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

Thursday, May 28, 2015

With vote to override Governor's veto, Nebraska abolishes death penalty

Omaha State Senator Ernie Chambers sponsored LB 268
Omaha State Senator Ernie Chambers (standing) sponsored LB 268
With a vote to override a veto by Gov. Pete Ricketts, The Nebraska Legislature repealed the death penalty in the state.

With 30 votes needed to override, the motion received 30 votes. 19 senators voted with the Governor.

2 senators changed their vote since final passage of LB 268. Wahoo State Senator and Jerry Johnson and Gretna State Senator John Murante initially supported the repeal, but on the floor Wednesday said they had changed their minds.

"I am personally conflicted on the death penalty,' said Murante, who noted he was a practicing Catholic. "One truth is undeniable. Taking human life under certain circumstances can be justified."

Murante said despite appeals by Archbishop George Lucas and priests, the majority of Murante's constituents overwhelmingly support the death penalty.

Governor Ricketts vetoed the bill Tuesday, arguing it was a necessary deterrent.

Omaha State Senator Ernie Chambers sponsored LB 268. Wednesday's vote was the culmination of a 40-year effort by Chambers to end capital punishment in Nebraska.

As debate began, he urged Senators to stand by their decision.

"Don't sacrifice what you are, and what you've stood for in response to temporary political pressure of the kind that might discard you later," said Chambers.

After the vote, applause broke out in the legislative chamber. Senator Chambers thanked colleagues for their vote.

During Wednesday's debate, Omaha Senator Bob Krist said, "Taking a life is not the right way for the state to maintain the safety of its citizens."

"This program is broken," said Lincoln Senator Colby Coash. "Executions are done. LB 268 is the way to put it in our past... Now is the time to do it."

Nebraska had not executed a prisoner since 1997, when the electric chair was used. It hasn't imposed the punishment under the lethal injection process now required by state law.

Source: KETV news, May 27, 2015

Nebraska Bans Death Penalty, Defying a Veto

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska on Wednesday became the first conservative state in more than 40 years to abolish the death penalty, with lawmakers defying their Republican governor, Pete Ricketts, a staunch supporter of capital punishment who had lobbied vigorously against banning it.

After more than two hours of emotional speeches at the Capitol here, the Legislature, by a 30-to-19 vote that cut across party lines, overrode the governor’s veto of a bill repealing the state’s death penalty law. After the repeal measure passed, by just enough votes to overcome the veto, dozens of spectators in the balcony burst into celebration.

The vote capped a monthslong battle that pitted most lawmakers in the unicameral Legislature against the governor, many law enforcement officials and some family members of murder victims whose killers are on death row. The Legislature approved the repeal bill three times this year, each time by a veto-proof majority, before sending it to Mr. Ricketts’s desk. Adding to the drama, two senators who had previously voted for repeal switched to support the governor at the last minute.

Opponents of the death penalty here were able to build a coalition that spanned the ideological spectrum by winning the support of Republican legislators who said they believed capital punishment was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party’s values, as well as that of lawmakers who cited religious or moral reasons for supporting the repeal. Nebraska joins 18 other states and Washington, D.C., in banning the death penalty.

Though it is not clear that other Republican-dominated states will follow Nebraska’s example, Wednesday’s vote came at a time when liberals and conservatives have been finding common ground on a range of criminal justice issues in Washington and around the country.

Click here to read the full article

Source: The New York Times, Julie Bosman, May 27, 2015

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Paula Cooper, once youngest Indiana death row inmate, found dead

Paula Cooper
Paula Cooper
A woman who was once the youngest Indiana Death Row inmate was found dead Tuesday morning in Indianapolis, police said.

The campaign to save the life of Paula Cooper, who at 16 became the youngest death row inmate in Indiana, attracted international attention after she pleaded guilty to murder in 1986.

Her successful appeal eventually led to her June 2013 release after serving 27 years in prison.

But on Tuesday, Cooper's story came to a somber end in Indianapolis. Police say she was found dead, apparently by her own hand.

Cooper, 45, died just after 7:15 a.m. from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in the 9500 block of Angola Court, according to Indianapolis Metropolitan Police. Her death is still under investigation, and the Marion County coroner's office says it expects to conduct an autopsy Wednesday.

"It's an unusual ending to a tragic case," said Indianapolis attorney Jack Crawford, who was the Lake County prosecutor when Cooper was charged. "I've been involved in a lot of cases in my life, and nothing compared to this case."

Cooper became infamous in 1985 when at 15 she was charged with murder in the stabbing of 78-year-old Ruth Pelke during a robbery. Law enforcement identified Cooper as the ringleader in the slaying. She and three friends went to Pelke's Gary home armed with a 12-inch butcher knife.

An investigation showed Pelke allowed the teens into her home after they said they were interested in Bible study lessons. But the scene turned grisly when they knocked Pelke to the ground and Cooper climbed on top of her.

"Paula Cooper got on top of her and kept saying to her, and this is her own admission, 'Where's the money, bitch?'" Crawford told The Indianapolis Star during a 2013 interview. He said Cooper began slicing Pelke with the butcher knife. The woman's last words were the Lord's Prayer.

The other teens involved were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on robbery or murder charges: 25, 35 and 60 years. But when Cooper was sentenced, the judge invoked capital punishment.

The decision led to an immediate shift in public outrage. Cooper was among only a handful of women in Indiana to receive the death penalty, and she was the youngest in the state's history. At the time of her sentencing, she was also the youngest death row inmate in the United States.

The 30th anniversary of the murder was just 2 weeks ago.

Bill Pelke, a grandson of the slain Bible teacher, told The Star on Tuesday that he forgave Cooper, who said she had been abused as a child. He said he visited her in prison 14 times. They exchanged emails almost weekly the last 2 years of her incarceration.

In one of their last messages, Cooper told Pelke her time in prison was about up and she was scared. She had spent most of her life incarcerated. She had never written a check or paid a bill.

There was so much, Pelke said, that she didn't know how to do.

He offered to help. But the 2 talked only once after she was released.

Pelke said he was devastated to hear of Cooper's death.

"We had wanted to do things together around restorative justice and the death penalty," he said. She wanted to be an example for other young people who have been abused.

