Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pennsylvania: Governor Corbett Signs Three New Execution Warrants

Governor Tom Corbett today signed execution warrants for 3 men: 1 convicted of murder for the shooting death of a Philadelphia County police officer; 1 convicted for murdering a Fayette County couple and their daughter; and, 1 convicted for killing his girlfriend in Lawrence County.

Christopher Roney was convicted in Philadelphia County Court of 1st-degree murder for the shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Lauretha Vaird on January 2, 1996.

Mark Duane Edwards was convicted in Fayette County Court of 3 counts of 1st-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Larry Bobish Sr., his wife Joanna Bobish, and their 17-year-old pregnant daughter Krystal Bobish on April 14, 2002.

Dennis C. Reed was convicted in Lawrence County Court of 1st-degree murder for the shooting death of Wendy Miller, his girlfriend and mother of his son, on December 16, 2001.

All 3 men are incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene. Roney's execution has been scheduled for January 8, 2015; Edwards' execution has been scheduled for January 13, 2015; Reed's execution has been scheduled for January 15, 2015.

The execution warrants signed today for Roney, Edwards and Reed were Governor Corbett's 41st, 42nd, and 43rd warrants signed, respectively, since taking office.

Executions in Pennsylvania are carried out by lethal injection.

Source:, Nov. 22, 2014

Activists seek compassionate release for terminally ill Texas death row inmate

Activists delivered a petition to Texas Governor Rick Perry on Friday with more than 100,000 signatures seeking the release of a death row inmate they say is terminally ill and only has weeks to live.

The governor's office was not immediately available to comment on the petition launched by religious groups and activists including the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Max Soffar, convicted in the July 1980 slaying of 3 people at a Houston bowling alley.

"This is the time for mercy - let's not let him fall through the cracks of justice; let's not let him die behind bars," the petition said. It is seeking clemency so that he can die at home.

Soffar's case has been the focus of anti-death penalty campaigners for years. They have said he is an innocent man largely convicted on the basis of a confession signed after days of "oppressive interrogation" and without clear objective evidence pointing to his guilt.

The state has maintained the confession was voluntary, lawful and implicates him as the murderer.

Soffar, 58, has been on death row for more than 30 years. He was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer in July 2014 and was told at that time that he only has months to live, according to court papers filed on his behalf.

The 3 people killed at the bowling alley were Arden Fisher, 17, her boyfriend Tommy Temple, 17, and Stephen Sims, 25. All 3 were shot execution-style with a handgun, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

Source: Reuters, Nov. 22, 2014

Sister of Mentally Ill Texas Man Sentenced to Die in December Pleads to Rick Perry to Spare His Life

Scott Panetti
Scott Panetti
The sister of Scott Panetti, a paranoid schizophrenic set to be executed by the state of Texas on Dec. 3 for the murder of 2 people, has pleaded with Gov. Rick Perry to commute his sentence to life in prison. Victoria Panetti has said that her brother, who believes he's being executed for preaching the Gospel, does not understand fact from fiction, and started an online petition asking Perry to spare his life.

"Having a brother on death row is like having a terminally ill family member. But there's 1 big difference: we can't stop a terminal illness, but we can stop Texas from killing a mentally ill man," Victoria Panetti wrote in a letter alongside the petition.

"I know it's hard to see beyond the fact that Scott took 2 lives, but he suffers from a severe illness that changed the way his mind works. He doesn't understand fact from fiction. He's still my big brother, the strong and handsome sailor who served in the Navy."

On Wednesday, Texas Judge Keith Williams refused to postpone Panetti's execution, which means the mentally ill convicted killer is set to be put to death by lethal injection on Dec. 3.

The 56-year-old man was found guilty of murdering his parents-in-law in 1992. His death sentence was initially scheduled to be carried out in 2004, but a federal judge stayed the order at the time.

Panetti has suffered from schizophrenia and various other mental disorders for over 30 years, and had been hospitalized 12 times due to psychotic behavior before he committed the murders. He has indicated that he believes that he's in a battle with Satan, and has attempted to subpoena the Pope, John F. Kennedy, and Jesus Christ while representing himself in trial.

Both mental health professionals and over 50 Evangelical leaders have opposed his execution, arguing that he does not understand why he's being put to death.

"If his execution date is not withdrawn, he will go to the execution chamber convinced that he's being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife's parents, and the retributive goal of capital punishment will not be served," the Texas Defender Service group warned.

Evangelical leaders who also wrote to Perry stated: "As Christians, we are called to protect the most vulnerable, and we count Mr. Panetti - a man who has suffered from severe mental illness for over 30 years - to be among them. If ever there was a clear case of an individual suffering from mental illness, this is it."

The case has attracted attention overseas as well, with the European Union asking Texas to grant Panetti clemency.

"The execution of persons suffering from a mental disorder is contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and is in contradiction to the minimum standards of human rights set forth in several international human rights instruments," the EU wrote in a separate letter.

In her online petition, Victoria Panetti argued that her brother is not a "cold-blooded killer," but a "very sick person."

"The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution forbids the execution of severely mentally ill individuals who do not understand the reason for their punishment. Scott is not mentally competent: he would go to the execution chamber believing his fixed delusion that he's being put to death for preaching the Gospels, not for the murder of his wife's parents," she continued.

"It's not right for our country to use capital punishment on a severely mentally ill person like my brother Scott."

The petition has so far been signed by over 26,000 people.

