Friday, August 1, 2014

Sudanese Christian woman who once faced death penalty arrives in U.S.

Mariam Ibrahim and her husband
(CNN) -- A Sudanese Christian woman once sentenced to death in her native country because of her faith arrived in her new home, the United States, on Thursday.

Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, her husband and two young children were greeted by a large crowd of supporters at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire. Ibrahim, whose sentence was overturned a few weeks ago, didn't speak with the media.

Ibrahim's ordeal started when a Muslim relative filed a criminal complaint saying she had married Daniel Wani, a Christian, after going missing for several years. A Sudanese court considered Ibrahim a Muslim because her father was Muslim.

She was charged with adultery on grounds that a Muslim woman's marriage to a Christian man is illegal in Sudan. Ibrahim also was charged with apostasy, accused of illegally renouncing what was alleged to be her original faith.

She was convicted in May, while about eight months pregnant. In chains, Ibrahim gave birth about two weeks later in a women's hospital in Khartoum.

Ibrahim had been detained since mid-January. She refused to let go of her 20-month-old son, Martin, for fear she would never see him again.

Ibrahim was born to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Her father left when she was 6 years old. She was raised by her mother as a Christian.

A court in Sudan overturned Ibrahim's death sentence a few weeks ago, but police arrested her again June 24 when she and her family tried to leave Sudan to go to the United States. Wani is an American citizen who has lived in Manchester since 1998.

Police accused her of falsifying travel documents in an attempt to fly to the United States with her family. They were taken into custody at the airport in the capital, Khartoum.

The family had been confined to a safe house in Sudan until last week, when they traveled to Italy.


Source: CNN, August 1, 2014

Arizona's Terrible Lethal Injection Track Record

When Arizona executed Joseph Wood last week, witnesses said he repeatedly gasped for air during an execution that dragged on for nearly two hours. Wood's lawyers have demanded, and the state has agreed to, an investigation into whether a new and largely untested combination of lethal drugs caused Wood to suffer unnecessarily.

But it's possible that Arizona may discover that the real problem with Wood's execution wasn't the lethal pharmaceuticals, but the people administering them.

Human error was the culprit in Oklahoma's botched execution of Clayton Lockett earlier this year. After spending more than an hour trying to find a vein, his executioners accidentally delivered the lethal drugs into his soft tissue rather than into his blood stream, causing him to writhe in pain until the procedure was halted. He died shortly thereafter of a heart attack. In Wood's case, a preliminary autopsy concluded that the IV lines were set properly, but further results won't be available for a few weeks.

Amherst College political science professor Austin Sarat, author of Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America's Death Penalty, estimates that more than 7 percent of the 1,000 lethal injection executions between 1990 and 2010 have been botched. That's a higher rate than executions employing the gas chamber or the electric chair, methods courts have deemed unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment.

Arizona is a good example of why lethal injections so often go awry. Court records show that the state has a long history of staffing its execution teams with unqualified or marginally qualified people, often in violation of its own rules requiring the use of experienced medical personnel.

In 2007, a group of Arizona death row inmates sued the state over its execution practices, arguing its procedures were unconstitutional because they were likely to cause inordinate suffering. During the litigation, defense lawyers unearthed background information about the people carrying out executions, as well as creating the lethal injection protocol in the first place.


Source: Mother Jones, S. Mencimer, August 1, 2014

A killer's execution could hinge on a Colorado election

With a signature on a piece of paper, convicted quadruple murderer Nathan Dunlap's life was spared.

For now.

A year after Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed that "temporary reprieve," Dunlap's sentence still has not been carried out. That's painful for many of the loved ones of the four restaurant workers Dunlap shot to death in 1993. It also upsets the sole survivor of the shooting, Bobby Stephens.

"It's not fair," Stephens told KRDO TV.

Precedent on temporary reprieves is murky. No one knows for sure when the reprieve may be lifted, and Colorado hasn't executed anyone since 1997. But if Hickenlooper, a Democrat, loses his re-election bid in November, the legal landscape for Dunlap could change dramatically.

Dunlap's attack inside a Chuck E. Cheese pizza restaurant more than 20 years ago sparked a wave of anger reflected on local news broadcasts. Prosecutors said Dunlap was seeking revenge after being fired from his job there as a cook. He entered the restaurant, hid in a restroom, and emerged after closing, prosecutors said. He then shot Sylvia Crowell, 19; Colleen O'Connor, 17; Ben Grant, 17; and Marge Kohlberg, 50, who was the mother of 2 children.

Stephens, 20, who also worked there, survived. After Dunlap shot him in the face, he played dead until the killer fled the building.

Unanimous death sentence

A high-profile trial provoked a raging debate about how society should best deal with those who commit heinous crimes.

Dunlap's jury delivered its verdict in 1996, convicting him on 4 counts of murder and unanimously sentencing him to death.

During years of appeals that followed, prison doctors officially diagnosed Dunlap with bipolar disorder, CNN's "Death Row Stories" reported. Dunlap's attorneys appealed, claiming his mental health wasn't properly taken into account during his trial.