"She wanted to tell them, 'Look, this is how I responded to the hate and anger, and look at all the trouble I got into,'" he said. "She wanted to give them alternatives so they didn't end up like her."

Cooper's pursuit of an appeal made her world renowned. According to the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana Supreme Court received 2 million signatures in support of her appeal. Pope John Paul II sent an emissary to Crawford's office and wrote an appeal to then-Gov. Robert Orr. The United Nations received a million signatures in support of overturning Cooper's death penalty.

2 years after Cooper's sentencing, the U.S. Supreme Court, which was already considering the issue of imposing death sentences on teens, ruled it was unconstitutional to execute anyone who was younger than 16 at the time the person committed a crime. Indiana lawmakers later raised the minimum age from 10 to 16 in 1989 and again to 18 in 2002.

"A lot of things have changed," Crawford said. "It was a truly unique case."

The Indiana Supreme Court commuted Cooper's death sentence and sent her to prison for 60 years. She served 27 years of that sentence until her 2013 release.

Kevin Relphorde, who served as Cooper's public defender, said Tuesday he was stunned by the news. He said he hadn't spoken to Cooper in years and had lost track of her.

"Paula was a good person," he said. "She was very misunderstood. She went through a lot at the hands of her father, with physical abuse, and I think that led to the situation with Mrs. Pelke."

Her time at the Rockville Correctional Facility began with troubles. In 1995, she was sentenced to three years of solitary confinement for assaulting a prison guard.

"I was very bitter and angry, so I was in a lot of trouble. I hated it. But I learned to adapt eventually," she said in a 2004 interview with The Star.

Cooper soon began pursuing educational opportunities, first earning her GED, then a vocational degree, and in 2001 a bachelor's degree. Beginning in 2011, she worked as a tutor.

"She couldn't deal with the outside world," speculated Warren W. Lewis, a retired dean and professor at Martin University who taught Cooper at the Indiana Women's Prison.

"I knew her well, and I loved her," Lewis said Tuesday. "She was practically a child, and she shouldn't have been treated like an adult."

Lewis said he taught Cooper and other female inmates a college-level Introduction to Philosophy class. He had not had any contact with her for several years.

"My goal," he said, "was to work up to a level of trust to ask, 'Why are you in this prison?'"

When he reached that point with Cooper, Lewis said, the young prisoner told him no one had ever asked her that question.

"I really don't know why I did that" was the best she could offer in regard to her role in the killing.

Like a lot of prisoners, Cooper had difficulty connecting the cause and effect of crime -- "there's a disconnect," Lewis said.

Lewis said he took her death as a personal failure.

"My question," he said, "is what happened to her once she got out?"

It's unclear how Cooper was spending her time since she was released. Rhonda Labroi, her sister, declined to comment about Cooper's death Tuesday.

"It's just amazing that after all those years of incarceration that she would be released and then something like this would happen," said Relphorde, who added that Cooper was remorseful about the killing. "She was willing to pay her debt to society."

Source: Indianapolis Star, May 27, 2015

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California: Man on death row for Riverside pizza-store murder kills himself

San Quentin Death Row
San Quentin Death Row
Michael Lamont Jones, 44, who was convicted of murdering a Riverside pizza restaurant employee in 1989, committed suicide on Monday, May 25, at San Quentin State Prison, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Tuesday.

The cause of death is pending the results of an autopsy; however, the death is being investigated as a suicide, a news release said. Jones was in a cell by himself.

Jones was sentenced to death on Dec. 13, 1991, by a Riverside County jury, for the Jan. 21, 1989, murder of Herman Weeks, 24, during the armed robbery of a Domino's Pizza store. Jones had been on death row since Jan. 2, 1992.

Jones appealed his conviction, citing incompetent defense counsel, erroneous jury instructions, tainted witness identification and unconstitutionality of the death penalty. In 2003, the state Supreme Court affirmed the conviction.

According to trial testimony, Weeks had his hands in the air when Jones fired 2 shots. Jones and an accomplice decided to rob the Domino's because they needed money for admission to a party, prosecutors said. According to court documents, a witness, Erin Burton, testified that in May 1989 she encountered Jones and asked, "Mike, about the Domino's thing, did you do it?" He replied, "Yeah." She asked, "How could you do it? How could you kill someone? Don't you feel any remorse?" He responded, "Nah. It was a good party."

A month before the Domino's robbery, Jones robbed the Mad Greek restaurant in Riverside and shot a customer, who survived.

Since 1978 when California reinstated capital punishment, 66 condemned inmates have died from natural causes, 24 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California, 1 was executed in Missouri, 7 have died from other causes, and the causes of death are pending for four condemned inmates, according to the Department of Corrections.

There are 749 people on California's death row.

Source: Press-Enterprise, May 27, 2015

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Indonesia Sets Date For Final Death Row Appeal Of Frenchman Serge Atlaoui

Serge Atlaoui
Serge Atlaoui
An Indonesian court said it would hear a last-ditch appeal by a French man on death row on 3 June, after a verdict expected this week was delayed by the absence of the presiding judge.

Serge Atlaoui had been due to face the firing squad with other prisoners in April but won a last-minute reprieve for the completion of his legal appeals.

France's president, Francois Hollande, has warned Indonesia it would face "consequences" if it were to press ahead with his execution.

Indonesia has harsh penalties for drug trafficking and resumed executions in 2013 after a 5-year lull.

The president, Joko Widodo, has rejected clemency pleas from foreign nationals who are among a group of about 60 drug convicts scheduled for execution.

14 have been executed this year, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran; Nigerians Raheem Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Okwudili Oyatanze and Martin Anderson; Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Indonesian Zainal Abidin, who were all shot dead in April.

Mary Jane Veloso, from the Philippines, was given a last-minute reprieve from execution, but remains on death row.

Widodo has declared the death penalty "positive" for his country, adding: "My duty as president of Indonesia is to carry out the law and I'm sure other countries will understand this.

"Every day 50 young Indonesians die [drug-related deaths]; in 1 year that is 18,000 dead. I hope they understand about that."

The Jakarta administrative court is reviewing Atlaoui's challenge against the president's refusal of clemency.

