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Instead of proceeding to a hearing on Payne’s intellectual disability claims, Weirich decided to abandon the death penalty in his case and seek to have him resentenced to 2 consecutive life sentences. “We can’t change the facts and we can’t change the law,” she said. “So today, after weighing the totality of circumstances, we have filed notice with the Criminal Court that the state is hereby withdrawing its request for a hearing on the issue of intellectual disability.”

“Pervis was completely shocked,” said Henry. “I’m not sure that it has really set in for him yet, but he was also very grateful to all of his supporters and his legal team and to his family. [His sister] Rolanda [Holman] and [Attorney] Kimkea [Harris] and I were on the phone together and each shared tears of joy.”

Henry told the Death Penalty Information Center that Payne was not acquiescing to the county prosecutors’ assertion that he should receive consecutive life sentences. Counsel intends to ask the court to impose concurrent life sentences for the murders. “The court will have to decide” the sentence, Henry said.

Henry said the defense would continue to work to exonerate Payne, who was convicted in a racially charged case tainted by prosecutorial misconduct. At trial, Shelby County prosecutors asserted, without evidence, that Payne was a young Black man on drugs who stabbed Christopher, a white woman, to death after she spurned his sexual advances. Payne, the son of a preacher, did not use drugs, and police refused his mother’s request to conduct a blood test to prove he had no drugs in his system. DNA testing of evidence that had been withheld from the defense for decades found the presence of an unidentified male’s DNA on the handle of the murder weapon. Despite a bloody crime in which the victims collectively were stabbed more than 80 times, Payne’s DNA was not present on the handle of the weapon.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

*******************

Pervis Payne removed from death row

On Thursday, the Shelby County district attorney general, Amy Weirich, announced her decision to stop pursuing the death penalty against Tenessee death row inmate Pervis Payne, a case that’s drawn the attention of Island activists. The given reason was that state experts examined Payne and available records, “and could not say that Payne’s intellectual functioning is outside the range for intellectual disability,” according to Commercial Appeal, a daily newspaper based in Memphis, Tenn. Tennessee legislators also passed a law in April allowing death row inmates with mental disabilities to appeal their sentences based on mental disabilities.

Payne was convicted in 1988 for the murder of a mother and her baby daughter, Charisse and Lacie Christopher, in Millington, Tenn. For 34 years, Payne and his family have maintained that he is innocent. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to exonerate those who have been wrongfully convicted, also joined in Payne’s case.

A collaborative effort between Martha’s Vineyard Black Lives Matter and Disrupt Death Row led to the “Disrupt Death Row: Art and Justice” fundraising event at the Kara Taylor Gallery in Chilmark. The July event raised more than $50,000 toward Payne’s campaign. Islanders gathered again at Vineyard Haven, led by Disrupt Death Row, to rally in support of Payne.

“The effort behind this event illustrates the power of our island community, working together to help right the injustices of a system that doesn’t serve every citizen equally,” Disrupt Death Row member Amy Cody said in an email to the Times. “The disparities and injustices against Black, indigenous, and people of color in our criminal justice system are painfully obvious … these disparities and injustices are a shameful part of our legacy, past and present.”

“Thursday’s breakthrough in Pervis’ case was monumental, and we have the utmost respect for Roland Holman, his sister, who has been fighting for his life for 34 years and never lost hope. We are humbled to have been welcomed to Team Payne, continue to work with Kelley Henry [Payne’s lawyer], and we will not stop fighting for him until he comes home. We are working alongside legal professionals, families, and other activists to help free Pervis Payne and advocate for the reform of our criminal legal system,” Disrupt Death Row member Lisette WIlliams said on behalf of the organization. She invites anyone who wants to join Disrupt Death Row’s activities to visit tinyurl.com/DDRoptin.

Payne’s appeal is still pending before the court, but he will be serving two life sentences for the murder of Charisse and Lacie Christopher, according to Commercial Appeal.

(source: mvtimes.com)

MISSOURI:

More Missouri prosecutors consider but reject death penalty charges

Executions last year hit a 37-year low, and for the 1st time, the number of federal executions exceeded the total number of state executions.

Missouri executed 1 man in 2019 and 2020. In 2021, the state executed Ernest Johnson, who killed 3 people at a Columbia convenience store.

This year, more Missouri prosecutors have considered but rejected the pursuit of the death penalty.

“7 cases that were capital at the beginning of 2021 have been D-Death by prosecutors removing the death sentence, judges also rule on motions,” said State Director Elyse Max at Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

One of those 7 cases occurred in Miller County. Prosecutor Ben Winfrey waived the death penalty for Terry Ewens during a hearing earlier this month. Ewens is charged with 1st-degree murder, 1st-degree domestic assault, 1st-degree burglary, and 3 counts of 1st-degree kidnapping.

Max suspects the cost of moving the trial from Miller to Laclede County played a role in the prosecutor’s decision.

Executions last year hit a 37-year low, and for the 1st time, the number of federal executions exceeded the total number of state executions.

“The venue was moved and that county would incur the cost, as well as the jury, [who would] be pulled from Jackson County. So, the cost of that would be incurred by other counties. Perhaps in Miller County, the change of venue, they’re looking at it from a financial perspective,” she said.

Currently, 19 people are on death row in the Show-Me State, and Missouri NACCP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. said he is worried the state could see several executions in 1 year, such as in 2015 when 6 people were executed.

“Missouri at that point was executing people to be very honest if felt like left and right, I think that’s a fair characterization,” Chapel said. “The death penalty as it’s being used in Missouri is not only bias by race and class it is unfair.”

There was an ABA study that came out through several judges that found there are irregularities with the way the death penalty is executed in Missouri. I think that it’s important that we recognize that one in 8 people who are executed are innocent.

Max noted there have been no death sentences imposed in Missouri since 2018 when a judge decided on his own.

The last time a jury recommended a death sentence was in 2018.

She expects the next execution will be that of Carmen Deck, who was convicted of murdering 2 people in DeSoto in 1996.

(source: KRCG TV news)

OKLAHOMA—-impending execution

Emergency hearing set for Oklahoma death row inmate Bigler Stouffer—-Stouffer is the next person to be put to death in Oklahoma. His execution date is scheduled for Dec. 9.

Executions in Oklahoma will again be argued in federal court as a judge set an emergency hearing for death row inmate Bigler Stouffer.

Stouffer is the next person to be put to death in Oklahoma. His execution date is scheduled for Dec. 9.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency for Stouffer last week. That clemency recommendation is sure to be a central part of what is argued about in federal court Monday morning.

The board recommended clemency for Stouffer not because they think he’s innocent. Instead, board members said they have concerns about the drugs Oklahoma uses to carry out executions.

Board members specifically questioned whether they should even vote on these cases at all when those drugs are set to go into litigation in February.

Gov. Kevin Stitt will once again have the final say on whether to grant Stouffer clemency. He is on death row after being convicted of murdering a Putnam City teacher in 1985.

(source: KOCO news)

*********************

Federal Judge To Make Decision Tuesday In Latest Injunction Challenging State’s Execution Protocol

A hearing to decide the fate of death row inmate Bigler Stouffer ended Monday without a decision. A federal judge said he will rule on the motion for a preliminary injunction challenging the state’s execution protocol Tuesday morning.

In a nearly seven-hour long hearing, the State called anesthesiologist and current candidate for governor, Evin Yen, as an expert witness.

Yen, a former state senator, has practiced medicine for nearly 40 years. He said an employee in the attorney general’s office approached him about being a paid expert witness to the October execution of John Grant.

Stouffer was convicted in the 1985 murder of Putnam City school teacher Linda Reaves. After a state objection in 2014, Stouffer was not allowed to join a lawsuit with more than 20 other death row inmates challenging the state’s execution protocol as cruel and unusual.

That case is set to go to trial in February 2022, while prisoners like Julius Jones who refused to comply with the court’s requirement that they select an alternative execution method were dismissed from the lawsuit and scheduled to be executed.

Stouffer argues he should be placed with those whose case is continuing to trial, not those who were kicked out of the lawsuit earlier this year.

Responding to claims the state’s execution protocol is cruel and unusual, Yen told the court he believes the execution of John Grant was “fast and smooth” despite media accounts the prisoner convulsed and vomited.

Yen said he observed Grant’s stomach rising while his chest fell. He referred to the motion as “rocking the boat” and said it was a sign his tongue had fallen to the back of his throat preventing him from breathing.

The doctor testified Grant was unconscious, didn’t suffer and likely died after the first of three drugs were administered.

Federal District Judge Stephen Friot asked Yen several times about accounts Grant vomited.

Yen said he witnessed the prisoner regurgitate an amber colored fluid which dripped down the right side of his face. He said it was more like acid reflux than vomiting because the expulsion of the fluid was not accompanied by force. While questioned by attorneys for Stouffer, Yen said he didn’t believe Grant choked on the fluid because it only came out of his mouth and never appeared to be sucked back in.

“Anesthetizing someone with a full stomach can be dangerous,” Yen said.

Despite saying his patients are required to abstain from eating and drinking eight hours before undergoing anesthesia, Yen said he believes death row inmates should be allowed to eat or drink anything they desire before being killed by lethal injection.

Friot paused the proceedings for attorneys to determine what food Grant had access to the day of his execution.

Both sides agreed he was served a breakfast of biscuits, gravy, eggs and oatmeal, although Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow said he only ate the eggs. Grant also had access to leftovers from his “last meal” he had eaten the night before.

Attorneys for Stouffer argued the state violated their own execution protocol by allowing the prisoner to eat the day of his execution. The State said the “last meal” is ceremonial in nature and said “there are also laws regarding not starving prisoners.”

Also settled Monday, if Stouffer’s execution does move forward, a religious advisor will be allowed to “lay hands” on the prisoner and pray while the lethal injection is administered. The State’s execution protocol currently allows two religious observers for the prisoner to view through a window.

Friot said he expects to rule on the motion for preliminary injunction that would remove Stouffer from the death row lineup Tuesday morning.

(source: news9.com)

****************

Governor’s clemency delay “terrorized” Julius Jones’ family, traumatized nation

As millions around the nation reflect on Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s last-minute decision to provide partial clemency for Julius Jones, some say the agonizing wait reflects a broken criminal justice system. Others see a system working exactly as intended.

Hours before Julius Jones’ scheduled 4 p.m. execution on Thursday, Governor Kevin Stitt’s statement calling it off sent a wave of relief across the state and nation. Yet, for the Julius Jones supporters posted outside the McAlester Penitentiary on the rocky gravel, for the students who had walked out of schools across the state, and for the organizers desperate to save a Black man’s life, the internalized trauma was overwhelmingly visible.

“It definitely should not have taken all of this,” Rev. Cece Jones-Davis said after the governor’s announcement that Jones’ death sentence would be commuted to life without the possibility of parole.

Stitt’s delay causes “torture”, terror and trauma

Julius Jones, who has maintained his innocence for over 20 years in the 1999 murder of Edmond businessman Paul Howell, was the 1st death row detainee in the state’s history to receive a recommendation for a commuted sentence by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on September 13.

Yet after a week of silence, Stitt, who rose to the governor’s mansion on a platform of being an outsider, claimed he didn’t want to break precedent by following the historic recommendation.

Thus, he forced Julius Jones to wait over a month later for a clemency hearing. Again, the Board recommended clemency on November 1. And again, the governor remained silent. Many on social media called the governors’ decision to wait cowardly, even as he claimed he was praying about it. Others called the delay a “tool of white supremacy.”

As we collectively wait for @GovStitt to do what is morally & politically right—by accepting the recommendations of the Pardon and Parole Board—I have been thinking about how waiting is a tool of white supremacy.

Think with me. — FREE, JULIUS JONES (@leahapalmer) November 16, 2021

Ultimately, the governor’s inaction caused a reaction from communities unwilling to allow the state to execute a man whose family says he was at home during the night of Howell’s murder. In the waning hours ahead of Jones’ scheduled execution, religious leaders, students, and community organizers orchestrated a spontaneous campaign of direct action that the governor couldn’t ignore.

Rev. Cece Jones-Davis calls out Oklahoma’s criminal justice system

Surrounded by reporters, Rev. Jones-Davis and Julius Jones’ sister Antoinette made their way from the prison to a crowd of supporters eager to hear what they had to say about an hour after the governor approved clemency on Thursday.

Antoinette said she woke up Thursday morning with a peace “that passes all understanding.”

“All I can tell you is that when you have that peace you don’t worry about the naysayers, you don’t worry about the negative, you stay focused on what God has told you and you trust that,” Antoinette Jones told reporters.

She admitted that her family has persevered through an “uphill battle of emotions” but expressed gratitude for the governor’s decision.

“This was torture for Julius and for his family”

Meanwhile, Rev. Cece Jones-Davis, a family friend and lead organizer of the Justice for Julius Campaign passionately and humbly called out the state’s legal system.

Thanking God and the “work of a lot of people”, Jones-Davis said the governor should’ve acted sooner.

“We should not have received this news four hours before an execution. This was torture for Julius and for his family and for the people who love him,” she said. “And if you watch social media at all, you would’ve seen how much anxiety people had around the world about what was happening with Julius.”

“Children not able to function in schools today and yesterday because of what was happening with Julius Jones. This teaches us a lot. You don’t have to be a lawyer. You don’t have to have some fancy degree to know what is basically right and wrong. And what we have experienced here has been wrong. What Julius has been though has been wrong,” Rev. Jones-Davis said.

Wednesday: Day before scheduled execution

While Thursday afternoon morphed into celebrations, the hours leading up to the November 17 execution date were filled with anxious desperation.

With no word from the governor, religious leaders, students and community organizers began to take matters into their own hands.

High school students who walked out of Oklahoma City Public Schools echoed “ain’t nobody gonna turn me around” inside the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. The students joined hundreds of supporters of death row detainee Julius Jones at the Capitol building less than 24 hours before Jones’ state-sanctioned execution was scheduled to take place.

Legislators from various political parties and people of all ages and backgrounds filled the Rotunda, chanting, praying and singing songs of hope. Speakers ignited the crowd with fiery reminders of the power of God found in lessons throughout the Christian bible. The ACLU even called on Governor Stitt to place a hold on all executions.

Students speak out in support of Julius Jones

Normally filled with right-wing gun-toting activists, Oklahoma politicians walking through the Rotunda throughout the week were surprised to instead see a multicultural crowd of supporters for a death row detainee. Between Wednesday and Thursday, students from nearly a dozen schools across OKC and Tulsa walked out for Julius Jones.

Kymonti is a student from Northwest Classen High School. In an interview at the Capitol with The Black Wall Street Times, he described the atmosphere as very supportive. “I feel welcomed here,” he said.

Fellow Classen student Poliana echoed Kymonti’s impression. “I just think it’s insane how many showed up and there were so many speakers who said so much that meant a lot to me. It made us feel like we’re all together,” she said.

Adding to the public pressure, legislators across the political spectrum have urged the governor to spare Jones’ life. Some joined the crowd of Julius Jones supporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Black caucus chair speaks out

Rep. Jason Lowe (D-OKC) is chair of the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus.

He told TheBWSTimes it was “extremely disheartening” to see the governor refuse to meet with Julius Jones mother, Madeline Davis-Jones. On Monday, Nov. 14, after not hearing directly from the governor, Rep. Lowe and other members of the Black Caucus escorted “Mama”Jones to the governor’s office. Once there, she hand-delivered a letter asking for Gov. Stitt to spare her son’s life.

“We often hear that Julius’ death sentence is about ‘justice’ or ‘closure’. This cannot be true, however, because we know Mr. Howell’s real killer is still out there,” Davis-Jones wrote in her letter to Gov. Stitt. “Nothing is ‘just’ about executing our boy. His death will not provide closure or healing. Only the truth can do that.”

Nevertheless, a communications director for the governor shut the door in her face.

“Right now a lot of people don’t have trust in the criminal justice system,” Rep. Lowe added. “We have the second highest incarceration rate in the nation. It’s just shameful. And then when we submit bills as Legislative Black Caucus members, recently in trying to promote criminal justice reform, we don’t get a hearing. We don’t get heard. So it’s discouraging. We need to make a change in our criminal justice system and it starts here.”

Bipartisan group of gubernatorial candidates call on Gov. Stitt to grant clemency

Other Democratic legislators who joined Julius Jones supporters on Wednesday included Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman), Forrest Bennett (D-OKC) and scores of others throughout the week.

Connie Johnson, a Democratic candidate for governor, and Natalie Bruno, a Libertarian candidate for governor have both come out strongly against executions, though Johnson has been a vocal opponent of the death penalty for years.

By Wednesday, even Republican-turned Democrat Joy Hofmeister, who is also running for governor, made it clear that she would spare Jones’ life were she in Gov. Stitt’s shoes.

Yet, by Wednesday evening, the silence from the governor’s office became too loud to ignore.

Prayers escalate into protest

Community organizers, led by a group of Black pastors in OKC, decided to escalate direct actions to apply one last bit of pressure on the governor.

Following a regular 6 p.m. vigil for Julius Jones outside the Oklahoma History Center on Wednesday evening, nearly 200 Julius Jones supporters made their way to a recently constructed wall of barricades across the street from the governor’s mansion.

Chanting “no justice no peace” and “justice for Julius”, a swarm of Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers and Oklahoma National Guard members greeted the crowd with ammunition and armored tanks.

As a few unarmed protestors made their way onto the street, law enforcement warned they would use force and arrest anyone not on the sidewalk.

For OKC Pastor Derrick Scobey of Ebenezer Baptist Church, there would be no turning back. He refused to move and was eventually arrested. After being released the next day, he stood by his act of civil disobedience.

“I simply did something that I was hoping and praying would send a particular message,” Pastor Scobey told KFOR.

Spiritual advisor reminds Oklahoma that “God is watching”

Yet, even the damning viral image of a Black pastor being arrested over the governor’s delay wasn’t enough to convince Stitt to act.

Millions of supporters were forced to fall asleep in uncertainty Wednesday night even as Julius Jones underwent preparations for execution. With his arms chained to his chest, he wasn’t even able to hug his spiritual advisor, Rev. Keith Jossell.

The inhumane condition infuriated Rev. Jossell, who made a blistering speech ahead of the governor’s decision.

“The world is watching. But you need to understand something, God is watching,” Rev. Jossell said, his voice echoing throughout the building like thunder to an eruption of applause in the state Capitol on Wednesday. He said Julius asked him why the state is doing this to him. Rev. Jossell responded by taking Julius to scripture.

“God sees all”

“I took him to the word of God that says ‘Vengeance is mine,’ said the Lord of Hosts. And I promised Julius that regardless of what happens tomorrow, God is taking detailed and meticulous notes.”

Lastly, Rev. Jossell explained that he didn’t have a problem signing the Department of Corrections’ waiver. It ordered him not to release the names of those performing the execution.

“I know I don’t have to say anything about who is strapping him and who is injecting him because God sees all, God knows all, and God holds everyone accountable!” Rev. Jossell said.

Through prayer, songs and fiery chants, Wednesday’s message at the Capitol was clear: as long as Julius Jones holds breath, hope remains.

Thursday: Day of execution

Meanwhile, by Thursday, uncertainty had turned into desperation as supporters of Julius Jones made their way to an area outside the McAlester Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., where Jones would be executed at 4 p.m.

To the sounds of Lauryn Hill classics and Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture”, the outward appearance of hope covered a thin veil of righteous fury among the crowd of Julius Jones supporters ahead of Governor Stitt’s delayed decision. After weeks of prayers, vigils, and peaceful requests for communication, community organizers were ready to take drastic measures.

By noon, both organizers and law enforcement were ready for whatever came next. Yet, before any direct actions or arrests took place, the governor finally announced his decision.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Gov. Stitt announced.

After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.https://t.co/fLsnYnxIn — Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) November 18, 2021

Rev. Cece Jones-Davis expressed gratitude for the governor’s decision to choose life. She also made clear that the fight to free Julius Jones from prison continues.

“We would have hoped that he would have taken the full recommendation of the board. But we got time for that. Where there is life there is hope, where there is light there is strength. So today we’re gonna celebrate Julius Jones’ life,” Jones-Davis said on Thursday

. Trauma and relief follow clemency announcement

Julius Jones’ high-profile case has drawn millions of supporters from across the world after ABC’s The Last Defense highlighted reasonable doubt in his case. No one from his family was able to testify that Jones was home with them the night of the murder. Chris Jordan, Jones’ co-defendant, has already confessed to the murder, according to sworn statements from prison inmates, a ReadFrontier report has found.

Despite two recommendations from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for clemency and a commuted sentence, Governor Kevin Stitt remained silent for months. Instead of giving both the Howell and Jones families closure by announcing his decision, Stitt instructed the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to place barricades around the Governor’s Mansion in anticipation of riots and protests.

News of Oklahoma’s pending execution of a man millions believe is innocent had reached international ears. Representatives with the European Union and other nations have sent letters to the Governor urging clemency. Republicans and Democrats inside and outside the state have pleaded for Stitt to spare Jones’ life.

State prioritizes White family’s feelings over the facts

Yet, unelected Attorney General John O’ Connor, whom Stitt holds in high regard, has indicated the desire to execute Jones was about “closure” for the Howell family.

In a statement, the Howell family expressed “comfort that [Gov. Stitt’s] decision affirmed the guilt of Julius Jones and that he shall not be eligible to apply for, or be considered for, a commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life.” Yet, many who believe Chris Jordan was the real killer of Paul Howell don’t see the justice in forcing Julius Jones to remain in prison. Supporters and attorneys have vowed to find a way to free Julius Jones, even if it means electing a new governor.

Ultimately, in an attempt to appease one family at all costs, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has traumatized millions of people in the process.

(source: theblackwallstreettimes.com)

SOUTH DAKKOTA:

2 men charged in death of pizza delivery driver change pleas, court documents say

2 men charged in connection with the homicide of a pizza delivery driver in Sioux Falls in 2020 have changed their pleas.

Jahennessy Deunique LaPaul Bryant, 22, from Sioux Falls, changed his plea to guilty for the charge of 1st degree manslaughter on Sept. 15, according to court documents.

The change of plea will have Bryant avoid a jury trial and a possible conviction on the more serious 1st degree murder charge.

Bryant is charged with the homicide of Casey Paul Bonhorst, 30, who was shot to death at about 8:45 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2020 in the 2800 block of East Bragstad Drive just south of 26th Street near Cleveland Avenue.

Bonhorst had just delivered a pizza to a residence on the street at about 8:41 p.m. After the delivery was made, Bryant allegedly tried to rob him, according to prior reporting by the Argus Leader. 2 minutes later, a caller reported to police that a man was lying in the road. Bonhorst died at the scene.

Police block off a a street in eastern Sioux Falls after the shooting of a pizza delivery driver on Feb. 26, 2020.

A sentencing hearing for Bryant is scheduled for Jan. 10, 2022, according to court documents.

Bryant was tied to a group of people in Sioux Falls set out to make money by robbing people, according to court documents.

2nd man changes plea

Raymond Charles Banks also faces charges of 1st- and 2nd-degree murder, 1st-degree manslaughter and attempted robbery in the death of Bonhorst, according to court documents.

The 20-year-old had a change of plea hearing at the Minnehaha County Courthouse on Monday.

Banks also changed his plea to “guilty” on the 1st degree manslaughter charge, according to court documents.

Banks will also avoid a trial and possible conviction of 1st degree murder. He’s scheduled for a sentencing hearing on Dec. 16.

“It was a crime of opportunity,” Lt. Terrance Matia said in March 2020. “Wrong place, wrong time. It was a robbery that was attempted. Where it went from there led to Casey’s death.”

A 1st degree murder charge in South Dakota is punishable by mandatory life in prison and possibly the death penalty. Manslaughter can be sentenced to up to life in prison.

(source: Argus Leader)

UTAH:

Cases moving forward separately for trio accused in St. George woman’s death

2 of the 3 people accused of being involved in the death of Stevie Wilkerson have recently had their arraignments scheduled, while the third has already pleaded guilty to murder.

The remains of Wilkerson, a 26-year-old St. George woman, were found in August 2020 in a remote part of western Iron County, approximately 2 weeks after she went missing. She reportedly died as a result of homicide by gunshot, according to a state medical examiner. Wilkerson’s death prompted a criminal investigation that led authorities to allege that Joseph Edward Fought, Maida Martinez-Westfall and Brittany Phillips were responsible.

Fought, 31, is facing 1 count of aggravated murder, a capital offense that is potentially punishable by the death penalty.

Fought has also been charged with kidnapping, possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person and possession of a stolen vehicle. Since his incarceration in Iron County Jail nearly 14 months ago, Fought has also picked up 4 additional charges, all 3rd-degree felonies: 2 involving assaults and 2 involving damage to jail property.

Martinez-Westfall, 36, is also accused of 1st-degree felony murder; her charge no longer includes a capital aspect, but it is still punishable by up to 25 years in prison. She also faces 1 count of kidnapping, a 2nd-degree felony.

Meanwhile, Phillips, 28, entered a guilty plea to one 1st-degree felony count of murder on Nov. 3. Her sentencing has been scheduled for Dec. 13.

(source: KSL news)

USA:

A bittersweet concession

It is a well-known fact that the U.S. has the highest number of incarcerated people in the developed world at over 2 million. Of that number, there are more than 2,500 people on death row. (independent.co.uk, Oct. 28) The Associated Press reported the percentage of Black people on death row was 42% compared to the overall U.S. Black population of 13%. (Sept. 15, 2020)

These shocking numbers alone speak volumes as to the systemic racism that has disproportionately impacted the Black population, starting with the days of the trade in enslaved Africans.

The vast majority of those on death row are made faceless and isolated behind the walls on purpose, under a heartless system that views them as less than human. The prisons are concentration camps for the poor and the oppressed, especially for Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples.

But every once in a while a particular case emerges — not because it is so different from other cases, but because its circumstances are so egregious that it generates a mass interest at a grassroots level. This ignites a spark among high-profile public figures who want to lend their support.

Such is the case of 41-year-old Julius Jones, a Black man who had been sentenced to death in Oklahoma for a murder he did not commit. Jones was just hours away from being put to death by lethal injection Nov. 18, when Republican Governor Kevin Stitt granted him clemency. Many of Jones’s supporters celebrated the clemency as a victory, which is understandable.

In reality, the victory was a bittersweet concession, since Stitt’s clemency overruled the Pardon and Parole Board’s original recommendation on Nov. 1 to commute Jones’ sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole. As of now, Stitt says that Jones has to spend the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of parole — a slow, tortured death. Jones has maintained his innocence for over 20 years, while his co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, admitted to committing the murder during a carjacking in 1999.

Jones’ case was highlighted in a 2018 ABC documentary, “The Last Defense,” on Oklahoma’s high-profile death penalty and its inhumane use of lethal injections in 2014 and 2015.

In 2019, the Julius Jones Coalition, organized by his family, friends and community activists, gained supporters such as Baker Mayfield — the Cleveland Browns quarterback and a former Heisman Trophy-winner with the Oklahoma Sooners — and Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Steve Kerr from the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors.

Other NBA players such as Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Trae Young, Buddy Hield and other famous athletes who, like Julius Jones, have played sports in Oklahoma, demanded clemency.

This Coalition was instrumental in organizing Black Lives Matter-related demonstrations to stop the execution of Jones, including at the State Capitol and the State Penitentiary. Students at the University of Oklahoma marched on their campus to demand clemency.

For Julius Jones to serve a life sentence with no hope of parole is not justice. Jones deserves to not die by lethal weapon. More than that, he deserves to not die in prison — just like the 2,500 plus people on death row deserve more than incarceration.

The death penalty is no deterrent from crime, including acts of violence rooted in economic, emotional and mental hardships. It is a racist, anti-worker and anti-poor weapon, wielded by a repressive state in a futile attempt to mask poverty and all forms of inequality perpetuated by a capitalist system that puts profits before human needs. Abolish the death penalty! Abolish capitalism! Free them all!

(source: Editorial, Worker’s World)

************

Can The Death Penalty Be Fixed? These Republicans Think So — A growing number of conservative lawmakers want to overhaul capital punishment, or end it.

The death penalty is in flux. These are the stories that you need to know about capital punishment’s past, as well as its uncertain future.

2 years ago, a group of Republican lawmakers toured the death chamber in Oklahoma, which has been responsible for more executions per capita than any other state in the last half-century. They took in the jet-black gurney straps, the phone connected to the governor’s office and the microphone used for last words.

“The hair rises on the back of your neck,” said state Rep. Kevin McDugle. “A few legislators couldn’t be in the room very long.”

This article was published in partnership with USA Today.

They continued on to death row to see Richard Glossip, who has spent more than two decades in solitary confinement, facing execution for a 1997 murder. Glossip says he had nothing to do with the crime, and a growing number of conservative lawmakers believe him.

“I just remember putting my hand up on the glass,” McDugle recalled, “and he put his hand up, and I said, ‘You’ve got people fighting for you. Keep your head up, brother.’”

As Oklahoma officials seek to resume putting prisoners to death later this year, McDugle has pursued bills in the state legislature to help those on death row prove their innocence, knowing Glossip could be among the first facing execution.

“My fear is some people will be executed before we pass a bill,” McDugle said.

Glossip’s case is reaching the highest echelons of politics in a deep-red state at a time when Republicans across the country are increasingly split on the future of capital punishment. Support for the death penalty used to be popular in both parties, but over the last three decades, Democrats have turned away from the punishment, leaving Republican legislators, governors, prosecutors and judges to fight for its continued use. At the same time, a small conservative movement — including groups like Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty — has been openly questioning capital punishment. It’s now clear their efforts are paying off.

Earlier this year, Virginia became the first Southern state to repeal the death penalty after three Republicans voted with the state legislature’s Democratic majority. A Marshall Project review found that in roughly half the states with an active death penalty system, Republican lawmakers have recently sponsored or written bills to ban or constrain the punishment, or to help potentially innocent prisoners avoid it.1

The death penalty is legal in 27 states, but three have governor-imposed moratoria. Of the remaining 24, Republicans have sponsored bills in five states to repeal the punishment in their most recent legislative sessions (Wyoming, Ohio, Kansas, Georgia and Kentucky). In five states, they have sponsored bills to ban the punishment for various categories of defendants (South Dakota, Missouri, Kentucky, Florida, Texas). In Oklahoma and Texas, they sponsored bills to protect innocent defendants. In Tennessee, one sponsored a bill allowing death row prisoners to argue they are barred from execution due to an intellectual disability. In Indiana, they sponsored a bill to create a commission to study the system and propose reforms. This list does not include the many bills sponsored by Democrats and was compiled with input from the Death Penalty Information Center and the 8th Amendment Project, both of which track legislation.

Although many of these bills are unlikely to pass, their sheer volume suggests a significant shift in conservative views. Some of these Republican legislators see their bills as incremental steps toward ending the punishment. But others, like McDugle, don’t want to end the death penalty — they just want to fix it.

“I want to make darn sure that if we as Oklahoma are putting someone to death, they deserve to be there,” McDugle said. “I know there is human error all the way through.”

Conservatives have been slowly turning away from the death penalty for years, as high-profile innocence cases have helped frame capital punishment as a problem of out-of-control big government. In 2000, after a series of exonerations of people who had been sentenced to death, the Republican governor of Illinois, George Ryan, declared a moratorium on executions. At the time, Texas Gov. George W. Bush was running for president, and the national press questioned whether an innocent person had faced execution under his watch; soon after, his fellow Republicans in the state legislature voted to make DNA testing more available for prisoners. From 2014 to 2019, Republican support for the death penalty, as opposed to life sentences, dropped from 68% to 58%, according to Gallup Polls. Republican legislators in Nebraska voted to repeal the punishment in 2015, although the state’s residents then voted to bring the punishment back.

Some lawmakers have been motivated by anti-abortion arguments about the sanctity of human life and stories of Christian redemption on death row. Others talk about the cost to taxpayers. South Dakota state Sen. Arthur Rusch previously served as a judge in a capital case. “My case cost at least $1 million if not more,” he said, noting that the court paid for counseling for some jurors who suffered from post-traumatic stress after the lengthy trial. He was elected to the senate in 2015, and has filed numerous bills to abolish or restrict the punishment; none have succeeded, he said, but each time he brings along a few more peers.

“Changing your mind on an emotional subject like this can be difficult,” said Hannah Cox, who writes columns for Newsmax, a conservative web outlet, and serves as national manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. She’s found that efforts to fix the system can serve as “baby steps,” as she tries to show her fellow conservatives that the system can’t be saved. “If you fix one of 13 problems with the death penalty, there are still another 12.”

Of those problems, conservatives have been less likely to cite the racial disparities in capital punishment that animate many of its liberal opponents. Of the more than 2,500 people on death rows around the country, 41% are Black. In contrast, Black people make up 13% of the total U.S. population. For his part, McDugle acknowledges the disparity but said it isn’t what motivated his efforts.

“When I look at a bill, I don’t see color at all. I look at an individual and say, ‘If an individual commits a crime of this nature, should they be put on death row or not?’” he said.

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center, said it’s wrong to think that conservative lawmakers only get involved in cases where White people face execution. “Where the case looks like a 21st-century lynching, it offends conservatives’ consciences,” Dunham said, adding, “I think that the fact that extreme injustices also do happen to White capital defendants is eye-opening to people who have not appreciated the depth of the problems in capital punishment.”

Many conservatives focus on the moral calculation of who deserves the ultimate punishment. Ohio recently passed a bill, sponsored by a Republican legislator, to ban the execution of anyone with a serious mental illness. Republicans are pushing similar bills in Florida, Kentucky and Missouri.

In Texas, state Rep. Jeff Leach has filed a bill that would ban the death penalty for people who were technically “accomplices” to murders but played a minor role, including getaway drivers. Much like the Oklahomans, he was motivated by a single case — that of Jeff Wood, who was sentenced to die after his friend killed a store clerk while Wood waited outside in the car, after what they thought would be an easy robbery.

Though Wood’s case is not in Leach’s district, he wrote to the North Texas lawmaker and pleaded for help. His letter ended up on the top of Leach’s pile of prison mail, and he picked it up one day on vacation when it was too rainy to go to the beach. He’d been hoping to catch up on his backlog of letters, but Wood’s story sucked him in.

“It’s been on my mind and on my heart ever since,” Leach said. “Jeff Wood isn’t innocent, but the state shouldn’t even be considering putting him to death.”

Other lawmakers are more concerned about the risk of executing an innocent person. Texas Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican lawmaker from just north of Houston, filed a bill banning the death penalty in cases where there’s only one eyewitness and no other evidence. As a Baptist pastor, he was moved by seeing death row exonerees speak to the legislature several years ago, as well as the film “Just Mercy.”

“Even the Bible says you shouldn’t put someone to death without a corroborated eyewitness,” he said, citing the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. “If we’re going to put someone to death we need to be absolutely certain.”

The crime that landed Glossip on death row took place in the early morning hours of Jan. 7, 1997, at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. Sometime before dawn, owner Barry Van Treese was bludgeoned to death and left in Room 102. As the motel’s live-in manager, Glossip quickly became a suspect, and police arrested him 2 days after the killing.

Later, authorities realized that 19-year-old handyman Justin Sneed was the one who actually carried out the fatal beating. They arrested him, too, and under questioning Sneed confessed, but claimed that Glossip had masterminded the killing.

There was scant evidence of Glossip’s involvement, but an Oklahoma jury still found him guilty, based largely on Sneed’s testimony. In exchange for that testimony, Sneed got a life sentence, while Glossip went to death row.

An appeals court tossed out the verdict, saying Glossip’s lawyers hadn’t done a good enough job. When the case went back to trial in June 2004, it ended with the same result.

In 2015, Glossip came within hours of execution before the governor called it off over a controversy involving the state’s death drugs. Since then, his case has continued attracting celebrity attention, and his lawyers say they’ve found more witnesses who could help prove their client’s innocence. Right now, they’re fighting to get access to files the district attorney’s office is refusing to turn over, but that Glossip’s team says could hold the key to proving his innocence.

A few years ago, conservative business owner Justin Jackson watched “Killing Richard Glossip,” a four-part series on Investigation Discovery, the true crime television network, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Jackson is friends with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, and while the two were hunting deer, he voiced his concerns. Eventually, he cold-called Glossip’s lawyer and offered his help, and started talking about the case to friends in the legislature, including McDugle.

One of McDugle’s bills would require prosecutors to share materials with defense lawyers. (Around the country, prosecutors frequently tangle with the defense over what they must share.) Another bill would allow the parole board to create a Conviction Integrity Review Unit to study innocence claims (usually these are housed in county-level prosecutor offices, although Michigan and Pennsylvania have statewide units.) The third would create a “Prosecutor Conduct Review Panel,” which would decide what evidence is potentially favorable and must be given to the defense. (Currently, prosecutors get to decide.)

McDugle failed to get these bills out of legislative committees and blamed prosecutors for undermining his efforts. He will continue to push the proposals next year but also knows it may be too late. He plans to lobby the state’s parole board directly to study the Glossip case and recommend that Stitt free him from death row. McDugle has also been swayed to advocate for a Black man on death row who maintains his innocence, Julius Jones.

Some opponents of the death penalty hope these bills will eventually bring legislators like McDugle to the conclusion that capital punishment is broken beyond repair.

“It’s easier to start naming specific policies you don’t like before getting to ‘throw the whole thing out,’” said Laura Porter, executive director of the 8th Amendment Project, which works on anti-death penalty legislation across the country. “I’ve seen that growth from an individual issue, or case, to ‘OK, I’m done with it.”

(source: The Marshall Project)

IRELAND:

The legal loophole that saved five men sentenced to death

Following the raid on the barracks six men were arrested and charged with the murder of Sgt Gibbs, despite none of the six being at the barracks on the day of the incident.

Following 6-day military trial in Victoria Barracks, Cork (now Collins Barracks), Owen Harold, Donal McCarthy, Denis Barter, David Buckley and Tim Breen were found guilty of murder – with the court making no recommendation for mercy and on January 12, 1922 were sentenced to death. The other man, Tim Breen, was found not guilty.

Among those representing the prisoners were Albert Woods KC, senior council Michael Comyn and newly qualified solicitor Barry Sullivan who had recently set up a practice in Mallow.

Barry Sullivan, who was also defending the Mourneabbey Ambush prisoners and Albert Woods drafted an affidavit in support of an application for a writ of habeas corpus. The writ is a command issued by the High Court to anyone holding a prisoner to show legal cause for their imprisonment.

Following the sentencing of the prisoners Barry Sullivan appealed on the grounds that Civil Law and Martial Law could not operate in the same area as the Civil Courts were still sitting.

He discussed the matter with Albert woods and, having consulted with Michael Comyn, decided that he would deal with the matter through the Supreme court and the House of Lords in London.

The refusal of writ of prohibition by Michael Comyn to stop the court martial on the grounds that it was illegal, subsequently opened the way for an appeal to the House of Lords.

The appeal hearing at the House of Lords commenced on June 16, 1921 and concluded on July 29 with the decision that the military courts and court martials were illegal.

In respect of the Mallow Barrack Raid, Barry Sullivan got a stay of execution and the death sentence for the 5 men was never confirmed.

They were subsequently released from detention on January 12. 1922.

To commemorate Barry Sullivan’s memory the Heritage Group will lay a wreath at his grave in St Joseph’s Cometary next Wednesday.

(source: independent.ie)

ENGLAND:

The evil female murderers from London that you’ve probably never heard of

From Harold Shipman to Jack the Ripper, British history oozes with the nastiest, grisliest tales of mass murderers and serial killers.

In many cases, women were their primary targets, whether school girls, prostitutes, or elderly women.

But what about female murderers? Yes, Rosemary West and Myra Hindley come to mind – but it should also be pointed out that they often worked as according to their boyfriends’ orders and actions.

Women don’t really hold the same status of notoriety in the nation’s public memory of crazy, deranged, killers.

Naturally, that doesn’t mean women are not capable of murder, nor that they have not been convicted of it in the past.

Here are some of the most evil and twisted female murderers throughout London’s history, who have managed to escape the full infamy so successfully achieved by their male counterparts.

Amelia Sach and Annie Walters

Best friends Sach and Walters became known throughout the country as the “Finchley baby farmers”, ultimately killing what is estimated to be more than a dozen babies in just a few years.

The dangerous duo ran a “lying-in” house from 1900, which was a boarding-house of sorts for women to recover in after giving birth.

Their clientele were predominantly servant women, who often took advantage of another service offered by Sach and Walters – adoption.

The 2 would charge the vulnerable women for adoption, often an attractive option if the baby was born out of wedlock or the mother could not afford to keep them.

They would then kill the babies by poisoning them with morphine.

Sach and Walters became the 1st women hanged at the infamous Holloway Prison in 1903, after their landlord – who was also a policeman – caught on to their actions.

Kate Webster

It was the crime that rocked late Victorian Britain.

Servant Kate Webster, aged 30, worked for Julia Martha Thomas, who was described by her Richmond neighbours as a “smart, well-dressed lady”, if not somewhat eccentric and preoccupied with appearing of a higher class than she was.

The 2 bickered constantly, and after just 2 months of service in 1879, Webster murdered Thomas in the most brutal capacity: she dismembered her body, boiled some parts, while burning others.

The hunt to find the murderer of spinster Thomas, so brutally killed in what was a quiet part of London – with her remains washing upon the shores of the Thames over the next few months – gripped both Britain and Ireland.

And when Webster was found, she tried her hardest to avoid justice – blaming her ex, a neighbour, even claiming to be pregnant – but it did not work.

When she was eventually hanged, a black flag went up outside the prison walls, and the crowds cheered. In fact, she was so famously infamous, Madame Tussauds had a waxwork of her up for years.

Ruth Ellis

The last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom, Knightsbridge nightclub manager and previous escort Ruth Ellis was something of a London celebrity – despite a poor upbringing and tragic background, by 1955, Ellis was surrounded by famous friends and doted on with expensive gifts.

She met former public school boy David Blakeley that year, and the two engaged in a tumultuous on-off love affair for a few years, before eventually becoming engaged to one another.

Ellis, who had been a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager, found herself trapped in a relationship that was growing increasingly physically violent. On one occasion, Blakeley punched the then-pregnant Ellis so hard in the stomach, it triggered a miscarriage.

On Easter Sunday 1955, Ellis brought a gun and shot Blakeley outside a newsagent in Hampstead.

The aftermath strengthened the case across the country for abolishing the death penalty, and more than 50,000 Brits signed a petition asking for clemency.

Lakhvir Singh

Nicknamed “The Curry Killer”, Singh’s murder of Lakhvinder Cheema is particularly noteworthy due to the amount of planning Singh put into the death, and just how cruel it turned out to be.

Singh, who lived in Southall, had engaged in an affair with Cheema for 16 years, despite being married, with 3 children.

She had previously told Cheema that if she ever caught him in bed with another woman she’d burn his house down – but after Cheema became engaged to a younger woman in November 2008, he broke off the relationship.

Singh flew to India, and picked up a particularly grim type of poison when there, called aconite, the effects of which included severe vomiting, total paralysis, the slow decline of organs, and finally choking.

She added the poison to a curry, and dropped it off in December 2008, and after a few mouthfuls of it, Cheema rang 999, reporting that he had been poisoned by his ex-girlfriend.

He died that night, and Singh is still serving her life sentence in prison.

Phiona Davis

Phiona Davis stabbed both her great-grandmother and her former boyfriend to death in 2003, convinced that the latter was a robot, and the former was a devil; and it was her God-given duty to kill both of them, for “Judgement Day” had arrived.

According to the court case, she stood outside her great-grandmother’s house with her hands outstretched, proclaiming “I am the Messiah”.

When the police arrived, they found a crime scene that included crucifixes, women’s jewellery, and both blood and excrement smeared on the walls.

Davis, who was 25-years-old and a resident of Palmers Green, North London, was a devoted follower of Kabbalah, and reported feeling like she was somewhat controlled by the Church, whose devotees also include Madonna and Demi Moore.

After a leading psychiatrist declared her as one of the ‘illest’ people he had ever seen, Davis was cleared of all charges for being psychologically and clinically insane. She has been a resident of Broadmoor Special Hospital since.

(source: mylondon.news)

PHILIPPINES:

Senatorial aspirant Eleazar says against death penalty

Senatorial candidate Ret. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said Tuesday he is not in favor of reviving the death penalty.

The former Philippine National Police chief will run under the slate of presidential candidate Senator Panfilo Lacson and running mate Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III. The tandem had recently withdrawn their support for the revival of capital punishment.

“Unless we have a perfect system it’s better to acquit 10 guilty persons than to make suffer or convict one innocent man. We need to enhance our justice system.,” Eleazar told ANC’s Headstart.

“We always respect life. I’m after improving our justice system. As long as we catch criminals immediately, that is the best crime prevention.”

When asked about the drug war, Eleazar said government should focus on prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration to the community of drug suspects.

“If there are lapses, we should be held responsible for it…That’s why when I was PNP chief I was the one who initiated…the investigation through the DOJ,” he said.

The PNP Internal Affairs Service must also be strengthened and be given disciplinary power, Eleazar said.

“We aim to recommended to make the IAS a disciplinary authority so they can’t be influenced by the PNP,” he said.

The police force’s technology must be upgraded for better crime prevention, Eleazar added.

“I will push for state of the art technology to improve law enforcement function…We introduced e-sumbong but all units should have one hotline, which would be more effective in crime solution.”

Eleazar said he wanted to seek a Senate seat but his family only approved of his decision a day before his retirement ceremony.

“At the end of the day, the family’s decision will be followed because our friends will always convince us to run but our family will be there with us until the end,” he said.

As for the West Philippine Sea issue, Eleazar said government is not required to match other nation’s military might but should strengthen its presence in its territories.

“It’s not a question of who has the advantage but the preservation of our dignity or obligasyon to stand up for it.”

(source: ABS-CBN news)

MALAYSIA:

2 men jointly charged with kidnap, murder of 39-year-old technician

2 men have been jointly charged with the kidnapping and murder of a 39-year-old technician at the Magistrate’s Court here on Tuesday (Nov 23).

No plea was recorded from M. Murugan, 44, and Wong Yon Kuan, 43, after the charge was read to them before Magistrate V. Vanita.

Murugan works as a chief security officer while Wong is unemployed.

They were jointly charged with 3 others still at large with the kidnapping and murder of technician A. Vasudevan.

They allegedly committed the crimes between 5.40am and 9.45am on Nov 13 at a house in Bandar Springhill.

They were charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code read together with Section 34 of the same legislation for the murder which carries the mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

The suspects were also charged under Section 364 of the Penal Code for kidnapping the victim, which also carries the death penalty or imprisonment of up to 30 years and whipping.

Both suspects were also charged under Section 170 for impersonating policemen when committing the crimes.

Both the accused claimed trial to the charge.

The prosecution was conducted by deputy public prosecutor Fatin Nur Athirah Zainuddin while T. Harpal Singh appeared for both accused.

Vanita then fixed Dec 23 for next mention and ordered that the suspects be sent to Jelebu Prison.

Separately, Port Dickson police chief Supt Aidi Sham Mohamed said police were looking for four more individuals to assist in investigations into the case.

The 4 were known as A. Davadas @ Deva, 41; P. Xavier, who is also known as Beckam@Bob, 42; C. Murugan @ Romeo, 40; and S. Panirselvam, 31.

******************

6 charged over murder of moneylender

6 men were charged in 2 separate Magistrate’s Courts here over the murder of a moneylender.

On Tuesday (Nov 23), Tan Yong Seng, 38, and Gan Kok Shang, 43, were charged before magistrate Amirul Abd Rashid for abetting four others with the intent of committing murder.

They were accused under Section 109 of the Penal Code, which was read together with Section 302 of the same Code.

Later in the day, the other four men Tan Ah Chai, 27, Yeo Ching Lian, 36, Lau Zi Hui, 19, and Yap Soon Kuan, 18, were charged before magistrate P. Sarulatha under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder.

All the accused nodded that they understood the allegations against them after the charges were read to them in Mandarin.

Ah Chai, Ching Lian, Zi Hui and Soon Kuan were accused of murdering moneylender Phua Kian Meng at Jalan Batu Nilam 27A, Bandar Bukit Tinggi 2.

Yong Seng and Kok Shang were accused of abetting them at the same location.

If found guilty, all 6 men faced the death penalty. No plea was recorded.

DPPs Nur Ain Madihah Zulkifli dan Nur Ayuni Jamri prosecuted while all the accused, except for Yong Seng who was unrepresented, were defended by counsel Lim Chi Chau, Ng Li Kian and Helen Fong respectively.

Both Amirul and Sarulatha fixed Jan 31 for the case to be mentioned.

According to media reports, Phua, 47, was waylaid and hacked to death at about noon on Nov 6 as he was walking to his car after having lunch with his two sons at a restaurant.

Former South Klang police chief Asst Comm Shamsul Amar Ramli was quoted as saying that three men, armed with machetes, approached Phua from behind the vehicle and started slashing.

Comm Shamsul Amar added that the victim ran, but collapsed shortly after, and died in front of a neighbouring restaurant.

His sons, aged 10 and 18, were unscathed in the incident.

The 1st suspect arrested was a 33-year-old man who was detained in Jenjarom the same evening.

The deceased also had a police record under the Penal Code.

(source for both: thestar.com.my)

PAKISTAN:

Pakistan Christian On Death Row Over False Blasphemy Charges Acquitted After Nearly 10 Years In Jail

Sajjad Masih Gill, a 37 year old Christian in Pakistan was released from prison after almost 10 years of incarceration over a false blasphemy conviction. He was released on November 9 after a high court decided to acquit him, but did so quietly to avoid Islamist outrage, Gill’s attorney said.

According to the Christian Headlines, Gill initially had a life sentence but it was converted to the death penalty on March 10 due to pressure from Islamists. Gill’s attorney Javed Sahotra said that the 2-judge division bench of the Lahore High Court decided to acquit Gill on October 26 on grounds of insufficient evidence, thereby ordering his release.

“My client is facing serious security risks,” Sahotra lamented to Morning Star News. “We intentionally kept the news secret to avoid putting his and our lives at risk. Gill is very happy after being released from prison on November 13, but he cannot return to his normal life.”

Gill is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pakpattan. Following a false blasphemy charge, he was ordered to spend up to nine years, 10 months, and 15 days in prison. Sahotra explained that Gill’s appeal hearing was adjourned “over a hundred times” by the Lahore High Court because the judges did not want to hear the case for fear of blasphemy cases.

When the appeal came before the female judge, she even outright refused to hear it. She also denied reading the case file and if she did, she would have requested the chief justice to place the case before another judge.

Nonetheless, Sahotra said he appreciated the high court judges for finally delivering justice to his client. He said, “Though the court’s verdict is laudable, it’s high time the superior judiciary and the government realize the suffering of all those accused of blasphemy, especially those who have been framed in fake cases.”

Sahotra lamented how Gill spent almost 10 years imprisoned for a false charge. He remarked, “Who will compensate for the immense loss that he has suffered during this time?”

According to UCA News, Gill was sentenced by a trial court in July 2013 to life imprisonment after sending a controversial text message to a Muslim man in December 2011. The court decided that Gill should be fined 314,500 rupees or $2,000. Gill was then arrested by police who traced his mobile phone number through a cellphone tower.

The abuse did not end there as even his brother and nephew were being attacked and threatened by unknown people as they made their way home after visiting Gill in Central Jail Sahiwal.

In the verdict decided in October, Lahore High Court Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Muhammad Tariq Nadeem said that the investigators failed to recover from Gill the mobile phone and SIM that was allegedly used in sending the blasphemous text message.

Sahotra concluded, “There were no witnesses of the alleged incident who could implicate Gill as the writer and sender of that alleged text message.”

(source: christianitydaily.com)

BANGLADESH:

Apex court upholds death penalty of JMB militant Salehin—-A tribunal sentenced Salehin to death in 2006

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the death penalty of Salauddin Salehin, a dreaded militant from the banned JMB, who was convicted in the killing of Goni Gomez of Jamalpur 17 years ago.

A 5-member bench of the Appellate Division, led by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, passed the order after hearing a petition while Deputy Attorney General Biswajit Debnath represented the state.

Salehin has been a fugitive since 2015 when his militant abducted him from a prison van, carrying him to Mymensingh jail after a gun attack in Trishal upazila.

The court did not consider the appeal of Rakib, another death-row convict in the case, as he was killed in a gunfight with police in 2015.

In 2006, Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal sentenced Salehin and Rakib to death in the case and later the High Court (HC) upheld the sentence rejecting their appeal.

Rejected by the HC, the two appealed the death sentence before the Supreme Court.

Additional Attorney General Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury said Goni Gomez, owner of a pharmacy, was killed by the JMB men in 2004 for converting to Christianity from Islam.

(source: Dhaka Tribune)

YEMEN/INDIA:

Ray of hope for Keralite Nimisha Priya on Yemeni death row

An Appeal Court in Yemen has allowed Keralite Nimisha Priya to employ a translator during the trial proceedings over the case pertaining to the murder of a Yemeni national, Manorama News reported on 22 November 2021.

A native of Kollengode in Palakkad district, Nimisha is now languishing in the Yemeni death row.

She has been convicted for choking to death a Yemeni in a water tank.

A social worker in Yemen, Samuel Jerome, told Manorama News that the Yemen court’s decision would pave the way for a fresh hearing with regard to her self-admission of doing the crime. He said that this was the first time that she was getting legal relief once the trial began in 2017.

It was Samuel who had first informed through Manorama News channel that the woman was facing the death sentence in Yemen. He said the Yemen court was convinced that she didn’t know the Arabic language. Now, chances have brightened up for a fresh hearing in the case regarding self-admission of crime.

The trial court’s verdict on the death sentence was based on her self-admission of guilt. Jerome said that he had met her in the jail along with Indian Embassy representative Nafa and held discussions with her for roughly one-and a-half hours. He said no decision had been taken on giving blood money to the family of the slain person, Talal Abdo Mahdi.

Jerome said that though he had met Thalal’s family once, he had not discussed the matter of blood money as the tribal rules do entertain discussing such things directly to the family of the slain person. He said the Indian Embassy in Yemen was giving all help to Nimisha in running the case once the new Ambassador took over the reins of the Embassy.

(source: onmanorama.com)

IRAN:

120 Currently on Death Row in Yazd Central Prison

Around 120 prisoners are currently on death row for drug offences and murder in Yazd Central Prison.

Yazd Central Prison consists of 15 separate wards and houses around 3000 prisoners. According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, around 120 of the prisoners are currently on death row for drug offences and murder.

Prisoners with drug-related charges are housed in Ward 4, those sentenced to murder and violent crimes are held in Ward 6, and political prisoners in Ward 9.

While prisoners with financial-related crimes make up the majority of prisoners in Wards 3 and 14, some other crimes are mixed into the wards.

“The Cultural Director at the prison is a cleric named Mohammad Mehdi Golverdi who punishes prisoners for not attending Quran classes and prayer sessions. Prisoners from Ward 3 and 14 which are generally cleaner wards, are forced to attend these sessions. They have to wake up at 4 am for morning prayers and Quran sessions. They also have to attend Quran classes after lunch. They’ve created a school in the prison called Quran School and if a prisoner doesn’t pray on time or misses a Quran class, they’ll be transferred to solitary confinement for six days and then transferred to a violent crime ward,” an informed source told Iran Human Rights.

“There were six Kermanshahi (Kurdish) prisoners in Ward 14 who were not Muslim and didn’t wish to pray or participate in the Quran classes. They were transferred to solitary confinement on the Cultural Director’s orders where they were subjected to ill-treatment, and the abuse by Golverdi continues. Several prisoners from Shiraz and Kerman also didn’t want to wake up at 4 am to pray and attend Quran classes, they were transferred to solitary confinement and upon their return, they were housed in Wards 4 and 6, where violent crime and death row prisoners are housed,” the source continued.

According to the source, “The hygiene situation in Wards 4, 6, 8 and 9 are dire and the bare minimums don’t exist. There times when there’s no soap for people to wash their hands with after using the toilet. There’s widespread bedbugs in these wards and prisoners have to stand under the sun when they’re given yard time for the bedbugs to crawl out of their clothes or they burn them with a lighter. Sometimes they even sleep in the corridors and are constantly itching themselves, the prisoners can’t sleep due to the itching.”

It should be noted that Yazd Central Prison will be moved to a new site currently under construction near the city of Yazd.

(source: iranhr.net)

NOVEMBER 22, 2021:

TEXAS:

Judge denies El Paso murder-case delay; prosecutors admit mishandling

A state district court judge denied a motion for a continuance in a capital murder trial made by the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office after prosecutors admitted the office has mishandled the case.

Judge Alyssa Perez, who presides over the 210th District Court, on Friday denied the motion for a continuance filed by prosecutors and kept the Dec. 2 trial date.

The ruling came after two contentious court hearings last week during which defense lawyers accused state prosecutors of attempting to stall the case because they are unprepared to go to trial, despite having months to work on the case.

A gag order prevents prosecutors, defense lawyers and anyone else involved in the case from commenting on it.

Ivan Gabaldon faces a murder charge in connection with the stabbing death of Juan Garcia Flores on Texas Avenue in February.

State prosecutors admitted mishandling of the case led to the District Attorney’s Office not being ready to go trial, but then indicted the defendant on a capital murder charge and stated they now are considering seeking the death penalty and therefore need more time to make that decision.

The case involves the arrest of Ivan Gabaldon, who originally was arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the Feb. 22 stabbing death of 63-year-old Juan Garcia Flores in a building on Texas Avenue near Downtown El Paso. His body was found the next day.

Defense lawyers are claiming Gabaldon acted in self-defense.

Gabaldon has remained in the El Paso County Jail since his arrest March 5.

During a hearing Tuesday, El Paso County District Attorney’s Office Senior Division Chief Curtis Cox admitted prosecutors had taken no action in the case.

Cox said several prosecutors were given the case but “apparently for at least the next six months effectively did nothing”

State prosecutors then indicted Gabaldon on Wednesday on a capital murder.

