Sunday, 31 December 2006

Happy New Year for 2007 with the end of lethal injection

Have a nice evening all of you


William F. Mathews role during Allen Lee Davis Execution

William F. Mathews, P.A., physician's assistant for Florida State Prison, corroborrated that Davis could not have had trouble breathing. Matthews took Davis's pulse for two minutes after the electrical current ceased and did not feel anything. He also checked for heart and lung sounds and did not hear any. He said that he saw Davis's chest slump but that Davis did not show any sign of life when this occurred.


December 30, 2006 at 17:01:05


by Allen L Roland

Do not forget that this execution was carried out by a U.S. installed government in Iraq while the U.S.( contrary to International law ) is illegally occupying Iraq. Do not forget that the U.S. preemptively invaded Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis in a war based on deception and lies. As such, do not forget that Saddam Hussein, in essence, was executed by the U.S. government no matter how the Cheney/Bush administration tries to spin it: Allen L Roland

The Iraqis are not fooled by Saddam's hanging for they know this drama is being produced for an American audience who will ignore America's ongoing crimes against humanity, under the guise of liberty, and see Saddam's death as a sign of progress and a justification for a new ' surge ' in troops to secure Baghdad and perpetuate the Cheney/Bush agenda of death and global domination.

Bush's macho posturing is not fooling the Iraqis ~ about 90 percent of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before the U.S.-led invasion than it is today, according to a new ICRSS poll.

The pictures of a dangling Saddam may please a sadistic and vengeful Bush ~ but it will most certainly be a vivid reminder to most Americans and the rest of the world of our deepening moral disgrace. This certainly falls in line with a recent International poll that named George W Bush as the greatest menace to mankind and International peace.

Bush's demonizing of Saddam is the ultimate projection of his own dark side ~ which he continues to externalize on others in his demonic black and white world.

Burhan al-Chalabi, former chairman of the British Iraqi Foundation, shares his honest knowledgeable views on Saddam's hanging with the Guardian.

Excerpt: " The invasion and occupation of Iraq was an act of U.S. imperialism, marketed as a war of liberation ... The UN's legal and moral authority has been undermined....The U.S. presents the Iraqi people with this phoney act of accountability ( Saddam's Hanging ), but no one has been held accountable for invading and occupying Iraq or the mass human rights abuses carried out in the process... "

Allen L Roland


Burhan al-Chalabi, former chairman of the British Iraqi Foundation, gives his view in the Guardian: The Trials of Occupation.


" The imminent execution of Saddam Hussein is nothing but a smokescreen - a diversion in a series of diversions that will do nothing to address the price of the occupation of Iraq. If the Bush administration truly wanted to curb the cycle of bloodshed, it would come clean and share with the US public, the Iraqi people, and the international community the real goals of this disastrous neoconservative adventure.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was an act of US imperialism, marketed as a war of liberation. Iraq was chosen ahead of Iran or Syria because it had been weakened by 13 years of sanctions. It provided the opportunity to station US bases in the Middle East, and a vantage point to monitor Iran. Control of the massive oil reserves was not to be sniffed at, either.

It was assumed that Iraqis' distaste for Saddam would somehow make occupation acceptable.

It has, of course, proved to be anything but acceptable. It has proven unacceptable to the people of Iraq, the Middle East, and the world over. Today, a country is occupied and its sovereignty violated. The UN's legal and moral authority has been undermined.

Iraq's cultural heritage is in tatters, its natural resources squandered, its infrastructure destroyed.

Safety, security and the rule of law are nonexistent.

Terrorism is on the rise. This is borne out even in Washington's own reports. More than 3 million Iraqis have fled their homes. More than 600,000 civilians have been killed.

Officials of the former regime are judged and punished ~ sometimes with death sentences as in Saddam Hussein's case. Regardless of the nature of the crimes, it is only right that allegations should be tested by a properly constituted court of law that meets the basic requirements of justice, fairness and independence. These qualities could not be found in the court in Iraq, established by US viceroy Paul Bremer, who appointed its judges in direct contravention of international law...

