Friday, April 18, 2014

Oklahoma Justices Send Execution Case To Lower Court

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court says it is not the place for death-row inmates to go if they want a stay of execution.

Justices said Thursday that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals should take up stay requests from 2 inmates scheduled to die in the next 2 weeks. The appeals court had said previously it didn't have the authority because the inmates hadn't met all technical requirements under the law.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them. They say they need stays of execution so they can continue their challenge.

The justices wrote that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not taking up the request.

Death penalty abolitionists and others who seek to end the death penalty will protest the executions of two death-row inmates on the days of their executions.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will host "Don't Kill for Me" demonstrations at the governor's mansion followed by silent vigils on Tuesday for death-row inmate Clayton Lockett and on April 29 for Charles Warner.

The inmates have been in a legal battle with the state over the secrecy surrounding which drugs are used in executions and their origins. The executions are still scheduled to take place, despite pending litigation in the case.

Lockett was found guilty of the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old woman, Stephanie Nieman. Warner was convicted for the 1997 death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter.

Source: Associated Press, April 18, 2014

Arthur Tyler, slated to die May 28 in controversial capital case, asks Ohio for mercy

Ohio Death Chamber
Arthur Tyler, who has been on Ohio's death row 3 decades for the murder of a produce vendor during a robbery in Cleveland, has asked the Ohio Parole Board to commute his sentence to life in prison with a chance of parole.

The parole board will hold a clemency hearing April 24 to hear Tyler's pleas. The board will make a recommendation to Gov. John Kasich, who will ultimately decide Tyler's fate.

He is scheduled to be executed May 28.

Tyler's case has been controversial because he was 1 of 2 people convicted in the killing of Sanders Leach, but the only one sentenced to die. And there are questions as to who actually pulled the trigger.

Tyler's co-defendant, Leroy Head, confessed almost immediately. Head admitted to police, family and friends that he shot Leach in a struggle for the gun during the March 1983 robbery attempt, according to court records.

He signed a confession, but later changed his story, telling prosecutors that Tyler fired the gun.

Tyler was convicted of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to die. Head pleaded guilty to the same charges and was sentenced to prison. He was released in 2008.

Tyler's lawyers, in a brief filed with the parole board, said Tyler recognizes he shares responsibility for Leach's death. But they urge clemency be granted, commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment with parole eligibility.

"Ideally, Arthur Tyler should be granted parole and released from prison for time served, they wrote. "As we will demonstrate, Arthur Tyler did not shoot Mr. Leach. Head falsely testified against Mr. Tyler in order to save himself from the death penalty."

Source:, April 18, 2014

Iran killer's reprieve stokes campaign against executions

The victim's parents (center, right),
moments before they spared
their son's murderer.
It is Wednesday, early in the morning. Balal is walking to the gallows to face execution in the city of Nour, in northern Iran.

It is before sunrise but hundreds of people have gathered near the prison to watch it.

His mother and sisters are crying hard, but blindfolded Balal cannot see them as he steps on the wooden stool.

Some in the crowd start shouting "forgive him, forgive him". They are asking the family of the victim to pardon him.

Balal stabbed Abdollah Hosseinzadeh to death 7 years ago in a street fight. He was 19 at the time, Abdollah was 17.

The guards put the rope around Balal's neck. Now he cries hard.

As the dramatic scenes - captured in photographs by onlookers - unfold, the mother of Abdollah goes towards Balal and slaps him in the face.

Then, in front of the surprised crowd, she takes the rope from around his neck. She has forgiven her son's killer, sparing his life. Now even the police officers start crying.

The mother says she had a dream that her deceased son had asked her not to take revenge.

According to Iran's sharia laws, murder and several other crimes are punishable by death. But the victim's family has the right to spare a convict's life in return for 'blood money'.

For months, many Iranian celebrities had taken part in a campaign to save Balal's life. They started collecting money to pay compensation to the relatives.

Adel Ferdosipour, a famous television sports presenter, raised the issue in his popular show just days before the execution.

He called on people to ask Abdollah Hosseinzadeh's parents to pardon Balal. One million people texted the show and supported the campaign.

Ghani Hosseinzadeh, Abdollah's father, used to be a football player and many Iranian footballers called him in person.

