Tag: death penalty (page 2)

Singapore's Death Penalty Change: Life Plus Caning

Al Jazeera has an article today about the "debate" over Singapore's change two weeks ago in its mandatory death penalty law for drugs and murder. The South China Post reports on Asia's shift against the death penalty.

First, Singapore's change in drug cases is de minimus. It applies only to couriers who agree to become snitches and those who with mental abnormalities.

Couriers who rat out bigger fish can apply for a "certificate of cooperation" from the prosecution. Since most couriers don't know anything about the larger organization, this is just a license to make things up. If the authorities suspect person X of being a big trafficker, and ask a courier to confirm their suspicion, what courier is going to admit "I don't know" when that answer means the gallows.

The mental exemption applies only to those "suffering from such an abnormality of mind that it substantially impaired his mental responsibility for committing the offence".

Second, it's not just life in prison if they avoid the death penalty, but life plus caning -- up to 15 lashes. According to Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean: [More..]

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4th Cir. Affirms Overturning Death Sentence for Prosecutorial Witholding of Evidence

Justin Wolfe has been on death row in Virginia since 2002 for killing a fellow drug dealer. He was convicted based upon testimony of the shooter, Owen Barber, that Wolfe had hired him to kill the dealer. Barber later recanted and said he made that up to avoid the death penalty. His affidavit is here.

In 2010, Barber testified at Wolfe's federal habeas hearing that he fabricated Wolfe's involvement to avoid the death penalty. (He was sentenced to 60 years.) In 2011, the federal court vacated Wolfe's conviction and sentence finding he was wrongfully convicted based on the prosecution's withholding of critical evidence. Virginia appealed.

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's order vacating Wolfe's conviction and sentence, finding no error in the district court's findings. Virginia says it is disappointed and most likely will retry Wolfe. [More...]

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Life Without Parole vs. Death

Here's one the reasons Mark Geragos argued to the jury in the Scott Peterson death penalty trial that it should return a verdict of life without parole instead of death. The full transcript is here.

Prison is an awful, awful place. Scott Peterson, if you vote to spare his life, will be placed into a cell that is roughly the size of a king size bed. Roughly encompasses you four jurors right here. That's the size of his cell. And he would be in that cell roughly the size of a king size bed for the rest of his life. He will die in that cell.

Scott Peterson in that cell will have a bed to lay on, and he will have a cold metal toilet, and he will share that cell with a friend. That friend will be his cellmate. That may change.


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Scott Peterson Appeals Death Sentence

Scott Peterson was convicted 8 years ago of murdering his pregnant wife Laci. He was sentenced to death and has been incarcerated since then at Death Row on San Quentin.

Today his attorney filed his first appeal with the California Supreme Court. His brief is 423 pages.

TalkLeft has covered his case since 2003. If you want a refresher, all of our 130 posts are accessible here.

Some of the jurors held a press conference after the verdict, discussing among other things, why they ousted their jury foreman. The San Francisco Chronicle had this feature on life on death row at San Quentin in 2004. People Magazine a few weeks ago, in a feature on how several high-profile defendants over the past decades are doing in prison, reported Scott spends a lot of time doing Yoga and working on his appeal.

In 2004, the LA Times did a feature on the cost of the death penalty versus life imprisonment. One estimate was that it costs California taxpayers $90 million more a year to incarcerate death row inmates than those serving life without parole. There were 641 death row inmates in California at the time. There are now 725.[More...]

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Bali Snares Another Aussie Drug Courier, Death Penalty Looms

Edward Norris Myatt is 54 years old, originally from Ballarat in Victoria, Queensland Australia. He's been living in England in recent years, working as a construction worker and selling jewelry. (There's a Myatt Jewelers in Victoria, I have no idea if they are connected.)

I think the pictures tell the story.

Here's the sign that hangs in Bali's airport:

Myatt gets stopped at the airport, they suspect he has swallowed pills, so they arrest him and take him to the hospital where he spends three days, waiting to expel 72 capsules. Then they do their perp walk for the media. (Video here.) Not only does he have to wear an orange shirt, the shirt announces he's a prisoner. ("Pelaku")[More...]

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NC Trial Addresses Racism in Application of Death Penalty

In 2009, North Carolina enacted the Racial Justice Act which requires a judge to convert a death sentence to life in prison without parole if it is later shown that race played a significant role in the conviction or sentence. To make the showing, the Act permits the introduction of statistical evidence.

The defendant doesn't have to prove race caused the verdict, only that it played a significant role, meaning:

...that race weighed heavily in prosecutors' and jurors' decisions concerning the death penalty "in the county, the prosecutorial district, the judicial division, or the State at the time the death sentence was sought or imposed."

Closing arguments concluded yesterday in the first hearing under the Act, which has taken 2 1/2 weeks. The case involves Marcus Reymond Robinson, an African American, who was sentenced to death for killing a 17 year old white man. He is challenging his conviction and sentence, arguing there was racial bias in jury selection and in the criminal justice system.[More...]