Dunlap apologized to Stephens in a letter, saying "he was sorry for what he'd done to me," Stephens told KRDO TV. But Stephens said he doubted his would-be killer's goodwill.

When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Dunlap's final appeal, he and his attorneys took their plea for a stay to Hickenlooper.

"Because of that and the horrible things I did, I don't feel I have the right to ask for clemency," Dunlap wrote in a letter to the governor, reportedly saying,"I'd like to spare my family and friends from the same pain that I caused the victims' families and Bobby Stephens and his family and friends."

Rather than give Dunlap clemency, the governor issued a "temporary reprieve," explaining that his decision was made "not out of compassion or sympathy," but because there "is a legitimate question whether we as a state should be taking lives." "Colorado's system for capital punishment is not flawless," Hickenlooper wrote in his executive order.

'Mob justice'

The governor's decision reignited the years-old Dunlap debate.

The mother of victim Colleen O'Connor, Jodie McNally-Damore, told "Death Row Stories" she's hoping Dunlap will avoid execution. "I think that he deserves to stay exactly in the hole that he's in, and let him suffer and think about what he did. Let him rot."

Bob Crowell, father of victim Sylvia Crowell, told KCNC TV that the governor's decision resulted in backdoor clemency.

Hickenlooper's Republican challenger, former Rep. Bob Beauprez, told The Associated Press that the governor's reprieve for Dunlap showed "an unwillingness to even make the tough call."

The governor's temporary reprieve has no time limit, so theoretically, as long as Hickenlooper remains in office, he can continue to block Dunlap's execution. But a new governor could end the reprieve, clearing the way for Dunlap to die by lethal injection.

In a way, Dunlap's fate rests in the hands of Colorado voters. Critics say that amounts to mob justice.

The governor issued Dunlap a "temporary reprieve," putting his execution on hold indefinitely.

Dunlap's prosecutor, District Attorney George Brauchler, told "Death Row Stories," "There's one person in the state of Colorado who is more interested than the governor being re-elected than even the governor - and that's Nathan Dunlap."

This isn't Aurora's only high profile death penalty case involving mental health and a gunman. James Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 charges surrounding a movie theater shooting in 2012 that left 12 people dead. His trial is set to begin December 8. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.

A complicated system

Dunlap's case is one of several "Death Row Stories" that illustrate America's complicated capital punishment system.

Some of them involve inmates who faced possible execution until higher courts stepped in. Convicted of murder, Edward Lee Elmore spent 30 years behind bars in South Carolina despite seemingly overwhelming evidence that he was innocent.

In perhaps the most bizarre case of the series, former Army Master Sgt. Tim Hennis awaits execution on the U.S. military's death row at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for a triple murder in which he was convicted, then acquitted and then convicted again. "Tim Hennis is the only person in United States history who's been tried for his life 3 times after guilty and not guilty verdicts," said Scott Whisnant, whose book "Innocent Victims" was made into a 1996 TV movie. Despite Hennis' ultimate conviction, crime scene evidence still sheds doubt on the verdict, including still unidentified DNA which was found under a victim's fingernails.

Source: CNN, July 31, 2014

India: Draft anti-hijack bill sent to law ministry


Aviation ministry has sent the draft anti-hijacking bill, which includes death sentence as a punishment, to the law ministry for vetting. To make the anti-hijacking law much tougher the aviation ministry wants to repeal the Anti-Hijacking Act 1982 and replace it with a new one. 

"In order to improve aviation security and create deterrence, it is proposed to introduce anti-hijacking bill 2014 by repealing the Anti-Hijacking Act 1982. The proposed legislation will enlarge the scope and definition of "hijacking" and enhance the punishment to include death penalty and confiscation of property of perpetrators as well as of conspirators/ abettors," said the aviation ministry 100-day action plan submitted to the Prime Minister's Office. 

Source: HindustanTimes, July 31, 2014

Shi'ite militia hangs up 15 executed Sunnis in Iraqi square

Iraqi Shi'ite militia forces executed 15 Sunni Muslims and then hung them from electricity poles in a public square in the town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, on Wednesday, police said.

With Iraq sliding ever closer to all-out sectarian civil war, a car bomb exploded near restaurants and shops in the capital's Shi'ite district of Sadr City, killing 16 people, while another car bomb killed 5 in Baghdad's Ameen district, police said.

A police officer at the scene in Baquba, a mixed Sunni and Shi'ite town 65 km (40 miles) from Baghdad, said he believed the gruesome display of the bodies was designed to warn Sunnis off supporting the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has seized swathes of land in an advance through northern Iraq.

The victims, who had been kidnapped over the last week, were shot in the head and chest and then hung up by cables.

"The militia forces are preventing the medical crew from taking down the bodies," the police officer said.

"They are following a new tactic of keeping bodies hanging for a longer time to deter the Sunni population from backing the Islamic State. We asked them to let us evacuate the bodies but they refused."

