Posts

Showing posts from September, 2012

FEATURED POST

Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Image
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…

Louisiana death row inmate who gave false confession released after 15 years

Image
A Marrero man who spent 15 years on Louisiana's death row for his wrongful conviction of raping and strangling to death 14-year-old Crystal Champagne under the Huey P. Long Bridge in 1996 walked out of the Angola prison a free man Friday. Damon Thibodeaux, 38, was cleared, attorneys announced, confirming what he has said since his arrest on July 20, 1996: He caved after nine hours of interrogation by Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office detectives and confessed to a crime he did not commit.
Thibodeaux, then a 21-year-old offshore deckhand, immediately recanted after he was fed and rested, but it was too late, his attorneys have said. He was convicted of first-degree murder by a Jefferson Parish jury and sentenced to die solely on the confession he gave then-Maj. Walter Gorman and then-Sgt. Dennis Thornton, who are now high-ranking officers in the Sheriff's Office, according to court records.
Thibodeaux's release was kept under wraps until a state judge in Jefferson Paris…

2/3 of Britons Would Bring Back Capital Punishment

Image
Most respondents who support the death penalty believe it would serve as a deterrent for potential murderers.
The views of people in Britain on capital punishment have not changed over the past year, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.
In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,009 British adults, 65 % of respondents support reinstating the death penalty for murder in Great Britain, virtually unchanged since 2011.
The highest level of support for the return of capital punishment comes from men (68%) and Britons over the age of 55 (69%).
Most supporters of the death penalty believe it would serve as a deterrent for potential murderers (66%), it would fit the crime because a convicted murderer has taken a life (62%), and would save taxpayers money and the costs associated with having murderers in prison (58%).
Opponents of capital punishment are primarily concerned with the possibility of a person being wrongly convicted and then executed (80%).
A majority…

Puerto Rico jury rejects death penalty

Image
A Puerto Rican jury rejected the death penalty Thursday for a convicted drug dealer accused of killing an ex-girlfriend who was an informant for the U.S. government.
Edison Burgos Montes will face life in prison for the July 2005 killing of Madelyn Semidey Morales, who had been cooperating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in the investigation against him. He was found guilty of the killing in late August.
Among those celebrating the verdict was Semidey's mother, Georgina Morales, who said earlier this year that she did not believe in capital punishment.
"I'm satisfied that justice was served," she told reporters after the verdict was announced.
Morales used the opportunity to publicly ask Burgos to tell the family where her daughter's still-missing body is located. "Please tell us where you put it, what you did with her body," she pleaded. "This will cause us anguish for the rest of our lives."
The victim's father, Carlos Sem…

Indonesia: Banten court sentences British man to death

Image
Banten High Court has sentenced British citizen Gareth Dane Cashmore with the death penalty after he was found guilty of smuggling 6.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine.
The panel of judges decided, on May 15, to annul the Tangerang District Court verdict sentencing him to lifetime imprisonment. A copy of the verdict was published on the Supreme Court’s website on Wednesday.
“Gareth Dane Cashmore is found guilty of violating the law by receiving narcotics of more than five milligrams,” presiding judge J. Nababan said. “We decided to sentence the defendant to death.”
The panel of judges said that the decision was based on considerations that the sentence of lifetime imprisonment imposed, by the district court, would not send a strong enough message.
In addition, the judges also took in to consideration that there were no mitigating factors uncovered during the trial that could lessen the defendant’s sentence, and that he was fully responsible for his actions.
“Narcotics are a very …

Woman among 2 death-row inmates executed in Japan

Image
A faith healer who beat six followers to death was hanged on Sept. 27, making her only the fourth woman to be executed in Japan since 1950, the Justice Ministry said.
Sachiko Eto, 65, was one of two convicted murderers put to death, taking to seven the number of executions carried out this year.
Eto's punishment was carried out at the Sendai Branch Detention House in northeastern Japan.
The slayings occurred during "exorcism" rituals in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, in 1994 and 1995. Two of the victims were male. Eto ordered the fatal beatings, which involved blows with heavy wooden sticks used for Taiko drumming, and took part in them with her followers.
Eto was originally sentenced to death by a district court, which was upheld on appeal to a high court. The Supreme Court finalized the sentence in 2008.
Yukinori Matsuda, 39, was hanged the same day at the Fukuoka Detention House in western Japan.
Matsuda was convicted in the stabbing murders of a couple during a bur…

URGENT APPEAL for Anthony Haynes to be executed in Texas on 18 October

Image
Anthony Haynes is due to be executed in Texas on 18 October for the murder of an off-duty police officer committed when he was 19 years old. Claims of racial discrimination, inadequate legal representation and judicial misconduct have marked the case.
In 1999, Anthony Haynes was convicted of the fatal shooting of off-duty police officer Kent Kincaid in Houston, Texas on 22 May 1998. To obtain a death sentence, the state had to persuade the jury that Anthony Haynes would be a continuing threat to society, even in prison. Although the defendant had no prior criminal record that the state could point to, its case was helped by the defense lawyers' failure to present a range of available mitigation evidence. For example, the jury was not told that only two days before the shooting, Anthony Haynes had taken crystal methamphetamine for the first time, which affected his ability to make decisions. Neither was the jury told that he has a history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorde…

