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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Behind Neil Gorsuch's Non Answers

Every sign suggests that he would be at least as conservative a judicial activist as Samuel Alito.

A ruggedly handsome Coloradan—this President cares a great deal about appearances—Gorsuch has an appealing manner and an impressive résumé. He did well in good schools, held prestigious clerkships, worked at a fine law firm, took a senior post in the Department of Justice, and for the past decade has served on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. From his boyhood days as a Republican Senate page to his decades of volunteer work for G.O.P. candidates, Gorsuch has been a strong party loyalist. (Like many Republican pols, he refers to the “Democrat,” rather than the Democratic, Party.)

His background also includes a dose of pro-corporate, deregulatory libertarianism, as reflected in his close relationship with the billionaire Philip Anschutz, a client turned mentor. A sampling of authoritarianism can be seen in Gorsuch’s service in George W. Bush’s Justice Department, where he helped craft a proposal for the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo. (The Supreme Court later ruled it unconstitutional.) There’s social conservatism, too, evident in his one book, a critique of death-with-dignity laws and physician-assisted suicide. “All human beings are intrinsically valuable,” he wrote, “and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” It’s easy to read the book as a coded attack on abortion rights.

To the extent that Gorsuch said anything of substance at his hearing, he put himself across as a mainstream figure. He said that he had participated in some twenty-seven hundred cases on the appeals court, and had voted with the majority in ninety-nine per cent of them. This proves only that most cases are routine. (Even the Supreme Court issues unanimous rulings more than half the time.) The hard cases are the ones that matter, and it’s reasonable to project how Gorsuch would vote in them. He would oppose abortion rights. (Trump promised to appoint a “pro-life” Justice.) His predilection for employers over employees is such that it yielded a circuit-court opinion of almost Gothic cruelty. When subzero temperatures caused a truck driver’s trailer brakes to freeze, he pulled over to the side of the road. After waiting three hours for help to arrive, he began to lose feeling in his extremities, so he unhitched the cab from the trailer and drove to safety. His employer fired him for abandoning company property. The majority in the case called the dismissal unjustified, but Gorsuch said that the driver was in the wrong.

As a Justice, Gorsuch would embrace the deregulation of campaign finance symbolized by the Citizens United decision. (He argued in an opinion that judges should evaluate limits on political contributions using the same tough standards that they apply to racial discrimination.) His most famous Tenth Circuit decision had him taking a side in the culture wars. In Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, he ruled that a multibillion-dollar corporation could withhold federally guaranteed rights to birth control from thousands of female employees because of the religious beliefs of the corporation’s owners. (His position was upheld, 5–4, by the Supreme Court.) In an embarrassing coincidence, on the second day of Gorsuch’s testimony, the Court unanimously rejected one of his holdings in the Tenth Circuit, ruling that it denied adequate educational opportunities to students with disabilities. Every sign suggests that Gorsuch would be at least as conservative a judicial activist as Samuel Alito.

It’s also clear what Neil Gorsuch is not: Merrick Garland. Gorsuch’s nomination is inextricable from its shameful political context. When Scalia died, more than eleven months remained in Barack Obama’s Presidency, but Senate Republicans refused to give his nominee even a hearing. This departure from norms was all the more outrageous because the tactic was used to block a moderate; the Republicans denied Obama his constitutional right in order to trade a Justice who might have been less liberal than Stephen Breyer for one who might be as radical as Clarence Thomas. Such a turnabout seems especially disturbing given that the F.B.I. and other agencies are now investigating the very legitimacy of the Trump Presidency.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin, April 3, 2017 Issue. Jeffrey Toobin has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1993 and the senior legal analyst for CNN since 2002.

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Texas: Victim's parents make video plea to Abbott to spare their son’s murderer

Paul Storey
Paul Storey
What his jurors did not know after all the evidence was presented at his trial may have doomed death row inmate Paul Storey, according to a clemency petition filed Wednesday with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Storey, convicted in 2008 for the brutal execution-style murder of Jonas Cherry, is scheduled to die on April 12. Storey’s lawyers, his family, and Cherry’s parents are fighting to save Storey’s life.

Cherry begged for his life during the crime, which took place about 8:45 a.m. Oct. 16, 2006. Storey and Mark Porter stood over Cherry, who pleaded: “Please! I gave you what you want. Don’t hurt me.”

They refused and shot him twice in the head and twice in his legs. Cherry, who was approaching his first wedding anniversary, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Storey and Porter were convicted of capital murder, but only Storey got the death penalty. Porter got life without parole after making a deal with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

If recent history is any guide, the chances that Storey’s request for mercy will be granted are slim.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has received 82 clemency applications in capital cases during the past five fiscal years and has recommended that none be granted. Neither Governor Rick Perry nor Greg Abbott have granted anyone clemency in a capital case during the past five fiscal years.

