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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Family of Pakistani death row prisoner told to “bring a shroud” to his hanging

The relatives of a man set to be wrongfully executed in Pakistan have been given an official notice of his hanging next week – and told to bring a shroud and a gurney to dispose of his body.

Shoaib Sarwar was convicted of murder in Pakistan 17 years ago, following a trial process which saw a number of irregularities. His hanging, scheduled for Tuesday, 3rd February, will mark the first execution in Pakistan of someone who not only was convicted of non-terrorist offences, but was not even convicted in a terrorism court. There are concerns that his hanging could lead to plans to execute more than 8,000 other prisoners convicted of non-terrorist offences on Pakistan’s death row, which is the largest in the world.

Resuming executions in late 2014 after a longstanding moratorium on the death penalty, the Pakistani government announced it would hand death warrants only to those convicted as terrorists under the country’s flawed anti-terror legislation. Mr Sarwar’s situation is unique, however, as the authorities do not consider him to be a terrorist, or his case to be in any way terrorism-related.

A notice of execution issued to the family of Mr Sarwar today told them to come to his prison in Rawalpindi on Monday for a final visit. The document instructed them to bring both a gurney and shroud to take his body away after the hanging.

The decision to execute Mr Sarwar has caused confusion among authorities in Pakistan; a document filed to the court this week by the Superintendent of Rawalpindi Jail, where Mr Sarwar is being held, raised questions about the planned execution in light of the Government's stated policy of executing only 'terrorists'. The court dismissed the filing, however, and ordered the execution to go ahead.

Commenting, Kate Higham, an investigator at legal charity Reprieve said: “The rush to execute Shoaib Sarwar, despite an official policy that would expressly forbid his hanging, is shocking. It flies in the face of the Pakistani Government’s claim that they are only executing ‘terrorists’. The issuing of grisly instructions to Mr Sarwar’s desperate family merely shows the terrible reality of this resumption of the death penalty – and the risk to the 8,000 people on Pakistan’s death row. The international community must tell Pakistan without delay that this opening of the floodgates is unacceptable.”

Source: Reprieve, January 30, 2015

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New Zealand's Antony de Malmanche to face death penalty

Indonesian prosecutors have confirmed they will press charges carrying the death penalty against a New Zealand man caught with crystal meth at Bali's airport.

Antony de Malmanche, 52, says he thought he was going on his 1st overseas trip to meet a woman he met online.

Instead he says he found himself diverted to China at the direction of a man claiming to be the woman's personal assistant.

The man gave him a bag and instructions to fly to Bali, where he would finally meet "Jessie".

Lawyers for de Malmanche say he didn't know there was 1.7kg of the drug known as ice inside the backpack when he was intercepted by customs in Bali.

On Thursday (local time), the invalid pensioner tripped and fell as he was taken to the prosecutor's office and needed medical attention.

Asked what he expected to happen at trial he said: "To be found not guilty."

Prosecutor Siti Sawiyah says she has received the police brief of evidence including a green backpack and 1709 grams of "shabu", or crystal meth.

She confirmed the Kiwi would be charged with offences carrying a maximum penalty of death.

"We will keep the suspect in detention in Kerobokan prison," she told reporters, adding she hoped a trial could begin as soon as possible.

Indonesian lawyer for de Malmanche, Chris Harno, says his client - who spent 3 years in institutional care as a child - is in poor physical and mental health.

"He suffers pain in his spine and the back of his neck ... suffered long ago, but he still feels it now," he told reporters.

"My focus in court will be to try to get him off the death penalty."

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said there will be "no compromise" in executing drug offenders sentenced to death, as part of his determination to stop drug crime.

Barrister Craig Tuck, representing de Malmanche, is set to use a groundbreaking defence at trial.

A specialist team of human rights and legal experts from Indonesia and elsewhere will demonstrate that de Malmanche is a victim of human trafficking.

Source: 3news.co.nz, January 30, 2015

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Indonesia: Police "ready for executions"

Pasir Putih Prison on Nusakambangan Island
Central Java Indonesia
The police are making assurances that the prison island of Nusakambangan in Cilacap, Central Java, is ready for the executions of death row convicts, including the Bali 9 duo.

Cilacap Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ulung Sampurna Jaya said that they were only waiting for the order to commence the executions.

"We are very ready. It's now just a matter of pressing the button," Ulung said as an analogy during an interview with The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

According to him, additional special personnel had been assigned to the areas around the Wijaya Pura Pier, the official entrance gate to the prison island, since all officials and visitors to the prisons land on the island after a 7-minute ride from Cilacap on the mainland on board a ship provided by the Nusakambangan correctional facility office.

Ulung said that he had received messages indicating that the executions of 2 members of the Bali 9 would be conducted in February, but the exact date had yet to be revealed.

"That's why we prepare the squad to remain ready so that any time there is a command there will be no problem," Ulung said.

The Attorney General's Office has revealed a plan to execute another 11 death row convicts, including drug convicts, who are on the prison island.

Attorney General HM Prasetyo said on Thursday that as an isolated island Nusakambangan was considered an ideal place for executions in terms of security. On Jan. 18, the government executed an Indonesian and 5 foreign nationals for their involvement in drug trafficking. Some of the executions took place on Nusakambangan Island. The list of the 11 convicts to be executed include drug convicts Rodrigo Gularte of Brazil, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso of the Philippines, Serge Areski Atlaoui of France, Martin Anderson alias Belo of Ghana, Raheem Agbaje Salami of Spain and Zainal Abidin of Indonesia. 3 Indonesian murder convicts, Syofial, Sargawi and Harun, are also on the list.

2 Australians - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - are also said to be among those to soon be executed. Sukumaran, 33, and Chan, 31, are being detained at Kerobokan Penitentiary. They are 2 of 9 Australians, the so-called Bali 9 group, who were convicted for attempting to smuggle about 8 kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005. Their clemency pleas were officially rejected by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo this month.

Despite the denial of their requests for clemency, lawyers for the 2 Australian drug smugglers are pushing forward with efforts to save their clients from execution.The pair's legal team said they were planning to file for a 2nd case review (PK) with the Denpasar District Court, arguing that the convicts had reformed themselves after serving more than 10 years in prison.

