Capital Punishment: Dying Out but Still Killing #deathpenalty


death1

Posted: 28/06/2013 , huffingtonpost
Maryland Death Penalty

It’s a loose comparison, but sometimes I think that people who get executed these days are like those killed right at the end of a war. Another day, another month … and they might survived.

I say this because when you look at the figures for capital punishment around the world, you can see there’s a strong trend toward abolition. It’s happening year by year. Fifty years ago only nine countries in the world had abolished the death penalty; by 1977 it was 16; now 140 countries have abolished judicial killing in law or stopped it in practice.

Even in “pro-death penalty” countries, the number of sentences and executions is generally falling or the scope for imposing executions being reduced. For example, in China the number of crimes which might lead to a lethal injection or death by firing squad has beenreduced from a reported 68 to 55 (still a staggeringly high number). Meanwhile, in the USA – another major user of capital punishment – individual states are peeling away from the majority on the issue, with six states scrapping the death penalty in the past six years – New Jersey and New York state (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2010), Connecticut (2012) and Maryland just last month.

Anyway, though in the last year or so there have been what Amnesty says is an “alarming” spike in executions in Iraq and a resumptions after considerable gaps in the use of the death penalty in Japan, Gambia, Pakistan and India, the underlying global trend is still clear and apparently fixed: state-sanctioned judicial killing is slowly dying out.

So to me there’s a particular tragedy to the late nature of executions in this context. Last night’s execution of Kimberly McCarthy in Texas was regrettable for many reasons (especially the apparent role of racial prejudice in her trial), but in five – ten, 20? – years’ time there’s a distinct possibility that we won’t have people in Texas being strapped down to a lethal injection gurney and killed by technicians in a disgraceful pseudo-medical “procedure”.

I know of course that of all US states Texas is a “hard case”, one that may not go the way of national and international abolition in the immediate future. It’s just reached the miserable milestone of 500 executions in 31 years, nearly five times higher than any other US state. The Lone Star State indeed. See Amnesty USA’s Brian Evans on Texas’ fatal addiction to the death penalty. However, with support for capital punishment in the USA falling, and controversy over lethal injection drugs and unfair trials growing, I think abolition even in Texas will come ….

But still, the machinery of death clanks on. Just this week, in addition to McCarthy’s execution we’ve had four men hanged in Nigeria (and another facing death by firing squad imminently) and alarming reports that 117 people in Vietnam may face execution soon because of a recent law change (we’re talking – in some cases – about death by lethal injection, using specially-produced drugs to execute prisoners for non-violent drugs offences). There’s an urgent text campaign on Vietnam being run by Amnesty – see here.

So no, if you take an abolitionist view on the death penalty, there’s no cause for complacency. According to Wikipedia, the last person to die (from the British Empire side at least) during World War One was a 25-year-old Canadian man called George Lawrence Price. He was shot by a German sniper in the Belgian town of Ville-sur-Haine at 10.58 on the morning of 11 November 1918. The Armistice came into force at 11am. A needless death then, just like everyone killed by the state in the cold-blooded and thoroughly repugnant business of administering capital punishment.

 ,Press Officer at Amnesty International UK

 

Texas Students Thrown in Jail for Days- Punishment for Missing School #WTFnews


Texas‘s solution to truancy appears to be making kids miss even more school as they sit in jail. Alternet
June 13, 2013  |

School tardiness and absences come at a high cost in Dallas, Texas. Gone are the days of detention and writing lines on the chalkboard; now students are fined, even jailed.

The enforcement of the state’s truancy laws, which were strengthened substantially in 2003, have led to a range of abuses, according to a complaint filed Wednesday with the U.S. Department of Justice:

  • Students have been taken out of school in handcuffs, held in jail for days at a time, and fines have totaled more than $1,000 for students who miss more than 10 days of school.
  • The students who are hauled into court to face truancy or lateness charges are not provided with legal counsel. The only lawyers in the courtroom are the judge and a member of the district attorney’s office, unless the student’s family can afford their own representation.
  • Defendants are charged court fees even if they prevail in fighting the accusations, discouraging people from exercising their right to a full hearing.

The complaint, filed by a coalition of advocacy groups for young people and the disabled, targets the Dallas, Garland, Mesquite, and Richardson school districts in Texas and urges the Justice Department to force reforms and “declare the practice of criminally prosecuting children as adults for truancy” a violation of their constitutional rights.

