"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, April 28, 2016

In Texas, Death Row Inmates Through the Eyes of a New York Artist

Peter Charlap
Peter Charlap
A supermax prison isn’t the best place to sit for a portrait, but Peter Charlap’s subjects have no other choice.

CHRIS YOUNG, A DEATH ROW INMATE at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, is an avid chess player who can manage multiple games at once without using a board, just by calling out the moves to prisoners in neighboring cells.

Will Speer, another inmate, converted to Judaism in prison and worked tirelessly to get officials to let him wear the Star of David on a chain.

Eugene Broxton, a third inmate, became skilled in the art of origami, sending his creations to people all over the world until the mail room guards began unfolding them before they were sent out, leaving their recipients scratching their heads at flat sheets of colorful paper lined with traces of tiny folds.

“Unless you know how to do it, you can’t fold it back,” says one of those recipients, Peter Charlap, sighing. “So he stopped doing it.”

Over the past few years, Charlap has traveled to Texas to complete a series of five portraits of men on death row at the Polunsky Unit, a supermax prison that houses all of Texas’s male death row inmates—more than 250 of them, each kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day—among its population of several thousand.

An artist and fine arts professor at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, Charlap lives in a state that ruled the death penalty unconstitutional more than a decade ago. To him, Texas is no doubt a bit of a foreign country. But it’s one where, today, he has friends.

Charlap began the first portrait in the series, of Young, in 2010. It took months to get on the prisoner’s visitor list. Inmates are allowed two special four-hour visits per month, speaking through phones across a layer of thick glass. Security doesn’t allow cameras, or even pencils or paper, so Charlap began the sketches of Young back at his hotel room, from memory.

“The first time I went there I remember thinking, how am I going to talk to this person I don’t know for four hours?” Charlap says. But to his surprise, the time flew by. “One of the things that Chris said the first day was, ‘Ask me anything; there are no boundaries.’”


Source: Houstonia, Roxanna Asgarian, April 28, 2016

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6x9: A virtual experience of solitary confinement

The Guardian's virtual reality video sends you to solitary. Could you handle it for a day? A decade?

What’s it like to spend 23 hours a day in a cell measuring 6x9 feet for days, weeks, months or even years? 

6x9 is the Guardian's first virtual reality experience, which places you inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation.

We've created a mobile app allowing you to fully experience VR on your own, with or without cardboard viewer. If you don't have a smartphone scroll down to watch the 360° video.


Human beings quietly design these dungeons where other human beings go insane.

"Un camp de concentration se construit comme un stade ou un grand hôtel, avec des entrepreneurs, des devis, de la concurrence, sans doute des pots-de-vin.
Pas de style imposé, c’est laissé à l’imagination : style alpin, style garage, style japonais, sans style. Les architectes inventent calmement ces porches destinés à n’être franchis qu’une seule fois.
Pendant ce temps, Burger, ouvrier allemand, Sterne, étudiant juif d'Amsterdam, Schmulszki, marchand de Cracovie, Annette, lycéenne de Bordeaux, vivent leur vie de tous les jours sans savoir qu’ils ont déjà, à mille kilomètres de chez eux, une place assignée.
Et le jour vient où leurs blocks sont terminés, où il ne manque plus qu’eux."
-- Jean Cayrol, Nuit et Brouillard
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Few on Louisiana's death row are ever executed, largely owing to reversals, analysis finds

Louisiana death row
Louisiana death row
Louisiana, which has led the nation in homicide rates every year since 1989, sentences plenty of murderers to death but rarely executes them, in part because a huge proportion of death verdicts are reversed on appeal, according to a new study slated to come out Thursday.

The report, to be published in the Southern University Law Center's "Journal of Race, Gender and Poverty," examined each of the 241 death sentences handed down in Louisiana over the past 30 years.

Just 28 of those sentenced to death - less than 12 % - have been executed. Meanwhile, 127 of the death verdicts, more than 1/2 the total, have been reversed, meaning that either a new trial was ordered or the death sentence was rescinded. That number includes 9 exonerations.

The "extremely high" reversal rates in parishes throughout Louisiana, combined with what political science professor Frank Baumgartner and statistician Tim Lyman call "shocking" racial discrepancies, make the state's experience with capital punishment "deeply dysfunctional," the authors said.

The 2 published an earlier article based on their data that focused on racial disparities in the application of the death penalty. They found that those who killed white people were more than 10 times as likely as those who killed black people to be executed.

Their latest article homes in on the modern era of the death penalty, starting after the 1976 Gregg v. Georgia decision, in which the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of capital punishment.

The trends the authors identified also are seen in other death penalty states, but they are exaggerated in Louisiana. For instance, Louisiana's rate of executions is 4.5 % points lower than the national average, and the rate of reversals is almost 10 % points higher.

"People don't realize, nationally speaking, that after you're handed down a death sentence, your odds of being executed are 13 %," said Baumgartner, a professor at the University of North Carolina who has been studying the death penalty for 15 years. "The numbers we see in Louisiana are even worse than nationally, which is amazing."

To have a death sentence reversed, serious flaws in a trial must be demonstrated, such as withheld evidence or improper jury instructions.

The reasons for the reversals run the gamut, according to the authors, with errors evident in pretrial, guilt and penalty phases. Prosecutors, defense counsel and even judges have been responsible for the errors, the study adds.

In recent years, the death penalty has inspired intermittent debated in Louisiana, particularly since the exoneration of Glenn Ford, a man who spent nearly 30 years on death row before the state determined he was innocent in 2014.

At the time of his release, he was the nation's longest-serving death row exoneree, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

But while some states, like Texas and Oklahoma, continue a robust business in executions, Louisiana hasn't executed a convict since 2010. Prosecutors around the state have been increasingly reluctant to seek the ultimate penalty in recent years - in part, perhaps, for pragmatic reasons.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, there have been 32 death sentences in the "modern era" of the death penalty but only 8 since 2000, according to Lyman. In Jefferson Parish, there have been 31 death sentences but just 5 since 2000.