According to an existing regulation issued by the Supreme Court, a convict can request only 1 additional case review in order to establish legal certainty. The team submitted a PK in 2010 that was rejected.

Nusakambangan is home to around 1,500 high-profile inmates and has often been the venue for executions. It is considered secure as it is located about 2 km off the Teluk Penyu beach, Cilacap.

There are 2 execution sites on the island: the Nirbaya and Li- musbuntu shooting fields.

Source: Jakarta Post, January 30, 2015

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Judicial review into Bali Nine pair 'would not stop executions': Attorney-General

A judicial review into the condemned Bali Nine members filed on Friday would not stop executions proceeding, according to a spokesman for Indonesian Attorney-General H.M Prasetyo.

Tony Spontana accused lawyers for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran of trying to delay the executions by filing out an application for a case review, known as a PK.

"Since the norm is that the PK will not stop the execution we hope that the judges in the Denpasar District Court will reject it," he told a press conference.

Mr Spontana said a meeting on January 9 attended by representatives from the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and other agencies had agreed that there could only be one judicial review of a case.

No decision had been made on who would be included in the second round of executions of felons in Indonesia this year.

It had also not been finalised where or when they would be held.

However Mr Spontana said two Australians were among 11 convicts who had lost their clemency pleas and would face the firing squad.

Chan and Sukumaran had their clemency pleas rejected by Indonesian President Joko Widodo earlier this month.

Mr Spontana said the Attorney-General's office was still evaluating the first round of executions, in which six drug felons - five of whom were foreigners - were shot dead on January 18.

He said problems had included delays in the timing of the executions and the convicts changing their last wishes, such as where they wanted to be buried and their religion.

The Melbourne lawyer for chan and Sukumaran, Julian McMahon, said the focus of the judicial review, which had been filed in the courts, was on rehabilitation.

"The matter is now before the courts according to the rule of law which is a very important thing to understand," he said.

"My clients have now been in jail for 10 years and slowly with the help of the Indonesian jail system their lives have been turned around and improved greatly.

"They are a wonderful example of what can happen in the jail system. Obviously there is no advantage to anybody in executing reformed prisoners."

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, January 30, 2015

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Syria 'adultress' survives jihadist stoning: Monitor

A Syrian woman stoned by the jihadist Islamic State group for alledged adultery and left for dead has miraculously walked away from the brutal punishment, a monitor said Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jihadist group sentenced the woman to be "stoned for adultery" in the town of Raqa, the IS stronghold in northern Syria.

Militants carried out the punishment and "stoned her until they thought she had died," said the Britain-based monitor.

But just as they had stopped pelting her with stones, the woman stood up and tried to flee.

"An IS militant was about to open fire at her when an Islamist jurist intervened and stopped him saying it was God's will that she did not die," said the Observatory, without specifying when it happened.

The IS jurist told the woman she can walk free but that she must "repent".

According to the Observatory, at least 15 people, nine of them women, have been executed by jihadists in Syria, including Al-Qaeda-linked militants, since July for alleged adultery and homosexuality.

The IS and the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syria branch, hold large swathes of Syria and have imposed a brutal version of Islamic law in territory under their control.

Source: Agence France-Presse, January 30, 2015

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Indonesia: Execution looming for French national Serge Atlaoui

French national Serge Atlaoui
President Joko Widodo of Indonesia rejected the clemency appeals of several foreigners sentenced to death for drug trafficking, including the appeal of French national Serge Atlaoui, who could be executed soon, the Jakarta Attorney-General's office aid.

The Attorney-General's office has received "official copies of the presidential decree dismissing the clemency appeals from eleven death row inmates," a spokesman for the attorney general said.

Among the eleven men and women in line for execution by firing squad are seven foreigners sentenced to death for drug trafficking, including French citizen Serge Atlaoui, he added.

The other foreigners come from countries including Australia, Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Death penalty for drug traffickers

The Frenchman Atlaoui was arrested in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy close to Jakarta and sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

Spokesman Tony Spontana stressed that the Attorney-General had already established a list of 11 death row inmates to be executed in the weeks to come, but he had not yet decided which prisoners would be put to death in the next round of executions. An announcement is expected shortly, he said.

Dozens of Indonesians and foreigners sentenced to death for drug cases are sitting on Indonesia's death row. Indonesia has some of the strictest anti-drugs laws in the world.

Six prisoners, including five foreigners, were executed by firing squad on January 18, which caused Brazil and the Netherlands to recall their ambassadors.

Source: RTL, January 30, 2015

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Bali Nine: Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran lodge fresh appeal

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran
Lawyers for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Bali Nine members on death row in Kerobokan prison, successfully lodged an application for a second review of their cases on Friday, in a final bid to save the pair from the firing squad.

Members of Chan and Sukumaran’s legal team arrived at the prison shortly before 8.30am, followed by a Denpasar court clerk who came out showing media the signed applications for a judicial review (PK).

Indonesian lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis later said an application for a judicial review of the case had been accepted.

“It has been accepted, it will go to the courts, then it depends on the district court heads,” he told media. “There should not be an execution because the legal process should be respected as well.”

Chan and Sukumaran’s lawyers are at this stage asking for the death sentences to be commuted to life, not an acquittal, Mulya stressed. “Those two men, the petitioners, have changed a great deal. They have become good men.”

The appeal has been complicated by confusion in the Indonesian justice system about whether death row prisoners have the right to more than one PK. It is the last of all possible avenues of appeal, and Indonesia’s supreme and constitutional courts are divided over the issue.

Both men would have had to be present for the PK application, which meant allowing a court clerk to come inside the prison, or arranging for the two men to go outside the prison to court, Guardian Australia was told.

Delays, including refusals by the justice department to allow a court visit because of security concerns, prompted fears an execution date would be set before leave was granted.

Chan and Sukumaran were sentenced to death for their parts in a heroin smuggling attempt in 2005.