"As our presiding judge is in training, the court hearing could not take place and we postponed to next week," Judge Indaryadi said in a court session on Tuesday.

The hearing has been rescheduled for 3 June and a verdict is expected soon after.

The attorney general's office has said Atlaoui's current legal challenge would be his last appeal.

Atlaoui was sentenced to death for his involvement in an ecstasy factory in Jakarta that was capable of producing 100kg (220lb) of the illegal pills every week. He has always protested his innocence, saying he believed he was carrying out work installing industrial machines in an empty factory building.

If Atlaoui were to be shot by Indonesian firing squad, he would be the 1st French person to be executed in 38 years.

Source: Malaysian Digest, May 27, 2015

Related article:
- Recours de Serge Atlaoui : nouveau report au 3 juin, Le Parisien, May 26, 2015

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De Lima: Philippines won't pressure Indonesia on clemency for Veloso

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Wednesday that the Philippine government would tread lightly in seeking clemency for Mary Jane Veloso, as the country would not wish to put pressure on Indonesia in the politically charged drug trafficking case.

Addressing the dangerous drugs committee of the House of Representatives, De Lima said the focus of an ongoing preliminary investigation was to determine whether Veloso, who was granted a last-minute stay on her execution last April on drug charges, was a "hapless victim or a willing participant."

"On the premise that the investigation will prove she was a hapless victim, [then we may ask for] possible executive clemency, which may mean either pardon or the commutation of sentence. But we don't want to be harping on this," she said.

"We would not want the Indonesian government to be pressured by our government," De Lima said in answer to a question on what concrete steps the government was taking to save Veloso from the death penalty.

The 30-year-old Veloso was supposed to have been executed by firing squad on April 29, until last-minute appeals by President Aquino and the surrender of her alleged recruiter, Maria Cristina Sergio, prompted Indonesia to give her a temporary reprieve.

De Lima said the national prosecution service, under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty of Asean countries, had made a request to Indonesia and Malaysia with respect to proving Veloso's claims of innocence but she added she could not disclose the details of the request.

Veloso, who had been caught trying to bring in a suitcase that was found to contain heroin from Malaysia to Indonesia, had said the luggage had not been hers and she had been duped by her recruiter and a syndicate of "African-looking" men.

De Lima said the DOJ was trying to confirm Veloso's allegations. A case of illegal recruitment, human trafficking and swindling has been filed against her recruiter, Sergio, Sergio's partner, Julius Lacanilao, and a certain "Ike."

She also said she was keeping Indonesia's Attorney General abreast of the developments on Veloso's case.

"We need to help each other so we can find solutions to drug trafficking," De Lima said.

"Based on many indications, we're looking at the West African Drug Syndicate (WADS), those African-looking men, are most probably members of the WADs," she said.

"We don't want to push executive clemency, because in the final analysis, it's going to be the call of the Indonesian authorities. We will let the Indonesian lawyers to make their next move," De Lima said.

Francisco Noel Fernandez, the special assistant to the Department of Foreign Affairs' Office of the Undersecretary for Overseas Workers Affairs said a total of 41 Filipinos have been meted the death penalty worldwide, out of 1,288 who have been serving sentences.

"They are all incarcerated in 4 countries, 18 in Malaysia, 21 in China, 1 in Saudi Arabia, and Mary Jane Veloso in Indonesia," he said.

Also at the hearing, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said Veloso's husband Michael Candelaria and their 2 sons would be placed under the custody of Witness Protection Program in response to threats against their lives.

Source: globalnation.inquirer.net, May 27, 2015

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Pakistan executes 7 death-row convicts

7 death row convicts were executed in jails across Pakistan's Punjab and Balochistan provinces on Wednesday, a media report said.

In Lahore Central Jail, 2 convicts were hanged.

Abdul Khaliq had been convicted of murdering a woman, while convict Shahzad was also found guilty of committing a murder, Geo News reported.

2 convicts were hanged in Gujrat District Jail.

Naseer Ahmed was found guilty of killing a man in 2002. Faisal Mehmood was sentenced to death for committing a murder in 1999.

In Vehari District Jail, 2 prisoners were executed.

Abdul Sattar was found guilty of raping and killing a 13-year-old girl in 1997. Convict Sanaullah had also raped and killed a 11-year-old girl in 2001.

Khan Mohammad was hanged in Balochistan's Mach Jail after he was found guilty of killing his brother and his nephew in 2004.

Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.

Initially, executions were resumed for terrorism offences only in the wake of a Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, which had killed more than 140 people, mostly students.

Source: manoramaonline.com, May 27, 2015

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Amnesty: Hamas guilty of war crimes against Palestinians during Gaza war

A Hamas militant grabs a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel, before being executed in Gaza City August 22, 2014.
A Hamas militant grabs a Palestinian suspected of collaborating,
 with Israel, before being executed in Gaza City August 22, 2014.
Hamas forces carried out a brutal campaign of abductions, torture, and unlawful killings against Palestinians accused of “collaborating” with Israel and others during Operation Protective Edge last year, according to a report published on Wednesday by Amnesty International.

The report reveals that Hamas carried out at least 23 extrajudicial executions during the war. Some of the executions were documented at the time by Palestinian journalists and photographers, prompting Hamas to halt the public killings.

Entitled “Strangling Necks: Abduction, torture and summary killings of Palestinians by Hamas forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict,” the Amnesty International report accuses Hamas of killing members and supporters of Fatah.

“It is absolutely appalling that, while Israeli forces were inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people in Gaza, Hamas forces took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

“In the chaos of the conflict, the de facto Hamas administration granted its security forces free rein to carry out horrific abuses, including against people in custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to extract revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip.”

The report said that many of the unlawful killings were publicly billed as attacks against people assisting Israel during the war, as part of an operation codenamed “Strangling Necks” to target “collaborators.”

According to the report, at least 16 of those executed had been in Hamas custody since before the war erupted. “Many had been awaiting the outcome of their trials when they were taken away from prison and summarily executed,” it added.

The report said that among those executed were also former members of the Palestinian Authority security forces.

Source: The Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2015

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Nebraska Governor Vetoes Bill to Abolish Death Penalty

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts
Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska vetoed a bill on Tuesday to abolish the death penalty in the state, testing the strength of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who said they would try to override his decision.

