Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Grandstanders, uh, I mean congress speak.

Leahy Reacts To Exoneration Of 100th Death Row Inmate
Tue Apr 9, 2:52 PM ET

WASHINGTON, April 9 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is chief sponsor of the Innocence Protection Act (S.486), a package of death penalty reforms. Chief Republican cosponsor of the bipartisan Senate bill -- which now has 25 cosponsors -- is Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee (news - web sites). The counterpart bipartisan House bill (H.R.912), introduced by Reps. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) and Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), now is cosponsored by about half of the membership of the U.S. House of Representatives. Leahy on Tuesday released the following comments on the milestone reached when Ray Krone, released from Arizona State Prison in Yuma on Monday, became the 100th death row exoneree. Krone was exonerated by DNA evidence.

"Our nation this week reached an infamous milestone: 100 known -- and goodness only knows how many unknown -- cases of people being sentenced to death, since the reinstatement of capital punishment, for crimes they did not commit. (Ed. Note: No such cases have been made public to date)

"There should be no shame in errors made by well-meaning jurors, because human error is inevitable. But what is deeply shameful is a political and legal establishment that lives in denial. What shocks me most about this case is not that yet another innocent man's life was ruined; it is that the prosecutor then called the system that did that 'the best in the world.' He is still back in the 1990s, the decade that saw Congress rushing to speed up the executions of people like Ray Krone; Supreme Court justices 'doubting' whether our Constitution even forbids executing innocent people; and a shadowy clique of bad prosecutors and pseudo-academics engaging in innocence-denial: pretending that innocent people were guilty, pretending that DNA evidence proves nothing, pretending that sleeping lawyers can ensure justice.

"The time for denial is over. We know that the system has identifiable flaws. The system did not work for Ray Krone in his first trial, or in his second. We know that it has innocent victims. Ray Krone lost 10 years of his life while Arizona's women were endangered because the wrong man was in jail. We know the principal cause of its failings at the trial stage -- incompetent and underfunded defense counsel -- and we have a cheap and reliable post-trial tool at hand, DNA testing.

"There is room for constructive dialogue about the pros and cons of the death penalty. There is no room for compromise in the debate between denial and truth. We must stop, now, living in denial. To expunge the national shame of denial, we need strong national safeguards for truth: a federal guarantee of competent counsel and of DNA testing wherever relevant. These are two of the straightforward reforms proposed by the bipartisan Innocence Protection Act, which has been pending before the Congress for nearly two years. It is past time to enact these reforms and to end this cruel game of Russian Roulette."


U.S. Supreme Court issues stay of execution for Tennessee killer seeking appeal.
Mon Apr 8, 8:41 PM ET
By AMBER McDOWELL, Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE, Tennessee - The U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) delayed the execution of a condemned murderer until it could decide whether a judge should hear his claims that prosecutors didn't turn over evidence, made misleading statements and improperly prepared witnesses.

Before Monday's delay, Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, 51, was to die by lethal injection early Wednesday for the 1986 murder of a Nashville drug dealer.

Abdur'Rahman wants a federal judge in Nashville to hear his claims of misconduct by prosecutors, which he says lead to his death sentence in 1987.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in February ruled against a hearing, saying a review of the allegation is precluded by a federal law that limits death penalty appeals. Defense lawyers argue their claims should be reviewed under a different federal rule.

A decision from the Supreme Court justices was expected next week, said Abdur'Rahman's attorney, Brad MacLean.

"We've always had the faith that we would get relief," MacLean said. "It's unfortunate that it's taken so long."

If the high court decides not to allow a judge to hear his appeal, the stay of execution will be lifted and the state will set a new date.

State Attorney General Paul Summers had no comment Monday. "We'll just wait and see what the courts decide," said his spokeswoman, Sharon Curtis-Flair.

Last October, the Supreme Court turned down an another appeal from Abdur'Rahman. His lawyers had asked the court to consider whether better legal help could have persuaded a jury to sentence him to life in prison for the stabbing death Patrick Daniels.

Abdur'Rahman claimed his old attorneys didn't present evidence of his history of mental illness and child abuse.

Abdur'Rahman was on parole for killing an inmate at a federal prison in Virginia when he killed Daniels. He said he was trying to cleanse the Nashville community of drug dealers who sold to children.

A busy day for Amnesty International.

On the occasion of the "100th Person Freed From Death Row, Amnesty International Calls on State Governors to Halt All Executions."

