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"And you're told it's time to die": A Personal Contribution to the 2021 World Day Against the Death Penalty

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The following text is excerpted from  Death Row Diary , by William Van Poyck. William Van Poyck -- who maintained his innocence -- was executed by the state of Florida on June 12, 2013.  The 58-year-old, convicted of the 1987 murder of Glades Correctional Institution guard Fred Griffis outside a West Palm Beach doctor’s office, offered his views on everything from prison food to movies to the blood lust of politicians who support the death penalty via letters he posted online with the help of his sister.  After his conviction, Van Poyck, with a reform school education, authored three books, one of which won first-place honors in the memoir category in Writer’s Digest 2004 Self-Published Book Awards.  Locked up with what the courts have deemed the worst of the worst, Van Poyck opened the doors to a secret world few can imagine... The following piece is excerpted from William Van Poyck’s dispatches written during the last two years prior to his own execution. "Robert Waterhouse was

Iran indicts French tourist detained on espionage charges

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian authorities indicted a French tourist on charges of spying and spreading propaganda against the system, his lawyer said Sunday. It was the latest in a series of cases against foreigners amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West. Benjamin Berier was arrested in May last year after taking pictures in a desert area where photography is prohibited and asking questions “in the media” about Iran’s obligatory Islamic headscarf for women. Under Iranian law, a spying conviction can bring up to 10 years in prison and a conviction on a charge of spreading propaganda against the system can be punishable by three months to a year. Berier’s indictment was handed up by the justice department in the northeastern city of Mashahd. It wasn't immediately clear when his trial would take place. Rights groups accuse hard-liners in Iran’s security agencies of using foreign detainees as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West. Tehran denies

Arizona ‘refurbishes’ its gas chamber to prepare for executions, documents reveal

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The corrections department has spent more than $2,000 on ingredients to make cyanide gas, the same used in Auschwitz The state of Arizona is preparing to kill death row inmates using hydrogen cyanide, the same lethal gas that was deployed at Auschwitz. Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that Arizona’s department of corrections has spent more than $2,000 in procuring the ingredients to make cyanide gas. The department bought a solid brick of potassium cyanide in December for $1,530. It also purchased sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid which are intended to be used to generate the deadly gas. The gas chamber itself, built in 1949 and disused for 22 years, has been dusted off and, according to the department, “refurbished”. Over the past few months the Republican-controlled state has moved aggressively to restart its deeply flawed execution system. The death penalty has been in abeyance in Arizona for seven years following the gruesomely botched lethal injection of Joseph

USA | Citing Mental Incompetency From Racist Delusions, Appeal Lawyers Argue Trial Court Should Not Have Permitted Dylann Roof to Represent Himself

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Lawyers for federal death row prisoner Dylann Roof argued to a federal appeals court that the avowed white supremacist’s convictions and death sentences in his trial for the 2015 murders of nine Black churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina should be overturned because the judge presiding over his case unconstitutionally permitted Roof to represent himself while mentally incompetent. In oral argument on May 25, 2021 before a specially constituted panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Roof’s appeal lawyers said that Roof suffered from racist delusions that prevented him from rationally determining whether to be represented by counsel at trial and in sentencing. Roof was “clearly delusional,” appeal counsel Sapna Mirchandani told the court. At his 2017 trial, Roof told trial judge Richard Gergel that he would rather be sentenced to death than be labeled autistic or schizophrenic. Mirchandani said Roof believed his crim

USA | Will executions by firing squad force people to face the barbarity of the death penalty?

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I watched 7 men get killed while working as a reporter. Their deaths happened at the execution chamber at Florida State Prison near Starke. From 2006 until 2010, I witnessed most of the executions held there. Sadly, I had to look up my old stories to figure out the exact number that I had seen. Most of the deaths blended into one another, other than a botched execution that led to an 18-month halt in the state holding executions. The mundane nature of the proceedings was the point. Florida held some pretty awful executions to witness when the state used an electric chair, known as Old Sparky. Flames shot out of two different prisoner's heads, before the use of the chair was ended. The lethal injection process was designed to be less dramatic. In most cases, it just looks like someone getting drugs for an operation and losing consciousness — except for the execution of Ángel Díaz in 2006, which was botched so badly that he writhed in pain and took 30 minutes to die. Ángel Díaz was c

North Carolina | New Hearings on Reopened Death Penalty Cases Began Last Week. The Outcomes Could Effectively End North Carolina's Death Penalty.