“This is a matter of public safety,” he said. “It’s also a matter of making sure the public prosecutors have the tools they need to put these dangerous hardened criminals behind bars.”

“We have 10 inmates on death row — we don’t have hundreds,” he said. “We use it judiciously and prudently, and therefore we need to retain it. I urge all the senators who are making this vote, please sustain my veto.”

Nebraska is poised to become the first conservative state in more than 40 years to strike down the death penalty. Republican legislators who have voted in favor of abolition said they believed the death penalty was inefficient, expensive and out of place with their party’s values. Other lawmakers cited religious or moral reasons for their support of the death penalty ban.

Nebraska officials have had difficulty procuring lethal injection drugs in recent years. The state last executed a prisoner in 1997.

In Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature, three rounds of voting are required to approve a bill before it can reach the governor’s desk. Last week, in the third round, the Legislature voted 32 to 15 in favor of abolition. Governor Ricketts, who said the death penalty is necessary as a deterrent to dangerous criminals, had vowed for weeks to issue a veto.

Lawmakers said the override vote, which could happen as early as Wednesday, would be extremely close: 30 votes are needed to override.

State Senator Ernie Chambers, an independent from Omaha who sponsored the legislation, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he planned to make a motion to override the governor’s veto.

He declined to say whether he was fully confident the override would be successful. “I expect those people who voted for the bill three times, during the three stages of debate, I would expect them to do the same thing,” he said. “But you never know. We’ll just see how it turns out.”

Source: The New York Times, Julie Bosman, May 26, 2015

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saudi executes 88th person this year, topping 2014 total

Riyadh (AFP) - Saudi Arabia on Tuesday carried out its 88th execution so far this year, surpassing the total for all of 2014 despite activists' concerns that trials are not conducted fairly.

The interior ministry identified the latest to be put to death as Saudis Awad al-Rowaili and Lafi al-Shammary, who were convicted of smuggling amphetamines.

They were executed in the northern region of Jawf, the ministry said in statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Another Saudi, Mohammed al-Shihri, was separately put to death in the southwestern region of Asir for murder.

The conservative Islamic kingdom executed 87 people in 2014, according to an AFP tally.

Those beheaded this year include Siti Zainab, an Indonesian domestic worker convicted of murder despite concerns about her mental health, according to the Indonesian newspaper Kompas.

Jakarta summoned Riyadh's ambassador over her case, a rare diplomatic incident linked to Saudi Arabia's executions, around half of which involve foreigners.

Also among this year's dead are at least eight Yemenis, 10 Pakistanis, Syrians, Jordanians, and individuals from Myanmar, the Philippines, India, Chad, Eritrea and Sudan.

Saudi Arabia ranked among the world's top five executioners in 2014, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Under the Gulf nation's strict version of Islamic sharia law, drug trafficking, rape, murder, homosexuality, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death.


Medieval and barbaric: July 2012 public beheading in Saudi Arabia

Warning: Graphic Content

Executions are carried out in public, mostly by beheading with a sword.

A surge in executions began towards the end of the reign of King Abdullah, who died on January 23.

It accelerated this year under his successor King Salman, in what Amnesty has called an unprecedented "macabre spike".

Activists are unable to explain specific reasons for the surge, and officials have not commented.

One activist said the death penalty is carried out only with the king's final approval.

"So if the king is strict he will sign this paper," said the activist, asking for anonymity.

'Secret' trials

Salman has adopted a more assertive foreign policy, and in April promoted his powerful Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef to be crown prince and heir to the throne.

The Berlin-based European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights said in a report that the death penalty in the kingdom is "often applied to powerless individuals with no government connection".

Ali Adubisi, the group's director, told AFP that economic factors could be leading to a rise in drug crimes. Many are turning to the illegal business "because they are poor", he said.

Drug and murder convictions account for the bulk of executions in Saudi Arabia.

But according to London-based Amnesty, only crimes of "intentional killings" meet the threshold for use of the death penalty under international human rights standards.

It said court proceedings in the country "fall far short" of global norms of fairness.

"Trials in death penalty cases are often held in secret. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by lawyers" and may be convicted solely on the basis of "confessions", Amnesty said in a report.

With the number of beheadings soaring, the civil service this month advertised for eight new "executors of retribution".

In a country where government officials are not known for their openness, all executions are publicised by the official press agency, and the interior ministry has cited deterrence as a reason for the punishment.

The number of executions will rise even higher if death sentences are carried out against nine people who activists say were convicted after demonstrations that began in 2011 by the minority Shiite community.

Among them is Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force behind those protests. Adubisi said three teenagers, aged 15-17 at the time of their arrests, are also among the condemned.

Although death sentences can be appealed to higher courts, he said there is "no transparency at all" about which stage the cases have reached, in what can be a lengthy process.

"It's a type of torture for these people and their families," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse, May 26, 2015
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Iran: 22 Prisoners Executed in Ghezelhesar Prison

Iran Human Rights, May 26, 2015: Reports by several independent sources indicate that all of the 22 prisoners in Ghezelhesar prison who were transferred to solitary confinement on Saturday and Sunday, have been hanged. The executions reportedly took place on Monday morning May 25. IHR cannot rule out that some of the prisoners might have been executed the day before, on Sunday May 24.

These 22 prisoners were transferred to the prison’s quarantine following a gathering of the death row prisoners of Unit 2 of Ghezelhesar prison on Friday May 22. The prisoners, who carried the Muslim holy book and handwritten placards, called for the Iranian Supreme leader Ali Khamenei to reduce their death sentences to life in prison (photos). The gathering was reportedly peaceful. Nevertheless, after the gathering, some of the prisoners were threatened by the prison officials that they would all be executed. Some of them were executed yesterday.

Two other group executions took place in the same prison earlier in May. These executions were carried out on May 6 and May 21; each time 11 prisoners were hanged. Some of the prisoners who were executed then had taken part in a prison riot last year.

Unit 2 of Ghezelhesar prison is where more than 2000 death row prisoners are being held. Most of these prisoners are sentenced to death for drug-related charges.

None of the Ghezelhesar executions have been announced by the official Iranian sources, but IHR has published names and photos of some of them.