The US presents the Iraqi people with this phoney act of accountability, but no one has been held accountable for invading and occupying Iraq or the mass human rights abuses carried out in the process...The occupying forces continue to peddle the nonsense that they cannot withdraw immediately - that this would only spark civil war.

I am convinced that the opposite is true: when the occupiers leave, the prevailing civil war will subside. Ordinary Iraqis will have to choose between killing each other or rebuilding the country - which they can only do in an independent, sovereign Iraq. "

Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:

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Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog and website He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show TRUTHTALK on Conscious talk radio

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Rolling execution closes chapter of area history

Rolling execution closes chapter of area history Danny Rolling is just a memory now.

More than 16 years ago, five college students were brutally slain in Gainesville during the first week of classes at the University of Florida. The crimes sent the community into a panic, and it would take nine anxious months before Rolling was publicly named as a suspect.

Long after he confessed and was sentenced to death, he would make headlines as his case crawled through the appeals process.

Now those stories will be fewer and Rolling will be discussed in the past tense.

"Instead of being a current event, it takes its place in local history," said Spencer Mann, who was spokesman for the Alachua County Sheriff's Office at the time of the murders. He now works for the State Attorney's Office and was a witness at Rolling's execution.

A 52-year-old native of Shreveport, La., Rolling was executed by lethal injection Oct. 25 at Florida State Prison near Raiford. The event attracted throngs of protesters and national media attention. The execution itself will be remembered for Rolling singing a hymn as his last statement and failing to apologize to his victims' families.

Dianna Hoyt, stepmother of victim Christa Hoyt, said even if Rolling would have apologized, she wouldn't have believed it was sincere. After years of dealing with appeals, she said the execution was a relief.

"The next day I woke up and I felt a tremendous burden had been lifted," she said.

She hopes the memory of Rolling will fade, but the community continues to remember the victims. The memorial wall on SW 34th Street provides a lasting reminder of their names: Sonja Larson, Christina Powell, Christa Hoyt, Tracy Paules and Manuel Taboada.

Larson, 18, of Deerfield Beach, and Powell, 17, of Jacksonville, were the first to be found slain. The UF freshmen were discovered in their Williamsburg Village apartment on SW 16th Street on Aug. 26, 1990, the Sunday before classes started.

The next day, officers found the body of Hoyt, 18, of Archer. An Alachua County Sheriff's Office records clerk, she was found in the duplex apartment on SW 24th Avenue where she lived alone.

Two days later, the bodies of Paules and Taboada, both 23 and high school friends from Miami, were discovered in their Gatorwood apartment off Archer Road.

The horrific nature of the killings, which involved the mutilation and posing of the victims, shocked the community and sent UF students fleeing for home. The town was soon filled with law enforcement officers and reporters from across the nation.

Initially suspecting a UF freshman who exhibited bizarre behavior, police eventually turned their attention to Rolling. Ten days after the killing, Rolling had ended up in custody on robbery charges in Marion County. His DNA was later compared to crime scene evidence, proving police had the right man.

In 1994, Rolling entered a guilty plea as jury selection began in his trial. Nonetheless, he would appeal his death sentence on a variety of grounds over the next dozen years.

Rolling's attorney, Baya Harrison, handled his final appeal, arguing the lethal injection procedure was cruel and unusual punishment. The U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of the appeal paved the way for the execution.

The execution by lethal injection appeared to be conducted without problems. But Harrison said Angel Nieves Diaz's Dec. 13 execution, which took two rounds of chemicals and appeared to cause Diaz to writhe in pain, has now caused him to question the whole process.

"I don't know whether Rolling suffered or not," he said.

Mann said he felt the execution was hardly comparable to the pain that Rolling inflicted.

"When you look at everything the families have been through and the community has been through, in a lot of respects the execution pales in comparison," he said.