And in Orleans Parish, although there have been 37 death sentences since capital punishment was reinstated, only 1 death sentence has been handed down since 1997, and it eventually was thrown out, Lyman said.

Data suggest most district attorneys are now seeking death only in the most heinous of crimes.

In East Baton Rouge Parish, for example, there have been only 2 death penalty trials in the past 8 years, according to District Attorney Hillar Moore III. The Jefferson Parish district attorney has filed only 1 1st-degree murder indictment - a prerequisite for the death penalty - during the past 10 years, according to a spokesman. And in that case, the defendant pleaded guilty last month in exchange for the state agreeing to not seek the death penalty.

And in New Orleans, there is only 1 active capital murder case, that of Travis Boys, who is accused of killing a police officer.

In all states, death verdicts are harder and more expensive to obtain than life sentences. That's particularly true in Louisiana, which is 1 of 2 states where juries can convict on a 2nd-degree murder charge by a 10-2 vote. The charge carries an automatic life sentence.

Death cases, conversely, require all 12 jurors to agree in both the guilt and penalty phases of trial. For some Louisiana prosecutors, the higher burden of reaching a unanimous verdict in a capital case, and the cost of defending it over decades, has made the death penalty a less attractive option.

A study on the cost of the death penalty in Louisiana is pending. Studies in other states, however, have found that seeking the death penalty over life without parole adds as much as $1 million in prosecution costs alone. And roughly 1/3 of the money Louisiana spends on public defenders goes to private firms representing capital murder defendants, one reason the state's indigent defense system is strapped for cash.

In an interview, Baumgartner said it would be easier for states to simply eliminate death penalty as an option, as it also would eliminate costly appeals - especially because a death sentence is statistically likely to be overturned anyway.

"We have to look the death penalty in the eye and understand how it truly does function," he said. "Not how we wished it functioned but how it really does function. And every time we do that, it really is disturbing."

Source: The Advocate, April 27, 2016

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Indonesia executions one year on: Mary Jane lives but death penalty questions linger

The port at Cilacap, where boats leave for Nusakambangan island.
The port at Cilacap, where boats leave for Nusakambangan island.
It has been one year since Filipina Mary Jane's reprieve and the execution of 8 others. What's the situation now?

The anguished cry of a sister about to lose her brother, dust clouds kicked up by dozens of reporters and police, and the heavy sensation of dread.

These stand out in my memory of April 28 last year, the day before Indonesia executed 8 people on Nusakambangan, Central Java, for drug offenses.

Incongruous in the chaos were two little boys, Mark Darren and Mark Daniel, the sons of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso.

Aged 6 and 12, they were told to say their last goodbyes to their mother before she “went to heaven.”

That night, Veloso, 30, was taken from her cell and was walking to the firing squad when she was pulled back, granted a temporary reprieve.

In a dramatic turn, the woman who allegedly recruited Veloso had surrendered to police. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words) The single mother had always argued she was duped into carrying 2.6kg of heroin into Indonesia in 2009.

Shots heard after midnight signaled the firing squad had done its grim work. But at Cilacap port, we were in the dark about Veloso's fate.

I sent a text message to her attorney. I've heard a rumor. Is Mary Jane alive?

Edre Olalia's ecstatic reply came: “YES!!!!!"

Recruiters on trial

Maria Cristina Sergio and Julis Lacanilao, the couple accused of setting up Veloso, are finally on trial after protracted pre-trial legal arguments.

Olalia says this case and others expose the great danger that innocent people will be executed because of errors.

Criminal justice systems everywhere are imperfect, he says. They are complicated, confusing and corruptible.

“In countries that impose the death penalty, we know as a fact there can be mistakes,” he says.

“We know also the system is very prejudiced against those who have no power, who have no influence or wealth."

Mary Jane Veloso's relatives, including her two sons, on their way to visit her in her Nusakambangan death row cell on April 25, 2015
Mary Jane Veloso's relatives, including her two sons, on their way to visit
her in her Nusakambangan death row cell on April 25, 2015
Veloso will have the chance to tell her story at this trial. At her 2010 trial in Indonesia, she was not provided a qualified translator.

Discussions between Manila and Jakarta continue to determine how her testimony will be presented.

The death penalty was abolished in the Philippines in 1986, reintroduced in 1993 and suspended again in 2006.

Two presidential candidates - Rodrigo Duterte and Grace Poe, are in favor of returning capital punishment.

Olalia says this is a populist stance that ignores policy approaches that actually work.

However, looking at the root causes of criminality and strengthening investigative bodies don’t grab headlines.

“Crimes must be punished and people must be held accountable, but we will not solve a problem by presenting another problem,” he says.

Indonesia’s stance

Indonesia argues its death penalty is not only for those who commit the most serious crimes - drug trafficking, terrorism, murder and treason - but as a warning to future perpetrators.

However there’s still no evidence the death penalty deters drug crime.

Lawyer Ricky Gunawan has just returned from the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs, where he gave an impassioned plea to end the death penalty.

"We are going nowhere with drug policy," he says. "Indonesia is still using the old punitive measures which have not resulted in any positive difference."

Gunawan, of LBH Masyarakat (Community Legal Aid Institute), says the annual report of the BNN (National Narcotics Agency) itself shows the continued rise of drug crimes.

But instead of changing tactics, BNN chief Budi Waseso wants more regular executions.

On April 7, 10 foreign drug convicts' names were reported in the media, supposedly the next candidates for executions.

Attorney General HM Prasetyo was quoted as saying he was only waiting for their final legal appeals and better weather.