Source: Christian Post, November 22, 2014

Arizona: Attorneys ask judge to hold off on execution suit

A lawsuit challenging the secrecy of execution protocols in Arizona will likely be put on hold pending the investigation of the nearly 2-hour execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood last summer.

Both the state and defense attorneys have agreed to request that the lawsuit be halted temporarily until the review of an investigation by an independent agency is released. That report, by a group of former prison directors, was expected to be released in mid-November but it so far has not come out.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Wood and other death-row inmates says they and the public have a right to know about specific execution protocols such as the types of drugs used in lethal injections and the companies that supply them.

The July 23 execution of Wood, convicted of murdering his estranged girlfriend and her father, called into question the efficacy of the drugs used after it took nearly two hours for Wood to die. He gasped repeatedly before taking his final breath.

Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, says the execution was botched, a claim Arizona Department of Corrections officials adamantly deny. A spokesman for the agency could not be reached for comment late Friday evening.

State officials have agreed to not seek any death warrants while the case is pending. The mutual agreement also states that Arizona officials will consider changing execution protocols. If they do change them, they will make the new protocols public, according to the joint agreement.

"The whole purpose of this is to put the litigation on hold so the facts and issues could be better developed," Baich said.

The secrecy that surrounds executions in Arizona and other states has been a source of contention since they stopped making public details such as the drug manufacturers and drug combinations in 2010. That's when states that have the death penalty began having trouble accessing the necessary drugs because European drugmakers stopped supplying them.

A group of media organizations including The Associated Press has filed a lawsuit also contending that the information is of public interest and the public has a right to know.

Wood was given 15 doses of the sedative midazolam and a painkiller before he died.

Source: Associated Press, November 22, 2014

Judge in Colorado cinema rampage case allows 2nd sanity exam at trial

James Holmes and lawyer
A judge overseeing the Colorado theater massacre case rejected a defense motion on Friday to have a 2nd sanity examination administered to accused gunman James Holmes barred from his upcoming murder trial, court records show.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to opening fire inside a Denver-area theater during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" in July of 2012, killing 12 moviegoers and wounding dozens more.

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, and say they will seek the death penalty for the onetime neuroscience graduate student if he is convicted.

Holmes underwent a mandatory psychiatric examination last year after invoking the insanity defense, but Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour ordered a 2nd round of testing, agreeing with prosecutors who argued the 1st one was flawed.

Public defenders sought to have the 2nd evaluation excluded or to limit testimony about it, arguing that it should have not been conducted in the 1st place, and that it overlaps the findings of the 1st examiner.

Results of the 2 mental examinations have not been made public, but in his ruling Samour noted that it was "patently obvious" that the 2 evaluations reached differing conclusions about Holmes' sanity.

"The disparate reactions by the defendant to the two examinations speak volumes about the differences between the 2 reports," Samour wrote.

The judge denied the bulk of the motion, but did order that the 2nd evaluator could not testify at trial about the 1st evaluation's deficiencies.

Samour said 9,000 jury summonses will be sent to county residents next month, and lawyers for both sides will start paring down the list in January.

The judge said he wants opening statements to begin on June 3, but said that date could be moved up if jury selection concludes sooner than he anticipates.

Source: Reuters, November 22, 2014

Oklahoma: Richard Glossip 'ready' for his execution

Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip
Richard Glossip has come to terms with his death.

"I've thought about it so long, I got to a point, if it gets to that stage, I'm ready for it," said Glossip, 51, in a rare, in-person interview near his cell on death row. "You've got to be prepared. If you're not, it's not going to go well for you."

Friday marked the first day the Department of Corrections has allowed media access to death row inmates since the clumsy execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29. It took Lockett 40 minutes to die after medical personnel missed his vein with the intravenous needle that was supposed to deliver the deadly drugs.

Glossip said he hopes his death won't come soon, but he didn't sound particularly optimistic that he'll live beyond Jan. 29, when he's scheduled to die by lethal injection for his role in a 1997 murder-for-hire plot. He's the 2nd inmate scheduled to die in the renovated execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, under the state's new execution procedures.

Glossip said he's already planned his last meal - an Arby's ham-and-cheese sandwich, a brisket sandwich, fries and a Coke. Other than his freedom, he's missed Arby's the most since arriving on death row in 1998.

Glossip first was convicted in a plot to kill motel owner Barry Van Treese a year earlier. The convicted hit man, Justin Sneed, is serving a life sentence.

Glossip maintains his innocence. He said Sneed acted alone in killing Van Treese, then pointed to him to avoid the death penalty. Glossip admits his actions afterwards look bad; he tried to help hide his 54-year-old employer's murder.

Despite that, Glossip said he doubts Gov. Mary Fallin will intervene "because of what happened with Lockett and the way she handled that whole thing."

"Anybody that says we need to get back to business as normal and calling executions business, that's a scary, scary thing to say," he said.

Contacted earlier this year, the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office, which has handled all appeals related to Glossip's case, issued a statement saying justice would be served by his execution.

A spokesperson noted a 27-page ruling by the state Court of Criminal Appeals that outlined the facts of the case and rejected Glossip's appeals.

Glossip was convicted twice - the verdict of his 1st trial was thrown out on appeal - and he twice was sentenced to death.

Earlier this fall, Glossip's execution date was fast approaching when Department of Corrections officials said they needed more time to prepare for his execution and that of Charles Warner, who is scheduled to die before him.