Both men were denied clemency by the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, in recent weeks and there have been conflicting statements from Indonesian officials about when the execution order would be given.


Source: The Guardian, January 30, 2015

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Texas executes Robert Ladd

Robert Ladd
HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A Texas man convicted of killing a 38-year-old woman nearly two decades ago while he was on parole for a triple slaying years earlier was executed Thursday evening. He was pronounced dead at 7:02 p.m.

Robert Ladd, 57, received lethal injection after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments he was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty. The court also rejected an appeal in which Ladd’s attorney challenged whether the pentobarbital Texas uses in executions is potent enough to not cause unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Ladd was executed for the 1996 slaying of 38-year-old Vicki Ann Garner, of Tyler, who was strangled and beaten with a hammer. Her arms and legs were bound, bedding was placed between her legs, and she was set on fire in her apartment.

Ladd came within hours of lethal injection in 2003 before a federal court agreed to hear evidence about juvenile records that suggested he was mentally impaired. That appeal was denied and the Supreme Court last year turned down a review of Ladd’s case. His attorneys renewed similar arguments as his new execution date approached.

“Ladd’s deficits are well documented, debilitating and significant,” Brian Stull, a senior staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project, told the high court.

Kelli Weaver, a Texas attorney general, reminded the justices in a filing that “each court that has reviewed Ladd’s claim has determined that Ladd is not intellectually disabled.”

Ladd’s lawyers cited a psychiatrist’s determination in 1970 that Ladd, then a 13-year-old in custody of the Texas Youth Commission, had an IQ of 67. Courts have embraced scientific studies that consider an IQ of 70 a threshold for impairment. The inmate’s attorneys also contended he long has had difficulties with social skills and functioning on his own.

Ladd also was a plaintiff in a lawsuit questioning the “quality and viability” of Texas’ supply of its execution drug, pentobarbital. The Texas Attorney General’s Office called the challenge “nothing more than rank speculation.”

When he was arrested for Garner’s slaying, Ladd had been on parole for about four years after serving about a third of a 40-year prison term for the slayings of a Dallas woman and her two children. He pleaded guilty to those crime.

Source: The Associated Press, January 29, 2015


Texas Uses Of Mice and Men Standards to Execute Mentally Disabled Man

Barring a last-minute intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas will execute a man with an IQ score of 67 tonight.

Robert Ladd is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing a mentally disabled person for murder is unconstitutional. Stranger still, Texas has once again used standards derived from John Steinbeck's classic 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men, to justify executing a man that meets the clinical definition of intellectually disabled.

"Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," Brian Stull, Ladd's attorney, said in a statement. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

And yet.

Texas has been executing people as fast as it can since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. However, the question of whether or not anyone should be executing the intellectually disabled has come up a bit since then. The U.S. Supreme Court made a broad decision on the issue back in 2002 with Atkins v. Virginia. The high court ruled that executing an intellectually disabled person for murder was a violation of the Eighth Amendment which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."

Here's what Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his opinion (and yes, they used the term "retarded" back then):

"Construing and applying the Eighth Amendment in the light of our 'evolving standards of decency,' we therefore conclude that such punishment is excessive and that the Constitution 'places a substantive restriction on the State's power to take the life' of a mentally retarded offender."

However, the Supremes left the actual definition of what constitutes intellectually disabled up to the states. In Texas, after the 2003 state legislature failed to lay out the rules that would clearly prevent the execution of intellectually disabled people convicted of murder, it fell to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to pin down the requirements. Judge Cathy Cochran was the one to write the opinion, and she came up with a doozy.

This is where Steinbeck enters the legal picture. Cochran was born in California and decades ago she and her husband lived in Monterrey near Cannery Row, the area that Steinbeck immortalized. Cochran started reading his books since she was living in the place that inspired so much of his writing. One of the books she picked up was, of course, Of Mice and Men.

For those who dozed off in high school English class, Of Mice and Men is the story of George, a vagabond ranch hand, and his friend Lennie, a mentally disabled giant of a man. George and Lennie travel together working and George struggles throughout the book to keep Lennie, who is fascinated with soft things and doesn't realize the damage he is capable of, from getting in trouble. Eventually this leads to an accidental murder and George finds Lennie hiding from a vigilante group. George knows the men will find his friend and will execute him, so he kills Lennie himself. It's a brutal, tragic and incredibly moving work of fiction, and it turns out that the story stayed with Cochran, though probably not in the way Steinbeck would have intended.

Cochran landed on the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2001. In 2004 she was working out how to apply the Supreme Court's Atkins ruling in Texas and she found herself thinking of Lennie, according to Life of the Law. She even mentions Lennie in the opinion she wrote in Ex Parte Briseno, the 1st Texas case post-Atkins that saw the court working out how to handle convicted murderers who might be intellectually disabled.

And for a second, it reads like she actually got the point of the book, but then she goes on:

"Most Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt from execution. But does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?"

Cochran concluded Texans would not want to exempt every convicted murderer with a low IQ from being executed. John Blume, a law professor at Cornell University who has studied how states have actually applied Atkins, says Cochran basically undid everything Atkins was supposed to do. "If you read the Briseno opinion itself it's clearly an attempt on its own terms to circumvent Atkins. It says we understand that the Supreme Court decided on Atkins but we have some room to operate here and we're going to use it."

So Cochran, in writing the opinion for the Court of Criminal Appeals, essentially took Atkins and worked around it to create new very flexible guidelines for the courts in Texas. She came up with what would come to be known as the Briseno Factors.

There are 7 factors. Translated out of legalese, the Briseno Factors essentially mean a person who has tested as intellectually disabled but is still able to get an idea and follow through on it, or is not clearly being manipulated by others, or can handle a social situation without drooling, or is able to tell a lie and remember the lie long enough to keep telling it is mentally competent enough for execution. The same goes if he or she can talk coherently and was able to, you know, actually plan the crime in question.

Blume says that in practice the Briseno factors can undo almost any legal acknowledgment of intellectual disability, making Atkins just this side of worthless in preventing a mentally disabled person who may not entirely understand what they've done -- hence why the Briseno Factors are also known as the Lennie test -- from being executed.