His spokesman later told Australia’s ABC he was only joking.

Eventually, Indonesia's lawmakers will debate a revision of the criminal code that would see a death sentence commuted to life or 20 years' jail after 10 years of good behavior.

"This would be good because we know many death row prisoners, after 10 years' imprisonment, show change," Gunawan says.

"It's difficult, politically, to see Indonesia abolishing the death penalty now, but this would be a good compromise."

Chan and Sukumaran

The story of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran rallied the support of many Australians.

Chan had transformed from Bali Nine drug smuggler to pastor within 10 years, while Sukumaran dedicated himself to becoming an accomplished painter.

After legal, diplomatic and community appeals failed to save the reformed pair from execution, many questioned whether Australia shouldn’t be a more consistent and louder voice against the death penalty worldwide.

A parliamentary committee has been considering how Australia's government can improve its advocacy.

Julian McMahon, who was a lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran, now serves as president for Reprieve Australia.

“The Chan-Sukumaran case asked not only the public, but also the Australian parliament, to take a firm position on the death penalty,” he says.

“Opposition to more executions anywhere is the only acceptable position for a government.

“In my opinion, they’re doing it well now. Having said that, there’s obviously a lot more to be done.

“A number of nations who are great friends of Australia have taken backward steps in recent weeks."

Not only is Indonesia openly discussing more executions, but Japan and Malaysia have conducted secretive executions.

Death penalty

Malaysia is moving towards reform of its mandatory death penalty for some drug crimes, with proposed amendments anticipated to be introduced to parliament in May.

But last month it sent 3 men to the gallows, giving their families only two days’ notice the decade-old sentence for murder would be carried out.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian man is set to be hung in Singapore, after his final appeal was quashed.

Kho Jabing was sentenced to death in 2010 for killing a Chinese worker in a robbery.

There have been talks between the two governments concerning the 31-year-old, but Malaysia finds itself in the difficult position of asking for its citizen to be spared death while its own justice system executes.

Amnesty International reports 2015 was the worst year in a quarter of a century for the death penalty.

At least 1,634 people were put to death last year, 90 percent of them in three countries: Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The figures exclude China, where it’s believed thousands are executed each year in secret.

Amnesty International Malaysia's Shamini Darshni says the rational arguments against the death penalty endure.

"The death penalty is a very emotional argument but we have so much research to show it doesn't actually prevent crimes, prevent future crimes or help the crime rate, and it robs a prisoner of the chance for rehabilitation," she says. – Rappler.com

Source: Rappler, Gabrielle Dunlevy, April 28, 2016

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Pakistan: Two death row convicts hanged in Haripur

HARIPUR (Dunya News) - Two death row convicts were hanged in the Central Jail Haripur on early Thursday morning, Dunya News reported.

The dead bodies of the prisoners were handed over to their families after the execution.

According to details, death row convict Ali Raza was hanged for killing a man in 2004 while prisoner Farhad was executed for murdering a man in 1997.

Six-year moratorium on death penalty was lifted on December 17, 2014 for those convicted for terrorism a day after the deadly attack on Army Public School in Peshawar that left 150 persons including mostly children dead.

There are more than 8,000 prisoners on death row in the country.

Source: dunyanews.tv, April 28, 2016

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Seventeen Australians on or facing death row a year after Bali Nine deaths

Figures show Australian federal police provided information for ‘potential death penalty situations’ 74 times in past year

In the year since Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran faced an Indonesian firing squad, their wishes appear to have been posthumously granted, at least in part – no more Australians have been added to the list of those potentially facing the death penalty.

But of at least 17 Australians still thought to be at risk of execution overseas, life on death row has become a grim reality for at least one man and the fate of another could be known within days.

On the anniversary of the execution of Chan and Sukumaran over a thwarted plan to smuggle heroin out of Bali, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not respond when asked how many Australians in jail could face capital punishment.

It is understood there has been no change to the number Dfat confirmed last year, with groups including the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties not aware of any new cases.

But, in the past year, the prospect of execution drew closer for a former Adelaide jockey given a suspended death sentence in China for smuggling ice.

And a verdict on another ice smuggling case in China, which will decide the fate of a young dual Australian and New Zealand citizen, could be just days away.

The two men are among as many as 11 Australians thought to be held over drug prosecutions in a single southern Chinese city, Guangzhou. The possibility of execution by lethal injection or firing squad looms for all of them.

In Malaysia, an Australian woman could be hanged if found guilty of drug smuggling. In Vietnam, a Sydney man faces the prospect of secret execution by lethal injection of locally manufactured chemicals of “unknown efficacy”, according to Amnesty International.

While the number of Australians on or facing death row held steady, the level of involvement by the Australian federal police in transnational investigations that could result in death penalties declined – but was still significant.

Figures provided to Guardian Australia show the AFP provided information for investigations known as “potential death penalty situations” 74 times in the past year.

Guardian Australia was told that information provided by the AFP could include criminal history or lack thereof in Australia, which may be used by the accused to bolster their defences. The AFP has faced prolonged criticism for its role in tipping off Indonesian authorities about the plot of the “Bali Nine”, which led to Chan and Sukumaran’s executions.

A Guangzhou customs official in 2014 cited growing cooperation with the AFP in recent years after a surge in drug arrests in the city involving Australians.

Click here to read the full article

Source; The Guardian, Joshua Robertson, April 282016

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Georgia executes Daniel Lucas

Daniel Anthony Lucas
Daniel Anthony Lucas
A man sent to death row for killing two children and their father in 1998 was executed in Georgia on Wednesday.

Daniel Anthony Lucas, 37, confessed to fatally shooting Bryan Moss, 11, near Macon on April 23, 1998, after the boy arrived home from school and found Lucas and Brandon Rhode burglarizing the house, according to court records.

