Saudi crucifixion death penalty for free speech


This video says says about itself:

Live execution by beheading in Saudi Arabia. WARNING GRAPHIC!!!!

Execution of Indonesian woman Ruyati Binti Sapubi by a single stroke of the sword taking the head clean off (June 18 2011).

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Saudi court hands death sentence to Shia cleric

Wednesday 15th Ovtober 2014

A SAUDI Arabian court sentenced Shia cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr to death today, setting what his family described as “a dangerous precedent.”

Mr Nimr was accused of “sedition” because of his vocal support for Bahrain’s 2011 Shia uprising, which was violently suppressed by the Saudi armed forces.

He did not deny the political charges but insisted he had never carried weapons or called for violent resistance to Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist Sunni monarchy.

But unmoved prosecutors called for “execution followed by crucifixion.”

Defence lawyers were unable to cross-examine prosecution witnesses as they were not told when the hearing involving them took place.

Two of Mr Nimr’s brothers were arrested after the trial — Mohammed al-Nimr, who announced the verdict on Twitter, and Jaafar al-Nimr, who was detained after going to police to ask what had happened to Mohammed.

Saudi activist Jaafar al-Shayeb said the verdict might spark unrest in parts of eastern Saudi Arabia populated by Shias.

Innocent man on United States death row for thirty years, free at last


Henry Lee McCollum wiped tears at a hearing Tuesday in Lumberton, N.C., where a judge declared him and his half brother Leon Brown innocent and ordered them both released from prison. Photo credit Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer

From the New York Times in the USA:

DNA Evidence Clears Two Men in 1983 Murder

By JONATHAN M. KATZ and ERIK ECKHOLM

SEPT. 2, 2014

LUMBERTON, N.C. — Thirty years after their convictions in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in rural North Carolina, based on confessions that they quickly repudiated and said were coerced, two mentally disabled half brothers were declared innocent and ordered released Tuesday by a judge here.

The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man whose possible involvement had been somehow overlooked by the authorities even though he lived only a block from where the victim’s body was found, and he had admitted to committing a similar rape and murder around the same time.

The startling shift in fortunes for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, provided one of the most dramatic examples yet of the potential harm from false, coerced confessions and of the power of DNA tests to exonerate the innocent.

As friends and relatives of the two men wept, a Superior Court judge in Robeson County, Douglas B. Sasser, said he was vacating their convictions and Mr. McCollum’s death sentence and ordering their release. The courtroom erupted into a standing ovation.

“We waited all these long years for this,” said James McCollum, the father of the man released from death row. “Thank you, Jesus,” he repeated.

The exoneration ends decades of legal and political battles over a case that became notorious in North Carolina and received nationwide discussion, vividly reflecting the country’s fractured views of the death penalty.

The two young defendants were prosecuted by Joe Freeman Britt, the 6-foot-6, Bible-quoting district attorney who was later profiled by “60 Minutes” as the country’s “deadliest D.A.” because he sought the death penalty so often.

For death penalty supporters, the horrifying facts of the girl’s rape and murder only emphasized the justice of applying the ultimate penalty. As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr. McCollum’s booking photograph on campaign fliers that accused a Democratic candidate of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.

In 1994, when the United States Supreme Court turned down a request to review the case, Justice Antonin Scalia described Mr. McCollum’s crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection. But Justice Harry A. Blackmun, in a dissent, noted that Mr. McCollum had the mental age of a 9-year-old and that “this factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional.”

The exoneration based on DNA evidence was another example of the way tainted convictions have unraveled in recent years because of new technology and legal defense efforts like those of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, a nonprofit legal group in North Carolina that took up the case.

In the courtroom here on Tuesday, the current district attorney, Johnson Britt (no relation to the original prosecutor), citing his obligation to “seek justice,” not simply gain convictions, said he would not try to prosecute the men again because the state “does not have a case.”

Mr. McCollum was 19 and Mr. Brown was 15 when they were picked up by the police in Red Springs, a town of fewer than 4,000 people in the southern part of the state, on the night of Sept. 28, 1983. The officers were investigating the murder of Sabrina Buie, 11, who had been raped and suffocated with her underwear crammed down her throat, her body left in a soybean field.

No physical evidence tied Mr. McCollum or Mr. Brown, both African-American, as was the victim, to the crime. But a local teenager cast suspicion on Mr. McCollum, who with his half brother had recently moved from New Jersey and was considered an outsider.

After five hours of questioning with no lawyer present and with his mother weeping in the hallway, not allowed to see him, Mr. McCollum told a story of how he and three other youths attacked and killed the girl.