For their part, some school officials, lawmakers, and judges say that the rigid enforcement system has led to improved attendance.

In a statement, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins defended the program.

“The Dallas County system offers the best chance for truant students to get back in class and graduate,” said Jenkins, adding that the courts are staffed by attorneys who specialize in juvenile justice issues, and make use of agencies who work to solve the underlying issues behind the truancy of students.

Certainly, the volume of cases has been striking. Texas adult courts in one recent year handled 113,000 truancy cases. Dallas County truancy court alone collected nearly $3 million in fines. It sent 67 students age 17 and older to jail because of truancy violations, and 53 students younger than 17 to juvenile detention centers. (Statewide records were not available.)

The complaint asserts that the program unfairly targets minorities and underprivileged students, and routinely puts youngsters in jail rather than keeping them in school.

Texas, like many other states, has been struggling with truancy issues for years. To combat the problem, the state legislature has passed a series of laws to stiffen penalties for absent and tardy students. In the 1990s, the legislature designated “failure to attend school” as a Class C misdemeanor, which meant that children could be tried as adults for missing school.

Texas state law now requires schools to report students to truancy court when a student has 10 or more unexcused absences within a six-month period. The complaint says that when students appear in court, they are often pressured to plead guilty and accept fines of anywhere from $80 to $500 rather than go to trial, pay additional court fees, and risk jail time. If students fail to appear in court or pay their fines on time, they can be arrested and jailed. Wyoming is the only other state in the country with a similar law, the complaint says.

In 2003, Dallas County got even more aggressive. According to the complaint, county officials lobbied the legislature to allow it to create its own specialized court system that would handle only truancy cases. The request was granted and since then four public school districts in the county have agreed to send their truant cases to the specialized courts.

Michael Harris, a senior attorney with the California-based National Center for Youth Law, said each of those school districts are predominantly African American and Latino, but are overseen primarily by white superintendents, and that the specialized court system is overseen by a white judge.

Chris Moore, a spokesman for the Garland school district, said the district has taken several steps to ensure parents are informed of their children’s unexcused absences well in advance of any complaint to the truancy court system. Tim Clark, director of communications for the Richardson school district, said the district always acts within the law in its handling of truants, and said that district officials would cooperate with any federal inquiry. In a statement on its website, the Mesquite school district said it informs students and parents about state truancy laws in the beginning of each school year.

A call to the Dallas district superintendent was not immediately returned. (If the district responds, we will update this article.)

“It’s pretty obvious that this program is set in school districts that do not have a large percentage of middle class white students. For example, the Dallas independent school district has less than 10 percent white students,” said  Harris. “These students are thought of in a different way by key decision-makers in the county than white students.”

A handful of parents and students interviewed by ProPublica say that the enforcement of the program has turned school grounds into something like a police state, with guards rounding up students during “tardy sweeps,” suspending them, then marking their absences as unexcused and reporting them to truancy court. According to the complaint, charges have been levied even when students have legitimate reasons for an absence, such as a family emergency or illness.

Ashley Brown, a 16-year-old high school sophomore and honors student at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, said she missed four straight days of school in December 2012. Her grandmother, who she cared for personally, died of cancer, and she stayed home to mourn her death. She was also suspended twice for three days, once because she got in a fight, and another time because she was late to class.

Brown was eventually charged with 10 unexcused absences, even though Brown’s mother sent the school the grandmother’s obituary, and suspensions are supposed to be counted as excused absences under state law.

When Brown received a letter ordering her to appear in court, her mother panicked and called the school to correct her daughter’s attendance record. Afterward she missed a day of work and pulled her daughter from school to appear in court and explain the confusion. Eventually she persuaded the judge to dismiss the charges.

Andrew Collins, the assistant principal at South Oak Cliff High School, told ProPublica that he believes in the tough truancy program.

“To an extent, I do believe if a student is continuously truant, sometimes fines help solve a lot of that,” Collins said.

Others haven’t been as successful as Brown in disputing their truancy charges.

Roddi Ann Schoneberg, a 40-year-old former pre-school teacher and mother of three, said she struggled mightily to get her children to school on time after her mother suffered a stroke late in the summer of 2011.

