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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Indonesia: Open Letter On Anniversary of First Executions under President Widodo

Indonesia: open letter on anniversary of first executions under President Widodo -- Amnesty International.

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the resumption of executions under President Joko Widodo, eight organizations have written to the Indonesian authorities to bring to their attention ongoing concerns on the use of the death penalty in Indonesia.

The organizations renew their calls on the country’s highest authorities to immediately establish a review of all death sentences with a view to commutation, and to establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty, as essential first steps towards its abolition.

Open letter (click here to download the pdf):

TO:

Teten Masduki
Chief of the Presidential Staff Office (KSP)
Gedung Bina Graha
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Jakarta Pusat
DKI Jakarta 10110
Indonesia

19 January 2017

Dear Chief of the Presidential Staff Office

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the resumption of executions under President Joko Widodo, I am writing on behalf of the undersigned organizations to bring to your attention our ongoing concerns on the use of the death penalty in Indonesia. We renew our calls on the country’s highest authorities to immediately establish a review of all death sentences with a view to commutation, and to establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty, as essential first steps towards its abolition.

The first executions since Joko Widodo became President were carried out on 18 January 2015, when six prisoners were shot by firing squads. Since then, 12 more have been executed, including most recently on 29 July 2016. All the executed prisoners, who included three Indonesians and 15 foreign nationals, had been convicted of drug-related offences.

The authorities had selected for execution on 29 July a further ten people, but at the last minute granted them a stay of execution to allow for their cases to be reviewed to ensure that there is “no judicial and non-judicial error”, in the words of Attorney General M. Prasetyo later on the same day. (1)

While the stay of execution was a welcome development, our organizations remain deeply concerned that human rights violations have tainted the cases of several of the 18 prisoners executed in the past two years; that the stay of execution granted to the ten prisoners in July was only a temporary measure; and that the review of the cases does not appear to be mandated to an independent or impartial body, nor will it apply to all existing death sentences which have been imposed.

Breaches of fair trial safeguards and other human rights violations


Research findings by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia, Komnas HAM) (2) and additional research carried out by Amnesty International, (3) ICJR (Institute for Criminal Justice Reform), (4) and other human rights organizations, point to systemic flaws in the administration of justice in Indonesia and violation of fair trial and other international safeguards that must be strictly observed in all death penalty cases.

In several of the cases examined in the context of this research, defendants did not have access to legal counsel at crucial stages of the process, whether from the time of arrest or at different stages of their trial and appeals. In some cases the police ill-treated them to make them “confess” to the crimes or countersign police investigation dossiers used as evidence in court. Several prisoners were brought before a judge for the first time only when their trials began, months after their arrest. Some of them did not receive legal assistance when appealing against their conviction or sentence, or did not even submit an appeal application because they were not informed by their lawyers of their right to do so.

In some cases in 2015 and 2016 executions went ahead despite the courts having accepted prisoners’ applications to submit appeals, which had not yet been heard by the courts. Despite the clear prohibition under international law on the use of the death penalty against persons who were below 18 years of age at the time of the offence, or who have a mental or intellectual disability, our organizations documented that claims which two prisoners made in relation to being under 18 and mental disability were not adequately investigated, resulting in the unlawful imposition of the death penalty and, in one of these cases, execution.

The death penalty also continues to be used extensively for drug-related offences, even though these offences do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes”, which, pending abolition, is the only category of crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a state party.

Our organizations call on the authorities to:

  • Establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;
  • Establish an independent and impartial body, or mandate an existing one, to review all cases where people have been sentenced to death, with a view to commuting the death sentences;
  • In particular, in all cases where the death penalty has been imposed for drugs offences or where the trial did not meet the most rigorous international fair trial standards, or in cases where the procedures were seriously flawed, offer a retrial that fully complies with international fair trial standards and which does not resort to the death penalty.


The case of Yusman Telaumbanua


Among those currently on death row in Indonesia is Yusman Telaumbanua, who was arrested together with another man and detained on 14 September 2012 for the murder of three men in April 2012 in the North Sumatra province. They were detained for at least four months before appearing before a judge at the first trial hearing on 29 January 2013. It was not until this hearing that the two men received legal assistance when the District Court appointed the same legal team to act for both of them.

Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge has the right to competent and effective legal counsel as soon as they are deprived of liberty and at all stages of criminal proceedings, including during the preliminary investigation, before and during the trial and appeals. If they cannot afford to pay, a lawyer must be assigned to them free of charge. In cases which can lead to the death penalty, the authorities have a particular obligation to ensure that the appointed lawyer is competent and effective.

During the police interrogation, Yusman Telaumbanua did not have a legal counsel assisting him. He could not speak Indonesian, the language used during the investigation, and could not read or write. Yusman Telaumbanua told his current lawyer that during this period of custody he and his codefendant were beaten and kicked on a daily basis by police officers, or by detainees ordered by the police. Although his current lawyers have submitted a complaint to the police, to date there has been no independent investigation into these allegations.

When delivering the indictment, the prosecutor sought life imprisonment for the two men. Their lawyers representing them at that time, however, asked the judges to sentence them to death, although both Yusman Telaumbanua and the other man asked the judges for lenient sentences. Based on their first lawyers’ request, the Court eventually sentenced them to death. Neither of the men submitted an appeal to a higher court, as they did not know they had the right to do so and the lawyers then representing them did not inform them of this right.

