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Showing posts from June, 2019

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“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

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The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

Iran: Five Men Executed at One Prison in One Day

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Iran Human Rights (IHR); June 26, 2019: Five men were hanged at the Iranian city of Karaj’s Rajai-Shahr prison this morning.
According to IHR sources, on the early morning of Wednesday, June 26, five prisoners were executed at Rajai-Shahr prison. 
Most of them were sentenced to death for murder charges. 
IHR could identify three of the executed prisoners as Ghorban Soleimani, Hanif Motaharinejad and Majid Hassanzadeh. 
Two others have not been identified by IHR sources yet. However, according to IHR sources, one of the latter two was transferred from Ghelezhesar prison to Rajai-Shahr prison for the execution. 
In sum, 12 Prisoners were transferred to the solitary confinement of Rajai-Shahr prison for execution lately. 
Five were executed and seven of them could win the plaintiffs’ consent or more time to do so. 
In Iran, the life of a person who is convicted to death on murder charges is in the hands of the victim’s family.
According to the Iranian Islamic Penal Code (IPC) murder is …

Prosecutors: Tsarnaev got fair trial, does not deserve appeal on death sentence

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Federal prosecutors said Thursday Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev does not deserve a new trial in his appeal, arguing, among other issues, that evidence surrounding a 2011 triple murder in Waltham was not relevant to whether he deserved a death sentence.
The brief, filed in response to Tsarnaev’s appeal, says in a heavily-redacted section that evidence surrounding the murder, in which his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a suspect, “had little or no relevance to whether Tsarnaev deserved the death penalty.”
Prosecutors say the U.S. District Court appropriately denied Dzhokhar Tsarnaev access to the reports and recordings with Tamerlan’s friend, Ibragim Todashev, who implicated Tamerlan in the murders in an interview with FBI agents before he was shot and killed by one of the agents in 2013.
The 431-page brief, signed by William Glaser, U.S. Department of Justice Appellate Section attorney, comes in response to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s 1,126-page brief filed in January, and a s…

Sri Lanka president signs death warrants to end moratorium

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Sri Lanka reinstates death penalty for drug crimes ahead of polls
Sri Lanka's president on Wednesday signed death sentences for 4 people convicted of drug-related offences in a decision analysts said is aimed at boosting his chances of re-election later this year.
Maithripala Sirisena was elected as a reformist in January 2015, but has struggled to fulfill pledges including addressing human rights abuses, eliminating corruption and ensuring good governance.
He has been under increasing pressure since a political crisis last year, and more recently faced criticism for his handling of Easter Sunday bomb attacks that killed more than 250 people.
"I have already signed the death penalty for four (convicts). It will be implemented soon and we have already decided the date as well," Sirisena told reporters in Colombo, without giving details.
He said the four could appeal their convictions on charges of trading and trafficking in drugs.
Many Sri Lankans, including several influ…

State denies compensation to wrongfully convicted former Texas death row prisoner Alfred Dewayne Brown

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Even after a special prosecutor and a judge sided with Alfred Dewayne Brown in his quest for “actual innocence,” the state comptroller this week in a surprise move denied the wrongfully convicted former death row prisoner compensation for the 12 years he spent behind bars.
The decision comes almost two months after Harris County District Court Judge George Powell signed an amended judgment, formally declaring Brown innocent almost four years after he was freed. The first time he tried to get money for his time in prison, the state rejected the request because prosecutors had only agreed to toss the case, but had not officially declared him innocent.
Earlier this year, after a 10-month investigation by special prosecutor John Raley found no credible indications of Brown’s guilt, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg took the case back to court to ask for an amended judgment including the words “actual innocence.”
The judge pondered the matter for weeks, wrangling with the question o…

Kim's killing fields: Terrifying map reveals scale of public executions in North Korea

