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

Monday, November 30, 2015

When a Kid Kills His Longtime Abuser, Who's the Victim?

Terry Williams
Terry Williams
The perplexing double standards of death penalty politics.

You could hardly open a Pennsylvania newspaper in 2012 without running into a story about the prosecution of sexual predators or their enablers. The case of Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State football coach convicted of abusing 10 boys, was all over the headlines. Two Philadelphia grand juries, in 2003 and 2011, had documented a massive cover-up of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church that would end up with two priests and a monsignor going to prison—the latter was the first senior church official in the United States convicted of endangering children by covering up abuses by priests under his supervision.

In July 2012, after yet another priest was arrested, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams lauded the alleged victim for speaking out after years of silence: "As we have learned," Williams said, "it is extremely difficult for sexual abuse victims to admit that the assault happened, and then to actually report the abuse to authorities can be even harder for them."

The grand juries had made similar points. The most recent version of Pennsylvania's statutes of limitation, noted the 2003 grand jury report, required prosecutors to initiate sexual-abuse cases by the child victim's 30th birthday, but "the experts have told us that this statute is still too short. We ourselves have seen that many victims do not come forward until deep into their thirties, forties and even later."

The 2011 grand jury was even more forceful, noting that most victims don't come forward "for many years, or even decades." Seven of Sandusky's victims took a combined 73 years to report their ordeals. The Pennsylvania legislature responded by passing a law allowing the use of experts at trial to help juries understand how sexual violence affects its victims, and how they typically behave.

But these sex abuse scandals weren't the only legal dramas capturing the public's attention that year. In September 2012, a man named Terry Williams was in the final throes of an effort to survive a death sentence imposed on him for a crime he'd committed a few months after his 18th birthday. The Philadelphia DA's office was working overtime to ensure the commonwealth's first involuntary execution in half a century. But there was something about the DA's enthusiasm that seemed out of place: Terry Williams had been convicted, in separate trials, of murdering two much older men who had sexually abused him as a minor.

In the first case, a jury convicted Williams of third degree murder after it was made aware of the victim's sexual relationship with his killer. In the second, the jurors never heard evidence of the victim's proclivity for sleeping with teenage boys. They convicted Williams of first-degree murder and sentenced him to die.

After reading a summary of the crime provided by the DA's office, some might conclude that Williams was nothing but a violent psychopath who got what he deserved.

But this account leaves out some salient facts. Namely, that both men were having sex with Williams, and that Norwood had been doing so since Williams was just 13. The robberies the DA describes followed years of sexual victimization, as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals summarized in 2011.

Source: Mother Jones, Mark Bookman, November 30, 2015

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USA: LGBT defendants face bias in death penalty cases, but you wouldn't know it from the data available

The capital punishment trial of Calvin Burdine in Texas is famous.Burdine's lawyer fell asleep multiple times during the October 2000 murder trial, prompting a retrial.

But the fact that the lawyer made derogatory comments about his client, a gay man, did not garner as much attention. And the prosecutor's statement that "sending a homosexual to the penitentiary certainly isn't a very bad punishment for a homosexual" was not the cause for the retrial. While there is an abundance of data on racial, gender and geographic bias influencing death penalty convictions, data are not collected on bias against LGBT defendants - but case studies across the nation show that discrimination exists.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the death penalty information center, said the kind of argument used against Calvin Burdine is not uncommon in death penalty cases involving LGBT defendants.

"To convince the jury or judge that they should take the life of a defendant, they attempt to demonize the defendant," Dunham said.

"They do it to make the defendant 'other' than human."

Dunham said prosecutors often label LGBT defendants as sexually or morally deviant or bring up their sexual orientation when it is not relevant to the case.

Ruthann Robson, a law professor at the City University of New York and expert on sexuality issues and the law, said female defendants sometimes face implications of lesbianism regardless of how they identify.

"One way to dehumanize women, or at least defeminize them, is through their sexual orientation," Robinson said.

"...Lesbians are portrayed as hating men."

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said an argument attempting to dehumanize a defendant would be considered improper in North Carolina.

"That's the kind of argument that would get a case overturned," he said.

A jury of peers?

In addition to discrimination in prosecutor's arguments, jury selection in capital punishment cases can also work against LGBT defendants, Dunham said.

"The death qualifying process tends to impanel who are more xenophobic," said Dunham, citing a 2007 study from the University of South Florida. "That includes jurors who harbor feelings of discrimination against the LGBT community."

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who is also a death penalty defense lawyer, stressed that not everyone who supports the death penalty is racist or homophobic.

"What is certainly true is that anyone who makes it to a death penalty jury believes in the death penalty," Kleinschmidt said. "As the number of people who believe in the death penalty gets smaller and smaller over time, they become the only people who are eligible to serve on these trials."

According to an October 2015 Gallup poll, 61 % of Americans favored the death penalty for those convicted of murder - a percentage that has been slowly falling since support for the death penalty peaked in 1994 with 80 % of Americans in favor.

"You start narrowing the pool, and I think it becomes more likely that you are identifying people who may hold other kinds of abhorrent beliefs," Kleinschmidt said.

It is unlawful for lawyers to ask jurors about their sexual orientation, which some argue might make it more difficult to find a jury of peers for LGBT defendants.

Kleinschmidt said a possible line of questioning would be to ask jurors if they know a gay person and about their relationship to that person. He said he also asks jurors in what kinds of cases the death penalty should be imposed.

"Often times you can hear in those explanations hints about other kinds of bias," Kleinschmidt said. "...I always ask them why they think the way they do."

In North Carolina, district attorneys can call for the death penalty if one or more aggravating factors are present in the case, according to Woodall. Aggravating factors include if the murder was especially cruel, if the murder was committed for financial gain and if the murder was committed during the commission of another felony, such as robbery or drug dealing. There are 11 aggravating factors recognized by the state.

