Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Tonight in Texas....

Texas killer nearing execution, despite pleas by victim's parents
Tue May 21, 7:50 PM ET
By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer

LIVINGSTON, Texas - The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to halt Wednesday's scheduled execution of a Texas man whose death sentence is opposed by the parents of his victim.

Martinez is scheduled to receive a lethal injection for killing Corpus Christi convenience store clerk Clay Peterson in 1993.

Martinez confessed to police after surrendering. Peterson's stabbing — four times in the neck and four times in the back after he allowed Martinez to clean out the cash register drawer of dlrs 25.65 — was also videotaped on the store's security camera and shown to the jury.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday narrowly rejected — on a 9-8 vote — a request to commute Martinez's sentence to life.

Peterson's mother, Lana Norris, had written the board asking that Martinez's life be spared. Although not opposed to capital punishment, she said she believed Martinez had repented and she had been called to help save his life. She also said she accepted the outcome.

"We respect the judicial process and the decisions they've reached," she said. "We are very sad for Johnny and his family."

Peterson's father, Paul Peterson of Dallas, also wrote the board, saying, "I do not believe that (Clay) would have demanded the Old Testament punishment of an eye for an eye, but instead would have followed the teachings of Christ to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven."

Dead Man Eating, Hungarian Style!

Prime minister says Hungary should consider reinstatement of death penalty

BUDAPEST, Hungary - Saying his opposition to the death penalty had been changed by a bloody bank robbery in which eight people were killed, outgoing Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday called for Hungary to reconsider its ban of the penalty.

Orban said he changed his mind about the death penalty — banned here since 1990 — when he met with relatives of those killed in the May 9 bank robbery, Hungary's most violent crime in recent memory.

Two robbers targeting a branch of Austrian Erste Bank in Mor, a small town 65 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Budapest, killed everyone inside the bank and left with 7.4 million forints (dlrs 27,400). The robbers remain at large.

"After what happened, our place should be among those European countries which say that applying the death penalty should again be a decision left to the jurisdiction of each country," Orban said in an interview broadcast Wednesday on state radio.

Orban acknowledged that reinstating the death penalty would keep Hungary outside the European Union which bans the penalty, but added that the EU could also change its position.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Dateline: Iran

Public Execution Common in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - The condemned man kissed the rope.

"I am not scared," Ahmad Dowlatyari shouted to the crowd that assembled at sunrise Monday to watch his hanging. "My life is now over. I want to go with a smile."

A tow truck's crane rose with a hydraulic hiss. The orange rope stiffened. Dowlatyari — convicted of murdering his crime partner in a fight over stolen gold — gasped once and was dead.

The spectacle of public executions has become commonplace in Iran since the Islamic Revolution 23 years ago.

At least 139 documented executions were carried out in Iran last year — publicly or in prisons — compared with 75 in 2000, but both figures could be "considerably higher," according to the London-based rights group Amnesty International. Iran does not release death penalty statistics.

In the United States, there were 66 executions last year, compared to 85 in 2000. The United States has been harshly criticized by its European allies for allowing capital punishment. Abolishing the death penalty is a requirement for membership in the 15-member EU.

Public floggings — for offenses such as drinking alcohol — still take place but are much less common than before Khatami came to office in 1997. Stonings for adultery and other social violations have not occurred since the mid-1990s.

At Monday's hanging on a dirt-covered soccer field, many agreed it is an essential element of Iran's Islamic system.

"This is what happens to criminals," said Abbas, 29, who gave only his first name. "This is what the Quran dictates."

About 500 people, nearly all men, gathered before dawn in a gritty south Tehran district. Some women and children watched from rooftops and nibbled freshly baked bread.

Just as the sun rose, the noose was fitted and the crane's arm jerked upward. Dowlatyari's body dangled for a half hour as people drifted home and children prepared for school.

Monday, May 20, 2002


As DME readers are well aware, chicken is often the culinary choice of the condemned. Now a chicken from 1993 might send two to death row. Oh, the irony....

Chicken Bone Provides Key Evidence

PALATINE, Ill. (AP) - In 1993, DNA testing wasn't advanced enough to glean any evidence from a half-eaten piece of chicken found at the site of a killing spree at a restaurant.

But police froze the chicken bone anyway — and now their foresight is being applauded.

When a witness finally came forward this spring, she identified Juan Luna, 28, and her former boyfriend, James Degorski, 29, as the alleged killers. Authorities say the chicken bone was then retrieved and submitted to improved DNA testing.

