hangs on to the death penalty

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In sub-Saharan Africa, a region with no shortage of development issues, Botswana stands out for its strong economy, stable democracy and commitment to the rule of law. But by one measure the country is frighteningly narrow-minded — its support for capital punishment.
Most of Africa is abandoning the death penalty, according to Amnesty International. Today, just 10 African countries allow for capital punishment and only a handful ever use it.
But Botswana — an affluent, landlocked, diamond-exporting state — is among the leading exceptions. After a lull in killings in 2017, it has resumed by executing convicted murderers Joseph Tselayarona (28) in February and Uyapo Poloko (37) in May.
Botswana’s legal system, and the basis for capital punishment, is rooted in English and Roman-Dutch common law. According to the country’s penal code, the preferred punishment for murder is death by hanging.
Although the Constitution protects a citizen’s “right to life”, it makes an exception when the te…