Using the Lennie test almost anyone can be proved competent enough to be executed. "That's where Texas is really an outlier and where people really seem to lose when it comes to the adaptive functioning," Blume says. "The courts use the Briseno factors despite the fact that they are at odds with the clinical definition of intellectual disability, and when it comes to the Briseno factors it's almost impossible to win."

Translated into practical terms this workaround led to the execution of Marvin Wilson in 2012. Wilson was a man who sucked his thumb and who couldn't make change or use a phone book. He had an IQ of 61, but he had also held a job, married and had a child. Wilson was convicted in 1994 in the shooting death of Jerry Williams, 21, who had identified him to police as a drug dealer, according to the Huffington Post. Despite his low IQ the court system found that he should be executed according to the Lennie test since he was able to hold a job and marry, as Atlantic noted.

That was when Steinbeck's son Thomas Steinbeck found out that his father's work was being used as justification for executing convicted murderers with low IQs. He issued a statement vehemently decrying the entire thing. "To judge anything based on a piece of fiction, I think, is a stretch," he told Studio360 in 2013. "And I think it would've made my father extremely angry."

Thomas Steinbeck pointed out his father was decidedly against the death penalty. He noted that his father once told him that if you have to take another man's blood to make your point, you haven't thought out the question very thoroughly.

Last year, the Supreme Court made a more narrow decision on the issue in Hall v. Florida, ruling that states have to actually stick to the clinical definition of intellectual disability when measuring who can and can't be executed. However, this ruling has had virtually no apparent effect on how judges in Texas handle these cases, Blume says.

And the thing is lawmakers -- perhaps the ones who read Of Mice and Men and get how ridiculous it is that the state currently executing the most people in the country should cite this particular work to justify some of the most morally questionable executions -- have been trying to get the Lennie test replaced with actual state legislation for years.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis has been working on getting a bill passed outlining how to determine whether someone is mentally competent enough to be executed for more than a decade. The bill he filed in the 2013 legislative session never made it out of senate committee. "I've actually had to preside over executions when I was the acting governor in 1999 and 2000, so I know firsthand the importance of getting it absolutely right when it comes to the ultimate punishment," Ellis stated via email. "Texas' current system falls far short of that standard, so I hope that my 16 year quest to pass this bill is finally successful this session."

Ellis has already filed a similar bill for the 84th legislative session. Ellis says his bill is designed to get Texas away from the Lennie list and into line with, well, the law. "To ensure compliance with the Constitution, my bill would put in place a clear standard to determine whether a defendant is eligible for the death penalty." There's no telling if the bill will gain any traction this time around.

Either way time is running out for Ladd. Ladd was acknowledged in court as someone who met the clinical criteria of intellectually disabled, Blume says, but Briseno cancelled that consideration out, something that has often happened when it is applied in Texas.

Ladd, who previously pled guilty and served 14 years for killing his cousin and her two children in Dallas back in 1978, beat Vicki Ann Garner to death in 1996. Garner was also intellectually disabled, according to the Daily Tribune. There's no question of Ladd's guilt, only of whether he ever possessed the mental capacity to understand what he was doing. Ladd's lawyers say he did not. After the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Ladd's death penalty appeal, his lawyers filed with the Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking them to step in.

At this point the entire issue is in the hands of the Supremes. If the Supreme Court doesn't make Texas stop using these standards to work around Atkins, Blume says it looks like Texas will keep using the Lennie test to allow the execution of the intellectually disabled. And so far there have been no signs of any change on the horizon in Texas courts. "They're continuing to apply these factors in state and federal courts in Texas and nobody says no. They've been in effect for a number of years and they've been used by judges in a lot of different courts," Blume says. "I'd like to think the legislature will do something, but that doesn't seem likely, so it will have to fall to the Supreme Court. Until the Supreme Court steps in and says no, you can't do this, they're going to keep doing it."

Source: Houston Press, January 29, 2015

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Texas poised to execute intellectually disabled inmate

Robert Ladd
Robert Ladd's lethal injection to come days after Georgia's execution of another intellectually disabled man; lawyer condemns policy based on fiction

Texas is hours away from executing the second intellectually disabled prisoner in the US this week, in what lawyers say is a clear violation of the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

The convicted murderer Robert Ladd, 57, will be killed with a lethal injection at 6pm Central Time on Thursday barring last-minute action by the US supreme court, where the case now resides. He was first found to have what was then called "mental retardation" when he was 13, and has repeatedly been diagnosed with the condition throughout his life.

In 2002, the supreme court banned executions for mentally impaired prisoners under the 8th amendment of the constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. But Texas says it is not bound by this ruling because it claims Ladd does not conform to the state's unique, and bizarre, method of defining "mental retardation".

Under what are known as "Briseno Factors", the state sets out the profile of an individual whom ordinary Texans would agree was intellectually disabled. It points to Lennie Small, the lumbering and childlike character in John Steinbeck's 1937 novel Of Mice and Men, identifying him as the legal yardstick.

Ladd's lawyer, Brian Stull of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that his client's fate should not "depend on a novella. Instead of sticking to the standards set by science, they refer to a character in Of Mice and Men."

Ladd was convicted of the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner in east Texas. Previously, he had served 16 years of a 40-year prison sentence for murdering another woman and setting her Dallas apartment on fire, killing her 2 children.

Ladd would be the second intellectually impaired prisoner to be executed this week, should the supreme court allow the procedure to go ahead. On Tuesday, Georgia executed Warren Hill , 54, a convicted murderer who had been found to be mentally disabled by every medical expert who had examined him.

Stull said that in light of the earlier Hill execution, "if Robert Ladd is put to death tonight, it will become clearer than ever that we are in the midst of a complete systems failure in terms of honouring the constitutional protections the supreme court ordered for intellectually disabled people."

On Wednesday, the supreme court ordered a stay of execution in 3 pending cases in Oklahoma as a result of the court's earlier decision to consider the use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections. Midazolam has been linked to a spate of recent botched executions in Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida and Ohio.