Glossip said in preparation for his execution, prison officials had moved him to a special cell, designed to hold inmates for the final 35 days.

A new policy requires the cell's florescent lights to stay lit 24 hours a day for all 35 days, he said. Glossip said he wrapped a sheet around his eyes to sleep. Warner, in the cell next door, pulled a blanket over his head.

All Glossip was allowed to bring with him was a single book. He said the rock music that helped calm him for more than two decades was taken away, as was television.

Glossip said his stomach couldn't tolerate the food - he'd always purchased food from the canteen, but new regulations say a prisoner can't buy food within 35 days of his death - and he lost 14 pounds in 4 days.

A security camera watched his every move.

When his execution was delayed until January, Glossip was returned to his old cell on death row, located beneath the death chamber, and all his privileges were restored.

Glossip said inmates are angry at Lockett for his decision to make his execution difficult by resisting officers and using a razor to slice his arms. Those choices affected everyone on death row, Glossip said, because Lockett's bungled execution led to the state's new procedures.

"Lockett really did a number on us all," he said. "When they do this type of thing, they don't think about who it is going to affect. There are people not happy at all, but he's dead, so what are you going to say?"

Asked if he believes in an after-life and fears what it might hold, Glossip hesitated briefly. He admitted he had doubts until recently, when he saw a TV report in which a woman described her miraculous return from 3 1/2 hours of being dead.

"There's something out there," he said.

4 men already are scheduled to die in the 1st 3 months of 2015 - Warner on Jan. 15; Glossip, Jan. 29; John Marion Grant, Feb. 19; and Benjamin Robert Cole Jr., March 5.

Source: Enid News, November 22, 2014

UN vote boosts support for a global moratorium on the death penalty

114 of the UN's 193 member states today voted in favour of the UN resolution to establish a moratorium on executions.

The vast majority of the world's countries today threw their weight behind a UN General Assembly resolution to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty globally, Amnesty International said.

114 of the UN's 193 member states today voted in favour of the resolution which will go before the General Assembly Plenary for final adoption in December.

"Today's vote confirms that more and more countries around the world are coming around to the fact that the death penalty is a human rights violation and must end. It is also a clear message to the minority of states that still execute - you are on the wrong side of history," said Chiara Sangiorgio, Death Penalty expert at Amnesty International.

Since 2007 there have been 4 resolutions calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty, with support increasing each time. Overall, the votes in favour of this resolution increased by 3 since the last time a similar vote took place in 2012.

114 states voted in favour, 36 voted against and 34 abstained compared to 111 votes in favour, 41 against and 34 abstentions in December 2012. The draft resolution was co-sponsored by 94 UN Member States from all regions of the world, the highest number yet.

New votes in favour came from Eritrea, Fiji, Niger and Suriname. As a further positive sign, Bahrain, Myanmar and Uganda moved from opposition to abstention. Regrettably, Papua New Guinea went from abstention to a vote against the resolution.

Today's vote in the UNGA's Third Committee, which addresses social, humanitarian and human rights issues, is an important indicator for the main vote on the resolution in the General Assembly Plenary next month, when the resolution is expected to be endorsed. Although not legally binding, UN General Assembly resolutions carry considerable moral and political weight.

"Governments around the world should seize the opportunity of today's vote to renew their dialogue to make this moratorium call a reality - we hope we will see even stronger support come the final vote in December," said Chiara Sangiorgio.

Amnesty International urges all UN Member States to support the resolution when it comes for adoption at the plenary session. Those countries still retaining the death penalty should immediately establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards full abolition. Background

When the UN was founded in 1945 only 8 of the then 51 UN Member States had abolished the death penalty. Today, 95 Member States have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, and in total 137 out of the 193 have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

The adoption of these ground-breaking resolutions on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty since 2007 has generated momentum to renew the commitment to the abolition of the death penalty.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

Source: Amnesty International, Nov. 22, 2014

Human Rights: Four men lashed in public for “mischief” in Iran

Man being lashed in public in Iran, August 7, 2014
NCRI – The Iranian regime henchmen lashed four men for “mischief” on Saturday in public in a southern city.

The commander of the State Security Forces (police) in the city of Charam was quoted by a local website as saying: “The four individuals were each sentenced to 74 lashes for the destruction of public property, thievery and using drugs.”

“With carrying out such sentences the outlaws and violators… would understand that the judiciary would not be negligent at all in dealing with them.”

Mohammad Mousavi said: “The lashing sentence for the four individuals was carried out in public in the main square in the city of Charam.”

Charam, a city with some 7,000 families according to a 2006 census, is located in Kohgiluyeh and Boyerahmad province.

A video obtained as recently as November shows the Iranian regime’s masked State Security Forces publicly beating and abusing a group of young men while parading them through the streets, handcuffed in the back of an open truck.

The surge in humiliating punishments and executions, among other violations of human rights in Iran since Hassan Rouhani has become president, is aimed at spreading fear and intimidation among the public, particularly among the youth and women.

Source: NCRI, Nov. 23, 2014

Saudi Arabia: Two men beheaded for raping two girls

Saudi authorities beheaded two local men convicted of raping two girls, stealing cars and taking drugs, the Saudi Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

Sami bin Yehya Gazwani and Talal bin Mousa Gazwani were executed in the Saudi capital in Riyadh on Friday after they were sentenced to death by the higher court.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said the two had confessed to the crimes they committed nearly seven months ago.