The original murder charge then was dismissed Friday.

Cox and state prosecutor Scott Ferguson said during a hearing Friday that the District Attorney’s Office now is considering seeking the death penalty against Gabaldon and therefore needs more time.

“This case was not being handled by Mr. Cox or myself,” Ferguson said. “It was being handled by a couple of other prosecutors who never brought it to our attention or to anybody above us. … When it came to our attention, the facts of this case was, the immediate thought was, ‘Well, we should re-indict because this is a horrible crime.’ In fact, I have no doubt that we can bear the burden of proof and prove everything that is required to get the death penalty.”

The death penalty was brought up days after Cox offered to release Gabaldon from jail on a personal recognizance bond, also known as a PR bond.

A PR bond is when a defendant is released from jail without having to post bail as long as the defendant agrees to and abides by several conditions set by a judge.

Gabaldon currently is being held on a $1 million bond, jail records show.

El Paso County District Attorney’s Office Senior Division Chief Curtis Cox said during a hearing Friday the DA’s Office may seek the death penalty in a Downtown capital murder case.

Defense lawyers Omar Carmona and Denise Butterworth questioned why the District Attorney’s Office offered to release Gabaldon from jail if prosecutors thought the case might warrant the death penalty.

“Now they’re asking for more time even though they had that opportunity during all of the months that our client has been sitting in jail waiting for trial,” Butterworth said. “But on Nov. 17, they chose to re-indict and now they’re asking for more time to determine whether or not to seek the death penalty against our client. This is the same state of Texas that on Tuesday — 72 hours ago — offered to release our client to the streets on a full PR bond.”

She added prosecutors would have to prove to a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt that life in prison is not sufficient for the safety of our community and that he must be killed in order to protect society from the future danger that they would be alleging that he is.”

Since prosecutors were willing to release Gabaldon on a PR bond, they should be able to quickly determine that he should not face the death penalty, Butterworth argued.

She alleged the District Attorney’s Office is trying to stall the trial by saying it might seek the death penalty.

Butterworth said, “I believe that the enormous power that the state of Texas has right now isn’t being respected or honored where a defendant in this criminal justice system can be held in jail with so little consideration by the state of Texas that zero preparation was done on his case.

Defense lawyer Denise Butterworth argued during a Friday virtual court hearing that the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office is attempting to seek the death penalty against her client, Ivan Gabaldon, because they are unprepared for trial.

She said threats of the death penalty are efforts by the District Attorney’s Office to abuse the criminal justice system.

“During the hearing that took place on Tuesday, basically threatening to kill this man in the middle of a hearing moments after offering him a PR bond, because that defendant is asking to go to trial, is asking for his facts to be heard by the community, by a jury, which is exactly how the system was designed to work,” Butterworth said.

Prosecutors countered they are not using the death penalty as a threat to get more time to prepare for trial.

“That’s not a threat,” Ferguson countered. “If it becomes necessary for us to make the decision immediately, without any further time to consider, then the immediate decision is to seek the death penalty.”

He added that the death penalty “is justified in this case.”

Cox and Ferguson argued the state has not been able to contact witnesses in the case and hasn’t received results for DNA evidence.

Carmona and Butterworth said multiple times during the hearing that they are prepared to go to trial Dec. 2 whether or not prosecutors seek the death penalty.

Judge Alyssa Perez talks with defense and prosecution about sentencing Joel Garcia Jr. Tuesday after the jury delivered 16.5 years per count.

Judge Perez denied the motion for a continuance, stating the District Attorney’s Office is responsible for preparing for trial, which it failed to do.

“When you say the fact that this case was handled by multiple attorneys — I’m not going to question whether they had the skill level or ability, or if there was confusion — is exactly the point,” the judge said to prosecutors. “The point is that if we were in this position, meaning on the eve of trial, and the state had been diligent about handling this case, then I could put that into context and give you a little more consideration on your request for continuance. The problem is that is not what has happened here.”

She added: “This case literally went nowhere within your office. It was treated like a hot potato, just kind of got bounced over here, bounced over there. Meanwhile, Mr. Gabaldon is sitting in jail and now he is indicted on a capital murder charge.”

Perez then set a hearing for Nov. 29 to hear any other motions filed before the case is tried Dec. 2.

(source: El Paso Times)

IRAN—-executions

Sobhan Molayi Executed for Honour Killing in Qazvin

Sobhan Molayi, sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder with honour motives, was executed in Qazvin Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Qazvin Central Prison on the morning of November 17. His identity has been established as 30-year-old Sobhan Molayi who was sentenced to qisas for murder.

An informed source told Iran Human Rights: “Sobhan Molayi was a cabinet maker and had killed someone named Mojtaba [surname withheld by IHRNGO] in an honour killing. Sobhan thought his sister was having a close relationship with Mojtaba and gets into a fight with him, which led to Mojtaba being killed. His sister had said that they were just friends and there was nothing going on between them.”

At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

********************

Rahmat Fereydouni Executed for Murder in Qom

Rahmat Fereydouni who was sentenced to qisas(retribution-in-kind) for murder, has been executed in Qom Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Qom Central Prison on the morning of November 17. His identity has been established as Rahmat Fereydouni, who was sentenced to qisas for murder. According to informed sources, he was on death row for four years and seven months after he was arrested on murder charges.

At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

****************

Shamsedin Ghaljayi Executed on Drug Charges in Kerman

Shamsedin Ghaljayi, a Baluch man sentenced to death on drug-related charges, was executed in Kerman Central Prison. At least 102 prisoners, including a woman, have been executed on drug-related charges in Iranian prisons in 2021.

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, a Baluch man was executed in Kerman Central Prison on the morning of November 18. His identity has been reported as Shamsedin Ghaljayi from Zahedan who was arrested and sentenced to death for drug-related offences.

At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 25 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2020. However, at least 102 people have so far been executed on the same charge in 2021.

On May 3, IHR published a report on the death penalty in the first 4 months of 2021 expressing concern at the significant increase in the number of drug-related executions and continues to warn of the continuation of this trend.

**********************

Mohammad Safari at Imminent Risk of Execution in Rajai Shahr Prison

Mohammad Safari who is on death row for murder, has been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution in Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, at least one man was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution in Rajai Shahr Prison. The identity of one of the men has been established as Mohammad Safari, sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder.

Mohammad Safari is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday should he fail to obtain consent from the victim’s next of kin.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

**********************

Juvenile Offender Arman Abdolali Transferred for Execution for the 6th Time

Death row juvenile offender Arman Abdolali has been transferred to solitary confinement in Rajai Shahr Prison in preparation for his execution for the 6th time.

Emphasising that transferring Arman for execution 6 times is a clear example of torture, Iran Human Rights Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam called for an immediate reaction from the international community and said: “The international community must not tolerate the torture and execution of juvenile offenders.”

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, Arman Abdolali was transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution for the 6th time last night. He was last transferred back to his cell (Dar-al-Quran) on November 2.

An informed source told Iran Human Rights that his parents were deprived of the right to a last visit with their son.

Arman Abdolali was born on 9 March 1996 and was 17 years old at the time of the alleged murder in 2013. He was sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder without a body ever being found.

Upon arrest, Arman was held in solitary confinement for 74 days where he confessed to the murder. He was subsequently tried and sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) based on the confession, without taking into consideration that he was a juvenile offender.

United Nations Human Right Experts including the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran urgently appealed to Iran to halt his execution on October 12 and demanded that Iran stop sentencing children to death.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world that still carries out the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Islamic Republic is a signatory to, prohibit the issuance and implementation of the death penalty for crimes committed by an individual below 18 years of age.

Yet, according to data collected by IHR and international human rights organisations, the Islamic Republic is responsible for more than 70% of all executions of juvenile offenders in the last 30 years. IHR’s statistics also show that at least 64 juvenile offenders have been executed in Iran over the past 10 years, with at least 4 executed in 2020.

(source for all: iranhr.net)

MALAYSIA:

2 sentenced to death freed over identity doubts

A storekeeper and a forklift operator escaped the gallows for murder as 2 prosecution witnesses were unable to identify the assailants.

A 3-member Court of Appeal bench, led by Kamaludin Md Said, also agreed with their counsel that the trial judge was wrong in calling for the defence of S Danaraj and A Logiswaran, both 29.

Others on the bench were M Gunalan and Ghazali Cha.

Gunalan, who read the broad judgment of the court, said the main issue for determination was whether there was positive identification of the appellants.

“In our view, more than a reasonable doubt had been raised during the prosecution’s case,” he said, in allowing the appeal to set aside the High Court’s conviction and sentence.

Gunalan said the trial judge had failed to judicially appreciate the evidence in its entirety, particularly on identification by the 2 witnesses.

“There is merit in our interference. We allow the appeal and acquit the appellants,” he said.

Danaraj, Logiswaran and three others still at large were charged with the murder of A Kalaymanee in front of a house at Jalan Bunga Melur, Kampug Baru Hicom in Shah Alam at about 1.30am on Oct 12, 2014.

Ramkarpal Singh, appearing for Danaraj, and Saha Deva Arunasalam, for Logiswaran, submitted that it was unsafe to convict their clients for an offence that carried the death penalty.

Both counsel also submitted that their clients had given alibi notice to the prosecution that they were not at the crime scene.

Danaraj claimed he was at a birthday party while Logiswaran said he was attending a prayer session at his sister’s house.

Deputy public prosecutor Hanim Mohd Rashid submitted that the convictions were safe, although a 2nd trial judge had taken over the case.

She said the replacement judge had assessed the credibility of the witnesses, including some who did not testify before him, based on the notes of evidence.

The prosecution relied on the evidence of the deceased’s brother, Kalairasan, and a cousin, N Suresh, to prove the accused were at the crime scene.

(source: freemalaysiatoday.com)

BANGLADESH:

Man awarded death sentence for murdering in Narail

A court here today sentenced a man to death sentence and 3 others to life-term imprisonment for killing Firoj Bhuiyan at Kalinagar village under Noragati upazila of the district in 2014.

District and Session Judge Munshi Md Moshiar Rahman handed down the verdict to Alomgir Bhuiyan, 50. The court also fined Taka 50,000 to the convict.

The convicts who got life-term imprisonment are Saenuddin Bhuiyan, his two sons Habibur Rahman Bhuiyan and Jongu Bhuiyan. The prosecution story in brief, is that the convicts hacked to death Firoj Bhuiyan over a land dispute at Kalinagar Bazar on January 18 in 2014.

Firoj’s brother Rabiul Islam filed a case following the murder. Testifying witnesses and evidences the court gave the order in presence of the convicts accept Jongu Bhuiyan.

(source: theindependentbd.com)

*******************

Killing of 6 students in Aminbazar in 2011: Verdict on Dec 2

A Dhaka court today fixed December 2 for delivering judgment in the case filed over the killing of 6 students in Aminbazar on the outskirts of Dhaka 10 years ago.

After closing arguments from the both sides, Judge Ismat Jahan of the Second Additional District and Sessions Judge’s Court of Dhaka set the date.

The judge also cancelled bail of 51, out of 58, accused and sent them to jail.

During today’s arguments, the prosecution told the court that they were able to prove the charges against all the accused and sought capital punishment for them.

The defence on the other hand told the court that the prosecution has failed to prove the charges against their clients and sought their acquittal.

Earlier the court recorded statements of 55 prosecution witnesses, including complainant of the case.

In the early hours of Shab-e-Barat on July 18, 2011, a mob killed 6 youths near Aminbazar bridge and took the bodies to Keblarchar, more than half a kilometre away, on the instructions of police.

They then and called the villagers and said they had caught robbers.

Of the 6 victims, Towhidur Rahman Palash, Kamruzzaman Kanto and Ibrahim Khalil were students of Mirpur Bangla College, Shams Rahim Shamam of Maple Leaf International School, Tipu Sultan of Tejgaon College and Sitaf Jabi Munif of Bangladesh University of Business and Technology.

(source: thedailystar.net)

NOVEMBER 21, 2021:

TEXAS:

Spared execution once, Texas prisoner Kenneth Foster could face death penalty again after cellmate’s death

Kenneth Foster, a former Texas death row prisoner whose sentence was commuted to life in prison by former Gov. Rick Perry, is being investigated in the death of his cellmate, according to prison officials.

If prosecuted on murder charges, Foster could end up back on death row.

On Nov. 6, prison officers at the Telford Unit near Texarkana found Anthony Dominguez unresponsive in his cell “with injuries consistent with a physical altercation,” said Robert Hurst, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Dominguez was taken to the prison’s medical facility, and paramedics pronounced him dead about 40 minutes after he was found.

Video footage identified Foster as the man who injured Dominguez, Hurst said. The prison’s law enforcement branch is investigating Dominguez’s death and may suggest potential charges against Foster to the state’s Special Prosecution Unit, which prosecutes crimes in prisons.

Under Texas law, a prisoner who kills someone while serving a life sentence, or was previously convicted of murder, can be charged with capital murder.

Foster has not yet been accused of any crime in Dominguez’s death, however. If he is tried for capital murder, it would be up to the district attorney in Bowie County, where Telford prison is located, to decide whether to seek the death penalty, according to Jack Choate, who leads the Special Prosecution Unit.

“There will be a lot of information to gather and consider before making that decision,” he said.

Foster, 45, is serving a life sentence for his role in the San Antonio murder of Michael LaHood in 1996. Foster was originally sentenced to death, but Perry commuted his sentence hours before he was to be executed in 2007. Foster had not killed LaHood but was instead the getaway driver in a string of robberies, and Perry was concerned that Foster had been tried along with with the triggerman, Mauriceo Brown. Brown was executed in 2006.

LaHood was the brother of Nico LaHood, a former Bexar County district attorney who is now running for a seat in the Texas House.

Foster’s commutation has long been spotlighted by those seeking to reform Texas’ death penalty statute that allows accomplices to be sentenced to death.

The statute, named the law of parties, holds that anyone involved in a crime resulting in death is equally responsible, even if they weren’t directly involved in the actual killing. Most notably in death penalty cases, people committing another felony, like robbery, can be convicted and sentenced to death for murder if the jury decides murder “should have been anticipated as a result” of the other crime.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have worked to lessen the responsibility of accomplices for crimes when it comes to the death penalty. This year, the Texas House passed a bill by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, to limit when accomplices could be sentenced to death. The bill did not move in the more conservative Senate, however, and failed.

(source: The Texas Tribune)

NORTH CAROLINA:

Alexander Jones: It’s time for North Carolina to abolish the death penalty

After years of appeals filed by overworked lawyers and an isolated, violent existence in a gamut of brutal Texas prisons, Cameron Todd Willingham finally met his fate. When he did, the state of Texas listed his cause of death as “homicide.”

More than 1,000 human beings have been killed by the government since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976; the state of North Carolina murdered the one-thousandth. Public opinion on this is mixed. While polls show narrow support for the death penalty among Americans overall, most people also reject the notion that innocent lives are worth sacrificing to preserve the system. Yet evidence is conclusive that innocent people are, in fact, being executed in error — and very unequally.

A Black inmate in a Deep South state was put to death several years ago on charges of 1st-degree murder. Executions remain commonplace far below the Mason-Dixon Line, and his death was merely a blip on the news when the government killed him. But continuing investigations resulted in the discovery of another person’s DNA on the murder weapon. The man was almost certainly innocent. So was Troy Davis, in Georgia. So was Cameron Todd Willingham. The list of names is long and growing.

Furthering this injustice, even inmates who were guilty of the crimes for which they were executed often have profiles that should give us pause about the justice of their fates. For example, an enormous proportion of death-row inmates are developmentally disabled. The state of Alabama, so fond of vain public tributes to the “sanctity of life,” is about to execute a man with an IQ of 64. Those who do not have developmental disabilities often suffer from psychiatric illnesses. Texas allowed a man with severe mental illness to represent himself at trial. The man’s testimony was, verbatim, “Boom, boom. Blood, blood. Ha, ha, ha, oh, Lord, oh, you.” The state of Texas put that man on death row.

North Carolina remains part of America’s machinery of state-sponsored homicide. The state maintains a death row with more than 170 inmates awaiting their deaths. North Carolina’s death penalty sentencing is also demonstrably racist. Between 1977 and 2013, 42% of murder victims in the state were Black men, but only one person was executed for the crime of murdering a Black man. By contrast, 77% of the victims of North Carolina death row inmates were white, a number far exceeding the proportion of the state’s overall population that is of European origin. The death penalty sends the clear message that Black lives are worth less than white lives.

Disturbingly, North Carolina’s capital punishment system has had several brushes with wrongful execution. According to the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, an average of 2 people per year are put on trial for their lives in North Carolina despite insufficient evidence that they may be guilty. Innocent people have spent a cumulative 112 years in prison before being exonerated on appeal. The state, which to this day stubbornly resists allocating funding sufficient for a “sound, basic education,” has spent $2.4 million on dubious capital cases. If the state has not yet murdered an innocent man, it has certainly come dangerously close to inflicting that atrocity. Let us consider history. Under North Carolina’s Slave Code passed in the 18th century, enslaved men and women could be burned at the stake for crimes against their enslavers. One Black man was incinerated by the state of North Carolina as late as the 19th century. Today the state prefers a superficial sanitary gleam when it kills, using the trappings of medicine to absolve the onlookers of guilt.

The death penalty, like slavery, is a horror. It is time for North Carolina to recognize the inalienable dignity of every person and vow never again to commit homicide under the imprimatur of the law. The cost to our republic is simply too high.

(source: Opinion; Alexander H. Jones is a policy analyst with Carolina Forward—-Greensboro News & Record)

ALABAMA:

January execution date for Alabama man convicted in slaying

Alabama has set a January execution date for an inmate convicted of the 1996 shotgun slaying of a man who towed his car after it broke down.

The Alabama Supreme Court on Thursday set a Jan. 27 lethal injection date for Matthew Reeves. Reeves was sentenced to death for the November 1996 murder of Willie Johnson in Dallas County, Alabama.

Prosecutors said that after Johnson gave Reeves a ride that Reeves stuck a shotgun through the rear window of the truck cab and fatally shot Johnson in the neck.

In earlier court filings, Reeves’ attorneys have argued he has an IQ in the 60s and that his trial counsel failed to do enough to show he is intellectually disabled.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Consider facts when deciding death penalty

DEAR EDITOR:

I read the Tribune Chronicle article titled “Death penalty debated.” Although Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Becker testified in opposition the legislation to repeal capital punishment, it seemed he wanted to relitigate the common sense criminal justice reforms from the past few decades.

The death penalty is the ultimate form of punishment and should be treated differently than any other sentence we consider in our state. When a human life hangs in the balance, the system should operate perfectly. Mr. Becker offered no defense of an arbitrary system that sentences innocent people to death.

I urge our legislators to consider the facts rather than strawman arguments from the prosecutors.

HILLARY KOSTECKI

(source: letter to the editor, Tribune Chronicle)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma Lawmaker Who Supports Death Penalty Laments Its Possible End in His State

Oklahoma State Rep. Jim Olsen, who supports the death penalty, laments its possible end in his state after Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted Julius Jones to a life sentence just hours before he was supposed to die.

Olsen hoped for executions to continue in Oklahoma but is now resigned to the idea they may be abolished. He said he was disappointed in Stitt’s decision regarding Jones, The Associated Press reported.

“I think it gives us a more permissive climate to commit murder,” Olsen said. “It’s obviously a very difficult position to be in. I don’t think anyone would say, ‘I wish I was the governor and had to decide this.'”

“This is probably the end of the death penalty in the state of Oklahoma,” he added.

Oklahoma has had a series of bungled legal injections, such as John Marion Grant’s execution on Oct. 28. Grant was given Midazolam, which caused him to convulse and vomit. This was only the 1st of 3 drugs he was supposed to receive. The other unsuccessful executions were rescheduled but in light of recent events, it seems unclear if they will occur.

There is a federal lawsuit against the state’s lethal injection protocols scheduled for a February trial. The 3-drug injections can cause unconstitutional pain and suffering, the lawsuit argues.

Don Heath, chairman of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Stitt should postpone executions until after the trial.

Although Olsen believes executions are coming to an end, Heath doesn’t agree with the sentiment.

“I hope that’s the case,” Heath said. “I haven’t seen any indication from Gov. Stitt that this is the case.”

The governor’s decision to commute Jones’ sentence followed widespread outcry over doubts raised by his defense. Celebrity supporters including Kim Kardashian West had advocated on Jones’ behalf, and Oklahoma high school students walked out of their classrooms this week in protest of his planned execution.

Stitt’s offer of clemency — commuting Jones’ sentence from death to life in prison without the possibility of parole — came just weeks after criticism and questions about the state’s 3-drug execution protocol were renewed following the Oct. 28 execution of Grant.

And earlier this week, members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday voted 3-2 to recommend clemency for death row inmate Bigler Stouffer II — not because of doubt over his guilt, but over concerns about the state’s execution methods.

Stitt has not said publicly why he agreed to commute Jones’ death sentence, and he has not commented on the parole board’s recommendation to commute Stouffer’s sentence.

“He supports the death penalty, but he considers (commutations) on a case-by-case basis,” said Stitt spokesperson Carly Atchison. “The conditions of (Jones’) commutation, that he will never be eligible for pardon or parole,” was key to Stitt’s decision, Atchison said.

An attorney for Jones did not immediately return a phone call for comment on plans for future legal action.

Heath said Jones’ options appear to be limited.

“I think he has exhausted his appeals. Only if new evidence comes forward can he appeal,” Heath said. “I don’t think you can appeal a mercy decision, a clemency decision.”

(source: Newsweek)

NEVADA:

Death row inmate’s attorneys oppose lethal drug plan, want firing squad

With a crucial drug in the state’s supply of lethal injection materials set to expire at the end of February, Nevada officials are pressing forward in their attempt to execute death row inmate Zane Floyd, even as lawyers for Floyd are imploring the court to explore alternative methods, such as a firing squad.

During a 3 day-long hearing in federal court last week, Floyd’s counsel called upon medical experts to highlight the alleged inefficacy of the state’s proposed execution plans, which include a novel combination of lethal injection drugs.

The experts, including multiple anesthesiologists who have experience with the drugs involved in the protocol, testified that the untried drug cocktail could result in suffering or an agonizing death.

“Nevada is talking about using a paralytic drug. It will make the prisoner … unable to move and unable to breathe. They’re talking about using potassium, which is excruciatingly painful if it travels up the arm and through the chest,” said Mark Heath, a board certified anesthesiologist who works at Columbia University Medical Center and has testified as an expert roughly 40 times in court cases involving lethal injections.

Floyd, 46, was convicted and sentenced to death more than 2 decades ago for killing 4 people and injuring a 5th person inside a Las Vegas grocery store in 1999. But in late June — only weeks after Democratic leaders in the state Senate spiked a bill to repeal the death penalty — U.S. District Court Judge Richard Boulware (who presided over the hearings) ordered a 3-month stay of Floyd’s execution that was previously set for July 26.

Floyd’s execution would be the 1st in Nevada since 2006. But the clock is ticking — state supplies of a key anesthetic expire at the end of February, giving correctional officials a 3-month window to complete the execution or move forward into uncertainty, needing either a new drug cocktail or execution method.

A transition to a new mix of drugs could be problematic, however, as most major drug manufacturers have publicly opposed the use of their products in executions and typically block prisons from purchasing certain drugs.

State officials also face opposition from members of the public, as activists and national human rights groups have sought to end the use of the death penalty. Last week, following widespread calls from celebrities to students to stop the execution of inmate Julius Jones, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt granted clemency to Jones.

Floyd’s attorneys, federal public defenders David Anthony and Brad Levenson, have said that Floyd does not want to die, and have continually opposed the state’s proposed execution scheme on the grounds that it risks unnecessary pain to Floyd while suggesting alternatives, such as death by firing squad. Anthony and Levenson have argued that unnecessary pain would violate the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishments for crimes.

Their arguments against the use of certain drugs in the execution echo those used by lawyers for Scott Dozier, a former Nevada death row inmate who died in an apparent suicide after his execution was postponed twice.

Dozier’s counsel argued during hearings held in 2018 that a paralytic drug in the state’s proposed lethal injection protocol could lead to a torturous execution that would violate Eighth Amendment prohibitions on cruel and unusual punishment.

The state also faced similar pushback from a drugmaker in Dozier’s case, when pharmaceutical company Alvogen opposed the proposed use of its drug midazolam in Dozier’s execution.

The lethal injection protocol

The state plan includes options for 8 different drug protocols, which feature 3-drug protocols of an opioid (either fentanyl or alfentanil), ketamine and a drug to stop the heart (either potassium chloride or potassium acetate), and 4-drug protocols that add a paralytic as the 3rd drug in the sequence.

Over the first 2 days of the hearing, Heath characterized potassium, the last drug in the protocol, as an “extremely painful way to kill people,” and said the risks of pain could be exacerbated if the combination of fentanyl and ketamine do not properly anesthetize the inmate. That could happen to Floyd, Heath said, as medical experts do not typically use those two drugs together to induce unconsciousness.

“There’s a high prospect it will not work as intended, but it’s also possible it will work as intended,” Heath said.

During the hearing, Randall Gilmer, the chief deputy attorney general who represents the corrections department, attempted to diminish Heath’s arguments against the efficacy of the proposed lethal injection, drawing a distinction between an execution and a clinical setting and noting that fentanyl is an FDA-approved anesthetic. Heath countered that fentanyl should not be used as the sole anesthetic because of the need for “balanced anesthesia.”

Another expert called by Floyd’s counsel, Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist at Emory University Hospital and an expert on physician participation in lethal injection, said ketamine is a strong acid that could result in pulmonary edema — which is caused by excess fluid in the lungs — after injection.

A patient with pulmonary edema could have trouble breathing, leading to distress, and Zivot likened the condition to a sensation of ??suffocating or drowning.

The execution chamber

Heath, a medical expert called by Floyd’s lawyers, was also critical of the structure of the execution chamber, which he saw on a tour of the execution site at Ely State Prison.

He said an anesthesiologist would typically administer drugs sitting right next to their patient. That set-up allows the patient to be monitored for several important things, including consciousness, pain or discomfort expressed on the patient’s face, and whether there are any issues with the drugs entering the patient’s body.

But Heath said there were poor sightlines from the room of the drug administrator to the execution chamber, which are separated by a wall with a one-way window.

“I was able to stand in the location [where] the drug administrator would be standing,” he said. “They don’t have a clear view … I want to be within two feet and be able to touch you, to know if your IV is infiltrating or not.”

Heath added that having the drug administrator in a separate room while the attending physician is in the execution chamber could lead to communication issues between the two if the execution goes wrong.

Earlier this year, multiple outside groups also raised concerns with the state’s plans for the execution chamber, as the American Civil Liberties Union and Nevada Press Association filed a federal lawsuit seeking to ensure that witnesses will be able to see the entire execution carried out. Gilmer assured the court that the execution protocol would not allow for the blinds to be closed, and witnesses would be allowed to view the execution in full.

Floyd’s attorneys seek alternative to proposed execution

On the final day of the week’s evidentiary hearings, attorneys for Floyd explored alternatives to the state’s proposed lethal injection plans and questioned an expert they called about the efficacy of firing squad executions.

James Williams, an emergency medicine physician based out of Texas with extensive firearms expertise, testified about firing squad protocols used in Utah and by the U.S. Army and characterized them as generally painless.

Williams said gunshot wounds to the chest, neck and head may not result in immediate pain, especially relative to wounds to limbs that may fracture bones. Williams discussed his own experience of being wounded by a gunshot to the chest and compared the experience to being hit by a baseball bat, but he said the damaged area went numb, leaving him able to drive himself to the hospital.

Williams said the Utah and military protocols, which see a volley of bullets fired at a condemned person’s heart, would knock a person unconscious within one to three seconds and result in death almost immediately, if executed properly.

Floyd’s lawyers wrote earlier this year that Floyd would prefer to die by firing squad, and on Thursday, Levenson said that method would be possible if approved by the Legislature and ruled as a viable option by the judge. Lethal injection is the only execution method legal in Nevada.

Nevada has used various methods for conducting executions throughout its history, including hanging inmates during the 1800s, becoming the first state in the country to execute a person in a gas chamber in 1924 and pioneering a 3-gun execution method in 1913.

Though data is limited, firing squad executions in the U.S. have generally been more effective than lethal injection executions. Data compiled by Austin Sarat, a political scientist at Amherst College, shows that from 1890 to 2010, 75 of 1,054 lethal injection executions in the U.S. were botched, a rate higher than 7 %. Conversely, the data shows that zero out of 34 firing squad executions over that period of time were botched.

Williams did point to one botched firing squad execution in the 20th century. In Utah in 1951, a condemned man named Eliseo Mares was shot in the hip and abdomen during an execution, and took several minutes to die. Williams said the executioners seemed to purposely strike the inmate in an area other than his heart. It is unclear why that execution was not included in Sarat’s data, but the Death Penalty Information Center notes that the Salt Lake City Tribune takes a different view from Sarat in interpreting Mares’ death as a botched execution.

Floyd’s counsel also discussed the possibility of using other drugs in the lethal injection — ones that have a proven track record in other states, unlike some of the drugs proposed for Floyd’s execution — but former Department of Corrections Pharmacy Director Linda Fox said the department has struggled in the past to acquire those other drugs.

Fox said she tried to purchase pentobarbital, a barbiturate with sedative effects used in executions in several states, in 2012 at the request of then-Corrections Director Greg Cox. But Fox was blocked from purchasing the drug by the manufacturer, a common occurrence that happens when manufacturers prevent prisons from buying certain drugs that they believe may be used for a lethal injection. More recently, the department was blocked from purchasing fentanyl, a drug listed in Floyd’s execution protocol.

But Gilmer pushed back on the arguments that a lethal injection with different drugs should be used in the execution, saying experts called by Floyd’s attorneys had not proven why alternative drugs would be a better option.

An abbreviated timeline

Outside of the evidentiary hearings, whether the state can proceed with Floyd’s execution may also depend on several other pending and related cases.

Floyd’s legal team is challenging the state’s proposed method for his execution in state court in Las Vegas, and last week, a judge postponed a hearing in that case until January. Floyd also has appeals pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.

Floyd also has an outstanding request for clemency, and his petition stated that Floyd suffered from brain damage caused by previously undiagnosed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the military and abuse during childhood. State officials on the Board of Pardons (which consists of the governor, justices of the Supreme Court and the attorney general) have not taken up Floyd’s request but will hold their next quarterly meeting on Dec. 9.

At a hearing in the district court earlier this month, Gilmer said the Department of Corrections’ supply of ketamine will expire at the end of February, meaning Feb. 28 is the last day the department will be able to carry out an execution unless it acquires more drugs. Many pharmaceutical companies have opposed the use of their drugs in executions and will not sell to the corrections department.

The evidentiary hearings in district court will resume in mid-December, when the state’s top prison and medical administrators, including Department of Corrections Director Charles Daniels, will testify about the state’s proposed execution protocols.

(source: The Nevada Independent)

************************

Nevada judge hears testimony on firing squad execution

A physician testifying as an expert in a condemned Nevada inmate’s bid not to be put to death told a federal judge Thursday that execution by firing squad would be quick and “relatively painless.”

However, Nevada law does not allow inmates to be shot to death and the method is not being considered in efforts by the top prosecutor in Las Vegas and state attorneys for the 1st execution in the state in more than 15 years.

Zane Michael Floyd’s lawyers are required to offer an alternate method of execution while they ask U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II to find Nevada’s lethal injection plan unconstitutional. They argue the procedure drawn up by state prison officials and its never-before-used combination of drugs would produce an agonizing death.

Execution by firing squad “would be very quick,” Dr. James Williams said Thursday. Williams is an emergency physician at a hospital in Victoria, Texas, who has testified as a trial expert in federal court in the past.

“I don’t believe the condemned would feel anything that would approximate pain,” he told the judge.

South Carolina this year became the fourth state in the U.S. to allow execution by firing squad, joining Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah. The last condemned inmate shot to death in the nation was Ronnie Gardner in Utah in June 2010.

Floyd, 46, does not want to die. He was convicted in 2000 and sentenced for killing 4 people and wounding a 5th in a 1999 shotgun attack at a Las Vegas grocery store. He also was convicted of raping a woman before the deadly rampage.

His lethal injection was scheduled last July but has been delayed pending the outcome of his challenges in state and federal courts.

Chief Deputy Nevada Attorney General Randall Gilmer said Wednesday the state wants to carry out Floyd’s execution by February, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Floyd also has appeals pending before the Nevada Supreme Court and the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

His lawyers, deputy federal public defenders David Anthony and Brad Levenson, have tried this week to show the effect of the Nevada procedure and combination of three or four drugs would be inhumane.

Dr. Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist who teaches at Columbia University in New York, provided a written report to the court predicting “an extremely agonizing … death” with drugs used to sedate and paralyze Floyd before “the excruciating pain of intravenous concentrated potassium” administered to stop his heart.

Testimony is scheduled to resume for at least 3 days beginning Dec. 16, with a minimum of 1 more defense expert and witnesses for the state. Boulware said Thursday he also is considering dates in January.

The judge has said he especially wants to hear from Nevada prisons chief Charles Daniels, the official with primary responsibility for carrying out an execution.

Nevada’s chief state medical officer, Dr. Ihsan Azzam, is also scheduled to testify. However, his attorneys have told the judge that Azzam has had little contact with Daniels and no input in creating the Nevada execution procedure, or protocol.

The plan calls for the anesthetic ketamine, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, the heart-stopping salt potassium chloride and perhaps a muscle paralytic called cisatracurium. The drug alfentanil might substitute for fentanyl and potassium acetate might substitute for potassium chloride, according to the protocol.

Nevada, like many of the 27 U.S. states with capital punishment, has had difficulty obtaining execution drugs from manufacturers that don’t want to let their products be used in lethal injections. 3 states — California, Oregon and Pennsylvania — have capital punishment moratoriums in place.

Floyd’s lawyers accuse Nevada of trying to use a “novel” process amounting to “prohibited experimentation on a captive human subject” and of trying to keep secret how it was created.

No state has used ketamine or the fentanyl substitute in an execution, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Potassium acetate, a salt also used as an aircraft deicer, was mistakenly used by Oklahoma in a 2015 lethal injection.

Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist who teaches at the medical and law schools at Emory University in Atlanta, testified Wednesday as an expert in Floyd’s defense. He said some of the drugs and the doses could cause Floyd’s lungs to fill with fluid, leading to an excruciating death by suffocation “akin to drowning.”

Zivot said autopsies following other executions have found prisoners’ lungs filled with fluid.

The last person put to death in Nevada was Daryl Mack in 2006 for a 1988 rape and murder in Reno. He asked for his sentence to be carried out.

(source: nevadaappeal.com)

USA:

Commentary: Lethal injections have become ghastly experiments in death

With secrecy and uncertainty surrounding the supply of lethal injection drugs, executions have become little more than ghastly experiments. The last one came 3 weeks ago, when the state of Oklahoma executed John Marion Grant, 60, for the murder of a prison cafeteria worker.

Witnesses reported Grant jerked, or convulsed, nearly 2 dozens times over several minutes, as vomit spurted from his mouth and spilled down his neck. With a straight face, Oklahoma prison officials said the execution went off without a hitch.

Grant’s execution, however, is far from the worst example of a lethal injection execution gone wrong. Over the past two decades, executioners have struggled for an hour or more to find a usable vein. They’ve punctured organs, collapsed arteries, and dragged on this grisly procedure for more than an hour, as prisoners writhed.

Reliability and efficiency are not likely to improve, as lethal injections face ongoing problems with consistency and quality control. On Thursday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt rightly granted clemency to Julius Jones, several hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection for a 1999 murder he says he did not commit.

The inevitably of more botched executions is reason enough to stay future executions nationwide, and for Pennsylvania and 26 other capital punishment states to abolish their death-penalty statutes.

Execution drugs obscured

Citing moral objections, drug manufacturers have, for more than a decade, refused to supply corrections departments with drugs used in executions.

The nationwide shortage of drugs used in lethal injections has forced states, in a haphazard scramble, to use inadequately tested drugs or multi-drug cocktails, or buy drugs from so-called specialty, or compounding, pharmacies operating with little federal oversight.

Ironically, the shortage of the sedation drug midazolam used in lethal injections also affects hospitals. They need it to treat illnesses, including COVID-19, and save lives.

Making matters worse, executioners with inadequate medical training work without national standards, and the secrecy shrouding where and how states procure lethal injection drugs, has made executions even dicier. States have, recklessly, shielded such information from the public by exempting it from their open-records laws.

Lethal injections, properly performed, require the skills to access veins, monitor drugs, calculate proper doses, and make on-the-spot corrections. That takes medical training and supervision. But states must, in general, forgo such safeguards; participating in executions violates medical ethics.

Numerous problems, no benefits

To be sure, capital punishment today is less sadistic than the ancient executions that shock modern sensibilities: Slowly roasting a victim to death inside a flaming bronze mental bull, cutting off body parts before slicing the body in half and leaving the condemned to die in indescribable pain, crucifixion, being eaten alive by rats, and literally skinning a person alive, slice by slice, to name a few.

In the last 200 years, states and the federal government have attempted to adapt capital punishment to the standards of the U.S. Constitution, national norms, and modern sensibilities, using hangings, firing squads, lethal gas, lethal injection, or electrocution. Even so, botched procedures have marred them all, including burning flesh at electrocutions, strangulations at hangings, and errant bullets from firing squads that prolonged death.

Lethal injection in the early 1980s, like the electric chair almost a century before it, was touted as a humane, and cheap, way to execute people. After the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, lethal injection became the method-of-choice for U.S. executions.

Blunders and missteps, however, continue to mock efforts to carry out capital punishment in a humane way.

Author Austin Sarat of Amherst College has argued lethal injections have recorded higher rates of botched executions, roughly 7 percent, than have other methods used in capital punishment. The Death Penalty Information Center has reported 19 botched lethal injection executions since 2000.

With 3 executions since 1976, Pennsylvania has spent $1 billion on securing and defending death-penalty convictions, former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported last year.

If botched lethal injection executions were the only problem facing capital punishment, and the practice produced tangible and widely shared benefits, maybe the gains would justify the enormous legal costs and needless suffering exacted by the atrocity of state-sponsored killings.

Ongoing constitutional challenges, procedural problems, and death row exonerations, however, continue to underscore the practical and moral flaws of capital punishment. What’s more, no credible evidence shows, or even suggests, the practice deters murder or violent crime.

Aside from the grave moral questions surrounding the death penalty, the grisly experiment that lethal injection has become is another sign the costs, liabilities, and problems of capital punishment far outweigh any perceived benefit.

(source: Commentary; Jeff Gerritt, The (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune)

UNITED KINGDOM:

Reading Nostalgia – The death penalty debate of 1983

For this week’s Reading Nostalgia, we are going back to the summer of 1983 as one of the biggest debates in English history took place – should the death penalty be reintroduced?

That year, capital punishment was the subject of much discussion across England, and the whole of the UK, as there were talks that the death penalty could be returning after a 14-year absence for those found guilty of murder.

The decision to end one’s life for heinous crimes split the decisions amongst the British public, and that summer, many people across the country shared their views on whether capital punishment should return for those who have killed, as MPs got ready to vote on the topic in Parliament.

The death penalty had been used in the country before capital punishment was suspended for murder in 1965, before it was abolished for that crime in 1969.

However, it still remain active for those who committed treason.

Speaking at the time, Sir William van Straubenzee, who was the Conservative MP for Wokingham from October 1959 to May 1987, said: “I anticipate that I will be voting in favour of the return of capital punishment.

“However, I will want to listen to and consider all the arguments before finally making my mind.”

Mr van Straubenzee, who died 16 years later in 1999, also revealed that he had always been in favour of the return for the death penalty for murder.

However, his fellow Tory MP, Sir Michael NcNair-Wilson, was against the idea of capital punishment returning.

The former MP for Newbury said: “I am totally opposed to any re-introduction of the death penalty.

“I do not believe it is an efficient deterrent or the type of sentence which should be used in the 20th century.”

Mr NcNair-Wilson died 10 years later aged 62.

> Other Berkshire-based MPs also revealed what they thought.

Former Conservative MP Tony Durant, who represented Reading North from 1974 to 1983 and then Reading West from 1983 to 1997 was in favour of the return of the death penalty, whilst Michael Heseltine, who represented Henley, was against the notion.

Residents also had their say with Reading man Gulzar Ahmed stating that ‘he would not like to see this happen’, whilst John Shearman of Wantage Road in the town saying: “I do think there should be stringent punishments, however, and a life sentence should mean a life sentence.”

However, Frances Scarrott of West Reading said that the death penalty should be reintroduced for ‘certain crimes such as terrorism and the murder of policemen and prison officers.’

She continued: “I think the risk of someone who is not guilty being hanged is only very minor.”

School students, Becky Williams and Liz Skinner, who were leaving education at the time of the vote, were in favour of the return of capital punishment, whilst pensioner Rudolph Polmer said: “I am in favour of the death penalty across the board for everyone who kills.”

Berkshire resident Diane Simpson was one of the few that was undecided.

Ultimately, the results from the vote saw capital punishment for murder not return, but it was still active for those who committed treason.

However, in 1998, capital punishment was fully abolished in the UK.

(source: readingchronicle.co.uk)

SINGAPORE:

Nagaenthran’s family set to sue Attorney-General’s Chambers

The family of a Malaysian convict on death row whose case has received international attention of late will be taking Singapore’s Attorney-General, Lucien Wong, to court due to reported “negligence” by the criminal justice system.

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, 33, who has an IQ of 69 and is said to suffer from intellectual disability, was scheduled to be judicially executed on Nov 10, but was given a temporary stay of execution after testing positive for Covid on Nov 8.

He was arrested for drug trafficking over a decade ago at the age of 21, and was sentenced to death for importing 42.72g of heroin into Singapore.

He said at his trial that he had been coerced into committing the offence by a man who not only assaulted him but also threatened to kill his girlfriend.

Malaysiakini reported on Thursday (Nov 18) that Nagaenthran’s lawyer in Singapore, Ravi MRavi, said the lawsuit will be filed next week.

“What I have is the instruction (from) the family to sue the AG (Wong) over their negligence and willful disregard.

After putting them on notice (about) Nagaenthran’s mental health, they should have just stopped and said ‘Okay, I’ll get someone to review’.

(There has been a) willful disregard for human life. We will be suing. Nagaenthran and the family will be claiming damages as well,” Mr Ravi is quoted as saying.

At the same time, the AGC is also demanding that Mr Ravi remove two Facebook posts on the grounds of Contempt of Court, including a live video from Nov 5 wherein the lawyer talked about Nagaenthran’s case.

Mr Ravi has also been ordered by the AGC to issue a written apology and post it on his social media account by 5:00 pm on Nov 22 (Monday).

The lawyer has been quoted as saying, “I do not want to dignify the AG (Wong) with a response.”

Appeals for a stay of execution for Nagaenthran have come from many quarters, with one coming from no less than the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama reported on Nov 7 that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob wrote a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong requesting clemency for Nagaenthran.

Activists on both sides of the Causeway have pleaded for a stay of his execution based on extraordinary circumstances, and a petition on the change.org platform appealing for him to be spared has drawn more than 87,000 signatories.

Even British business magnate and investor Richard Branson has appealed for clemency for Nagaenthran, as have various human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN).

(source: theindependent.sg)

IRAN:

Father of executed Iranian journalist demands answers from France, Iraq

The father of a prominent Iranian journalist who was abducted from Iraq and then hanged in Tehran has called on France and Iraq to explain if they had a role in the abduction of his son, following recent claims by a former Iranian intelligence officer.

Ruhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist and activist who was a political refugee in France, flew to Baghdad in October 2019 where he was abducted by Iranian agents and returned to Tehran. He was executed on December 12 last year.

This month a former Iranian intelligence officer made allegations that France handed Zam over to Tehran in exchange for a French intelligence officer who was reportedly captured in Syria by Iranian allied groups.

The journalist’s father Mohammad Ali Zam issued a statement on Instagram on Saturday in which he spoke about the pain of accepting the loss of his son’s life. He described the allegations by the “burnt” intelligence officer as “fabricated stories to deceive public opinion and to diminish their criminal act.”

After Zam’s execution, Amnesty International said it was “horrified” and condemned Iran’s use of the death penalty. “His execution is a deadly blow to freedom of expression in Iran and shows the extent of the Iranian authorities’ brutal tactics to instill fear and deter dissent.”

Mohammad Ali Zam, a cleric and supporter of the Islamic Republic before the execution of his son, said that while he appreciates France’s stance in giving asylum to those in danger including his son, he laments the fact that the French secret service did not prevent his son from traveling to Baghdad. “I expect the French government to hold to account those who deceived and facilitated his trip from its [French] soil, be it the then officials at the Iraqi embassy, and laments the fact that its [French] officers did not prevent him from exiting the country.”

“I expect that the governments of France, Iraq… feel responsible for the human and emotional consequences of his murder and announce their official positions on the share of their responsibility or rejecting their participation in this inhumane catastrophe,” he added.

Ruhollah Zam was the head of a popular telegram channel Amadnews that was read by millions of people inside Iran and played a critical role in informing people during anti-government protests in 2017 and 2018. Zam relied on information provided by top disgruntled officials within the Iranian establishment and repeatedly caused uproar inside the country. He was a political refugee in France under the protection of French security establishment. He flew in October 2019 to Iraq reportedly to meet with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, but this was a ploy to draw him into the country where intelligence officers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and their allied Iraqi Shia militias are able to strike at Iranian dissidents.

Zam went through a sham trial in Iran that was condemned by Iranian and international human rights organizations and appears to have forced to make a televised confession.

He topped the November ranking of the One Free Press Coalition’s “10 Most Urgent” list of press freedom cases. The top ten cases are the journalists whose press freedoms are suppressed or are cases in which justice is sought.

(source: rudaw.net)

BANGLADESH:

see: https://unb.com.bd/category/bangladesh/one-gets-death-penalty-3-life-term-for-murder-in-narail/82687

(source: United News of Bangladesh)

NOVEMBER 20, 2021:

TEXAS:

District Attorney’s Office re-indicts murder suspect to capital murder charge, may seek death penalty

A 20-year-old Juárez resident faces a capital murder charge and may face the death penalty after a grand jury passed a new indictment in his case nearly 2 weeks before a jury trial.

Ivan Gabaldon is accused of killing Juan Garcia Flores, 63, in February when the 2 initially met for an alleged paid sexual encounter. Gabaldon’s attorneys claim he was defending himself when Garcia allegedly began doing sexual acts to Gabaldon that he did not consent to.

Gabaldon told police Garcia allegedly threatened him with a knife but he was able to turn the knife on Garcia and stabbed him several times and fled.

Later, he was jailed in the El Paso County Detention Facility on a $1 million bond on a felony murder charge. The District Attorney’s Office sought a capital murder charge from a grand jury on Thursday.

The grand jury passed the charge and the DA’s office asked for more time to review the case shortly after. The difference between a capital murder and murder charge is the possibility of the death penalty.

It’s been over 8 months since the incident, and, on Friday, the 210th District Court decided whether the DA’s office would get more time to review the case. Prosecutors say they need more time also to locate witnesses and receive evidence from a lab.

But District Court Judge Alyssa Perez denied the DA’s office more time. Seven prosecutors have been in charge of the case for the DA’s office since it was first filed.

“The point is, if we were in this position, meaning on the eve of trial, and the state had been diligent about handling this case, then I could put that into context,” District Judge Alyssa Perez said. “And, give you a little more consideration on your request for continuance. The problem is that is not what has happened here. This case literally went nowhere within your office. It was treated like a hot potato. Just got kind of bounced over here, bounced over there.”

On Tuesday, the DA’s office offered to let Gabaldon out of jail on a personal recognizance bond when prosecutors originally asked the court to allow for more time in the case. But when defense attorneys for Gabaldon and Judge Perez signaled they would not support the request, prosecutor Curtis Cox announced his office would seek a capital murder charge for Gabaldon and consider the death penalty for him.

Prosecutors did not say definitively if they will pursue the death penalty for Gabaldon. The state has until Nov. 29 to decide whether it will pursue the death penalty in Gabaldon’s case.

Gabaldon’s attorneys once again criticized the DA’s office’s handling of the case and for asking for more time to review the case.

Denise Butterworth, a defense attorney for Gabaldon, said for prosecutors to seek a capital murder charge, means they believe an individual is dangerous to the community and shouldn’t be released. The state must prove with enough evidence to prove the individual is a danger under the Texas government code, Butterworth added.

“That will be their burden, to a jury, to prove that without a reasonable doubt that life in prison is not sufficient for the safety of our community,” she said. “And, that he must be killed in order to protect society from the future danger that they would be alleging that he is.”

Butterworth said the DA’s office shouldn’t need time to know whether Gabaldon is such a danger to the community.

“The enormous power that the state of Texas has right now isn’t being respected or honored,” she said. “The state has shown even less respect for the power they possess. That during a last ditch effort to buy more time after they were exposed for not being prepared for the current jury trial setting, without any process or procedure in place, a rogue prosecutor can unilaterally threaten the death penalty.”

Robert S. Ferguson said the DA’s Office will need time to consider whether to pursue the death penalty under the capital murder charge. And, acknowledged that previous prosecutors had not sought the correct indictment for Gabaldon.

He argued that previous prosecutors had handled the case and had not notified their predecessors that the case was not prepared.

“When it came to our attention, what the facts of this case was, the immediate thought was ‘well, we should reindict because this is a horrible crime,” Ferguson said. “In fact, I have no doubt that we can bare the burden of proof and prove everything that is required to get the death penalty.”

Ferguson said the case should have been indicted as capital murder from the beginning. And, District Attorney Yvonne Rosales should have been updated about the case earlier, he added.

“This is a decision that is weighty. I think justice absolutely supports us seeking the death penalty. Of course, the death penalty, as the court knows, is not an easy decision to make,” Ferguson said. “We hate to make it hasty and we are asking for at least 30 days in order to look at it and decide. And, for Ms. Rosales to look at it.”

Omar Carmona was critical of Ferguson’s remarks and the stance of the DA’s office in the case.

“Us as lawyers, in this great state, should not be offended by the word death penalty,” Carmona said. “But we should be offended by the words used after the death penalty ‘If it becomes necessary.’ That, your honor, is a threat.”

(source: KTSM news)

NORTH CAROLINA:

The Geriatric Ward—-North Carolina’s Aging Death Row Population Faces Looming Health Care Crisis

When Rayford Burke, 63, lost his appetite in January, he knew something was wrong. Cases of Covid-19 had just reached a record high in North Carolina, though death row, where Burke has been incarcerated since 1993, had been spared due to its relative isolation. But it wasn’t long before Burke heard rumblings that the coronavirus was infecting people in his pod, so he started double masking and conducting his own rudimentary Covid tests, mixing a few drops of perfume oil with his lotion and every so often taking a whiff.

Burke’s loss of appetite wasn’t accompanied by a loss of taste or smell, and it closely matched a bad reaction he had two years earlier to hydrochlorothiazide, a blood pressure medication that so severely dehydrated him that he was taken by ambulance to an outside hospital for treatment. That’s what was happening again, he thought, as his lack of appetite led to weight loss and an even greater concern about his health. By the time he put in a sick call with prison staff in February, Burke estimates that he had lost between 30 and 40 pounds, down from his normal 285 or 290. He had also tested positive for Covid, as had 15 other people in his pod, he said.

“When I first tried to get them to take me to the doctor, I was so dehydrated, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink,” Burke told The Intercept. “I’d drink water and regurgitate it — I’d throw it back up. I’d take a bite of food — I’d throw it back up. And so I told them that. They wouldn’t do anything. They kept saying, ‘Well, we’re gonna do this. We’re gonna do that. We’re gonna get you to see somebody.’ About 3 days passed.”

Burke filed a grievance, and the next day he was taken to the emergency room at the prison hospital and placed on an IV. He regained his appetite a few days later and was sent back to isolate with his pod as Covid ran its course on death row. Given the circumstances, Burke was very lucky — but he’s worried that his luck will eventually run out.

Nearly 2/3 of the 135 people on death row in North Carolina, including Burke, are over the age of 50, which the state defines as “elderly.” Based on current trends, within the next 10 years, approximately 90 % of people on death row will be considered elderly. Many have from chronic diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and hepatitis C. With the passage of time, death row, in many ways, is transforming into an informal geriatric unit — one that has proved wholly unprepared to care for its aging population.

Marred by chronic understaffing; a slow, and sometimes ignored, sick-call process; a copay system that discourages people from seeking care; a utilization management program that must approve requests for specialized medical care; and the stalled implementation of a caretaker program that would teach incarcerated people how to effectively provide palliative care to their peers, the looming geriatric health care crisis on North Carolina’s death row provides a stark and dire warning for what lies ahead, especially when it comes to the economic and societal costs of incarcerating older people. North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety, or DPS, did not answer The Intercept’s questions related to medical care within the state prison system.

By the end of 2019, more than 21 percent of people incarcerated in state or federal prisons across the U.S. were age 50 or older, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice. But death row is where the concentration of older people is highest: That same year, nearly 55 percent of people on death row in the U.S. were age 50 or older. Among state corrections departments, there’s no uniform definition as to what constitutes an “elderly,” “older,” or “aging” incarcerated person, though 50 or 55 are often used.

“Nationwide, every corrections department is facing an avalanche of elderly people,” Frank Baumgartner, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told The Intercept. “They’ve had 30 years to prepare for it, and naturally, they haven’t prepared.”

A Self-Inflicted Wound

In “Throwing Away the Key: The Unintended Consequences of ‘Tough-on-Crime’ Laws,” a paper published recently in the journal “Perspectives on Politics,” Baumgartner and a group of co-authors predict a rapid rise in the number of geriatric prisoners in the United States. (Lyle May, one of the writers of this article, is a co-author of that report.) Many of these incarcerated individuals, like Burke, will endure chronic diseases diagnosed while serving a prison term they won’t outlive. The authors note that this impending crisis — a self-inflicted wound resulting from tough-on-crime laws adopted across the country in the 1980s and 1990s — will lead to serious human rights issues that many prison systems, like North Carolina’s, aren’t equipped to handle.

By 2006, DPS understood the economic and moral consequences that these tough-on-crime policies, including life without parole, three-strikes laws, and the expanded use of the death penalty, would have on prison health care in North Carolina. That year, DPS published a study on the prison system’s aging population. The study had several objectives, but its main purpose was to help DPS plan for the inevitable increase in the number of older people incarcerated under its watch and the rising costs associated with their incarceration.

The study’s authors surveyed 245 older incarcerated people and found that nearly three-quarters of them were under medical care and taking prescription medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or diseases, ranging from heart disease and cancer to Parkinson’s and tuberculosis. They reported that medical issues and lack of adequate care topped their list of concerns, just above their fear of dying in prison.

The study included a list of recommendations, which ranged from releasing terminally ill, geriatric, and “severely disabled” people to hospice care or private facilities to tracking health care expenditures by age and type. According to a status update published the following year, only 2 people were released to a hospice or private facility during fiscal year 2006-2007, while most other recommendations were still under review.

In the almost 15 years that followed, the state has taken little action, while the number of older incarcerated people, and the costs associated with caring for them, have continued to increase. By 2018, nearly 9,000 people incarcerated in North Carolina prisons were 50 or older, according to Baumgartner’s paper — up 158 % since 2005. And in a 2018 report to the state’s Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, program evaluators found that the average health care expenditure for an elderly incarcerated person increased to $36,399 in fiscal year 2016-2017 — up nearly $31,000 since fiscal year 2006-2007. It cost the state an estimated $27,748 more per person annually to care for an elderly person as compared with their younger peers.

The state has made some efforts to provide better, more cost-effective care. In 2011, North Carolina completed a $153.7 million medical complex at Central Prison, where death row is located. According to news reports prior to its opening, the new hospital was predicted to save the state $40 million a year. In 2019, a new 46-bed palliative and long-term care unit was completed — an improvement with the potential to make a real difference for older incarcerated people. But it sits empty, awaiting additional funding from lawmakers. On Thursday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a new state budget that provides the needed funds for staffing and operational costs. Lawmakers also allocated an additional $45 million this year, and $50 million per year from 2022 onward, to help close a budget shortfall related to the pandemic and the rising cost of health care for incarcerated people.

Natural Deaths

Over the last 15 years, since the last execution in North Carolina, 17 older people on death row have died of “natural causes.” The average age of death was 65, 10 years younger than the average life expectancy for a man outside prison. According to medical reports from the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, at least 13 deaths were due to either cancer or heart disease, the leading causes of death in prison. But 2 people, Bernard Lamp and Malcolm Geddie, died from hepatitis C, a curable disease.

In May 2016, Lamp, 58, underwent a procedure to treat enlarged, bleeding veins in his esophagus, known as esophageal varices, that typically occur in someone with advanced liver disease. 10 days later, Burke, who was incarcerated in the same pod as Lamp, saw Lamp after he came back to the cellblock from the recreation yard. Lamp approached Burke and asked him if he looked pale, Burke said. Burke didn’t think so, but Lamp told him that he felt like he was losing blood.

Later that night, sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight, Lamp began vomiting blood, according to Andrew Ramseur, an incarcerated person who witnessed the event while working as the night janitor, and Burke, who heard gagging coming from Lamp’s cell. Others on the cellblock began yelling for help, Burke said, but it’s almost impossible to alert staff from behind a cell door in Central Prison. 2 guards discovered Lamp lying in a pool of blood when they made rounds later that night, according to Ramseur and Burke. Burke witnessed Lamp vomit blood 3 times before he was removed from the cellblock.

According to the medical examiner’s report, Lamp, who had a history of cirrhosis and esophageal varices resulting from hepatitis C, vomited another liter of blood in the emergency room at UNC Rex Hospital. He was intubated and sent to intensive care, where he died later that morning. According to a DPS news release, he died of “apparent natural causes.”