Even before Islamic State's dramatic advance, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-dominated government had already alienated many in the Sunni minority with what they saw as authoritarian government biased towards Shi'ites, prompting some to find common cause with Sunni militants.

The U.S.-funded and trained Iraqi army unraveled in the face of the Islamic State's sweep through the north, and violence in other parts of Iraq has increased since then, raising fears that the OPEC member will relapse into the dark days of sectarian civil war that peaked in 2006-2007.

Maliki is currently ruling in a caretaker capacity, having won a parliamentary election in April but failed to win enough support from the Kurdish and Arab Sunni minorities as well as fellow Shi'ites to form a new government.

On the battlefield, Shi'ite militias have stepped in to challenge the Sunni insurgents after Iraq's top cleric called on his compatriots to take up arms against the Islamic State.

Maliki promised in his weekly speech to the nation on Wednesday to end the threat from Islamic State.

Source: Reuters, July 31, 2014

This Is What the Death Penalty Used to Look Like


Above, a gas chamber at the Wyoming Frontier Prison. This is what an inmate
would see as s/he was led into the chamber. Just beyond the door and windows
to the left is the outside world. The window in the gas chamber provides a glimpse
of the observation room just beyond, where family members, friends and reporters
could watch the executions take place.

Throughout American history, each legal execution method—from hanging to firing squad, gas chamber to electric chair—has been sanctioned by U.S. courts, only to be banned later in many states for failing to measure up to the Eighth Amendment’s prohibiton of “cruel and unusal punishment.”

Each method, in turn, has be replaced by a new, “more humane” one. Now, after the botched executions of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma and, more recently, Joseph Wood in Arizona, Americans are looking at what had been deemed the most humane method yet—lethal injection—with increased scrutiny, prompting a new national debate about the ethics of state-sanctioned killing.

Photographer Lee Saloutos has visited abandoned prisons throughout the United States, capturing the debris left over from our more primitive criminal justice system. His photos give us a unique look at what humane used to look like in America.


Source: Politico, July 31, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

California: It's Time to End the Death Penalty Nightmare

Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris should refuse to defend the state's unconstitutional system for putting people to death.

Jerry Brown, then attorney general, made the right choice in 2010 when he refused to defend Proposition 8 in the appellate courts after Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the anti-gay marriage law was unconstitutional. After all, Brown had opposed Prop 8 and was convinced it was unconstitutional, too. He then continued to refuse to defend the law when he became governor. Likewise, Kamala Harris took a principled stand in 2011 when she declined to defend Prop 8 after she succeeded Brown as attorney general. Those decisions by Brown and Harris took courage; they both endured criticism for refusing to defend a voter-approved law.

It's now time for Brown and Harris to show their courage again — and refuse to defend California's death penalty law in the wake of a recent decision by a federal court judge who said it's unconstitutional, too. After all, both Brown and Harris oppose capital punishment, and Brown publicly disclosed that he had voted for Proposition 34 in 2012, which would have abolished the death penalty in California.

Brown and Harris have not yet said whether they will appeal the decision by US District Judge Cormac J. Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush. They should not. It's long past time for California to do away with its badly broken death penalty system — a system that is extraordinarily expensive, unnecessary, and barbaric.


Source: East Bay Express, Robert Gammon, July 30, 2014

US ‘Concerned’ Over Indictment of Uighur Academic

The United States has called on China to release Uighur rights activist and economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was charged Wednesday with separatism two days after clashes in Xinjiang that caused dozens of casualties. The head of a U.S./based Uighur group said the Muslim Uighur community is rising up against China’s recently-announced crackdown.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf Wednesday expressed concern about Ilham Tohti’s indictment, as well as his detention and that of six students since January:

"We have been deeply concerned about the lack of transparency concerning his welfare and access to legal representation. We call on Chinese authorities to release Mr. Tohti and his students and to guarantee them the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments, including freedom of expression," said Harf.

Charged with separatism

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said the former lecturer at Beijing’s Central Nationalities University, detained January 15 and transferred to Xinjiang, was charged Wednesday with separatism for reportedly having close ties to the World Uighur Congress, which it said advocates the independence of Xinjiang. Police also say Tohti has connections with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has been designated a terrorist group.

According to state media, Tohti has described Muslim Uighur protesters as heroes and instigated students to hate China and its government. He is said to have been arrested several times for spreading rumors.

Michael Clarke, senior research fellow at Australia’s Griffith Asia Institute, said while he expected Tohti to be indicted, he is surprised his trial will be heard in the Intermediate People’s Court in Urumqi.

"In most cases, particularly high-profile cases like this, a conviction is pretty much a guarantee here and the problem with that is the charge of separatism, or inciting separatism, can technically carry the death penalty under Chinese law," explained Clarke. "Whether or not that will be the case in this circumstance, obviously, is unclear at the present."


Source: VOA, July 31, 2009

Indian SC Extends Stay on Death Penalty

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, extended the stay on the execution of death penalty of Soumya murder case convict Govindachamy.

