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'Express lane to death': Texas seeks approval to speed up death penalty appeals, execute more quickly

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Texas is seeking to speed up executions with a renewed request to opt-in to a federal law that would shorten the legal process and limit appeals options for death-sentenced prisoners.
Defense attorneys worry it would lead to the execution of innocent people and - if it's applied retroactively, as Texas is requesting - it could potentially end ongoing appeals for a number of death row prisoners and make them eligible for execution dates.
"Opt-in would speed up the death penalty treadmill exponentially," said Kathryn Kase, an longtime defense attorney and former executive director of Texas Defender Services.
But a state attorney general spokeswoman framed the request to the Justice Department as a necessary way to avoid "stressful delays" and cut down on the "excessive costs" of lengthy federal court proceedings.
Robbie Kaplan, co-founder of the #TimesUp movement, says sweeping changes to laws in recent years have dissuaded attorneys from taking on har…

Georgia: Judge rejects condemned inmate's argument for resentencing

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A judge on Friday declined to hold a new sentencing for a condemned Georgia inmate who argued he should be resentenced because he wouldn't get the death penalty if he were sentenced today.
Robert Earl Butts Jr., 40, is scheduled to die May 3. He and 41-year-old Marion Wilson Jr. were convicted and sentenced to death in the March 1996 slaying of Donovan Corey Parks in central Georgia.
Butts' lawyers argued in a court filing earlier this week that he should have a new sentencing.
The murder for which Butts and Wilson were sentenced had a single victim. There was just one aggravating factor, a circumstance that increases the severity of a crime and increases the possible sentence. According to sentencing data obtained and analyzed by Butts' lawyers, no one has been sentenced to death for a murder with one victim and one aggravating factor in over a decade.
That fact, they argue, "raises a threshold inference that Butts' death sentence is grossly disproportionate,&qu…

Thailand: iPhone killers' death sentences commuted to life

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The Appeal Court on Tuesday sentenced 2 men to life in prison, reducing the Criminal Court's death penalty, for killing a man to steal his 26,000-baht iPhone in Lat Phrao district, Bangkok, early last year.
Kittikorn Wikaha, 27, of Sa Kaeo province, and Supatchai Charnsri, 26, of Uthai Thani province, were convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Wasin Luengjaem, 26, and theft of his iPhone 6 on Sukhonthasawat Road on the night of Jan 4 last year.
The Appeal Court ruled that the two men had consistently confessed during police interrogation and their court trial, and also admitted to their crime when speaking to news reporters. That showed their repentance, which justified the commuted sentences.
Niraporn Luengjaem, the victim's mother, said she had recovered from the loss and held no more grudges. She asked the authorities to take good care of the 2 inmates so they could improve themselves and not repeat their crime. She would not appeal the sentences to the Suprem…

Texas death row inmate slated for execution Wednesday denied clemency

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A Fort Worth man on Texas death row was denied clemency and a late-stage federal appeal on Monday, barely 48 hours before he is scheduled for execution in the Huntsville death chamber.
Erick Davila was convicted of killing a rival gang member's mother and a 5-year-old girl at a Hannah Montana-themed children's birthday party in 2008.
He was sentenced to death in 2009 but his lawyers have since argued that Annette and Queshawn Stevenson were not his intended victims, according to court filings. Instead, attorney Seth Kretzer alleged that Davila was high at the time of the slayings, and also that he only meant to one person, rival gang member Jerry Stevenson. Killing one person is not necessarily a death-eligible crime.
"The jury never learned that at the time of the shooting Davila was heavily intoxicated, likely to the degree that it would have rendered him temporarily insane," Kretzer wrote in a court filing earlier this month.
Kretzer said prosecutors of withheld …

Pakistan's top judge to hear Asia Bibi's death sentence appeal

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Catholic mother's lawyer has high hopes her conviction will be struck down by Supreme Court
Pakistan's top judge has announced he will take up the appeal of a Catholic mother of five children who has been on death row since 2010 for blasphemy.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar told lawyer Saif ul Malook — the chief counsel for Asia Bibi — to prepare for her appeal.
"Be ready, Saif ul Malook. I am going to fix your case soon and I myself will preside over the bench," Nisar told Malook on April 21.
The judge made his comments as the lawyer appeared before the Supreme Court seeking police protection for taking on Bibi's case after it had been withdrawn by the Punjab police. Nisar ordered the Punjab police to again provide Malook with protection.
Malook said that he had high hopes of Bibi's conviction being struck down by the Supreme Court.
"Bibi's family and everyone else who understands her ordeal, are ecstatic at the news that her appeal will be heard soon,&q…