Her children, two of whom she says are autistic, were traumatized by the experience and often went into tantrums when they were supposed to get ready for school in the morning. Overwhelmed by her children’s behavioral problems and her responsibilities toward her ailing mother, Schoneberg said she brought her elementary-school-aged children to school five to 10 minutes late roughly 20 times in the first half of the 2011 school year.

She said her children’s elementary school in the Richardson school district reported each late arrival as unexcused, and in December 2011 she received a notice to appear in court. School administrators refused to help her, she said.

Schoneberg said she intended to contest the charges, but ultimately succumbed to pressure from court officers and a county prosecutor and pleaded guilty. She was told that if she wanted to contest the charges at trial, she’d be liable for court costs no matter the outcome. The complaint alleges that Schoneberg’s experience is not unique; it says the truancy court doesn’t provide legal counsel and frequently threatens children and their families with jail time in open court, thus encouraging people to plead guilty rather than go to trial.

The county prosecutor initially tried to fine her $2,600, but Schoneberg said the judge decided to reduce it to $609. She had to return to court on five separate occasions to make payments.

“It totally enveloped my life,” Schoneberg said.

The policy, according to the complaint, can be especially hard on special education students and the disabled, who often miss school because of their physical or psychological issues.

The complaint also describes the plight of a high school student who has asthma and chronic respiratory problems. It says the student sometimes needs to be out of school for days at a time to be closer to her medical equipment at home.

Over the course of the 2011 school year she had several multi-day absences caused by her health problems, and on two occasions she forgot to turn in a note from her mother explaining why she was away. She was ultimately convicted of failure to attend school and paid a $100 fine and $77 in court costs.

Her lawyer, Dustin Rynders, supervising attorney for a disability rights group in Texas, said the child ultimately missed as much school for the court appearances as she did for her illness.

But the complaint suggests these steps aren’t working: By the time parents are able to reason with school administrators and get them to understand why their child was absent, it’s too late— the absences have already been reported to the truancy courts through an automated electronic filing system.

“This is an actual school to prison pipeline in terms of how they send kids to adult criminal court for what’s really minor misbehavior,” said Michael Harris, an attorney for the National Center for Youth Law, who said he spent hours watching students get processed by the courts. “Research shows that once they go to criminal court the likelihood that they’ll be swept up in the justice system again increases greatly.”

Harris and his fellow attorneys hope that the Justice Department will use the complaint as a roadmap to investigate the truancy court system in Dallas and eventually force changes to it.

They make several recommendations, like giving children proper legal counsel and refraining from taking them out of class in handcuffs.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not immediately return calls for comment.

 

America’s Prisons Turning Out Violent White Supremacists “Mentally Fighting Civil War”


Former Prisoner‘s Dire Warning: 
Does the Aryan Brotherhood have anything to do with the killings of two Texas officials and a state prison chief in Colorado?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

April 2, 2013  |
 Is a white supremacist group called the Aryan Brotherhood linked to a string of killings of state officials? That’s the burning question for federal investigators as they seek to find out more about the deaths of two Texas law enforcement officials in recent weeks, and whether those killings are linked to the murder of a Colorado state prison chief in late March.

The scrutiny on the white supremacist gang has prompted an ominous warning from a former prisoner, who wrote anonymously in the Daily Beast  why law enforcement “may have a real problem on their hands.”

The prisoner, a black man who said he got on the Aryan Brotherhood’s good side after assisting them with a legal request, says that law enforcement should know about the danger of the prison gang because “it’s something they should have been aware of for decades,” he writes.

“If these recent killings represent the Brotherhood’s twisted form of retribution, the fact that it has taken so long to begin is all the more chilling. To me this would demonstrate a hard-nosed determination that all citizens should find frightening,” the prisoner said in the Daily Beast. “America’s harsh judicial system, coupled with a growing national affinity for utilizing complete isolation at super-max prisons as a corrections tactic of first choice, in many cases turns men into monsters.”

The prisoner warned that “many of the first men locked up when our nation embarked on a policy of for-profit mass incarceration near the end of the last century are now returning into society.” He also provided details on what motivates the members of the Aryan Brotherhood gang.

“They were still mentally fighting the Civil War (like so many other whites) and traced their roots back to men like Confederate guerrilla William Clarke Quantrill, whose Quantrill’s Raiders sacked the pro-abolitionist town of Lawrence, Kansas, at the beginning of the Civil War,” the prisoner wrote.