Furthermore, according to the police, Yusman Telaumbanua was born in 1993. However, he claims he was born in 1996, which means he would have been under 18 years old at the time the crime was committed and at the time when he was sentenced to death. He does not have a birth certificate as births are not usually registered in his village of origin. His current lawyers managed to gather information from his family and village neighbours, who confirmed that he was born in 1996. A group of forensic radiology experts instructed by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights established that Yusman Telaumbanua was between 18 years and 4 months and 18 years and 5 months of age at the time of the examination in November 2015.

Our organizations call on the authorities to:

  • Establish an independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of ill-treatment, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials;
  • Ensure protection of the best interest of the child as required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Indonesia is a state party, and, in cases such as Yusman Telaumbanua’s, where the age of the defendant(s) is disputed, to give them the benefit of the doubt;
  • Establish an independent and impartial body to review Yusman Telaumbanua’s death sentence, with a view to its commutation.


New opportunities for human rights and abolition of the death penalty


The Indonesian Parliament is currently examining proposed amendments to the Indonesian Criminal Code, which include some proposals to move away from the death penalty. Our organisations were encouraged by President Widodo’s statements on 5 November 2016 that Indonesia wants to move towards abolition. (5)

At a time when more and more countries are abolishing the death penalty and 141 in total are now abolitionist in law or practice, the proposed legislative reforms represent a unique opportunity for Indonesia to uphold human rights and end human rights violations associated with the use of the death penalty.

There is no conclusive evidence that capital punishment has a unique deterrent effect. Statistics from countries that have abolished the death penalty show that its absence has not resulted in an increase in the crimes previously subject to capital punishment. Furthermore, evidence has shown that punitive policies have had little influence on the prevalence of drug use.

Our organizations oppose the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances as a violation of the right to life, recognized by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Our organizations renew our calls on the Indonesian authorities to take the opportunity of the reform of the Criminal Code to abolish the death penalty from national legislation.

I remain at your disposal should you wish to discuss this matter. A copy of this letter will be sent to Mr. Wiranto, Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Affairs; Mr. Bambang Soesatyo, Chairperson of the Commission III of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia (DPR RI); and Mr. Imdadun Rahmat, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM).

Yours sincerely

Josef Benedict
Campaigns Director, South East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office

This letter is co-signed by

Amnesty International
Elsam (Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Masyarakat/Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy)
Human Rights Working Group (HRWG)
Imparsial
Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR)
KontraS (the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence)
LBHM (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Masyarakat/Community Legal Aid Institute)
PKNI (Persaudaraan Korban NAPZA Indonesia/ Indonesian Drug Users Network)

-------------------------------------------------------------------
(1) “Relief for Indian national as Indonesia suspends execution of 10 convicts”, Wio News, 29 July 2016, available at http://www.wionews.com/world/relief-for-indiannational-as-indonesia-suspends-execution-of-10-convicts-3532
(2) Komnas HAM issued two reports in 2010 and 2011. The 2011 report was based on a research mission conducted between September and December 2011 into 17 prisons in 13 provinces, during which 56 death row prisoners were interviewed. The 2010 report was based on a monitoring mission to 10 prisons in five provinces and on interviews with 41 death row inmates between September and October 2010.
(3) Amnesty International, “Flawed Justice-Unfair trials and death penalty in Indonesia” (ASA 21/2434/2015), October 2015, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa21/2434/2015/en/
(4) Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), Overview on Death Penalty in Indonesia, 2015, available at http://icjr.or.id/data/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Overview-onDeath-Penalty-in-Indonesia.pdf
(5) Indonesia moving towards abolishing death penalty: Widodo, SBS, 5 November 2016, available at http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/11/05/indonesia-movingtowards-abolishing-death-penalty-widodo

- end -

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Two Bahraini Men at Imminent and Renewed Risk of Execution

Mohamed Ramadhan Issa Ali Hussain and Hussain Ali Moosa Hussain Mohamed are at imminent risk of execution following the execution of three men on 15 January 2017.

Their death sentences were upheld by the Court of Cassation on 16 November 2015 and have been passed to the King who has the authority to ratify the sentences, commute them or grant a pardon. 

Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa are now at imminent and renewed risk of execution. 

After a nearly seven-year hiatus, Bahrain resumed executions on 15 January when it executed three men whose death sentences, in a grossly unfair trial, were confirmed by the Court of Cassation on 9 January and speedily ratified by the King.

Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa were sentenced to death on 29 December 2014 for the killing of a policeman, who died in a bomb explosion in al-Deir, a village northeast of Manama, on 14 February 2014. 

Their trial was grossly unfair and relied on forced “confessions”. Both men did not have access to their lawyers during their interrogation at the Criminal Investigations Directorate, where Amnesty International continues to document the use of torture and other ill-treatment, and later told their lawyers that they had been tortured in the first few days following their arrest in February 2014. 

Mohamed Ramadhan said that he had been detained incommunicado and beaten and given electric shocks to force him to “confess” but were unsuccessful. Hussain Ali Moosa said he was coerced to “confess” and incriminate Mohamed Ramadhan after being suspended by his limbs from the ceiling, given electric-shocks and beaten repeatedly for several days.

Despite the two men’s lawyers lodging complaints with the Special investigations Unit within the Public Prosecution regarding the two men’s torture allegations, they received no response. 

Mohamed Ramadhan’s wife and a US-based NGO also lodged complaints with the Ombudsman’s office but it failed to investigate his torture allegations for two years and his wife has not been informed about the conclusion of its investigation.

