What's New

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.
 

Governor Bush Closing Office That Freed Death Row Inmates

Posted: June 26, 2003

Despite concerns that errors made by poorly paid private attorneys who are unfamiliar with death penalty litigation could risk innocent lives in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush will soon close one of the state's three Capital Collateral Regional Counsel (CCRC) offices. The offices are designed to defend death row inmates in their post-conviction appeals. Bush is closing the Tallahassee office, where attorneys have successfully freed wrongfully convicted death row inmates. Bush claims that the appeals process will move faster and death row inmates will be better served by Florida's state-run registry program for private attorneys who volunteer to defend death row inmates, but attorneys working with the CCRC fear that these volunteers lack the time and experience necessary to ensure adequate representation. Attorneys associated with CCRC believe that the closing of remaining offices in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa could be next.

 

Illinois Legislators Approve Sweeping Death Penalty Reforms

Posted: June 26, 2003

Illinois lawmakers recently approved sweeping death penalty reforms and have sent the legislative package to Governor Rod Blagojevich for signature into law. The reforms are expected to transform the investigation and prosecution of every death-eligible crime in Illinois. Based on recommendations made by the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment, the bill would change police procedures regarding disclosure of evidence, set up a system to get rid of police officers who lie, limit the number of crimes that could result in a death sentence, improve police line-up procedures, and create pretrial hearings to help determine the credibility of jailhouse informants. In addition, the bill creates a presumption that anyone with an IQ less than 75 is mentally retarded and is not eligible for the death penalty, and it establishes a "fundamental justice" provision that empowers the Illinois Supreme Court to overturn a death sentence if justices thought it was not called for in a particular case. Although Blagojevich is expected to sign the legislation, he noted that he feels it does not go far enough to protect against the possibility of executing an innocent person. Blagojevich continues to support the moratorium on executions in Illinois.

 

Pages