Source: Emirates24/7, November 22, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saudi Arabia beheads Turkish man for drug trafficking

His execution brings to 70 the number of beheadings in the kingdom this year

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia on Thursday beheaded a Turkish man convicted of drug trafficking, the interior ministry said, in the latest execution in the conservative Gulf kingdom.

Ali Agridas had been convicted of receiving a “large amount of drugs” and was executed in the Saudi capital Riyadh, the ministry said in a statement.

His execution brings to 70 the number of Saudis and foreigners beheaded in the kingdom this year, according to an AFP count, despite international concern.

Rape, murder, apostasy, drug trafficking, homosexuality and armed robbery are all punishable by death under the kingdom’s strict version of Sharia.

Source: Agence France-Presse, November 21, 2014

Federal judge overturns sentence of Wyoming's death row inmate

A federal judge on Thursday overturned the death sentence of the lone inmate on Wyoming's death row, saying his trial lawyers had failed to give jurors sufficient reason to spare his life.

Lawyers handling the federal appeal of Dale Wayne Eaton, 69, didn't dispute that he had killed Lisa Marie Kimmell, 18, of Billings, Montana.

Instead, they argued that his previous attorneys from the Wyoming Public Defender's Office failed to present factors that might have given jurors a reason to consider sparing his life, such his low intelligence and abuse he suffered as a child.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson in Cheyenne gave Wyoming a choice of either granting a new sentencing hearing for Eaton within 120 days in Natrona County or keeping him locked up for life without parole.

Casper District Attorney Michael Blonigen, who initially prosecuted Eaton in state court, said Thursday he's ready to argue again that Eaton deserves the death penalty, although he hopes the attorney general appeals the judge's ruling.

"It's very important that Wyoming make a decision here whether we have the death penalty or whether we have the death sentence," Blonigen said. "To sit here ten years later and undertake a 20-20 hindsight review of what an attorney did 10 years ago ? OK, that's the challenge that faces us."

Eaton was sentenced to death in 2004 for the 1988 rape and murder of Kimmell. She had disappeared in 1988 while driving across Wyoming, and her body was found in the North Platte River.

Authorities say Eaton kept Kimmell captive in a rundown compound in Moneta, west of Casper, before killing her and burying her car on the property.

The investigation stalled until 2002, when DNA evidence linked Eaton to the case while he was in prison on unrelated charges. Investigators then unearthed the missing car on his property.

Eaton was convicted in state court and sentenced to death. His new lawyers appealed the sentence to Johnson after the Wyoming Supreme Court upheld the sentence.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that defendants facing a possible death sentence have a constitutional right to undergo a full investigation into their life circumstances so jurors will have that information as they decide a penalty.

Johnson held a two-week evidentiary hearing last year that featured testimony from relatives and mental health professionals about Eaton. Eaton's lawyers said the material could have been developed and presented to the state jury by Eaton's original defense team -- but it wasn't.

Johnson ruled Thursday that Eaton's state defense was deficient, falling below standards set by the American Bar Association and failing to satisfy constitutional requirements.

For example, Eaton didn't have two experienced death-penalty lawyers on his team, as the ABA recommends. While the association recommends separate investigators and mitigation experts, his team had one person handling both jobs.

If Wyoming chooses to hold a new sentencing hearing for Eaton, Johnson specified that the state must appoint experienced death-penalty lawyers not associated with the Wyoming Public Defender's Office to represent him.

An appeal would go to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Attorney General Peter Michael issued a statement Thursday that although he holds the court in the highest regard, he was disappointed by Johnson's order.

"Wyoming prosecutors recognize the seriousness of capital punishment and seek it in only the most egregious cases," Michael stated. "Mr. Eaton's kidnapping, rape and murder of Lisa Marie Kimmell is one such case."

Eaton was represented in his federal appeal mainly by Cheyenne lawyer Terry Harris and Sean O'Brien, a Missouri lawyer who specializes in death-penalty cases. Attempts to reach Harris and O'Brien were not immediately successful on Thursday.

In 2009, Harris and O'Brien succeeded in persuading a judge to overturn the death sentence of prison inmate James Harlow in the stabbing death of a correctional officer at the state penitentiary in Rawlins. That decision left Eaton as the only man on Wyoming's death row.

Harris and O'Brien raised similar issues in Harlow's case as they did in the appeal involving Eaton, saying the state public defender's office did an inadequate job and failed to put up enough money to investigate Harlow's case and background.

Wyoming last carried out the death penalty in 1992, when it executed convicted murderer Mark Hopkinson. Several other death sentences have been overturned on appeal since then.

Source: AP, November 20, 2014

Bryan Stevenson on Executions and Civil Rights: "Lynching Stopped But the Mindset Didn't"

Watch our extended interview with Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He discusses pending executions, the history of lynching, and how Rosa Parks and others inspired him to "stand with the condemned and incarcerated." His new book is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We continue with our guest, Bryan Stevenson, founder and director of the Equal Justice initiative. His new book is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

I want to turn to a case right now. A Texas judge on Wednesday refused to postpone the scheduled execution of a convicted killer who suffers from mental illness and is set to face lethal injection December 3rd. Scott Panetti has had schizophrenia for decades. He won support for his case from groups like Mental Health America, psychiatrists, former judges, prosecutors and evangelical Christians. At the trial, Panetti acted as his own attorney. He wore a cowboy outfit and tried to call his witnesses, the pope, John F. Kennedy and Jesus.

