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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Gov. Scott cleared to sign death warrants again, experts say

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
TALLAHASSEE — Florida can start executing condemned killers again, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand the state’s changes to its death-penalty law, experts say.

But so far, Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t signed a warrant for any of the 366 prisoners on Death Row.

“Other than the typical motions that defendants file and exhaust prior to a death warrant being signed, both federal and state, I don’t think there’s another barrier out there to stop the governor from moving forward,” said Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, a former Pinellas County prosecutor and legislative leader on death penalty issues.

Scott could be ready to begin executions again soon. A spokeswoman for the governor said he had been waiting on the high court’s decision.

“Our office is currently reviewing the next steps in the process” of selecting a case and signing a death warrant, Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said. Scott has signed death warrants for 23 prisoners, more than any other Florida governor since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review a state Supreme Court ruling from October requiring juries to be unanimous in issuing a death sentence, a move that essentially upheld the state court’s decision. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January 2016 struck down Florida’s capital punishment law, which had allowed prisoners to be sentenced by a simple majority vote of a jury.

In March, Scott signed a new law quickly passed by the Legislature that requires unanimous juries.

“The issues that were causing the most pronounced constitutional concern … have been remedied,” said Florida State University Law School professor Wayne Logan.

Scott has often stated he takes signing death warrants seriously as a “solemn duty” but hasn’t explained in detail his process for choosing which warrants to sign.

The death penalty debate became a hot-button political issue when Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced in March she wouldn’t seek capital punishment under any circumstances, citing racial disparities, delays, costs and frequent instances of exoneration. She never stated her stance on the death penalty during her 2016 election campaign and later said she didn’t do so because the death penalty wasn’t in force during that time.

In response, Scott removed 23 potential capital murder cases from Ayala and gave them to 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King. Ayala has sued over that decision, and the case remains before the state Supreme Court.

Sprowls, who along with several other House Republicans called on Scott to suspend Ayala from office, said it is important to show the death penalty is back in force in Florida.

“When you’re talking about victims of heinous crimes and their families who are awaiting trial or awaiting sentencing or awaiting resentencing — certainly bringing a level of closure to them and allowing those cases to move forward is a paramount concern of government,” Sprowls said.

Florida’s last execution took place Jan. 7, 2016. The condemned man was Oscar Ray Bolin, convicted of murdering three young women in the Tampa area in 1986.

Five days later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its 8-1 decision striking down the state’s death penalty.

The lengthy limbo of capital punishment in the state held up several murder trials, and the effects are still rippling through the judicial system.

It also led to numerous appeals from Death Row inmates, several of whom were sentenced by split juries and have since had their sentences reduced to life in prison.

The Florida Supreme Court’s October decision stated that prisoners sentenced to death by split juries after 2002 should be resentenced. Before that ruling, 380 prisoners were on Death Row. Now there are 366, and appeals continue to work through the courts.

Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, sponsored the Senate version of the bill requiring unanimous juries. He said he did so to make sentencing fairer.

Even so, he said he would like to see capital punishment abolished altogether.

“Regardless of the outcome of State Attorney Ayala’s case to get those death penalty cases back, I don’t think it’ll change the minds of legislators, but I do think that it’s sparking a conversation among people in general as to their beliefs on the death penalty,” Bracy said.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, Gray Rohrer, May 26, 2017

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U.S. Army moves closer to first execution in 50 years

Ronald Gray
Ronald Gray
An Army soldier convicted almost 30 years ago of serial murder and rape has moved one step closer to the death chamber.

Private Ronald Gray lost his latest appeal last week, the Fayetteville Observer reported. Gray had asked the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate his death sentence, claiming he was incompetent to stand trial, had improper representation, and that the death penalty is racially biased.

According to the Army, Gray now has 30 days to file for reconsideration by the court or 20 days to file with the higher Court of Appeals for the Army Forces. If those appeals fail, Gray could become the first person executed by the U.S. military since 1961, when Army Pvt. John Bennett was hanged for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year old Austrian girl.