Rhode next shot Bryan's sister, Kristin Moss, 15, and their father, Steven Moss, 37, when they arrived home, and Lucas then "shot all three victims again to make sure they were dead," Lucas' attorneys wrote in court papers.

Georgia executed Rhode for the murders in 2010. Lucas, who was convicted of the crimes in 1999, was put to death by lethal injection at 9:54 p.m. EDT at the state prison in Jackson. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Daniel Lucas’ request for a stay shortly before the execution. The court's response came about 2 hours after the originally scheduled 7 p.m. execution time had passed.

Earlier, the Superior Court of Butts County, followed by the Georgia Supreme Court, said no to halting Lucas' lethal injection.

The Georgia Supreme Court even expressed its displeasure that Lucas' lawyers filed their appeal a mere 31 hours before the slated hour of death:

"This Court notes that this successive habeas corpus proceeding was not initiated until the day before Lucas's scheduled execution. Despite this late filing, the Court has fully considered Lucas's application on the merits," the judges wrote.

Lucas becomes the fifth person executed this year in Georgia and the 13th in the United States, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.

Lucas' lawyers described him as a changed man in a petition asking the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the inmate's sentence to life with parole, but the board denied the request late Tuesday.

"For the past 18 years he has devoted himself to learning and self improvement," the petition said. "He has been a model inmate. He has found faith."

After enduring an abusive childhood, Lucas became a "desperate alcoholic and addict, and he committed a horrible crime," his lawyers said, but is "not beyond redemption."

Lucas requested a last meal of meat pizza, steak and cheese calzone, stuffed Portobello mushroom, chef salad with ranch dressing and honey mustard dressing, and orange juice, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Lucas becomes the 5th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 65th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Lucas becomes the 13th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1435th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. The next scheduled execution in the USA is set in Missouri for May 11. 

Source: Reuters, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Rick Halperin, Twitter, April 27, 2016


What Daniel Lucas' Execution Tells Us About Childhood Trauma And The Death Penalty

"Almost all my [Death Penalty] clients should have been taken out of their
homes when they were children. They weren't. Nobody had any interest in
them, until as a result of nobody's interest in them, they became menaces,
at which point society did become interested, if only to kill them."
-- David R. Dow, Texas Public Defender Service attorney
Less than two weeks after executing Kenneth Fults, Georgia is getting ready to lethally inject its fifth death row inmate this year.

Daniel Anthony Lucas is scheduled to die Wednesday night for the fatal shootings of two children. He doesn’t dispute that he committed the crime. But his story demonstrates how early childhood trauma plays out on death rows across the country today. A substantial number of executions involve people who grew up around substance abuse or grew up in environments where violence and neglect was the norm.

Lucas was 19 years old when he killed three people during a 1998 house burglary. He first targeted an 11-year-old son who saw Lucas from outside the house and tried to stop him with a baseball bat. Lucas shot him several times. When the teenage sister walked into the house later on, Lucas and co-conspirator Brandon Joseph Rhode tied her to a chair and Lucas shot her point blank. Rhodes killed the father when he arrived at the house.

Lucas was arrested days later, waived his Miranda rights, and confessed. After that, Lucas and his defense team tried and failed to link the substance abuse to his traumatic upbringing.

In court, Lucas’ attorneys hinged their defense on drugs — Xanax and Darvocet — and alcohol in his system at the time of the murders. According to a psychiatrist who testified on Lucas’ behalf, the killings likely occurred because his judgment was impaired at the time. He explained that Lucas’ “recollection or reasoning, his impulsivity, everything was eroded, almost destroyed.”

Attorneys tried to make the case that Lucas’ substance abuse problem was the result of lasting childhood trauma. Family members testified that he was raised in a turbulent environment, and watched his parents use crack cocaine, smoke marijuana, and “[drink] excessively” when he was a small boy. The family lived in “abject poverty.” Often, he had to protect his sister when their parents were fighting. And there was sexual abuse in the household, although it is unclear who the victims were.

The jury was unconvinced, and state and federal appeals courts rejected the notion that Lucas was too intoxicated to know what he was doing.

But Lucas’ story is shared by many people sentenced to capital punishment throughout the country. They weren’t born hardened, brutal criminals, but made life choices colored by profound trauma.

“It’s…clear that not all criminality is the product of childhood abuse,” Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist and trauma expert, told the publication. “But these early adverse situations reduce the resilience of human biology and they change us in very fundamental ways. Our brains are altered. And that’s what this research is bearing out.”

"Through their upbringing, children learn how to treat the people around them," Ochberg explained. "If they are abused as kids, many normalize violence and resort to violence in the future."

Click here to read the full article

Source: ThinkProgress, Carimah Townes, April 27, 2016. The original title of this article is: "What The Next Execution Tells Us About Childhood Trauma And The Death Penalty"

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A year after the Bali Nine executions, Indonesia prepares firing squads again

Indonesian police officers
Deaths of eight prisoners, including two Australians, prompted a huge outcry – and a pause in executions. But now foreigners on death row fear their own sentences could be just weeks away

There’s chatter that it’s on.

Talk that the death squad is at the ready; that a new, bigger execution ground is in the making. Officials say it could be just weeks away.

And after the circus last year, the security minister Luhut Panjaitan hopes there will be less “drama” this time around.

One year after the international uproar and the diplomatic fallout over the execution of eight drug traffickers – including two Australian men, Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – it appears more executions could be on Indonesia’s horizon this year. Among the foreigners on death row in Indonesia are two Britons, convicted drug smugglers Lindsay Sandiford and Gareth Cashmore.

“I still don’t want to believe it,” says lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, who this time last year was fighting to save the lives of Chan and Sukumaran. “Yes, there will probably be a statement, but in the end I don’t think there will be any executions. I refuse to believe it.”