He and his wife finally agreed to forgive Balal. They said they would build a football school under their son's name using the compensation collected.

But not all the people on death row in Iran have been as lucky as Balal.

Behnoud Shojaee was executed in Evin prison in 2009 when he was 21, although many Iranian actresses and actors started a campaign to save his life.

Behnoud was found guilty of killing a boy when he was 17 and the family of the victim refused to pardon him.

Iran is said to have the 2nd highest number of executions of any country in the world.

Public execution is common as the government believes it sets an example.

Iranian lawyer Afrouz Maghzi blames the high number of executions on the legal concept of "qisas" - a law based on the principle of "an eye for an eye" that gives victims the right to retaliate.

"Iran's law gives the family of the victim this right to kill another person.

"Everyone has the right to life, and no citizen should be given this permission to take it from another person."

Widespread debate

After saving Balal's life, Iranian campaigners are hopeful they will be able to save more.

Attentions are now focused on the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, who is currently on death row. She killed a man in 2007 and claims she acted in self-defence after a sexual assault.

Even Asghar Farhadi, the Oscar-winning Iranian director, asked the victim's family to forgive the 26-year-old woman in the name of "humanity".

In his letter, the director - whose titles include A Separation - said Reyhaneh had played a short role in one of his films when she was a child.

This week Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, urged the country to stop Reyhaneh's planned execution.

He also published a report on 13 March, which condemned the execution of juveniles in Iran as well as the use of capital punishment for offences that do not classify as serious crimes under international law.

Balal and Reyhaneh's cases have provoked widespread debate in the country - especially on social media - about the use of capital punishment.

Iranian journalist Siamak Bahari praised the pardon of Balal in his blog, describing society as more united and "ready to pose new challenges against the death penalty".

He called the campaign "a historic decision by society against a system that was born with a noose".

Tahmineh Milani, a renowned Iranian filmmaker, has for years been donating money from her movies to victims' families as blood money in order to spare killers.

She told BBC Persian she also believes campaigners' success in Balal's case can lead to a change in the law.

"People should take their influence seriously, as each signature can change the destiny of a person," she said.

Source: BBC News, April 18, 2014

Belarus executes convicted murderer: rights group

Belarus has executed a man convicted of a gruesome double murder, a rights group said Friday, the latest case of capital punishment in the ex-Soviet country.

Pavel Selyun had been found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover in August 2012 after he found out they were having an affair.

He had decapitated the man and stuffed his body down a rubbish chute, but took his head with him as he fled town and still had it when he was arrested on a train.

Last year a court sentenced Selyun, 23, to death, a punishment that is usually carried out in secret by shooting in the back of the head.

The execution, the first of 2014, was apparently carried out in recent days, although Selyun's lawyer and family found out only on Friday.

"Today the mother of Pavel Selyun found out from the lawyer that the punishment had been carried out," rights group Viasna said in a statement. "The lawyer went to meet the defendant but was told by prison officials that Selyun 'had left in accordance with the sentence'."

"In other words, that means he was executed," it said.

Belarus is the only country in Europe to administer the death penalty.

Last September the Supreme Court confirmed the sentence in Selyun's case, however the defence filed a complaint over the decision and was awaiting a response when the execution took place.

Source: Global Post, April 18, 2014

Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Kansas Anti-Semitic Gunman

Former KKK leader Frazier Glenn Cross facing hate crimes charges; if found guilty could face death penalty.

Prosecutors filed a death penalty murder charge Tuesday against a white supremacist accused of fatally shooting 3 people at Jewish sites over the weekend, judicial sources said.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, was charged with 1 count of capital murder for the deaths of a 69-year-old physician and his teenage grandson outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City.

He also faces 1 count of 1st-degree murder for the death of a 53-year-old woman at the nearby Village Shalom retirement community where she was paying a weekly visit to her mother.

Cross was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., a spokeswoman for Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe told AFP by telephone.

Sunday's bloodshed - on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover) - occurred in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. All 3 victims were Christian.

Local police, FBI agents and federal prosecutors said Monday they intended to pursue Cross for hate crimes, which under federal law calls for tougher sentencing.

Cross shouted "Heil Hitler" from the back of a police car when he was taken into custody Sunday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League described Cross as a North Carolina native and former US army Green Beret commando who, in the 1980s, founded and led the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party.