Well, you write about many cases. Talk about what this case represents.

BRYAN STEVENSON: We have in our prisons about 2.3 million people, half of whom are believed to have mental illness. About 20 percent have severe mental illness. The criminal justice system, the prisons have become the repository for people with disability that have no place else to go. And that is part of the story behind this case.

The other part of the story is that we've created a system that is much more concerned about finality than fairness. The reason why no one's prepared to look carefully at the clear evidence of mental illness that should block the state from carrying out this execution is that we seem like we're in this rush, that if we don't execute people fast, it's almost as if it loses its potency, its value, its virtue. But my view is that if we execute people unfairly or wrongly, then we do a great deal of injustice to our whole system. And so, I think it's tragic that we get caught up in this finality kind of focus. And you see that playing out in this case.

The Supreme Court has banned the execution of people with intellectual disability, people with mental retardation. And obviously, if you recognize that there are disabilities that can make you someone who should not be executed, you have to look more carefully at a case like this. And I think there are actually hundreds of people who have been sentenced to death when they are clearly very severely mentally ill. And a just society wouldn't want to execute people for their disability, because that's cruel. That's not a decent thing to do. It's not what a just community should do. But we're going to do that in Texas, if we don't take the time to think more carefully about what that case represents.

And too often, unfortunately, we don't learn the details of these tragedies until very close to the execution time, because it's very hard to get anyone's attention in the death penalty space until there's a crisis, until there's an execution date. And that undermines the fair consideration that we often need in these cases. And sadly, it doesn't happen at trial, because we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. Wealth prevents many poor people and disabled people from getting their story presented in a way that might allow us to get to a just outcome. And so then we have years of appeals and litigation where maybe that story might unfold, and that's what you're seeing in Texas today.

Source: Democracy Now, November 20, 2014

Iran: Man hanged in public a day after UN condemns regime's "high frequency of executions"

Photo of the execution
A day after the United Nations General Assembly's 3rd committee adopted the UN's 61st resolution condemning human rights abuses in Iran and urged the regime to stop the executions, a man was hanged in public in a northern city.

The prisoner identified as H. Mirjani, 32, was hanged in Velayat Square in the city of Qaemshahr.

The execution that comes after the adoption of the resolution that expressed its "deep concern at serious ongoing and recurring human rights violations" in Iran, notably the "alarming high frequency of executions and increase of the carrying-out of the death penalty in the absence of internationally recognized safeguards, including public executions," demonstrates the Iranian regime's disregard for international concerns.

Since the start of Hassan Rouhani's presidency a year ago, the executions in Iran have taken on an unprecedented scale with over 1000 executions.

Source: NCR-Iran, November 20, 2014

Judge Refuses To Dismiss Lawsuit Challenging Tennessee’s Use Of The Electric Chair

A judge on Friday blocked the state’s attempt to derail a lawsuit filed by death row inmates attacking Tennessee’s use of the electric chair.

In August, attorneys representing ten death row inmates sued the state alleging the electric chair is “cruel and unusual punishment.” The suit contends that electrocution inflicts agonizing pain and that its use should be considered torture.

The state replied by filing a motion to dismiss, a matter that was taken up during Friday’s hearing.

Assistant Attorney General Linda Kirklen argued, in part, that “this court lacks jurisdiction.” In other words, she said questioning the sentence of a criminal case should not be litigated in civil court. She noted the inmates have brought challenges to their cases in criminal court already, which have not been successful. “They have already had their day in court,” Kirklen said.

Kelley Henry, a federal public defender representing the inmates, responded that an attack on the method of execution is not the same at an attack on the conviction.

In addition, Henry pointed out that last spring’s law establishing the electric chair as the official backup has no formal time schedule. That is, if an inmate’s method of execution is changed due to the scarcity of lethal injection drugs, the inmate might not have time to appeal.

After two-hours of deliberations, Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman took a short break before coming back with a decision: the lawsuit is aiming at the protocol of execution, not the criminal conviction, so it does fall under the state’s civil court.

After the hearing, defense attorney Henry said Bonnyman’s decision keeps the lawsuit on track, and that the substance of the suit – whether the electric chair is in fact constitutional – will be dealt with during the trial.

“Tennessee is an outlier amongst any government in the world to impose the electric chair on one of its citizens. We’re the only one that does that,” Henry said. “Our experts say that the inmate actually feels that searing, burning pain prior to death and for a substantial period of time prior to death.”

The state attorney general’s office has not responded to the heart of argument in legal filings. Instead, they have countered with procedural maneuvers.

A trial date in Davidson County Chancery Court determining whether the electric chair will continue to be an optional form of execution in Tennessee is on hold. It will be set once a case pending before the state’s supreme court is settled. This one over whether the identities of those involved in a state-sanctioned lethal injection — including the pharmacist who provides the drugs — must be publicly revealed.

For now, both methods of execution are unavailable until the lawsuits are resolved.

The last execution in Tennessee occurred in 2009. And although no executions have occurred while Gov. Bill Haslam has been in office, the attorney general’s office requested execution dates for 10 death row inmates, the highest number of sought at once in state history.

Source: Nashville Public Radio, November 21, 2014

50 Bangladeshi expatriates awaiting death penalties in prisons abroad

Around 50 Bangladeshi expatriates who had flown to the foreign lands in search of employments, are currently waiting for execution of their death penalties while serving in prisons across the globe.