“I had never been under this much pressure, with a person hollering at me and threatening me,” Mr. McCollum said in a recent videotaped interview with The News & Observer. “I just made up a story and gave it to them so they would let me go home.”

This video is about that interview.

After he signed a statement written in longhand by investigators, he asked, “Can I go home now?” according to an account by his defense lawyers.

Before the night was done, Mr. Brown, after being told that his half brother had confessed and facing similar threats that he could be executed if he did not cooperate, also signed a confession. Both men subsequently recanted at trial, saying their confessions had been coerced. The other two men mentioned in Mr. McCollum’s confession were never prosecuted.

Both defendants initially received death sentences for murder. After new trials were ordered by the State Supreme Court, Mr. McCollum was again sentenced to death, while Mr. Brown was convicted only of rape, and his sentence was reduced to life. (In later years, the Supreme Court barred the death penalty for minors and the execution of the mentally disabled.)

Lawyers from the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, working with private law firms, began pressing for DNA testing of the physical evidence in the case, which included a cigarette butt found near sticks used in the murder.

Recent DNA testing by an independent state agency, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, of evidence gathered in the initial investigation found a match for the DNA on the cigarette butt — not to either of the imprisoned men, but to Roscoe Artis, who lived only a block from where the victim’s body was found and who had a history of convictions for sexual assault.

Only weeks after the murder, in fact, Mr. Artis confessed to the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl in Red Springs. Mr. Artis received a death sentence, later reduced to life, for that crime and remains in prison. Officials never explained why, despite the remarkable similarities in the crimes, they kept their focus on Mr. McCollum and Mr. Brown even as the men proclaimed their innocence.

The only witness at the hearing Tuesday was Sharon Stellato of the innocence inquiry commission, who under questioning from defense lawyers described the lack of evidence tying the two men to the crime as well as the DNA findings implicating Mr. Artis. The district attorney said he had no evidence to the contrary.

Joe Freeman Britt, the original prosecutor, told The News & Observer last week that he still believed the men were guilty.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Mr. McCollum and Mr. Brown returned to prison to file the paperwork for their release, which to the frustration of defense lawyers and the men’s relatives was delayed, apparently until Wednesday.

As exoneration appeared likely, Mr. McCollum recently reflected on his fate.

“I have never stopped believing that one day I’d be able to walk out that door,” he said in the videotaped interview with The News & Observer.

“A long time ago, I wanted to find me a good wife, I wanted to raise a family, I wanted to have my own business and everything,” he said. “I never got a chance to realize those dreams.

“Now I believe that God is going to bless me to get back out there.”

Correction: September 2, 2014

An earlier version of this article misstated the given name of the Supreme Court justice who noted that Henry Lee McCollum had the mental age of a 9-year-old. It was Justice Harry A. Blackmun, not Hugo.

See also here.

Saudi regime beheading more people


This video is called Shocking Saudi Police Treatment Of A Bangladeshi Human Being.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Saudi Arabia executes 19 in one half of August in ‘disturbing surge of beheadings’

Natasha Culzac

Friday 22 August 2014

Saudi Arabia has beheaded at least 19 people since the beginning of August in a surge of executions, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

The deaths relate to the period from 4 to 20 August and are included in the 34 deaths ordered since the beginning of January.

According to HRW, international standards require that capital punishment should only be reserved for the “most serious crimes” in countries that still use it.

Offences that resulted in the Saudi Arabian death penalties in August ranged from drug smuggling [to] sorcery.

Four smugglers were executed on 18 August for smuggling a “large quantity of hashish” into the country amid an effort by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the government to tackle the social ill of narcotics and warned that anyone else doing the same would also be punished “according to Sharia”, the Saudi Press Agency said.

The men were all part of the same family and their deaths were condemned by Amnesty as being part of the “disturbing” surge in executions. Reuters reported that their confessions may have been obtained through torture.

Mohammed bin Bakr al-Alawi was beheaded on 5 August for allegedly practicing black magic sorcery, the Saudi Gazette reports, while according to Amnesty, a mentally ill man, Hajras al-Qurey, has been sentenced to death for drug trafficking “after an unfair trial” and will be killed on 25 August.

Al-Qurey’s son had reportedly confessed to drug smuggling and said that his father was unaware that the contraband was in the car.

The elder claims to have been beaten into confessing, despite repeatedly exclaiming that he was innocent and that he suffered a mental disability. He was held criminally liable despite an examination finding symptoms of mental illness including auditory hallucinations.