Texas also tends not to commute sentences for those convicted of crime. Out of the 551 commutation applications received during the past five fiscal years the board has recommended that four be granted and Abbott and Perry have granted none.

Perry and Abbott have not granted any emergency reprieves, conditional pardons, restorations of civil rights or pardons based on innocence during the past five years, despite the hundreds of applications received by the board during that same time period.

The pardons board has recommended that only a few applications be considered during the past five fiscal years.

Despite the daunting statistics, Storey’s advocates say they have hope that mercy will be granted in his case.

“Every case is unique and every case should be looked at that way,” said Mike Ware, one of the attorneys representing Storey. “Hopefully we can persuade the board and the governor to look at this case as a unique case. The reality is at this stage of the proceedings a clemency petition is just about the only thing a defendant can ask for.”

Storey’s attorneys argue in his clemency petition that almost no one associated with his case wanted him to be executed. The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office offered Storey a life sentence which he refused and Glenn and Judy Cherry, the victim’s parents, have made a video and sent a letter to state and local officials asking that his life be spared.

Storey’s mother, Marilyn Shankle-Grant, said Storey told her that he would have had to admit to killing Cherry in order to be offered a life prison sentence and Storey maintained that he did not kill Cherry.

“Paul said he did not shoot Cherry in the head,” Shankle-Grant said.

Misrepresentations


Jonas Cherry
Jonas Cherry
According to the petition, the views of Cherry’s parents were misrepresented by prosecutors during the original trial.

The prosecution argued that all of Cherry’s family and everyone who loved him believe that the death penalty is appropriate, the petition said. According to Storey’s attorneys and advocates, that was not true then and that is not true now.

“Judith and Glenn Cherry did not want death for Mr. Storey,” the petition states. “Unknown to the jury and contrary to the state’s argument, they stood with the family members who pleaded for the jury to spare Mr. Storey’s life.”

Subsequent psychological testing also indicated that Storey was just barely functional intellectually.

A juror, Sven Berger, who deliberated on Storey’s case, signed affidavits stating that had he known that the parents of the victim did not want Storey to receive the death penalty or had he known about Storey’s diminished intellectual capacity, he would not have voted for the death penalty.

“I hope that everything works out for Paul,” Berger said during an interview. “I felt kind of guilty. I still feel kind of guilty. The trial has never left my mind completely. And lately, I’ve thought about it a lot more.”

Source: Star-Telegram, Mitch Mitchell, March 24, 2017

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Overcrowded Thai prisons need reform

Thai prison: "Inmates live in inhumane and degrading conditions."
Thai prison: "Inmates live in inhumane and degrading conditions."
Thailand's long-standing policy of harsh sentences for drug offenders including petty drug users and small time dealers has overcrowded its prisons, forcing female and male prisoners to live in inhumane and degrading conditions. Jails in Thailand are the most cramped in Southeast Asia. The country's prison occupancy rate is also the world's 10th highest.

Even though reforms of harsh drug laws are ongoing and an amended penal act was just passed, much-needed substantive penal reform is yet to be achieved. This is unfortunate for the country which has led the United Nations' efforts in setting global standards for female prisoners.

Basically, overcrowding in Thai prisons is still rife. Thailand's prison population has increased annually since 2011. With 425 prisoners per 100,000 people, 70% of the inmates are drug offenders. The prison occupancy rate, according to statistics published by the International Federation for Human Rights, is 224%.

That means the average human has an allocated floor space of approximately one square metre. And, in many prisons, the occupancy rate passes 300%, with nine provincial or district prisons topping 400%.

Furthermore, Thailand has the world's highest incarceration rate of women, approximately 39,000, many of whom are "drug mules".

Overcrowding drives inhumane and degrading treatment, including lack of access to medical treatment, insufficient food and drinking water, and poor sanitation facilities, with prisoners surrounded by their own urine and fecal matter. The overcrowding particularly impacts women, especially those pregnant or with babies.

Thailand has explicitly committed itself to international standards for humane prisons. The Thai Department of Corrections' motto reads "Caring Custody, Meaningful Rehabilitation, International Standard Achievement". This claim to international standards means attaining minimum standards compliant with a number of international treaties to which Thailand is a party.

These include the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights' Article 5 which guarantees the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as elaborated on in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Moreover, Thailand is bound to implement the 2015 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs) and the 2010 UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders, or "Bangkok Rules", championed by Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha.

In February 2017, Thailand amended its 1936 Penitentiary Act, formalising the adoption of various improvements over the years, including the 2005 ministerial regulation revoking flogging. For the first time, it included specific clauses on female prisoners with children and on pregnant prisoners, as well as healthcare. It also announced the formation of a 20-member penitentiary affairs committee to formulate guidelines and improve penitentiary affairs.

