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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Pakistan Executes 8 Death Row Convicts

Pakistan on Thursday executed 8 death row convicts, including 3 men who hijacked an airplane in May 1998.

Shahsawar, Sabir and Shabbir Baloch hijacked a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight from Balochistan province's Turbat town on May 25, 1998, Dunya News reported.

The PIA Flight 544 was carrying 33 passengers, including 5 crew members. The hijackers demanded the pilot to enter India. They were arrested when the flight finally landed at Hyderabad Airport.

The 3 men were sentenced to death on August 20, 1998. Shahsawar and Sabir were hanged in Hyderabad Central Jail, while Shabbir was executed in Karachi Central Jail.

Death row convict, Mahmood was also hanged in Karachi Central Jail. He was sentenced for killing a minor boy in 2003.

3 convicts were hanged in jails across Punjab province.

Akseer was found guilty of killing a man over a business dispute in 1998. Muhammad Ashraf was sentenced for a double murder in 2000. Amir Abdullah was found guilty of killing a man in 2002.

Khurram was executed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Haripur Central Jail. He was sentenced to death in 1999 for killing his friend.

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

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

Source: focusnews.com, May 28, 2015

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URGENT APPEAL for Richard Strong scheduled to be executed in Missouri June 9

Richard Strong
Richard Strong
Richard Strong’s execution date is set for June 9, 2015, and is based on his conviction in the stabbing deaths of his girlfriend, Eva Washington and her two-year old daughter Zandrea Thomas. His capital sentence arose as a result of the work of incompetent trial counsel, as well as behavior driven by mental illness and extreme childhood trauma. He has been diagnosed with Major (Recurrent) Depression, PTSD and Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

Horrific childhood trauma: Due to the incompetence of mitigation counsel, the trial jury never learned of Strong’s horrific childhood and history of mental illness. Richard Strong’s father abandoned him soon after conception and was incarcerated when he was born. Richard grew up “extremely poor, often not having anything to eat” and without basic necessities. His mother lived with a series of abusive boyfriends throughout his childhood, at 26 different places, most all were “derelict apartments in violent” St. Louis neighborhoods, many of them were rat and roach-infested often without electricity.

As a child, Strong experienced a turbulent environment where his mother gambled and sold herself to support the family. He also lived through a number of traumatic events. He saw a friend get shot in the back and found his best friend’s mother dead. He and his siblings were also forced to listen to their mother’s screams as she was being raped. He and brothers were frequently beaten by his mother’s many boyfriends. A bysitter sexually abused Strong when he was five, as did a stranger when he was 12.

Low intellectual functioning and mental illness: Richard had to repeat first grade. Because of his chaotic living arrangements, he would often miss school and only graduated from high school with a 1.8 GPA. An evaluation at the Potosi Correctional Center determined he has an IQ of 74, reads at a 3rd grade level and spells like a 2nd grader. Other mental health specialists determined he suffers from Major (Recurrent) Depression, PTSD and Schizotypal Personality Disorder among other conditions.

Woefully inadequate legal counsel: Richard’s trial lawyers were paid $15,000 to represent him, a fraction of the cost needed for a robust fight against the death penalty. In violation of the ABA standards for representation in death penalty cases, the attorney overseeing the sentencing phase of trial had just finished law school the previous year and had never tried a criminal case, much less a capital case. He had no experience with presenting a mitigation defense and only began interviewing relatives as the jury was being selected. He and the lead counsel chose to stress during the sentencing trial that Strong was “a good and loving person” with a “faith in God.” Jurors, and his own trial attorneys, had no clue about Mr. Strong’s brutal childhood and psychological issues. It was only when post-conviction attorneys did a thorough investigation that these issues came to light.

Another St. Louis County case. Mr. Strong is the 4th African-American man set for execution this year in cases coming from St. Louis County (fortunately two of those executions were stayed.) The county has been responsible for the 9th most executions of any US jurisdiction. Ten of the 32 current inmates living under a death sentence is Missouri were convicted by St. Louis County prosecutors.