His son was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

“Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at HRW.

“There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia’s continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes.

“The current surge in executions in Saudi Arabia is yet another dark stain on the kingdom’s human rights record.” …

“The recent increase in executions in Saudi Arabia is a deeply disturbing deterioration. The authorities must act immediately to halt this cruel practice,” Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said earlier this week.

“The death penalty is always wrong, and it is against international law to use it in cases involving non-lethal crimes and where evidence used to convict the person is based on ‘confessions’ extracted as a result of torture.”

Louisiania government lied to hospital about death penalty drugs


This music video from the USA is called Gil Scott-Heron: Angola, Louisiana (1980). The lyrics are here.

By Tom Hall in the USA:

Louisiana procured death penalty drug through deception

13 August 2014

The Louisiana Department of Corrections deceived a hospital in southwest Louisiana into providing it with a drug to be used in executions, according to a report from the New Orleans-area investigative journalism outfit The Lens. The drug in question, hydromorphone, is part of the same two-drug protocol used in the drawn-out, agonizing deaths of Dennis McGuire in Ohio and Joseph Wood in Arizona earlier this year.

The fact that Louisiana has resorted to cloak-and-dagger methods to procure the supplies needed to carry out its state killings testifies both to the immense and growing opposition to the death penalty and to the collapse of any commitment to democratic rights or the rule of law in the American ruling class.

In late January, Elayn Hunt Correctional Center’s Medical Unit contacted Lake Charles Memorial Hospital to request 20 vials of hydromorphone, a potent painkiller and controlled substance. It is common practice for licensed pharmacies to sell drugs to other pharmacies, provided that they are needed to treat medical patients. As the only facility housing the state’s chronically or seriously ill inmates, Hunt Correctional Center would have had a plausible reason to request the drug. Indeed, the prison pharmacist explicitly told the hospital that the drug would be used for a “medical patient.”

However, the real destination for the drugs was the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, where the state’s death row facilities are located, where it was to be used to execute Christopher Sepulvado, sentenced to death for the 1992 murder of his stepson, in only a week’s time.

Lawyers for Sepulvado were able to temporarily delay his execution, arguing that he had a right to know the manner in which he was to be executed. In May, after botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma created a public uproar, the Louisiana Department of Corrections agreed to a six-month delay of Sepulvado’s execution in order to review the state’s lethal injection protocol.

The documents surrounding the state’s underhanded procurement of the execution drugs were made public last week as part of Sepulvado’s ongoing legal battle. By sheer chance the state, which, like other states, jealously guards the source of its lethal injection drugs, neglected to redact the name of the pharmacist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in official records.

Like many other states throughout the country that currently administer the death penalty, Louisiana has scrambled in recent years to find alternative sources of lethal injection drugs after the European Union banned the export of chemicals to the US to be used in executions. Louisiana had switched to the two-drug protocol involving hydromorphone and midazolam, a commonly available sedative, on January 27, only a day before the Hunt facility filed its request for hydromorphone with Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Before then, Louisiana had used a one-drug protocol involving pentobarbital, which had been in widespread use throughout the country since 2011 after the previous three-drug standard had become unavailable due to shortages. However, pentobarbital has also become scarce, and the state’s supply ran out last fall.

The impending shortage of lethal injection drugs sent the state into a flurry of improvisation to find a work-around in order to execute Sepulvado. In September, the state explored the possibility of obtaining pentobarbital from a Tulsa-based compounding pharmacy, the Apothecary Shoppe. In addition to the significantly lower quality of drugs produced at compounding pharmacies, such an arrangement would have been in flagrant violation of state law, which requires that suppliers be licensed in the state of Louisiana.

The Apothecary Shoppe has allegedly also supplied lethal injection drugs to Missouri, which has carried out seven executions in 2014, and Oklahoma, which botched its execution of Clayton Lockett last May (see: “Missouri carries out seventh execution of 2014”).

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Louisiana state legislature to protect the confidentiality of the sources of the state’s lethal injection drugs, in addition to allowing the state to legally purchase medication from out-of-state suppliers. The bill attracted overwhelming support within the state legislature before it was pulled at the last minute by its sponsor, Joe Lopinto (R-Metairie), after public outrage erupted in the aftermath of botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma.