Harrison said he was disappointed by Rolling's last statement, hoping his client would apologize to his victims. Instead, he sang a gospel hymn for two minutes.

"Thou art the alpha and omega. The beginning and the end. The sound of thy voice stills a mighty wind. None greater than thee oh Lord. None greater than thee," Rolling sang.

But Rolling did clear up one loose end before he died. Before the execution, he gave a note to his minister confessing to a 1989 triple slaying in Louisiana in which he was suspected but never convicted.

Julie Grissom, 24, her nephew Sean Grissom, 8, and her father Tom Grissom, 55, were found stabbed to death in their Shreveport home, almost a year before Rolling's deadly Gainesville crime spree.

Some of the family members of Rolling's victims had said repeatedly that the execution wouldn't provide closure, because the deaths of their loved ones would affect their lives forever.

But Hoyt said the execution did close the book on the killer's story.

"It did help ... a lot more than I thought it would," she said.

Even Bush's strongest critics could not doubt he had Florida's best interests at heart.

Like any departing governor, Bush leaves behind some festering issues. The crisis in property insurance will have to be addressed by incoming Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature. So will property tax reform, the future of privatization and problems carrying out executions by lethal injection. Higher education also didn't get the attention it deserves during the Bush years.

As the state grapples with those challenges, changes in tone and attitude will come more quickly in Tallahassee. After years of being dominated by the executive branch, the Legislature can be expected to assert itself again. Bush held tight to conservative values and was slow to compromise or accept opposing views. He had little use for legislators who challenged him or judges who disagreed with him in areas ranging from tuition vouchers to the Terri Schiavo feeding tube controversy. Crist is more of a populist whose early appointments reflect his greater willingness to delegate responsibility and hear alternative views.

As Bush leaves public life (at least for now), he leaves behind a state government with an impressive AAA bond rating and significant reserves. Despite a housing slump, the economy remains relatively strong with low unemployment and an annual job growth rate that is more than twice the national average. The crime rate is lower than it has been in decades, and the woeful high school graduation rate has risen by some measures. The governor deserves a measure of credit for these positive trends, although how much is due to his policies and how much should be attributed to other factors will be up to historians to decide.

Although Bush's administration was plagued by the occasional ethical lapse, the governor's personal integrity was never in question. His concern was genuine for improving the lives of the less fortunate among us who could use a helping hand toward a better education, a bigger job and a brighter future. We continue to have significant philosophical and policy differences, but we admire the intensity and energy he brought to an extremely challenging job. Even Bush's strongest critics could not doubt he had Florida's best interests at heart.

Saturday, 30 December 2006

William Mathews role during Florida executions

His affidavit in Clarence Hill

Saddam's fate fuels U.S. death-penalty critics

Saddam's fate fuels U.S. death-penalty critics

30 Dec 2006 20:28:44 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Jim Wolf WASHINGTON, Dec 30 (Reuters) -

Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's death by hanging has fueled opponents of the death penalty in the United States, which is at odds with many of its closest allies who view the practice as barbaric.

U.S. airwaves were blanketed with images of black-masked hangmen leading Saddam to the noose on Saturday in what U.S. President George Bush called "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy."

Richard Dicker, director of an international justice program of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said: "The execution of Saddam, a human-rights monster, turned his unspeakable record upside down." Saddam, 69, was convicted in November by a U.S.-sponsored Iraqi court of crimes against humanity and was hanged at dawn in Baghdad. Deposed by a 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Saddam refused a hood designed to shield his gaze as he faced the gallows.

Images of the execution "will not strengthen the argument of death penalty proponents in the United States or anywhere else," Dicker said.

David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, a Washington-based group working to end capital punishment, called the pictures "ghoulish." "We're more determined than ever to abolish the death penalty," he added in a telephone interview. "It's not a question of whether it will happen, it's a question of when."

The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, urged the U.S. government to join global moves to end the death penalty. Executing Saddam fails to remedy a grave human-rights situation in Iraq and "serves only to devalue further the right to life," said Tonya McClary of the group's anti-death penalty program.