Nonetheless, the revised act falls short of meeting international minimum standards. Specifically, under Article 21, Thai prisons still employ shackles and leg irons when "restraint is deemed reasonable by the official in charge of the escort". This means restraints are still used as a first, rather than last, resort. This is contrary to the SMRs, which state such restraints can only be used as a precautionary measure during transfer, or to prevent prisoners from damaging property or injuring themselves. In addition, under Article 69 of the amended act, the period of solitary confinement in Thai prisons is double that of the recommended SMRs maximum of 15 days.

Moreover, Article 23 of the revised act permits free use of firearms in the case of escape or when three or more prisoners act together to cause a disturbance or to open or destroy prison gates, fences, or walls, or other buildings, or attempt to violently injure another person.

This is contrary to the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, where firearms are only permitted when there is clear danger, such as self-defence.

Further, Article 30 encourages the culture of impunity enjoyed by state officials. Under certain circumstances, it exempts prison officials from civil and criminal liability, negating Article 2 of the ICCPR, which states that some form of remedy must exist for those whose rights have been violated, "notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity".

Finally, Article 33 permits the Department of Corrections to designate places other than prisons as custodial centres. This provision circumvents the entire penal system by legalising additional detention facilities set up at military bases around the country, including the now notorious Nakhon Chaisri temporary detention facility inside the 11th Army Circle base in Bangkok. The obvious problem with military "grey" detention facilities is the lack of access to independent observers and the increased risk of inhumane conditions, including torture.

Thus, despite some improvements, Thailand still falls far short of its own goal of meeting international standards. In several criteria, its prisons remain amongst the worst in the world.

Yet, Thailand also has great potential to serve as a beacon for reform. HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, a trained lawyer and prosecutor with a doctorate from Cornell University, founded the Kamlangjai (Inspire) and Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates Projects to assist female prisoners, directly leading to the 2010 UN's "Bangkok Rules".

Ultimately, while reductions in sentencing for drug offences were recently implemented via Narcotic Act reforms, more alternatives to both imprisonment and the death sentence need to be better explored. Efficacy of punishment is less related to severity of sentence than to likelihood of detection.

This is why the death penalty is not an efficient deterrent. Moreover, though Thailand is secular, various Buddhist sutras depict kings rejecting execution for humane reasons and to avoid kammic consequences.

To achieve rapid and substantial reforms, a specially appointed penal reform and death penalty commission, empowered with clear terms of reference and chaired by an inspirational and qualified charismatic figure, would be more efficacious than the current bureaucratic committee approach.

Source: Bangkok Post, John Draper, Peerasit Kamnuansilpa, March 25, 2017. John Draper is director, Social Survey Centre, College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University. Peerasit Kamnuansilpa Phd is founder and former dean of the College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University.

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Fate of death penalty set to heat up in Nevada Legislature

The newly completed death chamber at Ely State Prison, Nevada
The newly completed $860,000 death chamber at Ely State Prison, Nevada
CARSON CITY — The death penalty may be ending in Nevada.

Assembly Bill 237 in the Legislature would ban capital punishment and commute the sentences of inmates on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Supporters of the move say the time is right to end the death penalty in Nevada. The state has been unable to find a company to provide the cocktail of drugs needed for lethal injection, making it impossible to administer the punishment. Meanwhile, a death chamber that the state finished last year remains unused.

“I feel like now we can show it is a burden to the taxpayers,” said Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas. He’s sponsoring the bill with Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.

Prosecutors say that the death penalty is an important option that should be available for heinous crimes, and that cases are carefully reviewed before deciding to seek the death penalty.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will hear the bill Wednesday.

If it is enacted, Nevada would join 19 other states that have no death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, governors in four of the 31 states with a death penalty have imposed a moratorium on the punishment.

History


Even before last year, when Nevada found itself without the drugs needed for execution, imposing the sentence has been relatively rare since it was reinstated in the state in 1977. 

There are currently 82 inmates with death sentences, including Javier Righetti, who was sentenced Tuesday for the rape and murder of Alyssa Otremba.

The death penalty in Nevada only applies to first-degree murder convictions with aggravating circumstances, such as those involving a child, torturing a victim or committing the murder during a robbery or kidnapping.

About 160 defendants have received the death sentence in Nevada in the last four decades, but only 12 of those have been executed. Eleven volunteered to be executed, opting not to pursue further appeals.

All the others have either died in prison or had their death sentences overturned and been re-sentenced. In one case, Clark County awarded Roberto Miranda, who was on death row for 14 years, $5 million after a judge ordered a new trial because of a poor defense, and prosecutors opted not to try the case again.