Geddie, meanwhile, was admitted to UNC Rex in June 2017 and diagnosed with portal vein thrombosis, a clot that cuts off blood supply to the liver, and bowel ischemia, which reduces blood flow to the small intestine, according to a medical examiner’s report. Too unstable for surgery, Geddie became septic and died 2 days later. According to the report, Geddie had a variety of chronic illnesses and diseases, and his death, at age 70, was ultimately a result of complications of end-stage liver disease due to hepatitis C.

At the time of Lamp’s and Geddie’s deaths, hepatitis C treatment was not widely offered to incarcerated people. According to Geddie’s medical examiner’s report, he had begun treatment approximately a week before his death. It’s unclear whether Lamp had been treated or was even eligible for treatment, but Burke believes that Lamp had not received treatment. “If he had been getting it, he would have told me,” Burke said. In North Carolina prisons, medical records are kept confidential, even from the incarcerated people they concern.

“If you have hepatitis C, and there’s a cure, you have to give them the cure. Otherwise, you’re a monster.”

Treatment and testing protocols changed following a 2018 federal lawsuit filed on behalf of 3 people incarcerated in North Carolina prisons who had been diagnosed with hepatitis C. DPS had refused to treat the plaintiffs with direct-acting antiviral drugs, known as DAAs, according to court documents, noting that treatment was only approved if “significant liver scarring and the risks of further significant injury are higher” or if the patient had hepatitis B or HIV. According to the lawsuit, treatment could be denied if the patient’s life expectancy was less than 10 years or if the patient had a drug or alcohol infraction within the previous 12 months.

The lawsuit was settled earlier this year and ultimately expanded hepatitis C testing and DAA treatment to at least 2,100 people incarcerated in North Carolina’s prisons over a 5-year period. At least 1,500 incarcerated people in North Carolina had hepatitis C in 2018, according to the lawsuit, though one estimate put that number at between 6,599 and 12,553. DPS will also be required to report how many incarcerated people are tested and treated every 6 months, though those requirements won’t begin until DPS resumes normal operations after the pandemic.

Ben Finholt, director of the Just Sentencing Project at Duke Law School’s Wilson Center for Science and Justice, believes that the complaints filed in the hepatitis C lawsuit were indicative of the greater problems related to health care quality and access within the North Carolina prison system. “If you have hepatitis C, and there’s a cure, you have to give them the cure,” Finholt told The Intercept. “Otherwise, you’re a monster.”

An Impenetrable System

The pandemic has also demonstrated how the state’s prison health care system fails those incarcerated within it, with the gravest consequences faced by older adults and those with chronic diseases. As a result of a civil rights lawsuit that challenged the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions in North Carolina prisons, the state eventually agreed to release 3,500 prisoners over a 6-month period.

When the pandemic hit North Carolina’s prison system, chronic care needs went unmet and sick calls were often ignored by the already limited medical staff, said Elizabeth Simpson, associate director of Emancipate NC, one of the groups that brought the lawsuit. All of that hit the older population the hardest. (According to a 2020 report to the state’s Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, DPS had a 26 % vacancy rate for nurses.)

Among the more than 29,000 people currently incarcerated in North Carolina’s prisons, those over 50 with underlying health conditions were, and remain, at the greatest risk from Covid. Despite strict safety protocols, testing, and vaccines mandated by the lawsuit, the virus still infected over 10,000 incarcerated people, many before the lawsuit was settled. According to the DPS Covid dashboard, 55 incarcerated people have died from Covid since the beginning of the pandemic, though news reports from Indy Week as well as an earlier investigation by North Carolina Health News and Vice News claim that DPS is underreporting the death toll.

“We got reports from people with cancer saying that DPS just stopped giving cancer meds to them during a global pandemic. … That’s just unconscionable.”

“If I were to pick one broad topic where North Carolina prisons are the most out of bounds on the constitutional rights of the people in their custody, it’s a close call between their use of segregation and their medical care,” Finholt said. “It’s really horrendous. And Covid was a prime example of it. We got reports from people with cancer saying that DPS just stopped giving cancer meds to them during a global pandemic, where if you have a weakened immune system, you’re much more likely to die. That’s just unconscionable.”

Aside from their Covid-19 concerns, older incarcerated people on death row say they face structural obstacles to getting basic care.

To receive medical care — whether for an emergency or a routine physical or chronic care appointment — incarcerated people in North Carolina’s prisons must submit a sick call describing their need. Typically, a nurse sees the person within a week to screen them and take vitals. If the problem warrants being seen by a doctor, a nurse makes a note of it. Seeing a doctor takes two to three weeks. If a medical issue requires specialty care, it can take a month or more. Medications, X-rays, and lab tests usually occur within a week after that. As a result, it may take 6 weeks after submitting a sick call to receive treatment, which requires a $5 co-pay.

Requests for specialized treatment go through the utilization management program, which continues to make crucial medical determinations with an eye on cost, deciding who receives surgery for an ACL tear or ibuprofen and an ice pack, or nothing at all, with little recourse if a claim is denied.

DPS is required to conduct a physical on all incarcerated individuals 50 or older at least once a year, but just over half of 31 older people on death row informally surveyed by The Intercept said they had received a complete checkup within the last year. Only four of 17 people who said they needed treatment for chronic diseases — such as hypertension, diabetes, HIV, or sarcoidosis — reported being seen by a chronic care doctor in the last year.

This limited access to medical care will likely lead to suffering or premature death for many people on death row and serving life without parole, Baumgartner said.

“Our options are either paying for the kind of medical care that people deserve just as a human right or warehouse people until they die of old age after terrible suffering, forgotten, thrown away in a box without adequate medical care,” he said. “Is that the country we want to be?

Weeping Wounds

2 years ago, Allen Holman, a 62-year-old on death row since 1998, sat in the nurses’ station at Central Prison with a towel pressed against his stomach. Holman had been diagnosed with colon cancer a few years earlier, and doctors had removed his colon and rectum. After surgery, he was supposed to receive training on how to properly clean and change his colostomy bag, but his referral to an ostomy clinic was denied by the utilization management program, he said.

Seated in the nurses’ station that day, Holman’s colostomy bag wouldn’t fill against his blistered, bleeding skin — the result of violent feces leaking from his stoma and a bad case of untreated eczema. Accompanied by 3 friends who provided much of his daily care, Holman waited silently while a nurse tried to reattach his colostomy bag without cleaning the site, much to the protest of his informal caregivers. The nurse, growing frustrated, finally called the prison’s urgent care.

Jason Hurst, Holman’s friend on death row who was with him that day, reflected on his role as a caregiver in a journal entry from September 2019.

“We have a routine where I stop in throughout the day and ask, ‘Are you alright?’” Hurst wrote in an excerpt he shared with The Intercept. “Usually he just responds with an unconvincing ‘Yeah,’ but this time, after a long silence, he whispered, ‘I’m tired.’ This drew me into his cell. I sat beside his bed and asked what he meant. He explained that he was ready to die, to be done suffering. At that point, both of us had tears in our eyes. In many ways I see him as the physical manifestation of the pain, sadness, and despair I fight to keep at bay, and that realization makes me fight for him as well.”

As people on death row create informal networks to care for one another, they also hope that the state will approve and fund a program that would train and better equip them to do so. In 2018, George Wilkerson, a 40-year-old man incarcerated on death row, submitted a proposal to Chad Lovett, the CEO of Central Prison’s hospital, calling for the creation and implementation of a caretaker program. According to Wilkerson, Lovett approved a pilot program, which would assign one trained incarcerated caregiver to each disabled person on death row. In February 2020, Wilkerson said he had been told by a DPS unit manager that the program was still moving forward. But then the pandemic hit, and there’s been no further word, Wilkerson said.

Meanwhile, Hurst and Holman’s other friends do their best to care for him, but without proper training, there’s only so much they can do. Had something as simple as a caretaker program been implemented, they might know how to effectively deal with Holman’s many needs — like changing out and securing his colostomy bag. Instead, they wing it for the sake of helping their friend.

(source: theintercept.com)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

Critical questions remain about SC firing squad executions, journalist says

South Carolina is preparing to resume executions after a decade, now that death row inmates have the option to be executed by firing squad. The Department of Corrections is preparing protocol, equipment and staff to carry out these executions. But The State newspaper reports the department won’t release critical information about its plans and is requiring those helping to carry out executions to sign confidentiality agreements. Chiara Eisner, a reporter with The State, has been looking into executions for several months. She WFAE’s “Morning Edition” host Lisa Worf.

Lisa Worf: First, why is adding this option of firing squads allowing South Carolina to resume executions?

Chiara Eisner: So, the option was added in May, and it was actually suggested by a state senator who is a Democrat. You know, one of the reasons I believe it was suggested was because the only available (death penalty) method in South Carolina right now is the electric chair. I should add it is the right of people on death row to have a choice in how they die. So the current situation in South Carolina was actually declared untenable by the South Carolina Supreme Court in June. They said that so long as South Carolina had only one method, the electric chair, executions could not continue. So until the firing squad or another method is ready, executions can’t continue in South Carolina.

Worf: So what do we know about the plans the Department of Corrections has made so far to begin executing people by firing squad?

Eisner: So we have spent the past 5 months trying to get that answer. And what the Department of Corrections told us is that they’ve spent just over $53,000 in preparing the squad. You know, we obtained purchase orders that show they’ve bought rifles. They’ve bought bullets. They’ve bought partitions. They’ve bought a ballistic blanket.

What they showed us amounts to about $30,000. There’s still $20,000 of expenses that they haven’t yet showed what that money went toward. They’re not revealing the name of the vendors. They’re not revealing the quantity of bullets purchased, the type of bullets, the caliber of rifle. All of that is kept secret, though experts we consulted told us that that was not how it should be.

Worf: And what’s the Department of Corrections’ explanation for not releasing this information? Why has been so hard to get it?

Eisner: Their main argument is that there’s just some things that the public doesn’t need to know and that this is a security issue for them.

Worf: Another part of the preparations that the Department of Corrections is conducting now is, as you reported, having people who carry out executions, who help with it in some way, sign a confidentiality agreement. How far does that extend for employees?

Eisner: The confidentiality agreement shows that, you know, there’s an expectation for anyone who’s involved with executions in South Carolina right now to not share that information, not even with the public, but also within the agency. They’re not to talk about executions with anyone who is not also working on executions in the group.

And while that does protect the identity of the executioners, which is critical and which is mandated by state law, lawyers we spoke to say that that is overly broad. Because it also seems to intimidate those workers that, we have shown through our reporting, are some of the ones most in need of support and most in need of counseling and most in need of even sometimes outside help if they want to seek counseling outside the agency.

This kind of document seems to intimidate them from accessing the government services that are provided that are supposed to help them, as well as anything outside the agency. It really seems to be putting their well-being at risk.

Worf: That’s Chiara Eisner, a reporter for The State newspaper. Ms. Eisner, thank you.

Eisner: Thank you very much.

(source: WFAE news)

ALABAMA:

State to seek death penalty for man charged with killing Huntsville police officer

Madison County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the man charged with killing Huntsville Police Officer Billy Clardy III, according to a motion filed Friday.

The motion, filed in Madison County Circuit Court, states several reasons for seeking the death penalty against LaJeromeny Brown, including that Brown was under a prison sentence and that the victim was a law enforcement officer.

Brown was indicted in September for the killing of Officer Clardy. Court documents show that Brown was indicted for capital murder, and remains in the Madison County Jail, where he is being held without bond.

As previously reported, Brown shot and killed Clardy during a drug bust operation on December 6, 2019.

Officials say Clardy was shot immediately after arriving at the operation on Levert Street. Clardy was hit outside his bulletproof vest, and taken to Huntsville Hospital where he died from his injuries.

Brown was captured by other officers after a short foot chase.

(source: WHNT news)

MISSISSIPPI:

STILL ON DEATH ROW: Two inmates facing death penalty have connections to Adams County

On Wednesday, David Neal Cox, 50, became the 1st person to be executed in Mississippi since 2012 while nearly 40 others — including a man sentenced in Adams County and another convicted of killing a Natchez teen — remain on death row.

Cox pleaded guilty in 2012 to capital murder for the May 2010 shooting death of his estranged wife, Kim Kirk Cox. He also pleaded guilty to multiple other charges, including the sexual assault of Kim Cox’s 12-year-old daughter as her mother lay dying in front of her.

The Clarion Ledger reports 36 men and one woman are currently on death row in the state, adding no other execution has been scheduled as of Wednesday.

Joseph Patrick Brown

One of those on death row is 52-year-old Joseph Patrick Brown, who in March 1994 was convicted of murdering a Natchez convenience store clerk and sentenced to death in Adams County.

Court records state that during the early morning hours of August 8, 1992, Brown and his then-girlfriend were driving around Natchez looking for drugs when they pulled into the Charter Food Store where Martha Day worked.

Brown’s girlfriend testified that she saw Day “grab her chest, turn and fall to the floor” after Brown approached the counter. She testified that Brown returned to the car with a cash register and other items. It was discovered later that Day had been shot four times and died at the scene.

Willie Jerome “Fly” Manning

In another case, a Natchez man attending Mississippi State University in Starkville was killed.

Willie Jerome “Fly” Manning, 53, is on death row at Mississippi State Penitentiary with 2 death sentences for a Nov. 1994 conviction of double murder.

Jon Steckler, 19, and Tiffany Miller, 22, two students at Mississippi State University in Starkville were, according to prosecutors, forced into Miller’s car from the street in front of Steckler’s fraternity house on December 11, 1992.

About an hour later, a motorist found Steckler by the side of a road in rural Oktibbeha County just outside Starkville. He had been shot in the back of the head and run over by Miller’s car, a Toyota MR2. When law enforcement officers arrived, they found Miller’s body in nearby woods.

She had been shot twice and evidence suggested that she had been sexually assaulted. Steckler died shortly after. In the morning, Miller’s car was found near the MSU campus.

Steckler was a sophomore majoring in forest resources. He played high school football for Cathedral High School in Natchez and a devout Christian who went on mission trips with the Catholic Youth Organization. He served in the mission field in Mexico and was also an outdoorsman and hunter.

Miller was a 3rd-year sophomore from Madison and studying nursing.

Convictions stand pending DNA evidence review

Manning was arrested after he reportedly attempted to sell items that belonged to the victims — including a Cathedral class ring that Steckler wore — as well as items from a car that was burglarized at the fraternity house where Miller and Steckler were seemingly taken.

Manning has maintained that the items he attempted to sell had been stolen by someone else. He had been scheduled for execution in May 2013, but the death penalty was stayed without explanation. Just days before the scheduled execution, the U.S. Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged flawed DNA evidence had been used to convict Manning amid a broader review of the FBI’s handling of scientific evidence in thousands of violent crimes in the 1980s and 1990s.

Manning asked for a retest of DNA evidence used in the case using technology that was not available at the time of his trial.

He has previously been exonerated of a second double murder conviction for the deaths of 90-year-old Emmoline Jimmerson and her 60-year-old daughter, Albertha Jordan.

Both were murdered during an attempted robbery at their apartment in Starkville weeks after Steckler and Miller were killed.

The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned this verdict and ordered a new trial after finding that the prosecutors withheld evidence showing that a key witness had lied. The charges against Manning for the Jimmerson and Jordan murders were later dropped.

(source: Natchez Democrat)

OKLAHOMA:

Stitt commutation for Jones stirs controversy

Supporters of Julius Jones rallied outside of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Thursday, Nov. 18, in Norman. Jones’ death sentence was commuted this week by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to commute Julius Jones’ death sentence this week has reinvigorated the nationwide discussion on capital punishment and whether it should remain available, or be abolished.

Jones, 41, was charged with murder after the 1999 killing of Paul Howell in Edmond, and has spent nearly 20 years on death row. The state’s Pardon and Parole Board recently issued a recommendation that his sentence be commuted to life with the possibility of parole due to concerns about evidence in the case. But Stitt ordered Jones to spend the rest of his life behind bars and not be eligible to apply for a commutation, pardon or parole.

Some state officials were thankful for the governor’s decision, while others believe justice was not served. State Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, claimed the proper response would have been to carry out the death penalty, and that the Howell family didn’t receive proper justice.

“This is probably the end of the death penalty in the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “Many people may rejoice at this. I do not. The law-abiding people of the state of Oklahoma will eventually pay the price for this.”

Some members of the Legislature expressed gratitude that Stitt commuted the sentence, but still feel the state’s criminal justice system needs increased transparency and accountability.

“Raising concerns and questions of legality is Gov. Stitt’s Executive Order stating Julius Jones will not be eligible to apply for or be considered for commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life,” said State Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-OKC. “Doubt in the case remains, and this innocent man should not be in prison.”

Oklahoma just recently resumed executions when John Grant was given a controversial three-drug cocktail. This came after a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty, which was put in place after two inmates were believed to experience immense pain when being executed. Lawmakers will likely attempt to pass legislation to remove the punishment, but it could be an uphill battle.

“I’m still a proponent of the death penalty,” said State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee. “I think there’s a place for it. I think the people of Oklahoma have been very strong in polls over recent years – 60 or 70 % of the people in this state believe there needs to be a death penalty for heinous crimes. So I think that still needs to be an option.”

The Jones case has received widespread attention, with celebrities from multiple sectors weighing in. After his commutation, President Joe Biden’s press secretary said he has concerns about whether capital punishment, as currently implemented, is consistent with American values.

Cherokee County Democratic Party Vice Chair Dell Barnes said the death penalty is costly, inhumane and ineffective.

“It is applied disproportionately to minorities, disabled and the poor, and revictimizes the families of victims of crime as they suffer through continuous litigation that follows sentencing,” he said. “We as a society are not able to responsibly and judiciously carry out the death penalty or the processes that come with it, and it should be abolished.”

While the family and advocates of Jones celebrated his survival, they still back his innocence and wish to see him defend himself in court again. The NAACP demanded a retrial, while the Oklahoma American Civil Liberties Union said Jones’ case was tainted with racism, since 11 of the 12 jurors at his trial were white.

Jones apparently did not match the description of the perpetrator. He was also not brought up to the stand to testify, so his legal team failed to present his alibi. And his co-defendant, who testified against Jones, reportedly boasted to fellow inmates that he was the one who actually killed the man, and that he framed Jones.

Then-Attorney General Mike Hunter said Jones’ alibi was found not to be credible, and that Jones was inconsistent about his whereabouts the night Howell was killed. And an attorney for the co-defendant said in September that his client denied confessing to anyone, and that he testified truthfully in the trial.

“With regard to that trial, there’s evidence on both sides,” Pemberton said. “Talking to some people who were close to the case, the gun that was used in the execution was wrapped in the bandana he was wearing with his DNA on it. So I don’t think there was any doubt that he killed that person. I think the questions were if he got adequate defense. I saw his attorney on TV the other night saying he thought he did adequately, but that he thought race was an issue.”

According to reports, Stitt said the Pardon and Parole Board does not have the authority to recommend a death sentence be commuted to life with the possibility of parole, and the state’s Constitution does not give him the authority to grant any recommendation. The family of Howell and Attorney General John O’Connor both offered their appreciation that Jones will remain behind bars.

Cherokee County Democratic Party Chair Yolette Ross, who doesn’t favor the death penalty, actually served on the New Jersey State Parole Board before moving to Oklahoma. She said it wasn’t uncommon for inmates convicted of murder to be granted parole after serving a life sentence, which is 25 years in New Jersey.

“The big thing, at least with my decisions, was whether there was any kind of remorse on the perpetrator’s part,” she said. “There were a lot of cases where the inmate came in and showed no kind of empathy or remorse. You can’t really justify putting somebody like that out on the streets among decent people.”

Ross did add that it can be difficult to determine a person’s empathy when he claims he is innocent.

Cherokee County Libertarian Party Chair Shannon Grimes, Cherokee County Republican Party Chair Josh Owen, and State Rep. Bob Ed Culver, R-Tahlequah, did not return messages by press time.

(source: Tahlequah Daily Press)

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Julius Jones was spared by a governor who prayed. Let’s all now pray to end the death penalty.—-If Christians alone agreed to stop executing people today, it would end the death penalty overnight.

Julius Darius Jones is alive!

Just hours before Jones’ scheduled execution on Thursday (Nov. 18), Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt commuted Julius’ death sentence, bringing the machinery of death to a halt.

Prayer had something to do with it.

Stitt, an active member of Woodlake Church in Tulsa, announced his decision to spare Julius’ life, saying, “After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”

I believe in the power of prayer. I’m glad the governor is a man of prayer.

Jones is also a man of prayer. He is also surrounded by prayer, beginning with Mama Jones and Antoinette, his sister. Hundreds of pastors, such as the Rev. Keith Jossell and the Rev. Cece Jones, have been hosting virtual prayer vigils for weeks as the execution date loomed. Some of the most influential clergy in the country have voiced their support for Julius and have called for abolition of the death penalty.

I can’t help but think that the prayers of millions of people all over the world this week had an impact on the fact that Julius is still alive today. Images went viral of folks on their knees in the Capitol building in Oklahoma City, praying for a miracle of mercy, then of the hands raised in the streets singing “Amazing Grace” when that miracle came.

The irony cannot be missed. Christians all over the world were praying that a Christian governor would not execute a fellow Christian brother who is almost assuredly innocent.

There is an old Pogo cartoon that says, “We’ve met the enemy… it’s us.” For Christians that is the case when it comes to the death penalty. Christians have traditionally been the biggest supporters of the death penalty in America, despite worshipping an executed and risen savior.

If Christians alone agreed to stop executing people, it would end the death penalty overnight. Ninety percent of executions happen in the Bible belt, which could be called the death belt in America. If Christian governors, judges and legislators decided to be pro-life on this issue, there would be no more executions in America. The death penalty has survived not in spite of us, but because of us. It is time to change that.

The states that held on to slavery the longest are the same states that are holding on to the death penalty. Where lynchings were happening 100 years ago is precisely where executions are happening today. The same state that almost killed Julius Jones this week was responsible for the destruction of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street in 1921.

One of the officers used a racial slur while arresting Julius. During jury selection, prosecutors struck all but one Black potential juror. One of the jurors referred to Julius with the n-word and said he should be taken out back and shot.

Four hundred years of slavery and racism still inhabits our criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to the death penalty. Black defendants are more than 17 times more likely to be executed for capital crimes when the victim is white. What determines who gets executed in America is not the atrocity of the crime but arbitrary matters such as the race of the victim and the resources of the defendant.

Our broken justice system feels at times as if it’s geared to embolden white supremacy. A day after Jones’ sentence for a crime he almost certainly didn’t commit, Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal in Wisconsin will almost certainly be received as a license for vigilante justice and a shield for white supremacy. Americans who already feel invincible because of laws like Stand Your Ground will take heart.

Even if racism were not at play, we are human. We’ve shown over and over that we get it wrong. There are now multiple signed affidavits from people who know who committed the crime Jones was convicted of. You can’t bring someone back from the dead.

Sr. Helen Prejean puts it plainly: “The profound moral question about those we condemn to death is not, “Do they deserve to die?” but “Do we deserve to kill?”

As much as we want to sterilize it, we have a system that kills, even though none of us wants to think of ourself as a killer. But the opposite is true: When a democracy kills we all carry the weight of it. We all have blood on our hands unless we are an active part of the resistance.

Today we can rejoice that there is not a funeral being planned for Julius Jones, but we still have work to do. The governor did not free Julius; he gave him life without parole. We need to fight to see an innocent man set free. There are 5 more men awaiting death in Oklahoma and dozens across the country. We will be fighting for the full abolition of the death penalty.

So today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we organize.

And every day we pray. We pray because we know there is a God who cares about life and mercy and forgiveness. My prayer is that we would do what the prophet Micah says: Let us “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”

(source: Shane Claiborne; Religion News Service)

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Oklahoma scheduled to execute death row inmate Bigler Stouffer on Dec. 9

The state of Oklahoma is scheduled to put Oklahoma death row inmate Bigler Stouffer to death on Dec. 9.

Stouffer was convicted of murdering a Putnam City teacher in 1985.

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday recommended clemency for Stouffer. They recommended clemency not because they think he’s innocent, but because of concerns over the drugs used in the state’s executions.

Board members specifically questioned whether they should vote on these cases at all when those drugs are set to go into litigation in February.

Gov. Kevin Stitt will now decide whether to grant Stouffer clemency.

(source: fox23.com)

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Oklahoma death penalty supporters fear executions ending

After a 6-year moratorium on the death penalty because of a series of botched lethal injections, Oklahoma officials announced they would execute 7 men in quick succession, leading some death penalty supporters to believe the state’s executions would resume posthaste. But what was once one of the nation’s busiest death chambers has not resumed as some had hoped after Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted the death sentence of Julius Jones on Thursday.

The commutation came just weeks after criticism and questions about the state’s 3-drug execution protocol were renewed following the Oct. 28 execution of John Marion Grant, who convulsed and vomited as he received midazolam, the 1st of the 3 drugs.

Earlier this week, members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday voted 3-2 to recommend clemency for death row inmate Bigler Stouffer II — not because of doubt over his guilt, but over concerns about the state’s execution methods.

“This is probably the end of the death penalty in the state of Oklahoma,” Republican state Rep. Jim Olsen, a death penalty supporter, said Friday.

The following day, Stitt commuted Jones’ death sentence to life without parole, just hours before his scheduled execution.

Olsen told The Associated Press that he is disappointed with Stitt’s decision and had hoped executions would resume in the state.

“I was hopeful that it was, yes, and I say that for my desire for the state, for the good of the law abiding people of the state of Oklahoma,” Olsen said.

“I think it gives us a more permissive climate to commit murder,” Olsen said, while refusing to criticize Stitt. “It’s obviously a very difficult position to be in, I don’t think anyone would say ’I wish I was the governor and had to decide this,’” Olsen said.

Olsen said Jones was convicted of the “brutal” murder of businessman Paul Howell in front of Howell’s young daughters and his sister.

“If that won’t merit the death penalty, how much more egregious can you get?” Olsen said, noting that the state Pardon and Parole Board had recommended commutation of Jones’ sentence prior to recommending commutation for Stouffer.

Stitt has not commented on the reason why he agreed to commute Jones’ death sentence or on the board’s recommendation to commute Stouffer’s sentence.

“He (Stitt) supports the death penalty, but he considers (commutations) on a case-by-case basis,” said Stitt spokesperson Carly Atchison. “The conditions of (Jones’) commutation, that he will never be eligible for pardon or parole,” was key to Stitt’s decision, Atchison said.

An attorney for Jones did not immediately return a phone call for comment on any appeals that might be filed.

Don Heath, chairman of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Jones’ options appear to be limited.

“I think he has exhausted his appeals. Only if new evidence comes forward can he appeal,” Heath said. “I don’t think you can appeal a mercy decision, a clemency decision.”

Heath said he believes that if any clemency recommendation request were to be denied, it would have been Stouffer’s, but he questions whether the death penalty has effectively ended in the state.

“I hope that’s the case,“ Heath said. “I haven’t seen any indication from Gov. Stitt that this is the case” because of Stitt’s support of the death penalty, he said.

Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s lethal injection protocols is set for trial in February. The lawsuit argues that the 3-drug method risks causing unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Heath said Stitt “needs to stay all executions” until after the trial.

(source: Washington Post)

ARIZONA:

Prosecutors seek death penalty against man accused of killing Chandler police officer

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has filed a notice that it intends to seek the death penalty if a man suspected of murdering a Chandler police officer is convicted.

Jonathan Altland was arrested on suspicion of 1st-degree murder after police say he fatally struck Officer Christopher Farrar while fleeing from police in a stolen vehicle on April 29.

Court documents say Pima County sheriff’s deputies attempted to stop Altland for speeding in a yellow pickup truck near Eloy and eventually learned the truck was stolen. Altland drove north on State Route 87 toward Chandler and began pulling over before firing at the deputies and fleeing.

Police continued chasing Altland until he crashed into a SanTan Ford dealership’s outside fence just west of Val Vista Drive and off the north side of Loop 202.

Police say Altland fled into the dealership where he stole another car and drove into multiple officers, killing Farrar and injuring several others before crashing into a parked vehicle and was arrested.

Prosecutors charged Altland with first-degree murder of a peace officer along with 22 counts of aggravated assault, one count of first-degree burglary and other charges.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Altland if he’s convicted of first-degree murder, highlighting that Farrar was an on-duty police officer.

Altland’s trial is scheduled for Oct. 10, 2023, in Maricopa County Superior Court.

(source: azcentral.com)

USA:

2021 Gallup Poll: Public Support for Capital Punishment Remains at Half-Century Low

Public support for the death penalty again polled at a half-century low, with opposition remaining at its highest level since May 1966, according to the 2021 Gallup poll on Americans’ attitudes about capital punishment.

54 % of respondents to Gallup’s annual crime survey conducted between October 1 and October 19, 2021 told the polling organization that they were “in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder.” The figure was the lowest since 50% of respondents in March 1972 told Gallup they favored the death penalty. Gallup described the results as “essentially unchanged from readings over the past 4 years.” Support was marginally lower than the 55% reported in October 2017 and 2020, and 2 % points lower than in October 2018 and 2019.

Support for capital punishment has declined 26 % points from the high of 80% reported in Gallup’s September 1994 crime survey.

43 % of respondents told Gallup that they were opposed to the death penalty as a punishment for murder, matching the responses reported in the 2020 death penalty poll. Opposition to capital punishment was the highest in 55 years, since 47% of Americans expressed opposition to capital punishment in the May 1966 Gallup survey. The number was marginally higher than the 42% level of opposition reported in 2019 and 2 % points higher than in 2017 and 2018.

The results followed the continuing pattern of declining death-penalty support found in the organization’s polling. “A different death penalty question Gallup has asked occasionally, though not in the latest poll, finds lower support for the death penalty when life imprisonment with no possibility of parole is offered as an explicit alternative,” Gallup Senior Editor Jeffrey M. Jones said. “That question also shows declining support for the death penalty compared with the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s,” Jones said.

In Gallup’s 2019 crime survey, a record-high 60% % of Americans asked to choose whether the death penalty or life without possibility of parole “is the better penalty for murder” chose the life-sentencing option. 36% favored the death penalty.

The Demographics of Death-Penalty Support

The Gallup topline numbers found substantial differences in support for capital punishment based on a respondent’s gender, race, age, political affiliation, and political ideology. Support for capital punishment dropped among women, respondents of color, younger and older Americans, Republicans, and Democrats. Support rose among those aged 35-54, college graduates, Independents, and moderates. It remained essentially unchanged among other demographic groups.

In the 2021 poll, 59% of men said they were in favor of the death penalty (the same as in 2020), while opposition was down 1 % point to 38%. By contrast, 50% of women favored and 48% opposed capital punishment, compared with 52%–47% in 2020.

Whites favored the death penalty 59%–38%, compared to 60%–39% in 2020. Non-whites opposed capital punishment 53%–45%, up 2 % points in each category from the previous year.

Opposition to the death penalty rose by 3 % points among younger Americans, while support fell by 7 % points. 55% of respondents to the 2021 crime survey aged 18-34, said they opposed the death penalty versus 41% who expressed support. In 2020, the numbers were 52%–48%. By contrast, support for the death penalty rose among respondents aged 35-54 from 53%–44% in the 2020 survey to 58%–41% in 2021. Support for capital punishment declined slightly among Americans 55 and older from 63%–35% in 2020 to 61%–36% in 2021.

Level of education also affected views on the death penalty, although not as much as in past years. Support for the death penalty increased by 5 % points and opposition fell by 6 percentage points among college graduates between the 2020 and 2021 crime surveys. In the 2020 crime survey, college graduates opposed capital punishment 53%­–45%; in 2021, they favored it 50%–47%. Those with some college education and those with a high school education or less both supported the death penalty 57%–41%. The numbers marked a slight decline in support, from 59%–40%, among those with some college education, but declined significantly among respondents with a high school education or less, who in 2020 supported the death penalty 62%–37%.

The greatest differences in Americans’ views continued to be along partisan and ideological lines, though support fell among both left and right while rising in the center. Support among those self-identifying remained strong, with 77% of Republicans saying they favored the death penalty, while 22% expressed opposition. However, the numbers represented a 5 percentage point shift from 2020 levels, when Republican overwhelmingly favored the death penalty by 82%–17%. Democrats underwent a comparable shift away from the death penalty, with 66% saying they opposed capital punishment versus 34% in support. In 2020, Democrats opposed the death penalty by 58%–39%. At the same time, those identifying as Independents moved in the other direction. While Independents narrowly opposed the death penalty, 50%–49% in 2020, they favored it by 55%–41% in 2021.

Those identifying themselves as conservatives were less supportive of capital punishment than those identifying as Republicans, with 70% saying they were in favor of the death penalty versus 27% saying they were opposed. That represented small declines both in support and in opposition from their views in 2020 (72%–28%). Those describing themselves as liberal opposed the death penalty, 69%–28%, up from 67%– 32% in 2020. By contrast, support for capital punishment increased among those identifying themselves as moderate by two percentage points, 57%–41%, compared to 55%-42% in 2020.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Capital Punishment Still Serves Its Purpose. Don’t Abolish It

Bowing to intense political pressure, Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt, the Republican governor of one of the nation’s reddest states, commuted on Thursday the death sentence of convicted murderer Julius Jones. Stitt’s commutation of Jones, who was convicted for a first-degree carjacking murder in one of the most reliably pro-death penalty states, is but the latest troubling data pointing toward the possible ultimate abolition of the death penalty in America.

In 2020, former President Donald Trump directed then-Attorney General William Barr to resume federal executions after a 17-year hiatus. From July 2020 through January 2021, the Trump-led Department of Justice oversaw 13 executions. The 1st to be executed during that stretch, Daniel Lewis Lee, robbed a family and, as the Justice Department’s website recounted at the time, “covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of 3 into the Illinois bayou.” The final man executed, Dustin Higgs, was convicted of directing the murders of 3 women in a wildlife refuge. He died unrepentant.

But this July, President Joe Biden ordered Attorney General Merrick Garland to once again pause federal executions. “The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said at the time. Innocent unborn children, of course, need not apply.

Since then, Biden’s Justice Department has argued to reinstate the death sentence for 2013 Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who represents the paradigmatic case for capital punishment. But it defies common sense to think Tsarnaev could actually meet his Maker under Uncle Joe. In June, as the administration unveiled its plan to resume the federal execution moratorium, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said Biden believes the Justice Department should “not carry out executions.” Bates added that Biden “has made clear that he has deep concerns about whether capital punishment is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness.” Simply put, there is no world in which the Biden-led Justice Department crosses the president on such a politically sensitive issue.

We know for certain that some on the U.S. Supreme Court agree with Biden. In the 2015 case of Glossip v. Gross, a divided 5-4 Court upheld the constitutionality of using the drug midazolam in a “cocktail” to execute prisoners properly convicted of a capital offense. That many states—in the case of Glossip, Oklahoma—are forced to resort to using “cocktails” is itself troubling, evincing a concerted effort from pharmaceutical companies to avoid any possible complicity with the ultimate form of punishment. In his Glossip dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, argued that the death penalty practice itself is unconstitutional. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a separate dissent, but it beggars belief that she and Justice Elena Kagan would not join Breyer if the question of the entire practice’s constitutionality were squarely teed up for the Court.

The death penalty remains popular, broadly speaking: In 2020, Gallup reported that Americans favored maintaining the death penalty for convicted murderers by a 55 % to 43 % margin. But that support has fallen a long way from the 80 % to 16 % margin Gallup found on the same question back in 1994. Moreover, it is unfortunate that the death penalty is now only spoken of in the context of convicted murderers. Even child rapists are no longer eligible for capital punishment, thanks to the Court’s deeply misguided 2008 decision, Kennedy v. Louisiana.

For all of the hifalutin, lofty rhetoric liberals invariably spew when it comes to the purported need to erect insurmountable guardrails around capital punishment, the fact remains that it is our law and our long-standing tradition that the worst of the worst in society should face the ultimate punishment. And that tradition is morally sound, rooted in Leviticus 24:19-20: “And a man who inflicts an injury upon his fellow man just as he did, so shall be done to him (namely,) fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Just as he inflicted an injury upon a person, so shall it be inflicted upon him.” Where is the Left’s compassion for the victims of the worst crimes known to mankind?

There are some crimes for which even life imprisonment without parole simply does not suffice. If the classical definition of justice is to reward good and punish evil, then there is no more quintessentially just act than to execute murderers. Hopefully, Stitt’s commutation of Jones does not further take America down the wrong—and unjust—path.

(source: Opinion; Josh Hammer is Newsweek opinion editor, a syndicated columnist and a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation)

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Republicans Across the Country Are Joining the Fight to End the Death Penalty

Criminal justice reform advocates celebrated this week when Oklahoma Governor Stitt granted clemency to death row inmate Julius Jones. Jones, who was convicted of a 1999 murder, has always insisted on his innocence, and Governor Stitt commuted his sentence hours before it was scheduled to take place.

Stitt deserves to be commended. And yet, the fact that it was left up to him is evidence of a broken system. That the death penalty still exists at all is a failure of policy, given how grievously marked by errors it is. Along with the botched executions, we cannot forget that more than 185 people have been freed from death rows due to wrongful convictions.

And as conservatives, we must fight this costly, unchecked government power that is shrouded in secrecy.

Indeed, we are. Though the media may hype liberal celebrities celebrating Julius Jones’ commutation and others like it, across the country, Republicans are taking leadership roles in state efforts to end the death penalty. They are bringing their conservative principles and good common sense to help end a bad, outdated policy and move states toward smarter and more sensible criminal justice systems.

For example lawmakers in deep red Utah are considering ending the state’s death penalty. Governor Spencer Cox, who has previously revealed his support for the death penalty, says he is now open to “reevaluating” his stance on the issue. He is joined by Utah County Attorney David Leavitt, another Republican who has said his office would no longer seek death penalty prosecutions.

As Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill pointed out, the risk of executing an innocent person is always present: “If a pilot was good only 90 percent of the time at landing the plane, we would say that person shouldn’t be flying,” was how he put it. Meanwhile, Amelia Powers Gardner, a Republican Utah County Commissioner, points to fiscal discipline as a reason to repeal the death penalty. “I’m a fiscal conservative,” she says. “I like to keep taxes as low as possible. When it comes to the death penalty, not only are we responsible for law enforcement, but we’re also responsible for paying for the defense and the prosecution. And it’s a really costly process.”

And this isn’t just occurring in Utah. There is a nationwide trend of Republican- controlled state legislatures re-thinking capital punishment driven by the fiscal, moral, and cultural conservative values that should lead us to oppose the death penalty.

Virginia repealed the death penalty in March 2021 with bipartisan support. Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wyoming, Kentucky, Georgia, Montana, Washington, and Ohio all have had Republican-sponsored bills this year, with a total of 40 Republican sponsors.

In Ohio, a political bell-weather state that has become very red in recent election cycles, former Congresswoman and now State Representative Jean Schmidt and Sen. Stephen Huffman are Republican prime sponsors of bills to end the death penalty. They are clear that the death penalty is a contradiction to their conservative beliefs.

Huffman expressed his thoughts from a moral perspective: “There’s one being that should judge [a] life and that’s God. It should not be us to put them to death and be the judge,” Huffman has said, while Schmidt acknowledged how the death penalty impacts people of color and those with economic disadvantages. “We recognize that people that are of color, people that have less means, tend to end up on death row more so than people with means or higher education,” Schmidt told reporters.

Utah and Ohio are primed to continue the momentum toward ending a death penalty system that drains resources, fails murder victims’ family members, and does not make anyone safer. And conservatives are at the forefront of these efforts, exemplifying common sense in the midst of complex issues. Passing these bills would bring much needed progress in the criminal justice reform policy arena.

We all want fairness, safety, and efficient government spending. When we look closely at the death penalty, it is clear that it meets none of these standards. Republicans concerned about these principles are building a national trend against the death penalty for others to follow, and these efforts should be acknowledged and applauded.

There have been 23 states that have eliminated the death penalty. Utah and Ohio have an opportunity to etch their names in the history books as agents of change. I hope they will maximize this moment, and that many others will follow.

(source: Opinion; Demetrius Minor is a preacher, advocate, relationship builder, and a writer. He has been the director of coalitions in Florida for Americans for Prosperity, where he worked in partnership with the NAACP—-Newsweek)

JAPAN:

Lawsuit seeks to halt execution of death row inmates in Japan without advance notice

Earlier this month, 2 unidentified people on death row filed a suit in Osaka District Court, demanding the government discontinue the practice of not informing condemned prisoners of their execution time until the day it is to take place. The plaintiffs say this protocol, which is not stipulated in the operational rules for executions, violates the Constitution’s Article 31 prohibiting the imposition of criminal penalties without “proper procedure.”

As explained by NHK on its News Web site, the plaintiffs stated that not informing condemned prisoners of the date of their hangings in advance is “exceptionally cruel” in that the prisoner has no time to prepare for their death. Nor does it allow them time to consult lawyers or meet with loved ones. The state has defended the practice by saying it assures the prisoner’s “peace of mind,” since, presumably, informing them of the date beforehand will cause them to be consumed with dread for their remaining time. Prisoners are currently informed of their impending executions one or two hours before they are carried out.

NHK also explains that this practice has been in place since 1975. Previously, condemned prisoners were informed of their execution at least one day in advance, and, according to a former prison guard, condemned prisoners were once able to meet with family and write a will before dying. However, these allowances were stopped when one prisoner killed himself after being informed of his execution date. The state and the lawsuit say the reason for the suicide was that the prisoner was denied the opportunity to meet with a clergyman of his choice. The plaintiffs of the recent lawsuit said through their lawyer, Yutaka Ueda, that nowadays it is easy to prevent suicides because of surveillance cameras on death row.

NHK’s coverage went into more detail about the case than that of other major media outlets. While the majority of Japanese people surveyed support the death penalty, it’s not clear if they are familiar with how executions are carried out and what rights condemned prisoners have and don’t have. One of the purposes of the lawsuit seems to be to make these circumstances more widely known, but they won’t be if the media provides only perfunctory coverage.

Ueda told NHK that in the United States, the only other Group of Seven country that still puts people to death, condemned prisoners are informed well in advance of their execution date, and in many cases can make last requests. But as writer Caroline Lester put it in a recent article for Harper’s about former U.S. President Donald Trump’s rush to execute as many federal death row inmates as possible before he left office at the beginning of this year, capital punishment in the U.S. has been reduced to “the mere extinguishment of life.” States have derived power from “the violent public spectacle of capital punishment,” but nowadays such displays are considered uncivilized throughout much of the world.

What’s left in the United States and Japan is a system of state-sanctioned killing that is carried out as quietly as possible, even to the point in Japan of keeping it from the condemned until the moment the executioner knocks on the door. The Justice Ministry says this practice, which is denounced by international human rights organizations, is for the prisoner’s benefit, but maybe it’s for the benefit of someone else?

Last July, for instance, Akihiro Okumoto, who is on death row for killing 3 family members in 2010, filed a lawsuit demanding that the government return his colored pencils, which he had previously used to make drawings he sold to make money for the families of his victims. In February, the Justice Ministry implemented a new directive banning the use of colored pencils by death row prisoners. Since it was a bureaucratic directive, the ministry says it doesn’t need to explain it, although Okumoto’s lawyer told the Sankei Shimbun that it may have something to do with a prisoner who tried to harm themself with a pencil sharpener blade.

Hitotsubashi University professor Takeshi Honjo told the Sankei Shimbun that, in principle, death row inmates should have access to almost anything they want, so if the prison staff say they are going to take away something belonging to the prisoner, then they have to have a very good reason.

Honjo’s implication is that the directive specifically targets Okumoto, a suggestion the Sankei reporter doesn’t interrogate. But if the directive seems arbitrary and cruel, the ministry knows it can get away with it because the plaintiff is a convicted murderer and therefore in the eyes of the public deserves no consideration whatsoever.

But the change in policy that best indicates the government’s attitude toward the condemned is one implemented in 2017 that affects retrials. Between 2000 and 2017, the government could not execute a death row prisoner in the midst of an appeal for a retrial, but now they can. It’s perhaps notable in this regard that then-Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa signed the death warrants for 13 Aum Shinrikyo members the following year, thus ignoring whatever appeals they had filed.

This change also affects one of Japan’s most famous death row inmates — Masumi Hayashi, who was convicted of killing several people with poisoned curry at a community festival 23 years ago based on circumstantial evidence and with no motive established by the prosecution. Hayashi has always said she is innocent.

According to a July 25 article in the Asahi Shimbun, Hayashi is awaiting a decision on her request for a retrial, and her lawyer says she lives every day in abject terror that she could be executed at any moment, because the retrial request no longer protects her. At one time thoroughly demonized by the tabloid press, Hayashi no longer interests the Japanese public. She is already dead to them, so the authorities may see no reason to delay that eventuality and, in the process, make their own lives easier.

(source: japantimes.co.jp)

PAKISTAN:

Court awards death penalty, 20 years imprisonment in murder case

A district court on Friday awarded death sentence to a man and 20 years imprisonment to another accused involved in an incident of murder and dacoity.

According to details, the accused Javed Iqbal and Muhammad Basit had gunned down a citizen Jameel Ahmed during a robbery.

Additional District and Sessions Judge,Chaudary Qasim Javed, while hearing the arguments from both sides, awarded death sentence to Javed Iqbal while 20 years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 500,000 awarded to Muhammad Basit.

A case had been registered against the convicted in 2019 in Gujar Khan Police station.

(source: urdupoint.com)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Saudi Arabia must immediately stop the death penalty against minors

On the occasion of the International Children’s Day, celebrated every year on 20 November, the European Saudi Organization for Human rights (ESOHR) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) publish a briefing about the application of the death penalty on minors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This briefing provides an analysis of the legal framework in Saudi Arabia as it applies to minors, and briefly examines the number of children executed over the course of the reign of King Salman (14 minors according to ESOHR’s research). The briefing explains why the authorities cont to allow the execution of children despite Saudi pledges on the international level to the contrary, and recent legal reforms such as the new 2018 Juvenile Law.

“The death penalty in Saudi Arabia still threatens minors despite promises and propaganda made by the government over the past 2 years. The Juvenile Law still allows sentences by Qisas and Hodood against minors. In addition, there are still concerns that the Saudi government is manipulating the ages of individuals. Besides affording minors all the guarantees necessary for a fair trial, it must be ensured that no minor is threatened with the death penalty under any pretext.” – Ali AlDebusi, the director of ESOHR

The majority of the minors who have been executed were convicted on charges related to political offences. In every case, ESOHR was able to verify that the minors confessed to the crimes they were accused of under torture.

“Saudi Arabia must immediately uphold its pledge to end the implementation of the death penalty on persons whose crimes were committed when they were legal minors.” – Alice Mogwe, the President of FIDH

The briefing also present 2 case studies: one of a recent execution, then an additional case of a child facing the death penalty.

(source: fidh.org)

NOVEMBER 19, 2021:

TEXAS—-new death sentence

Hunt County jury returns death penalty as punishment in 2016 double murder

A jury has ruled Tyrone Jamaal Williams should be executed for the murders of a Hunt County woman and her mother in 2016.

The jury in the 196th District Court deliberated for about 4 hours before returning with the decision at around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Hunt County District Attorney Noble D. Walker R.

“This was an extremely brutal crime that unquestionably warranted the death penalty,” Walker said. “We certainly respect the jury for their very thoughtful deliberation and pray this outcome will bring Vickie and Nicole’s family some peace after having gone through so much since this offense was committed.”

Opening arguments and the start of testimony in the trial began Nov. 1.

Williams, 35, of San Marcos, had pleaded not guilty to an indictment with 2 counts of capital murder in connection with the slayings of Nichole Elizabeth Gonzales, 27, and her mother, Vicki Ann Gonzales, 51 at a residence just outside of Commerce.

A 911 call came in at around 1:20 p.m. June 17, 2016 from Vicki Gonzales, who was screaming for help and calling out Williams’ name. The call came from a home in the 7300 block of State Highway 50.

The Commerce Police Department was the 1st agency on the scene and found the women had been slain. Williams’ vehicle was found about three miles away from the home.

A search began for Williams with the assistance of the Commerce Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice K-9 search team.

At approximately 11 p.m. June 17, 2016 the Commerce Police Department received a call of a suspicious person in the 2700 block of State Highway 24/50, at the intersection of Live Oak Street. When contacted by officers, Williams allegedly gave officers his brother’s name, but Williams’ identification was found in his possession.

Williams was taken into custody without incident.

Williams worked as a long haul trucker for a Fort Worth company.

“First Assistant District Attorney Steven Lilley and Assistant District Attorney Allison Flanagan worked tirelessly over the last several months preparing this case,” Walker said. “They represented the State at an extremely high level during both the guilt/innocence and punishment phase of the trial. Additionally, we are grateful for the work done on this case by the Texas Rangers, Hunt County Sheriff’s Office, and the Commerce Police Department. The guilty verdict and death sentence were a direct result of their thorough investigation.”

Mabel Jean Gonzales of Austin was indicted in June 2017 on one count of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence with the intent to impair. Gonzales pleaded guilty in April 2018 to a lesser charge of attempting to tamper with or fabricating evidence

. The attempting to tamper charge carries a maximum punishment upon conviction of from 2 to 10 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.

In a criminal complaint filed as part of court records, the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office revealed Gonzales was Williams’ girlfriend and alleged that after she visited Williams in the jail, Gonzales drove to a location near the murder scene and removed items from the site.

(source: The Herald Banner)

*****************

Rodney Reed denied new trial despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence

The decades-long struggle to free Rodney Reed from Texas death row suffered a major setback on October 31 when a district judge denied Reed’s right to a new trial. This sends the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which could clear the way for a new execution date to be set. Reed’s case has been at the forefront of the movement to abolish the death penalty since his conviction in 1998, and activists are determined to continue the fight despite this development.

Reed’s conviction based on faulty evidence

Reed’s conviction in 1998 is a textbook case of racism, bias, and corruption within the U.S. legal system. Reed, a Black man, was convicted in 1998 by an all-white jury in Bastrop, Texas for the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a white woman. Since then, new evidence has come to light exonerating Reed and pointing to the guilt of her fiancé, an abusive police officer named Jimmy Fennell. In the decades since the conviction, the forensic experts whose testimony was used to convict Reed have admitted to countless errors, and numerous witnesses have come forward with evidence pointing to Fennell.

Stites’ body was found in Fennell’s truck just hours after she failed to show up to work. The weapon that was used to strangle her, a belt, was never tested for DNA evidence. The framing of Rodney Reed began a year later based solely on the presence of Reed’s semen inside of Stites. However, both Reed and friends of Stites maintained that the two had a casual relationship and met regularly. A number of witnesses have come forward with evidence supporting this, including one of Stacey Stites’ coworkers, who testified that Stites introduced Reed to her as a “good friend” and that she was “flirty with him.”

Weeks before she was found dead, Stites confided to a coworker that she had been having an affair with a Black man named Rodney and had to “be careful.” She indicated that she was worried about what would happen if Fennell found out.

Evidence exonerates Reed, points to Jimmy Fennell

Fennell has a history of racism, violence, and rape. A month prior to Stites’ murder, he was sued for an incident in which he allegedly threatened a man during a traffic stop while holding a loaded gun to his head. 3 months after the murder, he was accused of stalking and harassing another woman. While on duty in 2007, Fennell responded to a domestic disturbance call by kidnapping and brutally raping the victim who had called the police for help. He pled guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Since then, more evidence has emerged implicating him in the killing of Stites:

•While in prison, Fennell sought protection from the Aryan Brotherhood white supremacist prison gang. According to one of its members, Fennell bragged about murdering Stites while using racial slurs.

•Forensic experts have testified that Stites’ time of death was much earlier than the official record stated, which was based entirely on the word of Jimmy Fennell. At her actual time of death, she would have been alone with Fennell in the apartment they shared together.

•Fennell failed two polygraphs when asked about being connected to his fiancée’s murder, had no alibi for himself at the time of the killing and quickly sold the truck where Stites was found, preventing DNA testing of the truck’s components.

The Giddings Police Department and legal system not only failed to intervene in the sale of the truck or properly investigate the crime — they may have even aided a cover-up, based on DNA evidence found at the crime scene. DNA matching two Giddings police officers was found on two beer cans near the body. The lead investigator on the case never searched Stites’ and Fennel’s shared apartment, nor did he test the bodily fluids found in Fennell’s truck, which were consistent with the moving of a body. To this day, most of the evidence exonerating Reed and pointing to the guilt of Fennell has never been heard by a jury.

The people demand, “free Rodney Reed!”

The state of Texas has come alarmingly close to putting Reed to death by lethal injection before. He was previously scheduled to be executed November 20, 2019, but a massive movement, including thousands of people marching in the streets of Austin, delayed this action. Since then, the Reed Justice Initiative, organized by his family, has inspired relentless protest to save Reed’s life. At a large protest held on July 17, Stites’ cousin, Heather Stobbs, took to the microphone to speak about the need for a new trial:

“I remember the day I saw that [Jimmy Fennell] had been arrested in the newspaper and yelling to my husband and saying, ‘Jimmy Fennell’s in the newspaper for abusing someone that was in his custody. I knew he did it!’ And so I started really looking into the just awful, ridiculously lazy work that the law enforcement officers did. If you can’t climb a set of steps to look in the apartment where my cousin was last known to be alive, then you shouldn’t be in law enforcement… My cousin was a victim of domestic violence and for years that lousy, violent son of a bitch [Fennell] has been walking these streets except for those 10 years he served in prison as well he should have.”

The case now heads to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

By incarcerating and threatening to kill Rodney Reed, the U.S. “justice” system has committed a terrible injustice. The case is part of a larger problem of institutional racism inherent in the application of the death penalty in the United States. Even though Black people comprise 50 % of all homicide victims nationally, 80 % of the people executed on death row in 2019 were convicted of a crime against a white person. Of the 185 people who have been exonerated from death row since 1973, over 1/2 of them have been Black. Countless more people are still sitting behind bars and on death row for crimes they did not commit, due to the zealous, racist nature of the U.S. policing and legal system.

The recommendation signed by Judge J.D. Langley stated that Reed “has not proven by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted him of capital murder.” This is blatantly absurd. Even members of the original jury that sentenced Reed now question his guilt.

Langley completely discounted the testimony of 17 witnesses who provided evidence that supported Reed’s innocence and implicated someone else entirely for the crime for which Reed was convicted.

The judicial system of the United States is not an impartial system bestowed onto us from on high. It is inherently political and biased toward the racist status quo, as we are seeing in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. It has taken a mobilized people’s movement, tireless advocacy, and national visibility to keep Rodney Reed from being executed. We need a movement strong enough not just to stay his execution, but to reverse his conviction and put the real killer behind bars. Free Rodney Reed, and end the racist death penalty once and for all!

(source: liberationnews.org)

ALABAMA—-new executon date

January execution date for Alabama man convicted in slaying

Alabama has set a January execution date for an inmate convicted in the 1996 shotgun killing of a man who towed his car after it broke down.

The Alabama Supreme Court on Thursday set a Jan. 27 lethal injection date for Matthew Reeves, 43. Reeves was sentenced to death for the Nov. 27, 1996. murder of Willie Johnson in Dallas County, Alabama.

In earlier court filings, Reeves’ attorneys have argued he has an IQ in the 60s and that his trial counsel failed to do enough to show he is intellectually disabled and should therefore be spared a death sentence.

The U.S. Supreme Court in July reversed an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finding and said that a state court had correctly rejected claims that Reeves had ineffective counsel at trial because they did not hire a neuropsychologist to present evidence he is intellectually disabled. The decision was issued as an unsigned 6-3 opinion.

Prosecutors said on the day of the slaying that Reeves, then 18, had gone with friends looking for people to rob, but their car broke down. Johnson came by in his pickup truck and offered to give them a ride and tow their car to Reeves’ house. Prosecutors said Reeves, who was riding in the bed of the truck, stuck a shotgun through the rear window of the cab and fatally shot Johnson in the neck.

“In payment for this act of kindness, Reeves murdered Johnson, stole his money, and mocked his dying spasms,” justices wrote in the majority opinion in July.

The trial judge sentenced Reeves to death on the recommendation of the jury.

Defense lawyers at Reeves’ trial had funds to hire a neuropsychologist, Dr. John Goff, but ultimately did not do so.

At a hearing on his postconviction appeal in state court, Goff testified he believed Reeves was intellectually disabled and that Reeves’ IQ score should be adjusted down into the 60s.

A state expert disputed that and pointed to the money that Reeves made from dealing drugs.

Lawyers for Reeves have argued that because of his intellectual difficulties that the state should have given him help with a form allowing inmates to select execution by nitrogen hypoxia. An Alabama inmate put to death last month had raised similar claims.

Reeves’ has a pending lawsuit in connection with the matter.

“Once again, the State of Alabama is attempting to execute an individual with a previously pending lawsuit instead of allowing the Federal court to consider his case in the normal course. Important issues of how the state treats cognitively disabled prisoners should not be decided in a rush solely because the state chooses to short circuit that process,” Reeves’ attorney, John Palombi, wrote in an email.

(source: Associated Press)

OHIO:

Legislation to Abolish Death Penatly in Ohio Has Fourth Hearing This Week

Legislation to abolish the death penalty in Ohio is set to have a 4th hearing today.

The House Criminal Justice Committee will hear from interested parties on House Bill 183, which has a companion bill in the Senate.

Rev. Dr. Crystal Walker, executive director of the group Greater Dayton Christian Connections, whose son was murdered in 2013, said the death penalty cannot bring him back, and she would not want his killer’s family to feel the loss she feels.

“All it does is cause sorrow and pain to another family,” Walker asserted. “And we have to stop this because someone loves the perpetrator as much as they love the victim.”

Opponents of repeal argued the death penalty is reserved for the “worst of the worst,” offenders, and say ending it would put serial killers or mass murderers on the same level as someone else committing an aggravated murder. Ohio has not held an execution since 2018 due to problems acquiring a suitable drug for lethal injections.