Most Americans still favor the death penalty, but many U.S. states are reconsidering it. U.S. executions are at a 10-year low, and the annual number of death sentences has dropped almost 60 percent since 1999, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll in June found 65 percent of American adults endorsed executing convicted murderers. International human-rights inquiries and other studies regularly fault the U.S. death-penalty system for problems including wrongful convictions, inadequate legal representation for defendants and racial and economic disparities in its application.

"Many allies consider such practices to be unfit for a great democracy seeking to assert leadership on human rights and other international policy matters," the American Civil Liberties Union said in a paper that concluded the death penalty weakened U.S. interests worldwide.

Former Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel reacted to Saddam's execution by saying "you don't fight barbarism with acts that I deem barbaric." Legal challenges in the United States often turn on whether executions violate a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Saddam's execution will boost opposition to capital punishment worldwide, including the United States and the Middle East, "because it will be viewed as following a flawed, rushed trial that resulted in a penalty that is cruel and inhumane," said Zahir Janmohamed of Amnesty International, winner of the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.

More than half the world's countries -- 129 -- have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, according to Amnesty. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States accounted for 94 percent of the executions recorded by Amnesty International in 2005.

Of the known total, China had the lion's share with at least 1,770 while 60 were executed in the United States, Amnesty said. Seventy-two percent of the 50 U.S. states had no executions in 2006, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Most executions in 10 states are on hold as aspects of their capital-punishment laws are examined. Two states -- Illinois and New Jersey -- have a formal moratorium on all executions while their legislatures weigh the issues. In the United States, two states -- New Hampshire and Washington -- authorize executions by hanging, with lethal injection as an alternative.

Research takes law student to death row

Research takes law student to death row

In the past 25 years Texas has built up a fearsome reputation as the execution capital of America.

Since 1982, 379 people have been executed by lethal injection in the state prison at Huntsville, and a similar number are currently on death row.

Sydney law student Anish Bhasin - an opponent of the death penalty - will travel to the University of Texas at Austin later this year to study how the system works at first hand. With the help of a Chancellor's Committee Exchange Scholarship worth $3,000 he plans to study at the university's Capital Punishment Center, working with attorneys handling death penalty cases. They will be visiting clients in local jails, interviewing witnesses and helping prepare for trials.

"I've been involved in the NSW Council for Civil Liberties recently and I am personally opposed to the death penalty. With nine Australians overseas facing the death penalty, and six of those in Indonesia, capital punishment is topical in our region," he said.

At 26, and with an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, a masters in international studies, and halfway through a graduate law degree, Anish hopes that his time in the USA will broaden his academic exposure.

"Many current legal topics such as terrorism are global issues. I want to study how other governments with different jurisdictions engage with these issues," he said.

Zhe Xu, a third year aerospace engineering student, also won a Chancellor's Committee Exchange Scholarship which he will use to study for a semester at the University of Arizona.

"Aerospace engineering is a big industry in America. Researchers from Arizona University designed one of the cameras being used for the Mars probes," said the 20-year-old.

As well as learning about the research at Arizona, Zhe is keen to discover how the teaching styles compare with those at Sydney. "This is a unique opportunity for me to see how things work over there," he said.

A total of 79 international exchange scholarships were awarded this year on the basis of academic merit, which takes into account the cumulative annual average marks obtained by applicants.

Some faculties also offer their own scholarships, such as the Faculty of Arts with the Fare Enough Scheme, the Faculty of Economics and Businesswith Student Exchange Travel Scholarships and the Faculty of Science with Dean of Science Undergraduate Exchange Scholarships.

By University of Sydney

Who stands where on the death penalty

By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News website

The execution of Saddam Hussein has provoked mixed reactions around the world and focused attention on varying attitudes towards capital punishment."Saddam Hussein in court as the verdict was being read"

The European Union has used Saddam Hussein's trial and conviction to reiterate its deeply entrenched opposition to the death penalty. It led the way in calling for the former Iraqi leader not to go to the gallows.

