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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Florida Supreme Court rejects 10 Death Row appeals at same time

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TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court on Monday rejected appeals by 10 Death Row inmates, including a man scheduled to be executed Feb. 22 in the 1993 slaying of a University of West Florida student.
The Supreme Court’s release of 10 nearly identical rulings at the same time was unusual. 
But each of the cases involved inmates challenging their death sentences because juries did not unanimously recommend execution.
The inmates included Eric Scott Branch, who was scheduled Friday by Gov. Rick Scott to be executed Feb. 22.
The other inmates were Pressley Bernard Alston in a Duval County case; Kayle Barrington Bates in a Bay County case; Donald Bradley in a Clay County case; Marvin Burnett Jones in a Duval County case; Daniel Jon Peterka in an Okaloosa County case; Harry Franklin Phillips in a Miami-Dade County case; Jason Demetrius Stephens in a Duval County case; Ernest D. Suggs in a Walton County case; and Frank A. Walls in an Okaloosa County case.
The appeals were rooted in a 2016…

California’s death penalty law may hinge on outcome of Arizona case

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After narrowly surviving voter initiatives in 2012 and 2016, California’s death penalty law may soon be in jeopardy again, this time at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court is being asked to take up a challenge to the death penalty in Arizona, where the law makes virtually every first-degree murderer subject to potential capital charges. According to a lawsuit on behalf of a condemned double murderer, the state is violating Supreme Court rulings dating from the 1970s that limit capital punishment to specific categories of especially heinous killers — the “worst of the worst,” in plain English.
If at least four of the nine justices agree to hear the case, as numerous advocacy groups are urging, the court will schedule arguments and issue a ruling, most likely in the 2018-19 term that begins in October. If it strikes down Arizona’s death penalty law, the ruling could also apply to the California law, which is nearly as broad.
And that could spare the lives of the 746 prisoners on the nati…

21 janvier 1793 : Louis XVI meurt guillotiné

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Le terrible décret qui, pour la seconde fois en moins de deux siècles, allait faire tomber sur l’échafaud une tête couronnée, et affliger la France d’un attentat semblable à celui qui avait effrayé l’Angleterre, était prononcé. Les sollicitations éloquentes des trois défenseurs du roi Louis XVI, condamné à mort, avaient en vain invoqué pour l’auguste proscrit le jugement suprême de la nation.
Ce recours à la puissance populaire n’avait pas eu un sort plus heureux que la proposition des Girondins. L’appel au peuple avait été définitivement rejeté. La souveraineté que lui attribuaient ses mandataires n’était plus pour eux qu’un vain mot. Ainsi, par un effrayant abus de pouvoir, ils s’érigeaient à la fois en souverains, en législateurs et en juges, réunissant des fonctions dont la confusion a toujours constitué la plus épouvantable tyrannie.
Pour précipiter le supplice, ils osent invoquer l’humanité, comme si la promptitude du meurtre en diminuait l’horreur. Cette cruauté hypocrite écho…

Haryana: Death penalty for rape of girls under 12

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The government will also make a request for setting up of fast-track courts for dealing with rape cases to provide a speedy justice
Under fire for a series of rape cases, Manohar Lal Khattar-led Haryana Government is set to bring a law to provide capital punishment for those found guilty of raping girls aged 12 years or less. The government will also make a request for setting up of fast-track courts for dealing with rape cases to provide a speedy justice delivery system to the victims. The announcement was made by the chief minister while he was addressing people after laying the foundation stone of a sugar mill here.
Khattar, who expressed anguish and concern over the recent incidents of rape, said that provisions of "harsher punishment for rape" are required in the state. "Law would be enacted soon to hang those convicted of raping girls aged 12 or younger," he said. Further, Khattar asked media not to create sensation by publishing reports on rape without verif…

Lawyers: Firing squad must be option for Ohio condemned killer

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Attorneys for a condemned killer whose execution was stopped last year after 25 minutes of unsuccessful needle sticks are once again recommending the firing squad as an alternative.
The execution could also proceed if the state adopts a closely regulated lethal injection process that includes a headpiece to monitor the brain activity of death row inmate Alva Campbell and medicine to revive him if the lethal drugs don't work, attorneys said in a court filing earlier this month.
Without these measures, Campbell's execution would involve "a sure or very likely risk of serious harm in the form of severe, needless physical pain and suffering," Campbell's federal public defenders said in the Jan. 4 filing.
Campbell, 59, was sentenced to die for fatally shooting an 18-year-old man in a 1997 carjacking.
The state unsuccessfully tried to execute Campbell on Nov. 15 in the state death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
After the Ohio prisons…

