Iran | Death Penalty According to Shariah Law

Chapter III of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran contains provisions related to the rights of the people.  In this Chapter, Article 22 states: “The dignity, life, property, rights, domicile, and occupations of people may not be violated, unless sanctioned by law.” However, the number of crimes punishable by death in Iran is among the highest in the world. Charges such as “adultery, incest, rape, sodomy, insulting the Prophet Mohammad and other great Prophets, possessing or selling illicit drugs, theft and alcohol consumption for the 4th time, premeditated murder, moharebeh (waging war against God), efsad-fil-arz (corruption on earth), baghy (armed rebellion), fraud and human trafficking” are capital offences.[1] Many of the charges punishable by death cannot be considered as “most serious crimes” and do not meet the ICCPR standards.[2] Murder, drug possession and trafficking, rape/sexual assault, moharebeh and efsad-fil-arz and baghy are the most common charges resulting

Arkansas | 4 Years After an Execution, a Different Man’s DNA Is Found on the Murder Weapon

Ledell Lee
Lawyers’ request to conduct additional DNA testing before Ledell Lee was executed had been denied.

For 22 years, Ledell Lee maintained that he had been wrongly convicted of murder.

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” he told the BBC in an interview published on April 19, 2017 — the day before officials in Arkansas administered the lethal injection.

4 years later, lawyers affiliated with the Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union say DNA testing has revealed that genetic material on the murder weapon — which was never previously tested — in fact belongs to another man. In a highly unusual development for a case in which a person has already been convicted and executed, the new genetic profile has been uploaded to a national criminal database in an attempt to identify the mystery man.

Patricia Young, Mr. Lee’s sister, has been fighting for years to prove that it was not her brother who strangled and fatally bludgeoned the 26-year-old Debra Reese in Jacksonville, Ark., a suburb of Little Rock, in 1993.

“We are glad there is new evidence in the national DNA database and remain hopeful that there will be further information uncovered in the future,” Ms. Young said in a statement last week. In response to a lawsuit filed by Ms. Young in January, Jacksonville city officials released the bloody wooden club recovered from the victim’s bedroom, a bloody white shirt wrapped around the club and several other pieces of evidence for testing.

The Innocence Project and the A.C.L.U. have pushed for additional DNA testing at previous times, including the eve of Mr. Lee’s execution. The request was denied. A federal judge rejected Mr. Lee’s request for a stay of the execution, saying that he had “simply delayed too long,” according to a complaint filed by Ms. Young.

Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the 1st in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended Mr. Lee’s execution. “It’s my duty to carry out the law,” he said, adding that “the fact is that the jury found him guilty based upon the information that they had.” He called the new DNA evidence that has emerged “inconclusive.”

In a statement, lawyers from the A.C.L.U. and the Innocence Project were cautious about stating what, exactly, could be extrapolated from the newly tested DNA from the shirt and the murder weapon — beyond the facts that both samples appeared to belong to the same man and that that man was not Mr. Lee.

“While the results obtained 29 years after the evidence was collected proved to be incomplete and partial, it is notable that there are now new DNA profiles that were not available during the trial or post-conviction proceedings in Mr. Lee’s case,” Nina Morrison, senior litigation counsel at the Innocence Project, said in the statement, which The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Uploading this newly generated profile to a national criminal database maintained by the F.B.I. has not yet provided a “hit,” she said. That means that the mystery man’s DNA does not match any of the DNA profiles that are already in the database, taken from people who were convicted or arrested on suspicion of violent crimes.

“However, the DNA profile will now remain in the database and will be automatically compared to all new profiles from convicted persons, arrestees or unsolved crimes that are entered in the future,” lawyers for the A.C.L.U., the Innocence Project and Ms. Young said in a joint statement.

According to the Innocence Project, no physical evidence was ever produced that connected Mr. Lee to Ms. Reese’s murder. In a summary of the case, the group also outlined obstacles that Mr. Lee had faced over the years, including a lawyer who was drunk and unprepared at court hearings, unreliable neighborhood eyewitnesses and conflicts of interest for key players.

Mr. Lee’s 1st trial resulted in a hung jury. His 2nd murder trial began on Oct. 10, 1995, just 7 days after O.J. Simpson had been acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

“Mr. Lee, a Black man charged with the vicious beating and murder of a white woman in her home, was tried under the shadow of the O.J. Simpson prosecution and trial,” Ms. Young argued in her January lawsuit. 