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up for courthouses and prosecutors in Texas, especially near Kaufman County, the location of the two killings in the state. Some fear more attacks. And a joint local, state and federal investigation is probing whether the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang, is involved. Still, there is no hard evidence that links the killings to the gang yet. The Southern Poverty Law Center has stated that the Aryan Brotherhood is one of the most violent groups in the country.

Two months ago, the first of the shootings under investigation took place. Mark Hasse, a prosecutor in Texas, was gunned down in broad daylight by men with their faces covered and who had black clothing and vests on. He was killed the same day that that two members of the Aryan Brotherhood pled guilty to racketeering charges in a case that Hasse handled.

The other shooting in Texas occurred on Saturday. Texas district attorney Mike McClelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found dead in their home. Shell casings from a powerful rifle were found in the house, and the district attorney was shot multiple times. The last of the shootings that investigators are looking at to see whether they are linked occurred in Colorado. There, Tom Clements, the Department of Corrections head, was killed, and the lead suspect was a member of a white supremacist gang. That suspect, Evan Ebel, was killed in a shootout with police officers in Texas.

Officials have stressed that, so far, there is no concrete evidence linking the three killings and the Aryan Brotherhood together. Still, a number of officials have also mentioned the Aryan Brotherhood as a group to look at.

Alex Kane is AlterNet’s New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor forMondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Executing the Mentally Retarded: The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia #mentalhealth


FEB 13 2013, 11:54 AM ET
The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have an opportunity to reinforce their historic ruling banning capital punishment for criminals with low IQs. They should take it.

supremeswoundedban.jpg

Reuters

The story of Warren Lee Hill, which is poised to reach its apex next week, is really the story of how vast the gulf is sometimes between the lofty pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court and the manner in which lesser functionaries of law and justice implement the letter and the spirit of those pronouncements. For in the case of Warren Lee Hill, we see nothing less than the state-sanctioned defiance of a recent Supreme Court mandate: Thou shalt not execute the mentally retarded.

Hill is a capital inmate in Georgia, long ago convicted of murder, who is scheduled to be executed next Tuesday. This is happening, at least for now, because Georgia officials have come up with a way to satisfy themselves that Hill is not mentally retarded. They have accomplished this psychological miracle by enforcing a restrictive state law which makes it virtually impossible for any capital defendant to ever prove his or her mental retardation. And they say they are entitled to apply this law because the Supreme Court said so.

Georgia is pressing ahead with the execution even though Hill’s lawyers have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that, with an IQ of 70, he has “significantly subaverage intellectual functioning.” The state is pressing ahead because Hill’s lawyers were only able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Hill’s mental retardation caused “impairments in adaptive behavior which manifested during the developmental period.” Not good enough, say Georgia officials. The second part of the test also must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is in conflict with the Supreme Court’s 2002 pronouncement, in a case styled Atkins v. Virginia, that the execution of mentally retarded murderers violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Aware of the growing national consensus against such executions, and mindful of the rule that the Supreme Court must by obeyed, the state has gotten around the problem simply by claiming that Hill is not mentally retarded.

It’s one thing to require the state to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s another to require a mentally retarded individual to save his own life by applying such a standard.

Filing their briefs, Hill’s lawyers late last week asked the Supreme Court justices to spare their client and, in so doing, to fortify their ruling in Atkinswith blunt new language that requires officials in states like Georgia to give meaningful effect to the new constitutional prohibition. The justices should rush to embrace this desperate request. A right without a remedy is no right at all. And what Georgia — and other states — have done sinceAtkins is deny men like Hill (and Marvin Wilson, executed last summer in Texas despite an IQ of 61) the remedy they deserve.

Atkins v. Virginia

The Supreme Court did something in Atkins v. Virginia which it does too often in close cases — which, in fact, officials throughout the ages have done too often: It came up with a neat compromise that left for a future day the true ramifications of its choice. While it announced a ban against the execution of the mentally retarded, at the very same time, it gave recalcitrant states a map to getting around the ban. The broad stroke was widely hailed as a great victory for human rights, but the details doomed men like Marvin Wilson — and perhaps Warren Lee Hill as well.

