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Ohio Governor Grants Clemency

Posted: July 18, 2003

Ohio Governor Bob Taft has granted clemency to Jerome Campbell, who was scheduled to be executed on June 27th for a 1988 murder in Cincinnati. The clemency, Taft's first since he took office, follows the recommendation of the state's Parole Board, which voted 6-2 in favor of clemency. Defense attorneys maintain that Campbell should be retried because a DNA test he requested from the state showed that blood on his gym shoes introduced as trial evidence was Campbell's own blood, not the victim's. The results marked the first time an Ohio prisoner obtained DNA test results through a state law that allows death row inmates to have DNA testing at the state's expense. In its recommendation, the Parole Board noted that jurors may have spared Campbell's life during his initial trial had they had the opportunity to consider the DNA information.

 

Japanese Legislative Group Proposes Halt to Executions, Study

Posted: July 18, 2003

The Diet Members' League for Abolition of the Death Penalty, a parliamentary group of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, has drafted legislation to replace the death penalty with life in prison. In addition, the bill would establish panels in both Houses of the Diet to study capital punishment. The bill does not propose an immediate abandonment of capital punishment, but instead imposes a four-year moratorium on executions. During this time, the parliamentary panels would be charged with reaching a consensus on the abolition of capital punishment in three years.

In 2001, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution that threatened to review the observer status of Japan and the United States if the two countries failed to take steps toward abolishing the death penalty.

 

NEW RESOURCE: "Last Meal" Details Prisoners' Final Meals, Words

Posted: July 18, 2003

In "Last Meal," Jacquelyn C. Black recreates the last acts of 23 people executed in Texas. Photographs depicting each inmate's last meal are accompanied by descriptions of the inmates, and transcripts of their last words before execution. The book also contains general information about the death penalty.

 

UPCOMING EXECUTION: Amnesty Report Examines Juror Sentencing Concerns in Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman Case

Posted: June 26, 2003

A new Amnesty International report examines the case of Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, a Tennessee death row inmate scheduled for execution on June 18. His case involves questions of inadequate defense and prosecutorial misconduct. The report notes that after learning of exculpatory and mitigating evidence that was kept from the jury at Abdur'Rahman's trial, eight of the original trial jurors said that they no longer have confidence in their sentencing verdict. In addition, a Tennessee Supreme Court judge has pointed out that "none of the judges who have reviewed this case has seriously disputed that Abdur'Rahman's trial counsel was woefully incompetent and demonstrably ineffective." Amnesty's report was released as the organization urged Governor Phil Bredesen to grant executive clemency to Abdur'Rahman.

 

UPCOMING EXECUTION: Amnesty Report Examines Juror Sentencing Concerns in Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman Case

Posted: June 26, 2003

A new Amnesty International report examines the case of Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, a Tennessee death row inmate scheduled for execution on June 18. His case involves questions of inadequate defense and prosecutorial misconduct. The report notes that after learning of exculpatory and mitigating evidence that was kept from the jury at Abdur'Rahman's trial, eight of the original trial jurors said that they no longer have confidence in their sentencing verdict. In addition, a Tennessee Supreme Court judge has pointed out that "none of the judges who have reviewed this case has seriously disputed that Abdur'Rahman's trial counsel was woefully incompetent and demonstrably ineffective." Amnesty's report was released as the organization urged Governor Phil Bredesen to grant executive clemency to Abdur'Rahman.

 

Canadian Juvenile Offender Could Face Death Penalty At Guantanamo Bay

Posted: June 26, 2003

American military officials say that a Canadian teen being held at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba could be eligible for the death penalty. The 17-year-old boy was captured in Afghanistan last July and is accused of killing a U.S. medic during battle as a member of al-Qaida. After 18 months of imprisonment, none of the 700 detainees have been officially charged, but a review of their cases by President George W. Bush is pending. Some of the cases could involve capital charges, and officials note that the government is considering establishing a death row and an execution chamber at the camp for prisoners convicted by upcoming military tribunals.