Health care company takes unprecedented action to block use of propofol in US executions

Image
Health care company, Fresenius Kabi, has announced that it has put in place a comprehensive system of distribution controls to prevent its product from being used off-label to carry out executions by lethal injection.
The firm manufactures propofol, an anaesthetic which US death rows had recently begun to turn to following shortages of the barbiturates which had previously been used as part of the execution process.
In response to this development, Fresenius - which is currently the sole active supplier of propofol in the United States - has not only announced that it will not accept orders for the drug from US departments of correction, but has put in place similar requirements on all of its wholesalers and distributors.
The move means that propofol will remain available for legitimate medical use, but will be denied to US correctional facilities for off-label use in executions.
Missouri had announced in May that it was switching its execution protocol from the traditional three-dru…

Texas executes Cleve Foster

Image
Texas prison officials gave Cleve Foster a lethal injection at 6:43 p.m. CDT Tuesday, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to postpone his punishment for a fourth time.

Foster and his roommate, Sheldon Ward, were convicted of the 2002 murder in Fort Worth of Nyanuer "Mary" Pal. Police found the body of Pal, who had been shot, in the woods. DNA evidence in Pal's body later connected Foster and Ward to the crime. Both men were sentenced to death.
Ward died in prison in May 2010. While he was on death row, Foster's lawyers said, Ward wrote a note and also told others that Foster was not involved in the murder and that he had acted alone.
In his pleas, Foster argues that Ward's statements prove his innocence. He also argues that he received ineffective legal assistance since his lawyers did not present key evidence to the jury, including a note Ward wrote at the time of the crime taking sole blame for the murder. The lawyers were also ineffective, he ar…

Iran hangs man over drug charges

Image
Iran Human Rights, September 25: One prisoner was hanged in the prison of Semnan reported the Iranian media today.
According to the official web site of the Iranian judiciary in Semnan (northern Iran) the prisoner who was identified as "H. Ch." (from Baluchestan province) was convicted of carrying 3400 grams of crack.
The charges have not been confirmed by independent sources.
Source: Iran Human Rights, Sept. 26, 2012

Texas: death row inmate contests the drug

Image
Preston Hughes, who has been on death row for 23 years for fatally stabbing a teenage girl and a toddler, is suing the state of Texas over the drug it plans to use to execute him in November, claiming officials are "experimenting" on him and other inmates.
Hughes, 46, is arguing that prison officials, facing a shortage of drugs for the three drug "cocktail" formerly used for lethal injection, did no medical testing before changing the protocol to using a single drug, according to court records.
"They are experimenting on death row inmates because there's never been any kind of medical review, that we know about, that this is a humane way to carry out their legal function," said Pat McCann, one of Hughes' attorneys. "I'm not saying they can't execute people. I'm saying they ought to give it more thought than the time it takes to play a round of golf."
Officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice declined to comment…

California: Death Row inmates oppose Prop. 34

Image
Like other state prisoners, the 725 inmates on California's Death Row can't vote. But if they could, there's evidence that most of them would vote against a November ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty.
It's not that they want to die, attorney Robert Bryan said. They just want to hang on to the possibility of proving that they're innocent, or at least that they were wrongly convicted. That would require state funding for lawyers and investigators - funding that Proposition 34 would eliminate for many Death Row inmates after the first round of appeals.
All criminal defendants who can't afford to hire a lawyer have a right to legal representation, at state expense, for their trial and appeal. But only those sentenced to death are guaranteed a state-funded legal team for the post-appellate proceedings known as habeas corpus.
Habeas corpus allows inmates to challenge their convictions or sentence for reasons outside the trial record - typically, incompe…

Egypt: 14 Islamists sentenced to death over Sinai attacks

Image
September 24, 2012: An Egyptian court sentenced 14 militant Islamists to death by hanging and four to life imprisonment for attacks on army and police forces in the Sinai Peninsula last year.
The verdicts showed the state's determination to deal firmly with militant activity in Sinai, which has increased since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Security forces are mounting operations in the area following the killing of 16 Egyptian border guards in August.
The men, members of a militant group called Tawheed and Jihad, were charged by the prosecutor with killing three police officers, an army officer and a civilian in attacks carried out in June and July, 2011.
Eight of the 14 death sentences were in absentia, court sources said.
"This court decision is a milestone. It gives a strong message to the militant groups that the state, President Mohamed Mursi's government, will not tolerate attacks on the Egyptian armed forces and police," said Nage…