The court on Thursday asked the state government to present the documents related to the case.

Govindachamy had approached the court for commuting his death sentence awarded by the Thrissur Fast Track Court upheld by the Kerala High Court.

In his appeal, Govindachamy has said that the trial court had ordered the capital punishment without properly examining evidence.

The High Court had criticised the lukewarm response of the Railways and the attitude of fellow passengers of Soumya, who was returning home on a Shoranur-bound train from her workplace in Ernakulam, when the incident took place.

The Bench held that the attitude of fellow passengers was ‘disgustful’. Had they offered a helping hand, this untoward incident could have been avoided. There is a need to create awareness among the public to rise to the occasion. Inaction of fellow passengers was more painful than the brutal action of the accused, the judges had observed. The prosecution case was that Gonvidachamy had pushed the victim out of the compartment of the passenger train on February 1 after first trying to rob her. He then raped the seriously injured woman, who died on February 6.

The prosecution also pointed out that the Tamil Nadu native had already been convicted in eight cases in that state.

The Fast Track Court had held the brutal rape was one of the reasons for the victim’s death and that the nature of the crime was savage and had shocked society.

Source: The New Indian Express, July 31, 2014

UAE: 2 sentenced to death over police officer's death

July 25, 2014: The brutal murder of an Ajman Police officer three years ago has been finally laid to rest with the Ajman Criminal Court sentencing two Arab men to death for the crime.

The two perpetrators, both in their 20s, had been arrested within 48 hours of the crime on February 11, 2011, and had confessed to the killing during interrogation. Police officer Suood Rashid Salim, 26, was stabbed to death near his home in Al Rashidiya area.

The police said Salim received a call from his mother-in-law, telling him that a visitor had arrived at his home looking for him. When he reached home, one of the two men met him inside the house while the other was waiting outside.

When he asked them what they wanted, they called him outside and attacked him viciously.

He was beaten up severely and then stabbed in the shoulder and abdomen. The attackers then fled, leaving him bleeding profusely, which caused his death.

When the police arrived and rushed him to Khalifa Hospital, he succumbed to his injuries. However, the dying man managed to give the policemen a description of the assailants and based on that, the two Arabs were arrested within 48 hours. 

Sources: khaleejtimes.com, July 25, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Texas: Man convicted of killing Bellaire police officer sentenced to death

Houston - A jury decided the punishment Tuesday for the man convicted of killing a Bellaire police officer and an innocent bystander in 2012. Harlem Harold Lewis III was sentenced to death. The verdict was returned after about 12 hours of deliberation.

Twelve jurors - nine men and three women - unanimously agreed that Lewis should pay with his own life for shooting and killing Cpl. Jimmie Norman, 53, and Maaco shop owner Terry Taylor, 66, at the end of a police chase on Christmas Eve.

Lewis stood with his head hung low, as his attorney kept a hand on his left shoulder. Before the jury was polled about its decision, his attorney gave him a pat, then the two sat down.

One by one, the jurors were polled, and one by one, they answered yes. They determined Harlem Lewis would be a continuing threat to society, and there was no mitigating evidence to warrant mercy.


Source: click2houston, July 29, 2014

Ghana: President Mahama Pardons 21 Death Row Inmates

July 23, 2014: A statement issued by Deputy Minister of the Interior James Agalga said the President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana had granted amnesty to 1,104 prisoners in commemoration of 54th Republic Anniversary which fell on 1 July.

Twenty-one prisoners on death row who had served at least 10 years had their sentences commuted to life, while 71 prisoners serving life sentences and who had served at least 10 years had their sentences commuted to a definite term of 20 years.

The President exercised his prerogative of mercy under Article 72 of the Constitution and acted upon the advice of the Council of State and the recommendation of the Ghana Prison Service.

The statement said 1,001 first offenders, who had served at least half of their sentences, were recommended for outright release. The amnesty included nine seriously ill prisoners who were released on medical grounds. 

Another prisoner serving at the President’s pleasure was recommended by the Medical Board for outright release, and one prisoner was released upon special recommendation.

“It is important to note that those recommended for outright release have already been freed by the prison authorities,” the statement added. 

Source: GNA, HOC, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Medical Examiner: Arizona Injection lines placed correctly in inmate

PHOENIX — Intravenous lines were placed correctly during the execution of an Arizona inmate whose death with lethal drugs took more than 90 minutes, a medical examiner said Monday.

Incorrect placement of lines can inject drugs into soft tissue instead of the blood stream, but the drugs used to kill Joseph Woods went into the veins of his arms, said Gregory Hess of the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

Hess also told The Associated Press that he found no unexplained injuries or anything else out of the ordinary when he examined the body of Woods, who gasped and snorted Wednesday more than 600 times before he was pronounced dead.

An Ohio inmate gasped in similar fashion for nearly 30 minutes in January. An Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Hess said he will certify the outcome of Woods' execution as death by intoxication from the two execution drugs — the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone — if there is nothing unusual about whatever drugs are detected in Wood's system.