Jonathan Mann, vice chair of Ohioans to Stop Executions, said he struggled with the moral implications of the death penalty after his father was murdered in 2017. He contended it is not a deterrent, adding there currently is no legal means for executions in the state.

“The cocktail of drugs that had been previously used for lethal injection have been referred to as barbaric and inhumane,” Mann pointed out. “And what we’re talking about here from the death penalty perspective and ending lives is philosophically humane ways to do that — that currently does not exist.”

Melinda Elkins Johnson of Barberton, the daughter of murder victim, said when her mother was murdered in 1998, her husband was falsely accused and could have been given the death penalty. She said no one believed her claims he was innocent, and did not view her as a victim herself.

“Not one time did victims’ assistance or the prosecutor’s office attempt to contact me for any reason,” Johnson recounted. “I was given no services. I was completely a pariah in their eyes.”

Proponents of repeal argued money used for executions should be redirected to provide assistance to victim’s families, including mental-health care, and money to pay for funeral costs, mortgages or tuition.

(source: clevelandscene.com)

******************

Discussion continues on bill that would eliminate death penalty in Ohio

A 4th hearing was held Thursday on legislation that could abolish the death penalty in Ohio.

House Bill 183 was introduced by Reps. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, and Adam Miller, D-Columbus, in March.

During nearly 2 hours of discussion in the House Criminal Justice Committee, the Fraternal Order of Police and the American Civil Liberties Union gave testimony along with other groups.

Pending bipartisan House and Senate bills would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole.

The ACLU’s Gary Daniels said HB 183 is the furthest a repeal bill has made its way through the Ohio General Assembly.

Ohio has not carried out an execution since 2018.

(source: myfox28columbus.com)

TENNESSEE—-death sentence commuted

Death sentence removed over inmate’s mental disability claim

A Tennessee inmate will no longer face execution over the slayings of a mother and daughter more than 30 years ago because of claims that he is intellectually disabled, a prosecutor announced Thursday.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich announced that 54-year-old Pervis Payne will instead face two consecutive life sentences in prison. Weirich said her office received information last week that the state’s expert “could not say that Payne’s intellectual functioning is outside the range for intellectual disability.”

Executions of the mentally disabled were ruled unconstitutional in 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court found they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

But until Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill this summer making Tennessee’s law retroactive in prohibiting the execution of the intellectually disabled, Tennessee had no mechanism for an inmate to reopen his case to press a claim of intellectual disability.

Kelley Henry, Payne’s attorney, said her team is grateful lawmakers and the governor enacted the law, and said Weirich’s concession “will avoid years of needless litigation.”

“We look forward to Mr. Payne’s resentencing hearing,” Henry said in a statement. “This is some measure of justice for Mr. Payne and his family, but our fight for full exoneration of this innocent man will continue.”

Weirich said she met with the family of the victims and they are “not happy, but they understand.”

“While the evidence of Payne’s guilt has never change or weakened, the laws regarding alleged intellectual disability as it related to the death penalty have changed,” Weirich told reporters in a prepared statement.

Shelby County Judge Paula Skahan had scheduled a Dec. 13 hearing to address the intellectual disability claims. Weirich said the state has withdrawn its request for the hearing, which means the death penalty will be removed and replaced with the 2 life sentences.

“After review of the evidence, law and expert opinions, the State stipulates the Petitioner would be found intellectually disabled,” prosecutor Steve Jones wrote in a court filing.

Payne’s case has drawn national attention from anti-death-penalty activists and includes the involvement of the Innocence Project, which argues for the use of DNA testing in cases claiming wrongful conviction.

Payne had been scheduled to die last December, but the execution was delayed after the governor granted him a rare, temporary reprieve because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reprieve expired in April, but the state Supreme Court had not set a new execution date yet.

Payne was sentenced to death in a Memphis court for the 1987 stabbing deaths of Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie Jo. Christopher’s son, Nicholas, who was 3 at the time, also was stabbed but survived.

Payne, who is Black, has always claimed innocence. He told police he was at Christopher’s apartment building to meet his girlfriend when he heard the victims, who were white, and tried to help them. He said he panicked when he saw a white policeman and ran away.

Last year, Skahan allowed DNA testing in Payne’s case for the first time. His DNA was found on the hilt of the knife used in the killings, which matches his trial testimony that he cut himself while handling the knife as he tried to help the victims, Henry told the court at a January hearing.

Payne’s DNA was not found on the rest of the handle, although partial DNA evidence from an unknown man was. However, there was not enough DNA material to enter it into a national FBI database and attempt to match it to someone else, Henry said. Scrapings from Christopher’s fingernails, collected from the crime scene, could not be located for testing.

Weirich fought the DNA tests. She has said that the evidence overwhelmingly points to Payne as the killer and her office is contesting the intellectual disability claims.

(source: Washington Post)

********************

Memphis DA agrees to drop man’s death sentence, following new law barring executions of people with intellectual disabilities

The Shelby County district attorney is no longer seeking to execute a man who has been on death row for more than 30 years.

Pervis Payne has always maintained his innocence. The DA still isn’t convinced that he’s telling the truth, but she says changes in state law left her with no other choice.

Payne was sentenced to death in 1988 for a stabbing that a killed woman and her daughter and wounded her son. Payne and his attorneys say he wasn’t the one who stabbed them. Rather, they say he was going to visit his girlfriend who lived in an apartment across the hall when he noticed the door was cracked open.

When Payne found Charisse Christopher and her children on the floor, they say, he tried to help. Then he realized police might suspect him — a young Black man — of stabbing the white family and fled. He was arrested shortly after.

But besides questions about his guilt, Payne’s attorneys say he shouldn’t be executed, because he’s intellectually disabled.

Tennessee created a law this year to prevent such people from facing the death penalty. And last week, District Attorney General Amy Weirich says, her office received results from Payne’s most recent evaluation. She says an expert could not rule out an intellectual disability.

“We thoroughly reviewed the findings, and we have met with the victims’ family this week to explain the current reality with which we are now faced,” Weirich said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “The family is not happy, but they understand. We can’t change the facts, and we can’t change the law.”

The new law took effect this spring, years after both the state and federal Supreme Courts said people with intellectual disabilities shouldn’t be executed. Now, the DA is asking the court to give Payne to two life sentences instead. A judge still has to sign off at an upcoming hearing.

Defense team still wants ‘full exoneration’

Kelley Henry, Payne’s defense attorney, is grateful the new legislation will spare her client from execution but says she’s still fighting to prove his innocence.

“We look forward to Mr. Payne’s resentencing hearing,” she said in a statement. “This is some measure of justice for Mr. Payne and his family, but our fight for full exoneration of this innocent man will continue.”

The national Innocence Project convinced a judge to allow for new DNA testing last year, after the defense found that multiple items at the crime scene had never been checked for DNA.

That testing identified an additional man’s DNA on the knife used in the stabbing, as well as on a pair of glasses found next to the victims. But Payne’s DNA was on several pieces of evidence, and a judge ruled the results could not prove his innocence.

Still, Payne’s attorney’s hope Gov. Bill Lee will grant him clemency. They say “racist tropes of Black male hypersexuality and drug use” tainted his trial. The Death Penalty Information Center also cited his case in a 2020 report about racial disparities in the death penalty, noting that the county where he was sentenced was also responsible for the most lynching and death penalties in Tennessee.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment and has made no announcements on Payne’s clemency petition, which has been signed by more than 150 community leaders and organizations. Over 760,000 people have also signed a petition to free him from death row.

The district attorney’s decision not to further pursue execution comes just over a week after a Nashville judge overturned the death sentence of another Black man who says his case was marred by racial discrimination.

(soruce: WPLN news)

****************

Pervis Payne death penalty reduced to 2 life sentences—-Payne has spent more than 30 years in prison accused of the murder of a Millington woman and her daughter.

Pervis Payne’s death penalty will be replaced with 2 life sentences, according to District Attorney Amy Weirich.

Payne has been in prison since 1988, accused of killing a Millington woman and her daughter.

The 2 were found stabbed to death in their home in 1987.

He was charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 1 count of assault to commit 1st-degree murder.

For 34 years, the conviction and death sentences have been reviewed multiple times by state and federal courts. Payne’s defense argued that at the time of the murder, he was intellectual disabled with an IQ of 78 at the 1988 trial.

A state expert has examined Payne and all of the records available and could not find that Payne’s intellectual functioning is outside the range for disability.

After reviewing these findings, the District Attorney General’s office has petitioned to the Criminal Courts that the death penalty be removed and replaced with 2 life sentences for the murders of Charisse and Lacie Christopher.

In a statement, Pervis Payne’s Attorney said

“As a person with intellectual disability, Pervis Payne cannot be executed under our Constitution. We are grateful to the Tennessee legislature, under Rep. G.A. Hardaway’s leadership, for passing a new law to allow Mr. Payne to present evidence of his intellectual disability in court, and to Governor Lee for signing the bill into law. The Shelby County District Attorney was right to drop its request for a hearing on Mr. Payne’s intellectual disability. The D.A.’s concession will avoid years of needless litigation. We look forward to Mr. Payne’s resentencing hearing. This is some measure of justice for Mr. Payne and his family, but our fight for full exoneration of this innocent man will continue.”

(source: localmemphis.com)

OKLAHOMA:

Oklahoma Governor Grants Clemency to Julius Jones

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has granted clemency to death-row prisoner Julius Jones.

In an order announced four hours before his scheduled execution on November 18, 2021, Stitt commuted Jones’ death sentence to life without possibility of parole. Stitt granted the commutation “on the condition that [Jones] shall never again be eligible to apply for, be considered for, or receive any additional commutation, pardon, or parole.”

In the months leading up to Stitt’s decision, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board had twice recommended that Jones’ sentence be reduced to life with the possibility of parole, based on evidence of Jones’ innocence. ” On September 13, and again on November 1, the board voted 3-1 to recommend clemency. After three hours of testimony on September 13, Board Chairman Adam Luck, who was appointed by Governor Stitt, said, “I believe in death penalty cases there should be no doubts. And put simply, I have doubts about this case.”

In a brief statement released with his order, Governor Stitt said, “After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”

Amanda Bass, Jones’ lead counsel in the clemency proceedings, praised Governor Stitt for taking “an important step today towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man. While we had hoped the Governor would adopt the Board’s recommendation in full by commuting Julius’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius’s innocence,” Bass said, “we are grateful that the Governor has prevented an irreparable mistake.”

Jones’ case has drawn worldwide attention, both for his claims of innocence and for the racial bias that infected his trial. More than 6.5 million people signed a petition calling for clemency after a documentary, The Last Defense, produced by Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis aired on ABC. Celebrities from the rapper Common to reality television personality Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma connections, including NFL quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Dak Prescott and NBA stars Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, and Trae Young, spoke out against the execution. In the days before the scheduled execution, representatives of the European Union and nearly a dozen European countries publicly urged Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence. More than 1,800 students at 13 Oklahoma City Public Schools participated in a walkout on November 17 in protest of the impending execution date.

The clemency order mooted court proceedings on an emergency motion Jones’ lawyers had filed in federal district court seeking to halt his execution because of serious problems in Oklahoma’s October 28 execution of John Grant. Grant convulsed and vomited during the execution, which used the same protocol that had been implicated in a series of earlier botched executions in the state.

A trial is pending on the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal-injection protocol, but Oklahoma set execution dates for six men dismissed from the lawsuit by district court judge Stephen P. Friot for not identifying an alternative method by which they could be executed. Earlier in October, the circuit court reversed Friot’s order and reinstated the men as plaintiffs in the suit. Although then-Attorney General Mike Hunter had told Judge Friot in March 2020 that the state would not seek executions while the lawsuit was pending, and Friot told the counsel for the prisoner during a May 2020 hearing “if we should have any indication that that will happen, I will be, to put it mildly, immediately available,” Friot denied the prisoners’ request to enjoin their executions and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld Friot’s ruling.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

**********************

Catholic leaders applaud decision to commute Julius Jones’ death sentence

Catholic opponents of the death penalty, including Oklahoma City’s archbishop, praised the Nov. 18 announcement that the Oklahoma governor granted death-row inmate Julius Jones clemency — just hours before he was scheduled to be executed.

“It took tremendous courage in the face of intense pressure for Gov. [Kevin] Stitt to grant clemency in this case,” said Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City.

“I applaud his commitment to seeking justice while providing the condemned an opportunity for redemption,” the archbishop said in a Nov. 18 statement.

Stitt reduced Jones’ sentence to life in prison without parole, partially following a recommendation from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board but veering from that recommendation, reached in a 3-1 vote Nov. 1, to reduce Jones’ sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Jones was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to die for the 1999 shooting death of a 45-year-old man, Paul Howell, during a carjacking. Jones was 19 at the time. His case gained some high-profile attention after it was featured in a 2018 ABC documentary “The Last Defense.”

Jones’ attorney, Amanda Bass, said the Oklahoma governor “took an important step today toward restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man.”

“While we had hoped the governor would adopt the board’s recommendation in full by commuting Julius’ sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius’ innocence, we are grateful that the governor has prevented an irreparable mistake,” she said.

Jones has claimed he was framed by the actual killer who was a former co-defendant and a key witness against him. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal group committed to exonerating individuals who claim they have been wrongly convicted, has said that Jones’ murder conviction came “after a prosecution and trial marred by egregious failures by his defense counsel and police and prosecutorial misconduct.”

“Little evidence pointed to Mr. Jones’ involvement in the murder. He did not fit the description provided to the police. And he had an alibi,” the group said on its website.

A statement by Catholic Mobilizing Network said: “Millions of advocates had urged Gov. Stitt to issue Jones’ sentence commutation, citing the widely publicized issues with his case which include racial bias, withheld evidence, inconsistencies, poor representation, junk science and more.”

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the group’s executive director, noted that problems with Jones’ original trial and conviction are “numerous and well-documented. We give thanks to God that Julius will not be executed today,” she said.

She also added that the “broken system of capital punishment revictimizes and retraumatizes the loved ones of victims and those condemned to death. Today we hold in prayer the families of both Paul Howell and Julius Jones and ask God for their continued healing.”

St. Joseph Sr. Helen Prejean, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, has been calling for support for Jones on social media.

Right after his sentence was commuted, she tweeted: “While Julius Jones’s death sentence was commuted to life without parole on condition that he can never again apply for a pardon or commutation, this does not preclude Julius from pursuing legal exoneration in state or federal courts.”

While Julius Jones’s death sentence was commuted to life without parole on condition that he can never again apply for a pardon or commutation, this does not preclude Julius from pursuing legal exoneration in state or federal courts. — Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) November 18, 2021

She followed this with another tweet emphasizing that his fight is not over.

“The commutation order and its conditions have no effect on Julius’s right to challenge his conviction in the courts. Now that execution is off the table, Julius’s legal team will have an opportunity to pursue legal exoneration,” she said.

The fight for @justice4julius is not over! The commutation order and its conditions have no effect on Julius’s right to challenge his conviction in the courts. Now that execution is off the table, Julius’s legal team will have an opportunity to pursue legal exoneration. — Sister Helen Prejean (@helenprejean) November 18, 2021

Jones’ execution date was 1 of 7 scheduled recently by the state of Oklahoma. These dates were set amid ongoing litigation surrounding the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol; the case is set for a trial in federal court in February.

Oklahoma carried out the 1st of these executions Oct. 28, with the execution of John Grant, which turned out to be problematic because Grant convulsed repeatedly and vomited before his death.

Grant’s execution was the 1st in the state since the 2015 execution of Charles Warner, which used the wrong drug and took place just a year after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett.

(source: National Catholic Reporter)

******************

Sister Helen Prejean and Archbishop Coakley applaud decision to commute Julius Jones’ death sentence

Catholic opponents of the death penalty, including Oklahoma City’s archbishop, praised the Nov. 18 announcement that the Oklahoma governor granted death-row inmate Julius Jones clemency—just hours before he was scheduled to be executed.

“It took tremendous courage in the face of intense pressure for Gov. (Kevin) Stitt to grant clemency in this case,” said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City.

“I applaud his commitment to seeking justice while providing the condemned an opportunity for redemption,” the archbishop said in a Nov. 18 statement.

Stitt reduced Jones’ sentence to life in prison without parole, partially following a recommendation from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board but veering from that recommendation, reached in a 3-1 vote Nov. 1, to reduce Jones’ sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

“I applaud his commitment to seeking justice while providing the condemned an opportunity for redemption,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley said of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt.

Jones was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to die for the 1999 shooting death of a 45-year-old man, Paul Howell, during a carjacking. Jones was 19 at the time. His case gained some high-profile attention after it was featured in a 2018 ABC documentary “The Last Defense.”

Jones’ attorney, Amanda Bass, said the Oklahoma governor “took an important step today toward restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man.”

“While we had hoped the governor would adopt the board’s recommendation in full by commuting Julius’ sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius’ innocence, we are grateful that the governor has prevented an irreparable mistake,” she said.

Jones has claimed he was framed by the actual killer who was a former co-defendant and a key witness against him. The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal group committed to exonerating individuals who claim they have been wrongly convicted, has said that Jones’ murder conviction came “after a prosecution and trial marred by egregious failures by his defense counsel and police and prosecutorial misconduct.”

“We are grateful that the governor has prevented an irreparable mistake.”

“Little evidence pointed to Mr. Jones’ involvement in the murder. He did not fit the description provided to the police. And he had an alibi,” the group said on its website.

A statement by Catholic Mobilizing Network said: “Millions of advocates had urged Gov. Stitt to issue Jones’ sentence commutation, citing the widely publicized issues with his case which include racial bias, withheld evidence, inconsistencies, poor representation, junk science and more.”

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the group’s executive director, noted that problems with Jones’ original trial and conviction are “numerous and well-documented. We give thanks to God that Julius will not be executed today,” she said.

She also added that the “broken system of capital punishment revictimizes and retraumatizes the loved ones of victims and those condemned to death. Today we hold in prayer the families of both Paul Howell and Julius Jones and ask God for their continued healing.”

Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, who is a longtime opponent of capital punishment, has been calling for support for Jones on social media.

Right after his sentence was commuted, she tweeted: “While Julius Jones’s death sentence was commuted to life without parole on condition that he can never again apply for a pardon or commutation, this does not preclude Julius from pursuing legal exoneration in state or federal courts.”

She followed this with another tweet emphasizing that his fight is not over.

“The commutation order and its conditions have no effect on Julius’s right to challenge his conviction in the courts. Now that execution is off the table, Julius’s legal team will have an opportunity to pursue legal exoneration,” she said.

Jones’ execution date was one of seven scheduled recently by the state of Oklahoma. These dates were set amid ongoing litigation surrounding the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol; the case is set for a trial in federal court in February.

Oklahoma carried out the 1st of these executions Oct. 28, with the execution of John Grant which turned out to be problematic because Grant convulsed repeatedly and vomited before his death.

Grant’s execution was the 1st in the state since the 2015 execution of Charles Warner, which used the wrong drug and took place just a year after the botched execution of Clayton Lockett.

(source: americamagazine.org)

******************

Supporters Vow To Continue Fighting For Julius Jones, Call On Okla. To End Capital Punishment

Supporters of Julius Jones gathered Thursday night at the Oklahoma History Center. Speakers at the vigil and Julius Jones’ mother said the gathering was about celebrating; but, tomorrow, the work continues.

“I thank God for each one of you all, I really do. We have much work to do, so rest today. Celebrate. Tomorrow, a new day begins again,” said Madeline Davis-Jones, Julius Jones’s mother.

Supporters of Jones gathered and rejoiced that his life was spared hours before he was set to be executed.

“I want you all to know, we have a new fight that starts tonight. We have a new fight that starts tonight. We can’t lose our momentum. We can’t lose our energy,” said Jabee, a local artist and Jones supporter.

The overarching message was to keep up the momentum and to keep faith.

“The criminal justice system in Oklahoma and in the United States is broken and that is why Julius is where he is. There is so much work that we must do,” said Cece Jones-Davis, another Jones advocate.

“Is this an effective deterrent to crime and secondly, is this the right thing to do as the state to take a human life?” said Bishop Poulson Reed, with the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma. “It’s been an agonizing and emotional day today.”

“I hope the uncertainties in the Jones case will cause us, as a state, to reexamine the effectiveness and morality of the death penalty. Most people in faith believe that justice can be rendered without taking a human life,” the bishop said.

“It’s not a nobody else. Nobody can take the credit for that. It’s God,” said Jabee.

“God is so good. If it wouldn’t have been for God, we never would have made it,” said Davis-Jones.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City commended the governor on his decision to grant clemency in the face of “intense pressure.”

“To oppose the death penalty is not to be soft on crime. Rather, it is to be strong on the dignity of life,” the archdiocese said.

Supporters of Jones also made it a point to think of the family of Paul Howell and prayed for them at the vigil.

********************

With Julius Jones Off Death Row, Focus Moves To Ending The Death Penalty

With Julius Jones now safe from execution, his family, friends and supporters took some time to celebrate Thursday evening. Now they are moving to a bigger discussion, about whether the death penalty has a place in the Oklahoma legal system.

Several religious organizations oppose the use of capital punishment. Many showed their support at the Oklahoma History Center Thursday night.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City applauded Governor Kevin Stitt on his decision to grant clemency in the face of “intense pressure.” They went on to say, “To oppose the death penalty is not to be soft on crime. Rather, it is to be strong on the dignity of life.”

Jones’ story gained international attention, with celebrities, athletes and even foreign dignitaries asking Governor Stitt to commute Jones’ sentence.

(source for both: 9news.com)

******************

Death row in Oklahoma: After Jones’ commutation, 5 inmates now have scheduled executions

4 hours before the scheduled execution of Julius Jones on Nov. 18, Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

The state of Oklahoma made use of the death penalty for the 1st time in nearly 7 years on Oct. 28, 2021, with the execution of John Marion Grant.

The 60-year-old had been on the state’s death row for more than 20 years when he died by lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court a few hours earlier had dissolved a stay of execution that was issued the previous day.

see: https://www.indianagazette.com/news/national/death-row-in-oklahoma-after-jones-commutation-5-inmates-now-have-scheduled-executions/collection_6bb459f8-0b67-520b-9063-50be548ce227.html#17

(source: indianagazette.com)

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Oklahoma’s death penalty capability remains in doubt

At almost the last hour, Gov. Kevin Stitt spared the life of convicted murderer Julius Jones and commuted his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The tension had been steadily rising on Thursday when, just after the noon hour, the governor announced his decision on clemency “after prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case,” he stated in a press release.

Jones had been scheduled to die at 4 p.m. Thursday at Oklahoma State Penitentiary for the 1999 death of Paul Howell, who was shot in the head during a carjacking in the driveway of his parents’ home in Edmond. Jones claims he is innocent and was framed for the crime; however, those prosecuting and close to the case say the evidence clearly demonstrated his guilt, and a jury agreed. Still, a documentary and a number of studies about the case over the last few years created doubt.

Stitt’s commutation of Jones’ death sentence does not put to rest the controversy over carrying out death sentences in Oklahoma. Our state has been in the spotlight for botched executions, and just a few weeks ago, the first execution in 6 years added more concern about Oklahoma’s ability to carry out lethal injections. John Marion Grant convulsed and vomited when the first drugs were injected.

American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is calling on the governor to reinstate a moratorium on executions and issue a stay on the remaining execution dates.

While the majority of Oklahomans support the death penalty, it is time to take a pause and seriously consider whether the state can be trusted to carry out these penalties based on the last several executions. After Grant’s execution, concerns still remain.

A moratorium is certainly justified until the judiciary has made a final decision on Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocols. That decision is expected in early 2022.

(source: Editorial, Enid News & Eagle)

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Bigler Stouffer Scheduled for December 9, 2021 Execution in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2, in favor of recommending clemency for Bigler Stouffer. The recommendation will now be sent to Governor Kevin Stitt. The Board chose to recommend clemency due to concerns about problems during execution of John Grant. It was reported that John convulsed and vomited during his execution.

Bigler Jobe Stouffer, II, is scheduled to be executed at 6 pm local time on Thursday, December 9, 2021, at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. 79-year-old Bigler murdered Linda Reaves and injured Doug Ivens on January 24, 1985. Bigler has spent the last 36 years on death row in Oklahoma.

Before his arrest, Bigler worked for the 700 Club as a Christian counselor. Friends and family described Bigler as being good with children.

In January 1985, Doug and Velva Ivens were in the process of getting a divorce and each had started dating other people. Doug was dating elementary schoolteacher Linda Reaves, while Velva was dating Bigler Stouffer.

On January 24, 1985, Stouffer went to visit Doug. Linda was also at Doug’s home. Stouffer asked to borrow a pistol from Doug because there were prowlers or a burglar at Velva’s house. Doug agreed to give Stouffer a gun. Doug retrieved the gun from his bedroom and gave it to Stouffer in a bank bag.

Stouffer took the bag and turned his back on Doug. Then, Stouffer turned back to face Doug, pistol in hand. Stouffer fired 2 shots at Doug, who fell to the floor. Stouffer then shot Linda twice in the head. He shot once more at Doug before leaving.

Doug managed to crawl to a phone and call the police. Doug told the police that Stouffer had shot him and his girlfriend. Linda died from her injures, while Doug survived.

Stouffer was convicted and sentenced to death in 1986 for Linda’s murder. Stouffer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for attempting to murder Doug. He received a new trial in 1999 after a court ruled his original lawyers provided an inadequate defense. In 2003, a jury again convicted Stouffer and sentenced him to death for Linda’s murder.

Pray for peace and healing for the family of Linda Reaves. Pray for healing for Doug Ivens. Please pray for strength for the family of Bigler Stouffer. If Bigler is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, pray evidence will be revealed before the execution. Pray Bigler comes to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

(source: theforgivenessfoundation.org)

NEVADA:

US judge in Nevada hears testimony on firing squad execution

A physician testifying as an expert in a condemned Nevada inmate’s bid not to be put to death told a federal judge Thursday that execution by firing squad would be quick and “relatively painless.”

However, Nevada law does not allow inmates to be shot to death and the method is not being considered in efforts by the top prosecutor in Las Vegas and state attorneys for the first execution in the state in more than 15 years.

Zane Michael Floyd’s lawyers are required to offer an alternate method of execution while they ask U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II to find Nevada’s lethal injection plan unconstitutional. They argue the procedure drawn up by state prison officials and its never-before-used combination of drugs would produce an agonizing death.

Execution by firing squad “would be very quick,” Dr. James Williams said Thursday. Williams is an emergency physician at a hospital in Victoria, Texas, who has testified as a trial expert in federal court in the past.

“I don’t believe the condemned would feel anything that would approximate pain,” he told the judge.

South Carolina this year became the 4th state in the U.S. to allow execution by firing squad, joining Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah. The last condemned inmate shot to death in the nation was Ronnie Gardner in Utah in June 2010.

Floyd, 46, does not want to die. He was convicted in 2000 and sentenced for killing 4 people and wounding a 5th in a 1999 shotgun attack at a Las Vegas grocery store. He also was convicted of raping a woman before the deadly rampage.

His lethal injection was scheduled last July but has been delayed pending the outcome of his challenges in state and federal courts.

Chief Deputy Nevada Attorney General Randall Gilmer said Wednesday the state wants to carry out Floyd’s execution by February, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Floyd also has appeals pending before the Nevada Supreme Court and the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

His lawyers, deputy federal public defenders David Anthony and Brad Levenson, have tried this week to show the effect of the Nevada procedure and combination of 3 or 4 drugs would be inhumane.

Dr. Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist who teaches at Columbia University in New York, provided a written report to the court predicting “an extremely agonizing … death” with drugs used to sedate and paralyze Floyd before “the excruciating pain of intravenous concentrated potassium” administered to stop his heart.

Testimony is scheduled to resume for at least three days beginning Dec. 16, with a minimum of one more defense expert and witnesses for the state. Boulware said Thursday he also is considering dates in January.

The judge has said he especially wants to hear from Nevada prisons chief Charles Daniels, the official with primary responsibility for carrying out an execution.

Nevada’s chief state medical officer, Dr. Ihsan Azzam, is also scheduled to testify. However, his attorneys have told the judge that Azzam has had little contact with Daniels and no input in creating the Nevada execution procedure, or protocol.

The plan calls for the anesthetic ketamine, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, the heart-stopping salt potassium chloride and perhaps a muscle paralytic called cisatracurium. The drug alfentanil might substitute for fentanyl and potassium acetate might substitute for potassium chloride, according to the protocol.

Nevada, like many of the 27 U.S. states with capital punishment, has had difficulty obtaining execution drugs from manufacturers that don’t want to let their products be used in lethal injections. Three states — California, Oregon and Pennsylvania — have capital punishment moratoriums in place.

Floyd’s lawyers accuse Nevada of trying to use a “novel” process amounting to “prohibited experimentation on a captive human subject” and of trying to keep secret how it was created.

No state has used ketamine or the fentanyl substitute in an execution, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Potassium acetate, a salt also used as an aircraft deicer, was mistakenly used by Oklahoma in a 2015 lethal injection.

Dr. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist who teaches at the medical and law schools at Emory University in Atlanta, testified Wednesday as an expert in Floyd’s defense. He said some of the drugs and the doses could cause Floyd’s lungs to fill with fluid, leading to an excruciating death by suffocation “akin to drowning.”

Zivot said autopsies following other executions have found prisoners’ lungs filled with fluid.

The last person put to death in Nevada was Daryl Mack in 2006 for a 1988 rape and murder in Reno. He asked for his sentence to be carried out.

(source: Associated Press)

USA:

White House Says Biden Has ‘Grave Concerns’ on Death Penalty After Julius Jones Commutation

The White House addressed President Joe Biden’s view on the death penalty following Thursday’s commutation of Julius Jones’ death sentence in Oklahoma.

Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the case has caused the president and his administration to “reflect” on their position.

“The president has made clear over time that he has grave concerns about whether capital punishment as currently implemented is consistent with the values that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness,” Psaki said.

She also noted that on the federal level, Attorney General Merrick Garland has halted the use of executions after a historically high use of them by the Trump administration. Garland gave no timetable for when or if federal executions will resume.

“This, as you know, was a state-level sentence,” Psaki said during the press briefing. “The action needed to be taken on the state level, so there wasn’t a real role that the federal government could officially play in that regard.”

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, called off Jones’ execution just hours before the 41-year-old Black man was to be put to death.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said. Jones was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, a businessman who was shot while sitting in his parked car in Edmond, Oklahoma. Jones, who was 19 at the time, has maintained his innocence, and his family has said he was at home at the time of the shooting.

Jones was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2002.

Jones’ attorney, Amanda Bass, said Stitt’s decision was an “important step towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man.”

The White House said Thursday that President Joe Biden has “grave concerns” about the death penalty following the commutation of Julius Jones’ death sentence in Oklahoma. Above, Biden speaks at a Tribal Nations Summit in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Monday.

The Howell family responded to Stitt’s commutation by saying they take “comfort that his decision affirmed the guilt of Julius Jones and that he shall not be eligible to apply for, or be considered for, a commutation, pardon or parole for the remainder of his life.”

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said he remained firm in his belief that the court made the right decision in finding Jones guilty of murder.

The state’s current attorney general, John O’Connor, expressed disappointment in Stitt’s decision, saying the work of law enforcement and judges has been “set aside.”

However, he noted that the governor “is making what he believes is the right decision,” adding, “I appreciate the governor’s condition that Mr. Jones never be released from prison.”

(source: Newsweek)

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Lethal injections have become ghastly experiments in death

WITH secrecy and uncertainty surrounding the supply of lethal injection drugs, executions have become little more than ghastly experiments. The last one came 3 weeks ago, when the state of Oklahoma executed John Marion Grant, 60, for the murder of a prison cafeteria worker.

Witnesses reported Grant jerked, or convulsed, nearly two dozens times over several minutes, as vomit spurted from his mouth and spilled down his neck. With a straight face, Oklahoma prison officials said the execution went off without a hitch.

Grant’s execution, however, is far from the worst example of a lethal injection execution gone wrong. Over the past two decades, executioners have struggled for an hour or more to find a usable vein. They’ve punctured organs, collapsed arteries, and dragged on this grisly business for more than an hour, as prisoners writhed.

The reliability and efficiency of lethal injection is not likely to improve. On Thursday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt rightly granted clemency to Julius Jones, several hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection for a 1999 murder he says he did not commit.

The inevitably of more botched executions is reason enough to stay future executions nationwide, and for Pennsylvania and 26 other capital punishment states to abolish their death-penalty statutes.

Execution drugs obscured

Citing moral objections, drug manufacturers have, for more than a decade, refused to supply corrections departments with drugs used in executions.

The nationwide shortage of drugs used in lethal injections has forced states, in a haphazard scramble, to use inadequately tested drugs or multi-drug cocktails, or buy drugs from so-called specialty, or compounding, pharmacies operating with little federal oversight.

Ironically, the shortage of the sedation drug midazolam used in lethal injections also affects hospitals. They need the drug to treat illnesses, including COVID-19, and save lives.

Making matters worse, executioners with inadequate medical training work without national standards, and the secrecy shrouding where and how states procure lethal injection drugs, has made executions even dicier. States have, recklessly, shielded such information from the public by exempting it from their open-records laws.

Lethal injections, properly performed, require the skills to access veins, monitor drugs, calculate proper doses, and make on-the-spot corrections. That takes medical training and supervision. States, however, typically forgo such safeguards, as participating in executions violates medical ethics.

Numerous problems, no benefits

To be sure, capital punishment today is less sadistic than the ancient executions that shock modern sensibilities: Slowly roasting a victim to death inside a flaming bronze mental bull, cutting off body parts before slicing the body in half and leaving the condemned to die in indescribable pain, crucifixion, being eaten alive by rats, and literally skinning a person alive, slice by slice, to name a few.

In the last 200 years, states and the federal government have attempted to adapt capital punishment to the standards of the U.S. Constitution, national norms, and modern sensibilities, using hangings, firing squads, lethal gas, lethal injection, or electrocution. Even so, botched procedures have marred them all, including burning flesh at electrocutions, strangulations at hangings, and errant bullets from firing squads that prolonged death.

Lethal injection in the early 1980s, like the electric chair almost a century before it, was touted as a humane, and cheap, way to execute people. After the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, lethal injection became the method-of-choice for U.S. executions.

Blunders and missteps, however, have continued to mock efforts to carry out capital punishment in a humane manner. Author Austin Sarat of Amherst College has argued lethal injections have recorded the highest rate of botched executions — roughly 7 %. The Death Penalty Information Center has reported 19 of them since 2000.

With 3 executions since 1976, Pennsylvania has spent $1 billion on securing and defending death-penalty convictions, former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported last year.

If botched lethal injection executions were the only problem facing capital punishment, and the practice provided tangible and widely shared benefits, maybe the gains would justify the enormous legal costs and needless suffering exacted by the atrocity of state-sponsored killings.

Ongoing constitutional challenges, procedural problems, and death row exonerations, however, continue to underscore the practical and moral flaws of capital punishment. What’s more, no credible evidence shows, or even suggests, the practice deters murder or violent crime.

Aside from the grave moral questions surrounding the death penalty, the grisly experiment that lethal injection has become is another sign the costs, liabilities, and problems of capital punishment far outweigh any perceived benefits.

(source: The Herald)

NIGERIA:

Man to die by hanging for killing father in Akwa Ibom

A 36-year-old Victor Etim Obot of Ikot Obio Mkpong in Ikono Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has been sentenced to death by the State High Court sitting in Uyo, the state capital, for killing his father.

It was proven beyond every reasonable doubt by the prosecution that Victor killed his father whom he accused of being responsible for his misfortunes.

The condemned will die by hanging.

Delivering judgment today in Uyo, the trial judge, Justice Okon Okon said there was credible evidence that the deceased died after the accused attacked him with a machete which was recovered at the scene of the crime at number 7C, Abak Road, Uyo on 6th of July, 2019.

“There is credible and acceptable evidence that the deceased died shortly after the accused attacked him with a matchet. I have no doubt that the accused did not only intend to cause the deceased grievous bodily harm but resolved to eliminate him for the nebulous, unsubstantiated allegation that his father was the cause of his problems,” he said.

The court also held that any man who stabs or inflicts a machete cut on another on the neck region has the intention to either kill or cause grievous bodily harm to the person.

It added that the prosecution led credible, cogent, and acceptable evidence to prove the essential ingredients of the offense of murder against the accused.

While holding that the killing of the deceased in the circumstances was unlawful, inexcusable and unjustifiable, the court added that the deceased did not deserve to die by the very hand of his own son.

“The accused acted callously in the gruesome murder of his father. The accused betrayed his father. Even the Heavens weep over the senseless killing of the old man, whose death the son rejoiced over, and construed it as the beginning of his freedom from his problems.

“I hereby find you, Victor Etimeyo Obot guilty of murder as charged and accordingly convict you. You are to be hanged by the neck until you be dead,” Justice Okon pronounced.

(source: dailypost.ng)

INDIA:

Uttar Pradesh man to be hanged for killing his 3 daughters

An alcoholic man in Lalitpur district ,who had killed his 3 daughters out of 5 three years ago, was sentenced to death by additional district and sessions judge (dacoity affected area), Nirbhay Prakash on Friday.

The accused, Chidami alias Chiddu, 35 who hails from village Veer falling under police station Banpur of the district, is a chronic alcoholic who used to regularly abuse his wife Rajvati and 5 daughters. As per public prosecutor, Rakesh Tiwari, 3 years ago Chidami had thrashed his wife who later left for her parent’s house along with their 2 daughters.

A few days after this incident on the night of November 13, 2018, Chidami returned home heavily drunk and smashed the heads of 3 of his daughters, Anjani, 11, Raddo, 7, and Putto 4 with a hammer and set the house on fire.

Seeing the fire, the villagers rushed to the house and took all the 3 children to hospital where they were declared dead. Chidami was arrested and sent to jail.

On Friday, Judge Nirbhay Prakash pronounced the sentence of hanging till death for Chdami along with a fine of Rs 1 Lakh.

**************

India criticises Pak bill on facilitating Jadhav appeal against death sentence; says it has shortcomings

A day after Pakistan passed a bill to facilitate Indian prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav appeal against his death sentence, India on Thursday said the law “simply codifies” the “shortcomings” of a previous ordinance and that Islamabad has “failed” to create an atmosphere to ensure a fair trial in the case.

Spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs (MEA) Arindam Bagchi said Pakistan continues to deny unimpeded and unhindered consular access to Jadhav as mandated by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“We have seen reports of Pakistan enacting into law the earlier ordinance that was ostensibly enacted to bring into effect the judgement of the ICJ in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case,” he said.

“Nothing could have been further from the truth. As stated earlier, the ordinance did not create the machinery for an effective review and reconsideration of Shri Jadhav’s case as mandated by the judgement of the ICJ,” he said.

Bagchi was responding to media queries on Pakistan enacting the law to bring into effect the judgement of the ICJ in the Jadhav case.

“The law simply codifies the shortcomings of the previous ordinance. Pakistan continues to deny unimpeded and unhindered consular access to Jadhav and has failed to create an atmosphere in which a fair trial can be conducted,” he said.

The MEA spokesperson said India has repeatedly called upon Pakistan to abide by the letter and spirit of the ICJ judgement.

Jadhav, a 51-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.

After India approached it, the Hague-based ICJ ruled in July 2019 that Pakistan must undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.

The International Court of Justice (Review and Re-consideration) Act of 2021 of Pakistan is on the lines of the ordinance Pakistan had brought out last year to facilitate Jadhav’s right to appeal against the death sentence.

The bill was passed in a joint session of Parliament in Islamabad on Wednesday.

(source for both: The Times of India)

IRAN—-executions

Mostafa Pourahmad and Mojtaba Bagheri Executed in Rasht

At the time of writing, their executions have not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

Mostafa Pourahmad and Mojtaba Bagheri, both sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, have been executed in Rasht Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, 2 men were executed in Rasht Central Prison on the morning of November 18. Their identities have been established as 35-year-old Mostafa Pourahmad and 40-year-old Mojtaba Bagheri.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights: “They were due to be executed on Saturday but they were executed today. The victim’s next of kin had given their power of attorney to the prosecutor to carry out the sentence and were not present themselves.”

Iran Human Rights had previously reported on the transfer of the two men to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions on November 14.

At the time of writing, their executions have not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

***************

Marouf Gholipour Executed in Shiraz

Marouf Gholipour, sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, was executed in Shiraz Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, a man was executed in Shiraz Central Prison on the morning of November 14. His identity has been established as 41-year-old Marouf Gholipour from Kazeroun who was sentenced to qisas for murder.

Informed sources told Iran Human Rights that Marouf had been behind bars for around 4 years and had been obtain his victim’s family’s forgiveness.

At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

(source for both: iranhr.net)

********************

Iran 1988 Massacre: Hassan Ashrafian Testifies at Noury’s Trial

“We told them about the problems of the ward, such as lack of warm water and hygiene issues, Abbasi [Noury] said, ‘Go and thank God that you are alive,” Hassan Ashrafian testified on Thursday during Hamid Noury’s trial.

Thursday marked the 41st session of Hamid Noury’s trial, an Iranian prison official who is charged with participation in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners. Noury was in Gohardasht prison at the time of the massacre. In 2019, he was apprehended in Sweden.

The last 7 sessions of Noury’s trial have been held in Albania. The location of the trial was transferred after 34 sessions in Sweden to Albania per prosecutors’ requests, where there are thousands of members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The MEK members were the main target of the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners across Iran.

On Thursday’s session at the District Court of Durres, Hassan Ashrafian, a former political prisoner and a MEK member, shared a harrowing account of the regime’s atrocities in prisons. Hassan Ashrafian was arrested in 1983 for supporting the MEK. He spent 3 years in Evin and Ghezelhesar prisons. He was transferred to Gohardasht in 1986. Ashrafian was in Ward 3 during the 1988 massacre.

The 1988 Massacre of Political Prisoners in Iran: Eyewitness Accounts, Hassan Ashrafian

During his testimony on Thursday, Ashrafian described Gohardasht prison’s chain of command.

“Mohammad Mogheyseh, also known as ‘Nasserian,’ was in charge of the prison. As far as I know, Hamid Abbasi [Noury] was his [Nasserian’s] deputy. And Davoud Lashgari was in charge of prison security,” Ashrafian said.

“Nasserian and Abbasi [Noury] prevented us from exercising in prison. In June 1987, we were exercising in the prison’s courtyard. Suddenly 20-30 guards came into the courtyard and prevented us from doing our exercises. They beat us with cables, batons, and metal rods. They blindfolded us and pushed us into the main building,” Ashrafian described his 1st encounter with Noury.

“They took us to a small hall on the 2nd floor, which the prisoners called the ‘gas chamber.’ They pushed us into the hall as we were still sweating from the exercise and they closed all the airways… after a couple of hours we were all suffocating,” he added.

“One of the inmates, Kambiz Ostovari, protested the situation and knocked on the door. They took him out and beat him,” Ashrafian said.

“After that, they took out the rest of us. The guards stood in two lines and formed a tunnel. They pushed us through the tunnel as we still had blindfolds and they beat has as we passed. I could hear Hamid Abbasi’s [Noury] voice who was saying, ‘Beat these Monafeghs [the term the mullahs use to refer to MEK members and supporters] so that they don’t do such things,’” Ashrafian said.

In another part of his testimony, Ashrafian described his encounter with Noury after the 1988 massacre.

“In September 1988, we were 53 prisoners in Ward 3. Before the massacre, there were 200 people. Of these, six or seven were charged with offenses other than supporting the MEK, while 190 of them were MEK supporters. Of these 200 people, only 53 remained,” Ashrafian said. “In September, the guards came and blindfolded us and took us to ward 13. This is where they brought all prisoners who had survived the massacre. They took a few others in the lower ward.”

“In early October, Abbasi [Noury] and Nasserian came to our ward with several other guards,” Ashrafian recalled during his testimony.

“Nasserian [Moghiseh] started threatening us as was his habit. He said, ‘We killed all of them and we will kill the rest of you later. The era where you could protest, and stage strikes is over. Don’t think our hands are tied. We can execute you like the rest anytime we want.’”

Ashrfian encountered Noury one last time in November.

““I was transferred to solitary confinement in November 1988… Then they took me to the lower Ward 1, which was called the Jahad Ward. We were about 70 prisoners who had been transferred here after the 1988 massacre,” Ashrafian said. “There were several cells. Around mid-November, Abbasi and several other guards to our section.”

“We told them about the problems of the ward, such as lack of warm water and hygiene issues,” Ashrafian said. “Instead of solving our problems, Abbasi said, ‘Go and thank God that you are alive. If we wanted to execute the fatwa of the Imam—he meant Khomeini—completely, we would have to arrest and execute half of the people of Iran.’”

In the summer of 1988l, the “Death Commissions,” across Iran sentenced thousands of Iranian prisoners, mostly MEK members to execution. These commissions implemented a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini. In his fatwa, Khomeini had underlined that all prisoners, mainly the MEK supporters, should be executed if they refuse to disavow their ideals.

In another part of his testimony, Ashrafian shared what he saw during the massacre. On July 30, the guards take the TV out. They had canceled all family visits starting July 26.

“On those days, they gave us a list and told us to write down our names, accusations, and how long do we have until the end of our sentence,” Ashrfian said, adding “this happened once every 2 days.”

“On July 30, I was alone in a room where we kept our bags. I saw Davoud Lashgari from window. He was armed, and five or six other plainclothes agents were near him. I also saw two Afghani prisoners with them. They were carrying wheelbarrows filled with hanging ropes. They were going to the warehouse,” Ashrafian said. He calls other prisoners, including Mohammad Zand to see this. One of the prisoners tells Ashrafian that these ropes are for execution.

This warehouse later became known as the “Death Hall,” where prisoners were hanged.

Ashrafian later shared what he went through during the 1988 massacre.

“On August 1, I was transferred to the third floor while blindfolded. I sat in the hall, two or three meters apart from the next individual. Lashgari had placed a table in the hallway, and they would take the blindfolded prisoners to him where they would ask questions. Name, surname, father’s name, first of kin family members who are in prison. Then your opinion about the Islamic republic. Then what is your opinion about the MEK? Are you willing to conduct an interview?” Ashrafian said. “We would say we are supporters. Those who replied we are MEK supporters were separated and taken to other wards and cells. I wasn’t brave enough to say, like the others, that I’m a MEK supporter. I and a few others were returned to the ward.”

“On August 3, I was walking in the Hosseiniyeh room when I heard the sound of a vehicle,” Ashrafian said adding that prisoners, “rushed to the windows. There were five of us there. We heard the slight sound of vehicles and we saw two trucks in the road, one on each side of the road. One of the vehicles had the engine running.”

November 18 – 41st trial session of Hamid Noury, an Iranian prison official charged with torturing inmates in Gohardasht prison (Karaj) during the 1980s and being directly involved in #Iran’s #1988Massacre, continues in the district court of Durres, Albania.#ProsecuteRaisiNOW pic.twitter.com/qdNjPpxf5z — People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) November 18, 2021

“The vehicle on the side of the road nearer to us had its motor running and we could see its red taillights. I could see inside one of the trucks they had laid body bags. The light inside the truck was on. There were a few prison guards, one of them was inside the back of the truck and busy installing a cover so the back of the truck could not be seen.”

While the court was progressing, the MEK members in Ashraf 3, Albania, held a ceremony. They paid tribute to the 1988 massacre of martyrs and hailed the perseverance of their ideals and identity as MEK members. They vowed to continue the path of those martyrs until achieving a free Iran.

(source: ncr-iran.org)

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Iran lashes out at Canada over UN rights resolution

A UN resolution condemning serious rights abuses by the Islamic Republic drew rage from Tehran, with a particularly harsh diatribe directed at Canada as the architect of the motion.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a strongly worded statement of condemnation in response to a UN resolution that has raised alarm on human rights violations committed by the Islamic Republic.

The resolution discussed and passed by the General Assembly Third Committee expressed “serious concern at the alarmingly frequent use of the death penalty.” It urged Iranian authorities to drop such sentences against child offenders.

Sending 246 convicts to the gallows last year, Iran was the world’s second top executioner after China. In defiance of international pressure, the autocratic establishment has defended the practice as implementation of divine rule.

The UN resolution also brought to light “arbitrary arrests” in Iran, calling on Iranian officials “to release persons detained for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms.”

In his statement, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the resolution was a repeat of “baseless claims” fed by “false information.” He questioned the “legal credibility” of the votes that he alleged were garnered “with political pressure and intimidation.”

The resolution was advanced by delegates representing Canada, whose ties with the Islamic Republic have been deteriorating for nearly a decade. The committee meeting turned into a ping-pong of harsh exchanges between Iranian and Canadian delegates.

And in Tehran, Khatibzadeh attacked the Canadian authorities for their “addiction” to “discrediting” the Islamic Republic, advising them to abandon “the systematic policy of genocide” against “Canada’s indigenous population.”

In 2012, the Canadian government, led by former prime minister Stephen Harper, severed ties with the Islamic republic, closing its embassy in Tehran over the latter’s support to the Syrian government as well as its threats against Israel. Iran accused the Harper government of acting under pressure from its No. 1 enemy, the Jewish state in Tel Aviv.

A new tension was introduced into the already strained ties in late 2019. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shot down a Kiev-bound Ukraine International flight, killing all 176 people on board, the majority of them Iranian-Canadian dual nationals.

The Canadian government has been at the center of international efforts — though with no tangible progress — to hold Iranian authorities accountable for the tragedy. Tehran has accused Canada of overstepping its limits and “politicizing” the matter.

(source: www.al-monitor.com)

NOVEMBER 18, 2021:

OKLAHOMA—-death sentence commuted

Oklahoma Governor Commutes Inmate’s Death Sentence Hours Before Execution—-Julius Jones was convicted of first-degree murder in 2002 and had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday.

The governor of Oklahoma on Thursday called off the execution of a death-row inmate just hours before the man was to be put to death, in a case in which the state’s Pardon and Parole Board had twice recommended that his sentence be commuted.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’s sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement.

The man, Julius Jones, was convicted of 2st-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2002. He was found guilty of killing Paul Howell, who was in a car in the driveway of his parents’ home when he was carjacked and fatally shot in 1999. The commutation came less than a month after the Supreme Court, with its 3 more liberal members dissenting, lifted a stay of execution that a federal appeals court had granted to Mr. Jones and another Oklahoma death row inmate, John Marion Grant.

Mr. Jones, 41, a former high school basketball player from Oklahoma City, was 19 at the time of the killing, which he says he did not commit. Mr. Howell, a businessman from the suburb of Edmond, was 45.

Hundreds of students had walked out of schools and activists demonstrated outside Mr. Stitt’s office this week in an attempt to persuade him to spare Mr. Jones.

In a statement, Amanda Bass, a lawyer for Mr. Jones, said that Mr. Stitt’s decision would restore “public faith in the criminal justice system.”

“While we had hoped the governor would adopt the Board’s recommendation in full by commuting Julius’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius’s innocence, we are grateful that the governor has prevented an irreparable mistake,” she said.

Protesters who had gathered at the State Capitol erupted in cheers after Mr. Stitt’s statement was released.

Mr. Stitt’s announcement came soon after federal public defenders filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge to stay the execution based on “compelling evidence” that the drugs used in lethal injections “pose a serious and substantial risk of severe suffering and pain to prisoners.” Last month, a death-row inmate in Oklahoma vomited and shook during an execution.

The motion urged the court to grant an injunction to ensure that Mr. Jones and three other death-row inmates were not executed before February, when a federal trial is set to begin in a long-running lawsuit over whether the drugs used in executions risk subjecting inmates to an unconstitutional amount of pain and suffering.

In September and again this month, the state’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended that Mr. Jones’s sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole, a significant step in a case that has garnered national attention, said Cece Jones-Davis, who directs an Oklahoma-based campaign called Justice for Julius.

In the days and hours before Mr. Jones’s planned execution, scheduled for 4 p.m. local time on Thursday, his family and his supporters waited to hear whether Mr. Stitt, a Republican, would accept or reject the board’s recommendation, Ms. Jones-Davis said.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools estimated that more than 1,800 students across 13 schools participated in walkouts to support Mr. Jones on Wednesday. The district said it “supports our students’ rights to peaceful assembly and their freedom of expression.”

At the State House, scores of Mr. Jones’s supporters prayed, sang and chanted “free Julius Jones.” Madeline Davis-Jones, Mr. Jones’s mother, told the crowd that her son was innocent.

“If my child is executed tomorrow, or any day, it should be without a doubt,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a doubt. Not even a little bit of doubt.”

If he had been executed, Mr. Jones would have been the 2nd person put to death this year by the State of Oklahoma. Mr. Grant, who was convicted of murdering a prison cafeteria worker in 1998, was executed on Oct. 28, hours after the stays were lifted.

Mr. Grant, 60, was the state’s first to die by lethal injection since 2015, when Oklahoma stopped executions after using the wrong drug in one instance and allowing a prisoner to regain consciousness in another. Mr. Grant and Mr. Jones had argued that the state’s lethal injection protocol, which uses three chemicals, could subject them to excruciating pain.

Mr. Grant vomited while shaking for several minutes during the execution, which reporters who have witnessed executions called extremely rare in their experience. But state prison officials said a day after Mr. Grant’s execution that they did not plan to make any changes to the state’s lethal injection protocols.

“I will agree inmate Grant’s regurgitation was not pleasant to watch,” Scott Crow, the director of Oklahoma’s prison system, said at a virtual news conference on Oct. 29. “But I do not believe that it was inhumane.”

Mr. Jones, a Black man who has spent about 1/2 of his life in prison, has long maintained his innocence.

“I did not kill Mr. Howell,” he wrote in a letter to the parole board in April, after he had exhausted his appeals. “I did not participate in any way in his murder; and the 1st time I saw him was on television when his death was reported.”

But relatives of Mr. Howell, a white man whose sister and 2 daughters witnessed his killing, have rejected those claims and said that the efforts to grant clemency to Mr. Jones have caused them pain.

“Our family continues to be victimized by Julius Jones and his lies,” Mr. Howell’s brother, Brian Howell, said at a news conference in September.

Mr. Jones and his supporters have argued that his defense lawyers failed him during his trial — for instance, by neglecting to question family members who have said that he was having dinner with them at the time of Mr. Howell’s killing — and that prosecutors relied too heavily on the testimony of a co-defendant who said that he had seen Mr. Jones commit the crime.

Mr. Jones’s supporters have also argued that racism played a role in his trial and sentencing. African Americans make up a disproportionate number of death row prisoners in Oklahoma and in the United States, and research has shown that people convicted of murder are much more likely to be executed if the person who was killed was white.

Mr. Jones’s appeal for clemency drew support from prominent figures in sports, politics and entertainment.

(source: New York Times)

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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt reduces Julius Jones’ sentence to life in prison, no parole

Following a recommendation from the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, Stitt on Thursday granted clemency to Jones, reducing the inmate’s sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said in a statement.

As a condition of granting clemency, Stitt ordered that Jones shall never be eligible to apply for or be considered for a commutation, pardon, or parole for the rest of his life.

Stitt’s decision veers from the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation to reduce Jones’ sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Under that scenario, Jones would have immediately been eligible for parole on his murder conviction.

The governor’s decision means Jones’ execution, set for Thursday, is cancelled. Stitt announced his decision mere hours before the scheduled start of the execution.

Stitt’s decision to grant clemency marks a partial win for a diverse group of Jones activists and supporters who have proclaimed the inmate was wrongfully convicted in the murder of an Edmond man. Jones has spent nearly 20 years on death row.

However, those who have proclaimed Jones is innocent are unlikely to be entirely satisfied with Stitt’s decision to keep him locked behind bars.

Jones’ attorney praised the governor for blocking the execution, but said she had hoped Stitt would have granted the possibility of parole.

“Governor Stitt took an important step today towards restoring public faith in the criminal justice system by ensuring that Oklahoma does not execute an innocent man,” said attorney Amanda Bass. “While we had hoped the Governor would adopt the Board’s recommendation in full by commuting Julius’s sentence to life with the possibility of parole in light of the overwhelming evidence of Julius’s innocence, we are grateful that the Governor has prevented an irreparable mistake.”

Jones was set to be executed for the 1999 fatal shooting of Edmond insurance executive Paul Howell during a carjacking.

Jurors chose the death penalty as punishment at a 2002 trial.

Jones has maintained he is innocent, claiming his co-defendant shot and killed Howell and pinned the slaying on him.

A growing number of supporters have also proclaimed Jones’ innocence and begged Stitt to grant clemency. Millions signed a petition in support of Jones after ABC in 2018 aired a documentary about his innocence claims.

Prosecutors have disputed Jones’ claims of innocence, saying the trial showed clear evidence of his guilt and the campaign to free him is based on misinformation.

The Pardon and Parole Board this month recommended Jones’ life be spared. In a 3-1 vote, the board recommended Jones’ sentence be reduced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Stitt had the option to adopt, modify or reject the parole board’s recommendation. He also could have issued an execution stay that would have given him more time to consider the recommendation.

2 of the 3 parole board members Stitt has appointed recommended the governor grant Jones clemency. The 3rd, Scott Williams recused himself from the vote.

Stitt previously told reporters he would meet with members of the Howell family and prosecutors and defense attorneys on the case before making a decision.

He also said he would carefully consider the board’s recommendation.

“It certainly is something that’s weighing on me, and it’s something that I prayerfully consider,” Stitt said in September, after the board recommended Jones’ sentence be commuted. “I have to faithfully execute my job as governor, and this is something that I don’t take lightly.”

It is rare for an Oklahoma governor to grant clemency, having only been approved 4 times in the state’s history.

Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, granted clemency to 3 death row inmates. Former Gov. Frank Keating granted clemency just once.

Dating back to when Keating was in office, Oklahoma governors have denied clemency at least 9 times.

Oklahoma has one of the nation’s busiest death chambers.

