Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jones v Chappell: Justice delayed

San Quentin's brand new, multi-million dollar
death chamber. "Of the 900 people California has
sentenced to death since1978, only 13 have been
executed. The last person to be put to death was in 2006."
"A man is undone by waiting for capital punishment," Albert Camus wrote, "well before he dies." On July 16th a federal judge in California, Cormac Carney, ruled in Jones v Chappell that the machinery of death in the Golden State is so plagued by delays and arbitrariness that it amounts to a "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the federal constitution. Judge Carney struck down Ernest Jones's 1995 death sentence for raping and killing his girlfriend's mother, along with the capital sentences of 747 other convicts. Awaiting execution for decades "with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, it will ever come," Judge Carney wrote, is a punishment "no rational jury or legislature could ever impose."

Of the 900 people California has sentenced to death since 1978, only 13 have been executed. The last person to be put to death was in 2006. The same year, a federal court ruled that California's mode of lethal injection carried a risk that "an inmate will suffer pain so extreme" that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. With Judge Carney's ruling, the state's system of capital punishment has been judged doubly infirm. The average prisoner who is executed in California has spent 25 years on death row - much longer than the national average of 15.8 years. Such long delays make it unlikely that capital punishment deters other potential murderers, ruled Judge Carney, or delivers effective retribution.

Legal observers are surprised by the broad sweep of the ruling but divided about its potential impact. For James Ching, a former deputy attorney general in California, Judge Carney's opinion is "quixotic" and errs by attributing all the tarrying to California state courts when federal courts are responsible for "46.2% of the total delay and dysfunction". The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr Ching suggested, will likely regard Judge Carney's decision sceptically when the state appeals.

But Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles County district attorney, has said the Jones ruling is "truly historic" and demonstrates that "the death penalty is broken beyond repair." California may have the largest and slowest-moving death row in the country, but it is not the only state where condemned prisoners are more likely to die of old age than be executed. The central point in Judge Carney's opinion, says Diann Rust-Tierney, head of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, is "not simply the length of time" between conviction and execution. "It is the unpredictability."

Stephen Bright of the Southern Centre for Human Rights says that the California death penalty is "uniquely dysfunctional" (a term Judge Carney used eight times) and "will collapse of its own weight eventually." If and when the challenge reaches the Supreme Court, it is unclear how it will fare. Justice Stephen Breyer has been receptive to the delay argument in the past and this March Justice Anthony Kennedy asked the Florida solicitor general whether he thought waiting 35 years to die was "consistent with the purposes that the death penalty is designed to serve." Mr Bright has few doubts which way the wind is blowing. Judge Carney's decision, he says, "has added to the conversation in a way that will lead to the inevitable end of the death penalty in California and the United States."
Source: The Economist, July 22, 2014

Damien Echols and Lorri Echols Give Away Interactive Video Chat to Support Boston Book Festival

Damien Echols and Lorri Echols
Lorri Echols and Damien Echols
Damien Echols, member of the West Memphis 3, will be hosting a video AMA on Wizeo.me tomorrow, July 23, 2014 at 6pm EST.

In 1993, Damien and two others were wrongly convicted of murdering 3 young boys in a small Arkansas town. The trial was widely publicized and controversial, sparking public outcries over their incarceration. For 18 years, Damien sat on death row for a crime he did not commit. Public support (with participation from Peter Jackson, Pearl Jam, Johnny Depp, and many others) eventually lead to a assessment of the case, and the eventual freeing of the three men.

During his AMA, Damien will be answering questions from supporters, and talking about his new book, Yours for Eternity: A Love Story On Death Row. The book, written with his wife Lori, chronicles an unlikely and moving romance that developed (largely through letters) while Damien was incarcerated.

Echols is a New York Times Bestselling Author and previously authored the memoir Life after Death, chronicling the 18 years he spent on death row.

The AMA is free to attend, with optional donations benefitting Boston Book Festival, an annual event that promotes culture and literacy in Massachusetts' capital. Registration for the event is encouraged in advance on Wizeo.

