Thursday, July 24, 2014

Arizona botches Joseph Wood's execution

Joseph Wood
A convicted killer gasped on the gurney for more than an hour as the state of Arizona attempted to execute him on Wednesday, before being declared dead almost two hours after the process began.

Attorneys for Joseph Wood attempted to halt the execution in an emergency court motion, saying he had been "gasping and snoring for more than an hour". The state attorney general announced that Wood had died before the court could rule on the motion

The developments echoed the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, who writhed and groaned on a gurney for nearly 45 minutes before eventually dying of a heart attack.

"We respectfully request that this court stop the execution and require that the Department of Corrections use the lifesaving provisions required in its protocol," the laywers said.

"He is still alive. This execution has violated Mr Wood’s eighth amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment," the court filing said.

The hours leading up to the execution were marked by a frenzied legal battle over the secrecy imposed by state officials on the source of the drugs. It was put on hold several times – first by a federal appeals court, then by the state supreme court of Arizona – only to have the stays lifted and the procedure go ahead.

Even the US supreme court was asked to intervene, but on Tuesday night declined to do so without giving an explanation for its decision.

Source: The Guardian, July 23, 2014

Arizona inmate takes two hours to die in botched execution using experimental two-drug cocktail

The state of Arizona today took one hour and 57 minutes to kill a prisoner in a botched execution, which was carried out using the same combination of drugs as those used in the botched execution of an Ohio prisoner earlier this year.

Joseph Wood, 55, was eventually pronounced dead at 3.49pm local time after he had been seen ‘gasping and snorting’ over an hour into his execution, according to an emergency stay filed mid-execution by his lawyers as they saw what was happening.

Wood was executed using the drugs Midazolam and Hydromorphone, a combination that has been used only once before in an execution that also went badly wrong in Ohio in January. Dennis McGuire was seen struggling and gasping for breath during an execution that took over 25 minutes.

The botched execution of Wood follows that of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April. Both states insisted on conducting the executions behind a veil of secrecy, refusing to name the manufacturers of the drugs or provide critical details which could have helped assure their quality.

Like Lockett, Wood had received a stay just moments prior to the execution so that the court could consider the issue of the experimental drugs. However that stay was then lifted and Wood’s execution began at 1.52pm local time.

There are just a handful of manufacturers of both Midazolam and Hydromorphone which do not yet have comprehensive distribution controls in place to ensure their medicines are used to improve and save the lives of patients, and are not sold to prisons to end the lives of prisoners in potentially torturous executions. International human rights NGO Reprieve has worked extensively with pharmaceutical companies, the majority of which have taken steps to protect their medicines from abuse in executions like this one.

Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, said: “The State of Arizona had every reason to believe that this procedure would not go smoothly; the experimental execution ‘cocktail’ had only been used once before, and that execution too was terribly botched. Despite the evidence, the state pushed ahead, jettisoning due process and cloaking the procedure in secrecy. The result was an exercise in torture. No one in the medical profession or industry wants anything to do with executions. Manufacturers and medics have long protested the abuse of medicines (which are designed to save lives) in executions designed to end them. How many more botched executions must we witness before states finally take heed?”

Source: Reprieve, July 23, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Vietnam executes three, including high-profile killer Nguyen Duc Nghia

The Hai Phong man who outraged the nation by killing and dismembering an ex-girlfriend was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday night, despite his pleas for mercy.

Nguyen Duc Nghia received the shot from the execution council of the Supreme People’s Court.

In July 2010, a Hanoi court sentenced him to death for the murder and robbery of his ex-girlfriend, Nguyen Phuong Linh.

The court found the 30-year-old guilty of killing Linh on May 4, 2010 in Hanoi, then cutting off her head and fingers and dumping them in a river around 90 kilometers away in Quang Ninh Province.

Nghia was watching his new girlfriend’s apartment while she was out of town when he called Linh, his one-year college lover, to come over.

After they made love, he stabbed Linh to death, wrapped her torso in a blanket and stashed it on the building’s rooftop.

He pawned her motorbike, laptop and mobile phone for VND5 million (US$240).

He was arrested on May 22, 2010 while hiding out in Thai Nguyen Province, one day after police discovered Linh’s naked, rotting body.