Before Stitt, the state carried out more than 100 executions under the previous 3 governors’ combined 24 years in office.

(source: oklahoman.com)

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Stitt Commutes Julius Jones’ Death Sentence

With less than 4 hours until Oklahoma was scheduled to execute Julius Jones, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he issued an executive order to commute the death sentence of Jones, sparing his life.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said in a news release.

Jones, who was convicted of murdering Edmond businessman Paul Howell in 1999, is scheduled to be executed at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He maintains his innocence. The Howell family argued the evidence is overwhelming and Jones’ execution should be carried out.

The governor’s executive order, which was announced at 12:10 p.m., commutes Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility for parole, on the condition that he shall never again be eligible to apply for, be considered for, or receive any additional commutation, pardon, or parole.

(source: Oklahoma Watch)

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Oklahoma governor grants clemency to Julius Jones hours before scheduled execution—-Jones, who has maintained his innocence for more than two decades, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Thursday

The governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, has granted clemency to Julius Jones, a death row inmate who faced execution on Thursday afternoon.

Following a recommendation from the state pardon and parole board, Stitt, a Republican, acted with hours to spare before the scheduled state killing.

Stitt reduced Jones’s sentence for the murder in 1999 of Paul Howell, a businessman in the affluent Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The parole board had recommended life with the possibility of parole.

Jones, 41, has maintained his innocence for more than two decades but had been scheduled to receive a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in McAlester.

“After prayerful consideration and reviewing materials presented by all sides of this case, I have determined to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” Stitt said in a statement.

The impending execution had prompted protests across Oklahoma and the US. Students at high schools across Oklahoma City walked out of classes. Prayer vigils were held at the state capitol and barricades were erected outside the governor’s mansion.

Even Baker Mayfield, quarterback for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, weighed in. The Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Oklahoma is among several high-profile athletes and entertainers who have weighed in on Jones’s case.

“Yeah, it’s pretty rough, to be honest with you,” Mayfield told reporters on Wednesday, pausing and his eyes filling with tears. “That’s not something that’s easy to talk about. Been trying to get the facts stated and the truth to be told for a while. It’s a shame that it’s gotten this far, 24 hours away.”

Before his decision, Stitt met with Jones’s attorneys and Howell’s family.

Jones’s mother, Madeline Davis-Jones, who tried unsuccessfully to meet Stitt on Monday, spoke to about 300 people, many students from high schools, who gathered on Wednesday outside Stitt’s office, chanting and singing hymns.

“I don’t want to go to a lynching tomorrow,” Davis-Jones said. “Why would I want to see someone hang? We should be through with that. Do you want your baby, your child to be hanged?”

Jones maintains he was framed by the actual killer, a high school friend and co-defendant who testified against him and was released after 15 years. State and county prosecutors said the evidence against Jones was overwhelming.

Trial transcripts showed witnesses identified Jones as the shooter and placed him with Howell’s stolen vehicle. Investigators found the murder weapon wrapped in a bandanna with Jones’s DNA in an attic space above his bedroom. Jones says the weapon was placed there by the actual killer.

The pardon and parole board twice voted 3-1 to recommend clemency.

Paul Howell’s sister, Megan Tobey, testified she distinctly remembers seeing Jones shoot her brother in front of his two young daughters.

“He is the same person today as he was 22 years ago. He’s still getting into trouble. He’s still in a gang. He’s still lying. And he still feels no shame, guilt or remorse for his action,” Tobey said. “We need Julius Jones to be held responsible.”

In a separate vote on Wednesday, the board voted 3-2 to grant clemency to another death row inmate, Bigler Stouffer, citing concerns with state lethal injection protocols. Stouffer is scheduled to die on 9 December.

Jones’s case was profiled in The Last Defense, a documentary produced by the actor Viola Davis for ABC in 2018. After that, Kim Kardashian West and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including Mayfield and NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young, urged Stitt to commute Jones’s sentence.

Oklahoma ended a 6-year moratorium on executions – brought on by concerns over its lethal injection methods – last month. John Marion Grant, 60, convulsed and vomited as he was being put to death 28 October.

(source: The Guardian)

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USA—-impending/scheduled executions

With the execution of David Cox in Mississippi on Nov. 17, the USA has now executed 1,539 condemned individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision.

Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of further scheduled executions as the nation continues its shameful practice of state-sponsored killings.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1540—-Dec. 9——–Bigler Stouffer——Oklahoma

1541—-Jan. 6——–Wade Greely Lay——Oklahoma

1542—-Jan. 27——-Donald Grant———Oklahoma

1543—-Feb. 17——-Gilbert Postelle—–Oklahoma

1544—-Mar. 8——–Michael Gonzales—–Texas

1545—-Mar. 10——-James Coddington—–Oklahoma

(source: Rick Halperin)

TEXAS:

Spared execution once, Texas prisoner could face death penalty after cellmate’s death

Kenneth Foster, a former Texas death row prisoner whose sentence was commuted to life in prison by former Gov. Rick Perry, is being investigated in the death of his cellmate, according to prison officials.

If prosecuted on murder charges, Foster could end up back on death row.

On Nov. 6, prison officers at the Telford Unit near Texarkana found Anthony Dominguez unresponsive in his cell “with injuries consistent with a physical altercation,” Robert Hurst, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday. Dominguez was taken to the prison’s medical facility, and paramedics pronounced him dead about 40 minutes after he was found.

Video footage identified Foster as the man who injured Dominguez, Hurst said. The prison’s law enforcement branch is investigating Dominguez’s death and may suggest potential charges against Foster to the state’s Special Prosecution Unit, which prosecutes crimes in prisons.

Under Texas law, a prisoner who kills someone while serving a life sentence, or was previously convicted of murder, can be charged with capital murder. Foster has not yet been accused of any crime in Dominguez’s death, however. If he is tried for capital murder, it would be up to the district attorney in Bowie County, where Telford prison is located, to decide whether to seek the death penalty, according to Jack Choate, who leads the Special Prosecution Unit.

“There will be a lot of information to gather and consider before making that decision,” he said.

Foster, 45, is serving a life sentence for his role in the San Antonio murder of Michael LaHood in 1996. Foster was originally sentenced to death, but Perry commuted his sentence hours before he was to be executed in 2007. Foster had not killed LaHood but was instead the getaway driver in a string of robberies, and Perry was concerned that Foster had been tried along with with the triggerman, Mauriceo Brown. Brown was executed in 2006.

LaHood was the brother of Nico LaHood, a former Bexar County district attorney who is now running for a seat in the Texas House.

Foster’s commutation has long been spotlighted by those seeking to reform Texas’ death penalty statute that allows accomplices to be sentenced to death.

The statute, named the law of parties, holds that anyone involved in a crime resulting in death is equally responsible, even if they weren’t directly involved in the actual killing. Most notably in death penalty cases, people committing another felony, like robbery, can be convicted and sentenced to death for murder if the jury decides murder “should have been anticipated as a result” of the other crime.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have worked to lessen the responsibility of accomplices for crimes when it comes to the death penalty. This year, the Texas House passed a bill by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, to limit when accomplices could be sentenced to death. The bill did not move in the more conservative Senate, however, and failed.

(source: United Press International)

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[my note—–the following opinion piece from the New York Times is NOT specifically related to the death penalty; I include it here because it does deal with the appellate court which receives death penalty appeals from Mi.., La., and Texas)

What Happens When a Court Goes Rogue?

A rogue court is on the loose in the country. No, not the Supreme Court — not yet, anyway. It’s the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and it’s out of control.

Based in New Orleans, with jurisdiction that extends to Mississippi and Texas as well as Louisiana, the Fifth Circuit once covered nearly the entire Deep South and became known as the courageous, indispensable court of the civil rights era. But it has been a conservative court for decades. Now, bolstered by 6 judges appointed by President Donald Trump, the 17-member court has turned radical.

The latest example came last week, when a 3-judge Fifth Circuit panel issued a stay of the Biden administration’s requirement that companies employing 100 or more people require their work force to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or to submit to masking and weekly testing. Two of the judges, Kurt Engelhardt and Kyle Duncan, are Trump appointees. The 3rd, Edith Jones, a former chief judge of the circuit appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, used to be considered the court’s most conservative member. But her new colleagues are well on their way to outdoing her.

Judge Engelhardt’s 20-page attack on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that issued the vaccine order, is an astonishing document.

It opens with the bizarre observation that the agency declared in June 2020 that an emergency order to protect people in the workplace from Covid-19 was “not necessary,” the suggestion being that OSHA had no business changing its mind. One point that goes unmentioned is that there were no vaccines at the time; the first emergency use authorization for one was not approved until Dec. 11 of that year. Now there are vaccines — highly effective ones that millions of misguided Americans refuse to get, allowing the coronavirus to keep circulating and mutating.

OPINION CONVERSATION Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

• If Covid-19 isn’t going away, how do we live with it?

Katherine Eban writes that a clear-eyed view is required to organize long-term against an endemic virus.

• Why should we vaccinate kids against Covid-19?

The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics explains how vaccinating kids will protect them (and everyone else).

• When can children stop wearing masks?

Jessica Grose spoke with experts to find out what an off-ramp to masking in schools might look like.

• Who are the unvaccinated?

Zeynep Tufekci writes that many preconceptions about unvaccinated people may be wrong, and that could be a good thing.

Judge Engelhardt’s offhand observation that a virus that has killed some 765,000 Americans is, after all, “non-life-threatening to a vast majority of employees” is, to put it politely, a Fox News perspective on the pandemic that has no place in a judicial opinion reviewing the work of an expert agency. The panel concluded that OSHA had exceeded its statutory authority and probably its constitutional authority as well. Although noting that the judicial norm is to accord “great deference” toward the agency’s fact-based policy judgments, Judge Engelhardt said that, to the contrary, “this is not a case where any amount of deference would make a bit of difference.”

Its legal analysis aside, the most startling aspect of the panel’s decision was that it was issued at all. By the time the Fifth Circuit ruled on Nov. 12, a procedure was already underway to consolidate the many challenges to the OSHA rule that were piling up in courts around the country and to send them all to one federal appeals court to be chosen by lottery. This is standard federal court practice to deal which what’s known as multidistrict litigation. In other words, a court less eager to shape the judicial response to the order would simply have waited patiently while this established process played out, as it did on Tuesday when the lottery assigned some 3 dozen cases to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati. Although the Biden administration can now ask the Sixth Circuit to lift the Fifth Circuit’s stay, the stay remains in effect, and the panel’s dismissive language about the pandemic’s threat is there for the world to see.

The Fifth Circuit’s aggressive behavior in the vaccine case almost pales in comparison to what the court has done with abortion. In September the court rejected pleas from abortion providers in Texas to put the vigilante law Senate Bill 8 on hold to enable the clinics to litigate their case against it. The clinics’ emergency motion came before the same three judges who later ruled in the OSHA vaccine case.

The panel’s 19-page unsigned opinion in the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, analyzed the obstacles the private plaintiffs faced in finding someone to sue over a law that purports to insulate all state officials from responsibility for administering a flagrantly unconstitutional ban on abortion after only 6 weeks of pregnancy. In rejecting the clinics’ motion, the panel declared primly that “we must respect the limits of our jurisdiction.” The clinics’ claims against a Texas state court judge and court clerk were “specious,” the court said.

The federal government then brought its own suit against Texas on the completely different theory that S.B. 8 was an affront to the sovereign interests of the United States and to the supremacy of federal law. A federal district judge, Robert Pitman, granted the preliminary injunction the federal government sought in a 113-page opinion that meticulously dismantled all of the state’s objections to the court’s jurisdiction.

A different Fifth Circuit three-judge panel, by a vote of 2 to 1, promptly blocked Judge Pitman’s order, explaining in a single sentence of a single paragraph that it was granting the state’s request for the stay “for the reasons stated in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson.” How could this be? The “reasons stated” in rejecting the private plaintiffs’ case had nothing to do with the federal government’s suit, as the Solicitor General’s Office told the Supreme Court in its application to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay.

“Those reasons do not apply to this very different suit,” the acting solicitor general, Brian Fletcher, explained to the justices. “Sovereign immunity forced the private plaintiffs in Whole Woman’s Health to sue individual state officers, and this court and the Fifth Circuit questioned whether those officers were proper defendants. This suit does not raise those questions because it was brought against the state of Texas itself, and the state has no immunity from suits by the United States. The Fifth Circuit ignored that distinction, which refutes the court’s only justification for the stay.” When the justices refused to lift the stay, instead setting the case for the argument that took place on Nov. 1, Justice Sonia Sotomayor echoed the solicitor general’s point in a powerful dissenting opinion.

There is no conceivable excuse for the Fifth Circuit’s failure to explain itself or for the Supreme Court’s failure to call the court to account for its dereliction of duty. But so far, the Fifth Circuit is winning. S.B. 8 is still in effect.

Let’s not forget that this is the same court that in 2018, in a challenge brought by an abortion provider, June Medical Services, upheld the Louisiana law that required doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. It was bad enough that this was a requirement that, in the political and religious climate in Louisiana, doctors could not meet. What was really wrong with the Fifth Circuit’s decision was that 2 years earlier, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court invalidated an identical law from Texas. In that case, the Supreme Court overturned a Fifth Circuit decision concluding that the admitting privileges requirement, despite having resulted in the closing of nearly 1/2 the abortion clinics in Texas, did not impose an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion.

For the Fifth Circuit to then turn around and uphold the Louisiana law — with an analysis that boiled down to “that was Texas, and this is Louisiana” — was an act of judicial defiance that was too much even for Chief Justice John Roberts, who dissented in the Texas case. In his separate opinion in June Medical v. Russo, concurring with the decision to overturn the Fifth Circuit and strike down the Louisiana law, he made clear that he still thought the majority was wrong in the Texas case but that the Fifth Circuit was nonetheless bound by the precedent the Supreme Court had set.

If the chief justice’s intention in that 2020 opinion was to deliver the Fifth Circuit a slap on the wrist, the pain of that slap has evidently dissipated. If anything, the justices’ recent series of responses to the S.B. 8 litigation has served to enable and even to empower a lower court that has lost awareness of its place in the judicial hierarchy.

And maybe some members of the Supreme Court think that’s just fine: Let the Fifth Circuit do the dirty work, pushing the law in their preferred direction while they sit back and look judicious. But that’s a mirage. When the Supreme Court allows a lower court to go rogue, it is going rogue itself. Most people may not be able to locate the Fifth Circuit on a map, but there is no such invisibility for the Supreme Court. The public sees what it sees. The women of Texas can’t exercise a constitutional right, and the coronavirus is still killing a thousand Americans a day.

(source: Opinion; Linda Greenhouse, New York Times)

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UTEP students asked to shelter in place after reported armed suspect, EPISD schools on ‘lockout’—-El Paso prosecutor offers lowered bond for Juárez man wanted for murder, then says he’ll seek death penalty for suspect

Curtis Cox a lead prosecutor for the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office offered to allow a Juárez man wanted for murder to bond out of jail at a reduced price, but later backtracked saying he’d seek a capital murder charge for the man and possibly the death penalty.

The event unfolded during a recent stream of a court hearing involving Ivan Gabaldon, a 20-year-old accused of murdering 63-year-old Juan Garcia Flores in March. Court documents say Gabaldon allegedly stabbed Garcia during a paid sexual encounter at a building on Texas Avenue.

A police document of the events state Garcia allegedly began to try acts that Gabaldon did not consent to. And, that’s when Gabaldon allegedly stabbed Garcia repeatedly.

Gabaldon is behind bars at the El Paso County Detention Facility under a felony murder charge. He was jailed on February 28 and is being kept on a $1 million bond.

It has been eight months since the events transpired and now Gabaldon’s lawyers say they are ready for a jury trial that is scheduled on Dec. 2. But they are accusing the District Attorney’s Office of stalling the case.

The District Attorney’s Office did not answer questions provided by KTSM 9 News and emailed a short statement. The court issued a gag order on all individuals involved in the case, including family members, from speaking with the press, 13 minutes after the station reached out to the District Attorney’s office for comment.

“No comment,” the statement said.

On a YouTube stream of a final conference on Tuesday, criminal defense attorneys Omar Carmona and Denise Butterworth told district court judge Alyssa Perez late filings by the District Attorney’s Office were untimely.

Cox, senior division chief for the DA’s Office, admitted he had not completely reviewed the files associated with the case. And, the his office filed a motion for continuance, or to change the date of the trial.

He stated there is a concern in case law that involves the need to see the face of jurors and did not want to see an appeal because they wore masks.

Cox also said he is scheduled for a jury selection the day after the trial, forensic testing in the case had not returned and there are three witnesses the office has not located.

Defense attorney Omar Carmona said Gabaldon has been in custody and wants the case to be tried “right away.” His family in Mexico needs his help because he has not been able to support them being in jail, Carmona added.

A still of Tuesday’s court hearing on YouTube.

“I understand Mr. Cox’s concern. If he has jury duty, he has jury duty,” Carmona said. “Your honor, by my count, there has been at least seven different prosecutors that have had some hand in this case. 2 are no longer with the DA’s office. I am gonna insist that people had had a hand in this case and we are ready to try this case judge.”

Cox then replied saying he would not oppose Gabaldon bonding out of jail as his office sought a rescheduling of the trial.

“Since, I am moving for a continuance, I am not going to take the position that I am opposed to the court lowering the defendant’s bond to an amount that he could afford and get out,” Cox said.

“He can’t afford it,” Carmona answered. “It’s got to be a PR bond or we’re in the same situation.”

“Because the state is saying ‘it is not ready,’ I am not going to object to that,” Cox replied.

Judge Perez interjected saying she did not think it was fair to the court to have so much time pass while an individual is in jail. She said she understood some of the concerns the DA’s office had in their request for a new trial date but did take issue with locating witnesses.

“But certainly with respect to the witnesses, obviously does bring me concern because you’re at a disadvantage as well,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think that’s on you all for not. We’ve been on this case for quite awhile.”

Cox then replied saying he’d pursue a more serious charge for Gabaldon.

“And, your honor, just to be completely transparent, I am also planning to take this case back to the grand jury to reindict it as a capital murder,” Cox said. “That will happen, assuming we can get a quorum before the trial date in this case. And, then we will decide whether to seek the death penalty.

“The evidence I’ve seen paints a very clear picture that this was an intentional killing in the course of in furtherance of a robbery.”

Gabaldon’s attorneys were critical of Cox’s position and also criticized the DA’s office handling of the case.

“We’re in a situation with weeks before our trial, now, we’re looking at a capital murder. My thought is, this is just a way to delay,” Carmona said. “We are ready and if they indict, your honor, we are willing to waive our 10 days.”

Criminal defense attorney Denise Butterworth also said the DA’s office did not adequately prepare for the case.

“Because what it is showing the court and hopefully the record will be clear, that there is a lack of preparation, regardless of who decides they are going to be first chair, second chair, third chair,” Butterworth said. “This date has been in the books for awhile. It is on, as a whole the DA’s office to be ready for trial.”

The District Attorney’s Office has not held a jury tiral in a murder case since Yvonne Rosales took office. There are currently two pending capital murder death penalty cases, both occurred in 2019 and do not have a trial date. One includes the case against Patrick Crusius, the accused shooter in the Aug. 3 attack on an East Side Walmart.

(source: KTSM news)

FLORIDA:

Jury Recommends Death for Young Boy’s Fatal Shooting

Jurors recommended the death penalty on Wednesday for a Florida man convicted of fatally shooting his girlfriend and her 10-year-old son during an argument.

Following a 2-week trial, the panel of 7 women and 5 men unanimously concluded that Tyrone Terell Johnson, 45, deserves to die, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The Hillsborough County jury had found him guilty of murdering the mother and child, but prosecutors only sought the death penalty for the boy’s slaying. A judge will officially sentence Johnson at a hearing scheduled for January.

Johnson was staying at an apartment near Tampa with Stephanie Willis and her son, Ricky Ryon Willis, in October 2018 when the couple got into an argument, officials said. Johnson told detectives that he grabbed a handgun and began shooting at his girlfriend when she attacked him and kept firing as the boy entered the room.

Investigators said physical evidence did not match Johnson’s account. Blood beneath the boy’s bed and two bullet holes in his bedroom wall indicated he’d tried to hide as he was shot, officials said.

Prosecutors argued that Johnson moved the bodies to stage the scene before calling 911.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSISSIPPI—-execution/volunteer

Pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. // David Neal Cox’s final words before execution

David Neal Cox was the 1st person executed in Mississippi since 2012.

Cox was pronounced dead at 6:12 p.m. at the State Penitentiary at Parchman.

WLBT’s Josh Carter witnessed the execution. He wrote down Cox’s last words: “I want my children to know that I love them very much and I was a good man at one time. And don’t ever read anything but the King James Bible, and I wanna thank the commissioner for being so kind to me. And that’s all I got to say.”

Cox’s attorneys stated in a press release that he wanted them to speak for him after his death about the “inhumane prison conditions at Parchman” and why the “horrible living conditions made (his) decision to give up (his) appeals very easy.”

Meanwhile, a new mystery has arisen, with Mississippi Commissioner Burl Cain saying Cox “told me one time, only this, that he had left a letter with someone to mail after he was dead. Who knows what, when, or where. If it appears, it does, if it (doesn’t), he didn’t.”

Cain provided multiple updates on the execution of David Cox on Wednesday, discussing everything from Cox’s last meal to his demeanor with only hours to live.

The commissioner was with Cox when he died. “He asked me while he was there if he was going to have any pain. And you can’t answer that without thinking about the victims, but in his case, no, you’re not going to have any pain. I don’t see any pain. I explained about blue lights, and things like that, and what Billy Graham said, about the angels carrying your soul to Heaven,” he said. “That’s the kind of thing we talked about.”

“He wanted to know about the different wires and lines… and that was great,” he said, referring to the injection equipment. “I think the people were really good. They didn’t hurt him, and, so, that was good. It was all good. It was really a smooth process. You couldn’t make it more picture-perfect than we had tonight.”

Speaking earlier in the day, Cain said MDOC officials met with Cox Sunday to discuss the procedure, answer questions and determine Cox’s last meal – banana pudding, French fries, catfish, and hushpuppies.

He and corrections officials shared the meal shortly before the 4:45 press conference. “Other than that, the hour before, he visited with his attorneys and so forth, to hang out and have visits and just wait,” Cain said. “He was OK and ready to go.”

MDOC and Parchman officials began making preparations for the execution days ago.

“Well, he moved over to Unit 17 on Sunday evening, late and that was when it was scheduled. Prior to that, we came up and met with him… and spent some time with him to talk about what was going to happen, how it was going to happen, and what the process is and to find out what he wanted for his last meal and that sort of thing.”

“And so we probably spent 45 minutes with him at least, and he asked a lot of questions. He was upbeat and it was cool,” he said.

Cain would not offer details about the drugs being used in the execution, saying that state law does not require him to do so. “Our law provides that we don’t have to disclose any of that, so we follow the law,” he said.

“Everything is meticulously planned and on schedule, and I have no reason not to believe that the execution won’t take place at 6 p.m.,” he said and pointed to the fact that the 2 p.m. press conference Wednesday was held on time.

A hearse was already at the prison to pick up Cox’s remains. Cain did not know where Cox’s body would be taken, except to say a funeral home.

Cox was convicted in 2010 of killing his estranged wife and kidnapping his 2 children.

The decision to move forward with his execution was granted by the Mississippi Supreme Court in October after Cox asked the court to dismiss all his appeals.

Cain says Cox showed remorse and reported Cox saying the execution will bring closure to the victims of his crime. “Closure to his sons for taking their mom,” he said. “He has been remorseful and that’s a good thing.”

“It’s obvious, you know, he made a lot of bad decisions, and I think he qualified it best when he said, ‘I wasn’t always that bad.’”

There was a spiritual advisor and two witnesses present when Cox died.

More than 4,600 people signed a petition asking Gov. Tate Reeves to halt the planned execution of David Cox.

According to a petition found on the Action Network’s website, the decision “amounts to state-sponsored suicide.”

The petition is sponsored by Death Penalty Action, a group dedicated to abolishing the death penalty. Around 1:25 p.m., 4,634 signatures had been collected, about 1,800 short of the group’s goal of 6,400.

The group goes on to state that the petition isn’t about Cox, but about the people, and whether a felon can force the state to punish him.

“In what other circumstance in Mississippi does a prisoner dictate his punishment?” they ask.

Cox was adamant that he was ready to accept his fate. In a hand-written letter to the Supreme Court on October 27, he told justices that his attorneys were going to file an appeal of his sentence to the U.S. Supreme Court without his consent.

The court had dismissed Cox’s attorneys but left them in place in a solely advisory capacity. He told justices his attorneys were also going to file suit against the method of his execution.

(source: WLOX news)

***************

Mississippi executes man who killed wife, terrorized family

A man who pleaded guilty to killing his estranged wife and sexually assaulting her young daughter as her mother lay dying was put to death Wednesday evening, becoming the 1st inmate executed in Mississippi in 9 years.

David Neal Cox, 50, abandoned all appeals and filed court papers calling himself “worthy of death” before the state Supreme Court set his execution date. He appeared calm as he received a lethal injection. A coroner pronounced him dead at 6:12 p.m. CST at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

Cox pleaded guilty in 2012 to capital murder for the May 2010 shooting death of his estranged wife, Kim Kirk Cox. He also pleaded guilty to multiple other charges, including sexual assault. A jury handed down the death sentence.

Cox wore a red prison jumpsuit and was covered by a white sheet during the execution. Wide leather straps held him down on a gurney.

“I want my children to know that I love them very much and that I was a good man at one time,” Cox said just before the injection started. “Don’t ever read anything but the King James Bible.”

Cox thanked the state corrections commissioner, Burl Cain, for “being very kind to me. And that’s all I got to say.”

Cox appeared to take several deep breaths after the lethal chemicals started flowing through a clear plastic tube into his body, and his mouth moved some. He was pronounced dead within a few minutes.

Among those who witnessed the execution was Cox’s now 23-year-old stepdaughter. She was 12 when he sexually assaulted her 3 times in front of her wounded mother as he held them and one of her younger brothers hostage on the night of May 14 and May 15, 2010, in the small town of Sherman.

Mississippi carried out 6 executions in 2012. The state does not have any others scheduled among the more than 30 people currently on its death row.

States have had difficulty finding lethal injection drugs because pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products to carry out death sentences.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections revealed in court papers earlier this year that it had acquired three drugs for the lethal injection protocol: midazolam, which is a sedative; vecuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscles; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

Cain told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the drugs listed in the court records were the ones being used for the execution. He would not say where the department obtained them.

Cain, the onetime head of the Louisiana state penitentiary in Angola, witnessed several executions in that neighboring state before he took up his new role in Mississippi. He stood by Cox during the execution.

“You couldn’t make it more picture perfect than we had tonight,” Cain told reporters afterward.

A group that opposes executions, Death Penalty Action, said earlier that killing an inmate who surrendered all appeals would amount to “state-sponsored suicide.” The group had petitioned Republican Gov. Tate Reeves to block the execution of Cox, but Reeves’ spokeswoman said the governor declined to intervene because Cox admitted to ”horrific crimes.”

Attorneys from the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel represented Cox in recent years. After the state Supreme Court set his execution date, Cox sent a handwritten statement strongly objecting to their continued involvement. The office director, Krissy C. Nobile, said Tuesday that after “considerable and difficult deliberation, and out of respect for David Cox’s autonomy and stated desire,” the office did not plan any more appeals for him.

Kim Cox’s father, retired law enforcement officer Benny Kirk, said David Cox called during the night of the attack and said he had shot Kim. Benny Kirk spoke on the phone with his daughter and she told him: ”‘Daddy, I’m dying.’”

Police surrounded the house and tried to get David Cox to release his wife and the two children. Kim Cox was dead by the time the ordeal ended after more than 8 hours.

The Associated Press does not usually identify victims of sexual assault but Cox’s stepdaughter, Lindsey Kirk, agreed to be interviewed and talk about what happened to her. She told The Associated Press last week that David Cox had sexually assaulted her for a few years when her mother was out of the house, and that he threatened to kill them if she told anyone.

While staying with her grandparents in the summer of 2009, Kirk texted her mother and told her of the assaults by her stepfather. Soon after that, David Cox was arrested and charged with statutory rape, sexual battery, child abuse and possession of methamphetamine. He was released in April 2010 without standing trial. Kim Cox obtained a restraining order against him, and she moved to her sister’s home.

Kim Cox’s family did not issue a statement after the execution.

Before the execution, questions remained about whether David Cox was responsible for the 2007 disappearance of his brother’s wife, Felicia Cox, who was last seen in a neighboring county. Her daughter, Amber Miskelly, recently told WTVA-TV that David Cox was the last person to see her mother alive. After the execution, Cain said David Cox had not spoken about his sister-in-law’s disappearance.

(source: Associated Press)

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USA—-impending/scheduled executions

With the execution of David Cox in Mississippi on Nov. 17, the USA has now executed 1,539 condemned individuals since the death penalty was re-legalized on July 2, 1976 in the US Supreme Court Gregg v Georgia decision.

Gary Gilmore was the 1st person executed, in Utah, on January 17, 1977. Below is a list of further scheduled executions as the nation continues its shameful practice of state-sponsored killings.

NOTE: The list is likely to change over the coming months as new execution dates are added and possible stays of execution occur.

1540—-Nov. 18—–Julius Jones———-Oklahoma

1541—-Dec. 9——–Bigler Stouffer—–Oklahoma

1542—-Jan. 6——–Wade Greely Lay—–Oklahoma

1543—-Jan. 27——-Donald Grant——–Oklahoma

1544—-Feb. 17——-Gilbert Postelle—-Oklahoma

1545—-Mar. 8——–Michael Gonzales—-Texas

1546—-Mar. 10——-James Coddington—-Oklahoma

(source: Rick Halperin)

OHIO:

Death penalty’s future should go to the polls

The decision whether to abolish capital punishment in Ohio should be left to the electorate. Such a stark penalty deserves broad debate of such a deep moral issue by the residents of this state about the impact and consequences.

That position is one readers rarely will hear from this newspaper’s editorial board.

Rather, we very consistently argue that, as a representative form of government that we enjoy, the public generally should not enter the fray when it comes to establishing law. Instead, we consistently have argued law should be made by the legislators we elect to represent us in Columbus.

The issue of capital punishment, however, runs extremely deep. Deciding life and death is an incredible moral and societal responsibility that runs much deeper than past statewide referendums that might have decided things like legalizing medical or recreational marijuana or determining whether Ohio’s minimum wage should increase regularly.

It is a decision that, we believe, should be made by a greater body and larger voice.

Still, the state legislature has taken up debate over the death penalty’s future.

Ohio Senate Bill 103, which effectively would end Ohio’s death penalty for the state’s most heinous offenders, along with a separate bill in the Ohio House, is generating critically important debate and discourse.

The proposed end to capital punishment in Ohio comes at a time when Gov. Mike DeWine has instituted a moratorium on executions, citing difficulty in obtaining an effective lethal- injection drug.

That challenge, along with the never-ending divide between proponents and opponents of the death penalty, is fueling the current debate over the latest legislative proposals to end executions in Ohio.

Last week, Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Becker testified in Columbus before the House Criminal Justice Committee, which is considering the bill.

He, along with Louis Tobin, president of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and Saleh S. Awadallah, of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, spoke out against the measure, arguing the death penalty should not be viewed as a deterrent, but as punishment for the most violent and destructive members of society.

Mahoning Valley Sen. Michael A. Rulli, R-Salem, apparently feels very differently, however, because he is one of the co-sponsors of a bill to abolish capital punishment in our state. Unfortunately, multiple attempts to reach Rulli to discuss his reasoning for the sponsorship were unsuccessful, as the legislator has avoided our questions.

Those supporting the end to Ohio’s death penalty appeal, including Jerry Frewalt of the Catholic Conference of Ohio and Camile Wimbish of the Ohio Fair Courts Alliance, testified in Columbus in favor of the legislation. Wimbish, for instance, has argued the death penalty is “racially biased, unjust, inhumane, arbitrary and erroneous.”

At the end of the day, very few people don’t have an opinion on this hotly debated topic.

In his testimony, Tobin said studies show the public does not support repeal of the death penalty and argues lawmakers should be “highly skeptical” of any polling that suggests they do.

“When pollsters distinguish between most murders and these kinds of aggravated murders that make someone eligible for the death penalty, support for the death penalty is an overwhelming 76 percent,” Tobin said, citing a recent report about death penalty polling from Real Clear Policy.

Whether any poll on this topic holds true can be verified by only a true test at the polls.

While a vote undoubtedly would leave one side unhappy with the outcome, it would have given every Ohio voter a chance to have their say on this important issue.

And that’s exactly where we believe this debate should be settled.

(source: Editorial, The (Youngstown) Vindicator)

NEBRASKA:

Nebraska Narrowly Avoids Sending First-Ever Woman to Death Row as 3-Judge Panel Splits on Sentence for Bailey Boswell

Nebraska, which had no plans for housing a female death-row prisoner, has narrowly avoided having to address that failure, as a divided three-judge panel on November 8, 2021 sentenced Bailey Boswell to life in prison without possibility of parole.

2 members of the panel, Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson and Lancaster County District Judge Darla Ideus, voted for death. However, Nebraska law requires a unanimous vote for the death penalty to be imposed, and Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon voted for life.

Boswell was convicted by a Dawson County jury in 2020 of killing and dismembering Sydney Loofe, a 24-year-old woman whom Boswell and her boyfriend, Aubrey Trail had lured for a date on the social media app Tinder. Trail was separately tried and convicted and was sentenced to death by a 3-judge panel in June 2021. During his sentencing trial, Trail admitted to the murder but said that Boswell had not been involved in the killing.

Nebraska is 1 of 2 states — the other is Montana — in which the jury in a capital case has no involvement in recommending or imposing sentence. After determining whether an aggravating circumstance is present, the jury is discharged and there is a separate sentencing proceeding before a 3-judge panel. Nebraska death-row prisoners have repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, argued that the state’s sentencing procedure violates their Sixth Amendment right to a jury determination of all facts necessary to impose the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court has so far declined to review the issue.

In Boswell’s sentencing trial, prosecutors argued Loofe’s murder was “exceptionally depraved” and therefore warranted the death penalty. Judges Johnson and Ideus agreed, finding that Boswell had lured Loofe back to her apartment and, along with Trail, had bought the power tools used to dismember Loofe’s body in advance of the murder. “Boswell’s actions and words demonstrate that she had no regard for the life of Sydney Loofe beyond her own pleasure,” Johnson said.

Judge Bataillon, however, disagreed. “I could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that the State of Nebraska had met its burden of proof,” he said. “Nothing in this decision diminishes the senselessness of the murder of Sydney Loofe and the great pain it’s caused her family and friends.”

In addition to the life sentence without parole for Loofe’s murder, the panel sentenced Boswell to a 50-year term for conspiracy to commit murder and an additional 2 years for unlawful disposal of humans remains.

“I believed he really loved me,” she said, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. “Later, I was afraid of him. … Aubrey took from me what little spirit I had left.”

Boswell’s Case For Life

During her sentencing hearing in July, Boswell presented evidence that Boswell, who had been star high school athlete, spiraled downward after being verbally and emotionally abused by her college coach, sexually assaulted, subjected to beatings and sexual punishments by a boyfriend who then sexually trafficked her on Backpage, where she met Trail. The defense argued that she acted under the emotional dominance of Trail, who was twice her age and whom the defense characterized as a con man. A defense psychologist testified that Boswell suffered from PTSD and depression stemming from her abusive relationships.

In a statement to the panel, Boswell told the judges she felt trapped in her relationship with Trail, who she said abused her and threatened to kill her daughter. She pleaded with the judges to spare her life for her 7-year-old daughter’s sake.

Bailey’s defense counsel also argued that she should not be sentenced to death because of Nebraska’s failure to have any plan in place for housing female death row prisoners. In a letter to the prosecution, Scott Frakes, Nebraska’s Director of Correctional Services, wrote, “[a]s Nebraska has never had a woman sentenced to the death penalty, such a policy has not been necessary.” Testifying in the penalty hearing, Frakes admitted that the state had not developed a housing plan for death-sentenced women and did not intend to develop one. “If a female were to receive such a sentence, we would ultimately draft policy language specific to whatever those needs were,” he told the court.

Boswell’s defense counsel, Todd Lancaster, argued that if Boswell were subject to the same conditions as the men on Nebraska’s death row, “she would be housed for decades in restrictive housing” — solitary confinement — in circumstances amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

OKLAHOMA—-impending execution

Doubts raised as execution nears for Julius Jones

The fate of Julius Jones — who has served almost 20 years on death row, even as numerous questions raised doubts about his guilt — rests with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Only hours are left for Stitt to decide whether Jones lives or dies. He is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday.

Jones, now 41, was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1999 shooting death of Paul Howell, a businessman from an affluent Oklahoma City suburb. Jones has consistently maintained his innocence.

The case has increasingly drawn attention since it was profiled in “The Last Defense,” a three-episode documentary produced by actress Viola Davis that aired on ABC in 2018 and outlined some of his defense team’s allegations. Since then, reality television star Kim Kardashian West, who visited Jones in prison, and athletes with Oklahoma ties, including NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Trae Young, have urged Stitt to commute Jones’ death sentence and spare his life. This week, Ambassador of the European Union to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis sent a letter to Stitt, urging him to grant Jones clemency.

Following are some of the key arguments made by Jones’ attorneys and the response from prosecutors.

EYE-WITNESS DESCRIPTION OF SHOOTER

Paul Howell’s sister, Megan Tobey, who was an eyewitness to her brother’s killing testified in court that the gunman was wearing a stocking cap that came down “about a half an inch to an inch” above his ears, and that hair was sticking out from both sides. Jones’ attorneys suggest this was a better description of Jones’ co-defendant who testified against him, Christopher Jordan, who had corn-row braids at the time, and that the jury was never shown a photo of Jones taken a week before the murder that showed him with short, close-cropped hair. Jones has long said he was framed by Jordan, and that Jordan is the actual killer.

But prosecutors say Tobey testified she never saw braids and that her testimony was referring to how much hair was visible between the top of the ear and the stocking cap, not the hair length. Prosecutors also note that a federal district court addressed this issue, noting “the length of (Jones’) hair compared to Mr. Jordan’s is not a persuasive showing of actual innocence.”

JONES’ ALIBI

Jones and his family have maintained that he was at home with them on the night of Howell’s murder, eating dinner and playing games with his siblings, and that the jury was never presented this information at trial.

Prosecutors say this is a “blatant falsehood,” and that Jones’ trial attorney never called the family to the witness stand because Jones repeatedly told his attorneys that he was not at home on the night of the murder. They also note that three people saw Jones with Howell’s stolen Suburban shortly after the killing. Even Jones’ trial attorney, David McKenzie, wrote in an affidavit that he “personally concluded that the alibi defense was untrue.”

JAILHOUSE TESTIMONY

Jones’ attorneys say the jury also never heard from several individuals who have testified that Jordan admitted killing Howell and framing Jones. Prosecutors say those individuals, all of whom have lengthy criminal records, were not credible, knew no details of the murder and that their testimonies were not corroborated.

RACIAL BIAS

A juror in Jones’ trial wrote in an affidavit after Jones’ conviction that during the trial another juror engaged in premature deliberations and used a racial epithet while saying they should take Jones behind the jail and shoot him. Prosecutors argue that when the trial judge asked her about this allegation the day after the alleged incident, she never mentioned the racial epithet. And the judge’s bailiff signed an affidavit saying the juror never reported this, as she said she did.

COULD JONES’ LIFE BE SPARED?

Although Jones has no pending appeals, the state’s Pardon and Parole Board twice voted 3-1 to recommend to the governor that Jones’ death sentence be commuted, each time citing doubts about the evidence in the case. Stitt appointed two of the three members who voted to recommend clemency: Adam Luck and Kelly Doyle. The 3rd member, Larry Morris, was appointed by the Court of Criminal Appeals.

“Personally, I believe in death penalty cases there should be no doubts. And put simply, I have doubts about this case,” Luck said on the day of Jones’ clemency hearing.

Stitt, who has said little publicly about his decision, could commute Jones’ sentence to life in prison, with or without the chance for parole.

“The governor takes his role in this process seriously and will carefully consider the Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation as he does in all cases,” Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison said in a statement. “We will not have any further comment until the governor has made a decision.”

(source: Associated Press)

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Oklahoma attorney general believes Julius Jones is ‘100%’ guilty as calls for clemency grow—-AG John O’Connor says he will support Governor Kevin Stitt’s decision regarding clemency

Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor says he will support whatever Governor Kevin Stitt decides regarding clemency, but adds that he is 100 per cent sure that Julius Jones is guilty.

In an interview with Evan Onstot of ABC affiliate KOCO, Mr O’Connor said: “I’ve reviewed the evidence three different times. I’ve looked at all the exhibits. And there’s no doubt in my mind.”

He continued: “The unfortunate thing is that Mr Jones has never admitted, never repented, never asked the family to forgive him.”

A growing protest movement is calling for the governor to grant Mr Jones clemency and stay his execution, which is scheduled for 4pm on Thursday.

Mr O’Connor said Mr Jones’ scheduled execution is a matter of public safety and the rule of law, adding: “Every Oklahoman should be able to take their kids to buy school supplies, drop by and get ice cream on the way home, and pull in to granddad’s and grandma’s home without fearing that someone is going to put a bullet in their temple when they get out of their car in front of their 7-year-old and their 9-year-old daughters.”

The attorney general also said that he is comfortable with Oklahoma’s lethal injection method, saying about recently executed inmate John Grant: “It’s not chemically possible that he was alert or understood or felt any pain” because of the sheer amount of the sedative injected to start the process.

Mr O’Connor was appointed as the state’s attorney general in July by Governor Stitt, despite the American Bar Association previously rating him as “not qualified” to serve as a federal judge.

The governor said at the time that he has known Mr O’Connor for more than 20 years and considered him a “mentor” who helped advise him when he was CEO of a mortgage company.

Governor Stitt said: “It was so important to me to find someone who was highly competent in the law, but more importantly, I was looking for someone with high moral character who will do the right things for the right reasons and never for personal gain.”

Mr O’Connor was an attorney with the Oklahoma-based firm Hall Estill before he was nominated for a federal judgeship in 2018 by former President Donald Trump. He failed to advance past a Senate panel after the American Bar Association unanimously rated him not qualified to serve.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the then head of the association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, Paul Moxley, said Mr O’Connor’s unanimous rating was on the basis of “integrity and professional competence”.

In the September 2018 letter, Mr Moxley said Tulsa-area attorneys questioned by the panel stated that Mr O’Connor lacked trial experience and questioned his fitness to perform as a judge.

Mr O’Connor “does not have experience trying jury cases in any court, has not appeared often in federal court in any capacity, and has no discernible criminal experience,” Mr Moxley wrote.

Attorneys also indicated that his requests for legal fees in a number of cases were excessive, and at least two complaints were made to the Oklahoma Bar Association about O’Connor charging excessive fees and not being truthful.

“Attorneys who had direct professional dealings with the nominee cited other examples of his dishonesty and disregard of ethical and professional obligations,” Mr Moxley wrote.

When asked in July to respond to the American Bar Association’s findings, Mr O’Connor replied: “I’m happy to address that question,” before walking away from a reporter and into the governor’s office.

Governor Stitt, through a spokesman, referred to the national group’s 15-member panel that unanimously voted for Mr O’Connor’s rating as an “out-of-state, liberal special interest group” and said he had “zero concerns” about their opinion.

(source: independent.co.uk)

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“No Doubt That Julius Jones Is innocent”: Supporters Demand Stay of Execution for Oklahoma Man

Guests—-Ben Jealous—-president of People for the American Way and former president of the NAACP.

Advocates in Oklahoma are rallying outside the barricaded governor’s mansion ahead of the planned Thursday execution of prisoner Julius Jones, who was convicted of a 1999 murder but has maintained his innocence. Another man privately admitted to committing the murder and framing Jones, and Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board has recommended twice that his death sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole but the final decision now rests with Governor Kevin Stitt. “There should be no doubt that Julius Jones is innocent,” says longtime death penalty opponent Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way and former president of the NAACP.

AMY GOODMAN: Before you go, Ben Jealous, most likely to be arrested today, I wanted to ask you about another issue, about what is happening in Oklahoma. Advocates have been rallying outside the barricaded governor’s mansion ahead of the planned Thursday execution of prisoner Julius Jones who was convicted of a 1999 murder but has maintained his innocence. Another man, Christopher Jordan, has privately admitted to committing the murder and framing Jones. That’s according to three people who were jailed with Jordan who served 15 years after reaching a plea deal in the case. Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board has recommended twice that Julius Jones’ death sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole, but the final decision now rests with Governor Kevin Stitt.

You have long been an anti-death penalty activist, standing outside the execution of prisoners like Troy Anthony Davis, who spent half his life on death row and ultimately was executed in Georgia. Your thoughts on what is happening possibly tomorrow?

BEN JEALOUS: This is an extreme injustice. The one eyewitness described a man with an an inch and a half of hair and Julius’ head was clean-shaven. Julius had an alibi. He was eating dinner with his family at the time. That was not introduced. The prosecutor in the case Bill Macy, a man who would dress up like Colonel Sanders before he went into court each day and was known to carry firearms into court, has had a third of his death penalty cases overturned for prosecutorial misconduct and frankly has sent many innocent people to death row. There should be no doubt that Julius Jones is innocent. That is frankly substantiated by the fact that it wasn’t just that they voted to recommend to the governor that this execution be stayed, they did so three to one in the state of Oklahoma, which quite frankly is a state that’s generally a fan of the death penalty. This case, really there should be no debate about. They need to stop the execution and quite frankly they need to reopen the trial in this case.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much for being with us, Ben Jealous, President of People for the American Way, former president of the NAACP, headed out to the White House today. About 100 people are expected to be arrested in a voting rights demonstration. Thank you so much for being with us.

(source: democracynow.org)

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Supporters Appeal for Clemency for Death Row Inmate in Oklahoma—-Hundreds of students walked out of schools and activists demonstrated at the State Capitol, urging Gov. Kevin Stitt to commute the sentence of Julius Jones, who is scheduled for execution on Thursday.

Hundreds of students walked out of schools and activists demonstrated outside the office of Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma on Wednesday in a final attempt to persuade him to grant clemency to a death-row inmate who was scheduled to be executed on Thursday.

The inmate, Julius Jones, was convicted of 1st-degree murder and sentenced to death in 2002. He was accused of killing Paul Howell, who was in a car in the driveway of his parents’ home when he was carjacked and fatally shot in 1999.

Mr. Jones, 41, a former high school basketball player from Oklahoma City, was 19 at the time of the killing, which he says he did not commit. Mr. Howell, a businessman from the suburb of Edmond, was 45.

In September and again this month, the state’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended that Mr. Jones’s sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole, a significant step in a case that has garnered national attention, said Cece Jones-Davis, who directs an Oklahoma-based campaign called Justice for Julius.

But Mr. Jones, his family and his supporters are still waiting to hear whether Mr. Stitt, a Republican, will accept or reject the board’s recommendation, Ms. Jones-Davis said. Mr. Jones is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

“We are hoping and believing and trusting that the governor is still going to do the right thing,” Ms. Jones-Davis said on Wednesday. “But we are coming down to the hour.”

The Oklahoma City Public Schools estimated that more than 1,800 students across 13 schools participated in walkouts to support Mr. Jones on Wednesday. The district said it “supports our students’ rights to peaceful assembly and their freedom of expression.”

At the State House, scores of Mr. Jones’s supporters prayed, sang and chanted “free Julius Jones.” Madeline Davis-Jones, Mr. Jones’s mother, told the crowd that her son was innocent.

“If my child is executed tomorrow, or any day, it should be without a doubt,” she said. “It shouldn’t be a doubt. Not even a little bit of doubt.”

At least 1 person, a local pastor, was arrested during protests outside the governor’s mansion on Wednesday night, according to News 4, a TV station in Oklahoma City.

There were also calls for supporters to gather on Thursday for a “Freedom Vigil” in at least two locations, including the capitol and the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Stitt said in an email: “We will not have any comments until after the governor has made a decision.”

If he is executed, Mr. Jones would be the first person put to death by the State of Oklahoma since John Marion Grant, who was convicted of murdering a prison cafeteria worker in 1998, was executed on Oct. 28.

Mr. Grant, 60, was the state’s first inmate to die by lethal injection since 2015, when Oklahoma stopped executions after using the wrong drug in one instance and allowing a prisoner to regain consciousness in another.

Mr. Grant vomited while shaking for several minutes during the execution, which reporters who have witnessed executions called extremely rare in their experience. But state prison officials said a day after Mr. Grant’s execution that they did not plan to make any changes to the state’s lethal injection protocols.

“I will agree inmate Grant’s regurgitation was not pleasant to watch,” Scott Crow, the director of Oklahoma’s prison system, said at a virtual news conference on Oct. 29. “But I do not believe that it was inhumane.”

Mr. Jones, a Black man who has spent about half of his life in prison, has long maintained his innocence.

“I did not kill Mr. Howell,” he wrote in a letter to the parole board in April, after he had exhausted his appeals. “I did not participate in any way in his murder; and the first time I saw him was on television when his death was reported.”

But relatives of Mr. Howell, a white man whose sister and 2 daughters witnessed his killing, have rejected those claims and said that the efforts to grant clemency to Mr. Jones have caused them pain.

“Our family continues to be victimized by Julius Jones and his lies,” Mr. Howell’s brother, Brian Howell, said at a news conference in September.

Mr. Jones and his supporters have argued that his defense lawyers failed him during his trial — for instance, by neglecting to question family members who have said that he was having dinner with them at the time of Mr. Howell’s killing — and that prosecutors relied too heavily on the testimony of a co-defendant who said that he had seen Mr. Jones commit the crime.

Mr. Jones’s supporters have also argued that racism played a role in his trial and sentencing. African Americans make up a disproportionate number of death row prisoners in Oklahoma and in the United States, and research has shown that people convicted of murder are much more likely to be executed if the person who was killed was white.

Mr. Jones’s appeal for clemency has drawn support from prominent figures in sports, politics and entertainment.

Last month, Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, and Timothy Head, the executive director for the Faith & Freedom Coalition, wrote a letter to Mr. Stitt urging him to commute Mr. Jones’s sentence.

“We believe that doubt about Jones’s responsibility for the capital crime is not insignificant,” Mr. Schlapp and Mr. Head wrote.

On Wednesday, Baker Mayfield, a quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, who won the Heisman Trophy as a player for the University of Oklahoma football team, also expressed hope that Mr. Jones would not be executed.

“We’re 24 hours away,” he told reporters. “So it’s tough. You know, hopefully God can intervene and handle it correctly and do the things he needs to do.”

Mr. Jones’s case has been featured in a 2018 documentary series produced by Viola Davis, a podcast episode last year featuring Kim Kardashian West and a recent episode of “The Late Late Show With James Corden.”

“Julius, his family and everyone on his team are still hopeful Stitt will do the right thing,” Ms. Kardashian West wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

(source: New York Times)

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Baker Mayfield chokes up as Oklahoma death row inmate he’s defended nears controversial execution

Baker Mayfield had no problems Wednesday talking about injuries, his poor performances or even a Cleveland Browns season that hasn’t gone according to plan.

When it came to the pending fate of Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones, whose innocence the quarterback has publicly and passionately fought for, however, Mayfield couldn’t contain his emotions.

“Yeah, it’s pretty rough to be honest with you,” Mayfield, who won a Heisman Trophy at the University of Oklahoma, told a gaggle of reporters as he choked up. “That isn’t something that’s easy to talk about.

“Been trying to get the facts stated and the truth to be told for a while,” he continued. “But it’s tough to think about.”

Jones, 41, is awaiting execution Thursday for the fatal shooting of Paul Howell during a 1999 carjacking in Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

Jones has maintained his innocence throughout and said a co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, who accepted a plea deal as the getaway driver and was released after 15 years in prison, was the real killer and framed him for the crime.

Jones was 19 at the time and an engineering student at OU planning to walk onto the Sooner basketball team.

He argues that an eyewitness description of the gunman matches Jordan, not him, that three separate inmates who served time with Jordan said he admitted to them he committed the crime, and that his public defenders failed to present his alibi (that he was home having dinner with his parents and sister on the night of the murder) to the jury. Jones’ lawyers called no witnesses at his trial.

Prosecutors say they have the right guy, pointing to Jordan’s testimony (albeit as part of a plea deal) as well as the murder weapon being found wrapped in a red bandana with Jones’ DNA on it in a crawl space of Jones’ parents home.

However, numerous independent organizations and citizens have looked at the case and found additional troubling aspects.

That includes in jury selection in nearly all-white Edmond, the use of racial slurs by a member of law enforcement, and a claim by one juror that a separate juror remarked, “This trial is a waste of time; they should just take this [racial slur], shoot him, and bury him under the jail.”

Baker Mayfield is one of several high-profile athletes who have staunchly advocated for Oklahoma inmate Julius Jones to be spared the death penalty.

District Attorney Bob Macy, who retired in 2001 and passed away in 2011, oversaw the initial arrest and prosecution. Macy made a national name for himself as a staunch supporter of the death penalty, but in recent years his actions and convictions have come under tremendous scrutiny and criticism.

1/3 of Macy’s death penalty cases have been overturned due to “prosecutorial misconduct” according to the Innocence Project.

Macy has been separately accused of working with a rogue forensic investigative department in OKC to frame defendants on numerous major cases, leading to 11 exonerations. Across Oklahoma alone, some 35 Oklahomans have been deemed wrongfully convicted according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

“We’re not in the same day and age that we once were,” Mayfield said in a brief documentary released by the National Football League 2 years ago. “There is right and there is wrong. It’s not the same old thing as it was, which was always wrong.”

All of Jones’ legal appeals failed and his fate is now in the hands of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has said nothing this week but refused to meet with members of Jones’ family, legal team, independent advocates or the condemned man’s pastor.

The Innocence Project has called for a complete exoneration. On Nov. 1, Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-1, with one abstention, for Jones’ to be granted clemency. Stitt has not commented on that recommendation.

In 2018, a 3-part series produced by actress Viola Davis and titled “The Last Defense” ran on ABC’s “20/20” and generated enormous interest in the case.

It brought out numerous high-profile advocates, including Kim Kardashian West, who has tweeted repeatedly this week in an effort to get Stitt to stop the execution.

Mayfield said he was first connected to the case because of the shared ties to the University of Oklahoma. The more research he did on the case, the more people he spoke with, the more convinced he became in Jones’ complete innocence. He has tried politicking powerful interests in Oklahoma, writing letters, conducting media interviews to raise awareness, and even having “Julius Jones” printed on the back of his Browns helmet.

“Tried and tried,” Mayfield said Wednesday. “It’s a shame it’s gotten this far. We’re 24 hours away. It’s tough.”

Mayfield is just one high-profile athlete fighting for Jones. Former OU basketball stars Blake Griffin, Trae Young and Buddy Hield have fought for years. So too have past and present Oklahoma City Thunder players such as Russell Westbrook and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Stephen Curry even connected with Jones via a phone call in an effort to improve Jones’ mood.

“Seeing the evidence and hearing about the case, he’s on death row for something he didn’t do,” Mayfield said on the NFL documentary. “… Helping out good people is something I am passionate about and Julius is a good person who doesn’t deserve this.”

With just one day remaining and Stitt so far giving no sign of intervening, Mayfield looked defeated when he spoke to the media on Wednesday.

“You know, hopefully God can intervene and handle it correctly and do the things he needs to do.”

With that, he walked away. His mind on his friend back in Oklahoma.

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ACLU of Oklahoma calls on Gov. Stitt to reinstate moratorium on executions

The ACLU of Oklahoma is calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to reinstate a moratorium on executions and issue a stay on remaining execution dates until a federal case regarding the state’s lethal injection protocols has been decided.

“Oklahomans have watched as our State has administered 4 consecutive flawed executions or attempted executions, proving that the current lethal injection protocol is prone to disastrous mistakes that cause torture,” the ACLU of Oklahoma said in a release.

The pending federal court case, which goes to trial in February, questions the constitutionality of midazolam. That’s one of three drugs currently used in Oklahoma’s lethal injection process.

Oklahoma put executions on hold in 2015 after a series of mishaps in the death chamber but announced plans to resume them 5 years later.

Oklahoma executed its 1st inmate since 2015 last month when John Grant was killed. Critics took issue with the process after witnesses reported seeing Grant convulse and vomit during the process.

“The death penalty is an intolerable denial of civil liberties and is inconsistent with the fundamental values of our democratic system,” said Tamya Cox-Touré, ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director. “In the time since a moratorium was placed on executions, the state has done absolutely nothing to inspire confidence that it is now able to successfully exercise the ultimate power of any government, and we call on Governor Stitt to honor the previous agreement of no executions ahead of the pending federal trial in February.”

Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones is slated to be executed on Thursday, depending on what Stitt decides to do after the state’s Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency with life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Another inmate, Bigler Stouffer, faces execution on Dec. 9 but his fate is in the hands of Stitt as well after the Pardon and Parole Board recommended clemency and life in prison without parole on Wednesday.

“Oklahoma’s use of the death penalty should give us all deep pause,” the ACLU of Oklahoma said in a release. “Every Oklahoman must ask themselves not whether they support the death penalty, but rather, do they trust their government with the power to kill its citizens and in such haste after catastrophic failure in the recent past. The death penalty is cruel and inhumane, and it has no place in a society that values human dignity and justice.”

(source: okcfox.com)

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Oklahoma parole board questions execution procedure during clemency hearing

The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Wednesday recommended clemency for another death row inmate in part because of concerns about the last execution.

“That process is obviously flawed,” board member Larry Morris said before voting to recommend clemency.

“We have had individuals on the table suffering for 20 and 30 minutes apiece. And I don’t think that any humane society ought to be executing people that way until we figure out how to do it right.”