 

ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW: Saudi Executioner Says He Leads "Normal Life"

Posted: June 26, 2003

Although he beheads up to seven people a day, Saudi Arabia's leading executioner, 42-year-old Muhammad Saad Al-Beshi, says that he leads a normal life and is carrying out God's will. Using a sword given to him as a gift by the government, Al-Beshi has performed public executions since 1998 and has since trained his son, Musaed, to also become an executioner. "An executioner's life, of course, is not all killing. Sometimes it can be amputation of hands and legs. I use a special sharp knife, not a sword. When I cut off a hand I cut it from the joint. If it is a leg the authorities specify where it is to be taken off, so I follow that," Al-Beshi says. Although the majority of executions are eventually carried out, Al-Beshi must first go to the victim's family to ask forgiveness for the criminal, who may then be spared the sword. He states, "I always have that hope, until the very last minute, and I pray to God to give the criminal a new lease of life. I always keep that hope alive." A self-described family man, Al-Beshi says that his profession does not keep him from leading a normal life among family and friends and that he sleeps very well at night. He notes, "They aren't afraid of me when I come back from an execution. Sometimes they help me clean my sword."

 

North Carolina to Retry Former Death Row Inmate on Non-Capital Murder Charge

Posted: June 26, 2003

North Carolina's Attorney General has announced that the state will retry Alan Gell, whose death sentence was vacated last year when a North Carolina judge ruled that prosecutors withheld important evidence that might have exonerated Gell at his 1998 trial. After acknowledging that prosecutors from his office violated court orders and the U.S. Constitution by not handing over the evidence, Attorney General Ray Copper announced that the state will not seek the death penalty at Gell's second trial. The accusations that prosecutors withheld evidence and created false testimony could lead to an investigation by the North Carolina Bar, which can suspend or revoke law licenses for misconduct. Among the evidence not revealed was a secretly taped 1995 telephone conversation in which the prosecution's star witness said she "had to make up a story" about the murder. The state also withheld numerous statements of eyewitnesses who said they saw the victim alive after the only time Gell could have committed the murder.

 

Federal Death Penalty Case in Puerto Rico Prompts Protests

Posted: June 26, 2003

Despite the fact that the Constitution defining Puerto Rico's status as a self-governing commonwealth associated with the United States unconditionally bans capital punishment, the U.S. is seeking the federal death penalty in the trial of two Puerto Rican men. The trial has spurred grass-root protests against the death penalty. Gov. Sila M. Calderon, the Commonwealth's top elected official, said the case demonstrates the need to further reform the U.S. - Puerto Rican relationship, especially in regard to federal laws "that infringe on our culture, our own laws and our customs." Arturo Luis Davila Toro, president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association, reiterated her concerns, stating, "We don't believe in capital punishment, and they are trying to impose it on us." Jury selection for the trial took place last week at the U.S. District Court in San Juan.

 

High Death Penalty Expenses Could Be Used to More Effectively Fight Crime

Posted: June 26, 2003

States have been spending tens to hundreds of millions of dollars extra per year in order to pursue the death penalty, while crime fighting strategies that have been proven effective are starting to suffer as states face severe budget deficits. The New York Times recently collected some of the cutbacks to essential services:

  • In Multnomah County, Oregon, where Portland is located, the district attorney's office is so short of money that they have stopped prosecuting drug and property crimes until at least July 1, 2003. In addition, Sheriff Bernie Giusto said he has had to lay off prison guards as a result of the state's budget deficits, and the layoffs have reduced the number of prison beds available by more than 25%.
  • Seattle's police force has been reduced by 24 officers and 50 civilians this year to make up for budget cuts from the Washington's legislature. Burglaries, car thefts, and shoplifting are up 18% this year.
  • John Welter, San Diego's Police Chief, says that he's facing "the worst situation I've faced in 24 years on the job" because the city is no longer able to fill the positions of six or seven officers who retire each month, leaving the city 100 officers short by Spring 2004.
  • New York City, which is facing a $3.8 billion budget deficit, has slashed $250 million from the Police Department in recent months. The force has eliminated more than 4,000 officers in the past 3 years.
 

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