Nghia filed an appeal in November 2010 arguing that he did not kill Linh to rob her, but the supreme court upheld his capital sentence.

He sent a letter to President Truong Tan Sang four days later asking for a pardon but his request was rejected.

Hanoi Moi newspaper said two other convicts were also executed on the same day. The executions took place between 5-7:30pm.

Starting in late 2011, Vietnam officially switched from dispatching convicts with firing squads to lethal injections. An EU ban on exports of the lethal cocktail to Vietnam caused a lengthy backlog and drove many convicts to insanity and suicide--until Vietnam began manufacturing its own lethal serum. 

Source: Thanh Nien News, July 23, 2014

FBI malfeasance undercuts death penalty

The death penalty’s flaws have been well-documented. But a new report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General reveals some of the most troubling evidence yet, and provides a fresh reminder of why North Carolina and other states will forever be on shaky ground until they abolish it.

The FBI used flawed forensic evidence and overstated testimony by 13 lab examiners to help convict up to 64 murder suspects and put them on death row, the report said. Yet Justice and the FBI took five years to identify those suspects and delayed telling state prosecutors that it was reviewing the cases, so the states had no way of knowing that the convictions might be flawed.

At least three men were executed before a Justice Department task force fully reviewed those cases. In at least one, the defendant would not have been eligible for the death penalty without the FBI’s flawed work, the report said. (The Justice Department generally agreed with the report’s findings.)

Among the 64 on death row with questionable cases were two from South Carolina: Donald Gaskins was executed in 1991 and Leroy Drayton was executed in 1999. In addition, 17 Carolinas cases were among 402 in which defendants were convicted on evidence so problematic that the task force ordered an independent scientific review of the FBI examiners’ work. The report was able to confirm that prosecutors revealed the findings to only 15 of the 402.

Source: The Charlotte Observer, July 23, 2014

Human Rights: Saudi man gets 3 years in prison, 450 lashes for meeting men via Twitter

Gay Saudi Arabia
MEDINA, Saudi Arabia – A criminal court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a 24-year-old man to three years in jail and 450 lashes for trying to arrange a date with another man via Twitter.

According to the daily Aarabic newspaper Al-Watan, the court found the unidentified man guilty of “promoting the vice and practice of homosexuality.”

Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (religious police) entrapped the man after using the social media site to invite him to meet for a date.

When he showed up at designated meeting space, he was arrested and his phone was confiscated. Police said the man’s phone contained “evidence for his homosexuality” and “indecent images.”

The accused reportedly confessed to the judge of using his Twitter account to meet other men, and for possession of “pornographic images of homosexual perversion.”

Homosexuality is frequently a taboo subject in Saudi Arabian society and is often punished with imprisonment, fines, corporal punishment, capital punishment, whipping/flogging, and chemical castrations.
The severity of punishment depends mostly on religious Sunni judges and scholars, as well as royal decrees.
“It is infuriating and disheartening when a country that was elected not too long ago to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), arrogantly and nonchalantly violates its core principles and harms its own citizens,” said Abdulla, chair of the United Arab Emirates LGBT group.

“Not only this is the fundamental human right for privacy is breached but the entrapment and sentence also breaches several human rights charters,” he told LGBTQ Nation. “If the man survives this ordeal he will find himself an outcast and will be in danger for life after he completes this harsh sentence.”

Source: LGBTQNation, July 22, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jones v Chappell: Justice delayed

San Quentin's brand new, multi-million dollar
death chamber. "Of the 900 people California has
sentenced to death since1978, only 13 have been
executed. The last person to be put to death was in 2006."
"A man is undone by waiting for capital punishment," Albert Camus wrote, "well before he dies." On July 16th a federal judge in California, Cormac Carney, ruled in Jones v Chappell that the machinery of death in the Golden State is so plagued by delays and arbitrariness that it amounts to a "cruel and unusual punishment" in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the federal constitution. Judge Carney struck down Ernest Jones's 1995 death sentence for raping and killing his girlfriend's mother, along with the capital sentences of 747 other convicts. Awaiting execution for decades "with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, it will ever come," Judge Carney wrote, is a punishment "no rational jury or legislature could ever impose."