Nevada Department of Corrections officials sent out 247 requests for proposals last year after its stockpile of at least one drug used in executions had expired.

No responses were received. Spokeswoman Brooke Keast said the department is still exploring options, but it is unclear what those options are.

The last execution in Nevada occurred at the Nevada State Prison on April 26, 2006, when Daryl Mack was put to death. Mack was executed for the rape and murder of a Reno woman, Betty Jane May, in 1988.

The 2015 Legislature approved nearly $860,000 for a new execution chamber at the Ely State Prison, which houses Nevada’s death row population.

Costs


A 2014 state audit found a death penalty case costs about $1.3 million. A murder case that does not involve the death penalty costs about $775,000, which includes defense fees and incarceration costs from arrest through the end an inmate’s incarceration.

“It is hard for me to think of a bigger waste of Nevada’s resources than pursuing a death penalty we can’t enforce,” said Scott Coffee, an attorney in the Clark County Public Defender’s Office.

In death penalty cases, defendants get two attorneys instead of one. Because most defendants cannot afford their own legal counsel, that means taxpayers shoulder the cost of defending someone staring down a possible death sentence.

“It is less expensive to try a case non-capital and get a sentence of life without parole than it is to file a death notice and negotiate the case,” Coffee said.

Other costs come into the equation, too.

Death penalty cases require hiring experts and evaluating a defendant for potential mitigating factors such as intellectual disability, he said.

“In a capital case, I am required to investigate somebody’s entire life history, and that is extremely expensive,” Coffee said.

Source: Review Journal, Ben Botkin, March 25, 2017

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Arkansas Struggles to Find Enough People to Watch Executions

Lethal Injection Chamber From Witness Room, Cummins Unit, Grady, Arkansas,
Death Chamber From Witness Area, Cummins Unit, Grady, Arkansas
The state of Arkansas, which plans to execute eight inmates over a period of 10 days next month, is struggling to overcome a logistical problem to carry that out: There are not enough people who want to watch them die.

A state law requires that at least six people witness an execution to ensure that the state’s death penalty laws are properly followed. But so far, finding that many people has proved difficult, prompting the director at the Department of Correction to take the extraordinary step of personally asking for volunteers.

A department spokesman declined to say whom the director, Wendy Kelley, has approached for help, but she has extended invitations at least to members of the Little Rock Rotary Club, according to news reports. Ms. Kelley made the request, which the members initially thought was a joke, after delivering a keynote address on Tuesday.

“You seem to be a group that does not have felony backgrounds and are over 21,” Ms. Kelley told the members, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “So if you’re interested in serving in that area, in this serious role, just call my office.”

Bill Booker, a Rotary Club member, said some people in the audience briefly laughed at her remarks. “It quickly became obvious that she was not kidding,” he told KARK-TV, an NBC affiliate in Little Rock.

The spokesman for the Department of Correction, Solomon Graves, declined to describe the response Ms. Kelley had received to her requests. “We continue to be confident in our ability to carry out these sentences on the dates set by the governor,” Mr. Graves wrote in a text message on Friday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas last month scheduled the executions of eight men — four black and four white, and all convicted of murder — from April 17 to 27. Two men will be executed on each of four execution dates within that time.

The dates were placed so closely together because of another logistical issue: Arkansas’s supply of midazolam, a sedative used in a three-drug injection method, has an expiration date at the end of April.

Capital punishment has been suspended in Arkansas since 2005 because of legal challenges and the difficulty in acquiring lethal-injection drugs. The state tried to restart its capital punishment system in 2015 and set dates for that year, but appeals forced the postponement of the executions.

The state law requires six to 12 “respectable citizens” to be present, and Ms. Kelley told the Rotary Club that the state also struggled in 2015 to find enough witnesses for the executions before they were suspended.

Source: The New York Times, Matthew Haag, March 25, 2017


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Hosni Mubarak Is Freed, to Dismay of Many in Egypt

Hosni Mubarak waved to supporters in 2015 from the Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo.
Hosni Mubarak waves to supporters in 2015 from a military hospital in Cairo.
Mubarak faced numerous charges, some of which carried the death penalty as a potential sentence.

CAIRO — Six years after baying crowds ousted him at the peak of the Arab Spring, former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was freed on Friday from the Cairo hospital where he had been detained, capping a long and largely fruitless effort to hold him accountable for human rights abuses and endemic corruption during his three decades of rule.

Mr. Mubarak, 88, was taken from the Maadi Military Hospital in southern Cairo, where he had been living under guard in a room with a view of the Nile, to his mansion in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Heliopolis.

“He went home at 8:30 this morning,” said his longtime lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, who stewarded Mr. Mubarak through a tangled cluster of prosecutions since 2011, speaking by telephone. “I don’t have further details, but he is home and all is well now.”