However, while the EU maintained its firm position, some of its member-countries stepped out of line by applauding the death sentence when it was passed in November.

The Czech Republic's Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, welcomed it, describing it "an act of justice" and a warning to other dictators. Poland's President Lech Kaczynski described it as "the only possible outcome".

According to recent polls, the populations of both countries are supportive of capital punishment.

Poland abolished capital punishment in 1997, following a moratorium on executions imposed in 1988. But polls carried out a few years ago suggested that 70% of the population supported capital punishment.

EU clash

In the summer of 2006, Poland clashed with the EU after Mr Kaczynski called for a Europe-wide debate on capital punishment. He wanted the EU to either change its policy or allow the issue to be a matter for an individual country's legislation.

Turkey's Blue Mosque
Turkey abolished the death penalty under EU pressure

Abolition of the death penalty is a requirement for countries seeking EU membership - Turkey has recently abandoned it - and officials say that members that reintroduce it will be punished.

Most Western European countries abandoned the death penalty in the 1960s while Eastern European states did so in the 1990s.

Russia, a member of the Council of Europe, has yet to formally abolish the death penalty - although it has had a moratorium on capital punishment since 1990. Belarus has applied to become a member of the council but will have to abolish the death penalty before it can do so.

The US and Japanese governments - both of which exercise capital punishment - welcomed the former Iraqi leader's sentence when it was passed.

Japan executed four prisoners on 25 December, the first hangings in more than a year. At least 80 prisoners remain on death row.

The death penalty had been put on hold since September 2005 after the former justice minister refused to sign off any more executions, saying they went against his Buddhist beliefs.

The new justice minister, however, used the latest hangings as an opportunity to remind the world that more executions were to come and that the vast majority of the public were supporters of the death penalty.

According to official government statistics, some 80% of the country's population support capital punishment. Nonetheless, there is a small but increasingly vociferous abolitionist movement in the country.

Most executions

The US stands alongside China, Saudi Arabia and Iran as carrying out the greatest numbers of executions per year. According to Amnesty International 94% of the 2005 executions took place in those countries - with about 80% of those taking place in China.

Witnesses stand around an execution gurney
Polls show that US public support for the death penalty is decreasing
Although a majority of Americans back the death penalty, polls suggest public support is decreasing while the alternative sentence of life without the possibility of parole is gaining in popularity.

The number of people on death row in the US has continued to decline, falling to 3,344 by October 2006, according to the US Death Penalty Information Center. In its annual report, it says that the number of convicts on death began to fall in 2000 after 25 years of steady increases.

It also finds that executions dropped to their lowest in 10 years, with 53 carried out this year, 12% less than last year.

Challenges to the lethal injection process have resulted in executions being stayed in some states in 2006. They are currently suspended in Maryland, Florida and California.

About a dozen US states do not have the death penalty.

Chinese review

China is the world's leader in executions.

No one knows how many people are put to death in the country each year but Amnesty International estimates that in 2005, it carried out an estimated 1,770 executions and sentenced nearly 4,000 people to death.

This year, the government took steps to reform the process by restoring to the Supreme Court the right to review all death sentences.

The move followed a series of embarrassing miscarriages of justice. These were the result of the lower courts being given the right to approve the death sentence in the 1980s.

A new law comes into affect in January 2007.

Capital punishment has a long history in China, and there is no indication the country is ready to give it up.

Stoning controversy

Most Muslim countries retain capital punishment, with Iran and Saudi Arabia carrying out the most executions.

Still from Iraqi government video of criminals being hanged
Iraq's government has released video of criminals being hanged

Methods of execution in Islamic countries vary and can include beheading, firing squad, hanging and stoning.

In some countries public executions are carried out to heighten the element of deterrence.

In 2006 in Iran, a group of human rights defenders, mostly women, began a campaign to abolish stoning to death, after reports that a man and woman had been stoned to death in Mashhad, despite an official moratorium on such executions.