Of the 900 people California has sentenced to death since 1978, only 13 have been executed. The last person to be put to death was in 2006. The same year, a federal court ruled that California's mode of lethal injection carried a risk that "an inmate will suffer pain so extreme" that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment. With Judge Carney's ruling, the state's system of capital punishment has been judged doubly infirm. The average prisoner who is executed in California has spent 25 years on death row - much longer than the national average of 15.8 years. Such long delays make it unlikely that capital punishment deters other potential murderers, ruled Judge Carney, or delivers effective retribution.

Legal observers are surprised by the broad sweep of the ruling but divided about its potential impact. For James Ching, a former deputy attorney general in California, Judge Carney's opinion is "quixotic" and errs by attributing all the tarrying to California state courts when federal courts are responsible for "46.2% of the total delay and dysfunction". The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Mr Ching suggested, will likely regard Judge Carney's decision sceptically when the state appeals.

But Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles County district attorney, has said the Jones ruling is "truly historic" and demonstrates that "the death penalty is broken beyond repair." California may have the largest and slowest-moving death row in the country, but it is not the only state where condemned prisoners are more likely to die of old age than be executed. The central point in Judge Carney's opinion, says Diann Rust-Tierney, head of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, is "not simply the length of time" between conviction and execution. "It is the unpredictability."

Stephen Bright of the Southern Centre for Human Rights says that the California death penalty is "uniquely dysfunctional" (a term Judge Carney used eight times) and "will collapse of its own weight eventually." If and when the challenge reaches the Supreme Court, it is unclear how it will fare. Justice Stephen Breyer has been receptive to the delay argument in the past and this March Justice Anthony Kennedy asked the Florida solicitor general whether he thought waiting 35 years to die was "consistent with the purposes that the death penalty is designed to serve." Mr Bright has few doubts which way the wind is blowing. Judge Carney's decision, he says, "has added to the conversation in a way that will lead to the inevitable end of the death penalty in California and the United States."

Source: The Economist, July 22, 2014

Damien Echols and Lorri Echols Give Away Interactive Video Chat to Support Boston Book Festival

Damien Echols and Lorri Echols
Lorri Echols and Damien Echols
Damien Echols, member of the West Memphis 3, will be hosting a video AMA on tomorrow, July 23, 2014 at 6pm EST.

In 1993, Damien and two others were wrongly convicted of murdering 3 young boys in a small Arkansas town. The trial was widely publicized and controversial, sparking public outcries over their incarceration. For 18 years, Damien sat on death row for a crime he did not commit. Public support (with participation from Peter Jackson, Pearl Jam, Johnny Depp, and many others) eventually lead to a assessment of the case, and the eventual freeing of the three men.

During his AMA, Damien will be answering questions from supporters, and talking about his new book, Yours for Eternity: A Love Story On Death Row. The book, written with his wife Lori, chronicles an unlikely and moving romance that developed (largely through letters) while Damien was incarcerated.

Echols is a New York Times Bestselling Author and previously authored the memoir Life after Death, chronicling the 18 years he spent on death row.

The AMA is free to attend, with optional donations benefitting Boston Book Festival, an annual event that promotes culture and literacy in Massachusetts' capital. Registration for the event is encouraged in advance on Wizeo.

Source: Wizeo, July 22, 2014

Syria: Two women stoned to death for "adultery" by ISIS

Raqqa first public stoning to
death of a woman  by ISIS
for alleged  adultery.
July 20, 2014: In separate incidents in a span of 24 hours, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) carried out executions against two women in Syria, sentencing them to death by stoning over allegations of "adultery".

Unconfirmed reports claim that in at least one case, the woman was sentenced to death as her new husband found that she was not a virgin.

Both incidents of death by stoning have been reported from Al Raqqa Province.

"The Islamic State carried out, for the second time in 24 hours, the punishment of Al Rajem (stoning to death for adultery) against another woman in the city of Al Raqqa in a square near the Municipal Stadium," an official from NGO Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) stated.

The stoning, which was first reported by the SOHR, has also been confirmed by Al Jazeera which claimed that the first stoning took place in a public square in the town of Tabaqa on Thursday (July 17) evening.

The report noted that the woman was tried at the Islamic Sharia court, where neither the witnesses who made the allegation were identified, nor the man - who is said to be the paramour - was charged.