CONTACT Gov. Jay Nixon. Urge him to commute his death sentence. Call 573-751-3222;
send a letter, by mail: Rm 216, State Capitol, Jefferson City MO 65101; fax: 573-751-1495 or e-mail: www.governor.mo.gov.

CONTACT Attorney General Chris Koster. Urge him to cease pushing for executions, including Mr. Strong’s. Call 573-751-3321, write: PO Box 899, Jefferson City MO 652101 or e-mail www.ago.mo.gov.

Source: Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, May 28, 2015

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Iran: Three Men Hanged in Public in Mashhad

Children watching an execution in Mashhad, Iran, May 27, 2015 (IHR)
Three prisoners were hanged publicly in Mashhad with a crowd including children watching the executions. 

Last month the Iranian authorities in response to the UN Special Rapporteur’s condemnation of the executions in Iran stated that “people are seldom hanged in the public and when that happens we take measures so that children don’t see the execution scene”.

Iran Human Rights, May 28, 2015: Three men were hanged in public in Mashhad (northeastern Iran) Wednesday May 27, reported the Iranian state media. 

According to the Iranian state broadcasting, the men were charged with armed robbery, kidnapping, keeping arms. 

Two of the men were 27 year and the third was 38 years old. 

None of them were identified by name. 

Pictures published in the Iranian media show several minors and children watching the executions.

The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported about the execution of one man charged with murder. 

The execution took place on Thursday May 28 in the prison of Gachsaran (Western Iran).

Two men were hanged in the prison of Kerman (Southeastern Iran), according to unofficial reports. 

The men who have not been identified by name were charged with murder.

Photos of the execution:

Executions in Mashhad, Iran, May 27, 2015
(Source: Iran Human Rights)

Executions in Mashhad, Iran, May 27, 2015
(Source: Iran Human Rights)

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 28, 2015

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USA: Which State Will Be Next to Abolish the Death Penalty?

Nebraska became the 1st Republican-leaning state in 4 decades to abolish the death penalty on Wednesday, the latest signal that momentum is on the side of those who oppose capital punishment. And in the next few years, it's likely that several more states will outlaw the practice.

Delaware may be the next in line. Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, has pledged to sign a death penalty repeal bill that has already passed the Senate and is currently in the majority Democratic House Judiciary Committee. That's only if Montana or New Hampshire don't get there first; state lawmakers in Montana fell 1 vote short of passing a bill to abolish the death penalty in February, reaching a 50-50 split on the bill after the Senate passed its own version. Similarly, the New Hampshire Senate also reached a deadlocked repeal vote in April 2014.

But there's a whole list of states that might yet follow in Nebraska's footsteps. The 7 states that have now done away with capital punishment since 2007 all had 1 thing in common: they essentially had stopped using their execution chambers altogether. And 6 states with death penalty laws still on the books - Colorado, Kansas, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming - haven't executed anyone in more than a decade.

"When you look at most repeals, they were all in states in which the death penalty had fallen into disuse," says Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group. "Nebraska followed in the pattern of states in which the death penalty had been functionally discarded in practice."

According to the Pew Research Center, 56% of Americans still support the death penalty, but that number is at its lowest in four decades. Opposition is coming not just from Democrats, who have historically opposed capital punishment, but increasingly from Republicans who believe the death penalty is too costly and does nothing to deter people from the most heinous of crimes.

In both Kansas and Wyoming - states which haven't executed anyone in years - conservative lawmakers have introduced repeal legislation in both states, and in South Dakota, another red-leaning state, several conservative legislators have voiced support for doing away with capital punishment. Last year, legislators in the South Dakota House were one vote shy of getting a bill to the floor.

"The death penalty is no longer getting a pass," says Diann Rust-Tierney, executive director for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "People may support the idea in the abstract, but when they see how it's done, how it's doing nothing to enhance public safety, and when they see innocent people being released from death row, they see that they can't square it with their other values."