In 1988, a military court found Gray guilty of two murders and five separate rapes that took place while he was stationed at the North Carolina military base. He pleaded guilty in civilian court to two more murders and five separate rapes.

Gray is housed at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is the longest-serving inmate on military death row.

Including Gray, there are five military personnel on death row: Dwight Loving, convicted in 1989 on two counts of premeditated murder in Texas; Hasan Akbar, an Army soldier convicted in 2005 of using a hand grenade to kill two military members and wound 14 others in Kuwait; Andrew Witt, a former Air Force senior airman from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia who was convicted in 2005 of two counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted premeditated murder; Timothy Hennis, who was convicted in 2010 for the murder of three people in North Carolina; and Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009.

All military executions must be approved by the president.

According to the Observer, Gray's execution would likely take place at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terra Haute, Indiana, the same facility where terrorist Timothy McVeigh was put to death in 2001 for the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing.

Source: AL.com, Leada Gore, May 26, 2017

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Alabama officials raced clock to execute convicted murderer

Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur
Alabama's quest to kill an inmate who spent decades on death row for murder became a high-stakes game of beat the clock after the U.S. Supreme Court finally cleared the way for his execution.

Faced with a deluge of last-minute defense appeals and a legal deadline of midnight to execute Tommy Arthur for a 1982 contract killing, officers at Holman prison had to set the final stage for a lethal injection in only 1 hours, 16 minutes after the justices lifted a temporary stay Thursday night.

An officer performed a test to determine whether intravenous drugs had rendered Arthur unconscious about 3 minutes before his death warrant expired, saying the inmate's name repeatedly and pinching his arm without a visible response. Color was draining from Arthur's face and his breathing was shallow at best when the clock hit midnight.

A doctor pronounced the 75-year-old inmate dead at 12:15 a.m. Friday.

Arthur, who had postponed seven previous execution dates after courts intervened, was visibly upset during the procedure. But Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the execution beat the legal deadline since it started before midnight, and it went off without any of the hitches that have marred other lethal injections in Alabama and elsewhere.

"Once the execution begins, as long as that is within the period of the death warrant, the execution can continue," said Dunn.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who earlier refused Arthur's request for DNA testing of evidence linked to the slaying Troy Wicker, said relatives of the riverboat engineer "can finally rest knowing that his murderer has faced justice."

"Mr. Arthur was rightfully convicted and sentenced, and tonight, that sentence was rightfully and justly carried out," Ivey said in a statement.

Wicker was shot through an eye as he slept on Feb. 1, 1982.

Arthur maintained his innocence in recent media interviews as his attorneys had pressed the governor to delay his eighth execution date so DNA tests could be performed on hairs collected at the crime scene. Arthur's daughter, in a news conference held an hour after her father's execution, repeated those calls saying there should be mandatory DNA testing of all evidence in all capital cases before any execution is carried out.

Sherrie Stone said she vacillated over the years over whether she thought her father killed Wicker. "At times, I was convinced he did. At times, I believed he was innocent. .... Now, I will never know the truth."

Wicker's two sons witnessed the execution but didn't speak with reporters afterward.

Arthur's lawyers had filed a flurry of appeals trying to halt the eighth execution date. They argued the state planned to use an ineffective sedative, midazolam, and said the last inmate executed in Alabama was "awake" through the procedure because he coughed for the first 13 minutes of his execution and moved slightly after two consciousness tests.

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.

The state prison system began administering the lethal injection drugs around 11:50 p.m. Thursday, just before the death warrant was to have expired at midnight. Arthur's hands appeared to twitch a few times, but he didn't cough or lurch as some inmates have done in executions using midazolam.

As the execution date neared, Arthur had acknowledged his chances of another stay were slim.

"I'm terrified, but there's nothing I can do," Arthur told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday.