Source: Wizeo, July 22, 2014

Syria: Two women stoned to death for "adultery" by ISIS

Raqqa first public stoning to
death of a woman  by ISIS
for alleged  adultery.
July 20, 2014: In separate incidents in a span of 24 hours, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) carried out executions against two women in Syria, sentencing them to death by stoning over allegations of "adultery".

Unconfirmed reports claim that in at least one case, the woman was sentenced to death as her new husband found that she was not a virgin.

Both incidents of death by stoning have been reported from Al Raqqa Province.

"The Islamic State carried out, for the second time in 24 hours, the punishment of Al Rajem (stoning to death for adultery) against another woman in the city of Al Raqqa in a square near the Municipal Stadium," an official from NGO Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) stated.

The stoning, which was first reported by the SOHR, has also been confirmed by Al Jazeera which claimed that the first stoning took place in a public square in the town of Tabaqa on Thursday (July 17) evening.

The report noted that the woman was tried at the Islamic Sharia court, where neither the witnesses who made the allegation were identified, nor the man - who is said to be the paramour - was charged.

"Mystery surrounds the whole thing," Abu Khalil, an activist in Raqqa who runs the anti-Islamic State group 'Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently', told Al Jazeera America. The group has released a picture of Thursday's stoning. 

The second incident reportedly took place in a town in Raqqa, where a 26-year-old woman - identified with intials S.H.M.A. - was stoned to death by the ISIS militiants.

The SOHR report claimed that the woman was publicly executed by stoning late in the night after the Eshaa Salat, which is the last of the five prayers recited by a practicing Muslim. The stoning took place in a popular market and the victim was a widow.

Raqqa, since last year, has been established as the de facto capital of the Islamic State caliphate. Since then, the region has been witnessing brutal punishments carried out by the ISIS militants under the Sharia law

Sources: International Business Times, HOC, July 20, 2014

Wave Of Forgiveness Washes Over Iran

Balal is standing on a chair (far left). The noose has been
slipped around his neck. The victim's parents are standing next
to the makeshift scaffold. Soon, the victim's mother (center)
will approach Balal, slap him in the face and decide to forgive
her son's killer. The victim's father (far right) will remove the
noose and Balal's life will  be spared. Read more.
April 16 was supposed to be the last day of Balal's life. Seven years after stabbing another teen dead in a street fight, Balal was to be publicly executed in front of his victim's family, in a small town in Iran's northern province of Mazandaran.

Instead, Balal was given a new lease on life when, in the very last minute, he was spared by his victim's mother. The dramatic scenes of Balal, his neck in a noose, being pardoned have received extensive coverage in the media and on social-networking sites.

Since then the scene has been reenacted dozens of times in a wave of forgiveness that belies the authorities' efforts to push the death penalty.

Last week alone, according to the reformist "Shargh" daily, nine individuals sentenced to death were pardoned by victims' families.

Observers say a concerted publicity campaign is at play, but money is also a factor.

Artists, television celebrities, and rights activists have been publicly calling on citizens to spare the lives of those sentenced to death and the media have been sympathetic in their coverage.

In Balal's case, for example, popular TV presenter Adel Ferdowsipour spoke to an audience of millions in favor of him being pardoned.

But Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, a well-known Iranian lawyer who has represented several convicted killers, says that what media call a wave of mercy is in fact a "business."

Under Islamic laws applied in Iran, the families of convicted murderers are able to buy their kin's freedom from victims' families. The official rate for blood money is 150 million toumans -- or about $50,000 -- but often the sum requested is higher.

In Balal's case, his victim's family reportedly received blood money of about 300 million toumans.

"Based on the information I have about some of the cases, I have to say that a large part of the reconciliations in Qisas" - a reference to the Islamic law of retribution - "cases are happening in exchange of enormous sums of money from the families of those convicted," Khoramshahi said earlier this month in an interview with fararu.com.