Source: TIME, Josh Sanburn, May 28, 2015

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Finland's incoming justice minister says he approves of death penalty for major crimes

Finland's incoming justice minister from the populist Finns Party says he approves of the death penalty in "some circumstances."

Jari Lindstrom was expressing his personal opinion and not speaking on behalf of the incoming government. 

He said Thursday that capital punishment could be acceptable for "extremely heavy crimes, such as against small children."

The 49-year-old lawmaker says the death penalty wasn't "one of the main issues" on his agenda when he is due to take up his ministerial post on Friday.

The death penalty, banned in Finland in 1949, has been abolished in all EU countries.

Lindstrom is 1 of 4 new ministers from the EU-skeptic Finns Party, which is in a ruling coalition for the 1st time.

Source: Associated Press, May 28, 2015

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Nigeria's Delta State Governor just announced the total pardon of Moses Akatugba

A day before leaving office, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan posted the announcement on social media:

"Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has just granted total pardon to Moses Akatugba who was sentenced to death for stealing 3 phones.This decision was made known shortly after the last Executive meeting of his administration at the government house, Asaba today, 28th May, 2015."

Aside granting total pardon to Moses, Governor Uduaghan also commuted death sentences of 3 others to various terms of imprisonment.

Source: Amnesty International, May 28, 2015

Related article:
- Nigeria: Man sentenced to death for stealing mobile phones and recharge cards, November 20, 2013. November 20, 2013: A High Court in Effurun, Delta State, Nigeria, has sentenced a 24-year-old secondary school student, Moses Akatugba, to death by hanging for stealing mobile phones and recharge cards...

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Nebraska: Challenge to Repeal of the Death Penalty

Doug Peterson, the attorney general of Nebraska, said he would challenge the constitutionality of the state’s new law repealing the death penalty. 

The bill, which was passed on Wednesday after lawmakers overrode a veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts, replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment in Nebraska. 

But Mr. Peterson, who has been a vocal opponent of the bill, said on Thursday that he believed the law was unconstitutional because it effectively changed the sentences of the 10 inmates on death row. 

One senator who opposed repeal of the death penalty has begun another effort to fight the new law and is trying to collect at least 115,000 signatures from registered voters, which would force a voter referendum in 2016.

Source: The New York Times, Julie Bosman, May 28, 2015

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Singapore: Urgent action required for Kho Jabing

The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) and We Believe in Second Chances strongly urge the Cabinet to advise the President, Mr Tony Tan, to grant clemency to death row inmate, Kho Jabing.

Sarawakian Kho Jabing, now 31, was convicted of murder under section 300(c) of the Penal Code on 24 May 2011, which carried the mandatory death sentence at the time of conviction. In 2012, Parliament amended the Penal Code to give judges the discretion to sentence offenders convicted under s 300(c) to life imprisonment with caning. This change was applied retrospectively and Kho was afforded an opportunity to have his death sentence reconsidered.

On 18 November 2013, Justice Tay Yong Kwang re-sentenced Kho to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane. On 14 January 2015, the Court of Appeal, by a majority decision (with 2 out of the 5 judges dissenting) overturned Justice Tay's decision and sentenced Kho to death.

We wish to highlight 2 issues with Kho's death sentence.

First, the dissent by the 2 judges should be taken as indication that reasonable doubt exists over whether Jabing should be sentenced to death. Indeed, both Justice Woo Bih Li and Justice Lee Seiu Kin reasoned that there was "reasonable doubt whether Jabing's blows were all inflicted when the deceased was laying on the ground" which made it "unsafe to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that he (Jabing) acted in away which exhibited a blatant disregard for human life".

Second, Jabing did not posses the intention to kill, nor was the murder premeditated. This was a robbery gone wrong. The death penalty, if it is to be applied at all, should be reserved for the most exceptional cases. In light of the above, we urge the Cabinet take into consideration these facts in advising the President and reiterate our call for a clemency pardon.