Amnesty maintains that the trend toward abolishing the death penalty continues to grow.

In 2006, the only country to abolish the death penalty was the Philippines, after overwhelming votes in both houses of its legislature.

That leaves 69 countries that retain and use the death penalty.

Critics say US orchestrated death sentence

Critics say US orchestrated death sentence

Although Iraqi judges handed down the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, hundreds of American lawyers, advisers and investigators played a crucial role in the process of trying and convicting the ousted Iraqi leader.

For three years, US officials from the Department of Justice and the State Department pored over millions of Iraqi documents and hundreds of graves from mass killings during Saddam Hussein's 24-year rule in search of key evidence. American advisers helped draft the court's rules. Later, after an elected Iraqi government came to power, US officials still played a key role in the court.

In all, the US government spent more than $128 million building the courthouse, exhuming mass graves, gathering evidence and training Iraqi judges. That figure dwarfed the $9 million spent by Iraq.

For many critics within Iraq and beyond, Hussein's trial has been tainted by the perception -- especially common in the Arab world -- that the American military victors in Iraq orchestrated the judgment. US officials say they wanted to play a lesser role, but few other governments were willing to assist Iraq in bringing Hussein to justice.

"It is very clear that if you look at sentiment in the Arab regional world, the American role in establishing the tribunal and its link to the invasion of Iraq has greatly lessened the tribunal's legitimacy," said Miranda Sissons, a senior associate at the International Center for Transitional Justice, a New York-based organization that researches and supports war crimes and genocide prosecutions.

"This is perceived as an American-dominated process," said Nehal Bhuta, an assistant law professor at the University of Toronto, who observed part of the trial for Human Rights Watch.

US officials say they asked the United Nations, the European Union and a host of countries to assist with the tribunal, but they all refused because they opposed the tribunal's use of the death penalty _ and the US decision to invade Iraq.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, former US assistant secretary of state for war crimes who played a key role in setting up the tribunal, said he approached other countries to take charge of witness protection, the exhumation of graves or judges training. Only Britain and Australia agreed to assist.

"At the time, everybody was saying, 'this is too American.' But it was American by default," he said. "I wanted to dilute the American role.

It would look like we were the puppeteers instead of a noble effort to help the Iraqis administer justice." Even before Hussein's regime was toppled, debates raged over how he should be tried. Human rights groups, European governments, and key Democrats, including Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, argued that he should be prosecuted in an international court, as had been done with the leaders of Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia. They argued that a trial with an international _ not just American _ role would be much more credible and less subject to political pressure.

Although Iraqi judges handed down the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, hundreds of American lawyers, advisers and investigators played a crucial role in the process of trying and convicting the ousted Iraqi leader.

For three years, US officials from the Department of Justice and the State Department pored over millions of Iraqi documents and hundreds of graves from mass killings during Saddam Hussein's 24-year rule in search of key evidence. American advisers helped draft the court's rules. Later, after an elected Iraqi government came to power, US officials still played a key role in the court.

In all, the US government spent more than $128 million building the courthouse, exhuming mass graves, gathering evidence and training Iraqi judges. That figure dwarfed the $9 million spent by Iraq.

For many critics within Iraq and beyond, Hussein's trial has been tainted by the perception -- especially common in the Arab world -- that the American military victors in Iraq orchestrated the judgment. US officials say they wanted to play a lesser role, but few other governments were willing to assist Iraq in bringing Hussein to justice.

"It is very clear that if you look at sentiment in the Arab regional world, the American role in establishing the tribunal and its link to the invasion of Iraq has greatly lessened the tribunal's legitimacy," said Miranda Sissons, a senior associate at the International Center for Transitional Justice, a New York-based organization that researches and supports war crimes and genocide prosecutions.

"This is perceived as an American-dominated process," said Nehal Bhuta, an assistant law professor at the University of Toronto, who observed part of the trial for Human Rights Watch.