Counseling, Not Crocodiles: Indonesia Anti-Drugs Tsar Flags New Strategy

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Jakarta. Indonesia's new antinarcotics chief Heru Winarko called for an expansion of rehabilitation centers across the country on Wednesday (18/04), flagging a new approach in contrast to the blood-soaked war on drugs underway in its neighbor, the Philippines.
More users, addicts and even minor dealers would be diverted into centers run by medical professionals and counselors rather than heading straight into an over-crowded prison system, Heru told Reuters in an interview.
"With the rehabilitation approach, we cut the demand," he said. "If there is no demand, the supply will not come or reduce."
Heru took over as head of Indonesia's anti-narcotics agency in March, replacing Budi Waseso, a former top police officer who advocated surrounding prisons with moats filled with crocodiles and piranhas to stop drug convicts escaping.
Rather than wildlife, Heru said he planned to set up rehabilitation facilities near prisons.
"It is better if there is a rehabi…

Iran: Four hanged on murder charges

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Iran Human Rights (Apr 23, 2018): Four prisoners were executed at Urmia Central Prison on murder charges.
According to a close source, on the morning of Monday, April 23, four prisoners were executed at Urmia Central Prison.
The prisoners, who were sentenced to death on murder charges, were identified as Tayyeb Sheikhnejad Moukeri from ward 4-3, Qader Mohammad Hassan from the mental ward, Yadollah Samadi from ward 10, and Eslam Rashidi from ward 2-1.
The execution of these prisoners has not been announced by the state-run media so far.
According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 240 of the 517 execution sentences in 2017 were implemented due to murder charges. 
There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing a death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.
Source:Iran Human Rights, April 23, 2018


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Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

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Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the number of death sentences sought and handed down in state courts. While Florida should have abolished the death penalty long ago, its descent into obsolescence may be the next best thing.
Florida has executed 96 people since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The system ground to a halt in 2016 with another landmark ruling that invalidated Florida’s long-standing, convoluted scheme for imposing death sentences. Previously, juries could recommend putting a defendant to death by a simple majority, with the ultimate decision left up to the judge. In Hurst v. Florida, the Supreme Court found that process was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to judges. The Legislature responded by amending state law to…

Number of Beheadings in Saudi Arabia Rises by 70%

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Amid mounting criticism of Saudi Arabia over its human rights record, a new report by a nonprofit organization shows that the number of beheadings in the kingdom during the 1st quarter of 2018 rose by over 70 % compared to the same period last year.
In its latest report published Saturday, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) said executions by the Saudi government in the 1st quarter of 2018 increased by 72% compared to the corresponding period last year.
According to the report, a number of foreign nationals also face capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.
The report came against a backdrop of widespread criticism of the kingdom over its terrible human rights record, including the censorship of free speech, indiscriminate incarceration of citizens with no due process, or the lack of basic freedoms for women and girls.
Although the Riyadh government does not disclose any official statistics for people on death row, ESOHR has confirmed that 42 people are facing immine…

California has over 700 people on death row and executions could begin soon

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California is often viewed as the center of progressive politics in the United States. It has some of the strongest environmental regulations in the country, the strongest pesticide regulations and along with Connecticut the strongest gun control measures. California's legislature is already working to reinstate the net neutrality measures recently dumped by the Federal Communications Commission, and many cities have spent the last 18 months actively resisting the Trump administration's siege on undocumented immigrants.
Yet California also has more than twice as many people on death row as the next highest state - 746, compared with Florida's 347. That is the largest population of inmates awaiting execution in the entire Western Hemisphere and two-thirds of the total number of people known to have been executed by their governments worldwide in 2016.
Even a careful observer of the Golden State can be forgiven for not knowing these figures. The state has executed only 13 p…

Alabama should speed up executions, state auditor says

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Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler said the decades Walter LeRoy Moody sat on Alabama's death row was another example of justice delayed equaling justice denied.
Moody was executed Thursday night for the 1989 pipe bombing death of Federal Judge Robert Vance in Birmingham. Moody, 83, became the oldest inmate executed in the United States since the return of executions in the 1970s.
Moody's tenure of close to 3 decades behind bars and 20-plus years on death row defeats the deterrent element of capital punishment, Zeigler said.
"Thirty years is too long to carry out a sentence. Killers are not worried about what may happen 30 years from now. They think in terms of the next 30 minutes," Zeigler said. "It is very little deterrent to a would-be killer that he might be executed 30 years later."
In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the death of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert Robinson, who was also killed by a pipe bomb bl…