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Showing posts from March, 2010

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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Lawyer: Beheading planned in Saudi sorcery case

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(CNN) -- A Lebanese man charged with sorcery and sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia is scheduled to be beheaded on Friday, the man's lawyer said Wednesday.
May El Khansa, the attorney for Ali Hussain Sibat (pictured with his children), told CNN that she and Sibat's family were informed about the upcoming execution. She said she heard from a source in Saudi Arabia with knowledge of the case and the proceedings that Saudi authorities "will carry out the execution."
The Saudi Ministry of Justice could not immediately be reached for comment on the matter.
El Khansa said she has appealed to Lebanon's prime minister, Saad Hariri, and president, Michel Suleiman, to stop the execution. Amnesty International, the human rights group, has called on Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to block it as well.
TV presenter gets death sentence for 'sorcery'
Sibat is the former host of a popular call-in show that aired on Beirut-based satellite TV channel "Sheherazade." A…

Military in the Democratic Republic of Congo holds ‘show trial’ appeal hearing for Joshua French

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Military in the Democratic Republic of Congo holds ‘show trial’ appeal hearing for Joshua French, Briton facing execution, with neither Joshua nor his lawyer present.
Briton Joshua French (pictured) was yesterday due to plead for his life in an appeal hearing at the Military High Court in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Instead, both Joshua and his lawyer were trapped hundreds of miles away in Kisangani, eastern DRC, while the hearing went ahead without them.
Their absence was due to the Court’s failure to give Joshua’s legal team adequate notice, informing them of the crucial hearing only last Friday. Because Joshua’s defence lawyer is based in Kisangani, where Joshua is imprisoned, he relies on UN flights to Kinshasa which must be booked at least five days in advance -- a fact that can hardly be unknown to the Court. A judgment will be handed down within eight days.
Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith said: "Like the rest of the proceedings against Joshua, yesterday&#…

U.S.: Application of the death penalty is a Southern tradition

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There are 22 individuals scheduled to be executed from now through the month of October, with Texas the leader in the death penalty.
Texas has 11 people scheduled to die as part of its capital punishment system. The state continues to lead the nation in both its sentencing and application of the death penalty. The next highest ranking belongs to Ohio.
Franklin DeWayne Alix, age 34, and a black male, is scheduled to be executed tomorrow[written March 29, 2010]. He received the death sentence on November 12, 1998 when he was 23 years old. Alix is a 10th grade graduate and was born and raised in the State of Texas. His prior occupation is unknown, and he had no prior convictions at the time of his conviction.
According to Texas records, Alix murdered a black male on January 2, 1998. He had first kidnapped and raped the sister of the victim. Then he forced the victim to return to her apartment complex in Houston, where he loaded up his car with 2 televisions, a VCR and some stereo equipment.…

Texas: Is the death penalty on death row?

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The scene outside the Huntsville unit of the Texas state penitentiary last Wednesday evening was a familiar one.
Police officers stood casually outside the imposing red-brick walls as a small group of passionate opponents of the death penalty railed against a punishment they say has no place in modern America.
Inside, a death row inmate, Hank Skinner, was due to be executed by lethal injection.
On 24 March, Hank Skinner was given a last-minute stay of execution
But with half an hour to go, word emerged that the Supreme Court in Washington had issued a last-minute stay of execution.
Skinner, convicted of the 1993 killing of his girlfriend and her 2 adult sons in Pampa, has always protested his innocence.
His French wife, Sandrine, expressed relief, but spoke of her anger at a process that could still result in her husband's execution.
"This system has got to stop," she told the BBC. "We are not going to stop until it's over."
The death chamber at Huntsville, which c…