The center, which monitors hate groups, said Cross, a Vietnam war veteran, is well-known for espousing anti-Semitic and white supremacist views.

He spent 3 years in federal prison after being indicted on weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the murder of the law center's co-founder Morris Dees.

More recently, resettling in rural Aurora, Missouri, Cross helped launch a short-lived newspaper called The Aryan Alternative and "actively promoted his racist and anti-Semitic views online," the Anti-Defamation League said.

"I'm a patriotic white man... The only thing I ain't figured out is whether to hate all you (expletive) Jews or just the Zionists," Cross candidly told Kansas City television station KMBC in a 2006 interview.

Source: Israel National News, April 16, 2014

UAE: New death penalty hearing for Abu Dhabi motorist who ran over boy

The death sentence on a man who deliberately ran over and killed a 12-year-old boy has been overturned.

The Court of Cassation sent the case back to the Court of Appeal to reconsider the sentence.

The driver, a Pakistani expatriate, had been sitting in his car in Musaffah in October 2012 when 3 boys opened the door and threw in a pile of rubbish.

The children ran away and were joined by a 4th boy, Hazaa Khaled from Sudan. The driver believed Hazaa had thrown the rubbish, drove after the boy and knocked him down.

He denied denied intending to kill the boy, and said he meant only to scare him and was driving at only 40kph. However, scientific evidence showed the car's impact was so powerful that it crushed the boy's skull.

Abu Dhabi Criminal Court found the man guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay blood money of Dh200,000 and compensation of Dh21,000 to the boy's parents.

The case then went to the appeals court, which sentenced him to death.

Source: The National, April 16, 2014

USA: New Hampshire Senate Votes To Keep Death Penalty Law

CONCORD, NH (CBS)- The New Hampshire Senate floor was the site of passionate debate on the controversial issue of capital punishment Thursday.

“I am struggling and have struggled with this decision,” said Sen. Donna Soucy, a democrat from Manchester.

She was one of 12 senators who voted to repeal the death penalty.

The vote ended in a 12-12 tie. A tie vote means the death penalty statute stays intact.

“Because I believe that there are some crimes that are that heinous, I support the death penalty,” said Sen. Jeb Bradley, a republican from Wolfeboro.

Supporters and opponents of the death penalty were packed inside the senate chambers and outside the state house as senators made their positions clear.

“State-sponsored execution is not justice when we stoop to the level of the killer and it changes nothing,” said Sen. Bette Lasky, a democrat from Nashua.

The vote was predominantly along party lines.

Most republicans voted to keep the death penalty in place.

Opponents of the death penalty say they will continue their fight.

“The death penalty is a failed public policy,” said Arnie Alpert from the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “It doesn’t work, it doesn’t protect public safety, it does not provide support for our police officers, it does not reduce violent crime.”

"The 12-12 vote only tabled the bill momentarily. We are still working on getting the 13th vote and have the remainder of the session to do so. There will be no let up and efforts," says John-Michael Dumais, Campaign Director for the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police supports the death penalty.

“I think it’s really important to keep the death penalty on the books for especially egregious cases,” said Tara Laurent, police chief in Greenland.

Today’s actions were watched closely because the House of Representatives had already voted to repeal the death penalty, and Governor Maggie Hassan had indicated she would have signed it into law if it had made it through the Senate.

“I know that each Senator listened to all viewpoints and made a difficult decision,” said Governor Hassan in a statement following the vote.

New Hampshire remains the only state in New England where the death penalty is legal, although nobody has been executed in the Granite State since the 1930’s.

Currently there is one person on New Hampshire’s death row.

For more information, visit New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty 

Source: CBS, April 18, 2014

Three Juvenile Offenders Executed in Southern Iran

Iran Human Rights, April 18, 2014: Four prisoners were hanged in the prison of Bandar Abbas (Southern Iran) yesterday April 17. According to the group “Human Rights and Democracy activists in Iran” (HRDAI) five prisoners were transferred to solitary confinement on Wednesday April 17, for implementation of their death sentences.

Four of the prisoners were executed on Thursday morning. These prisoners were identified as: Zargham Jahangiri (27) been 5 years in prison; and three Juvenile offenders: Ahmad Rahimi (21) been in the prison since he was 17 year old (Juvenile offender); Ali Fouladi (22) been in the prison since he was 16 year old and Ali Sharifi (29) been in the prison since he was 14 year old.