Source: abc news, Kim Chandler, Jay Reeves, AP, May 26, 2017

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Mary Jane Veloso’s lawyers to seek SC nod on deposition

Mary Jane Veloso
Mary Jane Veloso
The camp of Filipino death row inmate Mary Jane Veloso would elevate to the Supreme Court (SC) its plea to allow the deposition of testimony against her alleged recruiters from her jail cell in Indonesia.

According to National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia, they would file the petition questioning the Court of Appeals' action against the deposition in the first week of June.

"We are preparing the petition," Olalia said in a text message on Friday.

Veloso's testimony was supposed to be gathered on April 27 in Yogyakarta prison but the CA 11th Division came out last March with a temporary restraining order (TRO) whose validity was extended through a preliminary injunction issued on May 22.

The CA action stemmed from the petition filed by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), counsel for Veloso's recruiter Maria Cristina Sergio and her live-in partner Julius Lacanilao, who said the deposition was against the constitutional right of the accused.

The PAO cited Section 14 paragraph 2 of the Bill of Rights, which gives, among others, an accused the right to a speedy, impartial, and public trial and meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence.

"The recruiters assert that they want to confront her in person yet they themselves oppose and put all roadblocks every step of the way to make this happen," Olalia said.

Veloso was sentenced to die by firing squad in April 2015 after she was found guilty of drug trafficking, but Indonesian authorities agreed to hold off the execution so she could testify in the case against her recruiters in the Philippines.

Source: GMA News, Virgil Lopez, May 26, 2017

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signs bill to shorten time of death penalty appeals

Gov. Kay Ivey Friday signed a bill that would shorten the death penalty appeals process in Alabama.

Ivey signed the legislation early Friday afternoon, according to her office. Both supporters and opponents of the bill agreed that it would cut the time in the death penalty appeals process.

But proponents said it would ensure the swifter enactment of justice, while opponents said it would make it more likely Alabama would execute innocent people.

The signing came less than 24 hours after the state executed Thomas Arthur for the 1982 murder of businessman Troy Wicker. Ivey’s office said Friday the timing was a coincidence.

Inmates condemned to death have two rounds of state appeals. The first one is a direct appeal, based on the facts of the case. The second, known as a Rule 32 appeal, allows the inmate to raise post-conviction issues, such as them competence of his or her defense attorney. Under the new law, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, the two appeals would run parallel to each other.

The inmate would have a year from the filing of the brief in their direct appeal to file a Rule 32 motion. The circuit court would have 90 days to dismiss claims or set them for hearing.

The legislation would not affect an inmate's federal appeals. Appeals of capital sentences can take decades. Arthur was first sentenced to death in 1983 and sentenced again after two further trials in 1992. He outlived seven death sentences before his execution Thursday night.

The Alabama attorney general’s office long sought the change. In a statement Friday afternoon, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the bill stemmed from work between the attorney general’s office, prosecutors, victims’ groups and the Legislature.

“Our collective experiences with capital cases compelled us to pursue an improved appeals process for our state—one that is fairer, more efficient, and does not prolong the suffering of victims, but provides justice to all parties,” the statement said.

The legislation drew criticism from the American Bar Association and anti-death penalty groups, who said it could create situations where an inmate would have to challenge the competence of an attorney at the same time the attorney is defending them on direct appeal. ABA President Linda Klein wrote a letter to legislative leaders in early May, asking them to oppose the legislation.

“While the ABA respects the importance of finality and judicial efficiency, quicker resolution of cases where a life is at stake should not take priority over ensuring the fundamental fairness and accuracy of those convictions,” the letter said.

Frank Knaack, executive director of Alabama Appleseed, which opposed the bill, said it would "create all kinds of problems" for post-conviction attorneys trying to investigate claims of inadequate counsel.

"We were very optimistic when (Ivey) signed the (judicial) override bill that we were moving in a direction ensuring a fair and accurate death penalty process," he said. "This takes us in the opposite direction."

The Alabama Department of Corrections says as of Friday there were 183 people on death row – 178 men and five women. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-death penalty group, the number of death sentences handed down in Alabama fell from 25 in 1998 to six in 2015.