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In February 2007, Hasson Jamaal Bacote was 19 years old when he and another man broke into a home in Selma, North Carolina, in an attempted robbery.  Six people were inside, including 18-year-old Anthony Surles, a senior at Smithfield-Selma High School. Surles was shot and killed. Surles’ murder wasn’t premeditated, but based on Bacote’s already lengthy teenage criminal rap sheet, Bacote was sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2009. More than a decade later, Bacote’s case is back in court, thanks to a 2020 ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court mandating that petitions of more than 100 death row inmates be heard by the courts due to evidence of racial bias in jury selection under the state’s Racial Justice Act. Not only does Bacote’s life depend on the outcome, but so does the future of the death penalty in North Carolina. “I don’t know that there’s a weaker case for the death penalty than Mr. Bacote,” says Gretchen Engel, executive director of The Center for Death Penalty

Death Penalty Sought In Kuwaiti Doctor, Nephew Family Row

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KUWAIT CITY, May 26: In a heinous crime, a Kuwaiti doctor working at the College of Medicine at the Kuwait University stands accused of assaulting his nephew with a dumbbell, the type used by body-builders inside a gym.  The incident allegedly happened inside the home of the suspect who lives in Granada.  The blow was directed to the head of the victim which caused a crack in his skull and led to the paralysis of the right side.  The suspect has been detained at the Central Prison and remanded to police custody for 21 days.  The victim was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Amiri Hospital until his condition stabilized. The victim reportedly cannot move due to paraplegia on the right side and a broken skull.  A security source explained the victim was attacked due to family disputes between the victim and his uncle (the suspect).  The incident happened on the first day of the Eid holiday following which the victim’s family informed the Operations Room of the Ministry of Interio

India | 12 Members Of Notorious Robber-Gang Sentenced To Death

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A local court in Ongole, Andhra Pradesh, on 24 May 2021 sentenced 12 members of a notorious gang to death and seven others to life imprisonment for highway robberies and murders. The judge of the eighth Additional Sessions Court, Prakasam district, found the accused guilty and convicted them in three out of seven cases in which at least 13 people, mostly lorry drivers and cleaners, were brutally murdered. The Andhra Pradesh High Court will have to affirm the death sentence. Syed Abdul Samad alias Munna, who allegedly had political connections, formed the gang and started committing crimes in 2008. Initially, he was an accused in cases wherein some rich people were trapped in the name of finding hidden treasures. After extorting money, Munna and his accomplices would kill them. Later, he adopted a new modus operandi under which he and his gang members posed as police personnel and started committing crimes (murders and theft) on the Chennai-Kolkata National Highway-16. They used to stop

Iran | 6 Baluch Men Secretly Executed in Birjand Last Month

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Iran Human Rights (IHR); May 26, 2021: Six Baluch prisoners on death row for drug-related charges, were secretly executed in Birjand Central Prison in late April. According to the Baloch Activists Campaign, six Baluch men were executed in Birjand Central Prison on April 24.  They had all been sentenced to death on drug-related charges. One of them has been named as Javad Nakhaei but no information is available on the other five men’s identities. At the time of writing and despite almost a month passing, their executions have not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran. Two other Baluch minorities, Abdullah and Younes Totazehi, were also executed on drug-related charges in Birjand Central Prison on May 19. It has been almost four years since an Article was added to the Anti-Narcotics Law in 2017 to limit death sentences specifically and provide a general degree of reprieve in some cases.  However, while the numbers reduced that year, the death penalty is still being used in

Should Dylann Roof live or die? Behind legal arguments Tuesday, that was key issue

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RICHMOND, VA -- After some three hours of arguments on whether Charleston church killer Dylann Roof should have his death sentence overturned and get a new trial, a three-judge U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Richmond adjourned Tuesday afternoon without making any decision. Nor did the judges hint when they might render a decision, after a hearing that touched on nuanced questions concerning Roof’s mental fitness, the decision-making of trial Judge Richard Gergel, Roof’s future danger to others if allowed a life sentence, states’ rights, the reach of the Interstate Commerce Clause, the difference between “harmless error” and “reversible error” and numerous other complex legal issues. The judges could uphold or overturn both the conviction and sentence, or they could let the conviction stand and send the case back to the trial court to revisit the sentence issue. In one key issue — whether trial Judge Gergel was correct in limiting evidence of Roof’s lack of mental fitness —

USA | Supreme Court Rejects Inmate’s Plea for Firing Squad

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The inmate, Ernest Johnson, argued that Missouri’s planned use of pentobarbital to execute him would cause excruciating pain. Over the dissents of its 3 liberal members, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from a death row inmate in Missouri who said the way the state planned to execute him would cause him excruciating pain. The inmate, Ernest Johnson, had asked to instead be put to death by a firing squad. As is the court’s custom, it gave no reasons for refusing to hear the case. Mr. Johnson was convicted of murdering three people during a 1994 robbery of a gas station. He later learned he had a brain tumor and underwent surgery to address it, leaving him with a seizure disorder. Mr. Johnson sued to challenge Missouri’s execution protocol, which uses a lethal injection of pentobarbital, saying it would very likely cause him to suffer intense and painful seizures. As required by Supreme Court precedent, he proposed alternative methods of execution, starting with nitr