Kho's family delivered their clemency petition to the President on 27 May 2015. In their personal letters, they expressed their deep regrets to the family and loved ones of the victim, and pleaded with the President to extend compassion towards Kho and spare his life.

Source: Rachel Zeng, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC), Damien Chng, We Believe in Second Chances, May 28, 2015

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Saudi Arabia executes 90th prisoner since start of year

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi Arabia has carried out its 90th execution of this year, equaling the total number executed in the country in 2014.

Amnesty International report that the toll is “one of the highest recorded by the organization during the same period for more than three decades”. The toll so far this year “marks an unprecedented spike in executions for a country already ranked among the most prolific executioners in the world,” a statement from the group said today.

Saudia Arabia is one of the world’s top three executioner nations, behind only Iran and China. The most common method of execution is beheading, often conducted in public squares and occasionally by firing squad.

“With the year yet to pass its midpoint … this alarming surge in executions surpasses even the country’s own previous dreadful records,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Today’s execution took place in Riyadh, and was of a Pakistani man convicted on drug-related charges. Drug-related offences are one of the most common reasons for execution, with almost half of all killings this year in some way drug-related. Amnesty International warn that the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences international law.

Many of those sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia are convicted based solely on “confessions”, which are obtained under duress. Many trials are also held in secret, with the accused parties not made aware of the progress of their case.

The Supreme Court has recently decreed that in cases of crimes punishable by death the judge in the trial is free to sentence someone to death without a guilty conviction, but merely with suspicion.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities’ unwavering commitment to this brutal form of punishment is utterly gruesome considering the deep flaws in its justice system,” said Said Boumedouha.

“The use of the death penalty is cruel and inhumane in any circumstance, but it is even more outrageous when meted out as a punishment against someone convicted in a trial that itself makes a mockery of justice.”

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said, “The death penalty is never a just response to any crime. It is no particular deterrent. Instead of expediting executions and advertising recently for more executioners as Saudi Arabia did recently, the Saudi authorities should be reversing this very worrying trend.

“Saudi Arabia should establish a moratorium on executions immediately with a view to abolishing the death penalty”.

Source: NewsTalk, May 28, 2015


90 executions this year beat 2014's disgraceful record

Saudi Arabia today has carried out its 90th execution so far this year, equalling the number of people executed in the Kingdom during the whole of 2014, said Amnesty International.

The death toll is one of the highest recorded by the organization during the same period for more than three decades and marks an unprecedented spike in executions for a country already ranked among the most prolific executioners in the world.

"With the year yet to pass its midpoint, the Gulf Kingdom has raced towards this shocking toll at an unprecedented rate. This alarming surge in executions surpasses even the country's own previous dreadful records," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

Today's execution carried out in Riyadh was of a Pakistani man convicted on drug-related charges. Almost half of the executions carried out so far this year were for drug-related offences. These do not fall into the category of "most serious crimes", and the use of the death penalty for such offences violates international law. The authorities themselves do not categorize drug-related offences as crimes subject to divinely ordained punishment under Shari'a law, instead they consider the use of the death penalty for such offences a discretionary punishment.

Saudi Arabia's most common method of execution is beheading, often conducted in public squares. Occasionally prisoners in some southern provinces are executed by firing squad.

Many defendants in Saudi Arabia, including those sentenced to death, are convicted after flawed court proceedings that routinely fall far short of international standards for a fair trial. They are often convicted solely on the basis of "confessions" obtained under duress, denied legal representation in trials which are sometimes held in secret and are not kept informed of the progress of the legal proceedings in their case.

For some crimes punishable by death, the Supreme Court has recently confirmed that judges do not need to prove guilt but can sentence someone to death at their own discretion based on suspicion alone.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities' unwavering commitment to this brutal form of punishment is utterly gruesome considering the deep flaws in its justice system," said Said Boumedouha.

"The use of the death penalty is cruel and inhumane in any circumstance, but it is even more outrageous when meted out as a punishment against someone convicted in a trial that itself makes a mockery of justice."