The Tehran-based lawyer added that media should encourage people not to request huge sums of money for showing mercy.

Iranian Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said in April that during the past Iranian year - from March 2013 to March 2014 - the lives of 358 condemned Iranians were spared under the Islamic law of retribution.

Mahmood Amiry Moghadam, spokesman of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization, says it is not clear how many pardons were prompted by the lure of financial compensation.

But Moghadam thinks that some Iranians are finding "value" in showing mercy.

"I think as much as the establishment is trying to promote executions," he says, "a culture that goes against it - a culture of mercy - is being promoted."

Moghadam says Iran's civil society and anti-death-penalty groups should be given credit for the trend.

One of the groups active against executions is the "Step By Step To Stop The Death Penalty In Iran" campaign, founded by a number of prominent intellectuals and rights activists including former Tehran University chancellor Mohammad Maleki.

Maleki tells RFE/RL there's a growing distaste for the death penalty in Iran and a tendency toward mercy.

He agrees that many families spare the lives of their relatives' killers for money. At the same time, he says he's come across a number of cases where the families pardoned convicted killers out of compassion.

"It will take time before it becomes ingrained in the society," he says in a telephone interview from Tehran. "People have to realize slowly that money cannot replace forgiveness and sacrifice."

Maleki notes that the trend comes as the Iranian establishment continues to hold public hangings.

"The establishment only knows violence and blood," he says.

One journalist in the Iranian capital says the establishment is already benefiting from the wave of forgiveness because "it shows a more human face of Iran."

But others fear that violence is so deeply rooted in Iranian society that it will take a long time before things change.

The country carried out 665 executions in 2013, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

And with Iranians under tremendous pressures that discourage communication and dialogue, the wave of mercy is not likely to last, according to prominent university professor and sociologist Mostafa Eghlima.

"It's not easy [for people] to forgive someone who has killed their children," he concludes.
Source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, July 21, 2014

Related article:
- Iranian man granted mercy by victim's family moments after execution begins, May 9, 2013. (Warning: Graphic Content) A man sentenced to death for murder in Mashad, northeastern Iran, was granted mercy at the very last moment just as he was being hung from the scaffold...

Iran: Political prisoners Arzhang Davoodi sentenced to death

The Iranian regime's judiciary has sentenced political Prisoner Arzhang Davoodi to death for his opposition to the clerical regime, according to reports received from Iran. Mr. Davoodi has already served 10 years in prison

Davoodi, 62, a teacher, was arrested in October 2003 and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment which was later increased to 20 years.

For the past 10 years he has been subjected to torture and abuses, He has been held in solitary confinement and denied medical care.

He has been told by Bandar Abbas prison authorities that he would soon be transferred to Tehran.

Source: NCR-Iran, July 21, 2014


Iranian regime sentences a prisoner to stoning to death and hanging

The Iranian regime's judiciary has sentenced a prisoner to death by stoning, hanging and 15 years imprisonment, state-run Mehr News Agency reported.

The regime's judiciary chief in northern city of Ghaemshahr who did not identify the prisoner said the review of the case of this 32-year-old prisoner has been one the most important tasks of his office.

He said the prisoners has been sentenced to 2 times execution which includes hanging and stoning to death for alleged crimes that included adultery and possessing satellite receivers among others.

Source: NCR-Iran, July 21, 2014

Taiwain: Death penalty sought for Taipei metro killer

New Taipei prosecutors on Monday indicted a man who stabbed to death four passengers on the Taipei metro system in May and recommended that he be given the death penalty because of the brutality of the crime and the suspect's lack of remorse.

The suspect, 21-year-old university student Cheng Chieh, was charged with four counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder for his actions on a moving subway train just before the evening rush hour on May 21.

The indictment was handed down as Cheng's two-month detainment period expired Monday.

In defending their request for the death penalty in the indictment, prosecutors described Cheng's behavior as "mass murder," and said that the incident caused collective panic in society and put people on guard when taking public transportation.