"Mystery surrounds the whole thing," Abu Khalil, an activist in Raqqa who runs the anti-Islamic State group 'Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently', told Al Jazeera America. The group has released a picture of Thursday's stoning. 

The second incident reportedly took place in a town in Raqqa, where a 26-year-old woman - identified with intials S.H.M.A. - was stoned to death by the ISIS militiants.

The SOHR report claimed that the woman was publicly executed by stoning late in the night after the Eshaa Salat, which is the last of the five prayers recited by a practicing Muslim. The stoning took place in a popular market and the victim was a widow.

Raqqa, since last year, has been established as the de facto capital of the Islamic State caliphate. Since then, the region has been witnessing brutal punishments carried out by the ISIS militants under the Sharia law

Sources: International Business Times, HOC, July 20, 2014

Wave Of Forgiveness Washes Over Iran

Balal is standing on a chair (far left). The noose has been
slipped around his neck. The victim's parents are standing next
to the makeshift scaffold. Soon, the victim's mother (center)
will approach Balal, slap him in the face and decide to forgive
her son's killer. The victim's father (far right) will remove the
noose and Balal's life will  be spared. Read more.
April 16 was supposed to be the last day of Balal's life. Seven years after stabbing another teen dead in a street fight, Balal was to be publicly executed in front of his victim's family, in a small town in Iran's northern province of Mazandaran.

Instead, Balal was given a new lease on life when, in the very last minute, he was spared by his victim's mother. The dramatic scenes of Balal, his neck in a noose, being pardoned have received extensive coverage in the media and on social-networking sites.

Since then the scene has been reenacted dozens of times in a wave of forgiveness that belies the authorities' efforts to push the death penalty.

Last week alone, according to the reformist "Shargh" daily, nine individuals sentenced to death were pardoned by victims' families.

Observers say a concerted publicity campaign is at play, but money is also a factor.

Artists, television celebrities, and rights activists have been publicly calling on citizens to spare the lives of those sentenced to death and the media have been sympathetic in their coverage.

In Balal's case, for example, popular TV presenter Adel Ferdowsipour spoke to an audience of millions in favor of him being pardoned.

But Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, a well-known Iranian lawyer who has represented several convicted killers, says that what media call a wave of mercy is in fact a "business."

Under Islamic laws applied in Iran, the families of convicted murderers are able to buy their kin's freedom from victims' families. The official rate for blood money is 150 million toumans -- or about $50,000 -- but often the sum requested is higher.

In Balal's case, his victim's family reportedly received blood money of about 300 million toumans.

"Based on the information I have about some of the cases, I have to say that a large part of the reconciliations in Qisas" - a reference to the Islamic law of retribution - "cases are happening in exchange of enormous sums of money from the families of those convicted," Khoramshahi said earlier this month in an interview with

The Tehran-based lawyer added that media should encourage people not to request huge sums of money for showing mercy.

Iranian Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said in April that during the past Iranian year - from March 2013 to March 2014 - the lives of 358 condemned Iranians were spared under the Islamic law of retribution.

Mahmood Amiry Moghadam, spokesman of the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization, says it is not clear how many pardons were prompted by the lure of financial compensation.

But Moghadam thinks that some Iranians are finding "value" in showing mercy.

"I think as much as the establishment is trying to promote executions," he says, "a culture that goes against it - a culture of mercy - is being promoted."

Moghadam says Iran's civil society and anti-death-penalty groups should be given credit for the trend.

One of the groups active against executions is the "Step By Step To Stop The Death Penalty In Iran" campaign, founded by a number of prominent intellectuals and rights activists including former Tehran University chancellor Mohammad Maleki.

Maleki tells RFE/RL there's a growing distaste for the death penalty in Iran and a tendency toward mercy.

He agrees that many families spare the lives of their relatives' killers for money. At the same time, he says he's come across a number of cases where the families pardoned convicted killers out of compassion.

"It will take time before it becomes ingrained in the society," he says in a telephone interview from Tehran. "People have to realize slowly that money cannot replace forgiveness and sacrifice."

Maleki notes that the trend comes as the Iranian establishment continues to hold public hangings.

"The establishment only knows violence and blood," he says.

One journalist in the Iranian capital says the establishment is already benefiting from the wave of forgiveness because "it shows a more human face of Iran."