"Once you find an aggravating circumstance, jurors have virtually unlimited discretion as to whether to spare a defendant's life or sentence him or her to die," Dunham said.

In many places, views of homosexuality and LGBT rights have progressed in the last decade. According to a 2014 Pew Research survey, 62 % of Americans said homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 46 % in 1994.

And Robinson argues that even if society has progressed, these biases were certainly true at the time of many LGBT inmates' convictions.

"And they're still in prison."

Data on discrimination

Dunham and other death penalty experts emphasize that there is no thorough data on discrimination against LGBT individuals facing the death penalty. The sexual orientations of defendants and victims are not tracked. Robinson's research is all based on individual case studies.

UNC professor Frank Baumgartner, a death penalty expert, said in an email that there are data on the race, gender, age and other factors about those who are executed.

Baumgartner's research has shown that the race and gender of the defendant and victim both play a part in death penalty sentences. For example, between 1976 and 2008 in North Carolina, 42 % of all homicide victims were black males.

But black males accounted for only 4 % of the victims of those executed, while 43 % of the victims of those executed were white females.

It is also rare to find women on death row. Baumgartner said in an email that nationwide, females account for about 10 % of homicide offenders, yet just 1 % of those executed.

"They tend to be executed for crimes against family members, whereas men are more often executed for crimes against strangers," Baumgartner said in an email.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 43 executions in North Carolina since 1976. The last execution was carried out in 2006. Currently, there are 157 inmates on death row in North Carolina, including 4 women.

Kleinschmidt said extreme circumstances such as a murder trial can bring out implicit biases, such as racism, sexism and homophobia.

"We're not any closer to ridding the criminal justice system of anti-gay bias than we are ridding the criminal justice system of racial bias," he said.

Source: dailytarheel.com, November 30, 2015

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Accused gunman in Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack could face death penalty, legal experts say

Robert Lewis Dear Jr
Robert Lewis Dear Jr.
Flowers have been laid, candles lit and prayers offered.

But on Monday, attention is likely to shift back to Robert Lewis Dear Jr. in what could be Colorado's next death penalty case.

As questions mounted Sunday ahead of the first court appearance for the man accused of opening fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, some legal experts say one thing is clear: Prosecutors may seek the death penalty.

"When I saw events unfold, that was my thought: I thought this possibly could be a capital crime," said Colorado Springs attorney Jennifer Stock, a veteran defender of 1st-degree murder cases. She, like many others across the country, followed the mayhem in media reports.

The early legal questions came as the toll of the state's latest mass shooting became clear, signs of strain emerged among local law enforcement agencies, local agencies consoled grief-stricken witnesses and the investigation stretched into a 3rd day at the shooting site.

An Iraq War veteran and a stay-at-home mother of 2 were named among the dead in Friday's attack - an act that Gov. John Hickenlooper called a "form of terrorism" in a nationally televised interview.

Ke'Arre Stewart, 29, who previously served in the Army and was raising 2 children, died in the shooting spree, as did Jennifer Markovsky, 35, who moved to Colorado Springs from Hawaii and had 2 children.

"I know everyone is struggling with it. It's just hard to believe," said Julia Miller, Markovsky's sister-in-law.

Sunday morning, parishioners held their first church service at Hope Chapel without Garrett Swasey, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer slain in the shootings. He was a church elder.

9 people - most of them law enforcement officers - were wounded by the gunfire.

The bloodshed spawned a string of services and 2 vigils in a city left reeling from its 2nd mass shooting in a month.

On Halloween morning, investigators say a man armed with an AR-15 and 2 handguns killed a bicyclist and 2 women at a substance abuse recovery home before dying in a shootout with Colorado Springs police.

After the latest attack, a handful of people sought grief counseling at an American Red Cross center that opened Sunday for people struggling to deal with the trauma. Most of them witnessed Friday's mayhem firsthand at the clinic or the busy shopping center nearby, where dozens sought shelter while the 5-hour standoff in the clinic unfolded. Police investigators took statements from some of them.

Other detectives continued their investigation at the bullet-riddled clinic.

Investigators expected to finish examining the facility this week after combing for evidence and cataloging the bullets fired. A Planned Parenthood official said the facility will reopen, but could not say when.

The sheer number of officers who fired rounds Friday rendered El Paso County's SWAT unit short-handed. At least a dozen sheriff's deputies and an unknown number of Colorado Springs police were placed on paid administrative leave.

Doing so is routine after officer-involved shootings, but it left dispatchers scrambling Sunday morning when a man shot his father in the head before barricading himself inside a Gleneagle home in northern El Paso County. Douglas County Regional SWAT members responded instead.

While officers pieced together how Friday's Planned Parenthood shooting unfolded, clues have emerged about what led to the rampage.

After surrendering to officers, Dear reportedly uttered "no more baby parts" - a reference to videos released by anti-abortion activists over the summer targeting Planned Parenthood's practice of using fetal tissue for research.

Several questions emerged Sunday: Who will prosecute the case, who will defend Dear and will the death penalty be sought?

Dear, 57, of Hartsel, is scheduled to appear for his advisement Monday, his 1st appearance before a judge. He has been held in the El Paso County jail without bond since the attack.

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said Sunday that he wouldn't release Dear's booking information, including the names of his attorneys.

"We're not going to release it," Elder said. "We are holding that information until a judge tells us that we need to release that."

The hearing, expected to be held via a video feed from the jail, could signal that prosecutors want to keep the case in El Paso County.