Execution of a fifth prisoner was interrupted two minutes after being hanged and his execution was postponed. He is identified as Falak Nazmoradi (60) been 18 years in the prison. He is reported to be in a serious condition at the prison hospital.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) has confirmed this information through two independent sources.

Despite ratification of the UN convention on the rights of the child which bans death penalty for offences committed at under 18 years of age, Iran stays as the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders in the world. In 2013 at least 8 juvenile offenders were executed in Iran.

Source: Iran Human Rights, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Honour killing: Indian HC commutes to life death sentence of three

The Delhi High Court today commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to three members of a family for the honour killing of a teen couple in 2010, saying there is a possibility of their reformation.

A special bench of justices S Muralidhar and Mukta Gupta acquitted two others - the girl's mother and aunt - who also had been awarded capital punishment by the trial court, saying they were only "spectators" to the crime and did not share the common intention to murder the couple.

"The court is of the opinion that ends of justice would be met if convicted appellants Om Prakash and Suraj are awarded the sentence of imprisonment for life which will not be less than 20 years actual. Since, appellant Sanjeev is a young man who was not married, the court considers it fit to sentence him to imprisonment of life subject to remissions.

Source: Business Standard, April 17, 2014

Texas executes Jose Villegas

Jose Villegas
Jose Villegas
Texas executed a man by lethal injection on Wednesday who was convicted of stabbing his girlfriend, her child and her mother to death after a cocaine binge in 2001.

Villegas, a former cook, dishwasher and laborer, was free on bond for a sexual assault charge and was supposed to go on trial the day of the killings for an incident in which a woman said he punched her in the face.

Jose Luis Villegas Jr., 39, was put to death with a lethal dose of drugs at 7:04 p.m. CDT at the Texas death chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

Just as the pentobarbital began taking effect, he said, "It does kind of burn. Goodbye." He gasped several times, then started to breathe quietly. Within less than a minute, all movement had stopped.

"I would like to remind my children once again I love them," Villegas said when asked if he had a statement before being put to death. "Everything is OK. I love you all, and I love my children. I am at peace."

Six relatives of his victims witnessed the execution but declined to comment afterward.

"I was struck by the calm and peacefulness inside that room as opposed to the utter terror the victims must have been in as Jose Luis Villegas stabbed them," Mark Skurka, the Nueces County district attorney who prosecuted Villegas, said after watching the execution.

"He made no attempt to make peace with the family, apologize to the family or show any remorse for taking the lives of three people," Skurka said.

Villegas is the seventh person executed in Texas this year and the 17th in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization that tracks executions.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt Villegas' scheduled execution. The high court, on a 5-4 vote, rejected arguments from attorneys for Jose Villegas who said the 39-year-old was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.

The ruling came about 30 minutes after a six-hour window opened for Villegas' lethal injection.

Villegas' lawyers contended testing in February showed he had an IQ of 59, below the IQ of 70 that courts have embraced as a threshold for mental impairment. State attorneys disputed the test result and called it a late attempt to delay the punishment.

Villegas confessed that the day of the killings he had consumed about $200 of cocaine with his 24-year-old girlfriend, Erida Perez Salazar, at the home she shared with her parents, according to court documents.

After her mother, Alma Perez, 51, ordered Villegas to leave the house, he stabbed her dozens of times with a kitchen knife and then proceeded to a bedroom where he stabbed his girlfriend and her son Jacob, 3, numerous times each, according to court records.

Villegas then left the house and drove off in Salazar's vehicle and sold a television he stole from the home to buy more cocaine, according to court documents.

He had planned to return to the house to kill himself with an overdose of cocaine, but tried to flee when he saw police were already there, according to court documents. He was caught by police after a high-speed chase and foot pursuit.

Texas has executed 514 people, more than a third of all executions in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Source: Agencies, April 16, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Iran: Man hanged in Saveh prison

Iran Human Rights, April 16, 2014: One prisoner was hanged in the prison of Saveh (west of Tehran) early this morning, reported the Iranian state media.

According to the official Iranian news agency IRNA, “Gh. Sh.” (41 year old) was convicted of murdering “S. F.” in 2004, and sentenced to qesas (retribution in kind) by the Judiciary.