Among them, the verdict for 29 death row inmates have been put to a halt through negotiations held in between the Bangladeshi embassies and the governments of the respective countries. Such negotiations mainly focuses on compensating the victim's families.

The numbers were revealed through a written statement issued by Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Engineer Khandker Mosharraf Hossain issued to the parliament yesterday.

All of the death row inmates were convicted for committing murders.

Among the death sentence awardees, 12 Bangladeshi migrants are in Saudi Arabia, 23 in Dubai, 12 in Kuwait, 1 in Bahrain, 1 in Singapore and one in Abu Dhabi.

The Wage Earners' Welfare Board under the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, was active enough in order to free the convicts from the trial in the respective countries, said the minister.

In the statement, he informed that an "understanding" has been reached through negotiations with the concerned countries to cancel the death penalty for 29 Bangladeshi expatriate workers.

Letters seeking mercy have already been sent to the Bangladeshi Missions in those countries, according to the statement by the Expatriates' Welfare Minister.

Except for the countries mentioned above, 35 more are facing trials in different countries on murder charges -- 15 in Dubai, 10 in Saudi Arabia, 3 in Oman, 3 in Qatar, 1 each in Kuwait, Egypt and Bahrain.

Khandker also highlighted that 2,759,541 people from Bangladesh received employment in different countries across the world in between January 2009 and September 2014.

"The number was 137,088 during the BNP-Jamaat regime from 2001 to 2006," he said.

The ministry had undertaken construction work of nearly 400 centres for providing technical trainings at the upazila levels, said the minister.

Source: Dhaka Tribune, November 21, 2014

The Science Of Lethal Injection: How Most Capital Punishments Work

Florida Death Chamber
You're escorted into the small, windowless room that contains only a pale-turquoise gurney and two metal tables up against the wall. One table is neatly set with a pair of scissors, a small red bin, and strips of gauze. The stark cleanliness of the room is oddly disturbing and gives off a feeling of faux-comfort. A clock directly above the gurney hangs in the center of the white wall, its ticking an ominous premonition.

The next thing you notice is the large, cold mirror on the other wall facing the gurney. As you lie down on the gurney, you find yourself staring at this mirror, which is really a 1-way mirror. Behind it sit the witnesses of the execution - some of your relatives, possibly several of the relatives of your victims. They're able to watch you through that window, but you can only see the reflection of yourself lying there, like a specimen.

The prison officials strap you into the gurney and swab your arms with alcohol, then insert two IVs into each arm (one is the main line of execution; the other is a backup, just in case the 1st line fails). You see yourself in the mirror, lying helpless and strapped to the gurney - this is it. You're about to be "put down." They then start the saline drops, to make sure the IVs aren't blocked throughout the process. You're attached to a heart monitor so the prison officials will know when you're dead.


The intravenous injection will involve a set sequence and several different drugs, given to you step-by-step. 1st, some form of anesthesia begins to get pumped into your veins - usually sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, meant to reduce pain and significantly decrease your breathing. This drug is technically not an analgesic or something that numbs pain nerves, but rather is meant to put you into unconsciousness that would, theoretically, prevent you from feeling pain. Within seconds, you begin to feel tired and heavy and you begin to doze off - into sleep or unconsciousness, you're not sure.


Once you're unconscious, the pancuronium bromide, or paralytic agent, begins to enter the IV - inducing paralysis of your muscles and lungs, which stops your breathing. Pancuronium bromide is a neuromuscular blocker that stops a nerve messenger, acetylcholine, from reaching the muscles. This ultimately causes muscular paralysis and respiratory arrest, which could lead to death by asphyxiation if the 3rd drug isn't administered.

Cardiac Arrest

And then, with potassium chloride, a salt substance, they stop your heart. This surge of chemicals impairs the heart by messing up its electrical signaling, ultimately inducing cardiac arrest, or complete stopping of the heart. The total amount of time it should take for you to die shouldn't be more than 10 minutes.

Lethal injection is used primarily in situations of capital punishment, when a prison inmate is sentenced to death. It began as an attempt by governments to make the death penalty slightly more "humane." The method was 1st proposed in 1888 by a New York doctor who claimed it would be cheaper than hanging, but it didn't yet became implemented in the states. Some 50 years later, the method was used in Nazi Germany as euthanasia before being re-introduced in America in 1977. In that year, Jay Chapman, Oklahoma's state medical examiner, proposed this "less painful" execution method: "An intravenous saline drip shall be started in the prisoner's arm, into which shall be introduced a lethal injection consisting of an ultra-short-acting barbiturate in combination with a chemical paralytic."

The law allowing lethal injection was passed in Oklahoma and is currently used by 35 states (though each state uses a different drug protocol). Traditionally, most states used the 3-drug combination for lethal injections, involving an anesthetic, a paralytic agent, and potassium chloride. But ever since there has been a lethal drug shortage due to the EU ban, many states have had to adopt different methods, including "1 drug," "pentobarbital," and "propofol."

Indeed, getting a lethal injection is by far better than electrocution, hanging, or decapitation, like used in the old days. But research has shown that lethal injection isn't devoid of pain. For example, a 2005 study found that 4 out of 10 prisoners might receive inadequate anesthesia, making the process far more painful than previously believed.