California death sentences rise as U.S. total falls

As the number of death sentences declined nationwide in 2009, death verdicts in California rose to their highest total in nearly a decade, the American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday.
All but 5 of the 29 California death sentences last year were handed down in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties, the ACLU said.
Only 2 of the death sentences came from Bay Area courts, both in Contra Costa County. Darryl Kemp was sentenced in June for a 1978 rape and murder in Lafayette, a case in which he was identified through DNA evidence in 2000, and Edward Wycoff was condemned in December for murdering his sister and her husband in the couple's El Cerrito home in 2006.
Nationally, death sentences fell to 106 in 2009, their seventh straight year of decline and the lowest total since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to an earlier report from the Death Penalty Information Center, a separate organization.
ACLU leaders attributed the decline to public concerns…

ACLU report: Los Angeles County sentences more inmates to death than Texas

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Los Angeles County leads most of the nation in death row justice, trumping even Texas in the number of inmates who received capital punishment last year, according to an ACLU report released Tuesday.
With 13 death sentences, Los Angeles County sent two more criminals to death row than Texas, which leads the nation in the number of executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Only Florida, with 14 capital sentences, and California itself, which led the country with 29, had more.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Golden State - with Southern California bearing the brunt of death penalty sentences - lags behind a nation moving toward permanent imprisonment rather than lethal injection for the worst offenders.
"Nationwide, we are seeing a shift due to growing concerns about the wrongful conviction of innocent people and the high costs of the death penalty in comparison," said Natasha Minsker author of the report from the ACLU office in San Francisco.
While som…

Indonesia: No execution in 2009, but 98 convicts still on death row

Anti-death penalty activists welcomed Tuesday that the Indonesian government did not carry out executions in 2009, the first year it has not exercised the death penalty in the country since 2004.
It means Indonesia is the only Southeast Asian country with the penalty that did not apply the punishment last year, according to a report issued by Amnesty International, with the politically volatile Thailand carrying out its 1st executions in 6 years.
But activists stressed that more needed to be done to abolish what they called a "cruel form of punishment" in the country, with a remaining 98 people on death row.
"Unfortunately the death penalty as a punishment still features in many Indonesian laws. Last year, the Aceh local parliament passed a bylaw stipulating that adultery be punished by stoning to death," Amnesty International Indonesia researcher Isabelle Arradon told The Jakarta Post.
"No criminal justice system is immune from the miscarriage of justice and Indo…

North Africa: Not Quite Islamic Executions

The Middle East leads the world in executions after China, says an annual Amnesty International report released Tuesday.
"The Middle East and North Africa have the highest per capita rate of executions in the world, according to our figures," Phillip Luther, deputy director for the region with Amnesty, tells IPS.
The Middle East: must be Islam then, most people would imagine. Wrong.
"If you take Egypt, or Syria, or Yemen, or Iraq, the vast majority of death sentences and executions carried out in those countries have nothing to do with Islamic law in any sense," says Luther. "They are on the basis of civil codes - often inherited, and the death penalty provisions within it - from the previous colonial period." Most executions are carried out under the penal code for offences related to drugs and violent crimes, Luther says.
So are executions in non-Islamic countries such as the U.S. and India, to say nothing of China, which is believed to execute thousands a …

Amnesty Condemns Widespread Misuse Of Death Penalty

London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International has flayed the blatant misuse of death penalty as a political weapon in several countries with China, Iran, Iraq and Sudan topping the list.
In its annual report on capital punishment, Amnesty noted that despite an overwhelming majority favoring abolition of the practice, its extensive and politicized use continued.
"Even as world opinion and practice shift inexorably towards abolition, the extensive and politicized use of the death penalty continues," it said.
Asia, the Middle East and North Africa accounted for majority of executions with 714 people executed in 18 countries in 2009.
Of these 366 people were executed in Iran, 120 in Iraq and 52 in the U.S. and the executions were carried out by "hanging, shooting, beheading, stoning, electrocution and lethal injection."
Saudi Arabia and Iran were criticized for putting to death juvenile offenders in violation of international law.
China is believed to have execute…

Could it be that the number of executions in China is actually far higher than we feared?