The report says: “since the daughter of the victim, who was supposed to demand the retribution (execution) was a minor at that time, the execution had not been carried out before. But after reaching 18 she demanded execution of the prisoner and he was executed in the prison of Saveh early this morning”.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns the Iranian authorities for putting the responsibility of the executions in murder cases on the shoulders on the victims family members who are civilians who already have suffered loosing one of their loved ones.

Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: ” This is nothing but promoting a culture of murder and violence. Qesas is an inhumane law where the authorities convert a civilian who has lost a loved one into a murderer”.

Source: Iran Human Rights, April 16, 2014

Saudi beheaded for killing man with machine gun

Public beheading in KSA
Riyadh: The authorities in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday beheaded a citizen convicted of shooting dead a compatriot, the interior ministry said.

Mohammad Matrak Mohammad Al Dosari was found guilty of killing Mubarak Zafir Manahi Al Dossari using a machine gun, the ministry said in a statement carried by the state news agency SPA.

The killing came after a fist fight over a financial dispute, it said.

His execution in Riyadh brings to 13 the number of death sentences carried out this year in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia beheaded 78 people in 2013, according to an AFP count.

Last year, the UN High Commission for Human Rights denounced a “sharp increase in the use of capital punishment” since 2011 in Saudi Arabia.

According to figures from rights group Amnesty International, the number of Saudi executions rose from 27 in 2010, of whom five were foreigners, to 82 in 2011, including 28 foreigners.

In 2012, the number of executions dipped slightly to 79, among them 27 foreigners.

Rape, murder, apostasy, homosexuality, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Source: Agence France-Presse, April 16, 2014

U.S.: Anti-death penalty activists target pharmacists association's ethics code

As some states increasingly turn to compounding pharmacies to provide drugs needed for lethal injections, an online petition seeking to change the American Pharmacists Association’s code of ethics is gaining steam. Activists see it as a way to bring more pressure to bear in their fight to end the death penalty for good.

According to some activists, it’s a sentence that could change everything about the death penalty.

It’s a sentence, activists say, that’s missing from the ethics code of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the omission is raising serious questions for the organization and the role of the Hippocratic Oath in pharmacists’ work.

An ethics code omission? According to some protesters, led by progressive activist Kelsey Kauffman, part of the difficulty may be with APhA’s ethics code, which—unlike those of other major medical groups, such as the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association [PDF]—does not specifically prohibit its members from assisting in executions. While such a code provision would not be legally binding, it could make pharmacists who currently compound lethal injection drugs less willing to do so—if, for example, it would result in their losing their professional certification. 

That’s why the nonprofit petition site SumOfUs has launched a campaign to get the association to add a prohibition to its code. The petition, which argues that “the association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all,” has been signed by more than 36,000 people and has gained support from the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and other civil  rights groups.

Source: NOW Associations, April 14, 2014

Iranian killer's execution halted at last minute by victim's parents

The noose is removed from around
the neck of Balal.
Photo: Arash Khamooshi /Isna
(Source: The Guardian)
When he felt the noose around his neck, Balal must have thought he was about to take his last breath. Minutes earlier, crowds had watched as guards pushed him towards the gallows for what was meant to be yet another public execution in the Islamic republic of Iran.

Seven years ago Balal, who is in his 20s, stabbed 18-year-old Abdollah Hosseinzadeh during a street brawl in the small town of Royan, in the northern province of Mazandaran. In a literal application of qisas, the sharia law of retribution, the victim's family were to participate in Balal's punishment by pushing the chair on which he stood.

Hosseinzadeh's mother slaps Balal.
Photos: Arash Khamooshi /Isna
(Source: The Guardian)
But what happened next marked a rarity in public executions in Iran, which puts more people to death than any other country apart from China. The victim's mother approached, slapped the convict in the face and then decided to forgive her son's killer. The victim's father removed the noose and Balal's life was spared.

Photographs taken by Arash Khamooshi, of the semi-official Isna news agency, show what followed. Balal's mother hugged the grieving mother of the man her son had killed. The two women sobbed in each other's arms – one because she had lost her son, the other because hers had been saved.

