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Showing posts from February, 2020

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Abolition of the Death Penalty: A Tough Road ahead for India

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The movement against the death penalty in present-day India faces a tremendous challenge in terms of extensive public clamour for swift executions, removal of appeals, and even support for summary executions. 
With the imminent execution of the four convicts in the Delhi gang rape and murder case against the background of reactions to incidents in Hyderabad, Kathua and Unnao, harsher punishments are receiving tremendous public support, and politicians are only happy to oblige. The Supreme Court has issued administrative orders (1) to hear death sentence cases faster amidst misplaced concerns in the public that death row prisoners have too many loopholes in the law to exploit.
Framing the death penalty as a political–legal issue in India is not easy. Located within the wider spectrum of social and state violence in India, the exceptional nature of the cruelty of the death penalty is difficult to establish. 
The suffering inflicted by the death penalty is the constant and daily uncerta…

Pakistan | A grisly spectacle

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ARCHBISHOP Desmond Tutu once said: “To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice.” There is no doubt that the continuing incidents of child abuse and murders across the country require action. However, we need to ask ourselves whether such mediaeval retribution is the right approach. Pakistan’s justice system is undoubtedly flawed, with nominal conviction rates and even lower rates of actual punishment being meted out.
Keeping in view the growing public sentiment against child sexual abuse, the National Assembly recently passed a non-binding resolution in support of publicly hanging those convicted of such crimes. As the world moves towards a more humane approach towards criminal justice, wherein the focus is on the crime rather than the criminal, many of our politicians have decided to regress towards the Stone Age notion of seeking vengeance and retribution rather than strengthening the justice system.
Some refer to such acts as ‘populist punitiveness’, where po…

UK statement on Singapore's statistics on executions in 2019

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The UK has delivered a statement following release of Singapore Prison Service's annual statistics on judicial executions in 2019.
“The UK’s long-standing policy is to oppose death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. The UK believes that its use undermines human dignity, that there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value, and that any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable.
“As such we note with disappointment the continued use of the death penalty in Singapore, as reported by the Singapore Prison Services statistics for 2019, albeit with a reduced number of executions in 2019 (4), compared to 2018 (13).
“In our statement to the UN Human Rights Council during Singapore’s last Universal Periodic Review – and in line with our statements on the UPR of other countries where the death penalty is used – the UK recommended that the death penalty be abolished, along with judicial corporal punishment.”
Source: gov. uk, S…

Senate bill would force Virginia to reveal sources of lethal injection drugs

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The last high-profile attempt to learn the source of Virginia’s execution drugs ended in a black bar. In 2016, the Associated Press filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn which pharmacy had provided the state’s Department of Corrections with materials for its next two executions. The department provided the receipts for the drugs, but redacted the name of the pharmacy.
It was legal under a law passed the same year, which enabled the state to purchase drugs from compounding pharmacies instead of relying on pharmaceutical companies. The legislation, proposed by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe, also allowed the Department of Corrections to hide the names of vendors.
“Frankly, I’ve been concerned about this issue since the code was changed,” said Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun. One of his bills this session aims to re-introduce transparency to the execution process, declassifying the sources of lethal injection drugs and ensuring that the names of facilities are subject to FOIA request…

Blasphemy still a potent tool for Pakistan's hushed hardliners

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LAHORE, PAKISTAN – Inside a small Lahore courtroom, the packed crowd attending the hearing of a blasphemy case against a Christian pastor is most notable for the absence of hard-line clerics shouting insults and demanding the death penalty.
For years, they would attend such hearings in force, seeking to pressure magistrates to convict and impose the severest sentences on anyone facing what is an incendiary charge in Pakistan.
But one year after the conclusion of the country’s most high-profile blasphemy case and a government crackdown against extremists who exploited it for political ends, the clerics are largely gone.
“Before Asia Bibi, dozens of maulanas (religious scholars) were coming to my hearings,” said the pastor Adnan Prince, who stands accused of desecrating the Koran.
“After that, they didn’t come anymore,” Prince said.
The case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010 and acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2018, shone a global spotlight on t…

India | Nirbhaya convict Pawan Gupta files curative plea in SC seeking commutation of death sentence

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PTI -- Pawan Kumar Gupta, one of the four death row convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case, moved a curative plea in the Supreme Court on Friday seeking commutation of his death penalty to life imprisonment.
He has also sought a stay on the execution of the black warrant issued by the trial court for the hanging.
Gupta, against whom the death warrant has been issued for execution along with three other condemned prisoners on March 3, has filed the curative plea, saying that the death penalty should not awarded to him, his counsel A P Singh said.
He is the lone convict who has not exhausted his legal remedies of filing a curative petition—last legal remedy available to a person—and subsequent mercy plea with the President.
The trial court on February 17 issued fresh date for execution of death warrants for March 3 at 6 am for the four convicts—Mukesh Kumar Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Kumar Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar (31)—in the Nirbhaya case.
The mercy petit…