The justices who signed onto the majority ruling in the case were acutely aware in Atkins that, by leaving the key question to the states, they would enable officials in some jurisdictions to continue to execute mentally retarded defendants whom other states would spare. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:

To the extent there is serious disagreement about the execution of mentally retarded offenders it is in determining which offenders are in fact retarded. In this case, for instance, the Commonwealth of Virginia disputes that Atkins suffers from mental retardation. Not all people who claim to be mentally retarded will be so impaired as to fall within the range of mentally retarded offenders about whom there is a national consensus. As was our approach in Ford v. Wainwright, with regard to insanity, “we leave to the State[s] the task of developing ways to enforce the constitutional restriction upon its execution of sentences.”

In other words, the court in Atkins was ready to extend full Eighth Amendment protection in “easy” cases of mental retardation, but not in “hard” cases where there might be “serious disagreement” between experts about the level of retardation. This cop-out was part of the ruling, even as the court acknowledged that “some characteristics of mental retardation undermine the strength of the procedural protections that our capital jurisprudence steadfastly guards.” Justice Stevens continued in this vein:

Mentally retarded persons frequently know the difference between right and wrong and are competent to stand trial. Because of their impairments, however, by definition they have diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others.

Despite its grand constitutional claim, Atkins allowed states to continue to manipulate the results of “close” capital cases of mental retardation by trotting out their medical experts and their psychiatrists, in order to conclude that the condemned was not so mentally retarded as to fall within the protections of the Eighth Amendment. This scenario resulted last year in theshocking execution of a Texas man “who could not handle money or navigate a phone book, a man who sucked his thumb and could not always tell the difference between left and right, a man who, as a child, could not match his socks, tie his shoes or button his clothes.”

To its eternal shame, placing federalism above core protections in the Bill of Rights, the Supreme Court turned its back on Marvin Wilson, that man in Texas. It should not turn its back on Warren Hill. By requiring him to prove his mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt, and by dismissing the substantial proof of retardation he did establish, Georgia took cynical advantage of the court’s deference in Atkins. The Supreme Court should put to right this ongoing injustice. It should no longer countenance such continuing disrespect.

Hill v. Humphrey

Georgia argues in this case that the Supreme Court should just leave it alone. It argues that what its officials have done in the Hill case — the many hearings, the many layers of appellate review, the culling of experts on the topic of Hill’s mental status — is precisely the sort of due process the justices in Atkins intended for them to undertake. Georgia’s relevant mental evaluation standards are quite liberal, the state lawyers argue, especially in comparison with those of other states. “Georgia’s burden of proof as to claims of mental retardation is not unconstitutional,” the state bluntly told the court.

And then Georgia reminded the justices of the oversight scenario they had purposefully chosen to avoid in Atkins: creating a national constitutional rule that would protect individual defendants, but that would also run into the types of federalism concerns that so disturb this Supreme Court. Even if the court “chooses to retract that portion of Atkins leaving the task of developing procedures to the States,” the state lawyers wrote, “this Court will be in the position of setting out detailed guidelines to ensure what it deems constitutional is met as there are many variables in each state’s statute.”

Hill’s lawyers aren’t asking the Supreme Court to force Georgia to roll over. They instead are asking the justices to issue a ruling that ensures that no state may require a capital defendant to prove his or her mental retardation using the most onerous “reasonable doubt” standard. The “substantive protection” the court promised in Atkins, the defense argues, is “eviscerated” by a uniquely harsh state law with such a requirement. “Georgia stands alone among American jurisdictions,” Hill’s lawyers write, “in denying the protection of Atkins v. Virginia to capital defendants who probably have mental retardation in fact.”

The heart of their case — and perhaps the best argument against the cruelty of the Georgia statute — is that the nature of these psychological cases makes it easy for a prosecutor to generate “reasonable doubt” of mental retardation simply by offering up an expert who will cast that doubt. “Because of the detail and complexity of the information and expert judgments that enter into the diagnostic process,” Hill’s lawyers remind the court, “a prosecutor can almost always hope to fashion some argument for reasonable doubt if the issue goes to trial — particularly in the context of an ugly crime.”

It’s one thing to require the state to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s another thing to require a mentally retarded individual to bear the burden of saving his own life by such a standard. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the only former trial judge on the court, surely will appreciate that distinction. Whether Justice Anthony Kennedy does as well will likely determine Hill’s fate. It was Justice Kennedy who voted for the Atkins ban and who also wrote the opinion in the more recent ban on the execution of juvenile murderers. He’s the critical fifth vote Hill would need, both to stay the execution and to extend the promise of Atkins.