Still, prosecutors have consulted with the U.S. Attorney's Office over whether Dear would be tried locally or in federal court, 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May confirmed Sunday. He sidestepped further questions about charging considerations and whether local prosecutors would seek the death penalty.

"I'm not going to comment on that," he said.

A source with knowledge of defense preparations confirmed that representatives of the state Public Defender's Office met with Dear at the El Paso County jail. They obtained a signed application for legal assistance, and intend to introduce the document in court Monday.

The source wouldn't specify which attorneys had been assigned, or whether steps were being taken to gird for the possibility of the death penalty.

Local attorneys say the Planned Parenthood shooting is a likely candidate for a death penalty case.

Accusations in the Dear case meet at least three "aggravators," or legal prerequisites to pursue capital punishment, said Joshua Tolini, a Colorado Springs defense attorney who previously served as a deputy public defender.

The assailant allegedly targeted multiple victims, laid in wait before launching an ambush and killed a police officer - factors that are likely to weigh on the minds of Dear's attorneys.

"Any time there's a homicide with statutory aggravators, that's something for them to consider, and they'll staff it accordingly," Tolini said.

The death penalty was most recently sought against James Holmes in the Aurora theater shooting and Dexter Lewis in a Denver bar mass stabbing. Juries instead opted for life sentences in both cases.

Dear's attorneys also are nearly certain to file a change of venue request on the argument that he would be unable to receive a fair trial in El Paso County, Stock, the veteran defense attorney, said.

Either way, it could be a while before prosecutors' intentions for the death penalty are clear.

In Colorado, prosecutors must provide written notice whether they intend to pursue the death penalty within 60 days of the defendant entering a plea.

Source: gazette.com, November 30, 2015

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Pakistan Army Chief signs death warrants of four terrorists involved in APS attack

The 4 terrorists were sentenced to death by military courts.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif approved on Monday the execution of six terrorists sentenced to death by military courts.

"Chief of Army staff today signed black warrants of four hardcore terrorists involved in APS Peshawar massacre," the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) reported.

The four terrorists including Maulvi Abdus Salam S/O Shamsi, Hazrat Ali S/O Awal Baz Khan, Mujeeb ur Rehman alias Ali alias Najeeb Ullah S/O Gulab Jan and Sabeel alias Yaya S/O Atta Ullah were sentenced to death by military courts in August this year after they were convicted of involvement in the Taliban massacre of 134 children at an army-run school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014.

The decision of their execution comes a week after President Mamnoon Hussain rejected mercy pleas of convicted terrorists on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's advice.

Army says the men belonging to a banned organization played a major role in planning and facilitating the school attack and several others.

The December school attack is seen as having hardened Pakistan's resolve to fight militants along its lawless border with Afghanistan. Authorities lifted a 6-year moratorium on executions last December and since that time nearly 300 convicts have been executed.

Amnesty International estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row, most of whom have exhausted the appeals process.

Supporters argue that the death penalty is the only effective way to deal with the scourge of militancy in the country.

Source: Dunya News, November 30, 2015

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Bangladesh: 20 sentenced to death; HC urged to uphold 152 death sentences

Bangladesh Supreme Court
Bangladesh Supreme Court
High Court urged to uphold death penalty of 152 BDR mutiny convicts

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam today prayed to the High Court to uphold the lower court verdict that sentenced 152 convicts for killing 74 people including 57 army officials in the 2009 Pilkhana mutiny.

74 people, including 57 army officials, were slain in the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) mutiny on February 25-26, 2009 at the force's Pilkhana headquarters in Dhaka.

In November 2013, a Dhaka court sentenced 150 soldiers of BDR, now Border Guard Bangladesh, and 2 civilians to death, and jailed 161 for life for their involvement.

It also gave rigorous imprisonment, ranging from three to 10 years, to 256, mostly BDR soldiers. The remaining 277 were acquitted.

A total of 844 people, 823 of them BDR personnel, stood trial in Bangladesh's biggest criminal case in terms of the number of accused and convicts.

Source: The Daily Star, November 30, 2015 (wr)

Cop among 3 to walk gallows for killing 9-yr-old boy

A Sylhet court today awarded death penalty to three persons including a sacked police constable for killing nine-year-old Abu Sayeed for ransom.

Judge Abdur Rashid of Sylhet Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal also fined the condemned convicts Tk 1 lakh each.

The convicts are Abdur Rakib, general secretary of Sylhet district unit Olama League, Ebadur Rahman, a sacked constable of Sylhet Airport Police Station, and Ataur Rahman Geda, a police informant.

The court also acquitted Mahib Hossain Masum, publicity secretary of the district unit of Olama League, of the case as allegation against him was not proved.

The convicts abducted Abu Sayeed, son of Andul Matin, on March 11 for a ransom of Tk 5 lakh and later killed him for recognizing the policeman.

On March 12, Ebadur confessed to the crime before a magistrate. 2 days later police recovered Sayeed's body from the attic of the building where both Ebadur and Sayeed resided.

Source: The Daily Star, November 30, 2015 (wr)

Munshiganj court sentences 2 to death, 2 to life in jail for 2009 murder

A Munshiganj court has sentenced 2 persons to death and 2 others to life imprisonment in the Riaz Byapari murder case.

District and Sessions Judge Md Shawkat Ali Chowdhury delivered the verdict on Sunday afternoon in a packed courtroom.

Those given the death penalty were Ripon Khan, 28, and Md Shamim, 26. The 2 who were awarded life in prison were Shah Jalal, 32, and Monjil Mia, 31.

The victim and the convicts, all labourers, were from the district's Gajaria Upazila.

After the verdict, Public Prosecutor Abdul Motin said only Monjil Mia was still absconding.

Quoting the case details, Motin said the convicts strangled Riaz to death on Mar 14, 2009 following a dispute. Riaz's body was recovered from a paddy field the next day.