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How many does China execute?The details of the executions of thousands of people a year is a state secret and it could be worse than Amnesty fears
You might have heard it said that China executes more people than all other countries in the world put together. Not just a handful, but thousands and thousands of people every single year. This, broadly, is true.
But suppose you actually wanted to find out exactly how many people the People's Republic executes annually. Any chance of getting this information? No. Try asking the Chinese authorities, and you'll get a stern "it's a state secret" rebuff. If you happened to get hold of some solid information (from lawyers in China, for example) you'd then be in possession of a state secret which it would be illegal to make public. It's basically as if there's a super-injunction on the information not just on the actual information, but anything relating to it.
Amnesty's new report on the death penalty worldwid…

Japan 'apprehensive' about China execution

Japan said Tuesday it was "apprehensive" about the imminent execution of one of its nationals in China, the first of such cases since the nations normalized diplomatic ties in 1972.
Beijing has told Tokyo that a Japanese man was soon to be executed for reportedly attempting to smuggle 2.5 kilos of narcotics out of China, to Japan, in 2006.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano stressed that the decision was up to the Chinese judiciary, but said it "affects the sentiment of the Japanese public."
Source: Global Times, March 31, 2010

Texas executes Franklin Dewayne Alix

HUNTSVILLE — Condemned prisoner Franklin Dewayne Alix has been put to death for fatally shooting a Houston man during a robbery.
The 34-year-old Alix was given a lethal injection Tuesday evening for killing 23-year-old Eric Bridgeford. Bridgeford interrupted Alix during the robbery of Bridgeford's sister's apartment more than 11 years ago. The sister also was abducted and raped in what authorities said was part of a six-month crime rampage by Alix.
The execution was the fifth this year in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state.
Alix's appeals to the courts were exhausted and no last-day attempts to stop the punishment were raised.
The execution was the fifth this year in Texas, the nation's busiest capital punishment state.

Alix's lawyer, Robert Rosenberg, said appeals to the courts to stop the execution were exhausted.

"I know I messed up," Alix told The Associated Press recently from death row. "I killed the dude. I wasn't trying…

Kuwaiti wife gets death sentence for wedding blaze

KUWAIT CITY — A court on Tuesday sentenced a Kuwaiti woman to death for starting a fire that killed 57 women and children at the wedding party of her husband who married another wife.
Judge Adel al-Sager read out the verdict against Nasra Yussef Mohammed al-Enezi, 23, at the court of first instance.
Death sentences in Kuwait are carried out by hanging, but it would first have to be upheld by the appeals court.
The woman who was not present in the court was found guilty of "premeditated murder and starting a fire with the intent to kill."
Press reports at the time of the blaze said Enezi had wanted to avenge her husband's "bad treatment" of her, but in court she denied any involvement in the incident.
Defence lawyer Zaid al-Khabbaz vowed he would prove Enezi's innocence in the higher courts and said the verdict had been influenced by public opinion.
"The ruling was very harsh against a woman who is innocent," Khabbaz told AFP. "It is a political jud…

Majority of D.A.s in state oppose Obama nominee

Forty-two of California's 58 county district attorneys are opposing President Obama's nomination of Goodwin Liu to the federal appeals court in San Francisco, saying they believe the UC Berkeley law professor is hostile to the death penalty.
In a letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the prosecutors attacked a paper Liu coauthored in 2005 that criticized death penalty decisions by Samuel Alito, then President George W. Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court.
Read more.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 2010

India: 5 get death penalty in honour killing case

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Karnal: A Haryana court on Tuesday awarded the death penalty to five people in the honour killing case of a couple in 2007.
The court in Karnal declared the quantum of punishment for the six people who were found guilty of killing the young couple – Manoj and Babli (pictured) - for marrying outside their gotra (sub-caste) three years ago.
All the five who have been given the death sentence are relatives of the girl, Babli. They include her brother Suresh, cousins Gurdev and Satish, uncles Baru Ram and Rajender.
The khap (caste) panchayat leader Ganga Ram got life sentence while the driver, who was held guilty of kidnapping, was give a jail term of seven years.
Manoj's sibling, who had been waging a lonely battle to get justice, were elated with the decision.
Manoj's sister Seema said that though she was happy with the verdict and the sentencing but wanted even Ganga Ram to be given the death penalty.
"I am very happy but the life sentence to Ganga Ram is not justified. Even he …