US officials say they asked the United Nations, the European Union and a host of countries to assist with the tribunal, but they all refused because they opposed the tribunal's use of the death penalty _ and the US decision to invade Iraq.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, former US assistant secretary of state for war crimes who played a key role in setting up the tribunal, said he approached other countries to take charge of witness protection, the exhumation of graves or judges training. Only Britain and Australia agreed to assist.

"At the time, everybody was saying, 'this is too American.' But it was American by default," he said. "I wanted to dilute the American role.

It would look like we were the puppeteers instead of a noble effort to help the Iraqis administer justice." Even before Hussein's regime was toppled, debates raged over how he should be tried. Human rights groups, European governments, and key Democrats, including Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, argued that he should be prosecuted in an international court, as had been done with the leaders of Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the former Yugoslavia. They argued that a trial with an international _ not just American _ role would be much more credible and less subject to political pressure.

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But senior officials in the Bush administration saw international tribunals as expensive, excessively bureaucratic, and often divorced from the populations they were meant to serve. The Bush administration also opposes efforts to set up a permanent international war crimes court, fearing that it could wind up charging American soldiers.

"They were out to make a political, ideological point that international tribunals were not necessary to try these kinds of crimes," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch International Justice Program.

On April 7, 2003 _ two days before Baghdad fell _ US officials announced that Hussein would be tried in an Iraqi court. Since Iraq's justice system was shattered, they said American advisers would assist.

Over the next year, Americans helped the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council draft the tribunal's statute. That draft, which heavily relied on international standards, became law in December 2003, by order of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

But many law experts called the tribunal illegitimate, since international laws prohibit an occupying power from changing the legal code of the country it occupies. Countries shied away from helping the tribunal after that, Sissons said.

Iraq's own parliament eventually altered the statute _ removing many references to international standards _ and adopted it in October 2005, the day before Hussein went on trial for killing at least 143 men and boys from the town of Dujail after a 1982 assassination attempt.

The new version of the statute mandated Hussein's execution within 30 days of a death sentence.

US officials say that they were involved in nearly every aspect of preparing for the trial, from interviewing witnesses to finding death warrants in the national archives. But they said their main goal was to prepare Iraqis to impartially prosecute the cases.

"We were there to assist the Iraqis in bringing cases to trial," said Greg Kehoe, a Florida lawyer who headed the "Regime Crimes Liaison Office" in Baghdad that worked alongside Iraqis to sift through the evidence. "Whatever the facts bore out, the facts bore out. We had no preconceived notions before the trials." But as Iraqis took charge and Hussein's first trial got under way this year, human rights groups began to warn that interference from newly powerful Iraqi politicians was more dangerous than any American bias.

In January, the chief judge presiding over the Dujail trial resigned after members of parliament criticized him for being too lenient toward Hussein in court. His replacement was also removed when Iraq's De-Baathification Commission accused him of having been a party member. A third judge on the five-judge panel resigned because of a conflict of interest. In September, the chief judge of a second trial against Hussein was removed after saying that Hussein was not a dictator.

In addition, three members of the defense team were assassinated by unknown assailants.

"The result was a very defective trial, which didn't meet basic fair trial requirements," said Bhuta. He called the trial the "worst of both worlds" _ vulnerable to Iraqi interference, but also to charges that it was dominated by the United States.

Sharon Singh of Amnesty International said international judges serving alongside the Iraqis judges would have lessened the impact of the political pressure and made the trial's verdict more widely accepted.

But others say that it was important that Iraqis take charge of the trial on their own. However imperfect, they say, the trial was still a major step forward for Iraq.

"I don't think there was a hidden American hand that directed the trial," said Nimrod Rafeli of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute. "Those who support Saddam Hussein will always maintain that the trial was not fair. No matter what you do, they will say, the 'US was behind it.'"

There have been some cases where people have had to be dropped twice for the neck to break.