Hess' preliminary findings were reported previously by the Arizona Capitol Times (http://bit.ly/1thLaFe). Toxicology results are expected in 4 to 6 weeks from an outside lab.

Hess is chief deputy medical examiner for Pima County, which conducts autopsies for Pinal County, where the prison is located.

Wood was sentenced to death for the 1989 killings of his estranged girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, and her father, Gene Dietz.

Wood was the first Arizona prisoner to be killed with the drug combination. Anesthesiology experts have said they weren't surprised the drugs took so long to kill him.

Arizona and other death-penalty states have scrambled in recent years to find alternatives to drugs used previously for executions but are now in short supply due to opposition to capital punishment.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has ordered the Corrections Department to conduct a review of the execution of Wood.

Source: The Associated Press, July 28, 2014

Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner insists on innocence as he weathers legal downturn in his case

Henry "Hank" Skinner: "My life is
on the line for a crime I didn't do."
LIVINGSTON - Every morning, convicted triple killer Henry Skinner awakes about 4 a.m. as breakfast is served at Texas' death row, deep within the concertina wire-girded Polunksy Unit 10 miles west of this East Texas hamlet. Around him are the furnishings of his 6-by-10-foot steel and concrete cell - a sink, toilet and bunk. For 22 hours a day, this austere place is Skinner's home.

It is here that Skinner, a onetime Pampa paralegal sentenced to die for one of the bloodiest killings in recent Texas Panhandle history, awaits his fate.

"My life is on the line for a crime I didn't do," Skinner, 52, said this week. "As far as the state is concerned, I'm expendable trash."

Skinner's case garnered international attention as he battled for more than a decade to obtain DNA testing of vaginal swabs, a bloody knife and dozens of other pieces of previously unexamined crime scene evidence. Twice Skinner's imminent execution was postponed to allow his lawyers to argue for the testing, which finally began in 2012.

Now, with mid-July's ruling by Pampa state District Judge Steven Emmert that the test results probably would not have altered the Skinner jury's guilty verdict, the killer's life again hangs in the balance.

Skinner was convicted of the 1993 New Year's Eve murders of his live-in lover, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons, Randy Busby and Elwin "Scooter" Caler. Twila Busby was strangled and bludgeoned with an ax handle; the men, stabbed.

Skinner repeated assertions that the killer was Twila Busby's uncle, Robert Donnell, "a mean drunk," who had sexually accosted her during a New Year's Eve party at a nearby residence. Six weeks before the killings, Skinner and Busby's sons arrived at the family home to find Donnell assaulting his niece, he said.

Suspicion first was cast on Donnell by Northwestern University journalism students who traveled to Texas in 2000 to investigate leads in the case. They encountered a witness who had seen the man cleaning his pickup with uncharacteristic fervor just days after the killings.

Donnell later was killed in an auto accident.

Skinner's legal team believes a blood-spattered windbreaker found at the crime scene may have belonged to Donnell. The jacket was lost while in the custody of Gray County authorities, and was not available for DNA testing.

None of Skinner's explanations gained traction with jurors or later appellate court judges.


Source: Houston Chroncile, Allan Turner, July 27, 2014

Why Wood's execution should trouble death penalty fans

Arizona Death Chamber
Whether you agree with the death penalty or not it should bother you that it took the murderer Joseph Wood almost two hours to die, gasping for air during his execution.

Whether you agree with the death penalty or not it should bother you that Gov. Jan Brewer immediately promised a review of the procedure and simultaneously appeared to clear the Department of Corrections of any wrongdoing.

Shortly after Wood was declared dead Brewer's office sent out statement that read in part, "While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process. One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer."

Whether or not you agree with the death penalty it should bother you that the governor directed the DOC to do an investigation of … the DOC.

Whether you agree or not with the governor's conclusion that Wood "did not suffer," it should bother you that she said as much before any investigation was conducted, something noted by Federal Judge Neil Wake when he was asked to stop the execution while it was ongoing.

Whether or not you believe a cold-blooded killer like Wood should suffer it should bother you that some people seem willing to toss out the U.S. Constitution's protection against "cruel and unusual punishment."

Because that applies to everyone who comes in contact with the justice system.


Source: Arizona Central, EJ Montini, July 28, 2014

RECTIFY


Screenshot from RECTIFY opening sequence

RECTIFY

This powerful, intelligent, sensistive, well-documented and gripping new American series follows Daniel Holden (Aden Young) who must put his life back together after serving 19 years on Georgia's Death Row before DNA evidence calls his conviction into question.

TV Series. Creator: Ray McKinnon (2013) with Aden Young, J. Smith-Cameron, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby, Abigail Spencer, Jake Austin, Walker Bruce McKinnon, Michael O'Neill, J.D. Evermore Johnny Ray Gill. Produced by Gran Via Productions, Zip Works. Distributed by Sundance Channel (2013-) (USA) (TV).

More information on the IMDB page here.



Agree/Disagree? Click here to comment.