They also said his actions had spawned several potential copycats threatening to kill people on public buses or the subway system.

A thorough assessment of Cheng conducted by National Taiwan University Hospital concluded that Cheng has no mental disorders or deficiencies, meaning he is not eligible under Article 19 of Taiwan's Criminal Code to be exempt from punishment for the offense or have the sentence reduced because of mental incompetency, prosecutors said.

In their 8,000-word indictment, prosecutors also focused on the brutality and cruelty of the stabbings, saying that the surveillance footage showed a "scene from hell."

Cheng was seen repeatedly stabbing his victims and even toying with them without showing the slightest sliver of humanity, and he even admitted during his mental evaluation that he felt pleased to have the fate of the passengers in his hands, prosecutors said.


Source: China Times, July 22, 2014

Arizona: Execution Case to Be Appealed to Justices

A federal appeals court on Monday denied Arizona’s request for a new hearing, by a larger panel, to reconsider the court’s stay of the execution of Joseph Wood, and the state said it would appeal immediately to the Supreme Court to permit the execution to proceed.

On Saturday, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit delayed Mr. Wood’s execution, scheduled for Wednesday, until Arizona provides information about the sources of lethal drugs and the training of the administering staff. In previous cases, the Supreme Court has declined to stop executions over similar concerns about drug secrecy.

Source: The New York Times, Erik Eckholm, July 21, 2014

Chinese policeman executed for shooting pregnant woman

Chinese police officers rehearsing
execution procedure
NANNING, July 22 (Xinhua) -- A former policeman was executed on Tuesday for shooting a pregnant woman dead in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Hu Ping, formerly of the public security bureau of Pingnan County, was drunk when he shot the woman and her husband, who ran a rice noodle restaurant, on Oct. 28.

The husband, Cai Shiyong, sustained minor injuries to his right shoulder. His wife, Wu Ying, and their unborn child died after being shot twice.

Hu was sentenced to death for intentional homicide in February by Guigang Intermediate People's Court. He appealed, but the Higher People's Court of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region upheld the verdict in April and the death penalty was approved by the Supreme People's Court.

Hu's crime caused an "abominable influence on society," said the court.

The rulings in the first and second trials were based on "clear facts" and "valid and adequate evidence" and "the conviction was accurate and then penalty proper," it said.

Source: Xinhua, July 22, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Indonesia makes efforts to save its nationals on death row in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to save 33 of its nationals, mainly maids, on death row in Saudi Arabia, according to Arab News Sunday.

Among the death penalty cases, there are only two serious ones, while the embassy has asked for judicial review, made appeals in courts, and appealed for royal clemency, Indonesian Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohammed Fachir was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Several female workers, who were earlier granted reprieves from death sentences, recently returned to Indonesia.

According to the report, at least 67 Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China and Iran, who earlier faced death penalties, ultimately have managed to walk free under the efforts of Indonesian government.

Source: Xinhua, July 20, 2014

Arizona: Court Delays Execution Over Secrecy With Drugs

A federal appeals court has delayed the imminent execution of an Arizona man, saying he has a legal right to details about the lethal injection drugs to be used and about the qualifications of the execution team.

The ruling on Saturday, by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, contrasted sharply with recent decisions by other state and federal courts defending states’ rights to keep information about drug sources secret.

“This is the first time a circuit court has ruled that the plaintiff has a right to know the source of execution drugs,” said Jennifer Moreno, an expert on lethal injection law at the Death Penalty Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

The appeals court ruling came four days before the scheduled execution of Joseph Wood, who was convicted of the killings of two people and sentenced to death.

But Arizona officials were not backing down. On Sunday, the state appealed to the Ninth Circuit for reconsideration by a wider panel of judges and it appeared possible that the state would appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.


Source: The New York Times, Erik Eckholm, July 20, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Is Oregon's death penalty as 'cruel and unusual' as California's?