After 14 prisoners were executed at dawn in two separate rounds in early 2015, a third round has been on hold for the past year, ostensibly for economic reasons, but perhaps, in part, for political ones, too.

This month, even as Indonesia was being booed at the United Nations for reiterating its support for the death penalty for drug offenders – a punitive action that runs counter to international law – the attorney general Muhammad Prasetyo indicated that another round would go ahead.

When questioned on the matter by German chancellor Angela Merkel on a recent visit to Berlin, Indonesian president Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, defended capital punishment as a justified approach to the country’s “drug emergency”.

There is nothing definitive yet, no date, and no official list of the next prisoners to face the firing squad: the Indonesian government is keeping its cards close to the chest. But some are still operating on the assumption that it is probably just a matter of time.

“The last information we received is that the attorney general has asked the parliament for the budget for the third round,” says Putri Kanesia, from the Jakarta-based human rights organisation Kontras.


Source: The Guardian, Kate Lamb, April 28, 2016

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Arizona Faces Drug-Expiration Deadline for Executions

Arizona's supply of a crucial lethal injection drug is set to expire as a federal judge decides the fate of a lawsuit that has stopped all executions in the state.

State officials currently can't seek death warrants until a lawsuit against the way it carries out executions is resolved, meaning the state's supply of the sedative midazolam will expire without being used. The state's known supply of midazolam expires on May 31. But law requires Arizona to wait 35 days after obtaining a death warrant before carrying out an execution, meaning it would have had to get the warrant by Tuesday.

A federal judge is deciding on a request by the state to dismiss the lawsuit.

It's unclear whether the state has obtained more midazolam. The state Department of Corrections didn't respond to several calls and emails seeking comment.

The lawsuit was originally filed by a group of death row inmates who said their First Amendment rights were violated by the state's refusal to divulge any information about its supply of lethal drugs and how it gets them. The suit also challenges the use of midazolam, a sedative used in the nearly two-hour death of convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood in July 2014. Wood, convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her father, was administered with 15 doses of midazolam and hydromorphone, a pain killer, before dying.

A federal judge in Phoenix is deliberating whether to grant a state motion to dismiss the case. U.S. District Judge Neil Wake heard oral arguments on April 7 and hasn't yet issued a ruling.

Attorneys for the state argue that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the use of midazolam in in lethal injections and the state abides by national standards to avoid mishaps. Attorneys told Wake earlier this year that its supply of midazolam will expire on May 31 and that it wasn't able to get more.

The sedative is part of the state's execution protocol, which includes the drugs vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride. Arizona has also tried to obtain sodium thiopental, an anesthetic that has been used in past executions in combination with drugs that paralyze the muscles and stop the heart. The anesthetic currently has no legal uses in the U.S. 

Last summer, the FDA seized a shipment of the drug that Arizona paid $27,000 for. Arizona and other death penalty states have struggled to obtain lethal injection drugs after European companies refused to continue supplying them several years ago.

Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, has said his client's execution was botched and that the state shouldn't use midazolam in its executions. Baich declined to comment on the expiration of the known supply.

Source: Associated Press, April 27, 2016

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Did An Innocent Man Just Die On Texas' Death Row?

Typical death row cell, Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas
Typical death row cell, Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas
Most death row inmates may be racing against time when it comes down to their final days, waiting for a court to halt their execution often just hours before it's scheduled. 

But it was a different kind of race for Max Soffar, who had his own biological clock to battle with as he looped through the lengthy, convoluted appeals process.

For years, his committed defense team had worked feverishly to secure an exoneration based on a false confession. But on Sunday evening, at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Soffar's time expired. He died of terminal liver cancer in the death row infirmary; he had spent 35 of his 60 years in prison.

Although no physical evidence had ever connected Soffar to the murders, he was convicted in 1982 of shooting 3 employees of a Houston bowling alley, execution-style. The crime rattled the city for months. With the help of a witness who survived a bullet to the head, a police detective drew up a sketch of the suspect and offered a $15,000 reward to whomever could identify him. And as both Texas Monthly's Michael Hall and Texas Southern University journalism professor Michael Berryhill have written about extensively, that financial incentive would ultimately put Soffar behind bars for the rest of his life.

As Berryhill wrote in a lengthy Houston Chronicle piece 2 years ago, Soffar was a 7th-grade drop-out who had been addicted to drugs his whole life, already born with liver and brain damage at birth because of fetal alcohol syndrome. At the time he was convicted, he had been running with burglars and other drug addicts for years, though he had acted as an informant to police as well. He reportedly believed he could pin the bowling alley murders on a fellow criminal who looked like the guy in the sketch, then recover the $15,000 and walk away.

Instead, even though the details Soffar originally gave to detectives about that night in no way synced with the actual crime scene, police were able to pressure Soffar into changing his story several times - from never even being present and only waiting in the getaway car, to only witnessing the murders, then, finally, to being forced by his accomplice to shoot people. During his trial, this confession was the only evidence that jurors relied on to send Soffar to death row. And that, Berryhill says, is the most troubling facet of Soffar's case.

"These cases are frustrating, where you have a confession, no physical evidence, but the crime is so horrendous that the jury feels impelled to render a verdict," he told the Houston Press. "Even with such an improbable confession."

Max Soffar
Max Soffar
In 2006, Soffar's appeals attorney, Andrew Horne, was able to secure a new trial after arguing that he had ineffective counsel the first time. As Berryhill reported, Horne had hoped to call to the stand a witness named Stewart Cook, who had been a partner in crime with a man named Paul Reid, who allegedly told Cook he was behind the Houston bowling alley murders. Reid was already in prison in Tennessee, convicted for murders that a Tennessee police detective said were strikingly similar to the bowling alley case. But State District Judge Mary Lou Keel wouldn't let that into evidence, apparently not believing the crimes were similar enough. And Cook never made it to the stand either, because prosecutors threatened to try him for murder if he testified.