Missouri man set to be executed after 5 murder trials

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri man who was convicted of murdering an elderly woman in 1991 is set to be executed this spring after five criminal trials, a rarity in death penalty cases, an expert said.
Throughout his trials, which unfolded over more than a decade and featured a jailhouse informant and blood spatter evidence, Walter Barton, 64, has maintained his innocence, his attorney said.
The Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday set a May 19 execution date for Barton, who was convicted in the killing of Gladys Kuehler, 81, reported The Kansas City Star. She was found stabbed more than 50 times at a mobile home park she managed in Ozark, near Springfield.
Barton went on trial five times from 1993 to 2006. Two ended in mistrials, one of which stemmed from a jury deadlocked over his guilt, and two of his convictions were overturned. His final trial, which ended in his third conviction, was before a Cass County jury.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonprofit Death …

Texas | Cop Killer Brandon McCall Sentenced To Death

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McKINNEY, Texas -(CBSDFW.COM) – After eight hours of deliberations a Collin County jury sentenced convicted capital murderer Brandon McCall to death.
McCall shot and killed Richardson Police Officer David Sherrard in February 2018.
Earlier in the day, the prosecution and defense teams made stirring closing arguments.
One side pleaded for mercy on a young man raised in cruel conditions.
The other called McCall the worst of the worst.
“When you go to war with police those are death penalty cases in Collin County,” prosecutor Bill Wirskye told the jury. “The man is a cold-blooded calculated cop killer. He deserves the death penalty”
Defense attorneys asked the jury to think about McCall’s upbringing with an alcoholic father which led to homelessness and neglect.
“If you grew up in a car and had to shower with a hose behind a church would you be the person you are today,” asked Defense Attorney Bubba King who pleaded for a life sentence. “He’ll always be behind bars. He’ll always be behi…

`Tool Box Killer’ who preyed on teenagers dies in California

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VACAVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Roy Lewis Norris one of the “Tool Box Killers” who preyed on teenage girls in Southern California more than 40 years ago has died, state corrections officials said Tuesday.
Norris and Lawrence Sigmond Bittaker kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered five girls in 1979. Their nickname came from the tools like a screwdriver, pliers and an ice pick that they used on their victims.
Norris, 72, died Monday at California Medical Facility, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement. He was transferred from the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County to the hospital in Northern California last week and died of natural causes, officials said.
The killings began in June 1979, with the death of Lucinda Lynn Schaefer, 16. She was followed by Andrea Joy Hall, 18; Jacqueline Doris Gilliam, 15; Jacqueline Leah Lamp, 13, and Shirley Lynette Ledford, 16.
Norris testified against Bittaker after pleading guilty to all charges…

California | ‘Boy Next Door’ Killer expected to get death for 2 murders

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge is expected to give a death sentence Friday to a man prosecutors call “The Boy Next Door Killer,” who was found guilty of the home-invasion murders of two women.
A Los Angeles jury recommended the death penalty in October for 44-year-old Michael Thomas Gargiulo, whose victims included 22-year-old Ashley Ellerin, a fashion design student killed in Hollywood in 2001 just before she was to go on a date with actor Ashton Kutcher, who testified at the trial.
Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler will sentence Gargiulo on Friday, when he will also consider defense motions for a new trial or a reduced sentence.
Even if he is given a death sentence, Gargiulo is unlikely to be put to death anytime soon. California has not executed anyone since 2006. Gov. Gavin Newsom last year halted executions for as long as he is in office, though courts have been proceeding on the assumption that executions may one day resume.
Gargiulo, an air-conditioning and heater repairman, bo…

Mississippi man gets 4 death sentences for multiple killings

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A Mississippi man convicted in eight killings has been given the death penalty for four of the slayings
MAGNOLIA, Miss. -- A Mississippi man was given four death sentences by a jury on Thursday, hours after he spoke in court and blamed the devil for his actions the night eight people were shot to death.
Willie Cory Godbolt, 37, was convicted Tuesday of the May 2017 slayings of eight people. Four of the convictions were for murder, which carry a sentence of life in prison. Four other convictions were for capital murder — a killing committed along with another felony.
Capital murder is punishable by the death penalty, but jurors must agree unanimously to set that as the punishment. Without unanimous agreement, the judge would set sentences of life in prison.
The unanimous decisions for the death penalty were handed down after the same jurors who convicted Godbolt heard testimony from several people Wednesday and Thursday during the penalty phase of the trial, the Daily Leader reported.