The review does not touch upon Texas's procedures, as the state has chosen to use pentobarbital, a barbiturate it is believed to have acquired from a relatively unregulated compounding pharmacy.

Source: The Guardian, January, 29, 2015


Texas Uses Of Mice and Men Standards to Execute Mentally Disabled Man

Barring a last-minute intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas will execute a man with an IQ score of 67 tonight.

Robert Ladd is scheduled for execution by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing a mentally disabled person for murder is unconstitutional. Stranger still, Texas has once again used standards derived from John Steinbeck's classic 1937 novella, Of Mice and Men, to justify executing a man that meets the clinical definition of intellectually disabled.

"Anywhere else in the country, Mr. Ladd's IQ of 67 would have meant a life sentence, not death," Brian Stull, Ladd's attorney, said in a statement. "But the Texas courts insist on severely misjudging his intellectual capacity, relying on standards for gauging intelligence crafted from 'Of Mice and Men' and other sources that have nothing to do with science or medicine. Robert Ladd's fate shouldn't depend on a novella."

And yet.

Texas has been executing people as fast as it can since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. However, the question of whether or not anyone should be executing the intellectually disabled has come up a bit since then. The U.S. Supreme Court made a broad decision on the issue back in 2002 with Atkins v. Virginia. The high court ruled that executing an intellectually disabled person for murder was a violation of the Eighth Amendment which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."

Here's what Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his opinion (and yes, they used the term "retarded" back then):

"Construing and applying the Eighth Amendment in the light of our 'evolving standards of decency,' we therefore conclude that such punishment is excessive and that the Constitution 'places a substantive restriction on the State's power to take the life' of a mentally retarded offender."

However, the Supremes left the actual definition of what constitutes intellectually disabled up to the states. In Texas, after the 2003 state legislature failed to lay out the rules that would clearly prevent the execution of intellectually disabled people convicted of murder, it fell to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to pin down the requirements. Judge Cathy Cochran was the one to write the opinion, and she came up with a doozy.

This is where Steinbeck enters the legal picture. Cochran was born in California and decades ago she and her husband lived in Monterrey near Cannery Row, the area that Steinbeck immortalized. Cochran started reading his books since she was living in the place that inspired so much of his writing. One of the books she picked up was, of course, Of Mice and Men.

For those who dozed off in high school English class, Of Mice and Men is the story of George, a vagabond ranch hand, and his friend Lennie, a mentally disabled giant of a man. George and Lennie travel together working and George struggles throughout the book to keep Lennie, who is fascinated with soft things and doesn't realize the damage he is capable of, from getting in trouble. Eventually this leads to an accidental murder and George finds Lennie hiding from a vigilante group. George knows the men will find his friend and will execute him, so he kills Lennie himself. It's a brutal, tragic and incredibly moving work of fiction, and it turns out that the story stayed with Cochran, though probably not in the way Steinbeck would have intended.

Cochran landed on the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2001. In 2004 she was working out how to apply the Supreme Court's Atkins ruling in Texas and she found herself thinking of Lennie, according to Life of the Law. She even mentions Lennie in the opinion she wrote in Ex Parte Briseno, the 1st Texas case post-Atkins that saw the court working out how to handle convicted murderers who might be intellectually disabled.

And for a second, it reads like she actually got the point of the book, but then she goes on:

"Most Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt from execution. But does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?"

Cochran concluded Texans would not want to exempt every convicted murderer with a low IQ from being executed. John Blume, a law professor at Cornell University who has studied how states have actually applied Atkins, says Cochran basically undid everything Atkins was supposed to do. "If you read the Briseno opinion itself it's clearly an attempt on its own terms to circumvent Atkins. It says we understand that the Supreme Court decided on Atkins but we have some room to operate here and we're going to use it."

So Cochran, in writing the opinion for the Court of Criminal Appeals, essentially took Atkins and worked around it to create new very flexible guidelines for the courts in Texas. She came up with what would come to be known as the Briseno Factors.

There are 7 factors. Translated out of legalese, the Briseno Factors essentially mean a person who has tested as intellectually disabled but is still able to get an idea and follow through on it, or is not clearly being manipulated by others, or can handle a social situation without drooling, or is able to tell a lie and remember the lie long enough to keep telling it is mentally competent enough for execution. The same goes if he or she can talk coherently and was able to, you know, actually plan the crime in question.

Blume says that in practice the Briseno factors can undo almost any legal acknowledgment of intellectual disability, making Atkins just this side of worthless in preventing a mentally disabled person who may not entirely understand what they've done -- hence why the Briseno Factors are also known as the Lennie test -- from being executed.

Using the Lennie test almost anyone can be proved competent enough to be executed. "That's where Texas is really an outlier and where people really seem to lose when it comes to the adaptive functioning," Blume says. "The courts use the Briseno factors despite the fact that they are at odds with the clinical definition of intellectual disability, and when it comes to the Briseno factors it's almost impossible to win."

Translated into practical terms this workaround led to the execution of Marvin Wilson in 2012. Wilson was a man who sucked his thumb and who couldn't make change or use a phone book. He had an IQ of 61, but he had also held a job, married and had a child. Wilson was convicted in 1994 in the shooting death of Jerry Williams, 21, who had identified him to police as a drug dealer, according to the Huffington Post. Despite his low IQ the court system found that he should be executed according to the Lennie test since he was able to hold a job and marry, as Atlantic noted.

That was when Steinbeck's son Thomas Steinbeck found out that his father's work was being used as justification for executing convicted murderers with low IQs. He issued a statement vehemently decrying the entire thing. "To judge anything based on a piece of fiction, I think, is a stretch," he told Studio360 in 2013. "And I think it would've made my father extremely angry."

Thomas Steinbeck pointed out his father was decidedly against the death penalty. He noted that his father once told him that if you have to take another man's blood to make your point, you haven't thought out the question very thoroughly.

Last year, the Supreme Court made a more narrow decision on the issue in Hall v. Florida, ruling that states have to actually stick to the clinical definition of intellectual disability when measuring who can and can't be executed. However, this ruling has had virtually no apparent effect on how judges in Texas handle these cases, Blume says.

