Showing posts from October, 2018


Texas | A Dangerous Man. At 18, Billy Joe Wardlow took a man’s life. Nearly 30 years later, the state still wants his.

Like any place humans gather, death row has a culture. Billy Wardlow says it's different in many ways from general population. One is in how new inmates are treated. "In [general population], the guys around you would try to find some way to exploit you," Wardlow said. "Death row, with a few exceptions, will often extend a hand of friendship to the 'new boot' so they can get on their feet ... Most of us get together and let each other know what we can send to the new guy."
One of the cherished myths of those who support the death penalty is that it is reserved for the “worst of the worst,” those beyond redemption.
Wardlow typically sends writing materials, food, clothes, and hygiene products. Recently, after receiving some of these items, a new inmate asked Wardlow what he owed him. "I told him to remember how guys helped him when he saw someone else new," Wardlow said. "Pay it forward, as the saying goes."
Sending gifts is one thin…

Reporter's experience at Rodney Berget execution draws emotion

Argus Leader reporter Danielle Ferguson was one of the media witnesses for Rodney Berget's execution Monday at the South Dakota State Penitentiary. These are her impressions following that assignment:
One of the more revealing moments was when we were stopped between the very gates Rodney Berget almost escaped from after he and Eric Robert killed correctional officer Ronald Johnson seven years ago.
It was shortly after 7 p.m., six hours after Berget was originally scheduled to be put to death, and the collection of witnesses – media, Johnson's family members, law enforcement representatives – was finally being moved to the execution viewing area.
My group made it through one gate and stopped, waiting for the second gate to open, when one of the retired Department of Corrections officers who was with our group said, “This is where they almost escaped.”
It was then that the gravity of the situation hit me.
I had gone through the day trying to remain professional, polite and some…

Singapore launches survey on death penalty

SINGAPORE: Singapore will gauge public attitudes towards the death penalty in a survey, the interior ministry said Wednesday, as human rights groups renewed calls for its abolition.
The city-state — which staunchly maintains that capital punishment is a crime deterrent — executed eight convicts last year, the highest number in a decade, according to official data. They had all committed drug offences.
The Straits Times said it was the first time that the MHA, which is in charge of the prisons department, is conducting a survey on the subject.
Last week’s hanging in Singapore of convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Prabu N Pathmanathan sparked fresh calls to scrap the death penalty, a legacy of British colonial rule.
Neighbouring Malaysia, where the cabinet had decided to abolish the death penalty, had asked Singapore to spare the 31-year-old convict on humanitarian grounds.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is conducting the survey to give us a better understanding of Singapore resi…

Indonesia protests Saudi Arabia execution of migrant worker

The government has aired its “deep concerns” about the execution of Indonesian migrant worker Tuti Tursilawati, which was carried out on Monday without the prior knowledge of her family or Indonesian officials.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi immediately called her Saudi counterpart Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir to express her disapproval on the execution, of which she was notified after it took place on Monday.
“Tuti’s execution was carried out without [prior notification]. I also summoned the Saudi ambassador [Usamah Muhammad Al Syuaiby] in Jakarta to meet me in Bali,” she told reporters on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Our Ocean Conference in Bali, according to a distributed recording of her interview.
Separately in Jakarta, the ministry’s director for overseas citizen protection, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, said Tuti’s family had accepted her passing, after it was revealed that he had personally delivered the news of her execution in a visit to her hometown in Majalengka, West Java.
Iqbal s…

Asia Bibi: Pakistan acquits Christian woman on death row

A Pakistani court has overturned the death sentence of a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy, a case that has polarised the nation.
Asia Bibi was convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours.
She always maintained her innocence, but has spent most of the past eight years in solitary confinement.
The landmark ruling has already set off protests by hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws.
There was a heavy police presence at the Supreme Court in Islamabad as many feared violence could break out.
People have also been gathering for protests against the verdict in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, and hundreds blocked a road between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Dawn newspaper reported.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisarm, who read out the ruling, said Asia Bibi could walk free from jail in Sheikupura, near Lahore, immediately if not wanted in connection with any other case.
She was not in court to hear the ruling, but reacted to the verdict…