Source: Montgomery Advertiser, Brian Lyman, May 26, 2017

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Former top Chinese cop Zhao Liping executed for murder

Former top Chinese cop Zhao Liping
Top Chinese cop Zhao Liping executed for murder
A former regional police chief in China was executed for murder, state media said Friday, after reports described his victim as a lover more than three decades his junior.

Zhao Liping, 65, was found guilty of murder, bribery and possession of firearms and explosives by a court in Taiyuan, the capital of the northern province of Shanxi, in November.

China’s supreme court announced Friday that Zhao had been executed after it approved the sentence, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

China carries out executions by lethal injection or shooting, but the method used this time was not specified.

Zhao was detained in 2015 in Chifeng on suspicion of killing a 28-year-old woman with whom he “had an intimate relationship” because she wanted to expose his wrongdoings, Chinese media reported earlier.

Zhao opened fire on the woman, who reportedly survived the first two rounds, but after she fled he chased her down in a car and shot her in the head.

Zhao headed the police in Inner Mongolia for seven years until he retired in 2012, and was also a deputy head of the regional People’s Political Consultative Conference, a Communist-controlled debating chamber.

Many fallen Chinese officials have been found to have mistresses, and corruption investigations have often been triggered by allegations from spurned or angry women.

Source: Hong Kong Free Press, May 26, 2017


Former Chinese official executed following supreme court's approval


CHINA'S Supreme People's Court (SPC) announced Friday that Zhao Liping, a former senior political advisor in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, had been executed after the SPC approved the death sentence.

Zhao, former vice chairman of the Inner Mongolia regional committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was convicted of intentional homicide, taking bribes and possession of firearms, according to an SPC statement.

Zhao was found guilty of having shot dead a 26-year old woman, identified only with her surname of Li, in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, on March 20, 2015.

He also took advantage of his post to secure business contracts and official positions for associates, and accepted bribes totaling 23.68 million yuan (3.45 million U.S. dollars) from 2008 to 2010, as the police chief of Inner Mongolia.

During the investigation police located two guns, 49 bullets and 91 detonators that led back to Zhao.

The SPC stated that the death penalty was given on the basis of clear facts and solid and sufficient evidence. Zhao had committed crimes with serious consequences and vile social effects.

The Intermediate People's Court of Taiyuan in north China's Shanxi Province executed Zhao Friday.

Source: Shanghai Daily, May 26, 2017

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Indonesia's Blasphemy Law Should Not Be Repealed: PKS

Jakarta. Despite the mounting pressure locally and internationally for Indonesia to review Article 156a of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, the Justice and Prosperity Party, or PKS, said that the law should not be repealed.

"Constitutionally and by law, the blasphemy law [embodied in Article 156a of the Criminal Code] is really important in respecting and honoring all religions that are officially acknowledged by the government," Jazuli Juwaini, PKS chairman said on Thursday (18/05).

Calls for Indonesia to abolish the controversial article were at the forefront after former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.

The United Nations Human Rights Council also recommended that the Indonesian government revise its laws.

The Constitutional Court has turned down previous requests to abolish the law. It was challenged after a judicial review was brought to the court in 2010 and 2013, but the court decided that the law should remain on the basis that it is needed to preserve harmony, religious tolerance and limit acts that could potentially disrupt public order.

The Constitutional Court also said that many other nations have criminalized blasphemy.

In fact, anti-blasphemy laws are not unique to Indonesia. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories — or 26 percent— have laws against blasphemy.

Jazuli who is also a member of the House of Representatives Commission I — which oversees defense, information, foreign and political affairs — agreed with the Constitutional Court's decisions, saying that the law is needed to maintain harmony in the country.

He cited Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution that says that all citizens are guaranteed the freedom to worship, each according to his or her own religion or belief.

"It should not be abolished, we want to maintain harmony, because if the article isn't there, people can just insult [...] religion. This will trigger disharmony that could create national instability," he said.