It seems smooth enough and should only take a few minutes, but recently several botched executions have taken place in the U.S., where it took up to 2 hours for some inmates to die. Their deaths were drawn out and often painful, involving burning sensations, convulsions, and gasping for breath. This is why some states have begun to debate whether lethal injection is truly "humane" (assisted in part by the 2011 European Union export ban on lethal drugs to the U.S., due to the fact that the EU calls for "universal abolition" of the death penalty). Other researchers have argued that not enough data or research exists on the current 3-drug protocol (anesthesia, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride) for it to be entirely safe. But it will be quite some time before the U.S. will decide whether to follow in Europe's footsteps and abolish lethal injection, or even the death penalty completely.

Source: Medical Daily, November 21, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Retrial begins in China of 'convict' executed in 1996

Execution in China (file photo)
A court in north China Thursday officially began reconsideration of a 1996 rape and murder case, which may have resulted in the conviction and execution of the wrong man.

The presiding judge with Inner Mongolia Higher People's Court, Bobatu, issued a retrial notice to the parents of Huugjilt, found guilty of the rape and murder of a woman in a public toilet in the regional capital Hohhot April 9, 1996, Xinhua reported.

Huugjilt, 18 at the time, was sentenced to death by Hohhot Intermediate People's Court in May 1996. His appeal was rejected, the death penalty was approved by the region's higher court and Huugjilt was executed June 10,1996.

After his execution, another alleged serial rapist and killer, Zhao Zhihong, confessed to the murder when he was arrested in 2005. Zhao allegedly raped and killed 10 women and girls between 1996 and 2005. He stood trial in late 2006 and no verdict has yet been issued.

President of the higher court, Hu Yifeng, said earlier this month that should there be any errors in the previous ruling, they must be addressed.

"It has been so difficult to wait for the retrial decision," sobbed Shang Aiyun, 62, mother of the dead Huugjilt, in her home. She said she hoped the court would proceed carefully with the retrial and that the verdict would prove her son's innocence.

Huugjilt's parents, unwavering in their belief in their son's innocence, have been petitioning the country's supreme court and the region's higher court since 2006.

Yan Feng, a friend and colleague of Huugjilt, tells how they heard someone cry out in a women's toilet as they passed by. Huugjilt asked Yan to go with him into the toilet to see what had happened. There they saw a woman's body and immediately ran out. Huugjilt then reported it to police despite Yan's attempts to persuade him to keep quiet.

China's Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that if the evidence on which a verdict is based is found to be questionable or inadequate, a retrial should be held. The retrial will be a purely documentary one and will be completed as soon as possible, said Li Shengchen, spokesman for the Inner Mongolia Higher People's Court, at a press briefing in Hohhot Thursday.

In a similar case, Nie Shubin in north China's Hebei Province was executed in 1995 at the age of 21 for the 1994 rape and murder of a woman in the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang. Later Wang Shujin was apprehended by police in 2005 for 3 unconnected rape and murder cases, and confessed to the rape and murder of the woman in Shijiazhuang. In that instance the provincial higher court did not believe Wang's claim in a retrial last year and Nie's verdict still stands.

Also last year, a man in the eastern province of Anhui was declared innocent after serving 17 years of a life sentence for the killing of his wife.

The Anhui provincial higher people's court set Yu Yingsheng free when it ruled that in the previous trial, facts about the alleged homicide were unclear and the evidence inadequate.

China's Supreme People's Court started to review all death penalty rulings on Jan 1, 2007, ending 24 years during which lower courts could issue death sentences and execute criminals without any other approval.

The Communist Party of China made a decision on major issues concerning the rule of law last month and the Huugjilt retrial is an indication of how things are changing, said Miao Li, a lawyer in Inner Mongolia.

"I hope a fair trial can reveal the truth of the case and give every citizen a sense of justice and fairness," said Miao.

Source: Business Standard, November 20, 2014

Ricky Jackson: American prisoner found innocent after 39 years behind bars

Ricky Jackson
Ending a startling miscarriage of justice spanning nearly four decades, a judge in Cleveland, Ohio has exonerated a man convicted of aggravated murder after the only prosecution witness in his trial came forward and admitted he made up his testimony.

Ricky Jackson, who is now 59, is expected to be released on Friday after spending 39 years in prison for the killing in May 1975 of a money-order collector in Cleveland. He and two other men, who were brothers, were found guilty by a jury based on the testimony of a 12-year-old boy.

But at a hearing in Cleveland this week that witness, Eddy Vernon, who is now 51, stepped forward and confessed that, in fact, he never saw the attack and that the details of what happened had been fed to him by police. He was told that his parents would be arrested if he changed his story.

“Everything was a lie. They were all lies,” Mr Vernon told Judge Richard McMonagle. He had been on a school bus at the time of the killing and other witnesses came forward to say he could not have seen the murder directly. The prosecution case had rested entirely on his words.

“The scale of the miscarriage of justice in Ricky Jackson’s case is staggering,” Clive Stafford Smith, the head of Reprieve, a London-based charity that defends prisoners’ rights. He is currently involved in a similar hearing trying to exonerate British-born Kris Maharaj, who has been incarcerated in Florida for nearly 30 years for a double murder he says he didn’t commit.

“Much of what went wrong in Mr Jackson’s case is very familiar: a witness coached by the police into a version of events that would gain an easy conviction; a woeful lack of reliable evidence linking him to the crime; inept lawyering, especially for poor people; a jury or judge not willing to countenance doubt; and a ‘justice’ system where, once convicted, it becomes nearly impossible to overturn a sentence.”

“I can’t believe this is over,” Mr Jackson declared, thanking lawyers from the Ohio Innocence Project that had pushed his case forward. “It’s over,” he was later heard yelling into a phone to his family.