Many Iranian public figures, including the popular TV sport presenter Adel Ferdosipour, had called on the couple, who have a daughter, to forgive the killer. Although they did so, Balal will not necessarily be freed. Under Iranian law the victim's family have a say only in the act of execution, not any jail sentence.

Source: The Guardian, April 16, 2014

Photos of the aborted execution (source: ISNA)

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...

Iraq executed more than 600 Iraqis in 4 years

The Iraqi justice ministry has executed more than 600 "terrorists" in the past four years, the Iraqi justice minister Hassan al-Shimri has said.

Speaking publicly in Al-Nasiriyeh City, Al-Shimri said that his ministry was not famous four years ago. However, he reiterated, it has became known to everyone as a result of the execution of "criminal terrorists." He called this "an achievement" for his ministry.

Al-Shimri noted that the "terrorists" used to completely control the reformatory prisons and run their operations from inside.

The minister said that his ministry has "forcefully" fought "terrorists," brought the prisons under control and prevented any political or religious party from interfering in how his ministry works.

He stressed that executing more than 600 "criminal terrorists" in the past 4 years was an achievement. He was reported saying that the justice ministry has not executed such a huge number since 2003. His ministry ignored calls by a number of Iraqi parliamentarians to cancel the executions based on calls by a number of international organisations.

It is worth mentioning that international human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have criticised these executions in the past years. In April 2013 HRW accused the Iraqi justice system of failure to meet international standards for fair trials.

"A striking increase in executions in Iraq points to the failure of Iraq's justice system to meet international fair trial standards," the organisation said.

Source: Middle East Monitor, April 15, 2014

Tehran government postpones execution of 26-year-old Rayhaneh Jabbari

The Tehran government has postponed Tuesday’s scheduled execution of a 26-year-old Iranian woman charged with killing a man accused of attempting to rape her.

Following last minute pleas, the regime pushed back the hanging of Rayhaneh Jabbari, who was headed to the gallows on charges that in 2007 she stabbed and killed Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

The government announced that the execution will be postponed but did not give any indication the sentence had been overturned. It also did not disclose if any future execution date had been set.

Jabbari, who has already served seven years in prison, claims Sarbandi drugged her and attempted to have physical contact with her.

Activists around the globe have been working tirelessly to prove Jabbari’s innocence and to have her death sentence revoked.

Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations’ special investigator on human rights also spoke up against the execution, stating that Jabbari did not receive a fair trial and that she should be re-tried because she acted out of self-defense.

Source: FOX News, April 15, 2014

Texas candidate faces thorny death penalty choice

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The death penalty is like gun rights in Texas politics: Candidates don't dare get in the way of either. But Republican Greg Abbott, the favorite to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, must soon make a decision as attorney general that could disrupt the nation's busiest death chamber.

It's an election-year dilemma for Abbott. But in Texas, it's one that Democratic rival Wendy Davis can't easily exploit, illustrating how little room there is to maneuver on this issue.

Abbott must soon decide whether to stick with his earlier opinions that Texas must disclose the source of the execution drugs it uses. That revelation could prompt attention-shy suppliers to halt their drug deliveries and stop Texas' executions.

If Abbott holds firm, he'll please death penalty opponents who prison officials say want to target the companies with protests and threats. Reversing course would go against his vows for transparency in government.

"There's no political upside. It puts him in a little bit of a tough position," said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak.

The predicament comes up as Davis, the feisty Fort Worth lawmaker who has attracted national attention, is eager to find ways to shake up the campaign and prevent Abbott from riding a solid lead in the polls to a general election victory in the GOP-dominated state.

But Abbott's difficulty leaves her with few opportunities since portraying the law-and-order attorney general, who has held the position since 2003, as somehow soft on crime would be implausible. Both Abbott and Davis support the death penalty.

Source: Houston Chronicle, April 16, 2014

Jesuit death row chaplain: 'We allow revenge to ruin many lives'

Holding cell, San Quentin Death Chamber
What drew you to this ministry?

How often do we remember that Jesus Christ was arrested, thrown in jail, put on trial, convicted and sentenced to death? That he was given the death penalty and was executed by the state as a common criminal? So was John the Baptist. So were Peter, Paul, James and countless followers of Christ.

How did you get into prison ministry?