WASHINGTON, April 9 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following was released today by Amnesty International:

As Arizona prisoner Ray Krone became the 100th person exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973, Amnesty International today called on the governors from all 38 executing states to recognize that the system is not working and to declare a moratorium as a means to abolish the death penalty.

"These exonerated people represent the exception to the rule in the US capital punishment system -- meanwhile other innocent people awaiting their executions on death row may be erroneously killed," said William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "US governors must acknowledge the inherent flaws in the system, and call for an indefinite halt to executions in their states or risk blood on their hands."

The organization has noted a growing nationwide trend that shows US states scrutinizing the application of the death sentence while US voters' support for the death penalty is holding at a 20-year low. Next week, Illinois Governor George Ryan's Commission on Capital Punishment will release its recommendations after a two year moratorium on executions in the state. In the last year, 21 states have considered legislation curtailing the use of the death penalty. Eighteen states have introduced legislation calling for a moratorium, and last year five states banned the execution of the mentally retarded. In addition, the US Supreme Court will consider capital cases involving incompetent counsel and the execution of the mentally retarded during the 2001-2002 session.

More than half of the countries of the world have recognized that state-sanctioned executions violate international human rights standards. In stark contrast, the US has executed more than 750 prisoners since re-instatement of the death penalty in 1976, 600 of them since 1990, during which time 60 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Dateline: Earth

Naomi Koppel of AP reports that while cruel, the death penalty was not unusual in 2001. China has a huge lead in the overall medal standings....US in a three-way tie in the minors category....

Report: '01 World Executions Doubled
Tue Apr 9, 1:08 PM ET
By NAOMI KOPPEL, Associated Press Writer

GENEVA - The number of known executions around the world doubled last year, with China accounting for 80 percent of that total during its crackdown on crime, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

In its annual report on the death penalty, the human rights group said at least 3,048 people were executed in 31 countries last year.

That includes 2,468 executions in China alone. Between April and July 2001, China executed at least 1,781 people during its national "strike hard" campaign against crime.

Four countries — China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States — were responsible for 90 percent of the death sentences carried out in 2001, Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International said it was particularly concerned about the increasing use of the death penalty for nonviolent offenses, such as homosexuality in Saudi Arabia, drug trafficking in southeast Asia, adultery in Nigeria and Sudan, and corruption or theft in China.

However, Amnesty International said it was encouraged by a reduction in the number of people executed for offenses committed when they were minors.

Three such executions were carried out last year — in the United States, Iran and Pakistan, Arenas said. There have been 15 such executions in the United States since 1990, the most in the world.

"I think there has been a consensus that the execution of those who committed crimes under the age of majority is something that is unacceptable," Arenas said.

Monday, April 08, 2002

Sweet Home Alabama...for a while longer


Supreme Court Halts Ala. Execution

MOBILE, Ala. - The U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) blocked the execution of Gary Leon Brown on Thursday about eight hours before he was to die in Alabama's electric chair for killing a man.

Brown, sentenced to die for the 1986 stabbing death of Jack David McGraw, contends electrocution is impermissibly cruel and unusual punishment. His defense also contends the execution should be halted until the high court rules in an Arizona case involving the way sentences are imposed.

The Supreme Court halted Brown's execution until the justices have time to consider his appeal. If the high court decides against accepting the appeal, the stay would be lifted and the execution date reset. If it accepts the appeal, the execution would be halted indefinitely.

Alabama had four executions scheduled last year and all four were blocked by the courts for various reasons.

The Supreme Court agreed earlier this year to hear a case from Arizona that asks whether a judge instead of a jury can decide whether a convicted killer deserves the death penalty. In Alabama, the jury recommends death or life without parole, but the judge is not bound by the recommendation.

Brown's appeal moved before the nation's highest court after the Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously rejected it.

Alabama and Nebraska are the only two states still using electrocution as a method of execution. Alabama's executions are carried out at Holman Prison in an electric chair known as "Yellow Mama" for its garish color.

Having My Baby...
What a Wonderful Way to....get stone to death in Nigeria..


Nigeria Woman Appeals Death Sentence
Sun Mar 17, 3:14 PM ET
By GLENN McKENZIE, Associated Press Writer

Safiya Hussaini admits having a baby several years after divorcing her husband, but denies it was adultery — the crime that has made her the first person sentenced to death by stoning under Islamic law implemented in a dozen northern Nigerian states.