Iran suspends executions after relaxing law on drug offences

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Iran on Monday suspended all cases in which people have been sentenced to death for drug offences, Ali Larijani, Speaker of the country's parliament said.
Larijani said all the cases are to be reviewed.
"A block has also been placed on planned executions," the Isna news agency reported.
According to official statistics, 4,000 people are currently on death row in Iran for drug offences.
The Iranian government officially abolished the death penalty for some drug-related crimes in November.
Larijani had previously defended capital punishment for drug dealers, claiming they were responsible for the deaths of thousands of young people and a lifetime of suffering for their families.
"Without the death penalty and executions, drugs would be available in every supermarket," he said.
In 2016, an inquiry found that, in spite of a high number of executions, the quantity and variety of drugs being smuggled into Iran was rising, rather than falling.
Iran has previously com…

Focus shifts to executions in Japan's 1995 sarin gas attack

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More than 2 decades after poison gas attacks in Tokyo's subways killed 13, the stage has shifted to the execution of 13 people convicted in the crime. When they will be sent to the gallows, though, remains a mystery in Japan's highly secretive death penalty system.
The Supreme Court rejected an appeal in the final case last week, so the condemned are no longer needed as potential trial witnesses. The court upheld a life sentence for Katsuya Takahashi, a driver in the attack who was convicted of murder in 2015. He was a follower of the Aum Shinrikyo cult that carried out the attack.
"The end of the trials, which took so long, is a fresh reminder of the horror of all the crimes committed by Aum," Shizue Takahashi, the wife of a subway stationmaster who died in the attack, told reporters Friday. "Now the focus for the families of the victims and other people will shift to the executions."
Shoko Asahara, the guru of Aum Shinrikyo, and 12 others have been sente…

Sonai honour killings case: Death penalty for six convicts

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Six convicts were today sentenced to death by a court here for the murder of three Dalit men over an inter-caste love affair in Sonai village of Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra in January 2013.
Additional District and Sessions Court Judge R R Vaishnav also slapped a fine of Rs 20,000 on each of the convicts.
Their "brutal" act was a "disgrace for humanity", worse than a "devils act", and, therefore, they had forfeited the right to live, Special Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told reporters quoting the verdict.
He said the court awarded the capital punishment, as demanded by the prosecution, considering the brutality involved in the crime.
Half of the fine amount will be given to the victims kin as financial aid, Nikam said.
The police had beefed up the security around the court premises since morning as a large number of people gathered there for the verdict.
On January 15, the court had convicted Popat alias Raghunath Darandale�(52), Ramesh Darandale (42)…

Death Penalty Documentary Includes Troubling Ohio Execution

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A new documentary on the death penalty includes the work a federal public defender did on an Ohio execution that lasted 26 minutes while the inmate repeatedly gasped and snorted.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new documentary on the death penalty includes the work a federal public defender did on an Ohio execution that lasted 26 minutes while the inmate repeatedly gasped and snorted.
"The Penalty" tells three capital punishment-related stories. 
They include that of a recently exonerated death row inmate and a homicide victim's family trying to negotiate the legal system.
A third story examines the 2014 execution of Dennis McGuire using a never tried two-drug process that Ohio has since abandoned.
The film follows federal public defender Allen Bohnert during his unsuccessful fight to stop McGuire's execution.
Screenings are scheduled in several Ohio cities beginning Monday to include Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Columbus.
Death-Penalty Documentary Makes its Ohio …

Iraq sentences German woman to death over ISIS involvement

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A court in Iraq has sentenced a German woman to death after finding her guilty of belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group.
She was sentenced for providing logistical support and taking part in attacks on Iraqi security forces.
The woman, who has not been named but is said to be of Moroccan descent, was captured during the battle for Mosul last year.
Thousands of foreigners have been fighting for IS in Iraq and Syria.
The court said she travelled from Germany to Iraq to join IS with two daughters, who married members of the jihadist group.
She is thought to be the first foreign woman to be sentenced to death in Iraq for joining the group, reports say.
Another German female, teenager Linda Wenzel, was arrested in Mosul at the same time for belonging to IS.
Thousands of suspected IS members have been rounded up and imprisoned - several mass executions have already taken place.
Human rights groups have expressed strong concern about the judicial process.
The spokesman of the Supreme Ju…