South Korean student survivors recall horror of ferry disaster; captain, 3 senior officers could face death penalty

A passenger ferry, carrying more than 470 people, sunk
off the coast of South Korea, killing over 300 passengers.
All but one of the six students who testified in the Monday morning session of the criminal case appeared in the court room in the city of Ansan, just outside of Seoul, although they had been given the option of doing so via video link from a nearby room - a measure meant to make the experience less daunting.

One of the students, whose names were withheld to protect their privacy, recalled how they were instructed via the ferry's internal tannoy "over and over" to stay put in their cabins, until the vessel had listed severely to one side.

"The door was above our heads. We had our lifejackets on and the president of our class suggested we wait until we could float upwards and then escape," the student.

Help that never came

Another recalled seeing classmates swept back into the ferry as they were trying to escape.

"About 30 schoolmates stood in line in a corridor leading to an emergency exit, waiting for rescue. With no rescuers coming, one student after another jumped into the sea. After I jumped, a wave smashed the exit, keeping the remaining people from coming out," the student said.

Yet another said he had observed the crew floating in a Coast Guard dingy, within an arm's length of the ferry, but that they offered no assistance to those on board the stricken vessel and waiting to be rescued.
All indicated that many more could have been saved had they not been told to stay put. Only 75 of the students from Dawon High School in Ansan survived the disaster. A total of around 300 of the 476 people on board were killed.

The actually trial is being held in Gwangju, 265 kilometers (165 miles) south of Seoul, but the judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers traveled to Ansan, to hear the students' two days of testimony.

Death penalty possible

The captain of the Sewol ferry, Lee Joon-seok, and three other senior crew members are facing a number of charges including "homicide through wilful negligence." If found guilty, all four could face the death penalty.

Eleven other crew members are on trial on lesser charges.

Their testimony comes just days after the authorities announced that a body found in an orchard in the south of the country last month was that of Yoo Byun-eun, who owned the company that operated the ferry.

He had been on the run from police, who were seeking to question him on allegations of criminal negligence, embezzlement, and tax evasion.

Source: dpa, AFP, Reuters, July 28, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chemical mix and human error lead to controversial executions

Arizona spent 2 hours killing death row inmate Joseph Wood this week, an unusually long time for an execution. Wood's death has reopened the debate about capital punishment and lethal injection. Lethal injection is used in all 32 states that have the death penalty.

Some witnesses said Wood was gasping for breath and seemed to be in pain. Others said he was simply snoring. The state of Arizona said Wood didn't suffer. Either way, there are renewed concerns that executions, which are supposed to be quick and painless, are neither.

Typically executions are performed using 3 drugs in stages. The 1st drug is an anesthetic. The 2nd drug is called a paralytic and the 3rd drug is supposed to stop the heart.

For years, executioners used a drug called sodium thiopental as the 1st drug, the anesthetic, until the only U.S. producer of the drug stopped making it. Then the United States turned to European manufacturers, but they refused to sell the drug for use in executions.

Since sodium thiopental was taken off the market for executions, states have turned to a drug called midazolam for the anesthetic. But experts believe there have been problems with the drug in at least three executions. The problems described by witnesses included gasping, snorting or choking sounds and, in one execution, the inmate was described as speaking.

Wood was injected with midazolam on Wednesday, as well as hydromorphone, a narcotic painkiller that, with an overdose, halts breathing and stops the heart from beating. It is one of the new combinations that states have tried, with some controversial results.

What would qualify as a botched execution? Michael Radelet, a professor of sociology and law, said an execution is botched when it looks like the inmate endured "prolonged suffering" for 20 minutes or more.

Whether they're "botched" or not, plenty of executions don't go by the book. Most of the executions listed here were compiled by Human Rights Watch.

Dennis McGuire, executed January 16, 2014, in Ohio. Columbus Dispatch reporter Alan Johnson said the execution process took 24 minutes, and that McGuire appeared to be gasping for air for 10 to 13 minutes. He had been injected with midazolam and hydromorphone, a 2-drug combination that hadn't been used before in the United States. McGuire, 53, was convicted in 1994 in the rape and murder of a 22-year-old pregnant woman.

Clayton Lockett, executed April 29, 2014, in Oklahoma. Lockett was injected with midazolam, but instead of becoming unconscious, he twitched, convulsed and spoke. The execution was halted, but Lockett died after 43 minutes. A team that prepared Lockett for execution failed to set a properly functioning IV in his leg, according to preliminary findings of an independent autopsy. Lockett was convicted in the 1999 death of an Oklahoma woman who was buried alive after she was raped and shot.

Jose High, executed November 7, 2001, in Georgia. This execution illustrates a common problem. The execution team had trouble finding a usable vein and spent 39 minutes looking before finally sticking a needle into High's hand. A 2nd needle was inserted between his neck and shoulder by a physician. 69 minutes after the execution began, he was pronounced dead. High was convicted in a 1976 store robbery and the kidnapping and murder of an 11-year-old boy.