IHR strongly condemns the mass executions at Ghezelhesar prison. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR, said, “Most of these prisoners are subjected to unfair trials and their death sentences have been issued based on forced confessions made under torture We call on the United Nations and the international community to take urgent actions to stop these mass executions”. Amiry-Moghaddam added, “United Nations’ Office for Drug and Crimes (UNODC), which cooperates with the Iranian authorities in the fight against drugs, and countries funding this fight against drugs must take their share of responsibility for these unlawful and arbitrary executions. The international community, and in particular UNODC and its funding countries, must intervene before it is too late”.

Some of the 22 prisoners executed are identified as: Abbas Heydari, Abbas Ameri, karimbakhsh Bameri, Haj Ahmad Ebrahimi, Asghar Kooshki, Ahmad Rabiei, Ahmad Rabdoost and Seyed Mohamad Mirhosseini. IHR is investigating identities of the remaining prisoners.

In addition, the following names were published by the “Human Rights Activists News Agency” (HRANA): Nader Hajizadeh, Jahangir Shahozahi, Mehran Baluchzahi, Mehrshad Soleimani, Reza Daeizadeh and Ehsan Saghafi.

Since the beginning of 2015, at least 400 prisoners have been executed in Iran.

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 26, 2015

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Pakistan executes seven convicts

Seven death row convicts were executed in jails across Pakistan's Punjab province on Tuesday, a media report said.

Amjad Ali was hanged in Sargodha District jail. He was sentenced to death in 2002 for killing two women and a child, Dawn online reported.

Two convicts, Iftikhar and Asif, were sent to the gallows in Faisalabad Central Jail for committing murders. Iftikhar had killed a man in 2001 and was sentenced to death in 2004. Asif was sentenced to death in 1998 for killing a man earlier that year.

Sher Ali, who was executed in Lahore Central Jail, was sentenced to death in 2001 for killing a man over a personal feud.

Noor Ahmed was hanged in Toba Tek Singh District Jail for murdering six people of his family, including his father and brother. The killings took place over a land dispute in 2006.

Ishaq was executed in Sahiwal District Jail. He was sentenced to death in 2002 for killing a man in 1994.

Mohammad Nawaz was hanged in Gujranwala Central Jail for the murder of a man in 1999. He was sentenced to death in 2001.

Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in all capital cases on March 10.

Initially, executions were resumed for terrorism offences only in the wake of a Taliban massacre at an army-run school in Peshawar which had claimed the lives of more than 140 students and staff on December 16, 2014.

The UN, the European Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Pakistan to reimpose its moratorium on the death penalty.

Source: newkerala.com, May 26, 2015

11 death-row convicts executed in Punjab province, Balochistan jails

Tuesday, May 26, 2015,Islamabad: Eleven convicts on death row were executed in various jails across Punjab province and Balochistan early this morning.

Two prisoners were hanged in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail for committing murder. Convict Shakil had killed a person in 1998, while convict Sher Ali murdered a person in 2001.

In Central Jail Faisalabad, another two convicts were executed. Iftikhar Ahmed killed three people following which he was awarded death penalty. Convict Asif Zeb killed a person in enmity in 1998.

One person, Ishaq, convicted of murder was hanged in Sahiwal, while Mohammad Nawaz, also convicted of murder, was hanged in Gujranwala, according to a report published in e-paper The News.

In Central Jail Multan, Rana Faryad was executed after being convicted of murder of his cousin over a minor argument.

Death row prisoner Mohammad Afzal was hanged in District Jail Jhelum.

Convict Amjad Ali was hanged in Sargodha, being found guilty of rape and murder of his young niece, as well as killing two young witnesses of the incident.

Prisoner Anwar Ahmed was executed in District Jail Toba Tek Singh. He had killed six family members including his father and brother over a property matter.

Ibrahim, convicted of murdering a person in 2003, was hanged in Mach jail.

Source: UNI, May 26, 2015

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Editorial: Corruption Weakens Jokowi’s War on Drugs

The arrest of a Banceuy penitentiary guard caught red-handed with more than 16 kilograms of methamphetamine and several hundred ecstasy pills in Bandung has highlighted once again the core problem of Indonesia’s war against drugs. It’s the corrupt officials, rotten penitentiary system and of course the judiciary system as a whole rather than just foreigners smuggling drugs into the country.

First of all, Indonesia’s prisons must be reformed, its personnel re-educated or relocated. So many wardens, guards or even the chief of the country’s correctional facilities have for years taken bribes from drugs inmates. These drugs kingpins so easily run their business from their cells, often cooperating with guards and wardens.

Jailing drug dealers and traffickers has failed to create deterrent effect. With so much cash in their hands, these drug lords can always buy the guards and live like kings. Some even welcome their “punishment” as the prison protects from police investigation.

The fact that the prison guard, Dedy Romadi, was arrested with so much drugs in his possession just after the execution of 15 drugs convicts must remind the government that capital punishment doesn’t deter drug dealing. The megaphone policy of killing so many people proved useless. The only way of lessening drug circulation is by making sure that law enforcers, including prison guards, don’t take bribe. Those who are caught receiving hush money should be heavily punished.

Finally, the state must start to differentiate between drug users and drug dealers or traffickers. At the moment, they are treated the same and given the same form of punishment. It’s time for the country to build and encourage the development of drug rehabilitation centers.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, Editorial, May 25, 2015

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Nebraska death row inmate Michael Ryan dies in prison

Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan
Cult killer and death-row inmate Michael Ryan died of natural causes Sunday.

Ryan, 66, died at 7:45 p.m. at Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, where he'd been since the prison opened in 2001 and death row inmates were moved there from the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.

The sister of victim James Thimm, Miriam Thimm Kelle, told state lawmakers in March that Ryan had a medical condition that would kill him soon. 

She was testifying in favor of abolishing the death penalty. At that same hearing, Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said Ryan had terminal brain cancer.

“He had a long-term medical condition,” Tecumseh spokeswoman Jessica Houseman said Monday.

Officials found no sign of trauma but will do an autopsy, Houseman said. 

As is required by state law, a grand jury will investigate the death because it happened while Ryan was in custody.