His father Golboksh Byapari filed the murder case against the 4 on that day.

Byapari on Sunday expressed satisfaction over the verdict and called for speedy execution of the convicts.

Source: bdnews24, November 30, 2015 (wr)

Court sentences 4 to death for 2008 Boalkhali murder

A Chittagong court has sentenced 4 men to death and 2 others to life in prison for the 2008 murder of an auto-rickshaw driver in Boalkhali Upazila.

Chittagong Divisional Public Security Tribunal's judge Syeda Hosne Ara delivered the verdict on Monday on the 7-year-old case.

Those given the death penalty were Nurul Alam, Abul Kalam, Md Kausar and Md Rubel. The 2 who were awarded life imprisonment were Ariful Islam and SM Noimuddin.

Only Kausar and Noimuddin are behind bars. The 4 others are still absconding.

According to case details, on May 3, 2008, the accused hired the auto-rickshaw from the port city's Bahaddarhat to go to Anwara.

They murdered the driver 'Yusuf' and made off with the 3-wheeler. Yusuf's body was dumped on a road in West Gomdondi area at Boalkhali.

The vehicle's owner later found it in Satkania, where police later arrested 5 of the accused.

Yusuf's cousin 'Hashem' filed the murder case at Boalkhali Police Station.

Police named the 6 convicted on Monday in their chargesheet in the case.

Public Prosecutor Md Jahangir Alam said 17 out of 27 witnesses in the case had deposed at court.

Source: bdnews24.com, November 30, 2015 (wr)

11 get death penalty for killing Jubo League leader

A Gazipur court has sentenced 11 persons to death for killing Jubo League leader Jalal Uddin Sarkar in 2003.

Judge Fazle Elahi Bhuiyan of Gazipur Additional District and Session Judge Court 1 pronounced the verdict on Monday afternoon.

The court also fined Tk10,000 each.

Victim's elder brother Milon Sarkar said the convicts hacked his brother to death in broad daylight when he was chatting his friends at a field near Bolkhela Bazar in Kapasia upazila on August 17, 2003.

Later, Milon Sarkar filed a case against the convicts over the murder of his brother.

Source: Dhaka Tribune, November 30, 2015 (wr)

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Community of Sant’Egidio USA appeals to stop all state sanctioned executions during the Holy Year of Mercy

Pope Francis
Appeal letter by the Community of Sant’Egidio USA to stop all state sanctioned executions during the upcoming Year of Mercy

This year, Pope Francis announced the worldwide Holy Year of Mercy, due to commence on December 8th, 2015.

Following on from Pope Francis widely expanding actions for hope and healing, peace and justice during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, together with the Community of Sant’Egidio and many people of goodwill around the country and world, we appeal you to apply executive clemency in capital cases in the United States during the Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis calls on all citizens of the world to be merciful and strive to create a better society. The Holy Year of Mercy is a chance to start that journey, to bring a new hope and to emphasize the merciful side of humanity. 

In the spirit of Mercy, I want to sign this petition and join the Pope, the Catholic Church and the people of the Community of Sant’Egidio to appeal to States’ Governors to put a hold on executions during this Holy Year. 

I hereby sign in support of stopping all capital state executions during the Holy Year of Mercy.

To read the full letter to be send to State Governors, please click here.

To sign the online petition, please click HERE.

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The Execution of Joseph Wood

Joseph Wood
Joseph Wood
An execution of a man in Arizona with a new cocktail of drugs was supposed to take about 10 minutes. It took almost two hours, the longest execution in U.S. history

The following is a script from "The Execution of Joseph Wood" which aired on Nov. 29, 2015. Bill Whitaker is the correspondent. Ira Rosen and Habiba Nosheen, producers.

In July of last year, Joseph Wood was strapped to a gurney in Arizona's death chamber. His execution, by lethal injection with a new cocktail of drugs was supposed to take about 10 minutes. It took almost two hours -- the longest execution in U.S. history.

When lethal injections were introduced in 1977, they were supposed to be a more humane form of capital punishment. Instead the process has become a messy testing ground for unproven, toxic drugs.

At the heart of the problem: pharmaceutical companies have banned the use of their drugs for capital punishment -- partly under pressure from death-penalty opponents. Without access to the lethal agents they've used for decades, the states are turning to new, untried drugs.

And that's creating an execution crisis in America, making it harder and harder to ensure that when a state decides to end a life, things don't go horribly awry, as they did in the execution of Joseph Wood.

Arizona is one of 31 states to employ capital punishment. Cameras aren't allowed here, but this Department of Corrections video takes us inside Death Row, where more than 100 inmates are awaiting execution by lethal injection.

On July 23, 2014, it was Joseph Wood's turn. Wood had been convicted of murdering his former girlfriend and her father.

At 1:52 p.m., Arizona executioners began pumping an experimental combination of drugs into Wood's veins. They had never before used these drugs for execution, but they expected Wood to die within minutes.

Click here to read the full transcript/the full article

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Source: CBS news, November 29, 2015

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Inmates Accuse Arizona of Experimenting with Lethal-Injection Drugs

A group of 5 condemned prisoners this week asked the U.S. District Court in Phoenix not to lift a moratorium on executions instituted after a botched 2014 lethal injection, arguing that the Arizona Department of Corrections has not properly addressed concerns about the drugs used for the procedure.

A federal judge in November 2014 ordered the DOC to halt executions until the agency shared a protocol for lethal injection that included, among other things, a list of drugs to be used. The DOC released the information in October, but the inmates, represented by lawyers from the Federal Public Defenders Office, contend that it is "impossible to know" how the department will proceed because the protocols are too vague.