So for the 2nd time, Berryhill said, a jury found him guilty after weighing nothing but his confession, never able to hear an alternative theory that may have raised just enough reasonable doubt to acquit him.

"False confessions, I think, are really hard for the average person to swallow, because they can't imagine anyone confessing to something they didn't do," Berryhill said. "But the average person may not be aware of all of these factors."

Berryhill is hopeful that, if anything, Soffar's case becomes a catalyst in changing police interrogation tactics, or at least contributes to the growing public awareness about the problem.

But beyond that, some justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have even begun to signal that the time has come to reconsider the constitutionality of the death penalty because of cases much like Soffar's. Last year, for example, Justice Stephen Bryer called out 2 Texas cases, punctuating the very real possibility that the state may have taken innocent lives. He highlighted the case of Carlos Deluna, who was executed in 1989 despite insisting for years that a different man named Carlos had killed a woman at a gas station, which was later confirmed in a book; and Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed for setting his house on fire and killing his kids inside for reasons that were never clear - even though the fire science used to convict him was later considered "junk science."

We'll never know what would have come of Soffar's latest appeals. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently agreed to hear his case, perhaps one of the last chances he would have had at an exoneration. The court was scheduled to hear oral arguments tomorrow.

Source:  Houston Press, Meagan Flynn, April 26, 2016

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Singapore: Young Malaysian rider arrested with a kilo of drugs faces death penalty

Singaporean authorities arrested a young Malaysian rider who was carrying heroin and meth worth $86,000 at the Woodlands checkpoint.

The 20-year-old motorcyclist had in his possession almost one kilogram of drugs, which far exceeds the minimum amount of contraband that attracts death penalty in Singapore.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said in a joint statement that apart from the heroin, about 120 gram of meth also was recovered from the rider.

The rider arrived at the checkpoint at 5.20 in the morning on Monday. The checkpoint authorities discovered a packet of heroin weighing 460 grams on him and arrested him.

They then handed him to the central narcotics bureau officials, who recovered another packet of heroin from him which contained the same quantity of the contraband.

Drug related offences get harsh punishment in Singapore, including death. The island republic has been in the forefront of nations that vouch for strict punishment for drug crimes.

Under Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act provides anyone trafficking heroin above 15 grams can be punished with death.

In a speech at a UN conference last week, Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said the country will never go soft in its fight against drugs.

"We believe that drugs will destroy our society. With 200 million people traveling through our borders every year, and given Singaporeans' purchasing power, a soft approach will mean our country will be washed over with drugs," Shanmugam said.

Source: ibtimes.com, April 26, 2016

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Vietnam: Thai woman, 3 Vietnamese sentenced to death for drug trafficking

Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi, Vietnam
A court in Hanoi sentenced 3 Vietnamese and a Thai woman to death on Monday for drug trafficking.

Investigation found Nguyen Thi Thuy Trang, 53, from Ho Chi Minh City, learned about the illegal trade in late 2011 and started hiring several people to help her transport drugs across regional borders.

Police in Hanoi, Quang Ninh Province and HCMC busted the ring in October 2012, seizing 24 kilograms of heroin and more than 2 kilograms of methamphetamine.

They arrested Trang and 3 of her smugglers Le Xuan Phu, Phan Thi Lien, and Pornpirom Upapong from Thailand, local media reported.

The members told police Trang was the mastermind and hired them to transport drugs across regional countries including China, Cambodia, Nigeria, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Police said the gang also hired some Africans who used money to lure poor Vietnamese women, who had little knowledge about drug laws, into the illegal business.

They are still looking for these suspects.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is punishable by death.

Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine also face the death penalty.

Source: Thanh Nien News, April 26, 2016

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10 prisoners hanged in Iran in new wave of executions

Execution in Iran
NCRI - Iran's fundamentalist regime has hanged at least 10 people in prisons since the weekend, in what has been described as a new wave of executions.

Earlier on Wednesday at least six other death-row prisoners in Ghezelhesar Prison in Karaj, north-west of Tehran, were transferred to solitary confinement for their imminent execution.

The regime's judiciary in Mazandaran Province announced that a 27-year-old prisoner identified by the initials Z. Ch. was hanged in a prison in Sari, northern Iran, on Sunday, April 24. Earlier in the week, the judiciary had announced that a second 27-year-old prisoner, identified only by the initials H. H., was also hanged in prison in Sari on Sunday.

Elsewhere, the regime’s judiciary in Qazvin Province announced that an unnamed man was hanged in Qazvin Central Prison, north-west of Tehran, on Tuesday.

At least five prisoners were hanged on Saturday in Zahedan Central Prison, south-east Iran. Another three prisoners were hanged in the same prison on Tuesday.

Three of those executed in Zahedan were identified as: Jamshid Dehvari, 30; Sadeq Rigi, 35; and Mohammad Sanchouli, who is believed to have been 22 years old.

Mr. Sanchouli had been behind bars for the past five years including time he served in the prison’s ward for juveniles. He is believed to have been under 18 at the time of his arrest.

The hangings bring to at least 46 the number of people executed in Iran since April 10. Three of those executed were women and one is believed to have been a juvenile offender.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said in a statement on April 13 that the increasing trend of executions “aimed at intensifying the climate of terror to rein in expanding protests by various strata of the society, especially at a time of visits by high-ranking European officials, demonstrates that the claim of moderation is nothing but an illusion for this medieval regime.”

Ms. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was in Tehran on April 16 along with seven EU commissioners for discussions with the regime’s officials on trade and other areas of cooperation.

