Showing posts from July, 2019


Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Japan: Death penalty finalized for man over 1998 murder of Aichi couple

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's top court rejected Friday an appeal by a 44-year-old man convicted of killing a married couple during a robbery in Aichi Prefecture in 1998, initiating the process for the finalization of his death sentence.
In conspiracy with two men, Yoshitomo Hori murdered company executive Ichio Magoori, 45, and his wife Satomi, 36, and stole about 60,000 yen ($560) after breaking into their home in the city of Hekinan in central Japan in June 1998, according to the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court's No. 2 Petty Bench.
Presiding Judge Tsuneyuki Yamamoto said Hori's contempt for human life was "conspicuous" and the outcome was "extremely serious," recognizing that he "planned and led" the crime and played a role in the killing.
"Their attack was based on a strong intention to kill and it's natural that the victims' son and others have demanded a harsh penalty after the two blameless people were deprived of their…

Iran Hangs 10 in Just Three Days

Iranian authorities have hanged ten prisoners in the past few days in the cities of Mahshahr, Nowshahr, Urmia, and Khandab, with two being hanged in public.
On Wednesday, Iran hanged one inmate in Bandar Mahshahr, southwest Iran, but his name is unknown. They also hanged two inmates convicted of drug charges - Moharam Nemati and Asgar Bartar - in Urmia prison in northwest Iran, who it’s believed were transferred to solitary confinement on Tuesday in preparation for their executions.
They also executed a woman, identified only by the initials “Z.S.M.”, in Noshahr Prison, in northern Iran. Some sources say she was Zahra Safari Moghaddam. The 43-year-old is the 90th woman known to have been executed in Iran since 2013, when the supposed moderate Hassan Rouhani became President.
On Tuesday, a unnamed man was publicly hanged in Khandab, central Markazi Province central Iran, in public view in Jihad Street. He was accused of murder.
Four inmates - Hayman Banawand, Jafar (Iman) Mohammadi, M…

Illinois man sentenced to life for killing Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang

The remains of Yingying Zhang have not been found. Her family pleaded with the man convicted in her death to tell them where she is.
An Illinois man was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without the possibility of release for kidnapping and killing visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang in 2017.
After the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on the sentence, a federal judge sentenced Brendt Christensen, 30, to life in prison. He was convicted last month on charges of kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of making false statements to FBI agents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois said in a statement.
Prosecutors and Zhang's family had pushed for the death penalty, but a jury decision on that had to be unanimous. If even one juror opposed, then the life sentence was applied.
"Tragically, a young woman’s life was cut short by the evil crimes perpetrated in this case,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Dep…

Moroccan court orders death penalty for jihadists who beheaded tourists

Three Isis supporters who killed two Scandinavian women given death sentence
Three men have been sentenced to death in Morocco for the Isis-inspired murder of two Scandinavian hikers in the Atlas mountains last December.
The two victims, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, from Denmark, and Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, were beheaded by a group of men who wanted to impress Islamic State. The three men confessed to their murder at a court in Salé, near Rabat.
Morocco has not carried out an execution since 1993, but prosecutors called for the death penalty during the 11-week trial.

RELATED | Trial for murder of Scandinavian hikers to open in Morocco
Last week a letter from Jespersen’s mother was read out in court which said: “The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve.”
Prosecutors said Abdessamad Ejjoud, 25, a street vendor and underground imam, was the ringleader and admitted to killing one of the women, and Younes Ouaziyad, 27, a carpenter, confesse…

California’s execution pause hasn’t stopped new capital cases. The Supreme Court could change that

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s death penalty moratorium hasn’t stopped district attorneys from pursuing capital punishment in California, but the state Supreme Court is considering a case that could change that.
Newsom suspended the state’s death penalty in March, granting temporary reprieves for California’s 737 death row inmates, shuttering the execution chamber in San Quentin State Prison and withdrawing the state’s lethal injection protocol.
His executive order only halts the death penalty while he is governor. In the meantime, district attorneys across the state have continued to pursue capital charges against defendants.
Lawyers for a man facing five capital murder charges say that should stop. They are appealing to the state Supreme Court to block capital murder trials while Newsom’s moratorium is in effect.
In a petition filed with the court earlier this month, lawyers for Cleamon Johnson argue jurors cannot fairly decide whether to put someone to death while the moratorium is in place.…