“The Simpson verdict shocked and angered many white Americans and polarized the nation along racial lines. It’s difficult to imagine that any jury could be truly objective in considering the evidence against Mr. Lee at that particular moment in time.”

Source: New York Times, Heather Murphy, May 7, 2021

4 Years After Arkansas Executed Ledell Lee, DNA Points to Someone Else

New testing suggests a hasty death penalty case killed the wrong person.

On April 20, 2017, Ledell Lee was executed by the state of Arkansas for murder, with Lee insisting to the end that he was innocent of the crime. A new test of DNA evidence in the case, which the state refused to do before executing him, points to a different suspect than Lee.

Lee was put to death 4 years ago as part of a rush in which Arkansas tried to execute 8 people in 11 days, so that the state could use scarce lethal injection drugs before they expired. In that mad dash, 4 men were executed, 3 had their executions stayed, and one was granted clemency. Lee was 1 of the 4 put to death after Neil Gorsuch, in his 1st vote as a member of the Supreme Court, joined a 5–4 ruling to allow the execution to proceed. Even then, Lee’s case was considered one of the most seriously flawed, with a distinct chance that the state would be putting an innocent man to death.

That decision to allow the execution to go forward is looking worse and worse. Last week, the ACLU and Innocence Project released the results of DNA testing that was requested prior to Lee’s execution but was only permitted to go ahead after a lawsuit was filed by Lee’s sister last year. Those results demonstrated that another man’s DNA was found on the murder weapon, a wooden club, and on a shirt that had been wrapped around the murder weapon. The unknown man’s DNA, however, was not found in the FBI’s national criminal database.

5 sets of fingerprints found at the scene of the crime that did not belong to Lee were also entered into a national database but also yielded no result. The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory has yet to test those fingerprints against its own database. 6 hairs from the scene were also tested. Lee was excluded as the source of 5 but could not be excluded as the source of the 6th, though such “mitochondrial DNA profiles may be shared by thousands of individuals in a given population,” the Innocence Project noted.

“The reason mitochondrial DNA profiles aren’t ‘unique’ and may be common to thousands of people in a community is that they are shared by everyone in a common maternal line—even very distant cousins across different generations,” a representative from the ACLU said. She continued:

In small communities or ones where many residents share some common ancestry, 2 people may share an identical mitochondrial DNA profile even if they have no idea that they are distantly related. So while mitochondrial DNA can be used to exclude someone as a potential source of a hair, or to narrow down a pool of potential candidates, it can’t be used to positively identify the source.

“While this phase of the litigation and court-ordered DNA testing is now concluded, the investigation into the case remains open due to the possibility of a future database ‘hit’ to the unknown male DNA or unknown fingerprints from the crime scene,” Nina Morrison, senior litigation counsel at the Innocence Project, said in a statement last week. “We are hopeful that one or more of these forensic law enforcement databases will generate additional information in the future.”

The case now appears to be in limbo, but the murder weapon DNA from a man who is not Ledell Lee adds to one of the many, many flaws in the case against him. As I wrote last year:

Lee’s 1st trial ended in a hung jury. At his second one, his lawyers did not bring up some of the potentially exonerating testimony and evidence raised in the 1st, including alibi testimony from Lee’s family members. In that 2nd trial, a jury of 11 white Arkansans and 1 black Arkansan—in a county where nearly 1/3 of residents were black—found him guilty after a 4-day trial and 3 hours of deliberation. The conviction came 1 week after the racially charged O.J. Simpson verdict, and 1 witness alluded to that verdict by recalling a conversation she had “last week, when they let O.J. Simpson go.”

Lee’s case also relied heavily on shoe-pattern forensic evidence that was later demonstrated to also be heavily flawed. The flaws in the case continued through the appellate process. Lee’s initial appellate attorney appeared drunk in court and later acknowledged that he had substance abuse problems. More importantly, he never introduced evidence that Lee was intellectually disabled and never won testing on the DNA samples that now point to the likelihood of a different suspect.

Earlier this week, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson insisted that he did his “duty to carry out the law” following the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2017. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, meanwhile, dismissed the DNA evidence and still insisted that Lee had committed the 1993 murder of Debra Reese, for which he was executed.

The sad fact is that Arkansas should not have executed Lee and further evidence indicates that another man may have committed the crime. Yet Lee’s family still must wait for definitive proof of another suspect, which may never come. Either way, advocates for continuation of the death penalty should have to contend with the nightmarish facts of Lee’s case as long as executions continue to occur in the United States.

Source: slate.com, Jeremy Stahl, May 7, 2021

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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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