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…

China: Two life sentences, one death penalty for smuggling fentanyl to U.S.

China Fentanyl trial
The convictions are the first to arise from China's joint investigation with American law enforcement into smuggling that has been blamed for thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S.

(Bloomberg) —  China sentenced three nationals to maximum punishments for smuggling fentanyl to the U.S., in one of its highest-profile moves yet against the illicit flow of opioids that President Donald Trump has made a bone of contention in broader trade talks between Washington and Beijing.

Liu Yong was sentenced to death with a two year reprieve, while two accomplices — Jiang Juhua and Wang Fengxi — received life sentences, Chinese officials said at a press conference in northern Hebei province on Thursday. A reprieved death sentence has the possibility of being commuted down to a life sentence, if the person shows good behaviour within the allotted period.

Another six people involved in the smuggling ring, which started in 2016, were sentenced to jail time of between six months to two years, officials said. The convictions are the first to arise from China’s joint investigation with American law enforcement into smuggling of the highly-addictive painkiller that has been blamed for thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S.

The Chinese statement called the case “an excellent paragon of U.S.-China drug enforcement collectively combating fentanyl” and said China would continue to contribute its “experience … wisdom and power” to the worldwide fight against drugs.

The probe started with a phone number provided by the Guangzhou office of U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 20 suspects were captured or investigated and the police cracked down on one fentanyl manufacturing base, two sales outlets and seized 11.9 kilograms of fentanyl, along with 19.1 kilograms of other drugs including alprazolam, said Yu.

“As the success of this joint investigation demonstrates, Chinese and American investigators have the capacity to collaborate across international borders,” Austin Moore, an ICE attache in the Beijing embassy, told reporters. “Today’s event is another important step.”

China has altogether investigated three fentanyl smuggling cases so far based on information received from U.S. law enforcement, and this is the first to result in criminal convictions.

The flashy sentencing comes as the two countries strive to negotiate a deal to at least partially resolve a tit-for-tat tariffs war that’s now into its second year and has caused economic losses on both sides. Washington has long criticized Beijing for not doing enough to curb the flow of fentanyl, whose victims are concentrated in rural areas where Trump has broad support.

On its part, China has attempted to balance the need to appease Trump on the fentanyl issue, while insisting it is not the main source of illicit fentanyl flow to the U.S. and that American politicians are using the accusations as a political weapon.

That tightrope act was on display again on Thursday’s press conference in Hebei. Although an American official from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was present and spoke at the event, Yu Haibing, deputy secretary general of the China National Narcotics Control Commission, stressed that useful information from U.S. law enforcement has been “limited” and said that the sentencings were in the context of China’s strict regulation of drugs domestically.

“This further demonstrates the Chinese government’s consistent attitude of zero tolerance towards drug crimes,” he said. “This case has nothing to do with the trade war,” he said later in response to a question from Bloomberg.

Some U.S. officials, including Trump, have faulted an underground Chinese industry — and lax Chinese government oversight — for an influx of opioids into the United States that caused as many as 30,000 overdose deaths in 2018. China has emphasized that it is not the main source of fentanyl flow into the U.S. and that the American epidemic of opioid overdose deaths is due to lax domestic regulation over prescription drugs.

Source: Bloomberg, Staff, November 7, 2019

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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