Her trip was strongly criticized by Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NCRI who said: “This trip which takes place in the midst of mass executions, brutal human rights violations and the regime's unbridled warmongering in the region tramples on the values upon which the EU has been founded and which Ms. Mogherini should be defending and propagating.”

Amnesty International in its April 6 annual Death Penalty report covering the 2015 period wrote: "Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before."

"Iran alone accounted for 82% of all executions recorded" in the Middle East and North Africa, the human rights group said.

There have been more than 2,300 executions during Hassan Rouhani’s tenure as President. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran in March announced that the number of executions in Iran in 2015 was greater than any year in the last 25 years. Rouhani has explicitly endorsed the executions as examples of “God’s commandments” and “laws of the parliament that belong to the people.”

The NCRI in a separate statement on Sunday warned that 10 death-row prisoners, transferred to solitary confinement in Ghezel-Hessar Prison in Karaj and Zahedan Prison, are at imminent risk of execution. It called on international human rights organizations to take urgent action to save their lives.

Source: NCRI, April 27, 2016

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Bali Nine member Michael Czugaj moved from Kerobokan to East Java after he was found with meth

Bali Nine member Michael Czugaj
Bali Nine member Michael Czugaj
Michael Czugaj found with meth in his Kerobokan prison cell but insists 'he's an addict not a dealer'

One of the Bali Nine members Michael Czugaj has been moved from the notorious Kerobokan prison to a jail in East Java after he was allegedly found with drugs.

Czugaj, 30, is serving a life sentence after he was caught with heroin strapped to his body at Denpasar Airport in April 2005.

The then 19-year-old was one of nine young Australians arrested and convicted.

Czugaj, was moved to Madiun Prison in East Java on Wednesday after he was allegedly found holding less than a gram of 'sabu sabu' (or ice) at Kerobokan prison, according to the Head of Bali Corrections Division Nyoman Putra Surya.

He said Czugaj was one of 63 prisoners moved, seven of whom were foreigners with six of those from Iran.

Nyoman alleged the Australian's 'addiction was strong' and that leftover ice was 'often' found in his cell.

'He (Czugaj) said that he got it from a visitor ... that's why we need to take him out so that he would be far away from his network in Bali,' Nyoman told reporters in Bali.

It was alleged the Australian admitted to using narcotics while in the prison but never trafficked it.

'Every time we found (the drug), it was always only leftovers. We want to prove it directly,' Nyoman added.

It is understood that officials are yet to notify the Australian consulate that he has been moved to a prison some 400 kilometres away from Bali.

Czugaj was among a group of Australian inmates inside Kerobokan who were unhurt when a deadly riot broke out in December last year.

Water canon, ambulances and the bomb squad had to be brought in and prison guards were evacuated from the jail, a 30-minute drive north of Kuta.

The fight was thought to have been between rival gangs Laskar Bali and Baladika.

Among the inmates were three members of Australia's Bali Nine; Czugaj, Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman, who are all serving life imprisonment for the botched 2005 drug trafficking.

Accused ringleaders of the drug-smuggling operation, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, were sentenced to death and executed on April 29 last year.


Source: Mail Online, April 27, 2016


Bali Nine art studio gone as inmates moved from Kerobokan

Myuran Sukumaran (L) and Ben Quilty (R) in Kerobokan's art workshop
Myuran Sukumaran (L) and artist Ben Quilty (R) in Kerobokan's art workshop
ON THE eve of the first anniversary of the execution of Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran the prisoners hand-picked by Sukumaran to run his beloved art workshop and rehabilitation programs have been shifted out of Kerobokan prison.

In an early morning operation today, authorities moved 66 prisoners out of Kerobokan. Most were sent to Madiun prison in East Java, including Australian Bali Nine courier Michael Czugaj and a group of Iranian prisoners.

The surprise move comes a week after rival gangs rioted in the prison and authorities say the transfers were aimed at moving troublemakers and easing shocking overcapacity at Bali’s main jail.

Among those moved are Iranians Rouhollah Serish Abadi and Ali Reza Sabarhanloo. Rouhollah was hand-picked by Sukumaran, before his death, to continue running his beloved art workshop and studio in the jail. Ali Reza was running the T-shirt printing and computer rehabilitation programs.

The move has shocked those involved in the programs in Bali, which Sukumaran was so passionate about ensuring continued after his death. And it has brought new pain to the families of the two Australians as they prepare to commemorate their lives and the anniversary of their controversial deaths.

Friday marks one year since Sukumaran and Chan, along with six others, were executed by firing squad, amid worldwide condemnation.

Before his death Sukumaran was passionate about ensuring the rehabilitation programs, which he and Chan had fought so hard to have set up and which had won acclaim around the world, would continue in his absence.

He personally hand-picked the prisoners to whom he would entrust their future and these included two of the Iranians moved today who had long worked side by side with Sukumaran in the workshops.

They had promised Sukumaran they would make him proud and ensure that the programs continued to help prisoners reform their lives.

Rouhollah, who had become an accomplished artist behind bars, had worked hard to ensure the art programs were continued in Sukumaran’s legacy.

Sukumaran, who was awarded a Fine Arts degree in the months before his death and who was mentored by Australian artists Ben Quilty and Matt Sleeth, spent his final days alive painting a series of poignant and haunting images, documenting the final journey.

His paintings, sent out from the jail still wet in his final three days, have since arrived back in Australia.

The move also further fragments the remaining Bali Nine members, of whom only two now remain in Kerobokan prison.

Si Yi Chen, who runs the silver workshop and Matthew Norman, are now the only two left at the prison. Both, along with Michael Czugaj who was moved today in what insiders say was a total shock, are serving life sentences for their role in the heroin bust.

Renae Lawrence was shifted to another prison in Bali several years ago and Martin Stephens and Tan Duch Tanh Nguyen had already been moved to Malang prison in East Java. Scott Rush ws moved to karangesem prison, in East Bali, at his own request.