➽ Click here to take action NOW (on Amnesty International's website)

Source: Amnesty International, January 18, 2019

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Former Delaware death row inmate goes free after acquittal

Isaiah McCoy walks out of Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington as a free man.
Isaiah McCoy walks out of H. R. Young Correctional Institution as a free man. 
Isaiah McCoy, a death row prisoner for years, walked out of the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington and into his young daughters' embraces on Thursday night just hours after a judge found him not guilty of murder in his second trial.

Outside the prison's barbed wire fence and heavy doors, McCoy, 29, became emotional as he reunited with his girls and with the team of attorneys and an investigator who helped get him acquitted of the 2010 killing of 30-year-old James Munford.

"I just want to say to all those out there going through the same thing I'm going through 'keep faith, keep fighting," McCoy said. "Two years ago, I was on death row. At 25, I was given a death sentence – and I am today alive and well and kicking and a free man."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said prosecutors were disappointed by the verdict from Kent County Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young.

“While we are disappointed with the outcome of this case, we respect the decision of this court. This was a difficult case and the court indicated the basis for its decision at the time of the verdict," spokesman Carl Kanefsky said.

The path to McCoy's acquittal has been long.

He was accused of shooting Munford to death during a drug deal in the rear parking lot of the Rodney Village Bowling Alley on May 4, 2010. The deal was supposed to be for 200 ecstasy pills and crack cocaine, but during the transaction, McCoy pulled out a gun and shot Munford, according to prosecutors.

A jury found McCoy guilty in June 2012, but the Delaware Supreme Court later overturned his conviction and death sentence.

The court did so because former Deputy Attorney General R. David Favata belittled McCoy and lied to a judge during the death penalty trial, the court said.

Favata made demeaning comments about McCoy's choice to represent himself, such as "I have been to law school, your honor. I understand the rules" and “The trouble with dealing with somebody with a limited education and no legal education is he doesn’t clearly understand what he’s reading," according to court documents.

Favata also, while in the presence of McCoy during a court recess, spoke about "Omerta," an Italian mafia code of silence. Favata said he would put a detective back on the stand to tell everyone that McCoy was a snitch and added that McCoy could have trouble back in prison after the other inmates learn he is a snitch, the documents said.

McCoy alerted the judge to the comments, but Favata denied them. Then, the prothonotary, who was in the room and overheard Favata’s comments, was disturbed that Favata lied to the judge and wrote a note saying McCoy was telling the truth. Favata eventually admitted the comments were meant to be heard by McCoy, according to court documents.

The judge attempted multiple times to rein in Favata’s behavior, but it was not until July 2015 that Favata was suspended from the bar for six months and one day for what the court called "unprofessional conduct." Favata had already retired from the state in March of that year.

With McCoy facing a retrial because of the conduct, Deputy Attorneys General Greg Babowal and Steve Smith gave him the option to plead guilty to manslaughter and a weapons charge, which would have carried a sentence of five to 50 years in prison. He refused the deal and proclaimed his innocence.

"He trusted the judge to look at the evidence, and the judge looked at the evidence and saw the two accomplices were not credible," McCoy's attorney, Herbert Mondros, said.

The trial opened last Monday with accomplice, Deshaun White, taking the stand. White, who received a sentence reduction for his cooperation in the case, is serving a 13-year prison term at the Sussex Correctional Institution for charges related to Munford's death.

Attorney Michael Wiseman, also representing McCoy, spent hours questioning White on inconsistent stories he gave to law enforcement and a jury in McCoy's first trial.

At one point in the week-long trial, it looked as though the judge would recuse himself from the case and order a mistrial after McCoy allegedly made a comment to a corrections officer that he would have sex with and rob the officer's wife.

After contemplating the issue over night, the judge allowed the trial to continue and issued the verdict in the case around 2 p.m. Thursday. The judge noted the law on accomplice testimony and found the witnesses told conflicting stories that were uncorroborated by evidence.

Mondros said McCoy was extremely emotional as the verdict was read in court.

"Imagine a guy who had just spent the last six-and-a-half years on death row, in isolation, to now be essentially exonerated," he said.

Mondros also was on a team that represented another death row inmate, Jermaine Wright, who was freed last year. ​Wright spent 20 years on death row before the Supreme Court overturned his 1991 conviction for the killing of 66-year-old Phillip Seifert, a liquor store clerk. He was allowed to plead not contest to second-degree murder on the eve of his retrial.

Mondros, Wiseman and investigator Phil Primason met McCoy outside the prison about seven hours after the verdict was read. They loaded boxes of legal documents into the car, as McCoy hugged and laughed with his daughters.

McCoy said he planned to spend the next days with his daughters and to let his new situation sink in.

"Give myself some time, and then I'll be ready to tackle the world," he said.

Source: Delaware Online, Jessica Masulli Reyes, January 19, 2017

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Florida Supreme Court throws out three death sentences

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the death penalty for three murderers, including a man convicted of abducting an 81-year-old Lake County woman from a Publix parking lot and killing her in 2010.

The decisions are the latest in a growing string of rulings since October, when the state's highest court declared Florida's death-penalty statute unconstitutional.

In those three Thursday opinions, as with earlier ones, the court ruled that because jurors did not unanimously vote for death, the defendants must be resentenced.

In the Lake County case involving Donald Otis Williams, the jury vote for death was 9-3.

He was found guilty of murder, kidnapping and robbery a few months after the victim, Janet Patrick, disappeared while loading groceries into her car in Leesburg on Oct. 19, 2010.