In the October judgment, an Islamic court ruled that Hussaini should be stoned to death while buried up to her waist in sand for committing adultery with a married neighbor.

Under Islamic law in Sokoto, adultery is punishable by death.

Donations of rice, blankets and baby's clothing have flooded in from around the globe.

As a result, for the first time, Hussaini, who is 35 years old but whose wizened face and calloused hands make her appear much older, has enough food to feed her family.

Under the October ruling, which has been placed on hold pending her appeal, Hussaini could be executed as soon as her child stops nursing.

Hussaini initially argued she was innocent of adultery because she had been raped by her neighbor, Yakubu Abubakar. However, she withdrew the rape accusation after Abubakar fled, apparently fearing arrest. She now accuses relatives and other associates of pressuring her into making the accusation.

During a brief appearance to launch her appeal in January, Hussaini's lawyers said her ex-husband, Yusuf Ibrahim, was the father of the child. Hussaini repeated the claim, saying the conception had occurred before they divorced "some years ago." Sokoto's Islamic law accepts arguments that conception and birth could occur up to seven years apart despite the biological improbability, her lawyers argue. The defense hopes the appeals court will accept that argument as a face-saving device for all sides.

Sokoto's Islamic law, introduced in early 2001, requires that an alleged adulterer confess, or that at least three other witnesses testify. Prosecutors admit they have not fulfilled that requirement. The defense has also raised questions as to the very definition of adultery, and whether it could have been committed after Hussaini had been divorced.

Nigeria, a nation of 120 million people belonging to 250 distinct ethnic groups, has long been riven by cultural and political divisions that periodically flare into violence.

Hussaini, despite the turmoil surrounding her, says if her conviction is overturned she plans to get married again — to her ex-husband Ibrahim. "I hope we can move ... and start again," she said.




Appeals court overrules 25-year sentence of kidnapper, orders execution
Wed Apr 3, 4:22 PM ET

SAN`A, Yemen - An appeals court on Wednesday rejected a 25-year jail sentence issued by a lower court to a Yemeni who kidnapped a German businessman and handed down a new sentence of death.

Ahmed Nasser al-Zayidi was convicted Dec. 19 of kidnapping a German citizen identified only as Karl who worked for United Engineering and Automobile Company, the Mercedes agent in Yemen. It sentenced al-Zayidi to 25 years in jail.

The death sentence handed down by the appeals court still must be ratified by the Supreme court and approved by President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Karl was seized Nov. 28 at gunpoint in the diplomatic quarter of the capital, San`a, and was released Dec. 8 after government shelling of the mountain area where the kidnappers were believed to be hiding and then negotiations with tribal chiefs.

The government passed a law in 1999 making abductions punishable by death after frequent kidnappings harmed Yemen's image abroad and its tourism revenues.

Tribesmen from disadvantaged areas in Yemen, a poor and often lawless country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, tend to take hostages to press demands for government aid or for the release of jailed clansmen.

Most hostages have been treated as guests and released unharmed. However, four Western tourists were killed in 1998 during a botched rescue attempt by government forces of 16 tourists abducted by the militant Aden-Abyan Islamic Army



MANILA, Philippines - Two death-row inmates who President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said would be executed in August cannot be put to death earlier than November, the national prisons chief said Thursday.

Arroyo said Wednesday that the men, Roderick Licayan and Roberto Lara, convicted in 1998 of kidnapping, would be executed in August unless capital punishment is repealed in the meantime.

Gregorio Agaloos, superintendent of the national penitentiary holding the country's death-row inmates, said he had informed the president's office that the Supreme Court affirmed the men's sentences last Aug. 15. But the decision did not actually become final until Nov. 9, 2001.

Under the death-penalty law, an execution should be carried out between 12 and 18 months after the decision becomes final.

Arroyo suspended the death penalty after she took office in January 2001. She lifted the moratorium last October for convicted kidnappers, saying the freeze had emboldened criminals.

Kidnappings, particularly of wealthy ethnic Chinese businessmen, have scared away investors and tourists. Some victims have been killed despite payment of ransom.

The death penalty, abolished in the constitution ratified in 1987, was restored in 1994 for "heinous" crimes such as rape, kidnapping, murder and drug trafficking.

More than 1,690 people have been sentenced to death since then. Human rights groups blocked executions until 1999 and early 2000, when seven convicts were put to death, mostly for rape. They have called for a repeal of the death penalty law, saying it has not deterred crime.