And the thing is lawmakers -- perhaps the ones who read Of Mice and Men and get how ridiculous it is that the state currently executing the most people in the country should cite this particular work to justify some of the most morally questionable executions -- have been trying to get the Lennie test replaced with actual state legislation for years.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis has been working on getting a bill passed outlining how to determine whether someone is mentally competent enough to be executed for more than a decade. The bill he filed in the 2013 legislative session never made it out of senate committee. "I've actually had to preside over executions when I was the acting governor in 1999 and 2000, so I know firsthand the importance of getting it absolutely right when it comes to the ultimate punishment," Ellis stated via email. "Texas' current system falls far short of that standard, so I hope that my 16 year quest to pass this bill is finally successful this session."

Ellis has already filed a similar bill for the 84th legislative session. Ellis says his bill is designed to get Texas away from the Lennie list and into line with, well, the law. "To ensure compliance with the Constitution, my bill would put in place a clear standard to determine whether a defendant is eligible for the death penalty." There's no telling if the bill will gain any traction this time around.

Either way time is running out for Ladd. Ladd was acknowledged in court as someone who met the clinical criteria of intellectually disabled, Blume says, but Briseno cancelled that consideration out, something that has often happened when it is applied in Texas.

Ladd, who previously pled guilty and served 14 years for killing his cousin and her two children in Dallas back in 1978, beat Vicki Ann Garner to death in 1996. Garner was also intellectually disabled, according to the Daily Tribune. There's no question of Ladd's guilt, only of whether he ever possessed the mental capacity to understand what he was doing. Ladd's lawyers say he did not. After the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Ladd's death penalty appeal, his lawyers filed with the Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking them to step in.

At this point the entire issue is in the hands of the Supremes. If the Supreme Court doesn't make Texas stop using these standards to work around Atkins, Blume says it looks like Texas will keep using the Lennie test to allow the execution of the intellectually disabled. And so far there have been no signs of any change on the horizon in Texas courts. "They're continuing to apply these factors in state and federal courts in Texas and nobody says no. They've been in effect for a number of years and they've been used by judges in a lot of different courts," Blume says. "I'd like to think the legislature will do something, but that doesn't seem likely, so it will have to fall to the Supreme Court. Until the Supreme Court steps in and says no, you can't do this, they're going to keep doing it."

Source: Houston Press, January 29, 2015

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Philippine woman faces death in Indonesia for drugs

The Philippines is trying to prevent the execution of a female citizen, who faces death by firing squad in Indonesia for drug smuggling, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

Manila's revelation that a Filipina is on death row, comes after recently-elected Indonesian leader Joko Widodo's government executed 6 convicted drug smugglers and prepares to execute 11 more.

"The Philippine government is making all the appropriate representations with the Indonesian government at all levels on our ... request for judicial review," foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose said.

He said an application to review the woman's death sentence was filed at a district court near Yogyakarta last week.

Foreign ministry officials said the woman -- whose name was not disclosed -- was arrested at Yogyakarta airport in April 2010 carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin on a flight from Malaysia.

After putting 5 foreigners and an Indonesian to death by firing squad earlier this month, Indonesia announced Thursday it was ready to execute 11 more people.

Among them are 2 Australian leaders of the "Bali 9" drug-smuggling gang, who have been on death row for almost a decade.

Despite his image as a reformist, Indonesia's new president has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment for drug offenders, disappointing rights activists who had hoped that he would take a softer line on the death penalty.

Source: Agence France-Presse, January 29, 2015

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Nepal government unaware of national's fate in Indonesia or of Nepalis jailed in other countries

Indonesia, a country of 250 million, is notorious for its severe drug policy. Most often drug traffickers are executed or imprisoned for life.

On January 18, Indonesia executed 5 people convicted on drug trafficking charges; 4 of them were foreign nationals from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria, and the Netherlands.

More than 138 people await execution on death row, 1/3 of them foreigners, reports the Guardian newspaper.

Among them is a Nepali man, Indra Bahadur Tamang, arrested in 2001 with 900 grams of heroin. Nearly 14 years later, it is still uncertain when Indra Bahadur will face execution.

Nepal's protracted transition has no doubt taken a toll on all facets of governance. And this cost has been especially telling in Nepal's diplomacy.

So it comes as no surprise that the government remains unaware of Indra Bahadur's fate in Indonesia or of Nepalis jailed in other countries.

It is estimated that more than a dozen Nepalis await execution in the Middle East and Malaysia. Last August, in one telling incident, Shova Pariyar, a single mother from Tanahun, was beheaded by Saudi Arabia on murder charges.

The Nepal government did not make any attempts to appeal for clemency.

Despite the contributions that remittances from migrant workers make to the Nepali economy, there is little effort from the government to safeguard their rights.

Most migrants leave with little to no knowledge of the language and culture of their countries of destination and hence, become easy prey for unscrupulous employers.

Most countries in the Middle East and East Asia, the primary destinations for Nepali migrants, have opaque legal proceedings and stringent punishments when found guilty.

Many international rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have raised legitimate concerns over such legal processes and capital punishment provisions.

Nepal, to its credit, has refused to enshrine capital punishment for any crime. On this moral ground alone, it is the responsibility of the Nepal government to press for the repatriation of its citizens on death row or at least appeal for clemency.

Indonesia itself made a strong appeal against the execution of 1 of its citizens in Saudi Arabia. Brazil and the Netherlands made similar overtures to Indonesia on behalf of their citizens.

The Nepal government's efforts in this regard have been sorely lacking. Lacking government initiatives, civil society and Non-Resident Nepali organizations have stepped in to raise 'blood money', a debt that can be paid to aggrieved parties in the Middle East to appeal for amnesty.

But unless high-level initiatives are forthcoming, Nepalis will continue to meet their doom. The government, therefore, must immediately initiate efforts to appeal to the governments of host countries to repatriate its citizens on death row.

Failing this, it can still appeal for a reduction in sentencing to life imprisonment. As international human rights law restricts the use of the death penalty to "the most serious crimes," there is a strong moral case to be made in favour of such Nepalis.