The DOC reserved the right to "change any aspect of the procedure, at any time, for any reason, with no notice," lawyers wrote. Given the department's "demonstrated pattern of extraordinary departures from their written procedures, there is a 'very real' threat that they will again carry out executions under procedures that 'lack necessary procedural protections.'"

Arizona, they wrote, conducts executions in an "arbitrary, experimental, and unconstitutional manner."

2 of the state's 3 proposed cocktails require sodium thiopental, an anesthetic that is in short supply because it is no longer manufactured in the United States. Arizona tried to illegally import some from India, but the Food and Drug Administration seized it at at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

The 3rd proposed drug cocktail relies on midazolam, the controversial sedative used in Joseph Wood's execution in July 2014, which inspired the U.S. District Court to institute the stay on lethal injections. Wood, who was sedated with midazolam and then given hydromorphone to arrest his breathing, should have died in 10 minutes, but he gasped and snorted for 2 hours. During that time, DOC officials pumped him full of 14 times the required dose of each drug.

Attorneys initially filed the lawsuit before Wood's execution in an attempt to compel the Arizona DOC to be more transparent about how it conducts lethal injections. It also called on the department to allow the media to witness all stages of the executions.

The state argued in court filings that if the procedures were public, it would make it more difficult to obtain the drugs necessary to execute prisoners. Some drug manufacturers had begun refusing to work with the DOC, forcing the agency to turn to less-reliable drugs, such as midazolam.

Because of the lawsuit, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Wood's execution, ruling that he had a First Amendment right to know what drugs the department intended to use, but the Supreme Court overturned the decision and Wood was killed.

In the wake of his botched execution, the U.S. public defenders amended the lawsuit to exclude Wood and tried again - this time with more success. The First Amendment Coalition, a group of local media outlets, joined the suit.

No executions will be scheduled until the litigation is resolved.

The state's death-penalty problems are the topic of a 60 Minutes documentary set to air Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on CBS Channel 5 in Phoenix.

The documentary, called The Execution of Joseph Wood, digs into the shortage of the anesthetic sodium thiopental and how it contributed to Wood's tortured death.

In a preview, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is shown squirming while a reporter grills him about Arizona's attempts to illegally import sodium thiopental.

When the DOC could not secure sodium thiopental, it chose to use midazolam to sedate Wood even though the drug had previously been used in 2 other so-called botched executions. When Ohio used the drug on Dennis McGuire in January of 2014, witnesses said he continued to gasp for 26 minutes like "a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air that would allow it to breathe." In April of 2014, Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett raised his head after he was injected with the drug and said, "Oh man ... I'm not ..." He continued to writhe, groan, convulse, and try to rise from the table for 43 minutes.

Wood's execution was the longest in United States' history.

Source: phoenixnewtimes.com, November 28, 2015

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Confusion over Nebraska's execution drugs

OMAHA, Neb. —New questions are arising about Nebraska's effort to obtain the drugs needed to execute prisoners on death row.

Federal sources stated that the Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration said they have no idea what Nebraska officials are referring to when discussing that they're 'working with' Federal Agencies.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said during an October news conference that the state is working with the DEA, trying to get execution drugs from India.

Agents in St. Louis said that no one had spoken to Nebraska about this and officials at the DEA headquarters stated that nothing has changed, like they said weeks ago, the DEA will not approve the importation of this drug.

The governor's corrections director also told state senator's that he is working with the Food and Drug Administration, but a senior-level official in the agency's headquarters said the only word that matters is the court order blocking sodium thiopental importation.

Corrections spokesperson Dawn-Renee Smith is now attempting to clarify Ricketts' and Frakes' words:

"'Working with' simply means that we are still in the process of obtaining the chemicals and completing any necessary steps required by the DEA and/or the FDA."

The state indicated that it has taken some new action within the last week.

Source: KETV, David Earl, November 27, 2015

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Friday, November 27, 2015

'Kill us alongside our children' defiant activists' mothers tell Saudi king

Ali Mohammad al-Nimr
Ali Mohammad al-Nimr
The mothers of 5 young Saudi prisoners sentenced to death by beheading made a passionate plea to the king to spare their sons' lives. The appeal followed reports that the Gulf kingdom is poised to execute more than 50 people convicted of terrorism.

In a public letter the women said the verdicts against the young dissidents, including Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, were based on confessions extracted under torture and the related trials fell short of international standards.

"The sentences handed down to our children are unique in the history of Saudi justice," the letter read. "As mothers of young men both deprived of their right to liberty and facing an unknown fate that may deprive them of their right to life, we demand that the Saudi government drop their sentences and order their retrial."

It concluded: "We stress that we will only stay silent over this crime if they kill us alongside our children." It was signed by Naima Ali al-Matrook, Fatima Hassan al-Ghzwe, Zahra Hassan al-Rebh, Amena Ahmed al-Saker and Nasra Abdullah al-Ahmed, mothers of 5 activists from the Shia minority arrested on sedition charges in 2012 when they were all teenagers.

Among them is al-Nimr, a 21-year-old dissident whose case has triggered uproar worldwide.The nephew of a vocal Shia cleric and activist, he was arrested aged only 17, for taking part in a protest.

He was forced to sign a confession under torture and has since been sentenced to death on a diverse set of charges, including attacking police, breaking allegiance to the king, setting up terror cells, rioting and robbing a pharmacy, according to human rights organisation Reprieve. Under Saudi Arabia's draconian legal system, he is to be beheaded and his body crucified in public.

The death sentence is expected to be carried out in the coming days as local media reported authorities were preparing for a mass execution of 55 convicts in a single day.