His release begins a third act for a once unassailable Arab ruler and American ally who came to power in 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat during a military parade. Thirty years later, Mr. Mubarak was ousted by the multitudes that thronged Tahrir Square for 18 days in the heady, hopeful early months of the Arab Spring.

At the time, Mr. Mubarak’s fall seemed to signal an earthquake of change across the Arab world, shattering the established political order, suggesting that its most powerful leaders were no longer immune from prosecution.

His release capped the crushing of those hopes, and the enduring disappointment of the Egyptians who risked their lives to topple him — even if many now say the challenge is far bigger than a single man.

“At this point, I really don’t care,” said Ahmed Harara, an activist who lost his sight after he was shot by police, first in the right eye and then in the left eye, during the demonstrations that shook Cairo in 2011. “I realized years ago that this is not just about Mubarak and his regime — it’s an entire system that has now resurrected itself.”

Weary, apathetic or fearful of openly speaking their mind, Egyptians have grown shy of confronting power. The years of trials of Mr. Mubarak, on a wide range of charges, ultimately yielded a single conviction on a minor corruption charge. Few expect that his release from detention — an unthinkable prospect just a few years ago — will result in any significant protests.

After becoming the first Arab leader to face trial in his own country, Mr. Mubarak was initially imprisoned at the notorious Tora prison complex, and was then held at the Maadi Military Hospital. He faced numerous charges, some of which carried the death penalty as a potential sentence.

Mr. Mubarak faced accusations of conspiring with the police to kill 239 protesters in Tahrir Square; of siphoning tens of millions of dollars from the state coffers; and of cutting off the country’s internet during the 2011 uprising, among other crimes. But what astonished Egyptians most was the sight of a man many had long feared, scowling in a courtroom cage.

Despite the severity of the charges, Mr. Mubarak remained defiant, insisting that it was he, not the Egyptian people, who had been wronged. His sons, Alaa and Gamal, joined him in the dock, accused of embezzling millions of dollars and overseeing a vast system of cronyism and corruption.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: The New York Times, Declan Walsh, March 24, 2017


Mubarak free while hundreds face death penalty - Reprieve comment


Commenting on reports that former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has been freed, Harriet McCulloch, a deputy director at human rights organisation Reprieve, said:

“As Hosni Mubarak goes free in Egypt, thousands of prisoners still languish in horrific prison conditions. Many face the death penalty on charges relating to protests, in mass trials that make a mockery of due process. Some were arrested as children – people like Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who has suffered terrible abuses in jail. The Sisi Government must now show that Egypt’s justice system is worthy of the name and release Ibrahim, and the hundreds like him.”

Several prisoners in Egypt are awaiting the death penalty despite having been children when they were arrested. They include Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who faces a death sentence in a trial alongside 493 other people, and Hatem Zaghloul, who was sentenced to death as a juvenile.

According to figures collated by Reprieve, nearly 2,000 people have received death sentences in mass trials, while nearly 900 people continue to face the death penalty. The figures are available on request.

Reprieve has discovered that the European Union is funding a €10m project that has seen a UK state-owned company provide Egypt’s justice ministry with support. The project has seen the UK company, NI-CO, provide plans and equipment for the building of courthouses – including a juvenile court in Cairo.

The UK Foreign Office’s 2016 'Human Rights Priority Country' update on Egypt said: “Egyptian courts continued to use the death penalty,” and highlighted “the mass trial of 494 individuals on charges related to a protest that took place in August 2013, which includes Irish national Ibrahim Halawa.”

Source. Reprieve, March 24, 2017

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Judicial leave application for Malaysians on Singapore death row dismissed

S. Prabagaran
S. Prabagaran
KUALA LUMPUR: The applications for leave for a judicial review by two Malaysians who are on death row in Singapore for drug trafficking have been dismissed by the High Court here.

S. Prabagaran, 30, and factory worker K. Datchinamurthy, 32, and their mothers filed the leave applications to compel the Government to refer Singapore to an international court claiming that they were denied fair trial.

Justice Hanipah Farikullah struck out the applications by Prabagaran and his mother V. Eswary, 54, and also Datchinamurthy and his mother A. Letchumi in chambers on Thursday.

Met by reporters later, counsel N. Surendran said Justice Hanipah dismissed their applications on grounds that the matter was related to foreign policy and the court has no jurisdiction to interfere.

Surendran said Prabagaran and Datchinamurthy and their mothers wanted to obtain an order for the Government to refer the island republic to International Court of Justice (ICJ) saying that they were denied fair trial.

He said their applications to refer the issue had been struck out by the court and the court made no order as to cost as the matter was public interest.

"We will definitely appeal as we think the decision is wrong.

"This is regarding the treatment of our citizens abroad. So our view is that the court could interfere and issue the necessary order," he said.