But others fear that violence is so deeply rooted in Iranian society that it will take a long time before things change.

The country carried out 665 executions in 2013, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

And with Iranians under tremendous pressures that discourage communication and dialogue, the wave of mercy is not likely to last, according to prominent university professor and sociologist Mostafa Eghlima.

"It's not easy [for people] to forgive someone who has killed their children," he concludes.
Source: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, July 21, 2014

Related article:
- Iranian man granted mercy by victim's family moments after execution begins, May 9, 2013. (Warning: Graphic Content) A man sentenced to death for murder in Mashad, northeastern Iran, was granted mercy at the very last moment just as he was being hung from the scaffold...

Iran: Political prisoner Arzhang Davoodi sentenced to death

The Iranian regime's judiciary has sentenced political prisoner Arzhang Davoodi to death for his opposition to the clerical regime, according to reports received from Iran. Mr. Davoodi has already served 10 years in prison

Davoodi, 62, a teacher, was arrested in October 2003 and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment which was later increased to 20 years.

For the past 10 years he has been subjected to torture and abuses, He has been held in solitary confinement and denied medical care.

He has been told by Bandar Abbas prison authorities that he would soon be transferred to Tehran.

Source: NCR-Iran, July 21, 2014

Iranian regime sentences a prisoner to stoning to death and hanging

The Iranian regime's judiciary has sentenced a prisoner to death by stoning, hanging and 15 years imprisonment, state-run Mehr News Agency reported.

The regime's judiciary chief in northern city of Ghaemshahr who did not identify the prisoner said the review of the case of this 32-year-old prisoner has been one the most important tasks of his office.

He said the prisoners has been sentenced to 2 times execution which includes hanging and stoning to death for alleged crimes that included adultery and possessing satellite receivers among others.

Source: NCR-Iran, July 21, 2014

Taiwain: Death penalty sought for Taipei metro killer

New Taipei prosecutors on Monday indicted a man who stabbed to death four passengers on the Taipei metro system in May and recommended that he be given the death penalty because of the brutality of the crime and the suspect's lack of remorse.

The suspect, 21-year-old university student Cheng Chieh, was charged with four counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder for his actions on a moving subway train just before the evening rush hour on May 21.

The indictment was handed down as Cheng's two-month detainment period expired Monday.

In defending their request for the death penalty in the indictment, prosecutors described Cheng's behavior as "mass murder," and said that the incident caused collective panic in society and put people on guard when taking public transportation.

They also said his actions had spawned several potential copycats threatening to kill people on public buses or the subway system.

A thorough assessment of Cheng conducted by National Taiwan University Hospital concluded that Cheng has no mental disorders or deficiencies, meaning he is not eligible under Article 19 of Taiwan's Criminal Code to be exempt from punishment for the offense or have the sentence reduced because of mental incompetency, prosecutors said.

In their 8,000-word indictment, prosecutors also focused on the brutality and cruelty of the stabbings, saying that the surveillance footage showed a "scene from hell."

Cheng was seen repeatedly stabbing his victims and even toying with them without showing the slightest sliver of humanity, and he even admitted during his mental evaluation that he felt pleased to have the fate of the passengers in his hands, prosecutors said.

Source: China Times, July 22, 2014

Arizona: Execution Case to Be Appealed to Justices

A federal appeals court on Monday denied Arizona’s request for a new hearing, by a larger panel, to reconsider the court’s stay of the execution of Joseph Wood, and the state said it would appeal immediately to the Supreme Court to permit the execution to proceed.

On Saturday, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit delayed Mr. Wood’s execution, scheduled for Wednesday, until Arizona provides information about the sources of lethal drugs and the training of the administering staff. In previous cases, the Supreme Court has declined to stop executions over similar concerns about drug secrecy.

Source: The New York Times, Erik Eckholm, July 21, 2014

Chinese policeman executed for shooting pregnant woman

Chinese police officers rehearsing
execution procedure
NANNING, July 22 (Xinhua) -- A former policeman was executed on Tuesday for shooting a pregnant woman dead in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Hu Ping, formerly of the public security bureau of Pingnan County, was drunk when he shot the woman and her husband, who ran a rice noodle restaurant, on Oct. 28.

The husband, Cai Shiyong, sustained minor injuries to his right shoulder. His wife, Wu Ying, and their unborn child died after being shot twice.