Williams, 56, was arrested several days later sitting in her car with her credit cards in his pocket.

He was on sex-offender probation at the time.

Inside the car, authorities found two pairs of underwear. A crime lab found DNA from both Williams and Patrick on them. Hairs found in them also matched both the defendant and victim.

Patrick's body — nude except for a pair of socks — was found a week later in Polk County, near where Williams used to live.

Her remains were badly decomposed, and a medical examiner could not determine the cause of death but ruled it a homicide.

The high court on Thursday upheld Williams' conviction but overturned his sentence.

It also ordered the resentencing of Lancelot Armstrong, convicted of murdering a deputy in Broward County in 1990; and William Kopsho, convicted of murdering his estranged wife in Marion County in 2000.

Jurors must vote 12-0 for death, the court wrote, and unanimously identify the specific reasons why a defendant should be put to death and why those reasons outweigh arguments that he should be spared.

In a fourth death-penalty case Thursday, the high court let stand the sentence of Louis B. Gaskin, convicted of shooting a Volusia County couple in 1989.

Florida has not executed an inmate since January 2016 because of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court that the state's death-penalty statute is unconstitutional.

State Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, has introduced a bill in Tallahassee that would require a 12-0 jury vote in death cases.

It could be approved once the legislative session begins March 7.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, Rene Stutzman, January 19, 2017

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ricky Gray’s execution took more than 30 minutes. His attorneys want to know why.

"Midazolam will produce relaxation and that relaxation may be sufficiently severe to produce sleep, but in studies we've conducted, it does not eliminate sensation to pain." - S. Stevens Negus, professor of pharmacology at Virginia Commonwealth University

Attorneys for Ricky Gray, a prisoner executed Wednesday night in Virginia, are questioning why the procedure took more than a half-hour and was not fully visible to observers.

When he was executed at Greensville Correctional Center, Gray was hidden from the view of witnesses for 33 minutes. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections, the delay was caused by difficulty putting an IV line in one of Gray’s veins.

But Gray’s attorneys are challenging that explanation. Gray had told them that VDOC staff had examined his veins multiple times in the days leading up to the execution.

“He was a healthy, 39-year-old man, and did not have any medical condition or history (such as intravenous drug use) that would indicate potential problems,” attorneys Rob Lee, Jonathan Sheldon and Elizabeth Peiffer said in a statement.

The three attorneys said that Gray was observed turning his head from side to side a minute or more after being given a sedative and was pinched to test his consciousness. They said they also observed “labored breathing, gasping, snoring, and other audible and visible activity.”

Prison officials explained the movements as evidence of respiratory depression. But the attorneys say he may have been reacting to the second drug in the state’s three-drug protocol, a paralytic. If he was conscious when that drug was administered, “he would have suffered excruciating pain,” they said.

The lawyers also questioned why a doctor with a stethoscope checked Gray’s heart before the prisoner was pronounced dead, when prison officials have in the past relied on a heart monitor.

“The redundancy check by the physician is not something we have seen before in the numerous lethal injections we have observed,” they wrote.

The drug used to sedate Gray, midazolam, has been implicated in several prolonged and apparently painful executions. Arizona has agreed to stop using the drug. Despite testimony from pharmacologists that midazolam is not a proper anesthetic for executions, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld its constitutionality last year.

Gray was the first prisoner to be executed in Virginia using midazolam.

A spokesman for the VDOC did not immediately return a request for comment.

Source: The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, January 19, 2017

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Florida: The inmate in Cell 1

Cell 1 is the last cell Florida inmates stay in before they’re executed. It’s where they say their goodbyes, make peace with death or mount their final legal stands against death. It’s where many hope their sentence will be delayed or commuted. Some inmates get pulled out of Cell 1 to return to Death Row; others meet their end in the execution chamber a few feet away. It’s a place of uncertainty, the cell between life and death.

On Jan. 12, 2016, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling threw Florida’s death penalty into a state of limbo -- putting the death sentence on hold. Legal challenges and court decisions--as recently as last month--have created more confusion. It is in this climate that the Legislature will start rewriting the new rules to reinstate the death penalty when it returns to session in March.

WLRN News reporter Wilson Sayre spent almost two years researching the ins and outs of the death penalty in Florida. In this special report, she looks at the momentous changes that occurred in 2016, the consequences of the Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida and what being in limbo means for the 384 people on Death Row in the state, their families and the victims’ families.

Part 1: The inmate in Cell 1


Mike Lambrix has spent more of his life on Death Row than in the outside world.

At 56, he’s lost most of his hair along with his once-athletic body. Every day for the 33 years he’s lived on Death Row, since he was convicted of a double murder in 1984, he’s worn the orange shirt of condemned men in Florida.

On November 30, 2015, Gov. Rick Scott signed his death warrant and Lambrix was set to die by lethal injection on Feb. 11, 2016. This wasn’t a surprise. Lambrix had exhausted all his appeals and Gov. Scott has had a quick pen when it comes to executions. In fact, Scott has overseen more executions than any other Florida governor since LeRoy Collins, who left office in 1961.

A death warrant sets in motion a strictly codified script that regulate all actions until the prisoner's execution. Lambrix was moved from Death Row to Death Watch, which is reserved for people who’ve been given their execution dates.

“The first thing you see is a board on the wall that says your name, your cell number and your execution date,” said Lambrix. “Every time you go in and out of there you see that right there, in writing, just to remind you.”