Prabagaran and Eswary are applying to the High Court in Malaysia to compel the Government here to take his case to ICJ.

They have named the Malaysian Government and its Foreign Affairs Minister as respondents.

Among others, they are seeking a declaration that the respondents are legally obliged to protect and give effect to Prabagaran’s right to a fair trial and life and liberty.

In her affidavit, Eswary said that her son was convicted in the Singapore High Court on July 22, 2014, for trafficking in 22.24g of diamorphine.

She said he was sentenced to death on Sept 22 that year under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Eswary said her son’s appeal to the Singapore Court of Appeal was dismissed on Oct 2, 2015.

She said Prabagaran then applied to the Court of Appeal to re-open his appeal and set aside his death sentence but this was dismissed on Dec 2 last year.

Eswary said she submitted a memorandum to the Malaysian High Commission in Singapore to refer the case to the ICJ on Dec 21 last year but there had been no response.

Meanwhile, Datchinamurthy and his mother Letchumi are seeking a declaration from the Malaysian Government and its Foreign Ministry that they are legally obliged to protect and give Datchinamurthy a right to a fair trial and/or right to life and liberty.

Source: The Star Online, March 24, 2017

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Pakistani among two drug dealers executed by Saudi Arabia

Medieval and barbaric: public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Medieval and barbaric: public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia executed two convicted drug traffickers on Thursday, bringing the number of prisoners killed in the kingdom to 20 so far this year.

The state-run SPA news agency named the two men as Saudi Arabian national Nasser Harshan and Pakistani national Namtallah Khasta Qul.

Both were put to death on Thursday after being convicted of drug trafficking in the kingdom.

SPA said Harshan was a repeat offender found guilty of dealing hashish. Qul was found guilty of dealing heroin.

More than 150 people were executed last year in Saudi Arabia, according to London-based rights group Amnesty International.

Saudi Arabia has a strict Islamic legal code (Sharia) under which murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death.

Amnesty reported 158 death penalties in the country for 2015, the highest annual rate in the past two decades.

Among those executed last year was Shia cleric Nimr al Nimr, a high-profile figure behind a string of Shia protests in 2011 demanding reform in the kingdom.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 23, 2017

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Bahrain: Three get death penalty on terror charges

A Bahrain court sentenced three people to death and 14 others to lengthy prison terms on charges they established a terrorist cell with the intent of killing policemen.

In addition to the three people sentenced to death Thursday, Bahrain's criminal court sentenced four others to life in prison in the same case.

Eight more defendants in the case were handed 15-year sentences and two were sentenced to 10 years. 

The group was charged with forming a cell that made explosives used against security forces.

Bahrain was rocked by Arab Spring-inspired protests in 2011 led by the country's Shiite majority. 

The Sunni monarchy crushed the uprising with the aid of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The tiny Gulf nation is home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base.

Source: Associated Press, March 24, 2017

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Nigeria: Cynthia Osokogu's Killers Get Death Penalty

Lagos, Nigeria
Lagos, Nigeria
A Lagos State High Court in Igbosere on Thursday ordered the hanging of Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike who were charged with the murder of a post-graduate student of Nasarawa State University, Ms. Cynthia Osokogu.

The judge said the convicts should be hung by the neck until they are dead.

Osokogu had been lured from Abuja to Lagos on July 21, 2012 by Nwabufo, whom she had met and befriended on Facebook.

Nwabufo had paid for the deceased's flight ticket from Abuja and lodged her in Room C1 at Cosmilla Hotel, Lake View Estate, Festac Town, Lagos, where he later, in collusion with Ezike, murdered her on July 22, 2012.

In the hotel room, the convicts had drugged Cynthia, who was 25 years old, by putting Rohypnol in her Ribena drink after which they chained her hands to her back and secured same with a padlock.

Rohypnol is legally prescribed for medical use in more than 50 foreign countries for the treatment of insomnia and as a pre-anesthetic. It may cause drowsiness, confusion, impaired motor skills, dizziness, disorientation, dis-inhibition, impaired judgment, and reduced levels of consciousness.

The deceased's legs were also chained while her mouth was stuffed with a handkerchief and part of the weave-on that she had on her head.

A tape was thereafter fastened across her mouth to secure the materials stuffed in her mouth.

The convicts then made away with her two Blackberry mobile phones, jewelry, a sex toy vibrator, her international passport, and a pair of shoes.

After the murder and their apprehension, the Lagos State Government on February 8, 2013 arraigned Nwabufo and Ezike on six counts of conspiracy, murder and stealing, contrary to Sections 231, 221 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.

Arraigned along with them was a pharmacist, Orji Osita, who was accused of dispensing Rohypnol to the convicts without a doctor's prescription.