Ryan was sentenced to death in one of the state’s most infamous and brutal murder cases: the 1985 cult-related torture and killings of Thimm, 26, and Luke Stice, 5, near Rulo. Ryan led the cult, which believed the end of the world was coming.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, Jonathan Edwards, May 25, 2015

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Philippine embassy offers aid to maid given death penalty in Al Ain

A maid in Al Ain who was given the death penalty for killing her Emirati employer will launch an appeal against her sentence with the help of the Philippine embassy, senior diplomats said yesterday.

Officials at Manila's Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi have identified the 28-year-old woman as Jennifer Dalquez, from General Santos City, in southern Philippines.

She claimed to have stabbed her employer in self defence because he attempted to rape her.

On May 20, Dalquez was sentenced to death by an Al Ain court for killing her employer on December 7 last year, said Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE.

"We respect the judicial system of the UAE and have full faith in it," Ms Princesa said. "We are now waiting for a copy of the verdict, and will meet with the lawyer to decide the way forward."

Overseas Filipino workers who find themselves on the wrong side of the law are assisted through the Philippine government's legal assistance fund.

Priority is usually given to the payment of lawyers to represent those accused of serious crimes or who are facing the death penalty.

"The embassy has extended all necessary assistance to Dalquez, including hiring a lawyer," said Charles Jose, the spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.

"They will assist her in appealing her sentence, and her family has been informed of these developments."

Ms Princesa, who met the mother-of-2 in prison last week, confirmed a lawyer was hired.

"She was arrested on December 12, 5 days after it happened," she said. "Since learning about her case, we've provided her a lawyer, while our embassy officials have visited her in jail and attended the court hearings."

Prosecutors allowed Ms Princesa to meet with Dalquez privately on May 19, apart from the diplomatic visits scheduled every Wednesday.

"The meeting lasted for more than an hour," Ms Princesa said. "She told me that she killed him in self defence. I hugged her and we prayed."

Speaking from General Santos City, Dalquez's mother, Rahima, told a local television network that her daughter stabbed the man using the same knife he pointed at her.

Dalquez has worked and lived in the UAE since 2011, and was due to return home in January.

She joins 88 other Filipino workers who are on death row in China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

Source: The National, May 25, 2015

DFA to assist Pinay on Dubai death row

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Sunday said the Philippine Embassy in Dubai will be assisting a Filipina who had been meted the death penalty there in appealing her case.

Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, confirmed in a text message that overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Jennifer Dalquez has been sentenced to death by Dubai's Al Ain trial court for allegedly killing her employer on December 7, 2014.

The sentence was handed down on May 20.

"The embassy has extended all necessary assistance to Dalquez, including hiring a lawyer. The embassy will assist [her in appealing] her sentence," Jose said.

He added that Dalquez's family has been informed of developments in her case.

She is the latest OFW to be sentenced to death.

The DFA earlier said there are 88 Filipinos on death row in various countries, most of them for drug trafficking, including Mary Jane Veloso, who had been lined up for execution in Indonesia last month.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, however, gave Veloso a temporary reprieve at the last minute.

Source: Manila Times, May 25, 2015

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Monday, May 25, 2015

U.S. court denies motion to halt execution of long-serving Texas inmate

Lester Bower
Lester Bower
A federal appeals court has denied an application to halt the June execution of Lester Bower, one of the longest-serving inmates on death row in Texas, for killing 4 men at an airport hangar in 1983.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday denied a petition from Bower's lawyers, who said his planned execution on June 3 should be halted on grounds that his previous sentencing did not match U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Bower, 67, who has been imprisoned for more than 30 years, is set to be executed by injection at the state's death chamber in Huntsville.

His lawyers have tried for more than 2 decades to have his conviction thrown out, saying he was found guilty due to faulty witness testimony.

Bower has denied being at the hangar where the murders took place but authorities said aircraft parts found in his home and other evidence implicated him in the crimes.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by lawyers for Bower, who argued that three decades on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

According to Bower's court filings, he has faced imminent execution on 6 occasions during his time in prison.

Bower was convicted of fatally shooting building contractor Bob Tate, former police officer Ronald Mayes, sheriff's deputy Philip Good and interior designer Jerry Brown, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

Bower killed Tate to steal an ultralight airplane Tate was selling and then killed the other 3 when they unexpectedly showed up at the hangar, it said.

Source: Reuters, May 23, 2015

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ACLU questions Nebraska acquisition of lethal injection drugs

The state's recent purchase of lethal injection drugs that would allow it to resume executions in Nebraska will lead to costly litigation, ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad said Friday.

Conrad said information the ACLU received from the state Department of Correctional Services in response to an open records request led her to conclude that the state faces "another round of costly and lengthy legal appeals with the taxpayer picking up the tab."

"(It) shows a shady foreign source approached the Department of Corrections and engineered a hasty deal, with no assurances from state officials as to fair price, ability to comply with the importation laws, or the efficacy of the drugs in question," Conrad said. "This marks another sad chapter in the dark history of Nebraska's death penalty story.

"Nebraska's past attempts to obtain lethal injection drugs have been legally suspect and full of problems, including wasted taxpayer dollars and false promises.

"Their most recent effort is nothing more than deja vu all over again."

Records show that Chris Harris, CEO of the India-based Harris Pharma LLP, contacted state officials April 14 to ask if they wanted a "few thousand vials extra" of sodium thiopental, one of three drugs used in lethal injections. Sodium thiopental renders the recipient unconscious.

The message made its way to Corrections Director Scott Frakes, who told Harris in an April 15 email that he would like to connect as soon as possible.

In fact, Taylor Gage, spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts, said documentation provided to the ACLU shows that the state "legally purchased the necessary drugs to carry out the death penalty under the state's current protocol."

"(ACLU's) threat to sue the state and to prevent sentences from being carried out is only another example of their litigious tactics," Gage said.

In 2009, Nebraska moved to a system of execution by lethal injection as a substitute for the electric chair, after its use was ruled as unconstitutional by the Nebraska Supreme Court, but the state has encountered difficulty in acquiring legal drugs.

The Legislature passed a bill Wednesday abolishing the death penalty in Nebraska. Ricketts plans to veto the bill Tuesday, setting the stage for a showdown vote in the Legislature on an attempt to override his veto.