All, except Renae Lawrence, are serving life sentences with no chance of parole and are not entitled to yearly remissions. They have tried constantly to have their sentences commuted to 20 years without success.

The move comes after a year of upheaval and trouble at the prison, in the centre of Bali’s tourist district, and which many observers say was allowed to fester without the leadership of prisoners like Sukumaran and Chan.

Riots between warring gangs within the jail have been deadly. In December last year two prisoners were killed in the violence along with two others killed when it spilt over to the streets outside the jail. In the wake of those riots a virtual arsenal of weapons was uncovered hidden within the jail.

Then last week, when suspects involved in that violence were due to be moved into the jail there was more trouble and threats of further bloodshed if those prisoners were moved into the jail. In the end the jail Governor refused to take them.

At 4am this morning Bali time heavily armed authorities arrived at the jail. A total of 63 prisoners were taken by bus for the long journey across to Madiun Jail in East Java. They were allowed to leave with only the clothes they were wearing. Another three prisoners, with ongoing trials, were moved to another jail within Bali.

Nyoman Putra Surya Atmadja, the head of the Correction Division at the Justice and Human rights Ministry in Bali, said the move was orderly and guards had managed to quell any unrest, including an attempt to stab a guard with a screwdriver.

Mr Atmadja said the move was aimed at easing overcapacity and moving troublemaker prisoners.

“The transfer was done to control the prison that has an extreme overcapacity because overcapacity is one of the factors that triggers security problems in the prison. We do this to create a secure situation in the prison, to prevent other riots happening,” Mr Atmadja said.

Source: news.com.au, April 27, 2016


Bali 9 member Michael Czugaj moved to remote jail after found with traces of drug

Michael Czugaj
Michael Czugaj
We speak to 2 prisoners inside Bali's Kerobokan jail about the legacy of executed Australian Myuran Sukumaran.

Bali 9 member Michael Czugaj is among 66 prisoners who have been transferred to a remote jail in East Java after prison authorities said they caught him with traces of the drug ice in Bali's Kerobokan jail.

The shock move comes two days before the 1st anniversary of the execution of 8 drug offenders in Indonesia, including Bali nine co-ordinators Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

The future of rehabilitation projects Sukumaran helped establish in Kerobokan jail, including art classes and a T-shirt printing business, are in doubt after the 2 Iranian prisoners he entrusted to take over after his death were also moved.

The transfer of 66 prisoners to Madiun Prison in East Java at 4am on Wednesday morning was so sudden that prisoners did not have time to collect clothes or even cigarettes.

7 foreigners were moved, including Czugaj and 6 Iranians.

The head of Bali's prison division, Nyoman Putra Surya Atmaja, said prison officers had found traces of used sabu sabu (ice) when they searched Czugaj's cell.

"He was heavily addicted to drugs. He admitted to using drugs, but we only found a trace of used drugs," Mr Nyoman said. "Legally we can't charge him with evidence. He said he got it from a visitor. But he never said who. That's why we moved him. So he is kept away from his Bali drug network."

Mr Nyoman said the 66 prisoners who had been transferred were those who were "emotionally easy to provoke and who caused disturbances".

The transfer comes a week after a riot broke out at Kerobokan jail, with fires lit and prison bars broken after 11 members of the notorious Laskar Bali gang were admitted to the prison.

Those involved in the jail rehabilitation projects expressed shock, sadness and anger at the transfer of Iranians Ali Reza Safar Khanloo and Rouhallah Series Abadi, whom Sukumaran had asked to continue running Kerobokan jail's T-shirt printing business and the art room.

"In the short term I don't see anyway for the BengKer (prison workshop) to remain viable. I feel really sad," one insider told Fairfax Media.

"For them to destroy the BengKer is just mean. What a mess. What a waste of years of effort."

Bali's Kerobokan prison
Bali's Kerobokan prison
The insider said Rahol and Ali, as they are known, had been a calming influence on the jail.

Rahol, who helped organise supplies and weekly classes in the art room, recently spoke of how much he missed Sukumaran and still felt his presence in Kerobokan.

"His body is dead but still his soul is here," he said.

Ali had been experimenting with producing skateboards and bags, as well as T-shirts, in the prison workshop.

He had recently designed a T-shirt featuring a striking image of Sukumaran releasing doves of peace from a map of Australia, which he wanted to send to Sukumaran's family to commemorate Sukumaran's birthday on April 17.

"They are saying they are transferring the troublemakers - it's just revenge from the warden and chief of security," one prisoner said.

"With the workshop I have no idea what is going to happen. What they are doing is totally making me confused. It's like they don't care about the rehabilitation programs."

"This is the saddest day. Like we are fighting a losing battle," said another prisoner.

However Mr Nyoman, the head of Bali's prison division, said Rahol and Ali were not the leaders of the art room and T-shirt printing businesses.

"The leaders are prison guards. Not prisoners.The guards are still there," he said.

And Dadang Iskandar, the prison officer in charge of the BengKer, said the programs would continue "just with different members".

He said Indonesia always made decisions in the best interests of prisoners: "All the prisoners were transferred with good intentions."

April 29 marks the 1st anniversary of the execution of eight drug offenders, including Chan and Sukumaran, on Nusakambangan island, known as Indonesia's Alcatraz.

The 2 Australians had been sentenced to death in 2006 for their role in the foiled attempt to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin from Indonesia to Australia. Czugaj is serving life imprisonment.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo had refused to grant Chan and Sukumaran clemency, despite claims the Australians had reformed in prison.

Their legal team argued that Chan had become a pastor in prison and both men helped establish rehabilitation programs behind bars, including art, yoga, computer and cooking classes.

Source: smh.com.au, April 27, 2016

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