Chine : auprès des enfants des condamnés à mort

Avec 15 exécutions par jour, la Chine détient le record mondial en matière de peine de mort et, pour les orphelins des condamnés, aucune prise en charge n'est prévue par l'Etat. Une ancienne gardienne de prison a fait de ces enfants la cause de sa vie. Cent cinquante pensionnaires vivent près de Pékin dans l'un des neuf orphelinats qu'elle a créés à travers le pays.
(This video is available in French only.)
Source: videosTF1.fr, Sept. 23, 2012

Singapore: Glimmer of hope for Vui Kong

Image
Singapore has announced that new laws will be drafted by the year-end to abolish the mandatory death penalty for some cases of drug trafficking and murder.
On Nov 14, 2008, Sandakan (Sabah)-born Yong Vui Kong was convicted of trafficking 47.27g of heroin and sentenced to death in Singapore.
He was 19 when he was arrested at about midnight on June 13, 2007 near the Meritus Mandarin Hotel at Orchard Road by officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).
The drugs were found in 2 packets in a Malaysian-registered car MBK 5317 which the prosecution said Yong had earlier collected from a man in Taman Sentosa in Johor Baru.
Yong then went to look for his friend, one Chai Chor Hsiang, and asked him to drive the car into Singapore.
At the trial, Yong made it clear that Chai had no knowledge of the packages hidden under the driver's seat. Yong's defence was that he thought he was collecting debts from his boss' debtors and that his boss had made him promise not to open the pack…

The Living Dead: HuffPost Live Talks To Exonerated Death Row Inmate Anthony Graves

Twenty years ago, a Texas judge sentenced Anthony Graves to death for six murders he did not commit. He spent eighteen years in prison, twelve of them on death row. For most of that time, he was in solitary confinement -- locked in an eight by twelve cell, reinforced by a steel door.

Throughout his incarceration, Graves maintained his innocence and was finally exonerated in 2010. Now an activist working to create awareness around prisoner isolation, he testified before a congressional subcommittee, describing the emotional torture he endured and the mental anguish of his prison mates.

Click here to read the full article

Source: Huff Post, Sept. 19, 2012

Iraq Death Penalty Reconsiderations Dismissed

Image
BAGHDAD -- Iraq has executed nearly 100 people so far this year, a big increase over previous years that has intensified concern about whether defendants are receiving fair trials in a country where the United States has spent billions of dollars trying to reform the judicial system after decades of dictatorship.
The government says most of the executed had been convicted of terrorism as bombings and shootings persist in Iraq, albeit not at the levels at the height of its conflict years ago. However, international observers worry that the legal process is faulty and that some trials are politically motivated – including this month's death sentence against Iraq's fugitive Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, a longtime foe of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who was convicted in absentia of running death squads.
The executions in 2012 of at least 96 people, all by hanging, amount to more than a quarter of all convicts who have been put to death in the last eight tumult…

Iran: Man hanged in public over murder charges

Image
Iran Human Rights, September 23: One prisoner was hanged in public in the Northwestern Iranian province of Azarbaijan today.
According to the official Iranian news agency IRNA, the man was identified as "Reza M." convicted of murdering another man identified as "Ali V.".
The prisoner was hanged publicly today Sunday in "Shahr-e-Tork", near the town of Mianeh, said the report.
Source: Iran Human Rights, Sept. 23, 2012

Texas inmate Cleve Foster prepares for 3rd trip to death house

Image
LIVINGSTON, Texas (AP) — What Cleve Foster remembers most about his recent brushes with death is the steel door, the last one condemned Texas inmates typically walk through before their execution.
"You can't take your eyes off that door," he says.
But twice over the past year and a half, Foster has come within moments of being escorted through the door, only to be told the U.S. Supreme Court had halted his scheduled punishment.
On Tuesday, Foster, 48, is scheduled for yet another trip to the death house for participating in the abduction and slaying of a 30-year-old Sudanese woman, Nyaneur Pal, a decade ago near Fort Worth.
It takes just under an hour to drive west from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit, where the state's male death-row inmates are housed, to the Huntsville Unit, where condemned Texas prisoners have been put to death for nearly a century. The last 485 have been by lethal injection; the first 361, from 1924 through 1964, from the…

Mali: Horrific abuses targeting civilians amid conflict

Image
As conflict continues in Mali, Amnesty International has unearthed evidence that civilians are on the receiving end of horrific abuses that include amputations, sexual violence and extra-judicial executions.
After a 15-day research mission to Mali earlier this month, the organization launched a new briefing revealing such abuses in several locations across the country.
Amputations
In northern Mali, Islamist groups bent on imposing their interpretation of Sharia law are increasingly imposing violent punishments such as amputations following sham trials of those accused of committing crimes.
The latest amputation was carried out on 16 September, and since August Amnesty International has documented a total of seven people who faced such punishment after hasty sham trials on charges of theft or robbery.
An eyewitness to one amputation on 10 September in the town of Gao’s Place de l’Indépendance described the event to Amnesty International:
“…The MUJAO [Movement for Unity and Jihad in We…