PKS was one of the supporters of the blasphemy trial against Ahok.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, Yustinus Paat, May 18, 2017

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Indonesian caning of gay men strains Australian relationship, says Liberal MP

Caning of two gay men in Aceh: A "cruel and sickening punishment."
Caning of two gay men in Aceh: A "cruel and sickening punishment."
Trent Zimmerman says Australia cannot ignore the ‘cruel and sickening’ punishment, and Derryn Hinch wants foreign aid suspended

A Liberal MP says the “cruel and sickening” caning of two gay men in Aceh has cast a cloud over Australia’s relationship with Indonesia.

Australia should not stand by and ignore the inhumane treatment of the men who were caned 85 times under sharia law for having consensual sex, the gay backbencher Trent Zimmerman told parliament on Tuesday.

He was grateful the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, had raised the matter with her Indonesian counterparts but called on others, including the Muslim community in Australia, to take a stand.

“Our friendship with Indonesia has been strengthened by our perception of a pluralistic, democratic and moderate Islamic nation,” Zimmerman said. “Sadly, recent events have given us cause to question that understanding.

“Nothing should absolve the Indonesian government of its obligation to ensure all its citizens are afforded the basic human rights it has agreed to uphold through its international commitments.”

The crossbench senator Derryn Hinch has called for Australia to suspend its foreign aid to Indonesia over the matter.

“I believe Australian aid should be suspended to show our disapproval and disgust,” Hinch said. “I’m disappointed by our government’s silence on this cruelty.”

Source: The Guardian, AAP, May 26, 2017

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Alabama executes Tommy Arthur

Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur
(CNN) Alabama executed death row inmate Tommy Arthur early Friday after a lengthy court battle that included multiple lethal injection delays.

Arthur, 75, was convicted in the 1982 murder-for-hire of romantic rival Troy Wicker.

The inmate, who was nicknamed the "Houdini" of death row because he'd had seven prior execution dates postponed, died by lethal injection at the Holman Correctional Facility at Atmore.

The Supreme Court issued a temporary stay Thursday, then lifted it later that night, leading to his execution.

"No governor covets the responsibility of weighing the merits of life or death; but it is a burden I accept as part of my pledge to uphold the laws of this state," Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.

"Three times Tommy Arthur was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Each time his case was reviewed thoroughly at every level of both our state and federal courts, and the appellate process has ensured that the rights of the accused were protected."

Phone access


Arthur's lawyers had filed motions arguing that Alabama's method of execution was cruel and unusual, and that the attorneys should have access to a cellphone while witnessing the execution.

Before the Supreme Court decision, stay requests had been rejected by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and the governor.

Arthur's lawyers had asked Ivey to delay the execution so DNA evidence could be examined from the killing for which he was sentenced to die.

Two executions were stopped when Arthur's convictions were overturned. Arthur has appealed other execution orders by arguing the combination of lethal injection drugs would cause him physical pain because of a heart condition.


Multiple killings


Arthur was convicted of killing Wicker of Muscle Shoals by shooting him in the right eye on February 1, 1982, according to court documents.

He was a work release prisoner at that time. He had been convicted of killing his sister-in-law in 1977, also by shooting her in the right eye.

Arthur was in a romantic relationship with Judy Wicker, Troy Wicker's wife, the Birmingham News reported.

She initially told authorities that a burglar wearing a wig raped her and killed her husband, the Birmingham News reported. She later testified she paid Arthur $10,000 in life insurance money to kill her husband.

Arthur, who had pleaded not guilty, was first convicted in 1983, but that verdict was overturned on appeal, the News reported.

A 1987 conviction was overturned and he was convicted again in 1991.

Source: CNN, By Faith Karimi and Ralph Ellis, May 26, 2015


Alabama executes Tommy Arthur: Inmate dies for 1982 murder-for-hire


Alabama's death chamber
Alabama's death chamber
On his eighth scheduled execution date, Alabama Death Row inmate Tommy Arthur was put to death by lethal injection for a 1982 murder for hire.