The tests matched saliva on the bone to a profile of Luna, providing crucial evidence.

Police said both men confessed when they were arrested Thursday. They have been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, and prosecutors may seek the death penalty.

Luna and Degorski entered the restaurant just before closing time and Luna ate part of a chicken dinner before the two men killed everyone in the building and robbed the safe of nearly $2,000, prosecutors said. Without fingerprints or the .38-caliber hand gun that was used in the slayings, prosecutors said the saliva provided important DNA evidence.

But in 1993, a discarded chicken bone was hardly considered evidence.

"It shows they were pretty forward-thinking, whoever decided to save it," said David Coffman, supervisor of Florida's DNA database. "Ten or even seven years ago, we would never have thought to test a piece of food that was half-eaten. We wouldn't have had the technology to get a result."

Another reason to clean your plate.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Saudi Arabia 21, Texas 12

Saudi man beheaded for raping a man

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A man was beheaded Saturday for raping a man, the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Hamad bin Saleh bin Abdul Aziz Al Fadl was convicted of getting drunk, kidnapping a man and raping him, the statement said. He was beheaded in the northeastern province of Al Qatif.

The beheading raised to 21 the number of people executed this year in the kingdom.

Executions are performed in public with a sword.

Dateline: Pakistan

In Pakistan, get raped and then get stoned.

The NYTimes (reg. req.) looks at the wronged, being wronged again....

The evidence of guilt was there for all to see: a newborn baby in the arms of its mother, a village woman named Zafran Bibi.

Her crime: she had been raped. Her sentence: death by stoning.

Now Ms. Zafran, who is about 26, is in solitary confinement in a death-row cell in Kohat, a nearby town. The only visitor she is allowed is her baby daughter, now a year old and being cared for by a prison nurse.

In photographs, Ms. Zafran is a tall woman with striking green eyes — a peasant woman of the hot and barren hills of Pakistan's northwest frontier country. Unschooled and illiterate, like most other women here, she may have little understanding of what has happened to her. But her story is not uncommon under Pakistan's strict Islamic laws.

Thumping a fat red statute book, the white-bearded judge who convicted her, Anwar Ali Khan, said he had simply followed the letter of the Koran-based law, known as hudood, that mandates punishments.

"The illegitimate child is not disowned by her and therefore is proof of zina," he said, referring to laws that forbid any sexual contact outside marriage. Furthermore, he said, in accusing her brother-in-law of raping her, Ms. Zafran had confessed to her crime.

"The lady stated before this court that, yes, she had committed sexual intercourse, but with the brother of her husband," Judge Khan said. "This left no option to the court but to impose the highest penalty."

Although legal fine points do exist, little distinction is made in court between forced and consensual sex.

....Rape itself is a crime under hudood, but it is so difficult to prove that men are rarely convicted. On the other hand, human rights workers say, as many as half the women who report a rape are charged under zina laws with adultery.

"With the men, they apply the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty," said Asma Jahangir, an official of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the author of a book on hudood. "With the women, they apply the principle that you are guilty until proven innocent."

The man Ms. Zafran accused, Jamal Khan, was set free without charges. A case against him would have been a waste of the court's time. Under the laws of zina, four male witnesses, all Muslims and all citizens of upright character, must testify to having seen a rape take place. The testimony of women or non-Muslims is not admissible. The victim's accusation also carries little weight; the only significant testimony she can give is an admission of guilt.

There is much, much more. A peaceful people, indeed.

Ronford Styron
May 16, 2002

Chicken Streak Ends at Five.

Liberty County man exected for son's murder

LAST MEAL: Mexican platter with all the works, two classic Cokes, pickles, olives, and Cookies and Cream ice cream

THE SKINNY: Styron was sentenced to death for beating his 11-month-old son to death. Under Texas law, the killing of any person under the age of 6 can automatically be considered a capital case.

LAST WORDS: "I know where I am going," Styron said. Addressing his family, he added, "I want to see you there, so get your heart right. You know I love you and care for you." Styron then said, "I am going to go see my little boy now and I'm going to have some fun with him." Choking back tears, Styron addressed his family a final time, saying, "Y'all take care and I love y'all."

FACTOIDS: Styrondid not believe the child was actually his and was the product of an alleged affair by his wife.

Styron had a history of committing violent acts. He was discharged from the military after striking his sergeant and had attacked one of his neighbors, breaking his jaw.

Styron was the 12th Texas inmate put to death this year.