On Death Watch, inmates get more privileges than Death Row inmates. For example, you get to call to your family. Until recently, there were no social calls on Death Row.

Death Watch cells are bigger, 12x7 feet instead of the 6x9-foot cells on Death Row, which means prisoners get from one end of the cell to the other in five steps instead of three. Lambrix says the guards tend to be nicer. Even those that don’t have a great reputation show a more compassionate side with inmates on Death Watch.

Mike Lambrix
Mike Lambrix
But Death Watch isn’t supposed to be some kind of prison paradise where you can live out your final days in a more enjoyable setting. There’s a practical side to it. Inmates are put there so guards can watch over them more carefully; to make sure they don’t hurt themselves or others.

The fear is: Condemned prisoners have nothing to lose.

“You never forget why it's different. Everything about Death Watch is specifically structured towards what the conclusion is going to be,” said Lambrix

Lambrix had company when he was moved to Death Watch in 2015. Oscar Bolin was then the official resident of Cell 1. That cell is always reserved for the next inmate to be executed and Bolin's date came before Lambrix's.

So Lambrix spent weeks watching Bolin prepare for his execution: packing up his property in boxes for his wife, have his final meetings with lawyers and a chaplain, dealing with the denials of his final appeals, shaving his chest ahead of the execution.

“I can't get away. There's nowhere I can go. I put my earbuds on. My MP3 is my escape,” said Lambrix.

For Lambrix, this was like looking into the future, a process he'd be following himself.

“There's a part of you that says, ‘You know what, that's me,’ ” said Lambrix, “because I am the next cow in line. And I'm watching this cow get its head off."

Lambrix got to know Bolin; They’d spent weeks talking between their cells. And then he was just down the hall during Bolin’s execution.

The state’s two execution chambers are right next to Death Watch. In one, there’s the state’s electric chair -- which hasn’t been used since 1999. In the other chamber, there’s a gurney with straps used for lethal injections.

“So they walked [Bolin out of Cell 1] and that’s last I heard of anything because once he went around he never came back,” said Lambrix.

After Bolin was walked out to meet his sentence, Lambrix could hear the witnesses to the execution mill about, waiting.

“Every little sound down on Death Watch during this period of time becomes somewhat amplified, like a thunderous roar,” said Lambrix. “Every little whisper, you know, I'm straining to hear everything that goes on on the other side of that door.”

The execution went forward at 10:16 p.m. on Jan 7, 2016. Bolin was the last person in Florida to be executed and the only one in 2016.

The execution affected Lambrix. “I didn't sleep too well that night,” he said.

“One of the things that really bothered me about the process after they killed him [Bolin] is that very early the next morning they came in and they ordered me to get my stuff in my Cell 3 and I immediately got moved to Cell 1. You know, I'm just telling myself, “What, you couldn't wait a day? You know, you just killed this guy. You couldn't just wait a day?”

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
Lambrix says that being moved from Cell 3 to Cell 1 brought the reality of his imminent execution home.

"When you walk into that Cell 1, there's a part of you that even despite all the hope that you might still have. It takes that hope away,” said Lambrix.

This was the second time Lambrix has been in Cell 1. He was hours away from his execution before, in fall 1988. Then, a U.S. district court stayed his execution to review various claims by his defense attorneys hoping to overturn Lambrix`s death sentence.

He says being in Cell 1 sort of changes you. You have to wrestle with knowing the date of your death, in his case Feb. 11, 2016. That’s on top of other, more mundane preparations you’re forced into, like divvying up your property.

Lambrix found himself making choices based on the date of his execution. Should he buy new toothpaste? Or stretch what he has left?

Watch the new X-Files mini series? His date would come halfway through the episodes.

He was fitted for his execution suit: dark blue with charcoal pinstripes and a white shirt, short sleeves so they can insert the needle.

Here’s an excerpt from something he wrote for his blog during that time on Death Watch for Feb 1, 2016:

“Time flies quickly when you’re counting down what is expected to be the last days of your life. As I awoke this morning, I realized I’m now down to only 25 days. I smiled as I remembered song on my mp3 player by country music legend Johnny Cash called “25 Minutes to Go.” It starts with the words, 'They’re building a gallows outside my cell and I’ve got 25 minutes to go,' then in his southern accent continues, 'and the whole town’s waiting just to hear me yell, I’ve got [24] minutes to go.”

Lambrix says that during each minute of his 25 days on Death Watch, he hoped his execution would get called off.

“Death Watch is a very unique experience because the phone is like five feet in front of your cell and you're just like looking at that phone and there's a clock on the wall and you're looking at the clock,"said Lambrix.

"Because that phone is your lawyers telling you you got a stay of execution. You know, every moment of that clock is tick, tick, tick. And you're looking at that phone just trying to mentally will it to ring.”

The phone did ring for Lambrix, a little more than a week before his execution.

The U.S. Supreme Court had issued an opinion in a case called Hurst v. Florida that put in limbo all death penalty cases in the state.

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Source: WLRN News, January 19, 2017

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Iran: Four hanged on drug charges

Four prisoners were reportedly hanged on drug charges at Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison (northeastern Iran).

Iran Human Rights (JAN 18 2017): Four prisoners were reportedly hanged at Mashhad's Vakilabad Prison on drug related charges.

According to the human rights news agency HRANA, the executions were carried out on the morning of Tuesday January 17. 

One of the prisoners has been identified as Ahmad Shekarabi, sentenced to death on the charge of possession and trafficking five kilograms of heroin.