"These executions must not go ahead and Saudi Arabia must lift the veil of secrecy around its death penalty cases, as part of a fundamental overhaul of its criminal justice system," said James Lynch, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

"Beheading or otherwise executing dozens of people in a single day would mark a dizzying descent to yet another outrageous low for Saudi Arabia, whose authorities have continued to show stone-faced cynicism and even open defiance when authorities and ordinary people around the world question their sordid record on the use of the death penalty".

Source: IB Times, November 27, 2015

Fellow poets protest Saudi death sentence facing Ashraf Fayadh

Ashraf Fayadh
Ashraf Fayadh
Poets from around the world are lining up in solidarity with the Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, with the Syrian poet Adonis, Ireland's Paul Muldoon and Britain's poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy among the signatories to a letter laying out how "appalled" they are at the death sentence he has been handed by Saudi Arabian authorities.

Fayadh was sentenced to death last week for renouncing Islam, a charge which he denies. Evidence used against him included poems from his collection Instructions Within, which is banned in Saudi Arabia, as well as his posts on Twitter, and a conversation he had in a coffee shop in Abha which was said to be blasphemous. He was given 30 days to appeal the sentence.

Today, PEN International published the latest salvo from an international arts community which has rallied behind him, with Muldoon, Duffy and Adonis joined as signatories to a letter attacking Saudi Arabia's ruling by major names from the world of international poetry including the Serbian-American poet Charles Simic, the American John Ashbery, Palestinian Ghassan Zaqtan, Israeli Amir Or and the Hungarian-born George Szirtes.

"We, poets from around the world, are appalled that the Saudi Arabian authorities have sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy," they write, in a letter which PEN International hopes to deliver to the poet himself in an expression of solidarity. "It is not a crime to hold an idea, however unpopular, nor is it a crime to express opinion peacefully. Every individual has the freedom to believe or not believe. Freedom of conscience is an essential human freedom."

The letter says that Fayadh's death sentence "is the latest example of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's lack of tolerance for freedom of expression and ongoing persecution of free thinkers", ending with a plea for the Palestinian's release.

"We, Fayadh's fellow poets, urge the Saudi authorities to desist from punishing individuals for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and call for his immediate and unconditional release," they write.

Speaking to the Guardian on Friday, Szirtes insisted that "opinions are not crimes".

"Incitement can be a crime, hate speech may be a crime, but opinions are not," he said. "That is precisely why organisations such as PEN exist. Any sentence for an individual opinion brings shame on Saudi Arabia: a death sentence brings maximum shame."

According to Szirtes it is "incongruous for a country like ours to be allied with a country that makes decisions like this".

"It runs counter to all our thoughts, habits and instincts, not just as poets or writers but as human beings," he added. "Nor is it just a cultural matter: it is a matter of exactly that which we describe as universal human rights."

The appeal follows the release of a joint statement signed by more than a dozen cultural and free speech organisations condemning the conviction of the Palestinian poet, including PEN International, which will be delivered to the Saudi embassy in London today by English PEN.

Last week, Fayadh told the Guardian that he was "really shocked" to receive his sentence "but it was expected, though I didn't do anything that deserves death".

"They accused me [of] atheism and spreading some destructive thoughts into society," he said, describing his poetry collection as "just about me being [a] Palestinian refugee ... about cultural and philosophical issues. But the religious extremists explained it as destructive ideas against God."

Pen International pointed to extracts of Fayadh's poems, translated by Mona Kareem. "it was said: settle there... / but some of you are enemies for all / so leave it now," he writes in one. "look up to yourselves from the bottom of the river; / those of you on top should provide some pity for those underneath."

The free speech organisation said that during his trial, the poet "expressed repentance for anything in the book that religious authorities may have deemed insulting", and said, according to trial documents: "I am repentant to God most high and I am innocent of what appeared in my book mentioned in this case."

On 25 November, the Guardian reported that, in a message to his supporters, Fayadh said he was "grateful for everyone working on my behalf". "To be honest, I was surprised because I felt alone here. I am in good health. I'm struggling to follow all the developments. People should know I am not against anyone here, I am an artist and I am just looking for my freedom," said the poet.

Source: The Guardian, November 27, 2015

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Sri Lanka urges Saudi not to stone to death maid for adultery

Sri Lanka said on Friday it was calling on Saudi Arabia to pardon a domestic worker sentenced to death by stoning after she admitted committing adultery while working in the Arab nation.

An official from Sri Lanka's Foreign Employment Bureau said the married 45-year-old woman who was working as a maid in Riyadh since 2013 was convicted of adultery by a Saudi court in August.

Her partner, also a Sri Lankan migrant worker, was given a lesser punishment of 100 lashes on account of being single.

"She has accepted the crime 4 times in the courts. But the Foreign Employment Bureau has hired lawyers and have appealed against the case," Upul Deshapriya, spokesman for the Foreign Employment Bureau, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The appeal is going on. Also from the foreign ministry side, they are in negotiation with the Saudi government on a diplomatic level."

Officials from the Saudi Embassy in Colombo did not respond to requests from the Thomson Reuters Foundation on whether they would consider the plea for clemency.

Oil-producing Saudi Arabia follows Sharia, or Islamic law, and is often criticised by human rights groups for the wide range of crimes such as adultery, drug smuggling and witchcraft which carry the death penalty.

Stoning, a form of execution where a group throws stones at a person buried waist or chest deep in the ground until they are dead, is still carried out in parts of the Muslim world.

In 2013, Saudi Arabia beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid for the killing of an infant left in her care, rejecting repeated appeals by Colombo against her death sentence.

Thousands of men and women from the Indian Ocean island travel to the Middle East every year to seek jobs as maids or drivers.

According to Central Bank data, 279,952 Sri Lankans went to work in Middle Eastern nations in 2014, generating over $7 billion in remittances, around 9 % of total GDP.