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A stark map has revealed the 318 places in North Korea where people have been publicly executed - most commonly for theft or damage to property.
Using testimonies from more than 600 defectors the human rights researchers found executions commonly took place on river banks, fields, market places, hills and mountains, sports and school grounds.
Of the 715 mentions of charges resulting in an execution it was most commonly related to theft or damage to property, including food and livestock (238 times) followed by violent crime (115 times) and political crimes (73 times).
Witnesses also told the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) - the organisation which undertook the research - that they were often forced to watch the executions.
The size of the assembled crowds at each public execution varying in size from hundreds to thousands - with 4 in 5 of those interviewed saying they had witnessed a public execution in their lifetime - the youngest witness to a public execution was 7.
The…

‘True Justice’ explores lawyer who defends death row inmates

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson rarely slows down, friends and family say. It seems he’s always looking over details on death penalty cases from his Montgomery, Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative. If he’s not speaking on the criminalization of black men, Stevenson is researching another historical site connected to an episode of racial violence.
But a new HBO documentary on Stevenson attempts to get him to sit, speak and explain why he believes the legacy of lynchings of African Americans in the U.S. is directly linked to those who have wrongly been put on death row. In his mind, racial structures of oppression have remained in the U.S. judicial system since the Jim Crow-era and the death penalty is merely their direct descendant.
“Most people don’t know about our history of lynching,” Stevenson told The Associated Press in a phone interview shortly after receiving news Friday that the Supreme Court had overturned the death sentence for Curtis Flowers , …

Supreme Court to unseal records about Alabama’s death penalty

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The nation’s highest court has ordered that documents to the protocol Alabama uses to execute death row inmates be made public.
Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling came after reporters from National Public Radio and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press asked for document filed to the court by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office-- which had paragraphs of information regarding its lethal injection protocol blacked out-- to be unsealed.
The U.S. Supreme Court didn't write an opinion on the case, but granted the motion to unseal the files.
The sealed records were filed in the case of Christopher Price, an Alabama inmate who was executed by the state in May. In the days leading up to Price's May 30 execution, both his attorneys and representatives from the AG's Office filed motions in a federal district court and appeals court that were sealed.
When Price’s attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution in the hours leading up to his death, the reco…

Former student guilty in slaying of visiting Chinese scholar

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PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Jurors deliberated less than 90 minutes before returning a guilty verdict Monday in the federal death-penalty trial of a former University of Illinois doctoral student who abducted a visiting Chinese scholar from a bus stop and killed her at his apartment.
Brendt Christensen didn't move or show any emotion as the judge read the jury's verdict — a swift conviction that was widely expected after defense attorneys acknowledged at trial Christensen killed 26-year-old Yingying Zhang in June 2017 and said they would focus all their energy on persuading jurors to spare his life.
Zhang's mother, Ye Lifeng, cried inconsolably by the courthouse steps shortly after the verdict as someone stroked her hair and tried to comfort her.
Ronggao Zhang thanked jurors for what he called "this first step toward justice" for his daughter. He was alluding to the death penalty stage at which the same jury must decide if Christensen should be put to death .
He has sai…

California: Jury recommends death penalty for Charles “Chase” Merritt

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SAN BERNARDINO, June 25 — A Southern California jury yesterday recommended the death penalty for a man convicted this month of the 2010 sledgehammer killings of a family of four whose bodies were later found buried in the Mojave Desert, media reports said.
A San Bernardino County Superior Court jury found Charles “Chase” Merritt, 62, guilty on June 10 of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a former business associate, Joseph McStay, and his family.
The same jury yesterday recommended Merritt receive the death penalty for the murder of McStay's wife, 43-year-old Summer, and their two sons, four-year-old Gianni and three-year-old Joseph Jr, CNN and other media reported.
The jury recommended a life prison sentence without parole for the murder of Joseph McStay, 40, according to media reports.
The deaths baffled detectives for years after the family was reported missing in February 2010 from their San Diego home.
RELATED | Charles 'Chase' Merrit was found guilt…