Hu was sentenced to death for intentional homicide in February by Guigang Intermediate People's Court. He appealed, but the Higher People's Court of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region upheld the verdict in April and the death penalty was approved by the Supreme People's Court.

Hu's crime caused an "abominable influence on society," said the court.

The rulings in the first and second trials were based on "clear facts" and "valid and adequate evidence" and "the conviction was accurate and then penalty proper," it said.

Source: Xinhua, July 22, 2014

Monday, July 21, 2014

Indonesia makes efforts to save its nationals on death row in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Indonesian Embassy in Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to save 33 of its nationals, mainly maids, on death row in Saudi Arabia, according to Arab News Sunday.

Among the death penalty cases, there are only two serious ones, while the embassy has asked for judicial review, made appeals in courts, and appealed for royal clemency, Indonesian Ambassador Abdurrahman Mohammed Fachir was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Several female workers, who were earlier granted reprieves from death sentences, recently returned to Indonesia.

According to the report, at least 67 Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, China and Iran, who earlier faced death penalties, ultimately have managed to walk free under the efforts of Indonesian government.

Source: Xinhua, July 20, 2014

Arizona: Court Delays Execution Over Secrecy With Drugs

A federal appeals court has delayed the imminent execution of an Arizona man, saying he has a legal right to details about the lethal injection drugs to be used and about the qualifications of the execution team.

The ruling on Saturday, by a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, contrasted sharply with recent decisions by other state and federal courts defending states’ rights to keep information about drug sources secret.

“This is the first time a circuit court has ruled that the plaintiff has a right to know the source of execution drugs,” said Jennifer Moreno, an expert on lethal injection law at the Death Penalty Clinic of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

The appeals court ruling came four days before the scheduled execution of Joseph Wood, who was convicted of the killings of two people and sentenced to death.

But Arizona officials were not backing down. On Sunday, the state appealed to the Ninth Circuit for reconsideration by a wider panel of judges and it appeared possible that the state would appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.

Source: The New York Times, Erik Eckholm, July 20, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Is Oregon's death penalty as 'cruel and unusual' as California's?

Oregon death penalty foes found a lot to like in a federal court decision handed down this week in California.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney vacated the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, condemned to death on April 7, 1995, ruling that capital punishment in California violates the constitutional right of prisoners not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Carney's Wednesday ruling noted that more than 900 prisoners have been sentenced to die in California since 1978, but only 13 have been executed.

"For the rest," Carney wrote, "the dysfunctional administration of California's death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death."

Jeff Ellis, a criminal defense attorney on the board of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, boiled the order down in a dozen words:

"California has nothing on Oregon. Our death penalty system is even worse."

Ellis noted that Oregon has executed just 2 men - both volunteers, both executed in the late 1990s after waiving their appeals - since the latest incarnation of capital punishment was passed into state law.

"Of the individuals currently under a death sentence in Oregon, 8 have been on death row for over 25 years," Ellis wrote. "The last person to die on death row was Gary Zweigert in 2013. He died of natural causes.

"In reality, Oregon pays for the most expensive version of life in prison imaginable. It is the opposite of being smart on crime."

Death penalty advocates also find fault in Oregon's law, blaming sloth by the state Supreme Court and Gov. John Kitzhaber's moratorium on capital punishment for the delays.

No matter where you stand on capital punishment, it will be interesting to see if judges in the U.S. District of Oregon find themselves poring through the appeals of prisoners arguing the Eighth Amendment points raised by Ernest Dewayne Jones.
Source: The Oregonian, July 19, 2014

Death penalty: Lebanon and Qatar now among abolitionists

Execution in Kuwait, April 2013
Executions have resumed in Kuwait and Egypt while Lebanon and Qatar are now de facto among abolitionists - countries in which no court has sentenced anyone to death for at least a decade - along with Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, according to the 2014 report on the death penalty worldwide presented Friday in Rome by Italian NGO "Nessuno Tocchi Caino" (May nobody touch Cain).

According to the report, the countries with the highest rate of executions in 2013 and the first 6 months of 2014 were China - where at least 3,000 of the world's reported 4,106 executions were carried out - followed by Iran (687), Iraq (172) and Saudi Arabia (78).