Arthur made a thumbs up gesture with his left hand to his daughter Sherrie who was in the witness room between Arthur's attorney Suhana Han and Jordan Razza, a long-time legal adivsor to Arthur. At one point he also winked towards his daughter.

Arthur, his voice quivering and choking up, read out the names of his children. "I'm sorry I failed you as a father. I love you more than anything on Earth," he said.

He did not admit to or mention anything about the crime that landed him on death row - the shooting death of Troy Wicker Jr.

The execution began about 11:50 p.m., ten minutes before the death warrant was to expire, said Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

As long as the execution begins before midnight then the Alabama Attorney General stated they should complete the execution, Dunn said. "It went exactly according to protocol," he said.

The execution was to have begun at 6 p.m. but was delayed by appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the execution had not begun by midnight, the state would have had to sought another execution date.

The execution was in contrast to the Dec. 8 execution of Alabama Death Row inmate Ronald Bert Smith, who for 13 minutes heaved and gasped for breath and two consciousness tests were performed before the lethal drugs were administered. Smith's attorneys called it "botched" but Dunn said it too had gone to protocol.

Arthur slowly drifted off after they began administering the first of three drugs about 11:50 p.m. and his breathing became more shallow. He was pronounced dead at 12:15 p.m.

Gov. Kay Ivey's office issued this statement minutes after Arthur's death:

"How to proceed when faced with a potential execution is one of the most difficult decisions I will ever have to make as governor. After much prayer and careful and deliberate consideration, I thought it best to allow the decision of a jury of Tommy Arthur's peers to stand. In allowing the execution to proceed this evening, the rule of law was upheld, and Mr. Wicker's family can finally rest knowing that his murderer has faced justice.

"Three times Tommy Arthur was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Each time his case was reviewed thoroughly at every level of both our state and federal courts, and the appellate process has ensured that the rights of the accused were protected.

"No governor covets the responsibility of weighing the merits of life or death; but it is a burden I accept as part of my pledge to uphold the laws of this state. Mr. Arthur was rightfully convicted and sentenced, and tonight, that sentence was rightfully and justly carried out."

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said he hoped the family of Troy Wicker can begin to recover.

"Thirty-four years after he was first sentenced to death for the murder of a Colbert County man, Thomas Arthur's protracted attempt to escape justice is finally at an end. Most importantly, tonight, the family of Troy Wicker can begin the long-delayed process of recovery from a painful loss."

Wicker's two sons witnessed the execution, but had no statement, prison officials said.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the majority opinion denying a stay despite Arthur's attorneys challenges to the method of execution using the controversial drug midazolam and whether Arthur's attorneys should have access to a phone during the execution. The number of justices who voted for or against the stay was not included in the order.

"Alabama plans to execute Thomas Arthur tonight using a three-drug lethal-injection protocol that uses midazolam as a sedative. I continue to doubt whether midazolam is capable of rendering prisoners insensate to the excruciating pain of lethal injection and thus whether midazolam may be constitutionally used in lethal injection protocols," according to her dissent. "Here, the State has--with the blessing of the courts below-- compounded the risks inherent in the use of midazolam by denying Arthur's counsel access to a phone through which to seek legal relief if the execution fails to proceed as planned."

Arthur's attorneys had argued that they should have a constitutional right to access to the courts through the execution. "Its (the court's) action means that when Thomas Arthur enters the execution chamber tonight, he will leave his constitutional rights at the door," Sotomayor stated in her dissent.

Arthur, 75, was the second oldest inmate on death row. He also was the third-longest serving inmate among Alabama's 184 death row inmates.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: AL.com, Kent Faulk, May 26, 2017

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Saudi Arabia upholds death sentence for deaf, tortured protester

Saudi Arabia has upheld a protest-related death sentence for a protester who was tortured so badly that he was rendered completely deaf in one ear. The judgment marks the first such move for several months, and comes days after President Trump visited the Kingdom.