Saudi Arabia, which is current chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council Panel, has executed over 150 people this year, mostly by public beheading, the most in 20 years, rights group Amnesty International said this month.

Foreigners, mostly guest workers from poor countries, are particularly vulnerable as they typically do not know Arabic and are denied adequate translation in court, Amnesty said.

Riyadh says it provides fair trials to all defendants.

Source: Reuters, November 27, 2015

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In Saudi prison, artist facing death says he’s no atheist

Ashraf Fayadh
Ashraf Fayadh
Riyadh: A Palestinian artist sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for apostasy was quoted by a local news website Thursday as saying that he is not an atheist and that his case centres around a personal dispute he had with someone.

Ashraf Fayadh gave the interview to Makkah Online from inside a prison in Abha, the southwestern city where he has been held since January 2014. He said a Saudi college student he knew filed a complaint to religious police accusing him of being an atheist and trying to spread atheism through a book of poetry he wrote.

Religious police detained Fayadh for a few hours after the complaint was filed and then released him, he said.

Fayadh said his poetry book was then sent to a council of clerics for their assessment of its content. The council deemed parts of the book atheistic. He said the Arabic book, called “Instructions Within”, was published in Lebanon in 2008 and has not been published in Saudi Arabia.

“I am not an atheist and it is impossible that I could be,” he said.

A Saudi court in Abha initially sentenced him to 800 lashes and four years in prison. He says his prison sentence was based on photos on his phone found by the religious police the night of his brief detention. He told Makkah Online the photos were of nothing more than of female colleagues he’d met through his participation in art exhibitions, which include the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Saudi courts adhere to an ultraconservative interpretation of Sharia and religious police strictly enforce the segregation of unmarried men and women.

Fayadh said after the initial trial, an appeals court recommended blasphemy charges against him be stiffened and that he be sentenced to death. He said the appeals court also recommended rejecting defence testimony, citing the Palestinian artist’s own admission to writing the book.

After one hearing, the lower court issued its death sentence in the retrial last week on blasphemy-related charges.

“The judgment against me was based on the testimony of this student,” Fayadh said. “The terminology I am condemned for is not even in the book, but the accusation against me was based on wrong interpretations for some of the poems.”

Fayadh plans to appeal the verdict, which means the case will likely be tossed back to the appeals court and then the Supreme Court. There are no known cases in recent years of executions for apostasy in Saudi Arabia, despite such verdicts.

The Palestinian government, the General Union of Arab Writers and The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information are calling for his release.

Source: AP, November 27, 2015

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7 Executions in North & South Iran - Including Kurdish and Pakistani Prisoners

Iran Human Rights (NOV 26 2015): According to the Baluchestan Activists Campaign, five people were hanged at Minab Prison (in Hormozgan province) on the morning of Tuesday November 24. 

The prisoners were reportedly executed for alleged drug related offenses; one of the prisoners was Kurdish and another was a Pakistani citizen. 

The names of the three other prisoners have been reported as: Mousi Kadkhodaie, Shokrollah Baluchi, and Ali Faramarzi. The names of the two other prisoners are not known at this time.

The Kurdistan Human Rights Network reports on two executions at Tabriz Central Prison (in East Azerbaijan province) which were carried out on Wednesday November 25. 

The prisoners, Reza Purna and Nouralodin Purna, were hanged for drug related offenses.

According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, 600 people are estimated to be on death row in Tabriz Central Prison. 

In response to the high number of prisoners awaiting execution, Iran's Judiciary has in recent weeks begun to accelerate the rate in which death sentences are being carried out in this prison. 

At least eight people have been hanged at Tabriz Central Prison in the last two weeks.

Iranian authorities and official sources have been silent on the executions mentioned in this report.

Source: Iran Human Rights, November 26, 2015

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Indonesia: BNN Chief Settles on East Java Island for Drug Prison

Kerobokan prison, on Bali Island, Indonesia
Kerobokan prison, on Bali Island, Indonesia
Jakarta. Indonesia’s controversial anti-narcotics czar says he has found the ideally located island on which to build a prison for drug offenders – but that the lack of native wildlife is somewhat of a downer.

Budi Waseso, the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief, has raised eyebrows with his plans for an isolated drug prison guarded by crocodiles, tigers and piranhas, and on Thursday said he had found a great location – the island of Kangean off the coast of East Java’s Sumenep district.

The remains of a former prison still stand on the island, and Waseso said they could be renovated to house drug offenders. The lack of native wildlife, though, is a downer, he said.

“But we can always build a river which will be infested by crocodiles and piranhas,” Waseso said during a visit to East Java on Thursday as quoted by Tempo.

He added the island’s remote location placed it beyond the reach of cellular coverage, which meant inmates would not be able to continue running their drug rings from behind bars, as they do at most existing prisons.

The inmates “will have nothing to do but await their death sentence,” Waseso said.

The outspoken general has courted controversy since his appointment to the BNN in August, including for calling for an end to government funding for rehabilitation of drug addicts, and for suggesting that drug offenders be punished by being made to consume all of their contraband.

Source: Jakarta Globe, November 26, 2015

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Australian Federal Police changes policies to avoid another Bali 9 situation

ingleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran executed in April this year
Ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran executed in April this year.
Were the Bali Nine case to occur now, Australian Federal Police could still provide information to Indonesian authorities without first seeking ministerial approval.

That's because guidelines, adopted in 2009, require the minister to approve cooperation with foreign police forces in possible death penalty cases once arrests have been made.

In the Bali Nine case, no-one had been arrested when the AFP tipped off Indonesian police about a group of Australian drug traffickers.

They soon were, with ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran executed in April this year.

But the AFP now says it does things differently.