Palestine, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Syria and Yemen also maintained the death penalty. Algeria is carrying out a moratorium on executions.

Among the 8 countries which resumed executions over 2013 or in the first semester of this year were the United Arab Emirates (1), Egypt (at least 8 in 2014) and Kuwait (5).

Most death penalties were handed down in connection with terrorism charges: hundreds of executions are carried out in the Arab world and, more in general, in Muslim countries, the NGO said. Often executions vie to eliminate regime opponents. There were at least 233 such executions across 6 Muslim countries last year, including Iran (33) and Iraq (168). Overall, the NGO pointed out that the situation has sensibly declined in these 2 countries. Last year and in the first 6 months of 2014, though the "moderate" Rohani took power, hundreds of executions were carried out in Iran as well as in Iraq, which "chose to adopt the Iranian model", said the organization's leader, Sergio D'Elia.

"Such a high number of executions had not been registered" since Saddam Hussein was in power, he continued. "The executions were necessary, according to Iraqi authorities, to counter political violence and terrorism". Many were also executed on drug-related charges in Egypt, the UAE, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen.

Concern is high over the situation in Egypt, D'Elia told ANSAmed, where the death penalty has resumed this year after a moratorium which lasted a number of years. "No executions had been carried out since 2011", recalled D'Elia. Mass death sentences against hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood are worrying the international community. Minors are also increasingly being sentenced to death.

A reported 13 people aged under 18 were executed in 3 countries: at least 9 in Iran, 3 in Saudi Arabia and 1 in Yemen. There is no data on Libya and Syria, the report noted.
Source: Reuters, July 19, 2014

Bangladesh metes out harsh punishments for Ramna perpetrators

8 radical Islamists receive death penalties and 6 more get life sentences for the 2001 bombings that killed 10.

Jannatul Ferdousi Shilpi, 17, yearned to witness the annual cultural show heralding Pohela Boishakh, the 1st day of the Bengali calendar, in Dhaka's Ramna Park.

13 years ago to get ready for the programme, she and her 2 cousins, Reazul Haque, 20, and Mamun Gazi, 22, travelled from their remote home in southwestern Baufal to her brother's house in Dhaka.

They woke up early April 14th to secure a vantage spot 10 metres from the stage where the singers performed.

At around 8.15am, an explosion in the jam-packed audience sent everyone running for cover.

15 minutes later another blast ensued. Shilpi, Haque and Gazi were among the 10 people killed in the explosions.

After a 7-year investigation, police confirmed the heinous act was the work of outlawed Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI).

More than 13 years after the grisly attacks, the victims' family members rejoiced as a Dhaka court on June 23rd handed down capital punishment to 8 militants and life sentences to 6 others.

Mastermind Mufti Abdul Hannan and his accomplices Akbar Hossain, Arif Hasan, Maulana Tajuddin, Hafez Jahangir Alam, Maulana Abu Bakr, Mufti Abdul Hye and Mufti Shafiqur Rahman received the death penalty.

Tajuddin, Alam, Bakr, Hye and Rahman remain at large.

Shilpi and her cousins "left the village to be present at the Ramna Botomul to celebrate the Pohela Boishakh . But we never thought they would leave us forever," Kamrul Hasan, a cousin living in Baufaluakhali, told Khabar South Asia. "They went to enjoy the performance. Was it their sin?"

Shipli's mother died around 5 years ago. Her blind father Hashem Gazi, is still alive. "I can die in peace if I could see their execution," he told Khabar about the perpetrators. "They are the enemy of Islam."

In the chargesheet, the police said the militant group targeted the Ramna Botomul - an area of the park - because it considered the cultural activities "unIslamic".

Judge Ruhul Amin said in the verdict the attack was "brutal, barbaric, heinous and unpardonable". "This is not a political case. ... Those who died in the attacks were commoners," he said. "People of all faiths and ethnicities came to celebrate the Pohela Boishakh."

Sanjida Khatun, president of hosting event and cultural organisation Chayanaut, was satisfied with the judgment.

"This is an attack against our culture. We never thought that there will be an attack on the traditional cultural event," Khatun said.

Former Inspector General of Police Abdul Quayum told Khabar that HuJI launched attacks on cultural gatherings until Hannan's arrest in 2007.