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Pew Poll Finds Majority Continue to Support Death Penalty

The Pew Research Center has released a new poll on the death penalty.

62% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder while 31% are opposed. That is generally in line with polling on the death penalty over the past several years.

Of those who responded they oppose the death penalty, 27% said it's wrong or immoral and 27% said they were concerned about wrongful convictions. In the poll 20 years ago, 41% of those opposed based their objections on moral grounds and 11% of them objected due to the potential injustice of a wrongful conviction.

The reasons for those supporting the death penalty haven't changed in 20 years: [More...]

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Report: U.S. Death Sentences Decline in 2011

The Death Penalty Information Center has released its year-end report. In 2011, less than 100 fewer death sentences were imposed, the lowest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

The number of new death sentences imposed in 2011 stands at 78, a decline of about 75% since 1996, when 315 inmates were sentenced to death. This is the lowest number of death sentences in any year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Texas, which had 48 new death sentences in 1999, had only 8 this year.

The number of U.S. executions also declined. "There were 43 executions in 13 states, a 56% decline since 1999, when there were 98."

34 states still authorize the death penalty. According to the 2011 Gallup Poll, only 61% of Americans now support the death penalty, compared to 80% in 1994.

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Ohio Gov. Commutes Death Sentence

Ohio Governor John Kasich has followed the recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board commuted the death sentence of Joseph Murphy to life without parole. The issue: "childhood growing up in West Virginia in which he was beaten, starved and sexually abused."

Joseph Murphy’s murder of Ruth Predmore was heinous and disturbing and he deserves—and continues to receive—severe punishment. Even though as a child and adolescent Murphy suffered uniquely severe and sustained verbal, physical and sexual abuse from those who should have loved him, it does not excuse his crime. However, the Ohio Supreme Court split 4-3 on whether Murphy should receive the death penalty and the late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, in his dissent against the death penalty in this case, said that 'in all of the death penalty cases I have reviewed, I know of no other case in which the defendant ... was as destined for disaster as was Joseph Murphy.'"


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Texas Ends Special "Last Meals" for Death Row Inmates

If only it were as easy to end the death penalty as it was for Texas to end last meals for those about to be executed.

Texas inmates who are set to be executed will no longer get their choice of last meals, after a prominent state senator voiced concern over a request from a man condemned for a notorious race killing.

...It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege," Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote in a letter to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Livingston agreed and with one fell swoop of his pen, ended the practice. [More...]

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Distinguishing the Innocent Not an Easy Task

The ACLU tweeted last nightt:

In case it wasn't obvious: the only way to avoid executing the innocent is end the deathpenalty.

Back in 2009, I wrote this post about Justice Anton Scalia's view of the Troy Davis case, the presumption of innocence, which back in 1895 in a case called Coffin v. U.S, the Supreme Court called a "bedrock" of our criminal justice system, and on why those who "did it" may be just as at risk of a miscarriage of justice as those who are innocent. From the Coffin case: [More...]

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Flaws in Military Death Penalty Cases Exposed

McClatchy has a report today on the flaws in the military's death penalty system:

Of the 16 men sentenced to death since the military overhauled its system in 1984, 10 have been taken off death row. The military's appeals courts have overturned most of the sentences, not because of a change in heart about the death penalty or questions about the men's guilt, but because of mistakes made at every level of the military's judicial system.


The problems included defense attorneys who bungled representation, judges who didn't know how to properly instruct a jury and prosecutors who mishandled evidence....At almost every level - from trial to appeals - young, inexperienced lawyers routinely have been appointed to represent capital defendants.

McClatchy contrasts these cases with those of the 9/11 defendants: [More...]

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IL Govenor Signs Bill Abolishing Death Penalty

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed the bill abolishing the death penalty passed by the legislature in January. He also commuted the sentences of the 15 inmates now on death row to life in prison without parole. The law goes into effect July 1.

Illinois is now the 16th state to abolish the death penalty.

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Singapore's Mandatory Death Penalty: Yong Vui Kong

Yong Vui Kong is on death row in Singapore, arrested at age 18 for carrying 1.5 ounces of heroin. Singapore's law provides the death penalty for anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin (Kong had 47) and provides no exceptions.

His dedicated family (particularly his brother and sister) and his attorney Madasamy Ravi, a Singapore human rights lawyer and member of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, have done a herculean job so far of keeping the case in the courts. The end is now here, but he still could be saved.

Al Jazeera made the excellent video above telling the story, I hope you will all watch. [More...]

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Virginia: First Female Execution Since 1912

Teresa Lewis didn't pull the trigger. She confessed, pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities. She has an IQ of 70, right on the border of mental retardation. She has no prior criminal record, and no prior history of violence. The triggermen in the murder got life without parole. Yet she's scheduled to die by lethal injection. She is the first female sentenced to death in Virginia since 1912.

John Grisham weighs in. A writer in the Sydney Morning Herald says Iran does not have a monopoly on barbarism and reminds the U.S. that humanity begins at home.

The execution is set for September 23. Save Teresa Lewis. More here.

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