"Ahmad's first death sentence was quashed by the Supreme Court, but he was sentenced to death again by branch 8 of Mashhad's Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Mazloom," a source close to Mr. Shekarabi's family tells Iran Human Rights. The source insists that Mr. Shekarabi was innocent.

The source adds: Ahmad was a cab driver who had a customer whom he would pick up packages forn at various addresses. The last time Ahmad did so, he arrived at the pick up location and noticed his customer had been arrested. As soon as Ahmad had arrived, he was also arrested, even though he explained that he's just the cab driver. However, the customer denied this and claimed that Ahmad was aware that the packages contained drugs and was involved in the operation. The customer's testimony had many inconsistensies to the point that Ahmad was first exonerated, but branch 2 of the court sentenced him to death anyway. After the Supreme Court quashed his death sentence [pending a new trial], he was sentenced to death again, and this time the Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence.

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about these executions.

The names of the other three prisoners are not known at this time.

Source: Iran Human Rights, January 18, 2017

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Executions often put physicians in unfair dilemma

"Midazolam will produce relaxation and that relaxation may be sufficiently severe to produce sleep, but in studies we've conducted, it does not eliminate sensation to pain." - S. Stevens Negus, professor of pharmacology at Virginia Commonwealth University

(CNN)--Virginia executed Ricky Gray, 39, by lethal injection on Wednesday evening at the Greensville Correctional Center. Virginia was to use compounded midazolam and compounded potassium chloride, as well as the paralytic drug, rocuronium bromide.

Midazolam has been highly problematic in past lethal injections. Lethal injection is a trick of chemistry, and contrary to appearances, does not cause a cruelty-free death. Lately, the practice of lethal injection has somehow gone awry as more states drop the paralytic drug from the traditional three-drug cocktail and drug shortages lead to suspicious drug substitutions.

Virginia used a paralytic drug that may obscure the failure of midazolam to create the sort of deep unconsciousness contemplated by lethal injection proponents. All three drugs used in the Virginia protocol have reversing antidotes or inhibitors of some kind and these agents could be used to halt an execution gone wrong.

Virginia made no claim that these reversing drugs would be on hand and further, it is not known whether anyone with expertise in the use of these agents was present during the execution. Suspicions are spreading throughout the population in capital punishment states, but even as demand for forthright and open public debate rises, these states respond by placing legal shrouds in the form of secrecy laws over the details of execution.

Execution is a kind of killing and to be lawful, it must occur without cruelty. Lethal injection has emerged as the latest method of execution without obvious cruelty, replacing the electric chair, the gas chamber, the firing squad and the noose. Lethal injection approximates a medical act and this is no accident.

Medical acts fall within the purview of physicians who now find themselves wittingly or unwittingly cast in the role of execution adviser. The American Medical Association and the American Board of Anesthesiology both have statements condemning physician involvement in capital punishment based on an ethical prohibition against killing, yet some physicians continue to linger around execution activity.

Physician participants in capital punishment claim that professional medical societies are playing at politics more than at ethics when they object to physician involvement by setting aside another ethical imperative to reduce suffering.

For physicians, the cluster of so-called "botched" executions presents a particular sort of ethical dilemma. Secular and religious ethics both direct against standing idly by in the face of suffering. Here, an inmate dying by lethal injection is compared to a patient dying of a terminal illness.

Public concerns about aggressive care at the end of life have led to medical interventions directed to control pain and distress as a primary therapeutic intervention, abandoning any notion of a traditional cure. Now, death is the cure; death has been reimagined as a treatment and lethal injection has been reimagined as another form of euthanasia.

How sound is the comparison between end-of-life care in the hospital setting and the end of life in the execution chamber? From a distance, the comparison may seem apt and for the physician who participates in the execution, a distant similarity is sufficient, but it is a false similarity.

An inmate facing death is not a patient by virtue of being connected to an intravenous device and having a doctor in a lab coat standing by. Physicians can only work with patient consent. Patients can only consent if they are freely weighing and deciding -- and an inmate on the brink of death has no such freedom. Circumstances exist under which an individual lacks this capacity and designates a relative to act as decision maker.

In the execution chamber, the warden seems a poor substitute and certainly never the physician. If a physician touches a patient without consent, the law regards it as a battery, although state laws immunize the physician in the execution chamber.

Lethal injection only impersonates a medical act and in order to be certain that suffering is reduced in a medical setting, much more information in the form of monitoring and testing is required. To date, lethal injection proponents have not sought to verify the claim that a doctor makes any difference at all. Medical practice is a highly regulated activity performed by highly trained and licensed individuals. When a doctor changes a tire, he is not practicing medicine. When a doctor is standing in the execution chamber, he is not practicing medicine either.

State secrecy laws protect the identity of these doctors. State medical boards, charged with regulating all physician activity -- including moral turpitude -- should not be blinded if physicians are truly there to alleviate suffering. What is the role of the doctor in the execution chamber? When does the alleviating of suffering become physician-assisted homicide?

The US Supreme Court has ruled that every inmate is entitled to medical care. If the execution method fails to cause death, the physician as the state agent, must be able to revive the inmate in order to avoid killing him, not by lawful execution but by unlawful manslaughter.

Lethal injection, as presently practiced, is an impersonation of medicine populated by real doctors who don't acknowledge the deception. The rightness or wrongness of capital punishment remains an open question but it's time to reject lethal injection. If capital punishment continues, it needs another method.

