Showing posts from November, 2019


Texas: Rodney Reed granted indefinite stay of execution

Stay of execution came just hours after parole board unanimously recommended 120-day reprieve
The Texas death row prisoner Rodney Reed was granted a stay of execution on Friday, 5 days before he was scheduled to be put to death for a murder he insists he did not commit.
The Texas court of criminal appeals blocked the execution indefinitely and sent the case back to the trial court in Bastrop county, where Reed was sentenced in 1998 for the murder of Stacey Stites two years earlier.
The court had previously rejected multiple appeals, but Reed’s lawyers argued that fresh evidence bolstered his claim of innocence. 
They said in a statement that they “are extremely relieved and thankful … this opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr Reed’s innocence”.
Millions of people, including a clutch of celebrities, have rallied behind Reed’s cause, helping to generate momentum and public attention as the execution date of 20 November loomed an…

Another death penalty horror: Stark disparities in media and activist attention

On November 12, intrepid abolitionist Sister Helen Prejean tweeted to her legions of followers: “What do Sen. Ted Cruz, Gigi Hadid, Kim Kardashian, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and me all have in common? We’re among a growing local and national movement asking Texas @GovAbbott to stop the scheduled Nov. 20 execution of #RodneyReed[.]”
But for Twitter’s character limitation on tweets, Sister Helen’s impressive and growing list of famous people – to publicly throw their support behind Reed’s bid to stop his impending execution – could have also included: Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Busta Rhymes, Ayanna Pressley, Ava Duvernay, Oprah, Beyoncé, Rihanna, LL Cool J, Reggie Bush, Meek Mill, Dr. Phil, Chuck Woolery, Beto O’Rourke, Common, Questlove, Larry Krasner, Greta Van Sustren, the Dixie Chicks, and many, many more (far too many for me to likewise list here).
A day after Sister Helen’s tweet issued, on November 13, Maurice Chammah, a writer for the Marshall Proje…

A History of Capital Punishment in South Dakota

South Dakota has used capital punishment since 1877; state showing no signs of stopping now.
Wild Bill Hickok died holding a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights — the dead man's hand.
He was shot by Jack McCall, whose death later marked South Dakota's 1st recorded execution.
McCall was hanged for the killing in Yankton on March 1, 1877.
The ultimate punishment has been used sparingly since then, with a total of 20 men being put to death for "wantonly vile or heinous" crimes. After a string of 9 in the late 1800s, decades would pass between executions, the Argus Leader reported.
Across the United States, the use of the death penalty has declined sharply over the last 25 years, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), a national nonprofit that doesn't take a stance on the death penalty but often criticizes the way the sentence is administered.
New death sentences have decreased by more than 85% since the mid-1990s, according to the DPIC.

Estonia: Former death row inmates may soon be eligible for release

Prison inmates serving life sentences may soon be free to walk the streets due to a change in the law made this year, according to daily Postimees.
The law, which affects those who were handed life sentences in the 1990s after Estonia removed the death penalty in 1998, was changed in February this year, coming into effect on Jul. 1, but did not get much media attention, Postimees reports (link in Estonian), since it took place while the election campaigns were in full swing.
Under the change, the time limit before someone serving a life sentence can appeal was reduced to 25 years, from 30 years, meaning an inmate sentenced in 1994 could appeal this year rather than in 2024.
Currently, 41 inmates in Estonia are serving life sentences for murder and also rape, but only one individual, Oleg Piyatinksi (60), imprisoned for murder in 1983 and thus eligible to apply for release in 2013, has done so, though the Supreme Court upheld the rejection of his application earlier this year.
In othe…

USA: Resuming federal executions raises death penalty’s 2020 stakes

The question to Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1988, was brutally personal.
“If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?” Bernard Shaw, a CNN anchor, asked, referring to the Massachusetts governor’s wife. Dukakis said he wouldn’t favor it because “I don’t see any evidence that it is a deterrent.”
The technocratic, largely emotionless response in a debate mere weeks before the election marked the nadir of Democrats’ politically agonized relationship to the death penalty — reinforcing in some voters’ minds that the party was soft on crime. President George H.W. Bush went on to crush Dukakis, winning the Electoral College vote, 426-111.
4 years later, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton projected the opposite message, defending the death penalty on a New Hampshire debate stage, then leaving the campaign trail to return to his home state and preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally impaire…

Death penalty disappearing, eroding in many states across the U.S., including Kentucky