Nebraska's last execution was in 1997.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, May 24, 2015

Murder Victim's Daughter Reacts to Death Penalty Repeal Bill

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts
Ashley Gage says she opposes the state's death penalty because the appeals process causes too much trauma and heartache for the families of victims. That includes her.

In March, NTV News first spoke with Gage. She found her father murdered when she was just a teenager. Despite that, Gage still is opposed to the capital punishment.

"As an 18-year-old, finding my father really disrupted my life in a substantial way, and I didn't even have to go through a capital trial," Gage told NTV back in March.

With the vote advancing to Governor Ricketts' desk this week, Gage now says she's cautiously optimistic.

"I had to kind of step away and let it sink in and really grasp that it came this far and passed. I'm still a little cautious because Ricketts has promised to veto the bill and I feel like I'm holding back a little bit," said Gage.

Ricketts told NTV News this week that some of the families he's spoken with are in favor of the death penalty.

"Several weeks ago, I sat down with Attorney General Peterson and Director Frakes, who's in charge of our correction system, and told them they need to make it a priority for us to be able to carry out these executions," said Ricketts. "It's important for justice and for some of the families I've talked to that have had loved ones killed by some of these heinous murderers."

Gage says that contradicts what she's encountered.

"I'm not sure where he's getting that information or whom he's spoken to, but I'm in contact with three or four other victims' families and have met them through this process and we're all on the same page in that we don't want to go through this re-traumatization and this long process," said Gage.

Source: nebraska.tv, May 24, 2015

YOU can help abolish the death penalty in Nebraska!

Right now, it is vital that Nebraskans weigh in with their Senators, telling them to hold firm and override the Governor's veto of death penalty repeal. Senators are getting the hardest pressure from the other side than they have gotten thus far. The veto override could happen as soon as Tuesday and will be the hardest vote for us to win.

Sample Tweets (please keep posting these until the override happens)

- Tell your friends in Nebraska - Contact Senators & ask them to see #deathpenalty repeal through to the end: http://ejusa.org/act/nadp #NERepeal

- Have friends from #Nebraska? Ask them to go here and thank Senators for passing #deathpenalty repeal: http://ejusa.org/act/NADP #NERepeal

- Please pass this on to EVERYONE in Nebraska: http://ejusa.org/act/NADP End the #deathpenalty in NE & the here in [YOUR-STATE] #NERepeal

Sample Facebook post:

Know anyone in Nebraska? Share this link with them so they can tell lawmakers to see repeal through to the end. Make Nebraska the 19th state to end the death penalty!
[link: http://act.ejusa.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/action_KEY=20403&track=ActionNADPLegsGov-FB]

Stacy Anderson
Executive Director
Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
941 'O' Street, Suite 725 | Lincoln, NE 68508
Office: 402.477.7787 | Cell: 402.525.4679
Email:stacy@nadp.net | Website: www.nadp.net

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Death penalty foes see Nebraska vote as momentum-builder

With Nebraska on the brink of outlawing the death penalty, opponents of capital punishment hope this week's veto-override vote in the Legislature will build momentum for their cause in other Republican states.

Whether that will happen isn't clear, but Nebraska isn't the 1st right-leaning state to consider banning capital punishment this year.

A bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana came within one vote of passing in February in the Republican-led state House. In Kansas, a GOP state representative took the lead in introducing a repeal bill this year, and the state's Republican Liberty Caucus formally came out in opposition to capital punishment in 2014.

"This could start a domino effect, for sure," said Stacy Anderson, executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. "Many states are already looking at this. I joke with people who do the same kind of work in other states that we're in a race to see who can repeal it 1st."

Nebraska lawmakers voted 32-15 last week to abolish the death penalty, despite promises that Gov. Pete Ricketts will veto the bill. Death penalty opponents need at least 30 votes for a veto override, but Ricketts is appealing to the public and talking privately with lawmakers in an effort to flip 3 or more votes.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said his repeal bill wouldn't have passed this year without conservative support. Nebraska's longest-serving lawmaker has fought for decades to end the death penalty; the bill that advanced last week was his 38th try, according to the Legislature's Research Office.

"Nebraska doing it may provide cover to other legislatures to say, 'If Nebraska can do this, we can also,'" Chambers said.

National groups are watching Nebraska closely and expect a "ripple effect" if the state votes to abolish, said Shari Silberstein, executive director of the group Equal Justice USA. Law-and-order conservatives have traditionally stood among the strongest supporters of the ultimate punishment.

"A lot of states have stopped making this a partisan issue, and started to make it a conscience issue," she said. "The party's not going to tell you how to vote."

Repealing the death penalty may be easier in Nebraska than states where capital punishment is more ingrained in the culture, said Eric Berger, a University of Nebraska associate law professor and death penalty expert.

Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, when the electric chair was used, and the state has never imposed the punishment with the current required lethal injection protocol. 11 men are now on death row, including 1 who has been there for 35 years.

"I don't see a state like Texas repealing capital punishment anytime soon, but there certainly is a movement that's gaining momentum," Berger said. "The anti-death penalty arguments are beginning to resonate with small-government conservatives. It doesn't guarantee there will be continued momentum, but I do think it's symptomatic of some changed thinking on the right."

Nebraska senators base their death penalty opposition on different factors, including religious beliefs, an argument that it wastes taxpayer money and the idea that the government wasn't competent enough to manage it. The repeal effort has won support from prominent religious groups, including the Nebraska Catholic Conference.

Ricketts argued Friday that lawmakers are out of touch with their constituents, the majority of whom he argues continue to support capital punishment. In a state with a 1-house Legislature, he said, the public should serve its role as the "2nd house" by contacting their senator.

"The people I talk to overwhelmingly support the death penalty," Ricketts said.

Source: Associated Press, May 24, 2015

YOU can help abolish the death penalty in Nebraska!

Right now, it is vital that Nebraskans weigh in with their Senators, telling them to hold firm and override the Governor's veto of death penalty repeal. Senators are getting the hardest pressure from the other side than they have gotten thus far. The veto override could happen as soon as Tuesday and will be the hardest vote for us to win.