Source: CNN, Opinions, Dr. Joel Zivot, January 19, 2017. Dr. Joel Zivot is an associate professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University School of Medicine and adjunct professor of law at Emory Law School. A practicing anesthesiologist and intensive care specialist, Zivot has written extensively on the subject of physician participation in lethal injection and the problems of lethal injection in the circumstance of coexisting illness of the condemned. He opposes the use of lethal injection in executions.


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Former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia urges Malaysian government to intervene in case of death row inmate in Singapore

"S Prabagaran has always maintained his innocence."
"S Prabagaran has always maintained his innocence."
Former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has called on his country's Foreign Ministry to look into the case of S Prabagaran, reported Malaysiakini. Prabagaran a Malaysian is facing the death sentence here for drug trafficking.

Anwar said that he would normally not want to comment on people facing drug trafficking charges, but he thinks this is a proper case to be brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Prabagaran was arrested on 12 April 2012 when he was just 24 years old, for a narcotic trafficking offence. He has been on death row for more than 4 years since 2012, and is awaiting the result of his clemency petition to the Singapore President.

The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty activists who have been fighting to save Prabagaran, allege that he is being deprived of his life in a manner that is in breach of the principles of the separation of powers, the fundamental rules of natural justice, and the rule of law.

"In respect of a person who has been convicted of a drug offence that is punishable with death under the Second Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), Section 33B(2)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) provides that the Public Prosecutor may certify that a person convicted of a drug offence punishable with the death penalty has substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in disrupting drug activities. If the Public Prosecutor so certifies, and if the offender is also merely a courier, then the sentencing judge has the discretion to impose life imprisonment in lieu of the death penalty. If the Public Prosecutor does not so certify, then the sentencing judge must sentence the offender to the death penalty.

As discussed above, although in this case Praba has maintained his innocence, he has, in fact, done his best to provide CNB with credible leads that could well have resulted in persons involved in drug activities (i.e., Balu and Nathan) being apprehended."

They argue that the right to a fair trial is one of the most important fundamental human rights and that the death sentence imposed on Prabagaran violates the right to fair trial under customary international law.

The activists said "the Public Prosecutor's determination of whether or not substantive assistance was provided is too fluid and unstable a standard by which to determine the penalty which an offender should receive."

Anwar in seeming to agree with the activists, said that Prabagaran was denied a fair trial.

"There is allegedly a denial of key witnesses and this deprives opportunity for the defence to present its case. This is a proper case for the foreign minister and the prime minister to take to the ICJ," he said.

Source: The Independent, January 18, 2017

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Philippines: One more bill reimposing death penalty filed in Senate

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
Trigger-happy Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
A new measure that seeks to reimpose death penalty on persons involved in the illegal drug trade has been filed in the Senate on Wednesday.

Under Senate Bill No. 1294, Sen. Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian seeks to amend Section 11 of RA 9165 to impose capital punishment on persons convicted of possession, sale, distribution, importation, and manufacture drugs.

These include marijuana (10,000 grams or more), shabu (1,000 grams or more), opium, morphine, heroine, cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride, marijuana resin, marijuana resin oil, ecstasy, and LSD, and other drugs as determined by the Dangerous Drugs Board (200 grams or more).

The measure also seeks to increase fines and penalties imposed for offenses under RA 9165 involving smaller quantities of drugs.

Gatchalian, an ally of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, said that his bill was his commitment to the Duterte administration's intensified campaign against illegal drugs.

The neophyte senator, who was also 3-time mayor of Valenzuela City, said that he and Pres. Duterte were both "mayors at heart" and had "the same perspective" in terms of solutions to eliminate drug trafficking.

"As local chief executives, we have both seen firsthand the kind of damage the illegal drug trade can do to entire communities if drug lords and kingpins are allowed to continue their despicable operations with impunity," Gatchalian said.

"Passage of this law will stop the illegal drug trade in its tracks and make sure that these despicable people will pay the ultimate price for their crimes against the Filipino people," he added.

Aside from Gatchalian, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, has previously filed a measure to revive death penalty. Some other senators who have openly expressed being in favor of the reinstatement of death penalty include Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, and Senator Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao.

Pimentel, however, said that the passage of the death penalty bill will not come easy in the Senate as in the House of Representatives where it expected to face less opposition.

Last December 7, the House Committee on Justice approved the committee report on the reinstatement of the death penalty bill or House Bill No. 1 in a vote of 12-6-1.

The measure is one of the priority bills of President Duterte.

Source: northboundasia.com, January 18, 2017

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Bahrain: Victims of horrific human rights abuses, not criminals - The stories of the 3 men executed by firing squad on Sunday

(Left to right) Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace and Abbas al-Samea
(Left to right) Sami Mushaima, Ali al-Singace and Abbas al-Samea
On Sunday 15th January, three men were executed by firing squad in Bahrain. Their names were Ali Al-Singace, Abbas Al-Samea and Sami Mushaima.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Dr Agnes Callamard, called their executions "extrajudicial killings". Ali, Abbas and Sami were the first prisoners to be put to death by the Bahraini authorities since 2010.

Ali al-Singace


Ali was just 21 when executed. He had been harassed and tortured by Bahrain's police since he was 15, because of his family's links to political opposition.

The police wanted Ali to work as an informant. He refused.

When Ali was 18, a bomb exploded killing several policemen. Ali was sentenced to death without even appearing before a court and then arrested a year later.

He was tortured and electrocuted into making a false confession. His torture was never investigated.