Munir Adam (23), who has impaired sight and hearing, was arrested in the wake of political protests in 2012. Despite medical records proving his disability, Saudi police tortured him until he lost all hearing in one ear, and forced him to sign a false confession. The forced statement was used as the sole piece of evidence against him in a secretive trial at the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC).

Today, the appellate division of the SCC is understood to have upheld Munir’s death sentence. He now has only one appeal left before the King signs his execution warrant – after which he could be executed at any time, without notification to this family.

The SCC’s latest death sentence appears to break a period of several months during which the court has not upheld any protest-related death sentences. It comes days after President Trump made his first visit to the Kingdom.

Reprieve had urged the President to use his visit to raise the cases of protesters – including juveniles – who face execution. However, the White House is understood not to have raised human rights issues during the trip. One Administration official – Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross – faced criticism after telling journalists there was “not a single hint of a protester” during the visit.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve said:

“Munir’s case is utterly shocking – the White House should be appalled that our Saudi allies tortured a disabled protester until he lost his hearing then sentenced him to death on the basis of a forced ‘confession.’ Today’s judgment shows that, by failing to raise human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, President Trump has emboldened the Kingdom to continue the torture and execution of protesters. The Trump Administration must now urgently stand up for American values – they must call for the release of Munir, and all others who face execution for simply exercising freedom of expression.”

➤ To read more about the death penalty in Saudi Arabia click here

Source: Reprieve, May 25, 2017

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Gaza: Hamas executes 3 over commander's murder

The execution was filmed and broadcast live from a nearby building.
The execution was filmed and broadcast live from a nearby building.
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas executed 3 people in the Gaza Strip on Thursday over the assassination of 1 of its military leaders allegedly on behalf of Israel.

2 men were hanged to death in Gaza City over the killing of Mazen Faqha in March, while a 3rd was executed by firing squad, said an AFP correspondent who attended the executions.

Hundreds of people were allowed to watch the executions, though the streets around the site were closed to the public.

1 of those executed, Ashraf Abu Leila, was named as the alleged assassin while the other 2 men, who were not named, were convicted of assisting him.

The executions, which come only 2 weeks after the announcement of their arrests, were immediately condemned by human rights activists.

Human Rights Watch said the "rush" to kill the men "smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law".

Mazen Faqha was shot dead on March 24 near his house in Gaza City.

He had been in charge of forming cells for Hamas's military wing in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas immediately blamed its arch-enemy Israel, with which it has fought 3 wars since 2008, and implemented strict border restrictions on those seeking to leave the Palestinian enclave.

Source: al-monitor.com, May 25, 2017


Hams executes three over murder of Gaza commander


The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza on Thursday said it executed the suspected killer of Mazen Fuqaha, along with his two alleged accomplices.

The Interior Ministry said the the suspected killer and one of the alleged accomplices were hanged, while the second alleged accomplice was shot to death.

Grainy images of what a Gaza-based news organization said were the executions were broadcast on Facebook Live. The images appeared to be shot from a distant building.

Following the executions, Hamas warned Gazans against publishing images of the executions.

The suspected killer and alleged accomplices were sentenced to death by a Hamas military court on Sunday, which said they took part in the killing of Fuqaha.

Fuqaha, formerly a senior leader of Hamas’s armed wing, was mysteriously assassinated on March 24 in front of his house in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza.

Human rights groups criticized the haste in which the three men were sentenced.

“Rushing to put men to death based on an unreviewable decision of a special military court days after announcing their arrests… smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch.

Hamas formed a special court to try the suspected killer and two alleged accomplices, which quickly reached a verdict.

Hamas military prosecutor Fadl al-Jadeili has dismissed human rights groups’ criticism of the special court, saying they do not have all the details of Fuqaha’s assassination.