The board voted 3-2 to recommend clemency for convicted murderer Bigler Jobe “Bud” Stouffer II, who claimed he is innocent. Gov. Kevin Stitt has the final say.

Death row inmate Bigler Jobe Stouffer II speaks during his clemency hearing in front of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. The board voted 3-2 to recommend Stouffer for clemency.

The death sentence will be changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole if the governor accepts the recommendation.

Stouffer, 79, is on death row for fatally shooting Putnam City elementary school teacher Linda Reaves on Jan. 24, 1985. His execution is scheduled for Dec. 9.

Parole board members talked at length about the last execution before voting because of media reports the inmate convulsed repeatedly and vomited during the procedure.

John Marion Grant was executed on Oct. 28 after the board denied his clemency request.

Board member Kelly Doyle said she was recommending clemency on mercy grounds.

But she also said Stitt should be involved in death penalty decisions because of the way executions have carried out. In Oklahoma, the governor does not have any say on executions if the board denies clemency.

Board member Richard Smothermon said how the death penalty is implemented is “not our role.”

“I share the concerns but I’m not a doctor, and I don’t make the law, and I’m not the one that makes those decisions on how that is implemented,” the former prosecutor said before voting against recommending clemency.

Board member Scott Williams also expressed concerns about the execution process before voting against the clemency recommendation. “That’s something I need a lot more clarity on,” he said.

The board chairman, Adam Luck, voted to recommend clemency.

An Oklahoma City federal judge is going to rule on a legal challenge to the lethal injection process after hearing from experts at a trial next year. The trial is set to start Feb. 28.

More than 30 death row inmates are complaining in a lawsuit a sedative used at the start of the process will expose them to excruciating pain in violation of their constitutional rights. Morris said he was dumbfounded the board is having clemency hearings until the trial is over.

An execution was set for Stouffer because he was not part of that legal challenge. He since has filed his own lawsuit and is seeking an execution stay. U.S. District Judge Stephen Friot is to consider his stay request Monday.

The murder victim was dating a homebuilder, Doug Ivens, who was in the middle of a divorce. Stouffer was dating Ivens’ estranged wife.

The parole board was told Stouffer came up with a plan to get Ivens out of the way and make it look like a murder-suicide. He shot both Ivens and Reaves and put the gun in the schoolteacher’s hand in “one last act of evil,” Assistant Attorney General Joshua Fanelli said.

Stouffer was arrested because Ivens survived despite being shot in the face. Ivens crawled to a phone, called 911 and identified Stouffer as the shooter.

“Hurry, hurry,” Ivens said in a 911 call played for the board.

The parole board also was told Stouffer tried to hire 2 hitmen from death row to kill Ivens and others. The parole board was told he warned his defense attorney to win at retrial or “I’ll have you bumped off.”

Stouffer claimed Ivens was the one trying to set him up for Reaves’ murder. He claimed the homebuilder was shot during a struggle. He also denied hiring hitmen and said he was joking with the defense attorney.

“I had nothing to do with shooting Linda Reaves,” he said. “I believe that I was lured into a crime scene by Doug Ivens … and likely was intended to be another victim.”

Attorney General John O’Connor called the parole board’s decision disappointing.

“The board’s decision … was improperly based on whether an inmate will suffer pain during an execution,” he said. “This concern is not a concern for the Pardon and Parole Board. Instead, it is a concern of the courts. The courts, in declining to grant a stay of execution for other death row inmates, have spoken. The execution of Mr. Stouffer should proceed.

“The decision, however, is now in the hands of the Governor.”

(source: oklahoman.com)

NEVADA:

Judge to determine constitutionality of lethal injection in Nevada prisons

A federal judge in Las Vegas began a series of hearings Tuesday about the constitutionality of the never-before-tried method and combination of drugs that prison officials want to use for Nevada’s 1st lethal injection in more than 15 years.

U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II characterized the testimony he is receiving from experts called this week by Zane Floyd’s attorneys — and evidence he expects to hear from the state’s top prison and medical administrators in hearings scheduled into mid-December — “the most serious proceeding that can possibly be in front of this the court.”

“I’m going to ask your experts the same questions,” the judge told Randall Gilmer, the chief deputy Nevada attorney general who heads the state case.

Floyd, 45, does not want to die. He was convicted and sentenced in 2000 to death for killing four people and wounding a 5th in a 1999 shotgun attack at a Las Vegas grocery store. His execution was scheduled last July but delayed pending the result of court proceedings.

In a Friday court filing, Floyd’s attorneys, David Anthony and Brad Levenson, declared that Nevada Department of Corrections officials have designed an execution plan, or protocol, with “no scientific basis … (that) risks unnecessarily inflicting pain … and constitutes prohibited experimentation on a captive human subject.”

“The protocol is novel, employing ketamine — which has never been used in an execution — at a dosage that has no scientific basis that anyone has yet identified,” they argued.

Their 1st witness Tuesday was a defense-hired consultant, Dr. Mark Heath, a clinical anesthesiologist who teaches at Columbia University in New York and is an expert on the effectiveness of lethal injection drugs.

In a written court document, Heath said Nevada designed “an extremely agonizing method of causing death” with the use of drugs to sedate and paralyze the inmate before “the excruciating pain of intravenous concentrated potassium” administered as a heart-stopping agent.

Nevada’s plan is to use the anesthetic ketamine 1st among 3 or 4 drugs that also include the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, then potassium chloride and perhaps a muscle paralytic called cisatracurium. The drug alfentanil might substitute for fentanyl and potassium acetate might substitute for potassium chloride, according to the state plan.

No state has used ketamine or the fentanyl substitute in an execution, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Potassium acetate, also used as an aircraft deicer, was mistakenly used by Oklahoma in a 2015 lethal injection.

Heath, who described witnessing executions that have, in his words, “gone wrong,” toured the Nevada execution chamber at Ely State Prison and said he was told that parts of the execution protocol have not been finalized or made public.

He spoke of requirements for medical training or qualifications of those who would administer the drugs and whether those people would be properly trained to respond if something goes wrong and a decision is made to stop the process.

“Rehearsals and training are very important,” Heath told the judge, calling an execution “a complicated, high-stakes, tense affair” where if things go wrong “it’s a terrible, disastrous thing.”

Testimony was scheduled to continue Wednesday.

Floyd’s legal team also is challenging his execution in state court in Las Vegas and has several appeals pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.

An appeal also is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Floyd’s case, including claims that his mother’s use of alcohol while she was pregnant left him with diminished mental capacity.

State officials have not taken up Floyd’s request for clemency based on his claim of new evidence of brain damage and post-traumatic stress caused by childhood trauma and his military service as a Marine at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The last person put to death in Nevada was Daryl Mack in 2006 for a 1988 rape and murder in Reno. He asked for his sentence to be carried out.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

Panel recommends repealing death penalty in California—-The recommendation to end capital punishment comes after California voters rejected two ballot measures to abolish executions over the last decade and voted to speed up executions in 2016.

As nearly 700 condemned California prisoners wait in limbo under a death penalty process halted by the governor, a key criminal justice panel on Wednesday recommended making the state’s temporary freeze on executions permanent.

The Committee on Revision of the Penal Code, a 7-member board formed by the state Legislature last year to propose criminal justice reforms, released a 39-page report recommending that capital punishment be repealed in the Golden State.

“More than 40 years of experience have shown that the death penalty is the opposite of a simple and rational scheme,” the report states. “It has become so complicated and costly that it takes decades for cases to be fully resolved and it is imposed so arbitrarily — and in such a discriminatory fashion — that it cannot be called rational, fair, or constitutional.”

Poring through data on death sentences imposed and carried out since capital punishment was reinstated in California in 1978, the panel concluded the post-conviction litigation process has become “almost unfathomably long and costly.”

The report cites staggering racial disparities in who gets sentenced to death, with people of color making up 68% of those on death row in California. It further notes that about 1/3 of condemned prisoners suffer from mental illness, according to figures cited in a federal class action over mental health care in California prisons.

Additionally, the report highlights that innocent people are sometimes executed. It describes how 185 prisoners sentenced to death across the U.S. were later exonerated, including 5 formerly condemned prisoners in California.

Despite those criticisms, voters have opted to keep the death penalty legal in California twice in the last decade. In 2012, a proposal to abolish the death penalty was defeated by 52% of the vote. In 2016, voters narrowly rejected another proposal to end capital punishment and passed a measure to speed up executions with 51% approval. The accelerated execution law was largely upheld by the California Supreme Court in 2017.

In March 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom enacted a moratorium on executions, citing his belief that capital punishment is morally wrong.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is 1 of 3 county prosecutors who sought to intervene in a federal lawsuit over California’s lethal injection protocols to uphold Proposition 66, the 2016 ballot measure that sped up executions.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Wagstaffe said he takes no position on whether the death penalty should be repealed in California, but as long as it’s on the books, he said the law should be defended and that his office will enforce it.

“If it is the law, then my duty is to uphold the law,” Wagstaffe said. “But if they change the law, that’s what democracy is all about.”

Wagstaffe, who has served as DA in San Mateo County since 2011, said he hopes his county never experiences an atrocity like the Oklahoma City bombing, but if someone were to carry out such an act, he would consider seeking the death penalty under those circumstances.

“I still think there are certain cases where I would want to bring it to a jury and let the jury decide if that’s an appropriate punishment,” Wagstaffe said.

Last year, 4 progressive prosecutors from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Contra Costa County and San Joaquin County formed a group called the Prosecutors Alliance of California to advocate for criminal justice reform efforts, such as ending capital punishment.

The group’s executive director, Cristine Soto DeBerry, said in a phone interview Wednesday that she supports the panel’s recommendation to repeal the death penalty.

DeBerry pointed to studies showing that capital punishment doesn’t provide effective deterrence against murder and that the process is extremely expensive and prolonged in California.

“We’d be wiser to use the resources that support the death penalty to support victims and prevent violent crime from happening in the first place,” DeBerry said.

Across the nation, 23 states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty. 3 states, including California, have moratoriums that have temporarily halted executions. In July, the Biden administration also imposed a temporary stay on federal executions, reversing the prior Trump administration policy.

In its report, the panel acknowledged that ending capital punishment in California “is a difficult goal” so it laid out several recommended steps that can be taken in the interim. Those steps include having the governor grant clemency to commute death sentences, having the attorney general settle pending legal challenges against death sentences and having county district attorneys recall death penalty cases for resentencing.

The report also recommends legislative reforms, including changing a law that allows accomplices who did not personally kill someone but took part in a felony that involves murder to be sentenced to death. It also suggests state lawmakers make retroactive a 2020 state law that bans convictions based on race, give judges more discretion to dismiss enhancements in death penalty cases and create a process to remove prisoners deemed permanently mentally incompetent from death row.

Governor Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

A spokesperson for California Attorney General Rob Bonta, who has publicly declared his opposition to capital punishment, said, “We look forward to reviewing the report and continuing to engage with the committee in its important work on behalf of the State of California.”

Members of the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code include chairman Michael Romano of Stanford Law School, Assembly member Alex Lee of San Jose, state Senator Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza, retired U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, retired California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno and professor Priscilla Ocen of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

The state currently has 697 inmates on death row. California has carried out 13 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. The most recent execution of Clarence Ray Allen took place in 2006.

(source: Courthouse News)

USA:

Death Penalty Support Holding at Five-Decade Low

Americans’ opinions about the death penalty have been relatively stable in recent years after a decline in 2017. The current 54% of U.S. adults who say they favor the death penalty for convicted murderers is essentially unchanged from readings over the past 4 years and remains lower than any other measurement since March 1972 (50%).

Line graph. Trend in Americans’ support for the death penalty. 54 % of Americans say they are in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder. The last time support was lower was 50% in 1972.

The latest results are based on Gallup’s annual Crime survey, conducted Oct. 1-19. Gallup first asked about the death penalty using this question wording in 1936, updating it periodically since then — including annually since 1999.

A different death penalty question Gallup has asked occasionally, though not in the latest poll, finds lower support for the death penalty when life imprisonment with no possibility of parole is offered as an explicit alternative. That question also shows declining support for the death penalty compared with the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

History of Americans’ Support for Capital Punishment

When Gallup first asked about the death penalty in 1936, 59% said they were in favor of it. Majorities have consistently favored it, apart from several readings taken between 1957 and 1971, including a low of 42% in 1966. These measures came as legal experts debated the constitutional basis for the death penalty, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a series of challenges over how it was being applied. The court invalidated all existing state death penalty laws in its 1972 Furman v. Georgia ruling. However, that judgment left open the possibility that laws written to address the high court’s concerns about arbitrary sentencing in death penalty cases could be constitutional. In 1976, the court ruled that new death penalty laws in several states were permissible under the Constitution.

From that point, support for the death penalty increased, peaking at 80% in 1994, when crime was the issue Americans named most often as the most important problem facing the country. In recent decades, there has been renewed concern about the administration of the death penalty as new evidence has exonerated some death-row inmates and led to some states issuing a moratorium on executions or abolishing the death penalty. These recent developments are likely a factor in declining support for the death penalty since its 1994 peak.

Death Penalty Attitudes Shaped by Politics

Death penalty attitudes vary most by political party and ideological self-identification. 77 % of Republicans, 55% of independents and 34% of Democrats are in favor of the death penalty. Also, 70% of those who describe their political views as conservative say they support the death penalty, compared with 57% of moderates and 28% of liberals.

In addition to the political differences, the poll finds significant differences by age, with 41% of young adults aged 18 to 34 in favor of it, compared with 59% of adults aged 35 and older.

(source: gallup.com)

US MILITARY:

Accused 9/11 Mastermind Seeks Access to Secret Testimony—-Prosecutors say war court rules forbid defendants from hearing classified information, unless the classified information is someone quoting what the defendant said.

Lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed asked a judge to permit the defendant to attend the classified testimony of 2 psychologists who waterboarded him.

A defense lawyer on Wednesday invoked the bedrock American right to confront one’s accuser as he asked a military judge to permit the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to attend secret testimony by 2 psychologists who waterboarded him 183 times.

The argument illustrates the on-again, off-again nature of the war crimes proceedings, whose rules generally exclude the defendants from classified testimony in the pretrial phase.

The psychologists, both former C.I.A. contractors, began testifying in open court in January 2020. But their return to court to resume testifying has been on hold in part because the judge who heard it abruptly announced his retirement 2 months later, and in part because the pandemic paralyzed the proceedings for more than 500 days.

The overarching issues are whether admissions that the defendant in this case, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, made years after the waterboarding were tainted by torture, and whether they can be used as key evidence in an eventual trial.

The psychologists, James E. Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, were called to describe their use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — which included waterboarding, bashing a prisoner’s head into a wall, extreme isolation, sleep deprivation and forced nudity — in a secret overseas C.I.A. prison network in 2002 and 2003 to “condition,” as Dr. Mitchell testified, captives to answer questions on demand.

Dr. Mitchell said that the defendants had gained their free will by the time they were questioned by FBI agents at Guantánamo Bay in 2007. The psychologist testified that even before Guantánamo, Dr. Mitchell and Mr. Mohammed would at times sit together and chat while holding hands, as Middle Eastern men sometimes do.

Defense lawyers argue that the 5 defendants in the case were still so fearful that they could be tortured again that they told FBI interrogators at Guantánamo Bay what the C.I.A. conditioned them to say. They have asked the judge to exclude the interrogations as the product of systematic U.S. government abuse.

In the short term, the question is whether Mr. Mohammed can watch when Dr. Mitchell returns to the court to testify in a closed national security session. No date for that session has been set.

Defense lawyers also argue that, because this is a death penalty case, the defendants are entitled to greater protections, including the right to attend secret testimony about which they might have knowledge. Prosecutors argue national security is at stake because the C.I.A. still retains certain secrets about its overseas black site program, which began in 2002 and ended in 2009.

The judge, Col. Matthew N. McCall of the Air Force, inherited the question from his predecessor, Col. W. Shane Cohen, who abruptly retired after Dr. Mitchell testified in open court across nine days in January 2020, and Dr. Jessen for one.

A prosecutor, Maj. Jackson T. Hall of the Air Force, said a person must have a security clearance to attend a classified war court session, meaning both the public and the defendants are barred. He cited just one exception — an accused terrorist can hear the classified information if it is something that the accused terrorist said.

He added that previous military judges had excluded the defendants from classified pretrial hearings for the past seven years, and urged Colonel McCall not to deviate from that practice.

Major Hall accused defense lawyers of engaging in “graymail,” essentially arguing that, in order to achieve a fair trial, the government had to choose between disclosing state secrets or being sanctioned by the judge, possibly including a dismissal of the case.

Mr. Mohammed’s lawyer, Gary D. Sowards, said his team needed the defendant in court to hear secret evidence about the C.I.A. black site program — and the psychologists’ role in it — to guide their questioning of the men, based on Mr. Mohammed’s experience as a prisoner of what he called the “international gulag archipelago of torture chambers” from March 2003 to September 2006.

“Mr. Mohammed already knows about the grisly details of his torture and what happened to him,” Mr. Sowards said. “That’s what we’re talking about.”

Major Hall cited a similar exclusion in the federal proceedings from 2002 to 2006 against Zacarias Moussaoui, an admitted aspiring hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks. During a period when he represented himself, the prosecutor said, Mr. Moussaoui was denied access to classified information that was favorable to his defense. In that example, he said, Mr. Moussaoui had a standby counsel who could see the classified information but not tell the defendant about it.

Mr. Sowards said the need for Mr. Mohammed to hear the testimony live was made clear after the defendant was excluded from the deposition of a former C.I.A. interpreter who lied about his background and ended up working for a defense team. The defendants in the case recognized the interpreter at a court session in 2015, and then exposed his prior clandestine status in open court.

Upon reviewing his testimony, Mr. Sowards said, Mr. Mohammed took issue with several of the interpreter’s statements but defense lawyers were unable to challenge him on the spot. Instead, Mr. Sowards said, defense lawyers were debating whether to seek to reopen the interpreter’s deposition to try to impeach him.

No date has been set for the actual start of the trial of Mr. Mohammed and four other men who are accused of conspiring in the 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people when terrorists piloted hijacked commercial planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

(source: New York Times)

NIGERIA:

No Record Nigeria’s Kaduna State Governor Recommended Death Penalty for Corruption

According to the 10 November 2021 post, El-Rufai said the government’s anti-corruption campaign would be a waste of time if the death penalty was not used to deter people.

“Without the death penalty, 90% of Nigerians will continue to see corruption as God’s blessings. The anti-corruption campaign will be a waste of time. We are already heavily populated, why can’t we sacrifice the top criminals to save the country’s future?” the post quoted El-Rufai.

But did El-Rufai make this controversial suggestion? We checked.

No credible evidence of statement

The Facebook post doesn’t give any details of where or when El-Rufai made the statement. A lack of detail is often a clue that a claim spreading on social media is fabricated.

A Google search also didn’t turn up any reporting on the incident by credible news organisations. We also found no mention of the governor’s suggestion on the official website or social media handles of the state government.

There is no evidence that El-Rufai has said anything like it.

Amnesty calls death penalty cruel, inhuman and degrading

The global non-governmental organisation Amnesty International argues that the death penalty contravenes fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to be free from torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

According to the organisation, at least 483 executions were carried out in 18 countries worldwide in 2020, although 108 countries had completely abolished the death penalty by the end of the year.

The death penalty is still legal in Nigeria though there have been campaigns to abolish it.

(source: allafrica.com)

IRAN—-execution

Ahmad Makrandoust Executed in Zahedan Central Prison

Baluch Ahmad Makrandoust who was sentenced to death for drug offences, has been executed in Zahedan Central Prison. At least 101 prisoners, including a woman, have been executed on drug-related charges in Iranian prisons in 2021.

According to the Baluch Activists Campaign, a Baluch man was executed on November 6 in Zahedan Central Prison. His identity has been reported as 56-year-old Ahmad Makrandoust who was also known as Haji Rahim Shahouzehi and had been sentenced to death for drug-related offences.

Arrested 4 years ago, he was from the Harmak region of Zahedan province. He was a lorry driver prior to his arrest and suffered from sight and heart problems.

At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

4 other Baluch men were executed on drug-related charges in Zahedan Central Prison on November 13.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, at least 25 people were executed on drug-related charges in 2020. However, at least 101 people have so far been executed on the same charge in 2021.

On May 3, IHR published a report on the death penalty in the first 4 months of 2021 expressing concern at the significant increase in the number of drug-related executions and continues to warn of the continuation of this trend.

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Mostafa Pourahmad and Mojtaba Bagheri at Imminent Risk of Execution in Rasht

Mostafa Pourahmad and Mojtaba Bagheri who were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for murder, have been transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions in Rasht Central Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, two men were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions on November 14. Sentenced to qisas for murder, their identities have been established as 35-year-old Mostafa Pourahmad and 40-year-old Mojtaba Bagheri.

2 prisoners named Mostafa Poorahmad and Mojtaba Bagheri, who were sentenced to retaliation (execution) on the charge of “premeditated murder”, were transferred to solitary confinement in Rasht Central Prison to serve their sentences.

Their executions are due to be carried out on Saturday, November 20.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

(source for both: iranhr.net)

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UN Third Committee resolution censures serious rights abuses in Iran. This is the 68the resolution passed by the United Nations condemning the flagrant human rights violations in Iran.

The Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution, censuring the brutal and systematic violations of human rights in Iran on November 17, 2021.

The Third Committee resolution was passed by 79 votes in favor, 32 against and 64 abstentions.

The resolution expressed serious concern at the “alarmingly high frequency of the imposition and carrying-out of the death penalty by the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of its international obligations, including executions undertaken against persons on the basis of forced confessions or for crimes that do not qualify as the most serious crimes, including crimes that are overly broad or vaguely defined, in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expresses concern at the continuing disregard for internationally recognized safeguards, including executions undertaken without prior notification of the prisoner’s family members or legal counsel, as required by Iranian law, and calls upon the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to abolish, in law and in practice, public executions, which are contrary to the 2008 directive seeking to end this practice issued by the former head of the judiciary, and to consider establishing a moratorium on executions.”

The Third Committee resolution also expressed serious concern at the continued imposition of the death penalty by the Islamic Republic of Iran against minors, and urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease the imposition of the death penalty against minors, including persons who at the time of their offence were under the age of 18, in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to commute the sentences for child offenders on death row.

The resolution called on the Iranian regime to ensure, in law and in practice, that no one is subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which may include sexual violence, and punishments that are grossly disproportionate to the nature of the offence, in conformity with amendments to the Penal Code, the constitutional guarantees of the Islamic Republic of Iran and international obligations and standards, including but not limited to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), and to ensure that allegations of torture are promptly and impartially investigated.

The Third Committee resolution urged the Islamic Republic of Iran to cease the widespread and systematic use of arbitrary arrests and detention and also called on the regime to release persons detained for the exercise of their human rights and fundamental freedoms, including those who have been detained solely for taking part in peaceful protests, including the nationwide protests of November 2019 and January 2020, to uphold the human rights of those involved in peaceful protests, to consider rescinding unduly harsh sentences, including those involving the death penalty and long-term internal exile, and to end reprisals against human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and their families, journalists and media workers covering the protests, and individuals who cooperate or attempt to cooperate with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.

(source: iran-hrm.com)

PAKISTAN:

Kulbhushan Jadhav can appeal against death penalty as Pakistan parliament passes bill—-Kulbhushan Jadhav was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017.

Pakistan’s Parliament in its joint sitting on Wednesday enacted a law to give Indian death-row prisoner Kulbhushan Jadhav the right to file a review appeal against his conviction by a military court.

Jadhav, a 51-year-old retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. India approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence.

(source: zeenews.india.com)

INDIA:

Delhi HC seeks Centre’s stand on pleas by 2006 Mumbai blast case convict for information on police officials

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought response from the Centre on pleas by 2006 Mumbai train blast case convict challenging the rejection of his request under the Right to Information Act for information about the IPS officers involved in the investigation.

Justice Rekha Palli issued notice to the Central Public Information Officer of Ministry of Home Affairs and Department of Personnel and Training on two petitions by Ehtesham Qutubuddin Siddique who alleged corruption and violation of his human rights at the hands of the officials.

The petitioner, who is presently lodged in Nagpur jail and is represented by lawyer Arpit Bhargava, claimed that he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death based on “false and fabricated evidence” by a court in Mumbai, which is yet to be confirmed by the Bombay High Court.

He alleged that certain IPS officers, who had supervised the investigation, were directly or indirectly involved in the fabrication of evidence as well as giving sanction for prosecution without applying their mind.

The petitioner stated that in September 2018, his request seeking a “copy of UPSC Form and all other documents attached with it and all documents related to appointment” of the sixteen IPS officers was declined by the MHA official on the ground that the disclosure was exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act for being a personal information/unwarranted invasion of privacy of an individual.

The rejection was upheld by a “larger bench” of the Chief Information Commission in November 2019, the court was told.

The lawyer contended that the information in question pertained to events that happened more than 20 years ago and did not violate anyone’s right to privacy as they pertained to public service.

The pleas said that the larger bench of CIC failed to appreciate that right to information and right to privacy stood on equal footing and both were guaranteed under the Constitution.

The convict stated that the disclosure would be in the larger public interest and national interest as it would lead to the innocence of convicted persons.

“CIC failed to appreciate that Respondent are trying to save the skins of senior officials of Respondent who falsely implicated Petitioner in the year 2006 and if such information is disclosed today, it may lead to a proving allegation of corruption which includes the element of corruption in the form of medals, awards, etc,” the petitions stated.

Siddique was given capital punishment for the July 11, 2006, serial blasts when 7 RDX bombs ripped through many Western line local trains in Mumbai leading to the death of 189 persons and injuring 829.

The matter would be heard next on March 2.

(source: The Times of India)

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see: https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/2-instances-where-attorney-general-appealed-against-hc-judgments-direction-for-public-hanging-pocso-skin-to-skin-case-185807?infinitescroll=1

(source: livelaw.in)

INDONESIA:

Indonesian man escapes death, but found guilty of culpable homicide

An Indonesian man charged with murder escaped the death penalty yesterday after the High Court found him guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The accused, Odang, 33, was sentenced to 13 years’ jail from the date of arrest under an amended charge – Section 304(a) of the Penal Code.

Judicial Commissioner Christopher Chin made the decision to convict the accused under the amended charge after concluding that the conviction under Section 302 of the Penal Code preferred against the accused was not justified as the accused was exercising his private defence.

He said there was no other evidence or any other motive in the part of the accused to harm the deceased other than an act of self-defence.

However, he believed that the accused could not be given a full acquittal because he (accused) went beyond his private defence.

He said the injuries sustained by the deceased were not necessary for self-defence and the evidence was clear including from that of the accused himself.

“The accused pursued the deceased and executed more blows. The accused said he was scared the deceased would return to hurt him.

“So, with that mind, he pursued and stabbed the deceased some more. The intention was to ensure the deceased would not return to retaliate,” he said.

Thus, he said the accused had fulfilled the element of Exception 4 of Section 300 of the Penal Code which reads ‘Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel, and without the offender having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.’

Based on the charge sheet, Odang was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries the death penalty.

He killed his countryman Rianto at an oil palm plantation in Mukah between 9.30pm on Feb 20 and 7.20am on Feb 21, 2019.

The deceased had allegedly wanted to sell drugs to the accused, who asked the deceased to meet up nearby.

When the accused later refused to buy the drugs, the deceased tried to take the money from his pocket and attacked the accused with a knife.

The accused also attacked the deceased with his own knife. After the attack, the deceased ran away and the accused pursued him.

In mitigation, Odang’s counsel Ranbir Singh Sangha told the court that the accused had cooperated with the police at all stages of the investigation and had never attempted to abscond and run away from the consequences of his action.

He said being an Indonesian there was no doubt that the accused, after serving his sentence, would be sent back to Indonesia and would not be permitted to re-enter Sarawak.

He said therefore, the accused would not be a threat to Malaysians.

“I submit a lengthy jail sentence is not in order because it would be an undue burden on Malaysian taxpayers,” he said.

He also believed that a deterrent sentence would not be in order where a crime was committed in the heat of passion.

DPP Rex Heng Yi Ming said the court should pass a deterrent sentence against the accused where it implanted the message in the society that justice should not be administered in their own hands.

He said the court went through a lengthy trial which took up too much time and costs, paid by taxpayers.

“If the court were to pass a lenient sentence on the accused, it will be seen as justice partially unserved by the victim’s family and also the society at large,” he added.

Chin sentenced the accused to 13 years’ jail after considering the accused plea and submissions by the prosecution, and taking into account public interest and the need to set an example for society.

(source: The Borneo Post)

MALAYSIA:

2 sentenced to death freed over identity doubts

A storekeeper and a forklift operator escaped the gallows for murder as two prosecution witnesses were unable to identify the assailants. A 3-member Court of Appeal bench, led by Kamaludin Md Said, also agreed with their counsel that the trial judge was wrong in calling for the defence of S Danaraj and A Logiswaran, both 29.

Others on the bench were M Gunalan and Ghazali Cha.

Gunalan, who read the broad judgment of the court, said the main issue for determination was whether there was positive identification of the appellants.

“In our view, more than a reasonable doubt had been raised during the prosecution’s case,” he said, in allowing the appeal to set aside the High Court’s conviction and sentence.

Gunalan said the trial judge had failed to judicially appreciate the evidence in its entirety, particularly on identification by the 2 witnesses.

“There is merit in our interference. We allow the appeal and acquit the appellants,” he said.

Danaraj, Logiswaran and three others still at large were charged with the murder of A Kalaymanee in front of a house at Jalan Bunga Melur, Kampug Baru Hicom in Shah Alam at about 1.30am on Oct 12, 2014.

Ramkarpal Singh, appearing for Danaraj, and Saha Deva Arunasalam, for Logiswaran, submitted that it was unsafe to convict their clients for an offence that carried the death penalty.

Both counsel also submitted that their clients had given alibi notice to the prosecution that they were not at the crime scene.

Danaraj claimed he was at a birthday party while Logiswaran said he was attending a prayer session at his sister’s house.

Deputy public prosecutor Hanim Mohd Rashid submitted that the convictions were safe, although a 2nd trial judge had taken over the case.

She said the replacement judge had assessed the credibility of the witnesses, including some who did not testify before him, based on the notes of evidence.

The prosecution relied on the evidence of the deceased’s brother, Kalairasan, and a cousin, N Suresh, to prove the accused were at the crime scene.

(source: Free Malaysia Today)

VIETNAM:

2 ex-convicts sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Vietnam

2 Vietnamese men have been sentenced to death for drug trafficking after they had just finished their previous jail terms.

The People’s Court in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak on Wednesday conducted the trial of Nguyen Thanh Duong, 40, from northern Phu Tho Province, and Nguyen Duong Vu, 29, a Dak Lak resident.

Duong and Vu were both handed capital punishment for trading narcotics.

The indictment showed that Duong had been condemned to 10 years behind bars for drug-related crimes, while Vu had been jailed for 7 years for robbery.

The 2 served their terms at Gia Trung Prison in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai and later became acquaintances.

After they were released from prison in early March, Vu contacted Duong and said that he wanted to buy one kilogram of crystal meth at VND220 million (US$9,600).

Vu planned to resell the narcotics for profit.

After receiving VND100 million ($4,300) upfront, Duong headed to northern Dien Bien Province to purchase the drugs from an unidentified man, before catching a coach to Dak Lak to deliver them.

Duong was nabbed on March 30 after arriving in Buon Ma Thuot City, Dak Lak Province.

Officers later arrested Vu and confiscated more than 248 grams of meth at his home in Thanh Nhat Ward, Buon Ma Thuot City.

(source: tuoitrenews.com)

BANGLADESH:

Narail man sentenced to death for killing sister

A court has handed down the death sentence to a man for the murder of his sister in Narail in 2019.

The convict, Ripon Molla, was present in court when Narail District and Sessions Judge Munshi Md Moshiar Rahman delivered the verdict on Monday.

The court also fined him Tk 20,000.

Ripon beat his sister Fatema, a 20-year-old college student, and pushed her into a river on Nov 15, 2019 over a family feud, said Public Prosecutor Emdadul Islam citing the case dossier.

Ripon’s son witnessed the incident, according to Emdadul.

Police later recovered Fatema’s body and arrested Ripon based on his statement.

Ripon’s father later filed the case over the incident.

(source: bdnews24.com)

NOVEMBER 17, 2021:

TEXAS:

Spared execution once, Texas prisoner Kenneth Foster could face death penalty again after cellmate’s death—-Foster had been the getaway driver, not the triggerman, in a killing that first put him on death row. Former Gov. Rick Perry commuted his death sentence to life in prison in 2007.

Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death under Texas’ law of parties, which deems accomplices as responsible for murders as those who pull the trigger. Kenneth Foster, a former Texas death row prisoner whose sentence was commuted to life in prison by former Gov. Rick Perry, is being investigated in the death of his cellmate, according to prison officials.

If prosecuted on murder charges, Foster could end up back on death row.

On Nov. 6, prison officers at the Telford Unit near Texarkana found Anthony Dominguez unresponsive in his cell “with injuries consistent with a physical altercation,” Robert Hurst, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday. Dominguez was taken to the prison’s medical facility, and paramedics pronounced him dead about 40 minutes after he was found.

Video footage identified Foster as the man who injured Dominguez, Hurst said. The prison’s law enforcement branch is investigating Dominguez’s death and may suggest potential charges against Foster to the state’s Special Prosecution Unit, which prosecutes crimes in prisons.

Under Texas law, a prisoner who kills someone while serving a life sentence, or was previously convicted of murder, can be charged with capital murder. Foster has not yet been accused of any crime in Dominguez’s death, however. If he is tried for capital murder, it would be up to the district attorney in Bowie County, where Telford prison is located, to decide whether to seek the death penalty, according to Jack Choate, who leads the Special Prosecution Unit.

“There will be a lot of information to gather and consider before making that decision,” he said.

Foster, 45, is serving a life sentence for his role in the San Antonio murder of Michael LaHood in 1996. Foster was originally sentenced to death, but Perry commuted his sentence hours before he was to be executed in 2007. Foster had not killed LaHood but was instead the getaway driver in a string of robberies, and Perry was concerned that Foster had been tried along with with the triggerman, Mauriceo Brown. Brown was executed in 2006.

LaHood was the brother of Nico LaHood, a former Bexar County district attorney who is now running for a seat in the Texas House.

Foster’s commutation has long been spotlighted by those seeking to reform Texas’ death penalty statute that allows accomplices to be sentenced to death.

The statute, named the law of parties, holds that anyone involved in a crime resulting in death is equally responsible, even if they weren’t directly involved in the actual killing. Most notably in death penalty cases, people committing another felony, like robbery, can be convicted and sentenced to death for murder if the jury decides murder “should have been anticipated as a result” of the other crime.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have worked to lessen the responsibility of accomplices for crimes when it comes to the death penalty. This year, the Texas House passed a bill by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, to limit when accomplices could be sentenced to death. The bill did not move in the more conservative Senate, however, and failed.

(source: Texas Tribune)

SOUTH CAROLINA:

En Banc Review Results in Equally Divided Fourth Circuit (Again)

The world of Fourth Circuit en banc review has provided much fodder for my postings on this blog (See, e.g., here, here, here, here). On Monday, the Court released another blog-worthy en banc opinion when it affirmed per curiam the district court’s grant of habeas relief to a criminal defendant who had been sentenced to death for killing a police officer during a traffic stop. What makes the opinion notable is that the affirmance came in a most unusual way: an equally divided full court.

In Bryant v. Stephan, (panel decision here, en banc ruling here), the defendant had sought habeas relief in the District of South Carolina after he was sentenced to death in the state courts of South Carolina and the South Carolina appellate courts affirmed his conviction and sentence. The federal district court vacated his death sentence, concluding that the state post-conviction court “(1) unreasonably determined that a juror who was hearing impaired was competent to sit on the jury and unreasonably applied clearly established federal law in so concluding; and (2) unreasonably concluded that [defendant’s] state trial counsel was not ineffective in allowing the hearing-impaired juror to sit on the jury.”

The State appealed to the Fourth Circuit, and a panel majority of Judge Niemeyer and Judge Wynn reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that the district court had not used the proper standard in overruling the state post-conviction court’s affirmance of the death sentence. The panel remanded with instructions that the district court deny with prejudice the defendants application for habeas relief. Judge Thacker dissented.

The defendant petitioned for rehearing en banc, and it was granted (one of seven cases the full Court has taken for review in the last 12 months; by contrast, there were only 10 en banc cases heard by the Court between 2004-2010). However, because of Judge Keenan’s move to senior status, and Judge Heytens not yet confirmed and seated on the Court, the full Court that heard the case had only 14 judges, as opposed to the usual 15 for an en banc review.

The result was an equally divided court, with seven siding with the district court and Judge Thacker’s dissent, and seven siding with the panel majority. In such a situation, the lower court’s decision is affirmed. And in this case, the published ruling of the en banc Court explicitly vacated the panel’s decision.

Interestingly, this was the 2nd time in the last 6 months that the Fourth Circuit had an equally divided en banc Court. In May, the Court split 6-6 in United States v. Loughry, after 3 active judges did not participate in the en banc panel. Loughry also involved a juror–a high profile case in which a juror’s twitter usage before and during trial raised questions about whether the defendant (a former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice) had received a fair trial. (Panel decision here, en banc decision here). In that case, a split Fourth Circuit panel affirmed the district court, and, as in Bryant, the subsequent equally divided en banc Court also meant that the district court was affirmed.

So now for the questions. What is the precedential value of a case in a situation like this? As Beth has previously noted on the blog, in North Carolina state courts an equally divided Supreme Court expressly means that the lower court decision is affirmed, but without any precedential value. (See: https://ncapb.foxrothschild.com/2018/02/19/update-business-court-sidesteps-published-court-of-appeals-opinion-affirmed-without-precedential-value/). In both recent instances of the equally divided Fourth Circuit, the lower court was affirmed through a published per curiam opinion. In Monday’s case, the opinion explicitly stated that the panel opinion (which had reversed the lower court) was vacated. So what is the precedential value of the trial court’s opinion in that case? Is there any? After all, conventionally a federal district court opinion is certainly persuasive, but never precedential. (This also brings to mind the situation we currently face in North Carolina when the direct appeals from the North Carolina Business Court to the Supreme Court of North Carolina result in per curiam affirmances attaching the NCBC’s opinion. Is that Business Court opinion now the law of the state? Kip has addressed that here.)

In May’s equal en banc division, there was no indication in the per curiam published opinion as to what happened to the panel decision (which had affirmed the lower court).The opinion simply stated, ”The judgment of the district court is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Is that panel decision arguably binding law? Or does the mere grant of en banc review effectively vacate the panel decision even though the Court did not explicitly say so in its opinion? And what then, is the authority of the district court’s opinion, which was affirmed by the panel and then affirmed per curiam, but by an equally divided court? The Court’s use of the term “judgment” in identifying what was being affirmed may suggests that the reasoning that the district court applied to get to that judgment is not being explicitly affirmed. Finally, is there a difference with respect to precedential value when the panel had affirmed versus when the panel had reversed?

All of these questions might be academic and short-lived, as the Loughry case is awaiting decision on a petition for certiorari at the Supreme Court. And, given that Bryant is a death penalty habeas case, it may also find its way up to the Supreme Court.

(source: jdsupra.com)

FLORIDA:

The Price We Pay: Following the Money Behind Death Penalty Cases in Florida —- Facts and figures in the state with the largest roster of death row inmates among those with an active death penalty

The NBC 6 Investigators were able to analyze how much death penalty defense costs taxpayers in a subset of cases. NBC 6’s Tony Pipitone reports

Florida is 1 of 27 states that, along with the federal government, have the death penalty as an option for adults who commit 1st-degree murder, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

3 of those states – California, Oregon and Pennsylvania – have governor-imposed moratoriums on the death penalty.

With 304 inmates on death row as of Nov. 5, Florida has the largest death row of any state with an active death penalty.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, Florida has executed 99 people – 4th behind Texas (573), Oklahoma and Virginia (both 113).

The Price We Pay: the Costs and Outcomes of Some Complex Death Penalty Prosecutions

Florida has executed 30 inmates in the last 10 years and none since 2019.

Florida leads the nation in the number of death row inmates who have been removed from death row after presenting evidence of innocence, according to the DPIC. Under its definition, the DPIC counts 30 such cases since 1973; Illinois is second in that category, with 21 such cases.

Following the money

It is impossible to determine exactly how much money is spent prosecuting, defending, investigating, trying and appealing all death penalty cases in Florida.

They involve a mix of courts, government employees – including public defenders and regional conflict counsel – and, where defendants can afford them, private counsel. The public agencies do not account for how much of their budgets are devoted to such cases, or much more they may cost them compared to cases where death is not sought.

But the NBC 6 Investigators were able to analyze how much death penalty defense costs taxpayers in a subset of cases.

Among other things, the state’s Justice Administration Commission (JAC) pays attorneys fees and costs for death penalty defendants who are both unable to pay for their own defense and whose cases present conflicts that preclude public defenders and other state-salaried lawyers from acting as their counsel.

The following involves court-appointed attorneys and the vendors assisting them – medical doctors, investigators, forensic scientists, mitigation specialists, court reporters and the like – who submit invoices to the JAC for reimbursement.

We obtained data from 18,727 invoices paid by the JAC between Jan. 1, 2018, and Sept. 22, 2021 in cases where the state was seeking a death penalty at the time the attorneys were appointed.

Among the findings:

•A total of $41,062,855 was paid out, an average of nearly $920,000 a month.

•92 % of it was attributed by the JAC to the following categories:

•The cases involved 552 defendants (including some for whom the state ultimately chose not to seek death penalties), but only 57 of them consumed more than 1/2 the total spent.

•Nearly 1/3 of the money was spent on cases in Miami-Dade County, one of three judicial circuits whose cases consumed most of the expenditures:

•Among the 12 most expensive cases statewide that have been resolved, only one resulted in a death sentence – and that conviction was thrown out and the case dismissed after DNA and other evidence showed the person convicted was innocent.

Those 12 defendants consumed more than $6.6 million of the funds spent in the study period.

3 of them – Bernard Forbes, Andre Delancy and Eloyn Ingraham – were charged with the same crime, the 2006 ambush murder of Broward sheriff’s deputy Brian Tephford.

Together, their defense cost taxpayers more than $2.1 million. They were sentenced to life in prison in July 2018.

(source: nbcmiami.com)

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Tampa jury hears of defendant’s mental struggles as they weigh death penalty

With a jury poised to decide whether Tyrone Johnson should be executed for the murder of his girlfriend’s 10-year-old son, defense attorneys spent most of Monday and Tuesday illuminating the person Johnson is.

What emerged was a picture of a well-educated man who served his country in the Marines and the Army, one blessed with a large family that still loves him, but who had endured childhood abuse and grappled throughout his life with severe depression and anxiety.

Johnson, 45, was found guilty last week in the 2018 slayings of his girlfriend, Stephanie Willis, and her son, Ricky “Ryon” Willis. The pair were both shot repeatedly in their Tampa apartment after an argument over what the couple would watch on TV escalated to gunfire.

The state is seeking the death penalty only for the boy’s death. The jury will hear closing arguments from prosecutors and the defense Wednesday morning before deciding if he should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

They heard from Johnson’s mother and father, his brother, his 4 children, and friends.

They detailed an upbringing in which Johnson’s father was largely absent as his mother worked multiple jobs to provide for the kids. There were memories of the children witnessing physical abuse. There was also a story about Johnson’s father beating their mother, who shielded the children with her body. Relatives spoke of a grandmother who disciplined the children by stripping them naked and beating them with cords, belts and straps.

As his family spoke, Johnson at times appeared to dab at his eyes with a tissue.

While serving in the Army in 2000, Johnson was involved in an accident where a 200-pound artillery shell crushed his ankle. Doctors placed screws in his bones, but Johnson continued to need surgery and dealt with persistent pain.

Johnson was described as a loving father to his five children. He was particularly close with a son, Devin.

The son died by suicide in late 2017 at age 22. It was another in a long series of traumatic events that compounded Johnson’s lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety.

Scot Machlus, a forensic psychologist, said severe depression had followed Johnson throughout his life. It was a condition whose causes Johnson didn’t understand. It manifested in outbursts of anger.

Veterans hospital records noted Johnson had a “pervasive pattern of aggressive reaction when faced with loss,” the doctor said. He’d dealt with marital and relationship problems throughout his life. In 2012, Johnson tried to take his own life by walking into traffic.

The doctor diagnosed Johnson with depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and a paranoid personality.

The testimony was intended to demonstrate that Johnson was in the grips of an extreme emotional disturbance when he committed the crime, a factor that could weigh against a death sentence.

In the spring of 2017, Johnson took a job as a paralegal in the office of the attorney general in Tampa. He worked in the division of the office of statewide prosecution that handles child welfare, abuse and neglect cases. His supervisor, Stephanie Bergen, testified that he at first struck her as well-spoken and polished, but that he soon started having problems. He frequently showed up late for work. When he was there, he would get irritated by noise and socializing among his coworkers. Bergen moved him to a quieter office, but problems continued, she said. He was later forced to resign.

“I don’t personally know what was going on in his life,” she said. “I tried to support him as much as I could.”

In June 2017, Johnson was held involuntarily for mental health treatment under Florida’s Baker Act. In the period before he went to live with Willis and her son, he was said to have been couch surfing, having no permanent home.

But prosecutors sought to rebut the defense, they presented testimony of another expert.

Wade Myers, a psychiatrist, said Johnson’s troubles were more indicative of antisocial personality disorder.

Myers noted a story told in medical records that Johnson at age 12 had killed a dog by hanging the animal from a tree and that doing so gave him a “thrill.” Other records referenced a story of a teenage fight in which Johnson beat another teen so badly that the boy lost consciousness. He mentioned Johnson exhibiting problems with anger while in the military, and an incident in which he attacked his former wife.

Aubrey Land, a former prison officer and inspector general for the Florida Department of Corrections, testified Monday that Johnson would do well in the general prison population, where he would be if given a life sentence. He noted that Johnson, who has a master’s degree, could obtain prison jobs as a law clerk or a teacher’s aid.

But if Johnson were sent to death row, he would not be allowed to work and would stay in a cell almost all the time until the day of his execution.

“Honestly, I believe it would be a waste,” Land said as a prosecutor objected.

(source: Tampa Bay Times)

ALABAMA:

Ethics trial on hold for Birmingham judge who ruled Alabama death penalty law unconstitutional

The trial of an Alabama judge accused of judicial ethics violations continued in Montgomery on Tuesday with the prosecution wrapping up its case.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd is accused of abusing judicial power by abandoning the neutral role of a judge and becoming an advocate for defendants and for her own rulings, particularly on death penalty issues. The allegations came in a complaint filed in April by the Judicial Inquiry Commission.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, a nine-judge panel, is hearing the case.

Todd’s lawyers say the allegations are false and that Todd became a target because of her ruling in 2016 that Alabama’s death penalty law was unconstitutional, a ruling that higher courts did not uphold.

Todd faces 6 charges of violating the canons of judicial ethics. If the Court of the Judiciary finds Todd guilty it could remove her from office, suspend her, or impose other sanctions the court deems appropriate. Removal from office would require a unanimous vote by the 9-judge panel.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission rested its case against Todd today after calling a total of 6 witnesses over 2 days. The trial started Monday.

The trial goes on hold for a couple of weeks. Todd’s defense team will begin presenting their case on Dec. 1.

Emory Anthony, one of Todd’s attorneys, said no decision has been made on whether Todd will take the stand. Todd declined comment as she left the state judicial building today.

Todd, a former prosecutor, was elected judge in 2012 and re-elected without opposition in 2018. She has been suspended with pay since the JIC complaint was filed in April.

(source: al.com)

MISSISSIPPI—-impending execution/volunteer

Execution ‘Volunteer’ Set to be 1st Put to Death in Mississippi in 9 Years

Mississippi plans to carry out its 1st execution in more than 9 years, putting to death a man with mental health disorders who has waived his appeals. In February 2021, a Union County judge found David Neal Cox — who pled guilty in 2012 to capital murder for killing his estranged wife and sexually assaulting his step-daughter — competent to give up his appeals. He is scheduled to be executed November 17, 2021.

Cox would be at least the 150th person since executions resumed in the United States in 1977 to drop their appeals and “volunteer” for execution. Executions of volunteers account for 10% of all U.S. executions in that period.

Cox first sought to waive his appeals in 2018, writing to the Mississippi Supreme Court, “I seek in earnest to wave all my appeals immediately, I seek to be executed as I do here this day stand on MS Death row a guilty man worthy of death. Please grant me this plea.” The court ordered a competency hearing in a lower court but, as is common with volunteers who have a history of mental illness, he quickly changed his mind. Four days after the state court’s order, Cox’s lawyers filed a motion with an affidavit from Cox saying that “he wanted to withdraw his communications and letters to the Court, he did not want to dismiss his attorneys, and he disavowed any waiver of his rights to continue his post-conviction case. He claimed that he was depressed and had not been on any antidepressant medication for several years.”

Several months later, Cox changed his mind again, asking the court to recall the affidavit and dismiss his appeals. Cox’s new letter to the court said, “I am worthy of death & I do not wish to challenge the State of Mississippi any further, I seek the termination of all counsel & all appeals on the grounds of ineffective and ineficent [sic] counsel.”

At a competency hearing on February 11, 2021, Union County Circuit Court Judge Kent Smith permitted Cox to waive his rights. Judge Smith wrote that Cox “has made a decision that I find to be competent and knowing, willful and voluntarily to proceed with his execution.” Cox’s lawyers appealed that ruling, but prosecutors argued that they lacked standing to do so against Cox’s wishes. On October 21, 2021, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, allowed Cox to dismiss his appeals, and granted his request to set an execution ordered.

Noting that “Cox repeatedly has articulated a desire to dismiss all counsel and to end all challenges to his conviction and death sentence,” the court found it “abundantly clear from the record presented to this Court that Cox has the mental capacity to appreciate his position and to make rational choices regarding his defense.” The court also directed his lawyers not to file any appeals seeking to halt the execution.

Mississippi intends to execute Cox while a challenge to the state’s lethal-injection protocol, filed on behalf of two death-row prisoners in 2015, is still pending.

Cox is not a party to that litigation. Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Burl Cain confirmed that the state had obtained drugs for Cox’s execution but would not identify the source. “I’m not supposed to talk about the drugs too much,” Cain told the Associated Press. Mississippi has a secrecy law in place that conceals the identity of execution drug suppliers.

Ambivalence From Affected Families

The family of Cox’s victim, his estranged wife Kim Kirk Cox, expressed ambivalence about the impending execution. Lindsey Kirk, the victim’s daughter, told the Tupelo, Mississippi Daily Journal, “I am conflicted. I am happy about it, then I’m a bad person because someone is dying. But then I don’t want to be sad about it because I’m not going to miss him.”

David Cox married Kirk’s mother when Kirk was very young, and she said she “kind of grew up thinking David was my dad.” “He had to be a nice guy at one time or my mom wouldn’t have brought him around,” she said. “I believe drugs changed him. I hate to blame it all on the drugs. There had to be some kind of evil in him anyway.”

Cox’s family and friends reported that his personality changed and he began abusing his wife after he became addicted to painkillers that he was prescribed for a back injury. That addiction led to an addiction to crystal methamphetamine, which he then began manufacturing himself.

Kirk said she was initially angry when she learned that Cox’s execution would be sped up, because she wanted him to be forced to spend more time reflecting on what he did to her, her mother, and her brothers. Of the execution, she said, “I don’t think it will bring any closure. I don’t think I could ever forgive him for what he did. He took a lot from all of us. But I don’t want to hate him for it.” She said she plans to attend the execution because “I want to be there for my mom.”

“I would like to think I am at the point where I can forgive,” Kristie Salmon, the victim’s sister, said. “I don’t hold the hate or anger like I used to. But that has only been within the last year.” While she also plans to attend the execution, she told the Daily Journal, “I don’t know how I feel about [the execution]. I’m just ready for it to be over.”

Cox’s expedited execution may also affect another family. Amber Miskelly believes that Cox may know what happened to her mother, Felicia Cox, who disappeared in 2007. Felicia Cox was Kim Cox’s sister-in-law, and David Cox is the last person known to have seen her alive. Miskelly wrote to David Cox asking for any information he has about her mother, but she worries that he may not provide the information with his execution coming up so soon.

The Systemic Impact of Volunteers

Volunteers have had an outsized impact in resuming state executions across the nation. Four of the first five prisoners executed in the United States after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of capital punishment in 1976 were volunteers and volunteers were the first to be executed in 15 states and by the federal government. In four states — Connecticut, New Mexico, Oregon, and Pennsylvania — the only prisoners executed have been volunteers.

If Cox is executed, it will be the sixth time a state has restarted executions after a pause of between five and 21 years by acceding to the wishes of a volunteer. In addition, Scott Dozier attempted to force Nevada to put him to death in 2018 after a 12 year execution pause. His execution was halted when a state court barred the Nevada Department of Corrections from using drugs obtained in “bad faith” and “by subterfuge”, and he subsequently hanged himself in prison.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

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Advocates gather to demand a ban on the death penalty in Mississippi

A man on death row in Mississippi will face execution today at Parchman Penitentiary. But advocates who oppose the death penalty are protesting to have the practice barred in the state.

A group of advocates are gathered outside of the state capitol building in Jackson to demand that lawmakers and the Governor bar the use of the death penalty in the state. Convicted murderer David Cox is scheduled to face execution today. He pled guilty to charges including the murder of his wife and sexual assault of his step-daughter in 2010.

In 2018, Cox forfeited his right to appeal the sentence, expediting his execution. Abraham Bonowitz, Co-founder of the advocacy group Death Penalty Action, says he believes Cox chose this as a form of government assisted suicide to escape the harsh conditions of the prison. And he says executions do not provide the closure that victim families need.

“People who are concerned about government, who don’t trust the government, who don’t trust the vaccine, who believe they aren’t taxed fairly, should also recognize that the death penalty is just another failed government program,” says Bonowitz. “If you can’t trust government fo these other things, how do you trust it to execute somebody.”

Protesters held signs and spoke about their own experience with death row sentencing. Some shared their family’s encounters with homicide and how they felt execution an unjust punishment.

Kenny McGill of Jackson also attended the rally to protest the execution. He is a former minister, and says he morally opposes death as a government sanctioned punishment.

“I don’t want to kill nobody, and when my government kills somebody because my government is supposed to be me, it says that I’m killing somebody. And I don’t want that blood on my hands.”

If David Cox is executed today, it will be the 1st death sentence carried out in Mississippi since 2012.

(source: Mississippi Public Broadcasting)

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Online petition aims to stop execution of David Neal Cox—Cox will be put to death for killing his wife Kim Cox in 2010.

There’s an online petition to stop the execution of a Pontotoc County man.

Death Penalty Action launched the petition to stop the execution of David Neal Cox on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

The petition also includes a letter to Gov. Tate Reeves, asking him to stop the execution.

Cox will be put to death for killing his wife Kim Cox in 2010.

Cox sexually assaulted her daughter in front of her, then watched his wife die as police negotiators and relatives pleaded for her life.

He pleaded guilty in 2012, and a Union County jury sentenced him to death.

Cox told the state he was worthy of death after he sent a series of letters to the courts in 2018.

He had a competency hearing this year when a judge said he’s sane to die.

The state will execute him at the State Penitentiary at Parchman.

According to Death Penalty Action and Rising Mississippi Coalition, there’ll be a prayerful protest vigil beginning at 5 p.m. in front of the prison.

TENNESSEE:

How the Pervis Payne Case Inspired and Shaped April Frazier Camara’s Legal Career—-On Dec. 13, a judge will hear arguments over whether Payne is too intellectually disabled to be executed

April Frazier Camara was just 8 years old when the arrest of Pervis Payne, then 20, shocked her small West Tennessee community outside Shelby County. Frazier Camara’s family knew the Paynes; her mother attended the church where Pervis’ father Carl was a pastor, and Frazier Camara knew Pervis’ sisters Tyrasha and Rolanda.

The case against Payne carried echoes of America’s racist history that did not go unheard by the Black adults around Frazier Camara. Payne was a young Black man accused of the murders of a white woman named Charisse Christopher and her 2-year-old daughter Lacie Jo in 1987. Prosecutors relied heavily on circumstantial evidence and portrayed Payne as a drug-using predator who attacked the family after Christopher rejected his sexual advance. But Payne has always maintained his innocence, saying that he came upon the horrifying murder scene while checking to see if his girlfriend was at her apartment across the hall.

Speaking to the Scene more than 30 years later, Frazier Camara says she still remembers sitting in the beauty shop and hearing grown-ups talk about the case. They couldn’t imagine that Pervis, who had no prior criminal history, had committed the crime, and they frequently discussed the glaring racial dynamic of the case.

“I just remember being a very young Black girl in Tipton County and just hearing the community of my parents and family talk about — not only did they not think he did it, but just the fact that he was convicted from day one because it was a Black man accused of killing a white woman, and her [child],” Frazier Camara says. “As a child hearing that growing up and actually seeing his family fight for his innocence and never being heard? It led me to where I am today.”

Where she is today is a couple weeks into her new role as president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based National Legal Aid and Defender Association. Frazier Camara was recently in Nashville for the organization’s annual conference. Payne is on death row, and his attorneys are still fighting to prove his innocence — DNA testing results in January showed male DNA from an unknown 3rd party on key evidence including the murder weapon — but also to convince the courts or the governor that he should not be executed because of his intellectual disability. They have said in court documents that Payne has a functioning IQ of 68 and should be included among the group of people whom the U.S. Supreme Court has said cannot be put to death. In April, the state legislature passed a bill creating a procedure through which a court could determine whether that is the case. Payne’s hearing on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 13. He was scheduled to be executed almost a year ago, on Dec. 3, until Gov. Bill Lee granted him a reprieve due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tennessee Supreme Court has not yet set a new execution date for Payne, but there is nothing stopping them from doing so.