Oregon death penalty foes found a lot to like in a federal court decision handed down this week in California.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney vacated the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, condemned to death on April 7, 1995, ruling that capital punishment in California violates the constitutional right of prisoners not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Carney's Wednesday ruling noted that more than 900 prisoners have been sentenced to die in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

"For the rest," Carney wrote, "the dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

Jeff Ellis, a criminal defense attorney on the board of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, boiled the order down in a dozen words:

"California has nothing on Oregon. Our death penalty system is even worse."

Ellis noted that Oregon has executed just 2 men - both volunteers, both executed in the late 1990s after waiving their appeals - since the latest incarnation of capital punishment was passed into state law.

"Of the individuals currently under a death sentence in Oregon, 8 have been on death row for over 25 years," Ellis wrote. "The last person to die on death row was Gary Zweigert in 2013. He died of natural causes.

"In reality, Oregon pays for the most expensive version of life in prison imaginable. It is the opposite of being smart on crime."

Death penalty advocates also find fault in Oregon's law, blaming sloth by the state Supreme Court and Gov. John Kitzhaber's moratorium on capital punishment for the delays.

No matter where you stand on capital punishment, it will be interesting to see if judges in the U.S. District of Oregon find themselves poring through the appeals of prisoners arguing the Eighth Amendment points raised by Ernest Dewayne Jones.
 
Source: The Oregonian, July 19, 2014

Death penalty: Lebanon and Qatar now among abolitionists

Execution in Kuwait, April 2013
Executions have resumed in Kuwait and Egypt while Lebanon and Qatar are now de facto among abolitionists - countries in which no court has sentenced anyone to death for at least a decade - along with Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, according to the 2014 report on the death penalty worldwide presented Friday in Rome by Italian NGO "Nessuno Tocchi Caino" (May nobody touch Cain).

According to the report, the countries with the highest rate of executions in 2013 and the first 6 months of 2014 were China - where at least 3,000 of the world's reported 4,106 executions were carried out - followed by Iran (687), Iraq (172) and Saudi Arabia (78).

Palestine, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Syria and Yemen also maintained the death penalty. Algeria is carrying out a moratorium on executions.

Among the 8 countries which resumed executions over 2013 or in the first semester of this year were the United Arab Emirates (1), Egypt (at least 8 in 2014) and Kuwait (5).

Most death penalties were handed down in connection with terrorism charges: hundreds of executions are carried out in the Arab world and, more in general, in Muslim countries, the NGO said. Often executions vie to eliminate regime opponents. There were at least 233 such executions across 6 Muslim countries last year, including Iran (33) and Iraq (168). Overall, the NGO pointed out that the situation has sensibly declined in these 2 countries. Last year and in the first 6 months of 2014, though the "moderate" Rohani took power, hundreds of executions were carried out in Iran as well as in Iraq, which "chose to adopt the Iranian model", said the organization's leader, Sergio D'Elia.

"Such a high number of executions had not been registered" since Saddam Hussein was in power, he continued. "The executions were necessary, according to Iraqi authorities, to counter political violence and terrorism". Many were also executed on drug-related charges in Egypt, the UAE, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen.

Concern is high over the situation in Egypt, D'Elia told ANSAmed, where the death penalty has resumed this year after a moratorium which lasted a number of years. "No executions had been carried out since 2011", recalled D'Elia. Mass death sentences against hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood are worrying the international community. Minors are also increasingly being sentenced to death.

A reported 13 people aged under 18 were executed in 3 countries: at least 9 in Iran, 3 in Saudi Arabia and 1 in Yemen. There is no data on Libya and Syria, the report noted.
 
Source: Reuters, July 19, 2014

Bangladesh metes out harsh punishments for Ramna perpetrators

8 radical Islamists receive death penalties and 6 more get life sentences for the 2001 bombings that killed 10.

Jannatul Ferdousi Shilpi, 17, yearned to witness the annual cultural show heralding Pohela Boishakh, the 1st day of the Bengali calendar, in Dhaka's Ramna Park.