AFP assistant commissioner Scott Lee said the organisation focused on senior leaders of organised crime groups.

'In recent days and weeks we have had individuals that we are aware of who are travelling offshore as drug couriers,' he told a parliamentary inquiry in Canberra on Friday.

'We have taken active decisions not to communicate that information.'

AFP assistant commissioner Leanne Close said you could 'never say never' about providing information to foreign law enforcement agencies.

'We certainly have strengthened the processes for our officers working offshore and in Australia to make sure they always consider this (the death penalty) first before the provision of any information,' she said.

The parliamentary committee, chaired by long-time death penalty opponent Philip Ruddock, is examining how Australia presses for the international abolition of the death penalty and what more could be done.

In its submission, the AFP said it had to deal with police in other countries, including some that imposed the death penalty, and that cooperation had been demonstrably successful in protecting Australians.

Since 2012, federal agencies had seized 10 tonnes of amphetamines, two tonnes of cocaine, a tonne of heroin plus other drugs weighing 20.3 tonnes - enough for more than eight hits for every person in Australia.

'Without the ability to work with all of our international partners the AFP would be hindered in performing the roles expected by Government and the Australian community,' it said.

In deciding whether to cooperate with foreign police, the AFP now assesses a range of factors.

That includes assessing the reliability of information, seriousness of the alleged criminal activity, nationality, age and personal circumstances of the person involved and potential risks to the person, including the death penalty.

Source: AAP, November 27, 2015

AFP says it has learned Bali Nine lesson

THE Australian Federal Police has changed its policy on providing information to foreign law enforcement agencies in the wake of the outcry over the executions in April of Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

AFP assistant commissioner Scott Lee told a federal parliamentary inquiry yesterday that the organisation was focused on senior leaders of organised crime groups.

"In recent days and weeks we have had individuals that we are aware of who are travelling offshore as drug couriers," he said.

"We have taken active decisions not to communicate that information."

AFP assistant commissioner Leanne Close said the force could "never say never" about providing information to foreign law enforcement agencies, but officers always had to consider the death penalty first.

Source: QT, November 27, 2015

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Vietnam Passes Law Abolishing Death Penalty for 7 Crimes

Death sentences imposed on corrupt Vietnamese officials will now be commuted to life in prison if they pay back at least 75 percent of the illegal money they made.

The online newspaper VnExpress said the new regulation was part of the revised Penal Code that an overwhelmingly majority passed in the National Assembly on Friday.

Under the revision, which takes effect July 1, 2016, the country also will abolish the death penalty for seven crimes: surrendering to the enemy, opposing order, destruction of projects of national security importance, robbery, drug possession, drug appropriation, and the production and trade of fake food.

The revised law will also spare the lives of those who are 75 years old or older.

The ruling Communist Party has made fighting corruption one of its top priorities.

However, some lawmakers had voiced opposition to the changes when they were debated in the assembly in June, arguing that they would weaken the fight against corruption.

"This would create a loophole for corrupt officials to use money to trade for their life," state media quoted deputy Do Ngoc Nien as saying at the time.

International human rights groups and some Western countries have been urging Vietnam to abolish its death penalty.

Source: The Associated Press, November 27, 2015

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Young Prisoner Hanged in Public in Northern Iran

A young prisoner charged with rape was hanged to death in public in Meyami, Semnan.
A young prisoner charged with rape was hanged in public in Meyami, Semnan.
A young prisoner charged with rape was hanged to death in public in Meyami, Semnan. 

Iranian state-run media Javan News has identified the prisoner by the initials A.M. and stated his age as "about 30 years old." 

Iranian officials have not released any more information about the case, making it unclear whether the prisoner was over the age of 18 at the time of his arrest.

Commenting on the execution, Abbas Ali Akbari, the head of Meyami's Judiciary, says: "The offender was arrested for committing several counts of rape and was sentenced to lashings and death."

Source: Iran Human Rights, November 26, 2015

Call to save death row prisoner aged 15 at time of alleged crime

The Iranian Resistance calls for measures to save the life of Mr. Salar Shadi Zadi, a young prisoner on death row who was merely 15 at the time of his alleged crime, and asks all international human rights dignitaries and organizations to protest this barbarity and medieval viciousness, and to take effective action to prevent the execution of this young man.

Salar Shadi Zadi is scheduled to be executed on November 28 after already enduring 9 years behind bars. At least 72 prisoners under the age of 18 have been executed under the mullahs' rule during the past decade, Amnesty International reported.

The religious fascism ruling Iran, dubbed by the people as the "Godfather of ISIS," has in the past 5 days alone executed at least 17 prisoners. This follows the recent United Nations resolution condemning vicious human rights violations in Iran and a UN call to stop executions in Iran. 6 of those executed had only 20 to 25 years of age.

A 20-year-old man in the town of Mayamey in Semnan Province was hanged on Wednesday, November 25. Despite calls made by international organizations a day earlier, Alireza Shahi, aged 25, was executed along with 4 other individuals.

From the age of 18 he had been behind bars for 7 years.

3 prisoners hanged on November 21 in Zahedan Central Prison were all young men. Mojtaba Lak-Zehi, 22, was aged 17 at the time of his alleged crime. He and Hassan Dori Moghadam, 20, were both from Iran's Baluchi minority community. Nazir Ahmad Rigi, 24, was an Afghan national.

Also on November 21, Mehdi Budineh was executed in Zabol Central Prison at the age of 25.

The mullahs' regime is resorting to the execution of youths in public and in prisons across the country in an attempt to cement a climate of fear across the society and prevent massive uprising by the disgruntled population described by regime officials as the "army of the hungry." The Iranian Resistance calls on all Iranian people, especially the youth, to rise up and protest these crimes.

Source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, November 26, 2015

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