The problem isn’t going to solve itself. And the Supreme Court is the only means of help. The Georgia Supreme Court, Hill’s lawyers assert, “has already made its intentions clear: it will not disturb the reasonable doubt standard in mental retardation cases ‘unless the Supreme Court or the United States so requires at some future date.’”

That day is here. If it is not Hill it will be another man, in another state, who is mentally retarded but unable to prove so to the satisfaction of a state judge because of some arbitrary legal standard. There is no standing still on Atkins. The court must either go forward or go back. And it must do so quickly.

 

America’s Retreat From the #DeathPenalty


Published: January 1, 2013 , NY times

When the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, it said there were two social purposes for imposing capital punishment for the most egregious crimes: deterrence and retribution. In recent months, these justifications for a cruel and uncivilized punishment have been seriously undermined by a growing group of judges, prosecutors, scholars and others involved in criminal justice, conservatives and liberals alike.

A distinguished committee of scholars convened by the National Research Council found that there is no useful evidence to determine if the death penalty deters serious crimes. Many first-rate scholars have tried to prove the theory of deterrence, but that research “is not informative about whether capital punishment increases, decreases, or has no effect on homicide rates,” the committee said.

A host of other respected experts have also concluded that life imprisonment is a far more practical form of retribution, because the death penalty process is too expensive, too time-consuming and unfairly applied.

The punishment is supposed to be reserved for the very worst criminals, but dozens of studies in state after state have shown that the process for deciding who should be sent to death row is arbitrary and discriminatory.

Thanks to the Innocence Project and the overturning of 18 wrongful convictions of death-row inmates with DNA evidence and the exonerations of 16 others charged with capital crimes, the American public is increasingly aware that the system makes terrible mistakes. Since 1973, a total of 142 people have been freed from death row after being exonerated with DNA or other kinds of evidence.

All of these factors have led the states to retreat from the death penalty in recent years — in both law and in practice. In 2012, Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to abolish the penalty. Nine states executed inmates, the fewest in two decades. Three-fourths of the 43 executions in 2012 were carried out in only four states. The number of new death sentences remained low at 77 — about one-third the number in 2000 — with just four states accounting for almost two-thirds of those sentences. While 33 states retain the death penalty on their books, 13 of them have not executed anyone for at least five years.

Those 13 states plus the 17 without the penalty means that 30 states are not carrying it out — and that includes California, which retained the death penalty in a November referendum vote. Almost one-quarter of the 3,146 death row inmates in the United States, as of October, are imprisoned in California, but that state has not executed anyone in seven years.

California’s chief justice said recently that the state’s official moratorium, which has been in place for six years, is likely to continue for at least three more because of problems with the execution method.

In January, executions are scheduled to take place in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas. As it happens, major reviews of the death penalty are under way in each of those states. The reviews are very likely to find that those states have failed to meet standards of fairness under the Constitution, just as reviews of the capital systems in other states have concluded in the last decade.

The large number of states no longer carrying out executions indicates a kind of national consensus. It points to “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” an idea that the Supreme Court has evoked in judging the constitutionality of punishments. The court used that analysis most recently when it ruled that mandatory life sentences without possibility of parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders even if they are convicted of homicide.

It should similarly recognize that under evolving standards capital punishment is cruel and unusual and should be abolished.

Texas Execution Prompts EU To Call For Moratorium On #DeathPenalty


 

 

8/8/2012

(RTTNews) – European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton has expressed deep regret at the execution of a US citizen who has significant intellectual disabilities, and called for a global moratorium on capital punishment.

The US state of Texas on Tuesday executed Marvin Lee Wilson, a man who has significant intellectual disabilities, ignoring calls by human rights organizations.

The 54-year-old African American, who was sentenced to death for the abduction and murder of a police drug informant in 1992, was killed by a lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital injected into his veins by prison authorities.

A statement issued by the spokesperson of Catherine Ashton on Wednesday said “The High Representative recognizes the serious nature of the crime involved and expresses her sincere sympathy to the surviving family and friends of the victim. However, she does not believe that their loss has been mitigated by Wilson’s death.”

Ashton said “The EU opposes the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances,” and called for “a global moratorium as a first step towards its universal abolition.

“With capital punishment any miscarriage of justice, from which no legal system is immune, represents an irreversible loss of human life,” she added.

After exhausting appeals in the Texas court system, Wilson’s attorneys had applied to the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the execution and review the case under precedence. But the US top court refused to stay the execution, ruling less than two hours before his lethal injection was scheduled.