Use of the death penalty is disappearing from entire sections of the United States, and eroding in others.
That’s according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center. The center’s Executive Director Robert Dunham says not only have executions declined by 75%, but death sentences have dropped by 85%.
He says the numbers are striking.
“There were more than 300 death sentences per year that were imposed in the United States in the mid-1990s,” says Dunham. “We are going to, this year, have the 5th straight year in which there were fewer than 50 death sentences imposed.”
Earlier this year, the Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could raise the death-penalty eligibility age in the state to 21. 
Since 1976, 3 people have been executed in Kentucky.
Dunham says public opinion, high-profile cases, and improvements in capital punishment defense and evidence have all contributed to judges and juries shifting away from death sentences.
“And as more and more states …

Pennsylvania: Cop killer Rahmael Holt’s execution could be years away, experts say

Rahmael Holt joins list of Southwestern Pa. men on death row
Convicted cop killer Rahmael Holt’s appeal of his death sentence to the state Supreme Court could take a year to 18 months to resolve, says a Westmoreland County attorney representing another convicted killer on Pennsylvania’s death row.
It may take even longer to be carried out, as there are people who have been on the state’s death row for 30 years, said Bruce Antkowiak, a former federal prosecutor and chairman of the criminology department at Saint Vincent College.
Exactly how long Holt’s appeals will take will depend on the complexity of the issues and whether he gets new representation, said Adam Cogan, a Ligonier attorney representing Donald Mitchell Tedford, 68. Tedford is the only death row inmate from Butler County among the 136 in Pennsylvania.
Tedford was convicted and sentenced to death in 1987 for raping and murdering Jeanine Revak, 22, in 1986.
Tim Dawson, 1 of Holt’s 2 court-appointed defense attorneys, said F…

Three Men Executed in Northern Iran

Iran Human Rights (IHR); November 17, 2019: Three prisoners were executed on Sunday and Tuesday at the central prison of the northern Iranian city of Rasht, Gilan province.
According to IHR sources, on the morning of Sunday, November 10, two prisoners were hanged at Rasht prison. 
Another prisoner was also executed on Tuesday, November 12. 
All were sentenced to death for murder. 
IHR could confirm the identity of two as Hossein Arasteh, from the city of Khomam, and Rashed Afrouz. 
The third person was a former school principal who was accused of murdering his wife.
Out of the 110 people who were executed in the first half of 2019, 83 were sentenced to qisas (retribution in-kind) for murder.
There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent., Staff, November 17, 2019

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Nov 16, 1900: Preston John Porter Jr., 16, Lynched and Burned Alive in Limon, Colorado

On November 16, 1900, a sixteen-year-old African American teenager named Preston “John” Porter Jr. was burned alive while chained to a railroad stake in Limon, Colorado. 
A mob of more than 300 white people from throughout Lincoln County gathered to participate in the brutal public spectacle lynching.
Earlier in the year, John, his father, Preston Porter Sr., and his brother, Arthur Porter, moved to the Limon, Colorado, area from Lawrence, Kansas, to seek work on the railroad. 
When a white girl named Louise Frost was found dead in Limon on November 8, a search began for possible suspects. 
Newspapers reported that the Porter family had left Limon for Denver a few days after the girl was found dead, and white authorities focused suspicions on them. 
On November 12, all three were arrested and taken to the city jail in Denver.
During this era, the deep racial hostility that permeated American society burdened black people and communities with presumptions of guilt and dangerousness wh…

Singapore: Man, 22, faces fresh charge of murdering grandmother

SINGAPORE – A 22-year-old man, who was arrested after two women were found dead in a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat in Commonwealth on Oct 27, faces a fresh charge for allegedly murdering his 90-year-old grandmother.
The State Court handed down the new charge to Gabriel Lien Goh, a Singaporean, on Monday (Nov 18).
The name of Goh’s grandmother was not mentioned during Monday’s hearing, and TODAY has requested for more details from the State Court.
Previously, Goh was given a single holding charge on Oct 28 for allegedly murdering his 56-year-old mother, Lee Soh Mui.
The police said on Oct 27 that the authorities were alerted to the case of two unnatural deaths at 7.24pm. 
The two women were found lying motionless in the flat, and were pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene
Court papers did not provide details on what led to the women's death
RELATED | Commonwealth double deaths: Man, 22, charged with murdering his mother; suspected of killing grandmother too

Indonesia’s fading democracy dream

When Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo triggered mass protests in September over his support for regressive amendments to the Criminal Code and the founding statute of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), he beat a hasty retreat.
Seeking to avoid an ignominious second term inauguration marred by protest, Jokowi instructed the parliament to defer deliberation of the Criminal Code and announced that he would consider issuing emergency legislation to repeal the KPK Law amendments, widely considered to have undermined the commission’s independence and distinctiveness.
Soon after his 20 October swearing in, Jokowi again reversed course. His administration indicated it favours only minor further revisions to the contentious criminal code. Jokowi too has ruled out further changes to the KPK Law.
Jokowi is again showing he is willing to subjugate individual rights and the fight against corruption to other considerations. Although opinion polls are yet to reveal an app…