Source: The Independent, November 20, 2014

Ricky Jackson expected to be released today after serving more than 39 years in prison

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- When Ricky Jackson walks out of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center a free man today, he will have spent 39 years, three months and eight days behind bars since he was wrongfully convicted of murder on August 13, 1975.

It's the longest known prison sentence anyone has served in the United States before being exonerated, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Jackson will become the 1,477th person exonerated since 1989, according to the registry, maintained by the University of Michigan Law School.

"Everything was a lie. They were all lies," said Eddie Vernon, now 53, who testified that he first told his pastor last year that his testimony in the case was false.

Attorneys and court officials expect Jackson, 57, to appear briefly this morning in Judge Richard McMonagle's courtroom for the case against him to be officially dismissed. Then, he will be escorted back down to the county jail to fill out paperwork to finalize his release.

McMonagle ordered that Jackson be brought to his courtroom unshackled and in street clothes.

The Plain Dealer will follow that court hearing, set to begin around 9 a.m., in a live blog.

On Tuesday, after Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty conceded the murder case against Jackson had crumbled and the case would be dismissed, Jackson sobbed loudly, his head buried in his handcuffed hands, saying "I can't believe this is over.''

He thanked his Ohio Innocence Project attorneys and called his family

"I'm coming home. I'm coming home," he shouted into a phone.

Source:, November 21, 2014

Bittersweet pic of Ricky Jackson & his lawyers upon hearing his case dismissed. 39 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.
Bittersweet pic of Ricky Jackson and his lawyers upon hearing
his case dismissed. 39 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.

After 39 years Ricky has nothing.
Your donations will be given directly to Ricky to help rebuild his life.
This fund is administered by the Ohio Innocence Project.
Again all money will be going directly to Ricky Jackson.

Click here to donate

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Texas judge refuses to postpone scheduled execution of schizophrenic inmate Scott Panetti

A Texas judge on Wednesday refused to postpone the scheduled execution of a convicted killer who suffers from mental illness and is set to face lethal injection on December 3.

Scott Panetti, who has had schizophrenia for three decades, has won support for his case from groups like Mental Health America, psychiatrists, former judges and prosecutors and evangelical Christians.

The European Union has also urged Texas Governor Rick Perry to grant Panetti clemency.

"The execution of persons suffering from a mental disorder is contrary to widely accepted human rights norms and is in contradiction to the minimum standards of human rights set forth in several international human rights instruments," the bloc wrote in its letter.

Still, district judge Keith Williams refused to give attorneys more time to reevaluate whether Panetti was criminally responsible. He was convicted in 1995 of shooting his estranged wife's parents to death at point blank range in 1992.

At the trial, Panetti acted as his own attorney, wore a cowboy outfit and tried to call as witnesses the pope, John F. Kennedy and Jesus.

"As an obviously severely mentally ill man with schizophrenia, Mr Panetti should never have been allowed to represent himself in his death penalty case," his attorney Kathryn Kase said.

He "should not have been allowed to reject a plea deal that would have saved his life. Now, Mr Panetti must not be executed without a competency hearing.

"This is the last chance to prevent an injustice from turning into an immoral tragedy."

Though individual US states choose whether they will implement the death penalty, in 1986 the US Supreme Court barred execution of the mentally ill as cruel and unusual punishment.

Source: Agence France-Presse, November 20, 2014

Related article:
- URGENT ACTION for Scott Panetti due to be executed in Texas on 3 December 2014 (Petition), Amnesty International, November 19, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lawyers in Colorado theater massacre case argue over grim images

James Holmes and lawyer
Lawyers in the Colorado movie theater massacre case argued on Tuesday over whether jurors should see disturbing crime scene video and hundreds of gruesome photos of the July 2012 rampage.

Attorneys for accused gunman James Holmes said the images could inflame jurors, while prosecutors countered that they are needed to prove the case.

Holmes, 26, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to shooting dead 12 moviegoers and wounding 70 others in a Denver-area cinema during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

Prosecutors have charged Holmes with multiple counts of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder, and say they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

At issue was a defense motion that seeks to limit the use of video and photographs of dead and wounded victims.

Public defender Tamara Brady said the sight of too many graphic images "could cause the jury to act on passion, vengeance, hatred, or disgust," rather than weigh the evidence.

Prosecutor Karen Pearson countered that the images provide essential evidence.

"We have 12 people dead and 70 more injured, some catastrophically," Pearson said. "It is not an excessive number of photos .... There are simply so many victims in this case."

The defense also wants to restrict a video recorded inside Holmes' car that shows it has a skull-shaped gear shift.

"It has no relevance and it's possible some jurors could be put off or offended," Brady said.

Shackled and attired in red prison garb, Holmes sat impassively throughout the 90-minute hearing.

The defense also objects to video and photos that show posters hung in Holmes' apartment. The nature of the posters was not disclosed, but Pearson said they show the "normality" of the onetime neuroscience doctoral candidate.

"There are no pictures of Charles Manson on his walls," she said, adding that the posters are the kind typically found in a young graduate student's home.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour did not immediately rule on the motion, and said he might need to decide some evidentiary issues at trial.

Jury summonses will be sent to 9,000 county residents next month, and jury selection is set to start in January.

Samour has said he wants both sides to present opening statements in early June, although that date could be moved up if jury selection proceeds quicker than he anticipates.

Source: Reuters, November 19, 2014