“We know that people with intellectual [disabilities] are at a special risk for wrongful conviction and execution,” Payne’s attorney, Nashville-based supervising assistant federal public defender Kelley Henry tells the Scene. “Almost 20 years after the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute the intellectually disabled, Pervis Payne will finally have his day in court. We look forward to the opportunity to present our evidence as we continue to fight for Pervis and his freedom.”

For Frazier Camara, Payne’s case was a catalyst.

“I was in the third grade when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer,” Frazier Camara says. “But I also decided I wanted to fight for people like my community. People who may come from small towns — under-resourced areas — I wanted to be a voice for people that I felt like did not get a fair shake in the system.”

She adds: “I literally remember being a child and going to church and seeing Pervis’ family, how much they prayed. But I was thinking to myself, ‘Something is missing here, right? Like, we need to be praying. But we also need tools.’”

Frazier Camara went on to graduate from Tennessee State University before getting her law degree from Howard University and becoming a public defender in Memphis. She spent five years at the Public Defender Service in Washington, D.C., before joining the NLADA.

She is more hopeful about the future than one might expect of a person who has seen the bleak insides of the American criminal justice system. But in cases like Payne’s, Frazier Camara says, advocates can see the problems, and thus the ways to fix the system. The law passed this year by the legislature is one such crucial fix, she says, but there’s more work to be done.

“I really, truly think that this case should shock the consciousness of everybody,” she says. “Because it represents everything that’s wrong with the American legal system.”

(source: nashvillescene.com)

ILLINOIS:

Parents of Murdered Children Demand Steeper Penalties for Killing Kids

Lawmakers have attempted to reinstate the death penalty since Illinois abolished it in 2011, to no avail. The efforts were put forth by conservative Republicans whose minority status in the General Assembly stunts their agenda.

Since then Illinois has pointedly moved in the opposite direction, moving to reduce the state’s prison population through lowering sentencing minimums, particularly for non-violent offenders. The state’s criminal justice system is embarking on further changes, including the elimination of cash bail and protections for jail detainees, due to a massive law passed early in 2021 at the behest of Black legislators.

But now an unlikely legislator, state Rep. La Shawn Ford, wants to revisit the issue of capital punishment for those who murder minors.

“A capital offense means that you will go to jail for life or you will be put to death for the killing of a baby in the state of Illinois,” Ford said. “Criminals know that they can get away with murder in Chicago and in the state of Illinois because: One they’re not being caught, 2, when they’re caught they get out of jail. And they commit more murders. And so we know that the law is set up to act as a deterrent.”

Many criminal justice experts say legal punishment is not effective in deterring violent crime.

Ford, a Chicago Democrat, said he realizes his proposal to stiffen penalties for child murderers defies the general push toward decriminalization that the Black Caucus, of which he is a member, has been pushing for. He also said he recognizes the justice system punishes Black people at disproportionate rates.

But he said he wants to give a platform to the parents of children killed by gun violence, and that he believes the threat of life in prison or death would give criminals pause before shooting somewhere like a playground or McDonald’s, where children may be present.

Ford introduced his plan standing alongside parents of slain children, like Angela Gregg and Mychal Moultry.

Their son, Mychal James Moultry, Jr. would be 5 the day after Thanksgiving were he still alive.

Mychal, or M.J., was killed in September when he was with his parents getting his hair braided in Woodlawn ahead of a planned Labor Day vacation to the Wisconsin Dells.

“He was shot in front of me. Two bullets to the head. Enough is enough,” his dad said. “We need to stop these killings because right now our future is dying. My legacy is dying. My legacy died, my legacy’s been taken away from me … and I didn’t do anything wrong but just try to show him a better life. And he was just collateral damage … this needs to stop. It could be anybody child.”

Moultry grew up in Chicago, then left to Alabama for college. He said Chicago’s different now from when he was growing up – people wouldn’t callously kill children like collateral damage and keep quiet about it, then.

He never would have brought his family to Chicago had he known what would happen, he said.

M.J.’s mom described her only son as smart, brilliant and loved by everyone he encountered. She said she watched from the hospital for two days, as the happy boy she knew drifted to nothing.

A piece of her died that day, she said.

With nothing left, she said she is fearless and now spending every day going door to door on a hunt for Mychal’s killer.

“He was murdered. And nobody in this city is coming forward with any type of information, any type of lead,” Gregg said. “You took him. You know you did this. You know you took him from his (family). And you stay in hiding, like a coward.”

70 days since then, there have been no charges filed and no arrests, she said.

Through her work, Gregg has come to know Catalina Andrade, whose teen, Miguel Angel Rios, was robbed and shot July 18, 2020 after visiting a friend in Little Village.

Rios was working at the time to save up for college where he planned to study to be an engineer.

Andrade said Chicago is allowing people to literally get away with murder.

“This is unfair. These criminals are out there, destroying families. And they get away with it. Something needs to get changed. I know there’s nothing that’s going to bring my child back, but I’m going to continue fighting for my son’s justice,” she said. “My son did not deserve what they did to him. My son was a great kid. He was a hard-working young man. And if you did the crime, you can do the time.”

Ford said he personally does not back the death penalty, but he said officials owe it to victims like Andrade, Gregg and Moultry to consider it.

“Something has to be done,” Gregg said. “The reason you guys are able to hide, the reason you guys don’t’ have to come forward and you feel very comfortable shooting children and going back home at night is because the laws need to change. The justice system has failed these children.”

Executions are still permissible at the federal level.

Ford said while he does not want to point fingers, he also wants to encourage the U.S. Attorney’s office to take up prosecutions of those accused of murdering children.

(source: WTTW news)

OKLAHOMA:

Police barricade governor’s mansion as Oklahoma mulls Julius Jones execution—-Unless the governor intervenes, Oklahoma will execute Julius Jones on 18 November

Oklahoma City police officers have begun erecting barricades around the governor’s mansion, the Black Times reported, as governor Kevin Stitt considers stopping the impending execution of controversial Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones.

The state parole board has twice recommended that Jones, sentenced to execution for the 1999 murder of Paul Howell, be removed from death row, citing doubts about his true guilt. The decision, however, ultimately rests with Governor Stitt, and the execution will take place on 18 November unless he elects to grant Jones clemency.

The Independent has contacted the Oklahoma City Police Department and the governor’s office for comment.

The OKCPD said on Tuesday on social media it put up the barriers to create a “safe place” for peaceful protest, at the request of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Family members and activists supporting Jones have been camped out around the clock at the state capital, praying, chanting, and hoping to meeting with governor Stitt as he considers whether to allow the execution to go forward. So far, however, the governor hasn’t directly addressed the group or spoken with Jones’s family, though faith leaders supporting Jones have met with governor’s office officials.

Instead, the governor is reportedly in “solitude praying.”

A passionate innocence movement has sprung up around Jones’s case in recent years, and high-profile backers of the “Justice for Julius” campaign rallied to his defence as his execution date grows closer, including actor Mandy Patinkin and reality star Kim Kardashian, who has visited Jones in prison.

“This is the cold machinery of the death penalty,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, “an innocent man could be put to death. My heart breaks for Julius and so many others who have suffered from such tragic miscarriage of justice.”

Julius Jones has long maintained his innocence, and alleges that systemic racism, flawed police work, jury bias, inexperienced public defenders, and an unfair trial put him behind bars for more than two decades for a crime he didn’t commit.

Meanwhile, the Howell family, as well as a number of current and former Oklahoma law enforcement officials, argue courts identified the correct killer, and that Jones has had ample legal appeals to prove his innocence, all of which have failed. The murder weapon was found in Julius Jones’ home, wrapped in a bandanna containing his DNA, though he contends his co-defendant placed the gun there, and that the DNA test is inconclusive.

Jones is one of a number of Oklahoma death row inmates in a lawsuit challenging the state’s execution process as unconstitutionally cruel, arguing its lethal injection drugs don’t do enough to sedate people before they are executed.

Oklahoma didn’t execute any inmates for six years, after a series of botched killings in 2014 and 2015, where problems arose such as inmates being injected with the wrong drugs. In October, the state resumed executions when it killed John Marion Grant, who convulsed and vomited before dying, leading to condemnations from human rights experts who said the state hadn’t learned its lesson.

In the summer of 2020, Oklahoma City was home to large peaceful Black Lives Matter protests as well as riots after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

(source: independent.co.uk)

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Physician: Governor should put an end to ‘shameful’ executions once and for all

When most people think of lethal injection, they think of a painless, clean medical procedure — but nothing could be further from the truth. Lethal injection has repeatedly revealed itself to be a grotesque human experiment, with correctional officials pretending to be doctors, using made-up doses of drugs never meant to kill. As a physician who has practiced in Oklahoma for more than 2 decades, I was appalled to read about yet another botched lethal injection execution in our state. We must end this pseudo-medical practice once and for all.

Oklahoma was the first state to invent and use lethal injection in 1977. The coroner who helped develop the protocol famously admitted that he was “was an expert in dead bodies but not an expert in getting them that way.” The legislator who first proposed this method claimed without medical evidence that it involved “no pain, no spasms, no smells or sounds”.

We now know how untrue these claims are. Last month, John Grant convulsed so much that his entire upper back repeatedly lifted off the gurney. The execution chamber reeked of the vomit that covered his face and neck while he was still breathing.

Many have compared this execution to that of Clayton Lockett’s in 2014 — which the prison warden at the time called a “bloody mess.” The executioner punctured an artery in Mr. Locket’s groin, spraying blood across the room and causing his skin to swell to a size “larger than a golf ball.” After some back and forth with the governor about how to halt the execution, proceedings were called off — but too late: Mr. Lockett died of a heart attack behind the curtain.

The medical community have always been unwilling participants in executions. The drugs used in executions are the same medicines used in life-saving medical procedures. They were never made or developed to end lives in executions and unsurprisingly, the manufacturers of these medicines have blocked the sale of their drugs for this purpose.

Similarly, physicians refuse to be involved in lethal injection because to do so would violate the Hippocratic Oath. The essence of the Oath is “first, do no harm to any person.” It is the bedrock of the doctor-patient relationship and built on the sacred trust that a physician’s highest aim is the health of their patient.

When lethal injection was invented, the president of the Oklahoma Medical Association (OMA) refused to be entrenched in the venture because licensed physicians could not participate in executions. Physicians are trained to heal, not kill, and there is really no way to carry out a “peaceful” execution of an otherwise healthy person.

Because executions are carried out by untrained (medical) personnel, there are often issues even such as the insertion of the IV. In 2017, executioners in Ohio “poked and prodded” Alva Campbell for nearly two hours trying to find a useable vein. A year later, Alabama officials tried to insert needles into Doyle Lee Hamm for over 2 1/2 hours. After puncturing Mr. Hamm’s bladder, the execution team gave up and removed him from the gurney, after which he collapsed.

Issues also frequently arise in dosage and drug combination. Unable to purchase pentobarbital, Arkansas officials announced in 2013 that they would use replace that drug with phenobarbital — an untested seizure-medication. Experts warned that the drug would not cause death in combination with the other 2 included in Arkansas’ execution protocol — potentially leaving prisoners in a vegetative state.

Regardless of the drug used, lethal injection has the highest rate of botched executions. A review of more than 200 autopsy reports of prisoners executed by lethal injection found that 84% showed signs of pulmonary edema, a condition where the lungs are filled with a mixture of blood, plasma, and other fluids and can cause a feeling of drowning or suffocation. Importantly, these results were similar across execution cocktails.

Oklahoma and other states have cycled through multiple variations of lethal injection drugs and protocols over the years. However, the problem lies not with the specific substances used to execute prisoners. Lethal injection as a method is simply not viable. State officials actually came to this same conclusion several years ago, rejecting lethal injection in 2018 after a bipartisan Oklahoma commission concluded in 2017 that without reform, “the efficacy, transparency, and humaneness of Oklahoma’s execution procedures will likely remain in question.” The director of Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections at the time even called lethal injection “inhumane.”

I, like many Oklahomans, have changed my views about capital punishment. As an Oklahoma physician who has practiced in this state for decades, I am now convinced that lethal injection is cruel and inherently broken. I hope that our governor will put an end to these shameful botched executions by abandoning lethal injection once and for all.

(source: Opinion; Jeffrey D. Hodgden is a family practice physician in Oklahoma City—-oklahoman.com)

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As Stitt Weighs Julius Jones Decision, Here’s How Previous Governors Approached Executive Clemency

With less than 48 hours remaining until Oklahoma’s scheduled execution of Julius Jones, Gov. Kevin Stitt has yet to announce whether he’ll grant executive clemency to the condemned man.

Stitt can accept, modify or reject the state Pardon and Parole Board’s recommendation that Jones’ sentence be modified to life in prison. The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals denied an execution stay request from Jones and three other death row prisoners on Friday, leaving the decision in Stitt’s hands.

Jones, who was convicted of murdering Edmond businessman Paul Howell in 1999, is scheduled to be executed at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He maintains his innocence. The Howell family argues the evidence is overwhelming and Jones’ execution should be carried out.

Three governors who preceded Stitt—Frank Keating, Brad Henry and Mary Fallin—faced similar decisions on executive clemency. The state Pardon and Parole Board, whose members are appointed by the governor, recommended clemency for 13 death row prisoners between 2001 and 2013.

Just four of those recommendations were approved.

Political circumstances can influence a governor’s decision in death penalty cases, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center. Public support for capital punishment peaked in the mid-2000s, when three in five Americans supported the death penalty, and has steadily declined over the past decade.

An October survey from Sooner Poll showed a majority of Oklahomans still favor capital punishment, but the results may not be an accurate indicator of public support for executing Jones. A growing group of conservatives and Republican state lawmakers who support the death penalty have joined Democrats in asking Stitt to accept the Pardon and Parole Board’s clemency recommendation.

“Factors that may influence the Board of Pardons are certainly important, but they’re not a guarantee that the governor is going to be persuaded,” Dunham said. “As Governor Stitt has indicated, his decision is not limited to the evidence that was before the board.”

As of Tuesday evening, there’s no timetable on when Stitt will announce his decision. Dunham believes it’s unlikely Stitt is intentionally delaying the decision, but said a ruling made hours before the scheduled execution would be scarring to both the Howell and Jones family.

“It would be especially cruel if it got to the point where they’re in waiting rooms waiting to find out whether they’ll go into the execution or not,” he said. “I don’t think that’s anything that anybody wants to happen.”

Last-minute execution stays are occasionally granted. In 2018, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott granted clemency to death row prisoner Thomas Whitaker 30 minutes before his scheduled execution. The Georgia Board of Pardons, which does not need the governor’s approval in clemency decisions, spared the life of death row prisoner Jimmy Meders six hours before his scheduled execution.

As Stitt decides whether to call off Jones’ execution, here’s how previous governors approached executive clemency:

Gov. Frank Keating, 1995-2003

Keating, a Republican, approved 1 clemency request and denied 3 others.

On April 10, 2001, Keating spared the life of Phillip Dewitt Smith, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Matthew Dean Taylor. No eyewitnesses or physical evidence linked Smith to the crime.

Keating said he believed Smith committed the murder but lacked the “moral certainty” that he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Keating rejected 3 other clemency recommendations from July 2001 through December 2002.

Gov. Brad Henry, 2003-2011

Henry, a Democrat, granted clemency to 3 condemned men. He declined to call off 4 other executions.

On May 13, 2004, Henry commuted death row prisoner Osbaldo Torres’ sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Torres, a Mexican citizen, was not notified of his right to contact the Mexican consulate and seek legal representation, a violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Henry commuted Kevin Young’s sentence to life without parole on July 24, 2008. Young was sentenced to death in 1996 for shooting and killing a man in a robbery gone wrong. During a clemency hearing, Young’s attorneys argued the murder was not premeditated and did not warrant the death penalty.

Henry’s final clemency approval came on May 19, 2010, when he spared the life of Richard Tandy Smith. During a clemency hearing, Smith’s attorneys argued that the state improperly used his criminal record to prove aggravating circumstances in the 1986 murder of John Cederlund. Smith remains incarcerated at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre.

Gov. Mary Fallin, 2011-2019

Fallin, a Republican, reviewed 2 clemency recommendations and rejected both.

In 2005, the state Pardon and Parole Board recommended Garry Thomas Allen’s sentence be commuted to life without parole. Allen’s attorneys argued that the death row prisoner’s mental state had deteriorated while incarcerated and he should be spared from capital punishment.

After seven years of legal challenges and execution stays, Fallin declined to commute Allen’s death sentence on March 13, 2012. Allen was executed by lethal injection eight months later.

During a June 6, 2013 clemency hearing, Brian Darrell Davis apologized for raping and murdering his girlfriend’s mother, 52-year-old Josephine Stanford. The Board voted 4-1 to recommend his sentence be commuted to life without parole. Fallin opted not to modify the sentence. Jack Fisher, Davis’ attorney, told the Associated Press he was not surprised by the decision.

(source: Oklahoma Watch)

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European Union calls on Oklahoma governor to stay execution

Julius Jones is set to be executed by the state of Oklahoma on Thursday.

Jones’s family and supporters – a group that includes celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Russell Westbrook – have been pressuring Oklahoma’s Governor Kevin Stitt to commute the man’s sentence to life in prison, but so far Mr Stitt has not indicated he is considering a reversal. Mr Stitt is also facing international pressure after the European Union’s ambassador to the US penned a letter calling on him to stop the execution.

Jones, 41, has spent more than half of his life in prison after he was charged and convicted of the murder of Paul Howell during a 1999 carjacking. He has maintained that he is innocent of the crime and was framed by his then-friend and co-defendant, who allegedly actually shot Mr Howell.

The state has scheduled Jones to death by lethal injection, making him only the 2nd prisoner to be executed since the state took a 6 year break from using the deadly drug concoction after a series of botched executions. The 1st person to be executed since the moratorium was lifted, a 60 year old inmate, convulsed and vomited during the execution, which raised further questions about the drugs.

Jones and his supporters have been visiting Mr Stitt’s office in the days leading up to the execution in an attempt to secure a meeting to discuss a stay of execution. ABC’s documentary The Last Defense explores Jones’ fight to avoid the death penalty and attracted the support of celebrities, especially those with ties to Oklahoma.

(source: independent.co.uk)

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EXPLAINER: Death Penalty in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is 1 of 27 states still practicing the death penalty. Since the re-legalization of the death penalty in 1976, Oklahoma executed the 2nd most people in the United States.

WHAT MAKES A CASE ELIGIBLE FOR THE DEATH PENALTY?

The state considers 1st-degree murder punishable by death in the following situations:

•The defendant was previously convicted of a felony involving the use or threat of violence to the person.

•The defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to more than 1 person.

•The person committed the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employed another to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration.

•The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.

•The murder was committed to avoid or prevent a lawful arrest or prosecution.

•The murder was committed by a person while serving a sentence of imprisonment on conviction of a felony.

•The existence of a probability the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society.

•The victim of the murder was a peace officer or correctional employee of an institution under the control of the Department of Corrections, and such person was killed while in performance of official duty.

Oklahoma is the only state that allows more than two methods of execution: lethal injection is Oklahoma’s primary method, nitrogen hypoxia, electrocution, and firing squad to be used in that order if all earlier methods are unavailable or found to be unconstitutional.

‘BOTCHED’ EXECUTIONS

State leaders put executions on hold after the ‘botched’ executions of Charles Warner and Clayton Lockett in 2014-15. In both cases, the execution process issues led to reviewing the state’s lethal injection process. Executions resumed after new protocols were in place.

The state executed John Grant in the first execution under new protocols. Witnesses described his body going into convulsions and vomiting before being declared dead. The Department of Corrections said the execution went as planned.

CLEMENCY IN OKLAHOMA

Since 1976 Oklahoma leaders granted commutation or clemency to 11 people from death row. Notable cases include:

•Phillip Dewitt Smith: death sentence commuted in 2001 by Gov. Francis A. Keating

•Osvaldo Torres: death sentence commuted to life without parole in 2004 by Gov. Brad Henry. Henry’s decision followed a recommendation for clemency by the Pardon and Parole Board and a stay granted by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. The International Court of Justice ruled the Vienna Convention rights of Torres, and 50 other Mexican nationals on America’s death rows were violated.

•Kevin Young: commuted the death sentence to life without parole in 2008 by Gov. Brad Henry. Henry’s decision followed a recommendation by the Pardon and Parole Board.

•Richard Tandy Smith: commuted the death sentence to life without parole in 2010. Henry’s decision followed a recommendation by the Pardon and Parole Board.

WHAT’S NEXT?

In late 2021, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor scheduled the execution dates for 7 inmates on death row.

(source: KJRH news)

ARIZONA:

Prosecutors will seek death penalty for suspect accused of killing Chandler cop—-The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has recently decided to seek capital punishment for Jonathon Altland, the defendant accused of murdering a Chandler officer.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is planning to put Jonathon Altland to death if it successfully convicts him for murdering a Chandler police officer earlier this year.

Altland, 25, was indicted in May for the 1st-degree murder of Christopher Farrar, who died after Altland allegedly ran the officer over during a series of chaotic events around Chandler and Gilbert.

The defendant allegedly led officers on a car chase that started in Pinal County and ended outside a car dealership, where Farrar and another officer were hit by the suspect’s vehicle.

Farrar, an 18-year veteran of the Chandler agency, died at the hospital and the other officer survived.

On Nov. 10, county prosecutors filed paperwork to notify the court they intended to seek the death penalty against Altland. Prosecutors are given a certain amount of time to decide whether to seek capital punishment after criminal charges have been filed.

Capital cases can often take longer to litigate than regular criminal cases, so prosecutors will sometimes forgo seeking the death penalty in order to resolve cases more quickly.

Maricopa County has been criticized over the years for seeking the death penalty too often and for the wrong cases.

According to a 2016 study published by Harvard Law School, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office sought the death penalty at a higher-than-average rate.

Between 2010 and 2015, the county obtained 28 death sentences, making Maricopa 1 of only 16 counties in the U.S. to impose more than five death penalties during that time frame.

In addition to murder, Altland is facing several felony charges that include endangerment, aggravated assault, and unlawful flight from law enforcement.

Prosecutors intend to show evidence of Altland’s criminal history as an aggravating factor to justify putting the defendant on death row, court records show.

Arizona has not executed a convicted felon since 2014. In April, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced his office intended to carry out the executions of at least 2 death row inmates.

(source: 12news.com)

NEVADA:

US judge in Vegas begins hearings on Nevada execution plan

A federal judge in Las Vegas began a series of hearings Tuesday about the constitutionality of the never-before-tried method and combination of drugs that prison officials want to use for Nevada’s first lethal injection in more than 15 years.

U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II characterized the testimony he is receiving from experts called this week by Zane Floyd’s attorneys — and evidence he expects to hear from the state’s top prison and medical administrators in hearings scheduled into mid-December — “the most serious proceeding that can possibly be in front of this the court.”

“I’m going to ask your experts the same questions,” the judge told Randall Gilmer, the chief deputy Nevada attorney general who heads the state case.

Floyd, 45, does not want to die. He was convicted and sentenced in 2000 to death for killing four people and wounding a 5th in a 1999 shotgun attack at a Las Vegas grocery store. His execution was scheduled last July but delayed pending the result of court proceedings.

In a Friday court filing, Floyd’s attorneys, David Anthony and Brad Levenson, declared that Nevada Department of Corrections officials have designed an execution plan, or protocol, with “no scientific basis … (that) risks unnecessarily inflicting pain … and constitutes prohibited experimentation on a captive human subject.”

“The protocol is novel, employing ketamine — which has never been used in an execution — at a dosage that has no scientific basis that anyone has yet identified,” they argued.

Their first witness Tuesday was a defense-hired consultant, Dr. Mark Heath, a clinical anesthesiologist who teaches at Columbia University in New York and is an expert on the effectiveness of lethal injection drugs.

In a written court document, Heath said Nevada designed “an extremely agonizing method of causing death” with the use of drugs to sedate and paralyze the inmate before “the excruciating pain of intravenous concentrated potassium” administered as a heart-stopping agent.

Nevada’s plan is to use the anesthetic ketamine 1st among 3 or 4 drugs that also include the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, then potassium chloride and perhaps a muscle paralytic called cisatracurium. The drug alfentanil might substitute for fentanyl and potassium acetate might substitute for potassium chloride, according to the state plan.

No state has used ketamine or the fentanyl substitute in an execution, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Potassium acetate, also used as an aircraft deicer, was mistakenly used by Oklahoma in a 2015 lethal injection.

Heath, who described witnessing executions that have, in his words, “gone wrong,” toured the Nevada execution chamber at Ely State Prison and said he was told that parts of the execution protocol have not been finalized or made public.

He spoke of requirements for medical training or qualifications of those who would administer the drugs and whether those people would be properly trained to respond if something goes wrong and a decision is made to stop the process.

“Rehearsals and training are very important,” Heath told the judge, calling an execution “a complicated, high-stakes, tense affair” where if things go wrong “it’s a terrible, disastrous thing.”

Testimony was scheduled to continue Wednesday.

Floyd’s legal team also is challenging his execution in state court in Las Vegas and has several appeals pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.

An appeal also is pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Floyd’s case, including claims that his mother’s use of alcohol while she was pregnant left him with diminished mental capacity.

State officials have not taken up Floyd’s request for clemency based on his claim of new evidence of brain damage and post-traumatic stress caused by childhood trauma and his military service as a Marine at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The last person put to death in Nevada was Daryl Mack in 2006 for a 1988 rape and murder in Reno. He asked for his sentence to be carried out.

(source: Associated Press)

CALIFORNIA:

California Attorney General Bonta, DA Gascon colluding to overturn death sentences, prosecutor alleges—-The cases were reassigned to a Gascon loyalist because ‘ethical deputy district attorneys would not have done this,’ the prosecutor alleges

District Attorney George Gascón and California Attorney General Rob Bonta are working in tandem as part of an apparent legal strategy that has already overturned the death penalty sentences of four Los Angeles County convicted killers, a high-ranking prosecutor said Tuesday.

On Nov. 5, Bonta filed notices of withdrawal in Los Angeles County Superior Court and deferred to the District Attorney’s Office habeas corpus petitions from the condemned inmates challenging their death sentences, records show.

In each instance, the District Attorney’s Office then told the court it conceded the inmates’ claims and asked the judge to vacate their death sentences. As a result, each inmate was resentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Attorney General’s Office has recently filed at least 20 other withdrawal notices leading Gascon critics to fear that more convicted killers will soon also have their death sentences vacated.

“The Constitution of California says that it is the ‘duty of the Attorney General to see that the laws of the State are uniformly and adequately enforced.’ Attorney General Bonta is doing exactly the opposite. He is facilitating collusive litigation by the Los Angeles district attorney for the purpose of defeating the enforcement of the law,” Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a Sacramento-based crime victims rights organization, said Tuesday in a statement.

The Attorney General’s Office typically represents the state in death penalty appeal proceedings, which often span decades.

However, the Attorney General’s Office has deferred that responsibility to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office under Proposition 66, a measure passed by California voters in 2016 to hasten capital trials and appeals.

“When Proposition 66 passed in 2016, returning petitions challenging death penalty convictions to local trial courts, some district attorneys requested that the California Department of Justice work with them to handle these cases,” a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday in an email.

“At the request of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, we have agreed to end that temporary arrangement. The locally-elected district attorney will assume sole responsibility for state court habeas death penalty cases currently pending before the Los Angeles County Superior Court. We are accordingly respecting that request.”

The California Supreme Court ordered that many of the capital cases returned to Los Angeles County for further review after finding a “sufficient showing of legal error,” Alex Bastian, a special assistant to Gascón, said Tuesday. “We are meticulously reviewing these cases and are notifying victims of the process.”

Bonta is apparently well acquainted with Gascón, having campaigned for him in the 2020 election to unseat former Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

Proud to support @GeorgeGascon for Los Angeles County District Attorney! He is a powerful and courageous reformer who will infuse our criminal justice system with more compassion, humanity, and safety! pic.twitter.com/D8mTmC2EqS — Rob Bonta (@RobBonta) February 27, 2020

Cases taken from veteran prosecutors

The 4 inmates from Los Angeles County whose death row sentences have recently been vacated are responsible for a string of gruesome murders. They include:

•Douglas Kelly, a serial date rapist sentenced to death in 2007 for sexually assaulting and fatally stabbing Thousand Oaks resident Sara Weir 30 times with a pair of scissors.

•Carlos Hawthorne, convicted in 1996 of burglarizing a South Los Angeles home where he hogtied Vanessa Sells and her 16-year-old daughter and then shot both of them in the head. Sells’ daughter survived.

•Catherine Thompson, convicted in 1992 of hiring a hit man to kill her husband in Westwood so she could collect his $400,000 life insurance policy

•Stanley Davis from South Los Angeles, who was convicted for the 1985 kidnapping, robbery and first-degree murders of Thousand Oaks college students Michelle Boyd and Brian Harris, whom he shot to death in a field.

Gascon has taken more than 50 capital cases that consist of “complex procedural histories” and reassigned them from a half-dozen experienced prosecutors who had been handling them to his ally, Deputy District Attorney Shelan Joseph, who was hired in April from the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, according to a high-ranking prosecutor who asked not to be identified because of fear of retaliation.

“Besides the obvious inability of a single attorney to competently handle over 50 cases, Joseph’s agenda is clearly not to represent the people’s interest in maintaining the integrity of the convictions or uncovering unjustified claims by the petitioner,” the prosecutor said. “Rather — the agenda has become clear — to use the habeas claims as a way to vacate death sentences. That is why all the cases got reassigned to a former public defender — because ethical deputy district attorneys would not have done this.

“It is also why Bonta withdrew — because his ethical deputy attorney generals would not have gone along with this program either. It is their legal duty to defend the integrity of these convictions and sentences. But Gascon and Bonta want them to take a dive.”

Gascón hired Joseph as a special assistant to oversee capital cases because of her knowledge and expertise, Bastian said. “She is a respected and valued member of the District Attorney’s leadership team.”

Removed from computer system

Gascon also has allegedly taken the unprecedented action of removing all habeas corpus cases from the internal computer tracking system used by the District Attorney’s Office, the prosecutor said.

“This has never, to my knowledge, been done,” said the prosecutor. “That internal tracking system is the official record of all the cases handled by the district attorney including even cases declined for filing. High profile cases may be put on restricted access, but they are never removed from the system altogether. One can only speculate about the reasons for removing these cases from a system that can only be accessed by Los Angeles County district attorney personnel.

“Why doesn’t Gascon want other deputy district attorneys to be able to look up cases in which they were the trial district attorney who obtained the conviction? Or perhaps the goal is to defeat a public records act request. But in either case the answer is the same — secrecy. He does not want anyone to know what is being done on these most serious cases.”

Gascón’s efforts to vacate death penalty cases are stunning but not surprising to critics. Almost immediately after taking office nearly a year ago, Gascón implemented a series of controversial directives that has turned Los Angeles County juris prudence on its head. Among them is policy prohibiting prosecutors from seeking capital punishment.

“A sentence of death is never an appropriate resolution in any case,” Gascón said in a Dec. 7 directive. “The office will strive to ensure that all actions taken are consistent with this policy, including refraining from filing letters stating an intention to seek the death penalty, filing briefs, seeking discovery, or making arguments in court that indicate that the death penalty is an appropriate sentence. Racism and the death penalty are inextricably intertwined.”

(source: Scott Schwebke is an investigative reporter for the Orange County Register and the Southern California News Group—-Los Angeles Daily News)

USA:

Supreme Court grows ‘increasingly hostile’ to inmates seeking to delay executions

The U.S. Supreme Court is growing “increasingly hostile” to arguments made on behalf of death row inmates, according to a Sidebar column in the New York Times.

Supreme Court journalist Adam Liptak supports his conclusion with references to recent actions by the high court.

One case concerned an inmate who wanted a pastor to lay hands on him and pray during his execution. Several justices raised concerns about litigation gamesmanship when they heard oral arguments in the case last week.

Among them was Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who asked whether the request by Texas inmate John H. Ramirez could be the first in an “unending stream” of lawsuits seeking religious accommodations, the New York Times reported in previous coverage.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared to side with Ramirez, saying, “You should have a pastor to help guide you to the other place.”

Sotomayor sided with another inmate, Wesley P. Coonce Jr., when the Supreme Court denied his cert petition Nov. 1, the Sidebar column points out. Her dissent to the cert denial was joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan.

The federal case was unusual because both the U.S. government and Coonce’s defense lawyers agreed that the case deserved another look, according to the New York Times. The issue in the case concerned whether Coonce was intellectually disabled, which would make his execution cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis had affirmed a federal court’s decision to deny Coonce a hearing using the definition of intellectual disability developed by the Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia. That decision, which cited clinical definitions, said a person with an intellectual disability must have demonstrated a low IQ and problematic social and practical skills before age 18.

In Coonce’s case, his intellectual disability apparently stemmed from a traumatic brain injury at age 20.

After the 8th Circuit ruled against Coonce, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities changed its definition of intellectual disability to extend the onset period to before age 22.

“To my knowledge,” Sotomayor wrote, “the court has never before denied a GVR [granting cert, vacating the decision below and remanding to the lower court] in a capital case where both parties have requested it, let alone where a new development has cast the decision below into such doubt.”

Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan also dissented when the Supreme Court on Oct. 28 vacated stays of execution imposed by a federal appeals court that wanted to consider arguments of two Oklahoma inmates, including John Marion Grant.

The inmates had contended that Oklahoma’s execution methods could cause severe pain. They also opposed a trial judge’s requirement that they choose their execution method by checking a box, arguing that doing so required them to violate their religious beliefs by dying by suicide.

During the Oct. 28 execution, Grant had full-body convulsions about two dozen times and vomited.

(source: abajournal.com)

GAZA:

Human rights organizations call on Hamas to halt death sentences against Israeli agents, drug dealers

The military judiciary in the Gaza Strip announced this month new death sentences against collaborators with Israel and drug dealers, amid calls by human rights organizations to stop these illegal and nonhumanitarian sentences. The military judiciary in the Gaza Strip announced Nov. 9, in a statement published on the Ministry of Interior and National Security website, that it had issued death sentences against three Palestinians. Two of them were convicted of collaboration with Israel and the third of drug trafficking.

The rulings raised the number of death sentences rendered since the beginning of the year to about 20, amid calls by human rights organizations to permanently abolish the death penalty.

The military court clarified in its statement that “the rulings issued by the military court are based on the indictment and the articles of the Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979.”

On Oct. 28, the military court in Gaza also sentenced 6 Palestinian informants with Israel to death. It urged them to surrender themselves to the judicial authorities to benefit from a reduced sentence.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza expressed, in an Oct. 21 statement, its grave concern over the “incessant issuance of death sentences by the military judiciary in the Gaza Strip.” It called on the competent authorities “to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its definitive abolition.”

It noted that these sentences go against Palestine’s obligations that arise from its accession to international treaties.

Samir al-Manaama, a lawyer at Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, told Al-Monitor, “We have reservations on the death sentence, as it does not reduce crime and protect society from it. Therefore, we call for amending Palestinian laws in line with international treaties to which the State of Palestine has become a member, by abolishing the death penalty and coming up with alternatives that preserve human dignity.”

The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) also strongly condemned the recent death sentences in an Oct. 21 press statement. “ICHR believes the death sentences issued by the courts in the Gaza Strip, amounting to 20 sentences since the beginning of 2021, impinge on a number of fundamental human rights, foremost of which is the right to life. These sentences violate the international laws and conventions that oppose this punishment as well as the obligations ensuing from the accession of the State of Palestine to these conventions, including the abolishment of the death penalty,” the statement said.

Mustafa Ibrahim, coordinator of the Advocacy Unit at ICHR, told Al-Monitor, “About 250 judgments have been issued in the Palestinian Authority [PA] areas since 1994 — 220 in the Gaza Strip and 30 in the West Bank. Among the rulings issued in Gaza, 161 have been issued since the Palestinian division in 2007.”

He noted that since its establishment in 1994, the PA has carried out 41 death sentences — 39 in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. “Among the executed sentences in the Gaza Strip, 28 have been executed since the division without the ratification of the Palestinian president in violation of the law.”

Ibrahim added, “Human rights organizations stress the need to refrain from the ratification of the issued death sentences as this would be a preliminary step for the abolishment of the death sentence from Palestinian legislation.”

Palestinian law requires presidential ratification of death sentences emanating from the Gaza Strip. But Palestinian president and leader of the Fatah movement Mahmoud Abbas has refused to authorize the execution of these sentences since taking office in 2005. According to a previous Human Rights Watch report, Hamas had refrained from carrying out judicially imposed death sentences since the two movements signed the reconciliation agreement in the spring of 2014.

Maj. Gen. Nasser Suleiman, head of the Military Judiciary Authority in Gaza, said that according to Article 109 of the amended Palestinian Basic Law of 2005, a death sentence pronounced by any court may not be implemented unless ratified by the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). “This is also stipulated in accordance with Article 409 of the Code of Criminal Procedures Law of 2003,” he told Al-Monitor.

However, he pointed out that the legal authority of the Palestinian president has expired. Suleiman explained that according to Article 36 of the Basic Law of 2005, the term of the presidency of the PNA is four years, and the president has the right to run for a second presidential term, provided that he does not assume the presidency for more than two consecutive terms. “This means that the term of the president of the PA has ended,” Suleiman said.

He noted that Article 46 of the Palestinian Basic Law authorized the Council of Ministers to assist the president in the performance of the president’s duties and exercise of powers, in the manner stipulated in this law. He explained that the Legislative Council in Gaza relied on this article when it approved the implementation of death sentences issued by Palestinian courts in 2017.

Rami Abdo, director of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, told Al-Monitor, “The state of legislative void in Palestine is due to the division that led to the absence of a unified penal code.”

He explained that there are different penal code laws. In the West Bank, courts apply the Jordanian Penal Code No. 16 of 1960, and in Gaza, the British Mandate Criminal Code No. 74 of 1936 is applied, as amended by order of the Egyptian military governor No. 555 of 1957. The military courts, and state security courts sometimes apply the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code of 1979, in addition to some complementary laws.

Abdo noted, “The political division, the president’s refrain from ratifying death sentences and the fact that judicial authorities can still execute these sentences — although not ratified — after the lapse of the period of time specified in the law has stirred a legal controversy about the validity of these sentences.”

“The death punishment is irreversible and errors may occur in judgments. The risk of executing an innocent person can never be ruled out,” he warned.

Amid speculation that Hamas may not implement these rulings at the present time, the death sentence against informants remains one of Hamas’ applied tactics given the series of assassinations carried out by Israel with the help of Palestinian informants. Meanwhile, the political division and the outdated laws in the Palestinian territories have created a vicious cycle preventing any balance between respecting the rights of individuals and protecting the public interest.

(source: al-monitor.com)

IRAN—-execution

Ahmad Bahrami Executed in Rajai Shahr Prison

Ahmad Bahrami who was sentenced to qisas(retribution-in-kind) for murder, has been executed in Rajai Shahr Prison.

According to information obtained by Iran Human Rights, at least one man was executed in Rajai Shahr Prison on the morning of November 10. His identity has been established as Ahmad Bahrami, who was sentenced to qisas for murder.

Speaking to Iran Human Rights, an informed source said: “Ahmad Bahrami was actually a policeman himself. He had caught his wife in bed with another man and killed them both.”

According to the source, Ahmad Bahrami was transferred to the gallows from Ward 6 of Rajai Shahr Prison. The number of executions at the prison that day is likely to be higher.

At the time of writing, his execution has not been reported by domestic media or officials in Iran.

According to Iran Human Rights’ Annual Report on the Death Penalty, at least 211 of the 267 people executed in 2020 were sentenced to qisas (retribution-in-kind) for “premeditated murder.”

As there are no legal distinctions made between murder and manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary in Iran, those charged under the umbrella term of “premeditated murder” will receive the death penalty regardless of intent and the circumstances.

(source: iranhr.net)

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Iran death penalty threat for abortion unlawful: UN rights experts

A new Iranian law that raises the prospect of the death penalty for abortion has been condemned by independent human rights experts, who have declared that is in “clear contravention of international law”.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the experts called on the Iranian authorities to repeal the ‘Youthful Population and Protection of the Family’ law, which was ratified by Iran’s Guardian Council on the 1st of November.

The law, said the experts, severely restricts access to abortion, contraception, voluntary sterilization services and related information, in direct violation of women’s human rights under international law, and contains a provision stating that if carried out on a large scale, abortion would fall under the crime of “corruption on earth” and carry the death penalty.

“The Iranian Government is taking further steps to use criminal law to restrict the rights of women, for the sake of increasing the number of births, which will effectively force many women and girls to continue unwanted pregnancies to term which would be inherently discriminatory”, the experts declared.

Abortion in Iran is effectively banned, apart from a few exceptions. The new law puts the final decisions on therapeutic abortion – in case of threat to the life of the pregnant woman or foetal anomalies – in the hands of a panel consisting of a judge, medical doctor and forensic doctor, rather than on the pregnant women, supported by the medical doctor.

For the UN experts, the law violates the rights to life and health, the right to non-discrimination and equality, and to freedom of expression by making it illegal to access a range of reproductive health services and share reproductive rights information.

The law also prohibits free distribution of contraceptive goods, and imposes a ban on voluntary sterilizations for men and women, aside from very exceptional cases. The move, said the experts, will disproportionately impact women in situations of marginalization, and victims of sexual violence.

(source: aninews.in)

SAUDI ARABIA:

Young Saudi Shi’ite whose death sentence was commuted leaves jail

Saudi authorities have freed a young Shi’ite Muslim whose death sentence had been commuted to 10 years in prison under recent legislative reforms, rights groups said.

Abdullah al-Zaher was 15 when he was detained in 2012 for participating in protests in the country’s Eastern Province. He was released on Monday following the completion of his revised sentence in a Saudi prison.

“Abdullah al-Zaher should have never been detained in the first place, but we’re glad he’s now released and back with his family safely,” Amnesty International said in a tweet on Tuesday.

The government’s media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zaher was one of three young men, along with Ali Al-Nimr and Dawood al-Marhoun, whose death sentences for crimes committed as minors had been revised to 10 years in prison earlier this year.

The Saudi public prosecutor ordered a review of the death penalties issued against them after a 2019 decree that individuals sentenced to death for crimes committed while minors would instead serve up to 10 years in juvenile detention centres.

Questions had lingered about the decree’s implementation and the trio’s cases have been closely monitored by international rights groups who have called for their release citing allegations of torture and unfair trials. Saudi authorities have repeatedly denied such allegations.

Al-Nimr, the nephew of prominent Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr whose 2016 execution sparked demonstrations in Saudi Arabia and Iran, was released from prison last month. He was 17 when he was detained for participating in protests in the country’s Eastern Province and had also originally been sentenced to death.

Al-Marhoun is the last of the 3 to remain behind bars. Amnesty on Tuesday called for his immediate release.

Last week, a Saudi court overturned a conviction on a death penalty charge for a young man following what rights groups called a “grossly unfair trial” for crimes committed when he was a minor.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights record came under growing United Nations and Western scrutiny following the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate and the detention of women’s rights activists in 2019.

(source: euronews.com)

EGYPT:

Rayya and Sakina: The True Story Behind Egypt’s Notorious Serial Killers

“On November 15, 1920, an elderly man living in the al-Labban district of Alexandria, Egypt, reported a shocking discovery to his local police station. While installing a new sewage system in an apartment building managed by his family, he dug up the skeleton of a woman,” writes Nefertiti Taklan, an Assistant Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at Manhattan University, in her Ph.D. dissertation to the University of California.

The discovery was connected with two of the most infamous characters of Egyptian popular culture: Rayya and Sakina. Both were the first women to receive the death penalty under the modern Egyptian judicial system.

Theirs is a story of a series of homicides that caused communal panic in Alexandria in the early 20th century under British colonial rule. The murder case started in 1919 and ended in 1921, with a total of 17 bodies of women and men buried underneath Rayya and Sakina’s house.

According to Taklan, the case of Rayya and Sakina is much deeper than a grisly serial killing crime. Primary sources such as handwritten legal reports and investigations in Dar al-Mahfuzat and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina suggest that the two women were used as scapegoats, to target clandestine sex work in Alexandria. The case was widely molded into a story of infidelity and moral bankruptcy when, in reality, it was a series of homicides carried out by a gang of 6 members for money.

The infamous sisters are frequently portrayed in a comedic frame in popular culture and are the immediate go-to reference for female serial killers in Egypt. Surrounded by a group of accomplices which included their spouses and two other men, Rayya and Sakina certainly did not act alone – why, then, are they always depicted as the main characters?

The Truth Behind the Tales

The story begins with the move of Rayya and Sakina, and their respective husbands from Upper Egypt to Alexandria in search of a better quality of life. Taklan argues that during the 19th and 20th centuries, as a result of the Egyptian economy’s crash due to World War I, the informal economy emerged, allowing Egypt’s poor to earn money through unconventional jobs.

It was this economic crash that also led Rayya and Sakina’s spouses to lose their cotton industry jobs. Accordingly, the two couples ran a brothel business that hosted a myriad of people from various social backgrounds. Each one of the four individuals had their role in running the brothel and recruiting prostitutes and male customers. And, as their financial situation worsened, they became increasingly reliant on the income it generated.

Their 1st brothel was established near the British army base, attracting a large clientele of British soldiers along with local businessmen and married men. Both couples, Hasaballah and Rayya, Abdel’al and Sakina, eventually opened more than one brothel in different parts of Alexandria to meet the demand of the rising number of patrons. Yet, prostitution was illegal, a fact which prompted the sisters to consistently deny providing such services.

With the end of World War I and the outbreak of the 1919 revolution in Egypt, the economy’s deterioration persisted, and so did Rayya and Sakina’s business. Realizing the precocious position of their recently accumulated wealth, the gang’s homicidal tendencies began to surge.

The gang’s crimes had a consistent pattern: Rayya and Sakina would befriend and lure wealthy women at the market into their house in the Labban neighborhood, offering them alcohol until they became intoxicated. Subsequently, their spouses, Hasaballah and Abdel A’al would strangle the victims, take their jewellery, and bury their bodies underneath the house.

At the time, wealthy women in Egypt did not place their money in banks, preferring to solidify their wealth in the form of gold jewellery. The flamboyant and eye-catching jewellery would render the victims easy targets for the gang.

Despite a precedent case in Tanta, where a man named Mahmud Allam committed a series of murders on exclusively female victims, the case of Rayya and Sakina gained more attention as media coverage focused on the fact that the perpetrators were women, linking Rayya and Sakina’s misdeeds to ‘public immorality’ in society, casting the women, and their crimes, through a specific lens.

Reports on Rayya and Sakina in newspapers delved into the victims’ profile and their sexual activity, or on Rayya and Sakina themselves, thus neglecting Hasaballah, Abdel A’al, and two other men’s contributions to these crimes.

According to Elena Chiti, professor of Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, newspapers focused on shunning the sexual activities of women who were frequent to the brothel by calling them ‘immoral’ and called different areas of Egypt to protect Egyptians from ‘satanic desires’.

Therefore, this tone used in reporting focused on brothel business and the role of Rayya and Sakina in managing it rather than the gang’s homicides, using Rayya and Sakina as the front despite them being only 2 members of the 6-member gang.

Chiti’s paper ‘Building A National Case in Interwar Egypt: Raya and Sakina’s Crimes Through the Pages of Al-Ahram (Fall 1920)’ highlights that despite the gang’s arrest, newspapers mainly used Rayya and Sakina as the main perpetrators and referred to their spouses as “Rayya’s husband” and “Sakina’s husband” rather than their names. She deduces that newspapers took advantage of the fact that they were women, branded them as immoral, and accused them of public indecency to “captivate the public.”

Theirs is a story where economic hardship and the socio-political reality of Egypt of the period intersect. Yet, while Rayya and Sakina were inaccurately portrayed as the only perpetrators in one of Egypt’s most high-profile serial killings, they were ultimately still complicit murderers. What is worth nonetheless revisiting is the lens by which they are remembered, while removing gender bias from the case. Taklan suggests that it would be more accurate to refer to their crimes simply as the ‘1921 murder cases’ rather than the case of ‘Rayya and Sakina’.

(source: egyptianstreets.com)

NIGERIA:

2 SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR MURDER IN EKITI

An Ekiti State high court, sitting in Ado Ekiti, has sentenced one Danjuma Fayomi Femi, 30, and Jamiu Oyediran, 30, to death for conspiracy and murder of one Adeoye Adegoke, the National Daily reported on 12 November 2021.

According to the charge, the convicts committed the offence on 11 December 2017 in Otun Ekiti, Moba Local Government Area of Ekiti State, contrary to sections 516 and 316 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap C16, Laws of Ekiti State, 2012.

One of the deceased’s relatives who testified before the court said he met his brother on the hospital bed on that day, struggling for his life, before he gave up the ghost.

He said the 2 and others on the run tied his hands and male genital organ and started beating him on the allegation of stealing a bag full of Indian hemp.

He mentioned those on the run as Seyi aka Koro, Ilesanmi aka Babaloja, Dare aka DD, Jamiyu, Kabiru aka KB, Johnson, Festus aka Dudu, Ganiyu aka G-Boy, Owolabi Yinka aka AK-700 and Michael Oyeniyi aka Poison.

The prosecutor, Gbemiga Adaramola, in proving his case called 6 witnesses and also tendered statements of the defendants and witnesses, photographs of the deceased, sticks, rope and medical reports among others as exhibits.

Justice Adekunle Adeleye, in his judgment, said the prosecutor had led credible evidence linking the defendants to the commission of the 2 offences.

He sentenced them to 7 years imprisonment for the offence of conspiracy and death for the offence of murder.

(source: National Daily)

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2 Sentenced to Death for Murder in Ekiti

An Ekiti State High Court, sitting in Ado Ekiti, has sentenced 2 persons to death by hanging. The convicts are Fayomi Femi and Jamiu Oyediran, who were convicted for offences bordering on conspiracy and murder.

Handing down the harsh verdict yesterday Justice, Adekunle Adeleye, said: “The prosecutor had led credible evidence linking the defendants to commission of the 2 offences. Having found them guilty of the offences of conspiracy and murder, the two of them are hereby sentenced to seven years imprisonment for offence of conspiracy and also to death for offence of murder. May God almighty has mercy on your souls”.

According to the charges, the defendants on 11th of December, 2017 in Otun Ekiti, Moba Local Government Area of Ekiti State, conspired and murdered one Adeoye Adegoke, contrary to Sections 516 and 316 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap C16, Laws of Ekiti State, 2012.

One of the deceased relatives who testified before court said, he met his brother on the hospital bed on that day, struggling for his life before he gave up the ghost.

The deceased, according to the witness, was tied to the stake and beaten to death by the convicts and other defendants, who are now at large for stealing a bag of Indian Hemp.

The fleeing suspects are: Seyi Koro, Ilesanmi Babaloja, Dare Jamiyu Kabiru, Johnson Festus, Ganiyu Owolabi Yinka, Michael Oyeniyi and others.

Barrister Gbemiga Adaramola, the prosecutor, in proving his case called 6 witnesses and also tendered statements of the defendants and witnesses, photographs of the deceased, sticks, rope, medical reports among others as exhibits.

The convicts spoke in their own defence through their counsel and called no witness.

(source: thisdaylive.in)

KENYA:

The Long History of Kenya’s Prison Breaks

The escape of 3 terror convicts from jail on Sunday is the latest of a series of prison breaks that have rocked the country in the last 10 years.

In September this year, 14 prisoners who included murderers and those jailed for robbery with violence, escaped from the highly guarded Nanyuki GK prison. Police said the inmates used a hacksaw to cut the main doors that separated their cell and the perimeter wall. 8 were soon recaptured.

In July, one police officer was injured from a gunshot when eight inmates broke out of the Vihiga prison in western Kenya. On June 5, 2019, 19 robbery with violence suspects jumped to freedom from a moving police lorry as they were being taken to the Industrial Area Remand Prison, Nairobi.

It was the 2nd highest number of convicts or remandees to escape from custody, after the April 2004 prison break at Naivasha Maximum Prison where 28 inmates escaped.

On May 3, 2019, a robbery with violence suspect was shot dead after he attempted to wrest a firearm from a police officer while being transferred from Kangundo Police Station to Machakos GK Prison.

On March 17, 2019, a convict with mental illness serving a life sentence at Manyani Maximum Security Prison in Voi escaped, only to be arrested two days later as he tried to sneak back into the prison.

February 7, 2019: 7 suspected narcotics traffickers and 5 robbery with violence suspects escaped from Makongeni Police Station in Thika. The suspects cut the cell’s ventilation grilles to escape.

November 28, 2018: 6 remandees at Migori GK Prison escaped by jumping from a moving police vehicle and disappeared into a nearby sugar plantation as they were being moved from Rongo Law Courts to the prison.

June 18, 2018: 2 prisoners serving between 10 and 15 years in jail escaped from the Malindi GK Prison on foot and sent a text message to a journalist to break the news, claiming that they were being tortured.

August 16, 2018: Timothy Lesereti, who was serving a three-month sentence was allegedly aided by a prison warden to escape Maralal GK Prison.

December 11, 2017: Francis Musyoka Mutuku, an ex-GSU officer on death row escaped from Siaya GK Prison into the nearby bush.

February 22, 2017: 5 prisoners escaped on the Machakos-Kangundo road after jumping from a prison vehicle taking them to Kangundo Law Courts.

January 19, 2017: 6 prisoners aged between 15 and 21 escaped from the Garissa Police Station. They were facing different charges ranging from defilement to stock theft.

August 4, 2016: 4 convicts, among them a hard-core criminal indicted for killing a fellow inmate, escaped from the Kibos Prison. They allegedly cut the window grilles of their cell before climbing over the 5-metre high prison wall using blankets and bedsheets.

April 18, 2016: 3 inmates facing robbery with violence charges escaped from Isiolo GK Prison through a ventilation hole in the cells.

February 25, 2016: Caroline Wanjiru Munene, facing a charge of stealing a gun from a police officer in Itabua, Embu, escaped from Embu GK Prison.

January 24, 2016: Wardens at Kamiti Maximum Prison shoot in the air to thwart an attempt by an inmate serving a life sentence to escape after he got out of his cell.

December 30, 2015: 4 suspected robbers and drug traffickers scaled the wall of Siakago court cells and escaped, before one was rearrested. They hid in a thicket. 3 of them disappeared.

May 23, 2015: 3 criminals serving life sentences escaped from Kamiti Maximum Security Prison. The convicts were Joseph Kinyanjui, John Kamau Gathoni and Isaac Karanja Mwangi.

October 8, 2015: An inmate at Kamiti, William Muiruri Meta, escaped from the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) where he was receiving treatment for injuries he incurred at the hands of a prison warden. He was serving a 14-year jail term for robbery with violence.

July 14, 2015: 5 prisoners, among them 3 Britons, linked to terrorist groups, escaped from Bungoma Prison. 2 who vanished were capital offenders, while the foreigners were in remand for being in the country illegally and were being questioned over possible links to terrorism.

May 23, 2015: 3 prisoners serving life sentences escaped from Kamiti prison. Joseph Kinyanjui, John Kamau Gathoni and Isaac Karanja Mwangi escaped by cutting grilles during a blackout at the prison.

January 31, 2015: 5 inmates of Eldoret Prison in Uasin Gishu escaped after overpowering 2 armed wardens in a prison vehicle taking them to the Kabarnet Law Courts in Baringo. Some of the escapees were death row inmates.

December 17, 2014: Peter Kamau Ndung’u, a Bachelor of Commerce student and Naivasha Maximum Prison inmate on life sentence, escaped while he had gone to sit an exam at the University of Nairobi. A robbery with violence convict, Ndung’u had been held up as the poster boy of prison reforms when his name hit the headlines in 2010 after he breezed through his accountancy exams while behind bars. He is still on the run.

March 20, 2012: Gilbert Mwangi Ibrahim, a robbery suspect who was serving a 3-month jail term, escaped from Embu GK Prison mysteriously. He had only served about 1 month before he fled.

October 26, 2011: 6 remand prisoners, among them 4 capital offence suspects, escaped from Eldoret GK Prison. The remandees went through the ceiling and drilled a hole in a prison block.

October 14, 2011: 5 capital offence suspects escaped from Embu Remand Prison while being taken to court. Richard Mbogo Ndagara alias Ibilisi, an escapee who was rearrested, told the court that a police officer had aided their escape.

September 21, 2011: 6 hard-core criminals attempted to escape from Kamiti prison. The prisoners had cut the grilles in their cells and had already come out when a warden on duty spotted them.

August 7, 2011: 2 remand prisoners were shot during an escape by 6 inmates from police custody in Webuye. The remandees faced capital charges that included robbery with violence and murder. Among those who escaped were gunmen who had attacked Cabinet minister Soita Shitanda and Kimilili MP Eseli Simiyu.

October 2010: 13 inmates escaped from the Busia GK Prison, leading to the arrest of 7 prison wardens. 11 of the escaped prisoners had been charged with robbery with violence, while 2 had been sentenced to life imprisonment.

(source: allafrica.com)

EUROPE:

Award Ceremony of the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe to take place on 9 December 2021. The event will take place at 12pm at the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic.

The 2020 North-South Prize of the Council of Europe will be awarded to the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP), represented by its President, Judge Navanethem Pillay, in recognition of its contribution to the protection of the right to life and its dedication to international solidarity and global partnership. It will also be awarded to the Mediterranean Expert Network on Climate and Environmental Change (MedECC), represented by Professors Wolfgang Cramer and Dr Joël Guiot, for its elaboration of the first ever scientific assessment on the impact of climate and environmental change in the Mediterranean basin.

24 personalities and 23 States contribute to the ICDP’s mission, working toward the universal abolition of the death penalty. The MedECC is composed of over 600 scientists from 35 Mediterranean and European States dedicated to environmental research and policy planning.