Judge: Tennessee can't execute Edmund Zagorski unless his lawyer gets access to a phone

Tennessee cannot execute death row inmate Edmund Zagorski as scheduled Thursday unless prison officials give his attorney access to a phone during the final minutes of his life, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger granted a temporary restraining order Monday, saying the state must allow Zagorski's lawyer to have "immediate access to a telephone during the time preceding and during the execution."
The move throws a wrench into the state's plans, but it could be a relatively easy fix.
If the state allows federal public defender Kelley Henry, Zagorski's attorney, access to a cell phone or land line, Trauger's ruling would be satisfied and the execution could move forward.
State attorneys had fought against the request for a phone, part of a last-minute challenge Zagorski's attorneys filed Friday. 
It remains unclear how they'll react to the order. 
A spokeswoman for the Tennessee attorney general's office said Tuesday mornin…

Singapore becomes one of world’s top executioners for drug offences

On Friday 26th October, Singapore executed two men for drug trafficking, bringing the total number of executions this year to nine. 
Our research indicates that all are for drug-related crimes, making Singapore one of the world’s top executioners for non-violent drug offences, along with Saudi Arabia and China. 
Compared with the international trend towards abolition, Singapore is increasing its use of the death penalty, executing more people in 2018, than in 2017
This sits in stark contrast to Malaysia’s move toward abolition of the death penalty, and the over 90% fall in executions for drug offences seen in Iran this year. 
All executions occur under Singapore’s draconian and stringent drug laws, which – with few exceptions - do not allow judges to evaluate the circumstances of each case, thus making the death sentence effectively mandatory for drugs offences. 
Sadly, the upward trend in executions shows little sign of abating. 
On 25th October, Gobi Avedian, a 30-year-old father…

Tennessee's electric chair protocol: How the state plans to kill Edmund Zagorski

"Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal’s deed, however calculated, can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date on which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not to be encountered in private life." - Albert Camus

Tennessee is poised to use the electric chair for the first time in 11 years when it executes death row inmate Edmund Zagorski on Nov. 1.
Earlier this month, Zagorski chose to die by electric chair rather than lethal injection. 
A flurry of legal proceedings continues concerning the execution, but the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal appeals court both declined to intervene.
Here is the process Zagorski, 63, will go through if his execution moves forward Thursday, according to the state’s protocol for electrocution. At 5 p.m., Zagorski will b…

China's deadly secret: More executions than all other countries put together

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Every year, the Chinese state carries out several thousand judicial executions -- more than the rest of the world combined. For the most part, the names of those executed remain secret, known only to their families.
All figures about the death penalty, as well as most details about executions, remain classified as "state secrets," part of a deliberate effort by China's rulers to hide from public view the horrifying scale of the country's capital punishment system.
Secret killings
While China is by far the most secretive country in the world over the scale of its executions, it is not alone. Secrecy is often a telltale sign of countries determined to continue with capital punishment.
In Vietnam, shocking information disclosed earlier this year revealed that the authorities had executed 429 people between mid-2013 to mid-2016, propelling it into third place in the world's league table of executioners for that period.
In Malaysia, parliamentary p…

Malaysia: Death penalty not a deterrent, says ex-judge

PETALING JAYA: Retired Court of Appeal judge Mah Weng Kwai believes that the death penalty is not a deterrent and that there are other ways to prevent crimes from being committed.
Recalling an execution he witnessed 35 years ago when he was a rookie magistrate, Mah said that unless the execution was made known to the press or to the public, it would not have served as a deterrent.
“Was it (the execution) ever made known to the press or to the public? If it wasn’t, what good is it to say that it will serve as a deterrent when there is no information for the public to make an informed decision?” Mah asked the audience at a talk on whether the death penalty served as a deterrent.
The talk was organised by the St Ignatius Church and the Catholic Lawyers Society.
Mah also vividly recounted his experience witnessing the execution.
He said in 1973, as a magistrate, he not only had to visit prisons, but also witnessed executions.
He recalled the execution of two brothers, aged 19 and 21, who…