When I was a novice making a 30-day Ignatian retreat, the most powerful experience of prayer I had was when, unable to picture Jesus' face in my meditations, I asked him to show me his face. I distinctly remember his reply: "I will show you my face when you are ready to see me."

A few months later, it was time to choose a ministry "experiment." (...) I spent three months at Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk under the supervision of St. Joseph Sr. Maureen Clark. (...) The very first day I was there, she took me to visit the men in the "hole." I remember distinctly walking away from one man's cell after we had been conversing through a narrow slot in his door used to pass food through or to handcuff inmates prior to removing them from their cells. The slot was only about 36 inches from the floor, so I had to crouch or kneel to speak to him. As I walked away, it just hit me -- I had been looking at the face of this man in solitary confinement in prison, and it was through him (and thousands more prisoners to come) that Jesus was showing me his face.

How does our nation's incarceration rate stand in comparison to that of other countries?

The United States of America is now the prison capital of the world. We incarcerate a higher proportion of our population than any other country on Earth.

What really troubles me is what this says about our country and the culture we accept as normal today. What are we saying to the world when we talk about human rights and the dignity of man yet consign so many of our own citizens to prison and, once there, treat them like animals?

What I see every day are men with faces and names and children and memories who suffer greatly from the pains of life in prison. I know several men in our most highly secured unit who have been in what is essentially solitary confinement for over 20 years. Just to put this in perspective, international standards consider more than two weeks in solitary to be akin to torture, if not outright torture. Two weeks. And I know men who have done more than 1,000 weeks.

Source: National Catholic Reporter, April 15, 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kansas: Alleged gunman could face hate crime charges

(CNN) - A man suspected of fatally shooting three people at two Jewish-affiliated facilities could be formally charged with hate crimes as early as Tuesday.

Police say Frazier Glenn Cross is the suspect in Sunday's shooting death of a boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center near Kansas City, Kan., and then a woman at a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.

The hate crime charges are expected even though the victims were Christian, legal experts say.

For now, Cross faces charges of premeditated first-degree murder, officials said.

Investigators have "unquestionably determined" that his actions were a hate crime, Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said.

If the suspected shooter is charged and convicted of a hate crime, under federal law, the death penalty could be on the table. That would apply if the charge is that the defendant was motivated by the victims' "race, color, religion or national origin."

Cross is the founder and former leader of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. Both organizations operated as paramilitary groups in the 1980s, according to the SPLC.

In the 73-year-old's anti-Semitic and white-supremacist activities, he has also used the name Frazier Glenn Miller, the SPLC said.

After he was apprehended at a nearby elementary school, Cross sat in the back of a patrol car and shouted "Heil Hitler!" video from CNN affiliate KMBC shows.

Source: Click2Houston, CNN, April 15, 2014

Let’s Stop Pretending the Death Penalty Is a Medical Procedure

In January the state of Ohio executed the convicted rapist and murderer Dennis McGuire. As in the other 31 U.S. states with the death penalty, Ohio used an intravenously injected drug cocktail to end the inmate's life. Yet Ohio had a problem. The state had run out of its stockpile of sodium thiopental, a once common general anesthetic and one of the key drugs in the executioner's lethal brew. Three years ago the only U.S. supplier of sodium thiopental stopped manufacturing the drug. A few labs in the European Union still make it, but the E.U. prohibits the export of any drugs if they are to be used in an execution.

Ohio's stockpile of pentobarbital, its backup drug, expired in 2009, and so the state turned to an experimental cocktail containing the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone. But the executioner was flying blind. Execution drugs are not tested before use, and this experiment went badly. The priest who gave McGuire his last rites reported that McGuire struggled and gasped for air for 11 minutes, his strained breaths fading into small puffs that made him appear “like a fish lying along the shore puffing for that one gasp of air.” He was pronounced dead 26 minutes after the injection.

There is a simple reason why the drug cocktail was not tested before it was used: executions are not medical procedures. Indeed, the idea of testing how to most effectively kill a healthy person runs contrary to the spirit and practice of medicine. Doctors and nurses are taught to first “do no harm”; physicians are banned by professional ethics codes from participating in executions. Scientific protocols for executions cannot be established, because killing animal subjects for no reason other than to see what kills them best would clearly be unethical. Although lethal injections appear to be medical procedures, the similarities are just so much theater.

Source: Scientific American, Editorial, May 1, 2014