The Prize will be presented by the Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. The President of the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic, the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, as well as the President of the Executive Committee of the North-South Centre will also be part of the event.

The Ceremony of the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe represents a major event for interregional dialogue. The Jury’s decision reminds us that we are inextricably linked with the other regions of the world, and that, striving to make this unity ever more enduring, many are those who dedicate their lives to global solidarity. The Award Ceremony is a tribute to their stories and their commitments. It is a great honour for us to welcome this year’s representatives of the ICDP and MedECC, Judge Navanethem Pillay and Professors Wolfgang Cramer and Joël Guiot, for the Award Ceremony of the 2020 North-South Prize of the Council of Europe, to celebrate together the prowess of a commitment that spans continents.

(source: Council of Europe)

ITALY:

Webinar: No Justice Without Life – For a world without the death penalty

As part of the World Day “Cities for Life, Cities against the Death Penalty” on November 30, the Community of Sant’Egidio is promoting an international webinar entitled “No Justice without Life” with experts, activists, witnesses and representatives of civil society from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. The event will conclude with the special illumination of the Colosseum, symbol of the global campaign against the death penalty.

Join the Webinar

MONDAY 30 NOVEMBER 2021—-17:30h

(see: https://www.santegidio.org/FSnetTools/newsletter.php?action=show&itemID=2673&cntrl=8d84753de27f88d48ed99d0334e614b6)

(source: Sant’Egidio)

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:

Privy Council asked to overturn life sentence ruling for death row inmates

The Privy Council has been asked to overturn the decision of the local Court of Appeal to rule that automatic life sentences given to murder convicts, who cannot be executed due to delays in their appeals, were unconstitutional.

Presenting submissions before the United Kingdombased appellate court, yesterday morning, attorneys representing the State claimed that Chief Justice Ivor Archie and 2 Ap­peal Court Judges got it wrong in 2018 when they ruled that High Court Judges have the discretion to decide commuted sentences based on the particular circumstances of each case.

The appeal centres around the Privy Council’s well known 1994 ruling in the Jamaican case of Pratt and Morgan, in which it ruled that the mandatory death penalty for murder would be cruel and inhumane punishment if it was not be carried out within 5 years of conviction.

The lawsuit was brought by convicted murderer Naresh Boodram on behalf of 82 prisoners, who like him had their mandatory death penalty commuted to life imprisonment following the legal precedent set in almost 3 decades ago.

British Queen’s Counsel Howard Stevens, who led the State’s legal team, claimed that the Court of Appeal did not have the discretion to impose any sentence other than life imprisonment on the prisoners whose sentences were commuted.

Stevens claimed that as the death penalty was mandatory without the issue of delay, there should also be a standard commuted sentence.

“Parliament has decided that all murderers deserve to die regardless of the offence they committed,” Stevens said.

He noted that prisoners aggrieved by the blanket sentence had an alternate remedy as they could apply to the Mercy Committee for the President to use his/her power of pardon under the Constitution. Stevens also claimed that based on the grievous circumstances of the double murder Boodram is convicted of he deserved a life sentence.

In his submissions, attorney Mark Seepersad disagreed with the position, which he suggested limited the local courts’ jurisdiction to address breaches of citizens’ constitutional rights through Section 14 of the Constitution. Seepersad claimed that when the Privy Council applied the life sentence in the Pratt and Morgan case, it never intended for it to apply to all subsequent cases, which benefited from the legal precedent set.

“If the Privy Council intended to lay down an expressed fetter on discretion it would have required the clearest of words,” Seepersad said, as he noted that there is no law prescribing the life sentence. He noted that while the life sentence was blanketly applied over the past decades, Boodram’s case was the 1st in which the policy was challenged. While Seepersad accepted that the life sentence could be applied in some heinous cases he suggested that it should only be done after a Judge considers all the unique circumstances of the case and the offender.

“I must admit that there may be some instances where the nature of the offence and the offender may require that he should be removed from society for the rest of his natural life,” Seepersad said. While Boodram is claiming that the Court of Appeal was correct in the substantive aspects of his case, he has filed a cross-ap­peal seeking to overturn its ruling that he and the State should bear their own legal costs for the appeal despite his legal victory.

Presenting submissions on the issue, the State’s legal team indicated that it would not seek costs from Boodram if it is successful on the appeal. It also claimed that if Boodram is successful in the cross-appeal he should only be paid the legal costs for the appeal before the Court of Appeal and not the Privy Council as he is being represented pro bono in the latter.

Seepersad is expected to address the issue when he continues his submissions later today. Boodram was convicted in November 1996 for the murders of An­thony Greenidge and Stephen Sandy, who were killed and buried in a shallow grave in a rice field.

Delivering the judgement in the case in March 2018, Chief Justice Archie and Appellate Judges Alice Yorke-Soo Hon and Mark Mohammed ruled that there was no logical reason for the carte blanche imposition of the life sentence as they suggested the policy was inherently arbitrary and potentially dis­proportionate. “The circumstances of each murder are different and a court properly seized of the relevant facts would be able to substitute the ap­propriate sentence,” Archie said. Despite the ruling in the case, the Court of Appeal did not immediately re-sentence Boodram and the others to set prison terms as it referred their cases to be considered by several High Court Judges.

“A resentencing court must ascertain whether the punitive element of the sentence has been satisfied and also whether the appellant (Boodram) has been rehabilitated and is safe for reintegration into society. To ascertain the latter, the court has to be provided with evidence that would answer the question in the affirmative or negative,” Archie said.

The resentencing exercise has been put on hold pending the outcome of the final appeal before the Privy Council.

(source: guardian.co.tt)

PHILIPPINES:

Senatorial hopeful Belgica bats for death penalty vs. corruption, creation of COVID-19 clinics

Former Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission chief and senatorial aspirant Greco Belgica wants to bring to the chamber a stronger campaign against corrupt practices.

During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, Belgica bared his preference for a harsh penalty against corruption: death.

“We need penalties commensurate to the crimes committed. We need to work on restoring the penalty of death for heinous crimes and corruption. Corruption by high-ranking government officials is being treated as a lesser sin than murder, than drugs,” said the senatorial bet of Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan (PDDS).

The third-time senatorial hopeful also proposed the establishment of COVID-19 clinics. Drawing on his experience surviving the disease as a critical case, Belgica said COVID-19 is “beatable” if treated right and early.

“If God allows that I work as a senator…I will put up COVID clinics in every provincial hospital down to the barangay and train doctors with the procedures and protocols used on me that’s being used in other countries,” he said, adding these will provide free medicines to patients.

Belgica also said he will push for a flat 10% uniform income tax rate to help raise government revenues and usher in economic recovery amid the global health crisis. The proposal was included in his agenda during his failed senatorial bids in 2013 and 2016.

(source: CNN Philippines:

MALAYSIA:

Mum of 2 from Kolkata sent to gallows for drug trafficking

The Federal Court today affirmed the death penalty imposed on an Indian national for trafficking in 745.6gm of methamphetamine at the low-cost carrier terminal in Sepang 8 years ago.

In dismissing Samim Sainsha’s appeal, a three-member Federal Court bench, chaired by Abdul Rahman Sebli, said the conviction by the trial court was safe.

“We affirm the conviction and sentence,” said Rahman, who sat with Zabariah Mohd Yusof and Hasnah Mohammed Hashim.

The bench also dismissed a legal point raised by Samim’s court-appointed counsel, Shamsul Sulaiman, that the prosecution had failed to prove the expertise of the chemist who gave evidence during the trial.

Rahman said the failure to do so was not fatal as decided by several case laws.

Samim, 38, a mother of two, committed the offence at 2.50am on July 1, 2013. The drugs were concealed in a bag which was unlocked.

Samim had boarded a flight from Kolkata with the intention of working in Malaysia.

The bag, which contained clothes, were emptied and rescanned but a greenish image remained on the computer monitor.

The drug was found when the bag was cut open. A chemist later confirmed it was methamphetamine.

Shamsul said the court could write to the Selangor menteri besar to show mercy on Samim.

He said the court could recommend that the capital punishment be commuted to life imprisonment.

The report should be sent to the menteri besar as the offence was committed in Selangor, he said.

The menteri besar is a member of the state Pardons Board, chaired by the Sultan of Selangor.

Deputy public prosecutor Abd Ghafar Ab Latif appeared for the prosecution.

(source: freemalaysiatoday.com)

SINGAPORE:

Singapore Death Row Inmate Saved by Covid-19 – For Now—-Execution of Man with Disability Delayed During Recovery

On November 9, just 1 day before he was scheduled to be hanged in Singapore after spending more than a decade on death row for a drug offense, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam received a stay of execution. He had tested positive for Covid-19, which led the Court of Appeal to adjourn a scheduled hearing to a later date.

The irony that Singapore was determined to hang a man with an IQ of 69 and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for a nonviolent drug offense, but not if he has a physical illness, has not been lost on observers.

Nagaenthran, a 33-year-old Malaysian national, was arrested in 2009 after he entered Singapore carrying 42.7 grams (approximately 3 tablespoons) of diamorphine. He was sentenced to death in 2010 and due to be executed on November 10. The rescheduled court hearing will be his last chance to challenge his death sentence.

Nagaenthran’s story has highlighted not just the cruel absurdity of capital punishment, but the extra challenges faced by those with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities in accessing true justice. Nagaenthran faced police questioning that failed to take into account his intellectual challenges, and inconsistencies in the statements he made during that questioning were then used both to convict him and to portray him as someone with a “criminal mind.”

The Singapore government’s apparent determination to execute Nagaenthran struck a chord not only in Singapore, but internationally, sparking protests in Malaysia, condemnations by the United Nations, diplomats and public figures such as Richard Branson, and wide coverage in the global media.

While Nagaenthran is recovering from Covid-19, that recovery could cost him his life. Once he no longer tests positive for the coronavirus, the Court of Appeal will hear his final challenge to his sentence and, if it fails, a grant of clemency from the president of Singapore will be his only hope of avoiding the gallows.

His reprieve while recovering from Covid-19 is only temporary – his execution, if not halted by the court or a grant of clemency, will be permanent. All of those who raised their voices before his hearing was adjourned should continue to do so now.

(source: Human Rights Watch)

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High Court strikes out bid by death row inmates to commit Home Affairs Minister for alleged contempt: AGC—-The application by 17 death row inmates was struck out by the court on Nov 16, 2021.

The High Court has dismissed an application by 17 death row inmates to start contempt of court proceedings against Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam.

The application related to comments Mr Shanmugam made about an ongoing civil case filed by the inmates alleging racial bias during the parliamentary debate on the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (Fica) on Oct 4.

On Wednesday (Nov 17), the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said in a statement that the application was struck out by the court on Tuesday.

The AGC added that it will be seeking personal costs against Mr Cheng Kim Kuan, the lawyer in charge of the case on record, and Mr M. Ravi, who practises at Mr Cheng’s firm.

The 17 inmates, represented by Mr Ravi, filed an application against the Attorney-General in August contending that they had been discriminated against as people of Malay ethnicity by the imposition of the death penalty against them.

On Oct 4, Mr Shanmugam made reference to the case in his speech during the parliamentary debate on Fica.

On Oct 11, a court application was filed by law firm K. K. Cheng Law on behalf of the inmates, seeking to commit Mr Shanmugam for alleged contempt of court.

Mr Ravi then posted about the application on his personal Facebook page.

“Within the same day, AGC informed the court that the application had no legal basis. On Oct 13, 2021, AGC applied to strike out the application,” said the AGC statement.

Seven of the inmates are part of another group of 13 prisoners who filed a civil suit against the Attorney-General in July, seeking damages for breach of confidence and copyright infringement.

The inmates involved in this case, also represented by Mr Ravi, had their private letters forwarded by prison officials to the AGC.

They want the High Court to declare that the Attorney-General and the Singapore Prison Service had acted unlawfully – the former by requesting prisoners’ letters and the latter by disclosing them.

(source: straitstimes.com)

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Citing ‘humanity’, Malaysian Bar asks Singapore to commute death sentence for Nagaenthran to life imprisonment

The Malaysian Bar again appealed for the Singapore government to spare the life of death row inmate Nagaenthran K. Darmalingam who was convicted of carrying drugs into the island nation back in 2009.

It repeated its plea for clemency on humanitarian grounds after the Singapore government insisted that it had followed all the due processes of the law and given the Malaysian — said to have an IQ of 69 — a fair trial.

Malaysian Bar president AG Kalidas acknowledged the reasoning by the given Singapore government, but stressed that the appeal for clemency is an extrajudicial process that takes place after all judicial processes are exhausted.

“We have always had a close relationship with Singapore — our neighbour to the south,” he said in a statement today.

We respect its sovereignty and laws, but what we are merely asking for is compassion to be extended to our citizen who has been medically diagnosed as being of impaired intellectual ability and has been languishing in a cell for more than 10 years in a foreign country.

“All we are asking for is humanity,” he added.

Kalidas said the clemency appeal should warrant consideration in light of reports that Nagaethran’s mental condition had deteriorated since his detention, a claim the Singaporean authorities rejected.

“Our call to the Government of Singapore was in relation to the issue of clemency. This is a process that is extra-judicial that takes place after all judicial processes are exhausted,” he said.

“We note that an earlier application for clemency had been rejected. Given the reported further deterioration of Nagaenthran’s mental condition, we believe that a reconsideration of clemency is warranted.”

The Singapore authorities issued a statement on November 12 in reply to letters submitted by the Malaysian Bar appealing for clemency for the Malaysian national a few days before.

It argued that Nagaenthran had enjoyed the full benefit of legal due process within the criminal justice system in Singapore, and that the Malaysian had received legal representation at trial and had been identified as having an IQ of 69, which had been fully taken into account in subsequent appeals and other legal proceedings.

The Singapore courts had decided that his intellectual capacity was not diminished, and that he was fully cognisant of his actions.

Many international and local organisations have written to the Singapore government in support of the abolition of the death penalty and the commutation of Nagaenthran’s death sentence, Kalidas noted.

“Many that have done so, including the 3 Bars in Malaysia, have noted that Singapore has signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

“As such, we hope that Singapore will give effect to commitments that it has made under the CRPD,” he said.

The 3 Bars mentioned by Kalidas refers to the 3 separate statutory bodies representing the legal profession in Malaysia: the Malaysian Bar for lawyers based in the peninsula, the Advocates Association of Sarawak, and the Sabah Law Society.

Nagaenthran was arrested in April 2009 for smuggling 42.72g of diamorphine into the republic and sentenced to death in November 2010. The Malaysian national claimed he was coerced into carrying drugs, although he later said that he acted as a mule because he needed the money.

He was 21 at the time of arrest.

His legal team has argued that his low IQ of 69 indicates an intellectual disability, affecting his ability to make informed decisions.

Kalidas has “strongly” urged the Singaporean government to give this fact all due and necessary consideration.

(source: malaymail.com)

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Singapore Sentences Second Malaysian-Indian To Death For Drug Trafficking —- Munusamy Ramarmurth, a cleaning supervisor, was convicted by the Singapore High Court last Wednesday after he was caught with a bag of drugs in his motorcycle parked along Harbourfront Avenue.

A 39-year-old Indian origin Malaysian who was caught with a bag of drugs in 2018 has been sentenced to death by a Singapore court for trafficking.

The death sentence comes within weeks as another drug trafficker, a 33-year old Malaysian Indian, awaits the outcome of his last ditch appeal to be spared the gallows while his hanging, originally scheduled for November 10, has been stayed due to COVID-19 infection.

Munusamy Ramarmurth, a cleaning supervisor, was convicted by the High Court last Wednesday. He was caught with a bag of drugs in his motorcycle parked along Harbourfront Avenue, according to media reports.

He was caught with 6.3kg of a granular substance, which was found to contain 57.54g of heroin after analysis.

Justice Audrey Lim, in written grounds issued on Monday, explained her decision to convict Munusamy, saying she disbelieved his contention that he thought the bag contained stolen mobile phones.

The judge also rejected his claim that he had allowed a compatriot to store the bag temporarily in the rear box of his motorcycle so that another man could collect it later.

The law provides for the death penalty if the amount of heroin trafficked is more than 15g.

In her 42-page grounds, Justice Lim also rapped investigating officer (IO) Derek Wong for prompting a witness on the stand during the trial, conduct that the judge said was “inappropriate and unacceptable”.

“Attempting to prompt a witness who is testifying, even on a point which may turn out to be immaterial or inconsequential, is improper and unbefitting of an enforcement officer,” The Straits Times quoted Justice Lim as saying.

The IO had signalled to Sergeant Mohammad Nasrulhaq on 2 occasions.

He picked up a field diary and showed it to Sergeant Nasrulhaq when the latter was being asked about whether the handover of a duffel bag was recorded.

He also mouthed the word “diamorphine” when Sergeant Nasrulhaq was asked by the court what the term “heroin” refers to.

The judge said that while the IO’s conduct did not prejudice Munusamy’s case, the same might not be said in other instances.

Justice Lim said she had directed the Public Prosecutor to raise the matter to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) to take appropriate measures, and to ensure that officers who are involved in investigations are properly briefed and made aware of the boundaries of their conduct in relation to cases pending in court.

Munusamy, who has worked in Singapore for 14 years, was arrested on the afternoon of January 26, 2018, in the cleaners’ room at Harbourfront Centre Tower 2.

He was then escorted to his motorcycle parked at the open-air carpark at Keppel Bay Tower. A red plastic bag, containing bundles of drugs, was found in the rear box of his bike.

During his trial, Munusamy said he had allowed a Malaysian named Saravanan to store the bag temporarily in the box. He said Saravanan told him someone known as “Boy” would collect it.

Munusamy claimed that he thought the bag contained stolen mobile phones because in July 2017, Saravanan and Boy had asked him to help store some stolen phones in the box.

He said Saravanan told him the items in the bag were “panas”.

Munusamy said the term meant “stolen item” although his lawyer, Mahadevan Lukshumayeh, did not dispute that it could also refer to illegal drugs.

Justice Lim concluded that Munusamy’s story was made up.

“I found his claim that he thought the red bag contained handphones or stolen handphones was an afterthought which emerged only at the trial,” said the judge.

She noted that in his statements to Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Munusamy made no mention of the alleged July 2017 incident or that the bag would be collected by someone later.

On the contrary, the judge found, Munusamy knew what was in the bag.

She noted that he knew Saravanan was involved in drug activities, yet he did not check the contents of the bag.

Under the law, the court has the discretion not to impose the death penalty if the prosecution certifies that a drug courier had substantively assisted CNB in disrupting drug activities.

“As the prosecution did not issue him with a certificate of substantive assistance… I passed the mandatory death sentence on him,” said Justice Lim.

Meanwhile, Sarmila Dharmalingam, the sister, has urged Singapore to “give him a 2nd chance” to his brother Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam who is facing imminent execution despite concerns he is mentally disabled.

Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, sentenced to death in 2010 for trafficking a small amount of heroin into Singapore, was originally set to be hanged last week after losing a series of appeals.

Singapore authorities and ministers, led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, have said and written to their Malaysian counterparts that the 33-year old Malaysian Indian was according all procedures of the law. A Singapore envoy has also addressed the concern about Nagaenthran IQ and death sentence raised in the United Nations.

(source: ndtv.com)

NOVEMBER 16, 2021:

SOUTH CAROLINA:

South Carolina execution policies, procedures should be available to the public

Many of those who helped execute people in South Carolina have never spoken about their job’s toll. The State interviewed 10 involved in the work, explored SC execution history and exposed how the state is keeping current execution information secret.

Here’s what SC doesn’t want the public to know about firing squads and executions—-South Carolina execution policies, procedures should be available to the public

Inmates on South Carolina’s death row are allowed to have a very specific set of items in their possession depending on their status.

For instance, those designated Level I inmates, who have “good behavior, demonstrated a positive attitude, and adhered to (Department of Corrections) policies and procedures” are permitted seven pairs of socks and 10 personal books and/or magazines.

The rules change for Level II Inmates, “those who have been involved in an incident or incidents or who have received a disciplinary charge or charges” and Level III inmates held under the “strictest degree of custody and control.”

We know all this because the South Carolina Department of Corrections has an itemized list available on its website detailing each item, down to the number of toothbrushes and playing cards allowed.

It is what we do not know – what is not available on that website – that we find troubling.

As the state looks to implement a new permitted means of execution approved by the state Legislature – death by firing squad – we don’t know how the state is progressing toward the goal of developing a firing squad.

The SC Department of Corrections website notes that “Legislation was signed into law May 14, 2021, creating the option of a firing squad as a means of executing a condemned person. The department is working to establish policy and procedures to govern this method. It is not available at this time.”

That means that while the state has had a full six months to develop its policies, there is still no timeline on when they will actually be complete.

Our investigative reporter Chiara Eisner has spent months working on stories about executions in the state, talking to the men who have had to help execute people for the state about the toll the work took on them.

But as a new method is being planned details are scant.

The department has already spent more than $53,000 to implement the firing squad, but will not disclose complete details about how the money was spent.

The Department of Corrections did release some additional information about money already spent, but portions were redacted making it impossible to know what types of weapons or ammunition were purchased and what companies the state is working with in the process.

Department Director Bryan Stirling said South Carolina is looking at how other states, specifically Utah, conduct executions by firing squad.

“We’ve been in contact with Utah about getting advice from them,” he said.

Once the South Carolina firing squad procedures are established, they will likely remain largely unknown to the public.

Inmates and their attorneys may be made aware, but Stirling said a 2015 State Attorney General’s opinion found that most details should be kept under wraps.

The opinion was not related to the firing squad or electric chair method of execution, however, only to lethal injection. Lethal injection cannot currently be used in South Carolina since the state has failed to obtain the necessary drugs to execute people in that manner. And though the legislature has repeatedly tried to pass a law that would allow the state to conceal the names of companies that could sell those drugs to the state, no such law has been passed.

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said the public has a right to know how its money is spent.

“It is not legitimate to conceal from the public the companies with whom the government is doing business,” he said.

When our team was met with resistance, it turned to the Freedom of Information Act, designed to ensure accountability and transparency. The law allows, with some exceptions, anyone to request and review public documents.

Our attempts included learning what protocols were in place in June when the state was scheduled to kill 2 people in the electric chair. Again, the state refused to make them public, citing a number of reasons including a right to privacy. Only the inmates and their attorneys were given this information. Those executions were ultimately delayed because the state had not yet prepared the firing squad, and people on death row have a right to choose from more than one way to die. At the time, the only option available to them was the electric chair.

Other states, like Arizona, make such protocols readily available online.

“Whose privacy is the Department of Corrections concerned with here,” said attorney Jay Bender, who represents the S.C. Press Association.

The department even has officers sign non-disclosure agreements about what happens on death row.

Former agency staff say it wasn’t always so secretive.

South Carolina has not carried out an execution since 2011, but the department’s website is open about such details as the number killed since 1912 – 284 people – and the racial disparity – 75 white people executed compared to 209 Black people.

Now, it is incumbent upon Gov. Henry McMaster’s administration to be upfront and honest about their protocols and their spending in our name.

They work for you – the people of South Carolina – and they owe you a full accounting of where and how your money is spent, particularly when we are literally dealing with matters of life and death.

When a jury convicted Timothy R Jones. Jr. for murdering his five children and recommended that he be sentenced to death, the judge noted, ““The defendant Timothy R. Jones shall suffer death by electrocution or by lethal injection in a manner consistent and as provided for by the law of South Carolina.”

Jones is now appealing his sentence, but should that day come, we must know that our state upheld its end of the bargain.

(source: Editorial Board, The State)

FLORIDA:

Parkland shooter’s lawyers declare death penalty unconstitutional, judge denies motion—-As case nears start of penalty phase, defense team asks for certain evidence to be excluded

The judge in the Parkland shooting case denied several defense arguments where attorneys ask to declare the death penalty unconstitutional. Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer agreed with a state argument that the court did not have authority to overrule the Supreme Court on the issue.

On Feb. 14, 2018, Cruz opened fire on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In October, Cruz pled guilty to killing 17 people in the shooting. By having Cruz plead guilty, the gunman’s defense team is hoping he may avoid the death penalty and instead be sentenced to 17 life sentences in prison.

Also, as the case nears the start of the penalty phase, Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s defense team asked the judge to exclude evidence related to two search warrants; one related to a Pompano Beach home he once resided in and another to the cell phone used on the day of the shooting.

“Mr. Cruz told us the phone was used to get the Uber that brought him to the school,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office detective John Curcio.

On the issue of Cruz’s cell phone, the defense argued that Cruz has a reasonable expectation of privacy in his telephone records. They also argue that the affidavit underpinning the warrant “does not indicate that the cellphone was used in any criminal activity.” They say there is no indication that a witness saw Cruz using a cell phone during or after the incident nor if Cruz made any calls or sent any messages using the cellphone during or after the incident.

They argue the cell phone warrant is “unconstitutionally overbroad” and “fails to establish any nexus” between “the criminal conduct investigated and the records to be searched.”

2 Broward Sheriff’s Offices detectives served as witnesses in the evidentiary hearing as the state worked to counter defense arguments. Namely that the affidavit in support of the warrant contained false statements.

The state, in its filed response, argued that the affidavit does contain “sufficient probable cause to support the execution of a warrant,” saying that “the phone was an instrumentality of” his felony offenses of murder.

The defense team reiterated in court Monday that it may be calling upwards of eight mental health witnesses. The state has previously told the judge that the defense has said these experts have not yet made a formal diagnosis and that they would like the defense to detail for the prosecution, which mitigating factors they will argue during the penalty phase.

The next hearing is scheduled in early December.

A 12-person jury will be selected starting at the beginning of January and Cruz will ultimately be sentenced either to life in prison or death.

(source: WPLG news)

ALABAMA:

Judge orders Alabama inmate Heath Lavon McCray taken off death row amid deal

An Alabama judge ordered a Dothan murderer to be taken off death row under a deal reached between Heath Lavon McCray and prosecutors after McCray argued that the state killing him would be unconstitutional.

McCray, who was sentenced to death after being convicted in 2006 of capital murder for stabbing and strangling his girlfriend, 27-year-old Brandy Jean Bachelder, inside her Dothan trailer in 2005, argued that he has intellectual disabilities and that killing him would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

While McCray did not make the intellectual disability claim during his pre-sentencing hearing or in his appeal of his death sentence, he filed a petition in January 2013 challenging his sentence on various grounds.

As McCray and prosecutors disputed the inmate’s claim, the state said it would ask for the killer to be resentenced in exchange for him dropping challenges to his conviction and sentence.

McCray agreed to the deal Aug. 25, according to prosecutors’ proposed motion Tuesday to Houston County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Moulton asking for the death row inmate to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

(source: al.com)

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Alabama judge opposed to death penalty set for ethics trial

An Alabama judge accused of violating judicial rules with her comments and actions in death penalty cases — including a 2016 scathing order that listed concerns with how capital punishment is decided— went before a disciplinary court Monday on ethics charges.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd, who ruled the state’s capital punishment law unconstitutional 5 years ago, is accused of abandoning the “detachment and neutrality” required of a judge. She is also accused of being improperly embroiled in the issue of the death penalty and of flouting state appellate court precedent and directives.

Todd has been was suspended with pay and could be removed from office if convicted.

The state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission, which investigates complaints against judges, accused her of wrongdoing in April. The nine-member Court of the Judiciary is hearing the case in a trial-like proceeding and will decide if she should remain on the bench or be removed.

In opening arguments Monday, Todd’s lawyer said her actions in death penalty cases were based on her understanding of a then-recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. A commission attorney, though, argued Todd demonstrated a pattern of behavior that showed she was not acting with the neutrality required of a judge.

“Judge Todd abandoned her judicial role to become an advocate,” commission attorney Elizabeth Bern told the nine-judge panel in opening statements.

Todd’s attorney, Emory Anthony, said the judge followed her understanding of the law in ruling the state’s old death penalty sentencing scheme unconstitutional. He disputed that Todd was a death penalty opponent, noting that she had handed down a death sentence previously.

“The only thing she attempted to do was her job,” Anthony told the court. He suggested the case was fueled by dislike of Todd in the district attorney’s office.

Todd handles cases in Alabama’s most populous county around Birmingham. She made national news in 2016 when she ruled the state’s death penalty sentencing procedure was unconstitutional and barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against four men charged in three killings. Her ruling was later overturned.

Much of the early testimony centered on Todd’s decision that year and the aftermath.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of Florida’s capital punishment sentence because it gave jurors an insufficient role in deciding whether defendants should be put to death, Todd held a hearing on defense lawyer motions arguing Alabama’s system was similarly unconstitutional.

A deputy district attorney testified that immediately at the conclusion of the hearing, Todd began reading her 28-page ruling which indicated she had already decided the matter before calling the hearing.

However, Todd’s attorney noted in cross-examination that the two sides had made court filings on the issue before the hearing, which gave her time and material to draw conclusions.

In her ruling, Todd said Alabama’ sentencing system was unconstitutional and said the death penalty system had been tainted by politics that encouraged judges to impose death sentences over a jury’s recommendation. Alabama was one of the last states to allow judicial override. The law has since been changed to require judges to follow a jurors’ sentence recommendation.

“It is clear, from here on the front line, that Alabama’s judiciary has unequivocally been hijacked by partisan interests and unlawful legislative neglect,” Todd wrote in 2016.

An attorney for the commission noted that her ruling contained multiple criticisms of the state’s death penalty law that were outside the scope of the issue at hand and referenced material and media articles not introduced at the hearing. She then gave media interviews afterward.

The commission also accused Todd of failing to respect and follow clear directives and rulings of the appellate courts. In one instance she acted in a case by scheduling a conference even after she was directed to recuse by the appellate court.

In 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals urged that Todd be investigated for “her seemingly cavalier disregard for the orders of this court and the Alabama Supreme Court.”

Todd is a Democrat who first took office in 2013. The complaint that resulted in judicial ethics charges was filed by a former Republican district attorney, court documents showed.

The trial is expected to take several days.

(source: Washington Post)

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Alabama judge opposed to death penalty set for ethics trial

An Alabama judge accused of violating judicial rules with her opposition to the death penalty went on trial Monday on ethics charges that could result in her removal from office. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd, who was suspended with pay after investigators accused her of wrongdoing in April, became embroiled in the debate over capital punishment and issued erroneous decisions that violated orders by higher courts, according to charges filed with the Court of the Judiciary, which hears complaints against state judges.

Todd, who ruled the state’s capital punishment law unconstitutional five years ago, made public comments and took actions that showed she was improperly embroiled in the issue and lacked the “detachment and neutrality” required of a judge, alleged the Judicial Inquiry Commission, which investigates complaints and files charges.

“Judge Todd abandoned her judicial role to become an advocate,” commission attorney Elizabeth Bern told the 9-judge panel in opening arguments.

Todd also was charged with improperly barring a prosecutor from handling cases in her court, questioning a defense lawyer about political contributions and conducting her own investigations.

Todd’s attorney, Emory Anthony, said the judge followed her understanding of the law in ruling the state’s old death penalty sentencing scheme unconstitutional. He suggested the case was fueled by dislike of Todd in the district attorney’s office.

“The only thing she attempted to do was her job,” Anthony told the court.

The charges date back years and involve matters that should have been considered by appeals courts, not judicial investigations, Todd’s defense claimed in court documents. The allegations amount to a violation of Todd’s First Amendment rights, the defense argued.

“Punishment for legal rulings or as a prescription on freedom of speech are not the intended uses of judicial disciplinary powers,” the defense said in written arguments.

Judicial investigators said the state’s right to file appeals didn’t mean additional actions weren’t required against Todd. They referred to her in a nearly 100-page complaint as “a judge who continued to fail to respect and follow clear directives and rulings of the appellate courts — even after the law was set forth in pleadings submitted to her.”

Todd is a Democrat who first took office in 2013. The complaint that resulted in judicial ethics charges was filed by a former Republican district attorney, court documents showed.

Todd, who handles cases in Alabama’s most populous county around Birmingham, made national news in 2016 when she barred prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against 4 men charged in 3 killings. She questioned a state law in place at the time that allowed judges to override jury’s recommendations of life without parole and sentence people to death. Since then, the law was changed and judges must follow the jurors’ suggestion.

In her 28-page ruling, Todd called the previous practice a “life-to-death override epidemic” and questioned Alabama’s judicial elections, which are held along partisan lines.

“There is a time and place for diplomacy and subtlety,” Todd said. “That time and place has been expunged by the dire state of the justice system in Alabama. It is clear, from here on the front line, that Alabama’s judiciary has unequivocally been hijacked by partisan interests and unlawful legislative neglect.”

The complaint against Todd said she went too far.

“Despite her arguable intent to accomplish what she perceived as noble purposes, (for example) elimination of the death penalty (at least in its current form), of selective prosecution, of racial discrimination in imprisonment, etc., her intent to achieve a noble purpose does not excuse apparent disregard of the law or her failure to maintain competence in the law,” judicial prosecutors charged.

(source: Associated Press)

MISSISSIPPI—-impending execution

Death penalty to resume in Mississippi this week

Death penalty opponents will address the planned resumption of executions in Mississippi this week.

A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow on the south steps of the Mississippi capitol.

A prayerful protest vigil will be tomorrow evening at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

David Cox, who is in prison for murdering his wife, is scheduled to be executed at Parchman Farm this Wednesday.

This will be the 1st execution in the state since 2012.

(source: WXXV news)

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What methods of execution are still in practiced in Mississippi? The US?

As the execution date for a Mississippi death row inmate draws near, it’s raised questions about which states still have the death penalty and what execution methods are still in use in the United States.

David Neal Cox Sr. is scheduled to be executed Wednesday at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman — the state’s 1st execution since 2012.

Cox pleaded guilty in 2012 to killing his wife, 40-year-old Kim Kirk Cox, in May 2010 in the northern Mississippi town of Sherman.

While lethal injection remains the primary method of execution for the federal government and the states where the death penalty remains active, there are alternate methods that have been used within the last decade or so.

Here are some facts about what methods each state allows.

What are the execution methods by state?

27 states, as well as the federal government and U.S. military, currently have death penalty measures on the books, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, an organization representing the legislatures in the states, territories and commonwealths of the United States.

Of the 27 states, three currently have gubernatorial moratoriums including California, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

Lethal injection is the primary means of execution in states where it’s legal. They are:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

The electric chair is an alternative method of execution in seven states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

The gas chamber is an alternative method of execution in 7 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

The firing squad is an alternative method of execution in 3 states: Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah.

South Carolina is the only state in which electrocution is the primary method of execution after departing from lethal injection as the primary method in 2021, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

When was the electric chair last used in an execution?

Stephen Michael West was the last death row inmate to be executed by electric chair in Tennessee on Aug. 15, 2019. He was the third death row inmate to be executed by electric chair in less than a year.

West was sentenced for the 1986 stabbing deaths of Wanda Romines, 51, and her 15-year-old daughter, Sheila Romines, in their East Tennessee home. He was also convicted for raping Sheila.

Before that, Virginia death row inmate, Robert C. Gleason Jr., chose the electric chair over lethal injection and was put to death on Jan. 16, 2013.

Gleason was sentenced to death for two separate murders of two of his cellmates while he was serving a life sentence for another murder conviction.

Local media reports stated Gleason died “with fists partially clenched and smoke rising from his body.”

When was a firing squad last used in an execution?

Ronnie Lee Gardner, a Utah inmate convicted in a 1985 murder, was executed by firing squad on June 18, 2010.

At the time, he was the 1st man to die by firing squad in Utah in 14 years, reported ABC News. He chose the method over lethal injection.

When was the gas chamber last used in an execution?

Walter LaGrand was the last death row inmate executed by lethal gas, in Arizona on March 3, 1999, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

LaGrand chose the gas chamber as his method of execution following his conviction in the 1984 stabbing death of a bank manager.

In Mississippi, Leo Edwards was the last death row inmate to be executed by lethal gas on June 21, 1989, according to Mississippi Department of Corrections records.

When was hanging last used in an execution?

The last state-sanctioned execution by hanging was carried out on Jan. 25, 1996, in Delaware.

Inmate Billy Bailey refused lethal injection as a form of execution and chose to go with his original sentence of death by hanging for the 1979 murders of Gilbert and Clara Lambertson.

Bailey’s execution was only the third by hanging in the United States since 1965, reported the Washington Post.

Which states don’t have the death penalty?

23 states and the District of Columbia currently do not have the death penalty.

1.Alaska

2.Colorado

3.Connecticut

4.Delaware

5.Hawaii

6.Illinois

7.Iowa

8.Maine

9.Maryland

10.Massachusetts

11.Michigan

12.Minnesota

13.New Hampshire

14.New Jersey

15.New Mexico

16.New York

17.North Dakota

18.Rhode Island

19.Vermont

20.Virginia

21.Washington

22.West Virginia

23.Wisconsin

24.District of Columbia

[source: NCSL, National Conference of State]

(source: Mississippi Clarion Ledger)

OKLAHOMA:

Julius Jones family hand-delivers letter to Oklahoma governor’s office days ahead of scheduled execution

The family of high-profile death row inmate Julius Jones is regrouping after being denied an opportunity to meet with the governor Monday afternoon.

Jones’ family, including his mother Madeline Davis-Jones, hand-delivered a letter to the governor’s office Monday.

They stayed outside the office, hoping to meet with the governor and make their case for why they believe Jones should be released. They went inside the office and made a formal request twice.

Just before 5 p.m., a spokesperson came out and told the family they would not be meeting with them.

“Governor’s gonna take [the letter] into consideration,” he said. “We got a process, not gonna be meeting.”

A person with the Jones family then asked, “Are you saying that he’s refusing to meet?”

The spokesperson then left and closed the door.

Jones family friend, Jimmy Lawson says although they’re disappointed they didn’t get their opportunity to meet with the governor, their message remains the same.

“I think Mama Jones wanted an opportunity to let the governor know that her son is innocent and provide some details that he had never heard before,” he said. “We’ll take it his opportunity to reconvene with our team and then we’ll come up with our plan B.”

Jones’ mother says it’s now in God’s hands.

“We take it one step at a time give an honor to God, to Oklahoma,” she said. “I just thank god with the opportunity.”

The governor has met with attorney and Julius Jones advocate Kelli Masters and the Howell family, both saying they believed he heard their concerns. the Howell family maintains that Jones is the man responsible.

We feel confident Governor Stitt sees past Jones propaganda and sees who Julius Jones really is,” said Paul Howell’s brother Brian after Jones’ clemency hearing. “The facts are and always overwhelming pointed toward his guilt.”

Jones’ execution is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 18th.

(source: KFOR news)

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Julius Jones: Family wait outside Oklahoma governor’s office in vain ahead of execution—-Julius Jones is set for execution Thursday after more than 20 years of insisting he’s not guilty of 1999 murder

The family of death row inmate Julius Jones waited in vain for hours on Monday outside the Oklahoma governor’s office in an attempt to make 1 final desperate plea ahead of the 41-year-old’s scheduled 18 November execution.

Jones, who has spent more than half of his life in prison, was convicted of the 1999 murder of Oklahoma City businessman Paul Howell, who was shot in front of his two young daughters. He was sentenced to death during the height of the “Tough on Crime” era. He has maintained his innocence since his arrest, when he was a 19-year-old University of Oklahoma student, insisting he was framed by a prosecution witness.

An Oklahoma parole board recommended that Jones’ sentence be commuted in disagreement with the Howell family and Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office. Jones’ execution is scheduled for lethal injection Thursday.

Local reporter Thomas Fleming on Monday tweeted a photo of Jones’ friends and family, most of them masked, gathered outside the office of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, who has the power to stop the execution.

Family Friend Jimmy Lawson told Mr Fleming, of KFOR, that they would wait “as long as it takes”.

After 2 1/2 hours, however, a spokesman emerged only to tell them the governor would consider their letter but there was “a process” and there was not going to be a meeting, the KFOR reporter tweeted. When the family asked whether that meant Gov Stitt denied meeting with them, the spokesman just shut the door, the tweets continued.

“When asked if the Jones family plans to come back and request a meeting w/ the governor again, family friend Jimmy Lawson said “We’ll take this opportunity to reconvene with our team and then we’ll come up with our plan B,” Mr Fleming tweeted.

A day earlier, Jones’ mother also pleaded for Governor Stitt to intervene.

Madeline Davis-Jones released a video Sunday on the Justice for Julius social media account begging for him to call off her son’s execution.

“Governor Stitt, please send my baby boy home,” she said.

“He is innocent and please send him home in Jesus’ name. I ask you. Thank you.”

Jones’ case has galvanized a diverse group of supporters, from Kim Kardashian West to Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma.

His death date had previously been scheduled before a series of botched executions in Oklahoma inspired a temporary moratorium on the practice in 2015.

It resumed on 28 October to continued controversy when Oklahoma put to death John Marion Grant, who convulsed about two dozen times and vomited in what critics described as a “botched” execution.

The state insists the execution was carried out correctly.

(source: independent.co.uk)

UTAH:

Even in Utah, murder cases sometimes convict the innocent—-The Beehive State cannot continue to risk executing the innocent by retaining the death penalty

The Rocky Mountain Innocence Center works to correct wrongful convictions in Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming. The center also advocates for reforms that address the systemic causes of wrongful convictions — mistaken eyewitness identification, false confessions, unreliable forensic science, official misconduct and poor lawyering.

Our policy agenda includes win-win reforms that protect the innocent and help identify the guilty. It is the dual nature of our work — both the efforts to exonerate the innocent and the constructive efforts to strengthen the criminal justice system — that informs our position that the death penalty in Utah should be repealed.

To date, 2,872 imprisoned men and women have been proven innocent nationwide. 186 of the people exonerated had been sentenced to death. These post-conviction cases demonstrate that the risk of convicting an innocent is much greater than even the most cynical expected, and it naturally follows that the risk of executing an innocent person is greater than previously believed.

Unfortunately, DNA does not solve this problem. In the most serious crimes, criminalists estimate DNA testable evidence exists in less than 10% of cases. Most homicide cases turn on eyewitness testimony, confessions, the credibility of witnesses or circumstantial evidence — not DNA evidence.

As such, DNA testing is not a panacea that can prevent wrongful executions. Although DNA has helped us to shed light on the existence of wrongful convictions across the nation, it simply does not have the capacity to ensure either a fair or accurate application of the irreversible sentence of death.

Eighteen individuals have been exonerated after Utah’s criminal justice system failed them. Among the 18 is Debra Brown, who was charged with capital murder in 1993. She spent over 18 years in prison before the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center and pro bono attorneys, Alan Sullivan and Chris Martinez, were able to bring her home to her family.

Although no one has yet been exonerated from Utah’s death row, the center filed a DNA testing petition for one of the individuals currently on Utah’s death row, only to learn that the DNA testable evidence had been lost or destroyed. This man, who has always maintained his innocence, claims to have falsely confessed under intensive police pressure.

Further, paid informants testified about his involvement in the crime but lied about the benefit they received for their testimony. Utah is not immune to flaws in the criminal justice system that are often highlighted in post-conviction innocence claims.

Perhaps the most significant lesson to be learned in matters of crime, punishment and the pursuit of justice, is humility. Errors of commission, omission and bias occur in our legal system every day. Perfection is unattainable, but we must be diligent in the pursuit of justice.

Since its inception, the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center has reviewed thousands of cases. In some, after having pored over reams of court transcripts, scrutinized piles of police reports, dissected crime lab analyses, sifted through evidence and property logs and studied scores of witness statements, we have strongly suspected guilt, only later to discover we were wrong. No less often, someone we strongly suspect is innocent turns out to be guilty.

Every one of us is human. If just 1 person makes an error from investigation to trial, jumps to a conclusion or acts on a false assumption, an innocent person can be condemned to a guilty person’s fate. The finality of the death penalty circumvents the discovery of truth and potentially robs innocent people of their lives. Utah cannot continue to risk executing the innocent by retaining the death penalty.

(source: Opinion; Jensie Anderson is a clinical professor of law and the director of the Innocence Clinic at S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. She has also been on the board of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center since 1999—-Deseret News)

CALIFORNIA:

Resentenced to Death – The Convicted Murderer who Killed Police Detective Doug Jacobs

When the murderer of a Riverside Police Detective was sentenced to death in 2003 for the slaying, the California Supreme Court reversed the death verdict in 2018 while upholding the guilty verdict. As a matter of course, the penalty portion of the trial had to be conducted 1 more time.

That extensive legal process took place in 2021, and on 10/12/2021, a new jury once again found that Steve Woodruff (58) should receive the penalty of death. Riverside County Judge Charles Koosed affirmed the jury’s decision.

Riverside County District Attorney’s Office and Riverside Police Department declared that Woodruff was officially sentenced to death on 11/05/2021 by Judge Koosed for the 2001 murder.

(source: crimevoice.com)

PHILIPPINES:

‘Wonderful!’ Leila welcomes Ping’s withdrawal of death penalty bill

Senator Leila de Lima on Monday urged her Senate colleagues, who gave their support for the reimposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes, to reconsider their stand and adopt a mindset of restorative justice instead.

The detained senator reiterated her stand against restoration of capital punishment as she welcomed Sen. Ping Lacson’s withdrawal of his authorship of a measure seeking to reinstate death penalty in the country.

“Wonderful that Sen. Ping has changed his position on death penalty. Indeed, it’s far worse to execute, and even just jail, an innocent human being,” she said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“I humbly ask the rest of my colleagues to reconsider their support for this unchristian and anti-poor measure and adopt a mindset of restorative justice,” De Liman added in a separate statement.

“Let us all say no to death penalty which gives a mass murderer more license to kill, kill, kill!” she said.

In his letter dated November 8 to Senate Secretary Myra Villarica, Lacson reportedly requested that Senate Bill 27, or “An Act Reinstituting the Death Penalty in the Philippines,” no longer be considered for deliberation.

Lacson, along with his running mate in next year’s elections, Senate President Tito Sotto, recently said they no longer support capital punishment, but prefer lifetime imprisonment instead.

The 2 were both known to be staunch advocates of the death penalty.

(source: politics.com.ph)

SINGAPORE:

Malaysian man, 39, sentenced to death for drug trafficking after 57.54g of heroin found in motorcycle

A 39-year-old Malaysian cleaning supervisor who was caught with a bag of drugs in his motorcycle parked along Harbourfront Avenue has been sentenced to death for trafficking.

Munusamy Ramarmurth was convicted by the High Court last Wednesday (Nov 10) of being in possession of 6.3kg of a granular substance, which was found to contain 57.54g of heroin after analysis. The law provides for the death penalty if the amount of heroin trafficked is more than 15g.

In written grounds issued on Monday (Nov 15) to explain her decision to convict Munusamy, Justice Audrey Lim said she disbelieved his contention that he thought the bag contained stolen mobile phones.

The judge also rejected his claim that he had allowed a compatriot to store the bag temporarily in the rear box of his motorcycle so that another man could collect it later.

In her 42-page grounds, Justice Lim also rapped investigating officer (IO) Derek Wong for prompting a witness on the stand during the trial – conduct that the judge said was “inappropriate and unacceptable”.

“Attempting to prompt a witness who is testifying, even on a point which may turn out to be immaterial or inconsequential, is improper and unbefitting of an enforcement officer,” she said.

The IO had signalled to Sergeant Mohammad Nasrulhaq on 2 occasions.

He picked up a field diary and showed it to Sgt Nasrulhaq when the latter was being asked about whether the handover of a duffel bag was recorded.

He also mouthed the word “diamorphine” when Sgt Nasrulhaq was asked by the court what the term “heroin” refers to.

The judge said that while the IO’s conduct did not prejudice Munusamy’s case, the same might not be said in other instances.

Justice Lim said she had directed the Public Prosecutor to raise the matter to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) to take appropriate measures, and to ensure that officers who are involved in investigations are properly briefed and made aware of the boundaries of their conduct in relation to cases pending in court.

Munusamy, who has worked in Singapore for 14 years, was arrested on the afternoon of Jan 26, 2018, in the cleaners’ room at Harbourfront Centre Tower 2.

He was then escorted to his motorcycle parked at the open-air carpark at Keppel Bay Tower. A red plastic bag, containing bundles of drugs, was found in the rear box of his bike.

During his trial, Munusamy said he had allowed a Malaysian named Saravanan to store the bag temporarily in the box. He said Saravanan told him someone known as “Boy” would collect it.

Munusamy claimed that he thought the bag contained stolen mobile phones because in July 2017, Saravanan and Boy had asked him to help store some stolen phones in the box.

He said Saravanan told him the items in the bag were “panas”.

Munusamy said the term meant “stolen item” although his lawyer, Mr Mahadevan Lukshumayeh, did not dispute that it could also refer to illegal drugs.

Justice Lim concluded that Munusamy’s story was made up.

“I found his claim that he thought the red bag contained handphones or stolen handphones was an afterthought which emerged only at the trial,” said the judge.

She noted that in his statements to CNB, Munusamy made no mention of the alleged July 2017 incident or that the bag would be collected by someone later.

On the contrary, the judge found, Munusamy knew what was in the bag.

She noted that he knew Saravanan was involved in drug activities, yet he did not check the contents of the bag.

Under the law, the court has the discretion not to impose the death penalty if the prosecution certifies that a drug courier had substantively assisted CNB in disrupting drug activities.

“As the prosecution did not issue him with a certificate of substantive assistance… I passed the mandatory death sentence on him,” said Justice Lim.

(source: asiaone.com)

INDIA:

Plea for capital punishment to rape convicts

A young Indian is on a Karnataka tour to create awareness among people on the increasing number of crimes against women and girls and is demanding capital punishment to rape convicts.

Kiran V from Bengaluru is raising awareness by a cycle jatha (cycle rally) that a rapist must be sentenced to death.

Speaking to reporters here on Monday (November 15), Kiran said, “I will been travelling to all the 31 districts in Karnataka and through a petition submitted to the deputy commissioners, I have appealed to the government to award death sentence to every rape convict. Crime against women and minors is on the rise across the state and country. I sincerely seek capital punishment for the rapists.”

He started his journey on October 22 from Bengaluru and is expected to travel over 3500 km in 86 days. He reached Mysuru on Monday after visiting 25 other districts. After meeting the Mysuru Deputy Commissioner, he proceeded to Chamarajanagar.

(source: citytoday.news)

JAPAN:

Death-Row Prisoners in Japan Sue Over Same-Day Notice of Executions

2 Japanese death-row prisoners have filed a lawsuit alleging that the country’s long-criticized practice of notifying prisoners of their execution the same day they are to be put to death is “inhumane” and violates the nation’s constitution.

The suit, filed in Osaka District Court November 4, 2021, alleges that the day-of-execution notice, given just hours before the death-row prisoner is hanged, provides no time to contact their lawyers to file legal challenges to the execution and is psychologically torturous. The prisoners, whose names were not disclosed, seek to end same-day execution notification and demand compensatory damages for emotional distress in the amount of 22 million yen, roughly equivalent to $194,000.

“Death row prisoners live in fear every morning that that day will be their last. It’s extremely inhumane,” the prisoners’ lawyer, Yutaka Ueda, said. “Overseas, prisoners are given time to contemplate the end of their lives and mentally prepare. It’s as if Japan is trying as hard as possible not to let anybody know.”

The Japanese Justice Ministry had no comment about the merits of the suit, saying only that it would respond in court.

Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned Japan’s execution procedures as being “shrouded in secrecy.” In a 2009 report, the human rights group said the practice constituted “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment that caused prisoners to develop “significant mental illness.”

Japanese death row prisoners know that, at any time, the arrival of a prison officer at their cell could signal that they are the subject of a death warrant authorizing their execution within hours, the report said. “Some live like this year after year, sometimes for decades.”

“Japan’s death row system is driving prisoners into the depths of mental illness but they are still being taken and hanged at only hours’ notice in an utterly cruel fashion,” Kate Allen, then the director of Amnesty International UK, told The Guardian.

Japan’s secrecy practices have drawn fire in recent U.N. human rights resolutions. In December 2016, the U.N. General Assembly added an anti-secrecy provision to its regular resolution calling for a moratorium on executions, saying that transparency was essential to assess whether countries were administering their death penalty laws in compliance with international human rights standards.

On October 5, 2021, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that “[c]alls upon States that have not yet abolished the death penalty and that carry out executions either in secret or with little or no prior warning to end these practices, which impair the ability of the convicted individual and family members to prepare for death and can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Japan and the United States are the only industrialized country in the world to permit the death penalty. During its July 2020 to January 2021 spree in which 13 prisoners were put to death, the U.S. federal government conducted 4 post-midnight executions after their execution dates had passed, pursuant to hastily issued same-day execution notices of questionable legal and constitutional validity.

Japan’s Justice Ministry reported that there were 112 prisoners on the nation’s death row as of November 5, 2021. The country last conducted an execution in 2019.

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:

Tough penalties for assaulting narcotics officers in the UAE—-Assault could even be punishable by death penalty if it results in death of the officer

Assaulting a narcotics officer in the UAE is a serious crime, and could be punishable by death if the assault results in death of the officer, the UAE Public Prosecution has warned.

The UAE takes a tough stance on substance abuse and associated misdemeanours. The authorities also impose harsh penalties on anyone found assaulting dedicated narcotics officers in charge of carrying out drug busts, and preventing the sale and widespread abuse of drugs and psychotropic substances in the country.

Jail terms and fines

In a social media alert, the Public Prosecution has enumerated the various penalties applicable for assaulting narcotics officers, which include jail terms, fines and even the death penalty for serious offences:

– A 3- to 5-year jail term, as well as a fine ranging between Dh20,000 and Dh100,000, for assaulting an employee in charge of enforcing the Federal Law on Combatting Narcotics and Psychotropics

– A 5- to 10-year jail term, as well as a fine ranging between Dh20,000 and Dh100,000,. for assaulting – by beating and injuring – an employee in charge of enforcing the Federal Law on Combatting Narcotics and Psychotropics

– Life imprisonment, or a jail term of at least 10 years, along with a fine ranging between Dh20,000 and Dh100,000 if the assault on the employee in charge of enforcing the Federal Law on Combatting Narcotics and Psychotropics results in a permanent disability, or if the offender was carrying a weapon at the time of the assault, or if the offender is responsible for maintaining security

– Death penalty for an offender whose beating or injuring of an employee in charge of enforcing the Federal Law on Combating Narcotics and Psychotropics results in the employee’s death

These penalties are detailed in Article 52 of the Federal Law on Combatting Narcotics and Psychotropics.

Driving under influence

Earlier, the Public Prosecution had also detailed the hefty penalties for driving under the influence, another crime that can occur due to substance use.

“According to Article 49, Item 6 of the Federal Law No 21 of 1995 Concerning Traffic, and the amendments thereof, whoever drives a vehicle, or attempts to drive a vehicle, on the road while being under the influence of alcoholic drinks, narcotics or the like, shall be sentenced to imprisonment, and/or fined a monetary penalty of not less than Dh20,000,” it had said.

(source: Gulf News)

IRAN:

Tribunals against Criminals in Iran

“What goes around, comes around” is the best expression to describe what happens regarding the authoritarian regime in Iran today. In the past 42 years, the ayatollahs have done “whatever it takes” to hold onto power.

Since 1979, they mercilessly suppressed freedom-loving individuals and entities, human rights defenders, ethnic and religious minorities, and even peaceful protesters on the tarmac. During the 1980s, they committed enormous crimes against dissidents, including the extrajudicial executions of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988.

The mass killing of dissidents, which is known as the 1988 massacre, is one of the most prominent crimes in Iran’s history. Numerous prominent rights defenders and international law experts believe that the perpetrators of the crime should be held accountable for crimes against humanity.

“The execution of imprisoned opponents, including those who had already been tried and were serving their prison terms, was the biggest massacre of political prisoners since World War II,” Baroness Boothroyd, the former Speaker of the House of Commons pointed out at the call for justice summit on July 19.

Swedish Judges Decide to Transfer Hamid Noury’s Trial to Albania

These days, one of the massacre executioners Hamid Noury is being brought to justice by Swedish authorities in Stockholm. He was detained in November 2019 due to his role in the 1988 crime. At the time, he was an interrogator in the notorious prison of Gohardasht, in the northwest of the capital Tehran.

In July 1988, Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, ordering judicial authorities to immediately purge prisons from political prisoners, particularly those who insisted on supporting the main opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

“It is decreed that those who are in prison throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the [MEK] are waging war on God and are condemned to execution,” read Khomeini’s fatwa.

In this context, Swedish judges decided to transfer the court to the coastal city of Durrës in the west of Albania to hear former political prisoners’ testimonies. The judges were convinced that these testimonies would shed light on bleak parts of this case.

During the 35th to 37th sessions of Hamid Noury’s trial in Durrës, MEK members Mohammad Zand, Majid Saheb-Jam, and Asghar Mehdizadeh testified and recounted horrible truth about the 1988 massacre. They mentioned the role of Hamid Noury in the crime, and they shared their experiences about the regime’s atrocities in Gohardasht Prison.

The court is supposed to continue for several other days to hear more testimonies provided by the 1988 massacre survivors affiliated with the MEK.

Aban People’s Tribunal in London

Furthermore, thanks to an initiative by human rights activists and organizations, including The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), Iran Human Rights (IHR NGO), and Justice for Iran, the People’s Tribunal of Aban (November) was held in London.

During the tribunal presided by Judge Zak Yaccob, a prominent anti-apartheid activist from South Africa, hundreds of witnesses and families of victims gave their testimonies. According to dissidents and an exclusive report by Reuters, Iranian authorities murdered at least 1,500 protesters within two days.

Aban Tribunal is a significant point to hold criminal authorities in Iran, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, then-President Hassan Rouhani, then-Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami, and hundreds of other intelligence and security officials to account.

Historic testimonies and details provided by witnesses should be considered as a call on the international community for prosecuting criminal officials in Iran. “People’s tribunal on deadly protest crackdowns must serve as a wake-up call for all UN member states,” said Raha Bahreini, an Amnesty International’s Iran Researcher and a human rights lawyer.

(source: iranfocus.com)

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