During the appeals process, a clinical neuropsychologist had concluded that he has “mental retardation.” Tests revealed that Wilson has an IQ of 61, which is well under the legal standard and diagnostic range of 70 considered in Atkins.

Human rights watchdogs – The Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – had appealed to Texan authorities to halt Wilson’s execution.

Wilson was the second mentally disabled death row prisoner to be executed by the state of Texas in less than three weeks. On July 19, Yokamon Hearn was subjected to capital punishment, the first Texas prisoner to be executed utilizing the new one-drug protocol.

This was the seventh execution in Texas this year, where judicial killing resumed 30 years ago.

Nationwide, 1,302 people have been executed in the United States since death penalty was reinstated in 1977, including 25 this year. Since resuming executions in December 1982, Texas accounts for 484, or more than a third, of the total.

Kolkata Park Street rape witness “thrashed” and ‘molested’


Jun 12, 2012 – RAJIB CHOWDHURI|

  • Age Correspondent

A former BPO professional, who is said to be a key witness in the Park Street gangrape case, was allegedly molested at a night club in New Market.

On Sunday night, the 24-year-old woman had gone to the resto-bar and lounge with her two female friends. When they hit the dance floor, Harpreet Singh Chadda, 46, of Tiljala requested her to join him. His two friends Manwinder, 34, and Kamal Sabriwal, 31, tried to do the same with her two friends. But the other two women refused them. However, getting close to her amidst the loud music, Harpreet allegedly molested her. Immediately, a fight began and the window panes of the night club broke in the process. One of the women received injuries. The incident took place at around 11.30 pm.

Desperate to save her life, the victim tried to get on to a bus. But the trio stopped the bus and pulled her out of it. The men then beat her up even as the bus passengers remained mute spectators.The men thrashed the girl until she started bleeding following which they got nervous and fled.The three fled and the night club was closed.
Acting on the women’s complaint, the police lodged a case under Sections 354, for molestation, and 307 for attempt to murder, of the IPC.
On Monday, Harpreet, Manwinder and Kamal were arrested by the police. Later in the day, the Bankshall court remanded them to police custody till June 15. According to police sources, the 24-year-old woman had quit her job at a call centre in Sector V in Salt Lake worrying about her safety after she identified the original culprits in the Park Street gangrape case. She was partying with her colleagues on February 5 night at a hotel at Park Street.

 

Kolkata‘s Park Street rape case: 10 big facts

Monideepa Banerjie | Updated: February 20, 2012

Kolkata's Park Street rape case: 10 big facts

Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee has been caught in a controversy of her own making in West Bengal over a rape that left Kolkata cold. The city is usually considered safe for women, especially when compared to other metros like Delhi or Mumbai. Remarkably, Ms Banerjee had dismissed first reports of the case as an attempt to defame her government. Here are 10 big facts on the case:

  1. The chief minister met this morning with the city’s senior-most police officials, reportedly to discuss their progress in investigations.
  2. Three men were arrested on Saturday; two others are missing.
  3. At a rally in Kolkata yesterday, the CPM, which was defeated by Ms Banerjee in elections last year, targeted the chief minister for her insensitive handling of the case.
  4. On the night of February 5, the victim was at a pub at Kolkata’s famous Park Street. A man who befriended her at the pub offered her a ride home in his Honda City. When she climbed in, there were two men in the car. But soon, another three entered the vehicle. She was raped at gunpoint.
  5. The victim filed her police case a few days later, on February 9. She says she had been traumatised by the event and needed some time to recover before going to the police with her story.
  6. The victim, who is 37-years-old, alleges that the police mocked her when she tried to get a case registered. Officers allegedly used the fact that she had been at a pub to judge her character.
  7. The media began reporting on the story last week. As the police announced that it was searching for the rapists, the Chief Minister said the case had been fabricated to malign the government, triggering a debate about her perceived insensitivity.
  8. The investigation was complicated by the fact that the men involved assumed other people’s names when introducing themselves to the victim. When the police searched Facebook for their photos, the images did not match the men who the victim had met.
  9. Footage from security cameras installed near the pub that the woman visited helped the police identify the men who drove away with her.
  10. Medical tests on the victim were conducted on February 14. Sources say that the reports do not confirm rape, but doctors attribute this to the delay between her assault and her medical check-up.