"The militants and terrorists are the enemy of everyone," he said. "All political parties must stand against them and the terrorists must be punished."
Source: Khabar South Asia, July 19, 2014

India: President rejects mercy pleas of Nithari killer, 5 others

It's the gallows for Nithari serial killer Surinder Koli and 5 other death row convicts with President Pranab Mukherjee rejecting their mercy petitions as advised by the home ministry. The files relating to the 5 mercy pleas, 1 of which involves 2 sisters, were cleared by the President and returned to the home ministry last week.

Sources indicated that the home ministry has already written to the states concerned - Maharashtra (from where 2 petitions relating to 3 convicts were received), UP, Madhya Pradesh and Assam (1 case each) - to set in motion the process of execution of the death row convicts.

Apart from Koli, awarded death in the bone-chilling case of abduction, abuse and murder of several minors in Noida's Nithari village, the others whose clemency pleas were rejected are Renukabai and Seema, 2 sisters from Maharashtra convicted of kidnapping and brutally murdering several children; Rajendra Prahladrao Wasnik of Maharashtra, convicted of raping and murdering a minor girl; Jagdish of Madhya Pradesh who killed his wife and 5 children; and Holiram Bordoloi of Assam, who had burnt 2 people and hacked another to death in public in 1996.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh had recommended to the President on June 18 to reject the mercy petitions in all 5 cases.

Though the 6 death row convicts may still challenge the rejection of their mercy petition, the gap of 3 years and less between upholding of death sentence by the apex court and scrapping of clemency plea in three cases may not qualify for relief.

The Supreme Court had in February this year commuted the death sentences of 15 death row convicts to life imprisonment on grounds of inordinate delay - which it did not quantify, though in the relevant cases it ranged from 7 to 11 years - and mental illness.

Incidentally, the government has decided to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court seeking reconsideration of the February order.

Koli, in any case, may have little room for judicial reprieve on grounds of delay as his death sentence was confirmed only in 2011. The same fate may await Wasnik, whose death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2012, and Jagdish, whose capital punishment was upheld in 2009.

As for the other cases, the death penalty for the 2 sisters was confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2006 and that Holiram Bordoloi in 2005. It will be interestingly to see whether this is viewed as "inordinate" delay on part of the Executive in deciding their mercy pleas.
Source: The Times of India, July 19, 2014

Malaysia: Nigerian student sentenced to death for drug trafficking

July 16, 2014: A Nigerian private college student was sentenced to death by the High Court in Malaysia, after he was found guilty of trafficking 26.533 kilogrammes of Canabis, four years ago.

Judge Amelia Tee Hong Geok Abdullah held that the defence had failed to raise a reasonable doubt on the prosecution's case against Uchechukwu Nelson Ohaechesi, 37.

In her judgement, Amelia said the accused was careful to deny that he was carrying the bag which contained the dangerous drugs.

"The court finds that the accused is not a witness of truth. As such the court is of the considered view that the accused's defence is but an afterthought, a pure fabrication and untrue.

"The court therefore sentences the accused to death. And vide section 183 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the accused is to be hanged by the neck until he is dead," she said.

Ohaechesi committed the offence beside an overhead bridge staircase at Taman Connought Highway toward Kajang, Cheras at 7.45pm on Oct 17, 2010. He was charged under Section 39B (1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction.

The prosecution was conducted by deputy public prosecutor P.Viknesvaran, while lawyer Ramzani Idris appeared for the accused. 

Sources: Bernama, HOC, July 16, 2014

Sri Lanka: Ukrainian couple sentenced to death for double murder

July 16, 2014: The Colombo High Court sentenced to death a Ukrainian couple found guilty of a double murder committed in 2010.

They murdered an eight-year-old child and a housemaid at Rajagiriya on February 23, 2010.

The mother of the child had also been injured in the attack. The Ukrainians were arrested following the murder.

High Court Trial-at-Bar Judges Devika de Livera Tennakoon and Wimal Nambuwasam said that the prosecution had proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused Mashour Eugene and Yanna Brishyana indicted with the murder of child Victoria Kim and housemaid Daisy Manohari were guilty.

When the death sentence was read out, Yanna Brishyana appealed to the court to have her executed immediately instead of sending her to prison.

Sources:, HOC, July 17, 2014