13 years ago to get ready for the programme, she and her 2 cousins, Reazul Haque, 20, and Mamun Gazi, 22, travelled from their remote home in southwestern Baufal to her brother's house in Dhaka.

They woke up early April 14th to secure a vantage spot 10 metres from the stage where the singers performed.

At around 8.15am, an explosion in the jam-packed audience sent everyone running for cover.

15 minutes later another blast ensued. Shilpi, Haque and Gazi were among the 10 people killed in the explosions.

After a 7-year investigation, police confirmed the heinous act was the work of outlawed Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI).

More than 13 years after the grisly attacks, the victims' family members rejoiced as a Dhaka court on June 23rd handed down capital punishment to 8 militants and life sentences to 6 others.

Mastermind Mufti Abdul Hannan and his accomplices Akbar Hossain, Arif Hasan, Maulana Tajuddin, Hafez Jahangir Alam, Maulana Abu Bakr, Mufti Abdul Hye and Mufti Shafiqur Rahman received the death penalty.

Tajuddin, Alam, Bakr, Hye and Rahman remain at large.

Shilpi and her cousins "left the village to be present at the Ramna Botomul to celebrate the Pohela Boishakh . But we never thought they would leave us forever," Kamrul Hasan, a cousin living in Baufaluakhali, told Khabar South Asia. "They went to enjoy the performance. Was it their sin?"

Shipli's mother died around 5 years ago. Her blind father Hashem Gazi, is still alive. "I can die in peace if I could see their execution," he told Khabar about the perpetrators. "They are the enemy of Islam."

In the chargesheet, the police said the militant group targeted the Ramna Botomul - an area of the park - because it considered the cultural activities "unIslamic".

Judge Ruhul Amin said in the verdict the attack was "brutal, barbaric, heinous and unpardonable". "This is not a political case. ... Those who died in the attacks were commoners," he said. "People of all faiths and ethnicities came to celebrate the Pohela Boishakh."

Sanjida Khatun, president of hosting event and cultural organisation Chayanaut, was satisfied with the judgment.

"This is an attack against our culture. We never thought that there will be an attack on the traditional cultural event," Khatun said.

Former Inspector General of Police Abdul Quayum told Khabar that HuJI launched attacks on cultural gatherings until Hannan's arrest in 2007.

"The militants and terrorists are the enemy of everyone," he said. "All political parties must stand against them and the terrorists must be punished."
 
Source: Khabar South Asia, July 19, 2014

India: President rejects mercy pleas of Nithari killer, 5 others

It's the gallows for Nithari serial killer Surinder Koli and 5 other death row convicts with President Pranab Mukherjee rejecting their mercy petitions as advised by the home ministry. The files relating to the 5 mercy pleas, 1 of which involves 2 sisters, were cleared by the President and returned to the home ministry last week.

Sources indicated that the home ministry has already written to the states concerned - Maharashtra (from where 2 petitions relating to 3 convicts were received), UP, Madhya Pradesh and Assam (1 case each) - to set in motion the process of execution of the death row convicts.

Apart from Koli, awarded death in the bone-chilling case of abduction, abuse and murder of several minors in Noida's Nithari village, the others whose clemency pleas were rejected are Renukabai and Seema, 2 sisters from Maharashtra convicted of kidnapping and brutally murdering several children; Rajendra Prahladrao Wasnik of Maharashtra, convicted of raping and murdering a minor girl; Jagdish of Madhya Pradesh who killed his wife and 5 children; and Holiram Bordoloi of Assam, who had burnt 2 people and hacked another to death in public in 1996.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh had recommended to the President on June 18 to reject the mercy petitions in all 5 cases.

Though the 6 death row convicts may still challenge the rejection of their mercy petition, the gap of 3 years and less between upholding of death sentence by the apex court and scrapping of clemency plea in three cases may not qualify for relief.

The Supreme Court had in February this year commuted the death sentences of 15 death row convicts to life imprisonment on grounds of inordinate delay - which it did not quantify, though in the relevant cases it ranged from 7 to 11 years - and mental illness.

