Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Israel: Knesset to vote on death penalty for terrorists

Yisrael Beytenu's death penalty for terrorists law approved by coalition leaders' forum and will be voted upon by the Knesset.
Following the demand of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, the leaders of the coalition parties on Sunday evening approved the Yisrael Beytenu party’s bill mandating the death penalty for terrorists.
The bill will be brought to a preliminary vote in the Knesset plenum.
MK Robert Ilatov, Yisrael Beytenu Parliamentary Group Chairman, said, "Today is a historic day in the State of Israel. After years in which the Yisrael Beytenu party has been promoting the death penalty for terrorists and after it was rejected by the Knesset and the government, today the death penalty bill for terrorists has finally been approved by the coalition leaders' forum.”
"The legislation should be very simple and very clear - a terrorist who comes to kill innocent civilians will be sentenced to death. No more convenient prison conditions, no more pictures of cheers…

Iran: Prisoner Hanged In Public

Iran Human Rights (Dec 15 2017): A prisoner was hanged in public in Khoy (Northwestern Iran) on murder charges.
According to IRIB News Agency, on the morning of Thursday December 14, a prisoner was hanged in public in one of the streets of Khoy. 
The 36 year-old prisoner was charged with murder during a street fight in 2012.
The report didn’t mention the identity of the prisoner but the Center for Democracy and Human Rights of Kurdistan identified him as Hadi Asadloo, Son of Seyfali, from Amirbeig Village in Khoy.
According to Iran Human Rights annual report on the death penalty, 142 of the 530 execution sentences in 2016 were implemented due to murder charges. 
There is a lack of a classification of murder by degree in Iran which results in issuing death sentence for any kind of murder regardless of intensity and intent.
Iran is one of the few countries in the world where public executions are carried out.
Source: Iran Human Rights, December 16, 2017

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Utah: Bill stirs debate over costs of death penalty

The subject of the death penalty has been a source of controversy for years, but one lawmaker is hitting it from a different angle with a proposed bill for the upcoming legislative session.
Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, wants the state to take a closer look at the costs connected with the death penalty and associated appeals versus the cost to house an inmate for life without parole.
"I was reading about what another state (Nebraska) was doing about costs and I wanted to look into Utah," said Handy. "When I started to ask around, I heard crickets - nobody knew because nobody had asked before. I decided to pitch a study item in 2012 for resources to have an analyst research it and he worked over several weeks with the assumptions of longevity being 75 years and how long the appeals process takes being about 25 years."
The appeals are taxpayer supported because the death row inmates don't hire an attorney Handy said, they use a public defender. "The study s…

An L.A. court mistakenly destroyed evidence a death row inmate says would free him. Now what?

From his small cell on California's death row, Scott Pinholster swore he could prove his innocence. The proof, he said, was in the dried blood on a work boot and a pink towel recovered from his home years ago.
The condemned inmate insisted that modern DNA testing - nonexistent when he was convicted of a double murder in 1984 - would show the blood belonged to him, not the victims, as the prosecution argued at his trial.
But a recent search for the items has led to a disturbing discovery that could throw the case into jeopardy: The Los Angeles County courts mistakenly destroyed the evidence.
A judge must now determine what, if anything, should be done to remedy the high-stakes error.
Pinholster's attorney has asked for a hearing on how the destruction happened and says he will eventually ask for a new trial. Prosecutors, however, argue that a killer's life shouldn't be spared simply because of an innocent mistake by court staff.
How evidence once thought destroyed help…

Death Penalty for Mentally Ill Defendants? That's not justice, argue mental health professionals

In recent years, policymakers have begun taking important steps in addressing how our criminal justice system approaches individuals with mental illness who commit crimes. As our understanding of the factors which lead people with mental illness to commit crime grows, "jail diversion" ( and other programs designed to divert people with mental illness into treatment instead of incarceration are being implemented nationwide, as well as in communities across the commonwealth ( However, much more remains to be done to reform Virginia's approach to the way it treats individuals with severe mental illness in its criminal justice system.
An important proposal that would contribute to this reform has been considered by the General Assembly during its last two sessions: a bill to ban the use of the death penalty for people with severe mental illness. The bill would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility …

'Playing Russian roulette with a firing squad': Why educated adrenaline junkies are lining up to be drug mules

For four-and-a-half years, author Kathryn Bonella has been running with dangerous company.
The former 60 Minutes journalist infiltrated drug circles in Brazil to research her latest book.
And she found out that not all traffickers are desperate favela dwellers – quite the opposite.
In “Operation Playboy”, Bonella reveals that many of Brazil’s top drug kingpins are in fact well-educated, multilingual men from wealthy families with a love of surfing and extreme sports.
Bonella told that over the course of her research, she came to recognise a common trait: namely, all were adrenaline junkies.
“They live a hedonistic life of glamour, but they’re always walking on a tightrope and can – at any time – fall to great depths,” Bonella says.
“They’re literally playing Russian roulette with a firing squad.”
Bonella said many of the playboys themselves started as drug runners to sustain their extreme sports lifestyle, only to instead develop a thrill-seeking addiction to the interna…

On the Death Penalty, New Jersey Got it Right

In August 1982, New Jersey reenacted the death penalty after the United State Supreme Court decision in Gregg v. Georgia reinstated capital punishment in bifurcated proceedings. The reinstatement was futile. No defendant convicted under the 1982 legislation was put to death—the last execution in New Jersey was in 1963.
Thanks to the vigorous efforts of the Public Defender’s Office and other members of the defense bar, no defendant convicted under the 1982 legislation was put to death. In case after case, our Supreme Court concluded that capital punishment had not been fairly and rationally imposed. The Appellate Division in 2004 found the procedures by which capital punishment was imposed to be unconstitutional, and a legislatively created Death Penalty Study Commission recommended its abolition.
Dec. 17 marks the 10th anniversary of the statute that abolished the death penalty and substituted life imprisonment without parole for those convicted of capital murder. Abolition followed …

Oklahoma goes second straight year without an execution; no new protocol in sight

Oklahoma did not put anyone to death over the past two years amid continued work on the Department of Corrections’ lethal injection protocol. This is the first time since 1994 that the state has gone two or more consecutive years without carrying out an execution.
The Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization that doesn’t take an official position on executions, released its annual report last week on the status of capital punishment in the United States. It found that death sentences and executions are at historic or near-historic lows due in part to diminishing public support and litigation over lethal injection drugs, which have become increasingly difficult to obtain.
Twenty-three people nationwide were executed in 2017, a slight increase from 2016 but only a fraction of the nearly 100 executions conducted in 1999. The center projects that 39 people across 14 states and the federal government will have received new death sentences this year.
Notably, the report st…

California: Death penalty for the man who killed an 8-year-old he thought was gay

A jury in California recommended the death penalty to a man who was convicted of killing an 8-year-old boy for being gay.
Isauro Aguirre was found guilty of first degree murder in the death of his girlfriend Pearl Sinthia Fernandez’s son Gabriel Fernandez. The boy was found in May, 2013, with a cracked skull, broken ribs, and burns, and died days after being hospitalized.
During closing arguments in the penalty phase of the trial, District Attorney Jonathan Hatami told the jury, “No human with a heart and soul could do that to an innocent little boy.”
He asked the jury to “show the defendant the exact same mercy he showed Gabriel.”
Aguirre’s public defender John Alan asked the jury for mercy and to give Aguirre life in prison.
“Mercy isn’t something that’s ever earned,” he said. “It’s something that is freely granted.”
Several people at a retirement home where Aguirre worked testified that they hoped his life would be spared. Alan said that they knew him to be “gentle, kind, patient, …