Since taking over the Gaza Strip in an armed coup in 2007, Hamas has executed 28 people sentenced to death by its courts, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Source: Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2017


Hamas kills three men in execution partially streamed on Facebook


Three men executed by hanging and firing squad were convicted of involvement in killing senior military figure Mazen Faqha

Hamas has killed three men in Gaza accused of assassinating one of its senior members, in executions that appear to have been partially streamed live on Facebook.

The broadcast on the page of Gaza Now, a local news outlet, raises further questions over Facebook’s ability to moderate violent content at a time when its moderation procedures are under scrutiny following leaks of files on how the company deals with controversial and offensive material.

The shaky handheld footage, which appeared to have been filmed on a balcony, was described in Arabic as showing the executions. The Guardian could not verify its authenticity.

Hamas’ interior ministry said two men were hanged on Thursday and one was killed by firing squad for their part in the killing of Mazen Faqha, a senior figure in the military wing of the Islamist group.

In the footage, only distant people, moving vehicles and what appears to be a gallows covered in black cloth are visible. The video appeared to show the same screened gallows structure seen in still photographs taken during its construction.

A recording of the live broadcast, which lasted about 30 minutes, was later taken down.

Since taking over the Gaza Strip in an armed coup in 2007, Hamas has executed 28 people who were sentenced to death by its courts, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Faqha, 38, was killed in a garage in his apartment building in March after dropping off his family. Hamas said the attacker used a weapon with a silencer, allowing him to escape undetected.

Hamas accused Israel of killing Faqha through collaborators and launched a manhunt.

Ashraf Abu Leila, Hisham al-Aloul and Abdallah al-Nashar were quickly tried, sentenced on 16 May and executed just over a week later, raising questions about the judicial process.

The killings were condemned by the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights, which said the special field military court that issued the sentences “was constituted solely for this trial, the first such instance since the Hamas takeover of Gaza”.

Human Rights Watch questioned the speed of the trial process and its reliability, and the use of the death penalty by Hamas.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of HRW’s Middle East division, said: “Rushing to put men to death based on an unreviewable decision of a special military court, days after announcing their arrests and airing videoed confessions, smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law.

“Reliance on confessions in a system where coercion, torture and deprivation of detainee’s rights are prevalent, and [there are] other apparent due process violations, further taint[s] the court’s verdicts. Death as government-sanctioned punishment is inherently cruel and always wrong, no matter the circumstance.”

Speaking before the executions, Amnesty International said the court “utterly disregarded international fair trial standards”.

Source: The Guardian, May 25, 2017

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Stop executions and abolish the death penalty - Malaysian Bar

The Malaysian Bar is deeply troubled that 2 persons - Yong Kar Mun, aged 48, and an individual whose identity has not been reported - were executed by hanging at Sungai Buloh Prison yesterday morning. The prison authorities there had written to the family of Yong Kar Mun on May 19, 2017 to inform them that he would be hanged to death soon, and that they could pay him a final visit on May 23, 2017.

Yong Kar Mun had been convicted under Section 3 of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971 for discharging a firearm when committing a robbery, and the mandatory death penalty was meted out.

The Malaysian Bar is appalled that the 2 executions yesterday bring the total of reported executions this year to 4: Rames Batumalai, aged 44, and his brother Suthar Batumalai, aged 39, were reportedly executed at Kajang Prison on March 15, 2017.

Every individual has an inherent right to life - as enshrined in Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution - which is absolute, universal and inalienable, irrespective of any crimes that have been committed.

We do not condone or excuse any crimes that have been committed. There is no denying that guilty persons ought to receive punishment, and justice must be served. However, to be just and effective, punishment must always be proportionate to the gravity of offences committed, and the State must never resort to taking a human life. Furthermore, studies have shown that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty.

The death penalty is an extreme, abhorrent and inhumane punishment, and must not be taken lightly, as it is irreversible.

The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Government to act swiftly to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, stop executions, and commute each death sentence to one of life imprisonment.

Source: themalaymailonline.com, May 25, 2017. This statement is submitted by George Varughese, president of the Malaysian Bar.

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