Also arraigned was the second defendant's brother, Nonso, who was accused of being in possession of the two stolen Blackberry mobile phones.

In a judgment delivered on Thursday, almost five years after the crime, Justice Olabisi Akinlade convicted Nwabufo and Ezike as charged by the state.

She, however, discharged and acquitted Osita and Nonso on the grounds that the state did not prove the charges of recklessness and negligence pressed against them beyond reasonable doubt.

In convicting Nwabufo and Ezike, the judge relied on the oral evidence of 10 witnesses and the 17 exhibits tendered by the prosecution, as well as the confessional statements of the accused persons.

Among the witnesses were two receptionists at Cosmilla Hotel, who booked the convicts into the hotel on the night of July 21, 2012. Also called was the hotel manager and a pathologist, who gave the cause of Cynthia's death as asphyxia, and the policemen who investigated the case.

In her judgment, Justice Akinlade held that though there was no direct eyewitness, the circumstantial evidence placed before the court by the state were "cogent, complete, unequivocal, compelling and leads to the irresistible conclusion that the accused persons and no one else committed the crime".

"The first and second defendants were positioned at the scene of the crime at Cosmilla Hotel. The circumstantial evidence against the first and second defendants is compelling and cogent and leaves no doubt in anyone's mind that they killed the deceased.

"It is on record that the first and second defendants made a confessional statement describing how they caused the death of the deceased," the judge held.

After pronouncing them guilty, she sentenced them to 14 years imprisonment for conspiracy, three years imprisonment for stealing, and imposed the death sentence by hanging for the offence of murder.

Before handing down the sentences, the judge asked the defendants if they had anything to say.

Counsel for the convicts, Mr. Victor Opara and S. Eze, urged the judge to temper justice with mercy.

Opara said Nwabufo was a first-time offender, adding that the convict was a young man who had "tremendous energy to do something worthwhile with his life".

"I urge this court to grant him a reformative sentence," Opara pleaded.

But in her response, Justice Akinlade said: "I have listened passionately to the allocutus of counsel. Section 221 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State says clearly that a person who commits murder shall be sentenced to death.

"In judgment, justice is required not only for the victim, but also for the society.

"In their attempt to steal Cynthia's property, they stole her life. They were not even remorseful.

"But for the efforts of the police and the Ministry of Justice, we wouldn't have been able to do anything. This court cannot change the law."

Concluding her ruling, the judge said: "I pronounce the judgment of this court upon you, Okwumo Nwabufo and Olisaeloka Ezike, that both of you be hung by the neck, until you are dead. May God have mercy on you."

Source: AllAfrica, Davidson Iriekpen, March 24, 2017

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Pakistan: Three accused of blasphemy handed over to FIA on physical remand

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty.

ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – An anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Friday handed over three accused to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on a seven-day remand for allegedly posting blasphemous contents on social media websites.

ATC Judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi has directed the authorities to present complete investigation report in the next hearing.

During the case hearing, FIA officials informed court that computers confiscated from the accused have been sent for forensic report.

Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty.


He instructed foreign ministry to contact international foreign social media firms and demand the blocking of blasphemous posts.

He did not mention any company by name, but social networks such as Facebook Inc, its Instagram unit and rival Twitter Inc are popular in Pakistan.

Source: dunyanews.tv, March 24, 2017

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The Life and Death Issue Ignored at Judge Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearings

AS DONALD TRUMP stood in the East Room of the White House on January 31, congratulating himself for delivering “the very best judge in the country” for the U.S. Supreme Court, a man in Missouri was lying on a gurney, with lethal injection drugs entering his veins. The man, 37-year-old Mark Christeson, was declared dead minutes later, at 7:05 Central time. In Washington, Trump continued to speak, with Judge Neil Gorsuch and his wife now standing behind him. With much of the country tuned in to watch Trump’s much-hyped announcement that night, the execution in Missouri flew under the radar.

Convicted of a brutal rape and triple murder committed in 1998, Christeson was not someone likely to inspire widespread concern on any given evening. Yet his execution was a reminder of the kinds of cases Gorsuch would review if confirmed to the Supreme Court. Christeson — a lifelong victim of sexual abuse whose IQ hovered as low as 74 — was abandoned by his own post-conviction attorneys, who missed a crucial deadline to file his federal habeas appeal in 2005. When outside lawyers tried to step in to correct their gross neglect, courts blocked them at every turn. As Christeson’s execution approached, a group of former state and federal judges raised alarm about his case, filing multiple amicus briefs to his petitions before the Supreme Court. They warned that Christeson had received no “meaningful federal review” of his sentence. “When the stakes are this high, such failures unacceptably threaten the legitimacy of the judicial process,” the judges wrote. Christeson won a last-minute stay of execution in 2014, with the justices remanding his case back to the lower court. But the reprieve was fleeting. As with many on death row who turn to the Supreme Court for relief, Christeson was ultimately executed, the deep flaws with his case barely addressed, let alone corrected.