"The Saudi Arabian authorities' unwavering commitment to this brutal form of punishment is utterly gruesome considering the deep flaws in its justice system"----Said Boumedouha

Worryingly, a significant number of Shi'a protesters have been sentenced to death in the past 2 years. These are often in relation to protests in the Kingdom's Eastern Province in the aftermath of the 2011 mass popular uprisings which toppled a number of long-standing authoritarian rulers in the region. Among those sentenced to death is Saudi Arabia's most prominent Shi'a cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was sentenced to death in October 2014 after a deeply flawed trial. His nephew, Ali-al-Nimr, a juvenile offender, was sentenced to death in May 2014 solely based on "confessions" that he claimed were extracted under torture. The imposition of death sentences against individuals who were below 18 years of age when the crime was committed is prohibited under international law.

6 other Shi'a protesters were sentenced to death in the past year and scores of others await trial on charges for which the prosecution has called for the death penalty. Many of them have complained of ill-treatment in detention and of unfair trials.

The claim by the Saudi Arabian authorities that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime is unfounded.

"There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty is a particular deterrent to crime, or that it is more effective than other forms of punishment. Instead of expediting executions the Saudi Arabian authorities should immediately establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty," said Said Boumedhoua.

Background

In Amnesty International's latest global report on the death penalty, published in April 2015, Saudi Arabia ranks among the top 3 executioners in the world, surpassed only by China and Iran.

As of 31 December 2014, 140 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; the guilt or innocence of the individual; or the method of execution.

Source: Amnesty International, May 28, 2015

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China executes patient who stabbed doctor over 'botched operation'

May 25, 2015: China executed a man who stabbed a doctor to death over what he considered a botched nose operation, media reported, in a case that spotlighted the country's overburdened health system.

Lian Enqing was sentenced to death last year for a fatal attack on an ear, nose and throat specialist in Wenling, in the eastern province of Zhejiang. 

He attacked the doctor because he "felt displeased with his nose and claimed to be suffering respiratory problems", the official news agency Xinhua said.

The death sentence was carried out on May 25, the Chengdu Business Daily newspaper reported, citing family members who said they had met the condemned man briefly before his execution.

The attack last October prompted dozens of the doctor's colleagues to protest outside the hospital in Wenling, urging stronger safety measures to deal with violent patients. 

Sources: AFP, HOC, May 25, 2015

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Saudi Arabia: 89th execution this year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia beheaded a convicted murderer on Wednesday in its 89th execution this year, adding to a toll that has already overtaken the total for all of 2014.

Fahd bin Hussein Daghriri was found guilty and sentenced to death for his role in the murder of a fellow Saudi citizen, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Authorities carried out the execution in the southern region of Jazan.

According to an AFP tally, Daghriri brings to 89 the number of locals and foreigners executed in the kingdom this year, despite activists' concerns that trials are not conducted fairly.

The conservative Islamic kingdom executed 87 people in 2014, according to AFP's count.

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

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

Source: Agence France-Presse, May 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: KETV news, May 27, 2015


Nebraska Bans Death Penalty, Defying a Veto

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article

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

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lewis said he took her death as a personal failure.

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

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

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

Source: Indianapolis Star, May 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are 749 people on California's death row.

Source: Press-Enterprise, May 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Malaysian Digest, May 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pakistan executes 7 death-row convicts

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

In Lahore Central Jail, 2 convicts were hanged.

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

2 convicts were hanged in Gujrat District Jail.

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

In Vehari District Jail, 2 prisoners were executed.

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

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

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

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

Source: manoramaonline.com, May 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Source: The Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2015

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Nebraska Governor Vetoes Bill to Abolish Death Penalty

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Saudi executes 88th person this year, topping 2014 total

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


video

Medieval and barbaric: July 2012 public beheading in Saudi Arabia

Warning: Graphic Content


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

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

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

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

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

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

'Secret' trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Agence France-Presse, May 26, 2015
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