Source: The Kathmandu Post, Editorial, January 29, 2015

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Another Nigerian to be executed in Indonesia for drugs

Police officers securing prison perimeter prior to executions.
Indonesia is ready to execute a Nigerian and 6 other foreign drug convicts on death row after their appeals for presidential clemency were rejected, an official said, in a move certain to set Jakarta on a collision course with international allies.

They include 2 Australian leaders of the "Bali 9" drug-smuggling gang, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan who have been on death row for almost a decade. The pair lost their appeals in December and earlier this month.

A spokesman for the attorney-general's office revealed late Wednesday that a further 4 foreigners, from countries including France, Brazil, and Ghana, have also lost their appeals. The Attorney general did not reveal the names of the other foreigners scheduled to face the firing squad.

4 Indonesians - only 1 of them convicted of drugs offences - had also lost their bid for clemency.

"The attorney general's office now has 11 convicts on death row ready to be executed," spokesman Tony Spontana said late Wednesday.

Indonesia earlier this month executed 9 drug offenders, including 5 foreigners, prompting a furious Brazil and the Netherlands - whose citizens were among those put to death - to recall their ambassadors.

Drug offenders from Vietnam, Malawi and Nigeria were also among those killed by firing squad.

Despite his image as a reformist, Indonesia's new president has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment for drug offenders, disappointing rights activists who had hoped that he would take a softer line on the death penalty.

He has repeatedly vowed to show no clemency to drug traffickers. In a CNN interview broadcast earlier this week, Widodo vowed: "We are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise. No compromise."

"Imagine, every day, we have 50 people die because of narcotics, because of drugs," he said.

"Indonesia is in the position of a drug emergency. We need to have something that's firm and a positive law in Indonesia still allows the death penalty."

Spontana said a decision had not yet been made on when or where the convicts would be executed, only that more than one would face the firing squad in the next round.

The Frenchman is Serge Atlaoui, who has been on death row since 2007, Spontana confirmed.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was "distressed and outraged" after Indonesia defied her last-ditch pleas to halt the last round of executions.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders described all 6 of those deaths as "terribly sad", adding: "My heart goes out to their families, for whom this is marks a dramatic end to years of uncertainty."

The Australians set to be executed, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle eight kilograms (18 pounds) of heroin out of Indonesia.

Sukumaran's appeal for clemency was rejected in December, and Chan's was rejected earlier this month.

That removed the final hurdle to put the pair to death, as Indonesian authorities said they must be executed together as they had committed their crime together.

Lawyers for the pair are planning a last-ditch appeal to their convictions but the attorney-general's office has said that further legal challenges are not possible once a clemency bid has been rejected.

The Frenchman Atlaoui was arrested in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy close to Jakarta.

Source: The NEWS, January 29, 2015

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Jakarta ready to execute 5 more drug traffickers. Church calls for addiction treatment

The prosecutor general announces the imminent execution of more people sentenced to death for drug trafficking. Hardline of Justice chiefs supported by President Jokowi. Bishops, opposed to the death penalty, call for investment in adduction prevention and awareness campaign.

The Department of the Attorney General (DAG) in Indonesia has announced a second round of executions for prisoners held on death row on drug trafficking charges. Regardless of the protests of national and international activists and human rights groups the Justice system - with the support of the "reformist" president Joko Widodo Jokowi - is pressing ahead with its hard line against drug trafficking.

In recent weeks, Jakarta has already executed six people, including four foreigners, for crimes related to drugs; in the coming days, although no date has yet been set, death row 5 detainees will be executed. They come from France, Ghana, the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia.

Yesterday, the attorney general H.M. Prasetyo, at a Parliamentary hearing, confirmed the imminence of the executions; the department is finalizing the details, also in view of the difficulties caused by bad weather and rain. "We are still looking at the ideal place [for the execution]." The country, the official added, is keeping up its rigorous line against drugs and its commitment to punish the big traffickers who move the pawns of international trade with the maximum penalty.

Previously President Jokowi emphasized that convicted drug traffickers will not be pardoned; an iron fist, added the head of state, is the only way to fight the scourge of drugs in Indonesia, a nation that over time has become an "important crossroads" in the trade.

Recently, the National Agency for Drug Trafficking (BNN) published a report which shows that at least 5 million Indonesians are "addicted" - to various degrees - to drugs; a problem that worries even the Indonesian bishops, which opposes the hard-line desired by the president but, at the same time, calls for interventions in the prevention and combating of drugs.

Last year, the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) launched a pastoral plan for the rehabilitation of drug addicts, supported by the BNN. Speaking to AsiaNews on the occasion of the launch, the archbishop of Yogyakarta Msgr. Johannes Pujasumarta, Kwi secretary general, warned that "something must be done to solve the problem."

Source: Asia News, January 29, 2015

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When Reasonable Doubt Is Lethal

Warren Lee Hill
It is unconstitutional to execute the mentally disabled. Warren Hill was almost certainly mentally disabled, but "almost certainly" was not good enough for the State of Georgia. So on Tuesday night, Georgia executed Hill for murdering his cellmate in 1990. The Supreme Court denied Hill’s petition to hear his case and refused to halt his execution, after a lengthy and hard-fought appeals process,with only Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor voting for a stay.

All seven medical experts who examined Hill—including the three experts appointed by the state—found him to be intellectually disabled. Hill’s lawyers claimed their client had “the emotional and cognitive ability of a young boy” and that his execution would violate the Eighth Amendment. The American Bar Association, the ACLU, the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, the Vatican, the European Union, and mental-health organizations sided with Hill during his four-year legal battle. Even the family of Hill’s victim and some jurors from his trial opposed his execution.

“This execution is an abomination,” Brian Kammer, Hill’s attorney, said in a statement. “Like the execution of Jerome Bowden in 1986, the memory of Mr. Hill’s illegal execution will live on as a moral stain on the people of this State and on the courts that allowed this to happen.”