Incidentally, the government has decided to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court seeking reconsideration of the February order.

Koli, in any case, may have little room for judicial reprieve on grounds of delay as his death sentence was confirmed only in 2011. The same fate may await Wasnik, whose death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2012, and Jagdish, whose capital punishment was upheld in 2009.

As for the other cases, the death penalty for the 2 sisters was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2006 and that Holiram Bordoloi in 2005. It will be interestingly to see whether this is viewed as "inordinate" delay on part of the Executive in deciding their mercy pleas.
 
Source: The Times of India, July 19, 2014

Malaysia: Nigerian student sentenced to death for drug trafficking

July 16, 2014: A Nigerian private college student was sentenced to death by the High Court in Malaysia, after he was found guilty of trafficking 26.533 kilogrammes of Canabis, four years ago.

Judge Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah held that the defence had failed to raise a reasonable doubt on the prosecution's case against Uchechukwu Nelson Ohaechesi, 37.

In her judgement, Amelia said the accused was careful to deny that he was carrying the bag which contained the dangerous drugs.

"The court finds that the accused is not a witness of truth. As such the court is of the considered view that the accused's defence is but an afterthought, a pure fabrication and untrue.

"The court therefore sentences the accused to death. And vide section 183 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the accused is to be hanged by the neck until he is dead," she said.

Ohaechesi committed the offence beside an overhead bridge staircase at Taman Connought Highway toward Kajang, Cheras at 7.45pm on Oct 17, 2010. He was charged under Section 39B (1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

The prosecution was conducted by deputy public prosecutor P.Viknesvaran, while lawyer Ramzani Idris appeared for the accused. 

Sources: Bernama, HOC, July 16, 2014

Sri Lanka: Ukrainian couple sentenced to death for double murder

July 16, 2014: The Colombo High Court sentenced to death a Ukrainian couple found guilty of a double murder committed in 2010.

They murdered an eight-year-old child and a housemaid at Rajagiriya on February 23, 2010.

The mother of the child had also been injured in the attack. The Ukrainians were arrested following the murder.

High Court Trial-at-Bar Judges Devika de Livera Tennakoon and Wimal Nambuwasam said that the prosecution had proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused Mashour Eugene and Yanna Brishyana indicted with the murder of child Victoria Kim and housemaid Daisy Manohari were guilty.

When the death sentence was read out, Yanna Brishyana appealed to the court to have her executed immediately instead of sending her to prison.

Sources: island.lk, HOC, July 17, 2014

The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity

In its ruling in Hall v. Florida in May, the [U.S. Supreme] court — with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the helm — reminded us that the core value animating the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishments clause is the preservation of human dignity against the affront of unnecessarily harsh punishment.

A new study published in Hastings Law Journal of the social histories of 100 people executed during 2012 and 2013 showed that the vast majority of executed offenders suffered from one or more significant cognitive and behavioral deficits.

One-third of the offenders had intellectual disabilities, borderline intellectual function or traumatic brain injuries, a similarly debilitating impairment. For example, the Texas Department of Corrections determined that Elroy Chester had an IQ of 69. He attended special education classes throughout school and never functioned at a higher level than third grade. Despite these findings, Texas executed him on June 12, 2013.

More than half of the 100 had a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis.

Many other executed offenders endured unspeakable abuse as children. Consider Daniel Cook, whose mother drank alcohol and abused drugs while she was pregnant with him. His mother and grandparents molested him as a young child, and his father physically abused him by, for example, lighting a cigarette and using it to burn Daniel’s genitals. Eventually the state placed Daniel in foster care, but the abuse didn’t stop. A foster parent chained him nude to a bed and raped him while other adults watched from the next room through a one-way mirror. The prosecutor responsible for Cook’s death sentence stood behind him during the clemency process, telling authorities that he would have taken the death penalty off of the table had he known of his torturous childhood. Arizona refused to commute Cook’s sentence, however, and he died by lethal injection on Aug. 8, 2012.