Claude Jones, executed December 7, 2000, in Texas. The execution team spent 30 minutes looking for a suitable vein, a difficult task because of Jones' history of drug abuse. He was convicted in the 1990 murder of a liquor store owner.

Joseph Cannon, executed April 23, 1998, in Texas. The needle popped out and Cannon said to witnesses, "It's come undone." The needle was reinserted and 15 minutes later a weeping Cannon made his second final statement. He was convicted of murder.

John Wayne Gacy, executed May 10, 1994, in Illinois. Lethal chemicals solidified and clogged in the IV tube leading to Gacy's arm. A new tube was installed and the execution proceeded. Gacy, one of America's most notorious killers, was convicted in 1980 of raping and killing 33 boys and young men he lured into his home.

Charles Walker, executed September 12, 1990, in Illinois. The execution was prolonged because a kink in the plastic tubing stopped the flow of chemicals into Walker's body and an intravenous needle pointed at Walker's fingers, instead of his heart, said a Missouri State Prison engineer hired to assist in the execution. Walker was convicted of 2 counts of murder.

Raymond Landry, executed December 13, 1988, in Texas. The catheter dislodged and flew through the air 1 minutes after injection of drugs into Landry's body. The execution team spent 14 minutes inserting it again and Landry was pronounced dead 40 minutes after being strapped to the gurney. He had been convicted of murder.

Source: CNN, July 26, 2014

DPN: This article fails to mention the ordeal of Ohio's death row inmate Romell Broom, who survived his execution by lethal injection.

Are US Executions Really Humane?

The Walls Unit, Huntsville, Texas
As the nation is horrified by another botched execution, a capital defense lawyer in Texas, legal scholar in New York and the former warden of San Quentin work against capital punishment.

There were only 3 people in the room: Jeanne Woodford, the chaplain and the man strapped to a gurney with tubes coming out of his arms. After hearing the man's last words, Woodford signaled the corrections officer who was "working the chemicals," which means in prison argot that he started infusions of lethal chemicals that flowed into the man on the gurney. As warden of California's San Quentin, Woodford presided over this high-tech ritual of punishment four times. After a stint as Executive Director of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, she threw in the towel to become Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, the abolitionist organization that sponsored the 2012 SAFE referendum seeking to replace the death penalty with life without parole. Though the referendum failed to pass, Woodford is still hard at work in the movement to abolish capital punishment in California.

Meanwhile, across the continent, in the gentility of Fordham University's school of law, Arthur A. McGivney Professor Deborah W. Denno writes scholarly articles about "working the chemicals" that are published in the nation's leading law journals and quoted at death penalty hearings before the United States Supreme Court.

Until lately, the chemicals Denno wrote about were sodium thiopental, an ultra-short acting barbiturate that, given intravenously, is supposed to deliver almost instantaneous sleep so that the condemned person will be impervious to the rest of the evening's proceedings; pancuronium bromide, next on the menu, which is related to curare, plant extract poisons from Central and South America traditionally used on arrows which paralyze the body's skeletal muscles (including the muscles of breathing); and for the coup de grace, a jolt of potassium chloride, which stops the heart. This deadly mixture was known as Carson's Cocktail, so named after the Oklahoma pathologist, A. Jay Carson, MD, who concocted it as a "humane" alternative to the electric chair.

Since the early 1980s, the Carson Cocktail was the gold standard for dispatching society's sinners (and the innocent too, if recent exonerations are factored in). But since thiopental supplies have dried up because of the EU's resistance to the death penalty states embracing the death penalty have been forced by the courts to seek other drugs with results like this week's botched execution in Arizona. Now Professor Denno must address the ghoulish new and often secretive lethal chemicals in use even as states calls for bringing back the electric chair or firing squad.

In Texas, attorney Kathryn Kase despaired as the Lone Star State executed its 500th person since the resumption of the death penalty. Kase wears 3 hats. She is Executive Director of the Texas Defender Service, where she supervises a staff of 10 lawyers. She is herself a courtroom lawyer specializing in death penalty cases. And she and her staff mentor Texas lawyers in need of capital litigation tactics.

Kase's organization was founded as a public-defender body with a focus on the death penalty, but not specifically an abolitionist organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. When she puts on her administrative hat, Kase must play hardball as a politico, convincing fellow politicians of the importance of the Texas Defender Service and wringing money out of the state government and foundations.

Woodford, Denno and Kase could not be more different in personality and background, yet all have thrust themselves into the battle against capital punishment. There was a time when working in capital punishment was considered men's work that was too gruesome for women. Not anymore.

Jeanne Woodford, whose manner is crisp and to-the-point, took a BA degree in criminology and worked her way up to the highest rank of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Woodford told us that she chose criminology because there were few women in the field and because she wanted to bring a more even-handed standard of justice to criminology as practiced in California.

Woodford is dismayed that, since the 1950s, penology has been dominated by a punitive rather than rehabilitative philosophy; people want their pound of flesh, even though punishment deepens sociopathic behavior, she says. Mere confinement accomplishes nothing and rehabilitation is essential whenever possible, says Woodford.