Source: The Atlantic, Matt Ford, January 29, 2015

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Bali 9: Glimmer of hope for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran
The Bali Nine pair on death row have been given a glimmer of hope with the Denpasar District Court to allow an application for a judicial review to be registered despite the Indonesian Attorney-General saying there could not be a second review into their case.

Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi said it was up to the head of the District Denpasar Court to decide what to do with the application.

He said the court would allow the judicial review, known as a PK, to be registered at Bali's Kerobokan prison, where Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are on death row.

The decision came after the Bali justice office and Kerobokan jail said it would be too difficult for security reasons to escort the prisoners to court for the registration of the judicial review.

Mr Sianturi said it was the role of the Denpasar District Court to provide a public service and not impede the course of justice.

The twin peaks of the Indonesian judicial system – the Constitutional and Supreme Court – are at loggerheads over whether more than one judicial review is allowable if new evidence is produced.

Chan and Sukumaran's first judicial review in 2010 was unsuccessful but his Indonesian lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, a well-known human rights advocate, says the judges made "serious mistakes".

Mr Mulya said the decision to allow a second judicial review was up to the judges.

"Of course I realise the controversy because the circular of the Supreme Court stipulates that only one PK (judicial review) can be filed," he said.

"But the Constitutional Court decision has allowed us to do multiple PKs and that's why we are going to do it. Whether the PK will be accepted by the Denpasar District Court remains to be seen."

Mr Mulya said the judicial review would be registered no later than Friday.


Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, January 29, 2015

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Chinese Supreme court eases attorney participation in death sentence review

Huugjilt was only 18 at the time
of his execution in 1996.
(Xinhua) -- The Supreme People's Court (SPC) issued a protocol to facilitate the participation of defense lawyers when reviewing a death sentence.

According to the document, if a defense lawyer requests a meeting with the judge to express the defendant's opinion about a death sentence, the judge should arrange the meeting promptly.

The meeting can be held at the SPC office in Beijing or at a local court house when the judge is visiting the defendant.

The content of the meeting will be logged into a transcript and it will be signed by the lawyer. If the condition allows, the meeting will be recorded or videotaped, according to the document.

Defense lawyers are allowed to read and copy legal documents of the cases at the SPC office.

The SPC verdict will be delivered to defense lawyers within five days after it is announced.

The protocol is considered part of the SPC's efforts to protect defendants' rights and adopt a more prudent attitude toward using death penalties.

The country's judicial system was alerted of wrongful convictions by the case of a teenager named Huugjilt in Inner Mongolia, who was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder, which led to his execution in 1996. In December 2014 a higher court in Inner Mongolia ruled that Huugjilt was innocent.

Last Thursday, top justice Zhou Qiang reiterated the criteria for issuing capital punishment should be strictly observed so as to ensure "the penalty is only used on an extremely few convicts whose crimes are extremely serious".

Source: Xinhua; January 29, 2015

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Iran: Man Publicly Executed Four Weeks After His Arrest

Mansour Mirlouhi hanged publicly 4 weeks
after he was arrested. (IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS)
Two men were executed in Iran today. One of them was hanged publicly in central Iran four weeks after he was arrested.

Iran Human Rights, January 28, 2015: Two prisoners were hanged in two different Iranian cities today, reported the Iranian state media.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported that a man was hanged in public early this morning in the town of Golpayegan (Central Iran). Several thousand people were gathered at the scene of the public executions. The man who was identified as Mansour Mirlouhi (43) was charged with Moharebeh (Waging war against God) and “Corruption on earth” for participation in several episodes of armed robbery and two armed clashes in Khomein and Golpayegan resulting in death of three security forces and two civilians, said the report.

According to the report Mirlouhi was arrested on 1. January 2015 and sentenced to death on January 24 by section one of Isfahan Revolution Court. His death sentence was approved by the Supreme Court two days later on January 26 and he was hanged publicly two days after that, on January 28.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) strongly condemns today’s public execution and Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson og IHR said: ” Beside the inhumane and degrading punishment of public execution, lack of due process is another serious violation of human rights in this case. The whole judicial process leading to the man’s execution lasted less than four weeks. Unfortunately lack of due process is not uncommon in Iran”.

The state run Iranian news agency Fars reported about another execution in Tehran today. The prisoner was identified as “Ali Kamalvand” and was sentenced to 74 lashes for stealing and three times execution for three rapes, said the report. The charges haven’t been confirmed by independent sources.

Source: Iran Human Rights, January 28, 2015

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Texas Set to Kill Intellectually Disabled Man

Robert Ladd
Barring any last minute action by the United States Supreme Court, Robert Ladd will be executed Thursday night by the state of Texas. Ladd, convicted for the 1996 murder of Vicki Ann Garner, will be the 2nd inmate on Texas' death row killed in 2015.

Texas' highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, denied Ladd's final request for a stay of execution Tuesday, despite his long-documented history of intellectual disability. In a 2005 U.S. District Court hearing held to determine whether Ladd met Texas' statutory definition of "mentally retarded," a defense expert testified that Ladd's IQ was 67 and that Ladd had significant functional deficits in areas like work, money, social and communication skills. The state's expert at the hearing agreed with the defense about Ladd's functional problems, but blamed them on an anti-social personality disorder rather than an intellectual disability.

The district court judge found that Ladd had "significantly subaverage intellectual functioning," but refused to find that Ladd's functional deficits were "significant," a requirement for Texas to classify someone as "mentally retarded" for the purposes of whether or not it is OK to kill that person.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that executing the intellectually disabled is unconstitutional, but left each state to determine what standard of disability each would use. Texas' standard is, partly, based on John Steinbeck's character Lennie, from the novel Of Mice and Men.

"Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck's Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt. But, does a consensus of Texas citizens agree that all persons who might legitimately qualify for assistance under the social services definition of mental retardation be exempt from an otherwise constitutional penalty?" the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote in its 2004 opinion on the appeal of Jose Garcia Briseno.

Ladd was classified as "fairly obviously retarded" by the Texas Youth Commission when he was 13. At 36, he qualified for services from the Andrews Center in Tyler, which helps the intellectually disabled and mentally ill.

Source: Dallas Observer, January 29, 2015

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