The dangers inherent in the ad hoc hydromorophone-midazolam protocol that Louisiana switched to were known even before the horrific executions in Ohio and Arizona. Deborah Denno of Fordham University told Mother Jones in November of last year, “We don’t know how these drugs are going to react because they’ve never been used to kill someone … It’s like when you wonder what you’re going to be eating tonight and you go home and root through your refrigerator to see what’s there. That’s what these departments of corrections are doing with these drugs.” …

The author also recommends:

Arizona’s two-hour execution and the brutalization of America
[26 July 2014]

The horror in Ohio’s death chamber
[22 January 2014]

Arizona botched two-hour execution


This video from the USA says about itself:

24 July 2014

Arizona death row prisoner Joseph Wood was killed almost two hours after he received a lethal drug injection of midazolam and hydromorphone that had only been used once before in an execution in Ohio.

By Gabriel Black in the USA:

Arizona man dies in horrific two-hour execution

24 July 2014

The state of Arizona killed Joseph Wood by lethal injection Wednesday in an execution process that took almost two hours. The botched lethal injection was just one of several that have been carried out in the United States in the past few months.

The execution took place around 1.30 p.m., local-time. After Joseph Wood’s arms were injected with two lines, his veins were filled with a combination of the drugs midazolam and hydromorphone. According to an eyewitness with the Associated Press (AP), a look of pain overtook Wood’s face, and then Wood closed his eyes.

Ten minutes into the execution, roughly the amount of time lethal injections usually take to kill someone, Wood began gasping. Eyewitnesses reported that his jaw suddenly dropped and his chest puffed up. Afterwards he let out a gasp. AP reported: “The gasps repeated every five to 12 seconds. They went on and on, hundreds of times.”

After some time, the executioner turned on the microphone to the observers and informed them that Wood was, in fact, sedated, despite the noises he was making.

Troy Hayden, an eye witness to the execution, told USA Today that the execution was “very disturbing to watch … like a fish on shore gulping for air.” A reporter for the Arizona Republic, Michael Kiefer, said he “counted about 660 times he [Wood] gasped.”

As the execution continued, with the repeated gasping continuing on and on, Wood’s lawyers drew up an emergency appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court asking that the execution be immediately stayed.

In their plea they wrote, “He has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour… He is still alive.” Indicting the state, they concluded: “This execution has violated Mr. Wood’s Eight Amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment.”

The legal team drew attention to Arizona State law’s “Contingency Procedure” for executions, which states: “If at any point any team member determines that any part of the execution process is not going according to procedure, they shall advise the IV Team Leader who shall immediately notify the Director. The Director may consult with persons deemed appropriate and will determine to go forward with the procedure, start the procedure over at a later time within the 24-hour day, or stand down.”

The Supreme Court of Arizona held an emergency session by telephone in response to the lawyer’s motion; however, Wood was pronounced dead an hour later, while the court was still discussing the issue.

In April of this year, the state of Oklahoma killed Clayton Lockett in a 43-minute execution process. After being injected with the lethal drugs, Lockett began kicking and grimacing, trying to lift his head off the gurney to which he was strapped. Lockett’s veins exploded during the execution and he eventually died from a massive heart attack.

State execution chambers have been experimenting with drug cocktails after several European nations banned the export of drugs used for capital punishment to the United States. These experiments have led to multiple executions this year, in which the condemned is clearly in profound pain and, or, the killings took multiple times the usual length of ten minutes.

Before Wood was executed, his lawyers demanded that the court provide details regarding the two drugs they were going to use to kill him. His lawyers petitioned the court to stay the execution, which they did temporarily. The lawyers argued that Wood’s death would be both cruel and unusual.

After the execution Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona denounced Wood’s death and called for a halt to future executions in the state. Alessandra Soler, the Arizona ACLU’s Executive Director, stated: “What happened today to Mr. Wood was an experiment that the state did its best to hide.” She said that government officials “cannot be trusted to take seriously our Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.”

Wood was the 26th person to be executed this year in the United States. He was on death row for a double murder he committed in the late 1980s.

See also here.

Joseph Rudolph Wood was put to death by the state of Arizona on Wednesday. The 55-year-old’s execution was the third in the space of six months in which the condemned was subjected to a prolonged, agonizing lethal injection procedure. The previous atrocities occurred in Ohio and Oklahoma. In Wood’s case, the gruesome ordeal spanned nearly two hours: here.

Arizona lawyers lead call for inquiry into Joseph Wood’s two-hour execution: here.

Missouri set to execute inmate despite evidence state lied about lethal injection drugs: here.

Britain: A major drugs supplier to the NHS could be complicit in the executions of nine US prisoners on death row, a human-rights charity claimed yesterday. Reprieve revealed that pharmaceutical giant Mylan has ignored warnings that one of its drugs could be used to kill inmates in Alabama: here.