Amnesty: Iran executions send a chilling message

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Recent developments in Iran have prompted fears that the Iranian authorities are once more using executions as a tool to try and quell political unrest, intimidate the population and send a signal that dissent will not be tolerated.
There was a noticeable surge in the rate of executions at the time of mass protests over last year's disputed Presidential elections. Although many of the executions were for criminal offences committed before the unrest, they sent a chilling message to those involved in protests.
112 people were put to death in the 8 weeks between the June election and the re-inauguration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in early August-almost 1/3 of the total for the entire year.
In 2009 as a whole at least 388 people were put to death in Iran - the largest number recorded by Amnesty International in recent years. Figures collated by various human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, suggest the annual number of executions has almost quadrupled since P…

Iran: Judge Salavati Sentences School Teacher to Death

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) - Abdolreza Ghanbari, a school teacher and a university lecturer for over 14 years, has been sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court.
According to HRANA, judge Salavati issued the execution order due to accusations of mohareb for suspicious ties with various groups. The evidence for the accusation was emails and connection to foreign television stations.
According to the report, Ghanbari was arrested January 13, 2009 by security forces.
In recent months, branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court has sentenced several people to death under the orders of judge Salavati. So far two of the execution orders have been carried out (the death of Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour).
Source: Persian2English, March 29, 2010

Japan: Capital crimes soon to lose statute; Diet to heed demands of the victimized, ensure culprits can't evade justice over time

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government recently approved a bill to abolish the statute of limitations on crimes that could be punishable by hanging in a move experts say signals a major shift in the justice system.
The bill, which would amend the Criminal Procedure Law and the Penal Code, also would lift the maximum statute of limitations to 30 years for crimes punishable by life imprisonment, to 20 years for crimes punishable by 20 years of imprisonment, and to 10 years for crimes punishable by lesser prison terms.
The bill is based on proposals submitted to the justice minister in February by the ministry's Legislative Council. They discussed the revision based on the findings of the study group that worked under the previous Liberal Democratic Party-led government.
Observers said the bill, to be submitted to the current Diet session, will be passed by the end of June because the LDP, now the largest opposition force, is unlikely to vote against it.
Following are basic questio…

Amnesty calls on China to give true executions number

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In a new report being published today, Amnesty International calls on China to say publicly how many people it executes each year.
The call comes in the group’s annual report on the use of the death penalty worldwide.
More people are put to death in China than in the rest of world altogether, and estimates based on the publicly available statistics “grossly under-represent” the actual numbers, the report says.
The true figure was likely to be “in the thousands,” the London-based human rights group said in the report, which also highlighted executions in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the US.
“The Chinese authorities claim that fewer executions are taking place. If this is true, why won’t they tell the world how many people the state put to death?” said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty’s interim secretary-general.
“The death penalty is cruel and degrading, and an affront to human dignity ... No-one who is sentenced to death in China receives a fair trial in accordance with international human rights …

Texas: End near for 'poster boy for death penalty'

His attorney won't seek to stop Tuesday execution.
As a youth, Franklin DeWayne Alix sang in his church's choir, taught Sunday school and drove older congregation members to their medical appointments. He was, in the eyes of some, a "typical fun-loving teenager."
But Alix's choirboy days were long past when, on the morning of Jan. 3, 1998, he accosted at gunpoint a young woman in the parking lot of her home, stuffed her into a car trunk, drove her to an ATM where he unsuccessfully tried to use her bank card, sexually assaulted her, returned to her home to steal electronics and, when caught in the act, fatally shot her brother.
Alix, 34, his court appeals exhausted, is set to be executed Tuesday for the murder of Eric Bridgeford, 23. He will be the 5th killer executed in Texas this year and the 1st from Harris County.
Alix's appellate attorney, Robert Rosenberg, said he will not appeal to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, a move he believes is futile. Only t…