90th woman executed in Iran during Rouhani’s term in office since 2013

An imprisoned woman was hanged at dawn on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in the Prison of Noshahr, in northern Iran. 
This is the 90th woman executed in Iran during Rouhani’s term in office since 2013.
The official news agency of the Iranian regime, IRNA, cited the General and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Kelardasht, Seyyed Farzad Hosseini, announcing the execution of this 43-year-old woman in the Prison of Noshahr.
The semi-official news agency, ROKNA, also identified this woman as “Z.S.M.”
Less than a month ago, on June 19, a woman identified as Fatemeh Nassiri was hanged in Gohardasht (Rajaii-Shahr) Prison of Karaj. She had been imprisoned since 11 years ago in Qarchak prison. She was said to have undertaken the crime committed by her son.
There are unconfirmed reports of the hanging another woman by the name of Fariba, along with Fatemeh Nassiri on June 19.
This is at least, the 90th woman to be executed during s6years of Rouhani’s presidency.
Iran is the world’s record holder in per c…

Malaysia: Judges to have discretion in imposing death penalty

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — Judges will still have the discretion to impose the death penalty under proposed changes in the law to abolish the mandatory death sentence currently in existence for 11 offences, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong said today.
He clarified that the proposed changes being sought by the government were meant to give judges wider discretion in deciding whether to impose the death penalty or life imprisonment or imprisonment for a shorter period, depending on the facts of individual cases.
Among the 11 offences currently carrying the mandatory death sentence, nine relate to crimes under the Penal Code, while the remaining two comprise offences under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971.
Twenty-two other offences carry the option of a death sentence or life imprisonment with whipping but in these cases, the courts already have the discretion to choose.
In an exclusive interview with Bernama, the minister said the term ‘mandatory…

Why Justice Stevens Turned Against the Death Penalty

Justice John Paul Stevens struck an important blow against the modern death penalty 17 years ago in a Supreme Court decision barring capital punishment for intellectually disabled people.
In his majority opinion in Atkins v. Virginia, Justice Stevens said the “cognitive and behavioral impairments” of the intellectually disabled made them “less morally culpable” and put them at “special risk of wrongful conviction.” Those defendants, he warned, would be more prone to give false confessions and less capable of helping their lawyers mount a strong defense.
It was a step toward greater humanity in the law from a justice who joined the court as a supporter of capital punishment but who came to believe that it had failed in practice and should be outlawed. His willingness to wrestle publicly with this deep and divisive question, and to shift his views, was rare for any judge, let alone a Supreme Court justice.
But Justice Stevens, who died Tuesday at age 99 from complications of a stroke, …

13 dead in suspected arson attack on Japan animation studio

Arson is considered a serious crime and people convicted of deliberately setting fires in a country where many people still live in wooden houses can face the death penalty.
Tokyo, Japan, Jul 18 – A suspected arson attack on an animation production company in Japan killed 13 people and injured dozens more on Thursday, with flames gutting the building in the city of Kyoto.
Police said the fierce blaze appeared to have been started deliberately but there was no immediate information on a possible motive.
There were fears the toll could rise further, with officials saying they believed several more people had failed to escape the fire.
“Twelve people were found in cardio-respiratory arrest on the ground and first floor,” a fire department official told AFP, using a phrase commonly employed in Japan to signify victims have died but their deaths have not yet been officially certified.
Officials had already confirmed one death earlier in the blaze.
“Also, several other people appeared to ha…

Verdicts due in Morocco trial for killing of Scandinavian hikers

SALÉ: Verdicts are expected Thursday for 24 suspected jihadists accused over the murder of two Scandinavian women beheaded while on a hiking trip in Morocco.
Winding up an 11-week-long trial in an anti-terrorist court in Sale, near the capital Rabat, the defendants are to make their final statements before judges withdraw.
Verdicts are expected to be announced later the same day in the case that has shocked the North African country.
“We expect sentences that match the cruelty of the crime,“ lawyer Khaled El Fataoui, speaking for the family of Danish victim Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, told AFP.
Helle Petersen, her mother, in a letter read out in court last week, said: “The most just thing would be to give these beasts the death penalty they deserve.”
Prosecutors have already called for the death penalty for the three main suspects behind the “bloodthirsty” killings in the High Atlas mountains last December.
The maximum sentence was sought for 25-year-old suspected ringleader Abdessa…