Sample Tweets (please keep posting these until the override happens)

- Tell your friends in Nebraska - Contact Senators & ask them to see #deathpenalty repeal through to the end: http://ejusa.org/act/nadp #NERepeal

- Have friends from #Nebraska? Ask them to go here and thank Senators for passing #deathpenalty repeal: http://ejusa.org/act/NADP #NERepeal

- Please pass this on to EVERYONE in Nebraska: http://ejusa.org/act/NADP End the #deathpenalty in NE & the here in [YOUR-STATE] #NERepeal

Sample Facebook post:

Know anyone in Nebraska? Share this link with them so they can tell lawmakers to see repeal through to the end. Make Nebraska the 19th state to end the death penalty!
[link: http://act.ejusa.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/action_KEY=20403&track=ActionNADPLegsGov-FB]

Stacy Anderson
Executive Director
Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
941 'O' Street, Suite 725 | Lincoln, NE 68508
Office: 402.477.7787 | Cell: 402.525.4679
Email:stacy@nadp.net | Website: www.nadp.net

Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com

Alabama: 'I refuse to give them my joy': Man released after 28 years on death row describes new life of freedom

Anthony Hinton, just after his release from jail on Friday, March 3, 2015
Anthony Ray Hinton, just after his release from jail on Friday, March 3, 2015
In his 1st day free, after nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row, Anthony Ray Hinton said he kept asking a question to his childhood friend.

'You just got to tell me we can stay out tonight that we don't have to go in after an hour,' Hinton said, referring to the hour limit that inmates got on yard time.

Hinton spent 28 years on death row for 2 1985 murders that occurred during separate robberies of fast-food restaurants in Birmingham. He was set free on April 3 after new ballistics tests contradicted the only evidence - an analysis of crime-scene bullets - used to convict him decades ago.

In his first days off death row, Hinton said he sometimes enjoys just driving, relishing the freedom to simply move about as he wants. He says he's not angry, crediting God for suppressing the hatred that otherwise could devour him 'like a form of cancer.'

'I have too much to live for to allow a bunch of cowards to take my joy. I refuse to give them my joy,' Hinton said.

'I'm at peace with myself. The thing is, are they at peace? They know what they did. They know they lied 30 years ago. I feel that every man that played a part in sending me to prison, every man or woman, whether the judges, prosecutors, ballistic experts, or witness, whoever - they will answer to God. So I'm going to enjoy my life the best I can,' Hinton said.

Attorney Bryan Stevenson, director of the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative has called it a case study in how poverty and racial bias led to a wrongful conviction.

Hinton was arrested for the 2 1985 murders after a survivor at a 3rd robbery identified Hinton in a photo lineup - even though he was clocked in working at a grocery store warehouse 15 miles away. There were no fingerprints or eyewitness testimony, but prosecutors said at the time that bullets found at the murder scenes matched a .38-caliber revolver that belonged to Hinton's mother.

His poorly funded defense hired a 1-eyed civil engineer with little ballistics training to rebut the state's evidence. The defense expert was obliterated on cross-examination as he admitted he had trouble operating the microscope.

Stevenson, who took up Hinton's case 16 years ago, said an independent analysis showed the bullets didn't come from the gun, and fought for years to get the state to take another look at the case.

A breakthrough only came when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Hinton's defense was so deficient that it was unconstitutional. Prosecutors dropped plans for a 2nd trial when 3 state forensic experts couldn't determine if any of the bullets were fired through the revolver, or even from the same gun.

'They took half my life and it's like they didn't care. They were willing to kill an innocent man,' Hinton said.

'Thirty years ago, I had a judge that stood up proudly and sentenced me to death. I had a prosecutor who couldn't wait to get in front of a camera and say that they had took the worst killer off the streets of Birmingham. But come April 3, no judge was willing to say Mr. Hinton we apologize for the mistake that was done. No D.A. was there to say we apologize.'

Alabama's electric chair
Alabama's electric chair
During Hinton's 28 years on death row, dozens of inmates, men he came to view as family, were executed either by Alabama's 'Yellow Mama' electric chair or by lethal injection.

'The generator would kick in when they pulled the switch. The lights would dim on and off,' Hinton said. Alabama for years traditionally performed executions at midnight.

5 minutes after midnight, the inmates would start banging on the bars.

'We did that not knowing if the condemned man had a family or anybody back there in his support. We were just trying to let him know that we were still with him to the very end.'

He was arrested at age 29. He turns 59 in June. When Hinton went to death row, Ronald Reagan was president. The technology of 2015 is 'outrageous,' he said.

After being released last month, he got in a car equipped with a GPS navigation device that gave spoken directions.

'The lady said, "Turn left" I looked in the backseat and wanted to know where she was at,' Hinton said, marveling at the device.

After living decades mostly alone in a prison cell, he has a hard time with crowds. Friends took him to a shopping mall, but he had to leave almost immediately.

Even eating is a change. Death row inmates are given only plastic spoon to eat their meals. Friends took him to a Roadhouse steakhouse to eat, where he had to relearn how to use a knife to cut a steak.

'I just followed their lead watching everybody else cut their steak, because I didn't want to embarrass anyone.'

The day he was freed, one of the first things he did was to visit the grave of his mother. He sat down and wept.

Beulah Hinton had always believed in the innocence of 'her baby' as she called the youngest of her 10 children, but did not live to see him released from prison.

As a boy, his mother had told him not to fear the police, to never run from them or hide from them. That faith is gone, he said.

He has a plea to people who serve on juries, particularly capital murder cases. Listen. Question.

'Be careful. Have an open mind. Pray about their decision before they make it,' Hinton said. 'In my case, they knew that gun didn't match 30 years ago.'

Hinton said he survived death row with a combination of faith in God and sense of humor. 'I just didn't believe the God that I served would allow me to die for something I didn't do.' He also harnessed his imagination to travel the world from the confines of a tiny cell.

'Being able to control your mind is a beautiful thing. I went everywhere that my mind could take me Brazil, the Bahamas, Paris,' Hinton said.

'I didn't want to think about where I was. Being in a 5-by-7 every day for 365 days a year is more than what the average man could stand,' Hinton said. 'You weren't built to be in a cage that long.'

Source: Daily Mail, May 24, 2015

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