Over two long days before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, Gorsuch was never asked his views on the death penalty. More time was spent discussing fly-fishing and rodeos, along with more serious (if redundant) questioning on life and death issues like abortion and euthanasia. This was not particularly surprising; confirmation hearings are mostly political theater — and Gorsuch’s record on criminal justice has stirred little controversy compared to other hot-button issues. Many lawyers and experts expressed a measure of relief when Trump announced Gorsuch as his Supreme Court pick. “I don’t think he’s a fire-breathing, law and order, pro-prosecutor guy,” said Tejinder Singh, the appellate and Supreme Court litigator who won a stay of execution for Mark Christeson in 2014.

Yet Gorsuch seeks to join the Supreme Court at a time when the death penalty is in a state of chaos and decline. The issue has sparked some of the most contentious public moments on the bench in recent memory, and with good reason. For all the layers of legal precedent enveloping capital punishment, it is a tradition that has become increasingly hard to uphold, at least in any intellectually honest way. The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on lethal injection, Glossip v. Gross, was simply embarrassing: After a heated oral argument in which the Oklahoma brazenly misled the justices, the 5-4 decision upheld an execution protocol that is the sloppiest of inventions, rooted in junk science, and peddled by a state notorious at the time for having recently carried out a dramatically botched execution. Glossip’s legacy has been short but grim. Oklahoma’s incompetence and deceit has been further exposed. Botched executions have continued apace. More surreal, the ruling has put people challenging their upcoming execution by lethal injection in the perverse position of having to propose better ways for the state to kill them, from the firing squad to the gas chamber. Add to this the fact that the named plaintiff in the case, Richard Glossip, is almost certainly an innocent man, and the result is a perfectly hideous portrait of our modern-day death penalty system. It was Glossip that inspired Justice Stephen Breyer’s extraordinary dissent listing the myriad reasons the death penalty itself is constitutionally intolerable. More recently, Justice Sonia Sotomayor has questioned whether lethal injection is “our most cruel experiment yet.”

Glossip came up just once during Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, in a brief question from Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Does Glossip deserve the respect of precedent, he asked? “It does,” Gorsuch said, and that was it. That no senator thought to probe any further was a missed opportunity. In his 10 years serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch presided over cases that embodied the pitfalls of capital punishment, and even helped pave the way for Glossip. A recent report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund highlighted two particular areas of concern. One is his complicity in upholding Oklahoma’s disastrous lethal injection regimen, which became the law of the land in Glossip. And the other is complicity in a more systemic problem throughout the criminal justice system: a pattern of favoring finality over fairness. Gorsuch, the LDF warns, has proven all too willing to apply the most rigid barriers for those seeking to challenge unfair sentences, including in capital cases. “Winning federal habeas relief from any judge is a challenge,” the LDF report notes. “Winning federal habeas relief from Judge Gorsuch is a near impossibility.”


Source: The Intercept, Liliana Segura, March 23, 2017

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Malaysia to scrap mandatory death sentence for drug offences

Government agrees to give courts discretion in imposing death penalty for narcotics offences.

The Malaysian government has agreed to do away with the mandatory death sentence imposed for drug offences.

Azalina Othman Said, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, told Parliament that the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 will be amended to allow judges to exercise discretion when deciding on the appropriate sentence.

The decision was taken by the Cabinet after considering a report on the review of the act and the death penalty. The Attorney-General, Mohamed Apandi Ali, had also presented a case in favour of granting judges discretionary powers to the cabinet on 1 March.

Malay Mail said that Apandi, a former judge himself, had previously stated that he had sought discretionary powers for judges, especially in marginal cases where offenders could instead be handed jail sentences. This was aimed at cases where convicts were coerced or duped into becoming drug mules.

"The cabinet agreed to include additional provisions to empower the court when sentencing other than the mandatory death penalty under certain situations in drug trafficking under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act," she told Parliament on Thursday (23 March).

Malaysia is still maintaining the death penalty for other serious offences like murder and firearms offences.

"Other countries, including the United States, China, India, Singapore and Thailand still maintain the death penalty as the punishment for serious offences," she said.

The solicitor-general has been directed to speed up the draft amendments to be tabled for approval in Parliament, Azalina added.

When asked whether the government would place a moratorium on pending drug cases until the act was amended, the minister said the issue was still at an early stage and that there were still several processes to go through.

According to the Prison Department statistics, there are almost 800 prisoners on death row for drug trafficking offences under Section 39 (B) of the Act.

Source: IBT, Rachel Middleton, March 24, 2017

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