Source: The Washington Post, Opinions, Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Mr. Ogletree is a professor at Harvard Law School.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

For compensation, former Death Row inmate Damon Thibodeaux must prove innocence, state reiterates

Louisiana Death Row
The Louisiana attorney general's office Friday continued putting the onus on Damon Thibodeaux to prove his innocence if he wants to be compensated for his 15 years on Death Row. It's not enough, they said, that Jefferson Parish dropped its prosecution of Thibodeaux.

Thibodeaux, 40, was released from prison in 2012 after District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. conceded he could not have faith in the former Marrero resident's confession to raping and killing Chrystal Champagne, 14. Thibodeaux has been convicted of killing the girl in Bridge City in 1996. 

The teenager left her Westwego apartment to walk to a nearby grocery and never returned. Her beaten and partially nude body was found the next day in the wooded Mississippi River batture under the Huey P. Long Bridge.

Thibodeaux, who was related to the teen, confessed after an all-night, nine-hour interrogation to killing her. That led to his 1997 conviction of first-degree murder and the death sentence.

Louisiana law allows people wrongly convicted of crimes to receive $25,000 per year for up to 10 years of incarceration. The state caps the award at $250,000. The state also allows as much as $80,000 for educational and medical expenses after release from prison.


Source: Paul Purpura, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, June 18, 2014

Supreme Court dismisses Lindsay Sandiford's legal challenge over UK Government's refusal to fund her legal fees

Lindsay Sandiford
A grandmother from Redcar on death row in Indonesia has lost an appeal at the UK’s highest court over the lawfulness of a Government policy not to provide funding for legal representation to Britons facing capital charges abroad.

Five Supreme Court justices in London have today unanimously dismissed a challenge by Lindsay Sandiford, who was convicted last year of trafficking drugs into the resort island of Bali and sentenced to death by firing squad.

But the court pointed out that the 57-year-old remains in “jeopardy” and the evidence now called for a further urgent review of the policy in her case.

The judges were told at a hearing last month that she is effectively without legal representation in Indonesia to allow her to pursue a further hearing of her case and has “no access to any further private funding”.

Her QC Aidan O’Neill said that previously Sandiford, now of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, had been able to fund her legal fight against the death sentence in the Indonesian courts through the “kindness of strangers”.

The ruling by Lords Mance, Clarke, Sumption, Carnwath and Toulson follows a Court of Appeal defeat for Sandiford in April last year when three leading judges ruled that the UK Government’s policy of not providing funding for legal representation to any British national who faced criminal proceedings abroad - even in death penalty cases - was not unlawful.

Source: Gazette Live, July 16, 2014

Islamic State takes up stoning in Syria

Raqqa first public stoning to death of
a woman  by ISIS  for alleged
adultery. Source: Twitter account
Fighters from Al-Qaeda-breakaway group the Islamic State have stoned a woman to death for adultery, in the first such execution of its kind in rebel-held northern Syria.

The stoning, first reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and confirmed to Al Jazeera by two activists, took place in a public square Thursday evening in the town of Tabaqa, Raqqa province. Activists said the woman was tried in an Islamic sharia court, but that witnesses to her alleged offense were never identified and that the man involved was not charged with any crime.

“Mystery surrounds the whole thing,” said Abu Khalil, an activist in Raqqa who runs the anti-Islamic State group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which obtained a cell phone photograph that purports to depict the incident.

In a tweet, the U.S. Embassy in Syria – which no longer has a presence in the country – condemned the “barbaric” stoning “in the strongest possible terms."

While far from the first instance of Islamic State brutality in Raqqa, the stoning has exacerbated fears the hardline group will govern brutally and without accountability across Syria and Iraq, where it led a coalition of Sunni forces to takeover large swathes of the north and west in a lightning offensive last month.

Raqqa, where the Islamic State established its de facto capital last year, is widely considered a glimpse of what’s to come in other regions that have fallen under IS control.

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Source: Aljazeera America, July 18, 2014