An unabashed abolitionist, Woodford says she is not "soft on crime" but as a "policy person" she finds no respectable evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. By the time the legalities are done, it also costs more to execute a person than to incarcerate him or her for life she says. There is, she adds, a small element of the criminal population that it is so dangerous that it requires lifelong incarceration.

Woodford's demeanor is so crisp that we felt a little trepidation about asking her how she felt about overseeing the execution of 4 men when she was warden of San Quentin in light of her views on the death penalty. "That," Woodford replied, "Was a policy issue."

We asked Woodford what, specifically, changed her mind about capital punishment and she told us she has always opposed it on moral and practical grounds and that nothing has changed her opinion. Woodford says she sees hope that behavioral science is beginning to change peoples' minds about the issue.

One could not imagine a woman more different from Jeanne Woodford than Kathryn Kase. Funny, streetwise and a gifted lawyer, Kase started out as a journalist in San Antonio, Texas, got bored covering police court, and craved the action on the other side of the bar. Kase went to law school and moved to New York, where she worked for brief periods for private law firms. She then returned to Texas, where she says she found her calling in the Texas Defender Service, of which a more thankless labor could not be imagined.

By most accounts, Texas really needs Kase. By 2011, Texas governor Rick Perry had presided over more executions than any governor in modern history - 234. The numbers continues to grow.

Speaking to Randi Hensley of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in an internal memorandum, a Texas lawyer agreed. "Once guys get on death row in Texas, there's about a 90% chance they will die," said the lawyer: "There are no public defenders, no money, no experienced death penalty lawyers."

While the lawyer's observations are somewhat exaggerated, not by very much: organizations like the Texas Defender Service and the death penalty "clinic" at the University of Texas are so short staffed that they find themselves desperately filing appeals moments before the chemicals began to flow. Press reports of Texas executions have been chilling.

As Kathryn Kase dukes it out in the rough and tumble of Texas courthouses and the statehouse, Deborah Denno continues to highlight the cruelty of lethal injections in her academic work. Soft-spoken and poised, Denno says her turning point was the electrocution of Willie Francis, who walked the long road twice because the 1st execution was bungled.

When lethal injections supplanted the "hot squat" (the electric chair) as a more "humane" means of extinguishing human life, Deborah Denno made the cruelty of lethal injections her academic focus. Denno's work is invaluable in helping to paint for the public a complete picture of executions, from electrocution to the death gurney says Steve Hall, executive director of the Texas abolitionist group StandDown.

In a field once dominated by men, Kase, Denno and Woodford are bringing new passion to the fight against the death penalty along with a small pool of capital defenders like Judy Clarke and Maurie Levin. This week's shocking botched execution may bring more Americans to their side of the issue.

Source: Epoch Times, July 26, 2014. Robert Wilbur is a psychopharmacologist who also writes semi-popular articles on capital punishment, prison reform, and animal rights. Martha Rosenberg is a regular contributor to Epoch Times.

Most US people executed not evil: Study

A new study shows that prisoners put to death in the US are hardly ever the worst of the worst criminals.

The study, published in Hastings Law Journal, examined 100 executions carried out between 2012 and 2013, many of these people are not cold, calculating, remorseless killers.

"A lot of folks even familiar with criminal justice and the death penalty system thought that, by the time you executed somebody, you're really gonna get these people that the court describes as the worst of the worst," Robert Smith, the study's lead researcher and an assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina, told The Huffington Post.

"It was surprising to us just how many of the people that we found had evidence in their record suggesting that there are real problems with functional deficits that you wouldn't expect to see in people being executed," Smith added.

One of the people studied as part of the research is Daniel Cook whose mom used alcoholic drinks as well as drugs while she was pregnant with him. Cook's mother and grandparents molested him and his dad abused him by burning his genitals with a cigarette.

Even later when he was placed in foster care, a "foster parent chained him nude to a bed and raped him while other adults watched from the next room through a 1-way mirror," said Harvard Law Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.

The prosecutor who presented the death penalty case against Cook said he would never have done had he known about his brutal past. Nevertheless, he was put to death on August 8, 2012.

The US Supreme Court has found that executing inmates with an intellectual disability or severe mental illness can violate the Eighth Amendment, according to which cruel and unusual punishment are barred.

In addition, the court has found that severe childhood trauma can be a mitigating factor in a defendant's case, showed a press release accompanying the report.

Smith also noted that the courts had found, regardless of the heinousness of the crime, the prosecution must also prove the defendant is "morally culpable."

He further argued people ended up executed did not have a chance to receive adequate representation at the trial level. In other words, juries were often unaware of defendants' intellectual or mental health problems or their family history of extreme abuse.

He concluded that the reason why traumatic childhoods are raised is not necessarily aimed at making juries feel bad for the person on trial, but because of "decades of research" which shows these types of trauma can provoke the kinds of "functional deficits" that were visible in most of the cases studied in the report.

Source: Press TV, July 26, 2014