The day before his execution, Ali's family came to visit him in prison. The guards refused to say if he was about to be executed, and Ali asked his family to arrange for him to resit school exams he had missed.

Abbas Al-Samea


Abbas was a school teacher, and was just 27 when executed. He was targeted because of his family's links to political opposition. He was sentenced to death despite presenting the court with an alibi letter from the school where he taught.

Abbas required hospital treatment after police tortured him during his interrogation, including electric shocks to his genitals and suspending him from the ceiling. He was later tortured again by guards in prison.

Although UK prison inspectors helped plan inspections of both the police station and prison just months after Abbas was abused there, his torture allegations were ignored.

Another UK-trained torture watchdog in Bahrain dismissed his complaint about ill-treatment without even arranging for a doctor to examine him for signs of torture.

The day before his execution, Abbas' family came to visit him in prison. The guards refused to say if he was about to be executed.


Sami Mushaima


Sami was targeted because of his family's links to political opposition. During his police interrogation, he was beaten, tortured with electric shocks and sexually assaulted. He was illiterate, but was forced to sign a confession that he could not read. He was 42 years old when he was executed.

Although UK prison inspectors helped plan inspections of the police station just months after Sami was abused there, his torture allegations were ignored.

The day before his execution, Sami's family came to visit him in prison. The guards refused to say if he was about to be executed.

Source: Reprieve, January 18, 2017

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Advocates for repealing the Colorado death penalty will be back before the legislature

Advocates for repealing the death penalty in Colorado are back with a legislative effort for the 1st time in 4 years, motivated by their belief the issue is gaining traction in battleground and red states

But proponents still face an uphill battle in the legislature.

The Better Priorities Initiative of Colorado hopes to build off of work in the right-leaning state of Nebraska, where the legislature there repealed the death penalty in 2015, despite opposition led by Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The Nebraska legislature repealed the death penalty over the governor's veto, becoming the 1st conservative state in more than four decades to abolish the death penalty.

But Nebraska voters in November reinstated the state's policy on capital punishment, with 61 % voting to "repeal the repeal."

Still, supporters of abolishing the death penalty in Colorado say the action by the Nebraska legislature offers hope that Colorado lawmakers can cross party lines to advance a repeal.

A bill from Senate Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver is expected to be introduced as early as Wednesday.

"We've seen a renewed energy around ending the death penalty," said Stacy Anderson, outreach director for the Better Priorities Initiative of Colorado, who helped run the repeal effort in Nebraska. "It's definitely shifting to be more of a Western states movement."

The Nevada legislature this year is expected to take up a bill that would make the state's maximum punishment life in prison without parole. And Utah is expected to take up the issue again this year after a repeal bill failed on the last day of the legislative session last year. Washington state also is working on a bipartisan effort to abolish the death penalty.

Efforts to repeal in Colorado have failed in the past, including in 2013, when Democrats controlled the legislature. This year the legislature is split.

It's also unclear where Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, stands on abolishing the death penalty.

In 2013, the governor expressed "conflicting feelings" and upset some by granting a stay of execution to Nathan Dunlap, who was convicted of murder for the 1993 deaths of four people at an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese.

In 2014, Hickenlooper outlined his reasons for opposing the death penalty, which opened him up to attacks from Republicans as he headed into re-election. But he has never pushed to abolish capital punishment in the state.

Last year, Republican lawmakers attempted to make it easier to impose the death penalty by requiring only nine out of 12 members of a jury to deliver capital punishment. Current law requires a unanimous agreement. Supporters of the bill attempted to compromise by requiring 11 of the 12 jurors to agree, but that effort also failed, with the vote crossing party lines.

Repealing the death penalty in Colorado would be a major victory for supporters, especially given high-profile cases. Jurors in Arapahoe County could not unanimously agree to sentence the 2012 Aurora movie theater gunman to die by lethal injection.

George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County prosecutor who sought the death penalty in the Aurora movie theater case, said a judicial issue as important as capital punishment should not be left to the legislature.

"This is an issue for the people of the state of Colorado to decide," Brauchler said, suggesting that it would be better to refer the question to voters.

The Better Priorities Initiative of Colorado - which is pushing the repeal effort this year - said they have no immediate plans for a ballot drive.

The coalition consists of many of the usual groups that fight capital punishment, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Religious organizations also are part of the coalition.

Anderson said she expects the coalition to have bipartisan support, with Republicans speaking out against the death penalty as well.

One of the talking points used by repeal advocates is that capital punishment is an expensive burden on taxpayers, though detailed costs have not been recently researched in Colorado. Some estimates put the cost between $5 million and $10 million per year thanks to the need for extensive legal work.

The last time someone was executed in Colorado was in 1997.

"We're wasting millions of dollars on a punishment we don't use, and arguably, that most Coloradans have lost interest in," Anderson said. "There are things that we could be spending our money on that could make us all safer and actually be more effective for all Coloradans."

Brauchler, however, questions whether seeking capital punishment actually costs millions, or if there would be much of a savings to taxpayers if it were repealed.

"They want to suggest that if we didn't have the death penalty, we wouldn't have had the cost, but what is ignorant about that analysis is if you take the death penalty away, and God forbid something like the Aurora theater shooting happened tomorrow, you think the public defender's office is going to come in and say, 'Well, we're ready to plead guilty and go to prison forever,'" Brauchler asked.

"No. We're going to have the exact same trial, minus the sentencing phase for the death penalty, and that exact same expense."

Source: The Gazette, January 18, 2017

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