Death usually quick at hanging, experts say

New York Daily News
Dec. 29, 2006 08:24 PM NEW YORK - Saddam Hussein should feel no pain at his execution - unless the hangman is inexperienced, vengeful or both.

The former Iraqi dictator's trip to the gallows should produce near-instant death, say medical experts, though prolonged suffering is possible if Saddam doesn't fall far enough or with sufficient force.

Dr. Byron Bailey, associate professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of South Carolina, expects Saddam to suffer a "hangman's fracture," a term used for the violent breaking of the C-2 vertebra just below the base of the skull.
"It should cause fracture and distraction of the spinal cord, in addition to compressing the arteries in the neck and crushing the windpipe. All those things happen at once," Bailey said.

Aside from the vertebra fracture, a properly placed rope will snap the trachea and compress the jugular veins and carotid artery, cutting off all oxygen and blood to the brain.

"A lot of people debate whether or not consciousness is lost immediately," said Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, a professor of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "I think consciousness is lost immediately, but nobody knows for sure. It's a philosophical question."

Anything less forceful may not instantly cut blood and oxygen flow - leaving Saddam to die over a few minutes by suffocation.

"Some people hang them from a shorter distance and simply strangulate them to death," Bailey said.

Two U.S. states - New Hampshire and Washington - permit hangings as capital punishment, usually as an alternative to lethal injection. The last hanging in the U.S. was in 1996 in Delaware.

Kobilinsky said hangings are believed to have originated almost 3,000 years ago in Persia, now known as Iran, which still carries them out.

Amnesty International, which supports a worldwide death penalty ban, says Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan and Singapore, among others, also currently hang prisoners.

Curt Goering, Amnesty International USA's deputy executive director, said grimly, "There have been some cases where people have had to be dropped twice for the neck to break."

Editorial: Executions in Florida

Editorial: Executions in Florida

While focus is on ‘how,’ we might also ask ‘why’

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Florida officials are reviewing execution procedures in the wake of a convicted murderer last week taking longer than usual - 34 minutes rather than the usual 15 or so - to die from lethal injection.

Witnesses and others say it appeared the killer, Angel Diaz, 55, of Miami, was upset and in pain.

While the remedial action would seem fundamental - refresher courses for intravenous technicians on how to get needles into blood vessels rather than surrounding tissue - even going near this volatile issue is sure to bring a much more widely-ranging review and inevitable debate.

Therefore, while officials are reviewing whether Florida’s lethal injection methods are “cruel and unusual punishment,” why not review capital punishment in its entirety?

Is it really a deterrent? That has always been dubious, especially in view of the fact that death row is populated by 374 killers and is putting them to death at the rate of three or four per year. Diaz committed his crime - not his sole murder - fully 27 years ago.

Does capital punishment save money? In view of the above, how could it?

While Florida’s procedural review is under way, it will lead to the conundrum of trying to find a nicer way to kill someone - even though one can argue that any killer of an innocent has earned like treatment. Yet, doing so would be unconstitutional.

Remember, it has been only six years since lethal injection replaced the electric chair after sparks flew from the heads of two occupants.

This is a slippery slope.

It may be time to address whether actually keeping criminals behind bars - more so than issuing attention-grabbing sentences for chemical castrations - is the way to go. Period.

Denying someone’s freedom is the ultimate punishment, is it not?

What better way to demonstrate that it's wrong to kill people than by killing someone?

What better way to demonstrate that it's wrong to kill people than by killing someone?

Saddam Hussein is reportedly going to be executed by Sunday.

And what better way to do it than a barbaric hanging? This is 2006, who needs humane methods? Humanity, civilization, the Fifth Commandment– who needs any of those things? It's not like any of the people involved on either side are religious and would feel compelled to follow their God's rules.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but I'm still against the death penalty, even for Saddam Hussein. I just don't see how this is a tougher punishment than life in prison. He is getting off scot-free! What better way to create a martyr out of him, which will infuriate the Baathists even more, refuel the insurgency, and stir up some badly needed support from the American public for this illegal war. It's a win-win situation for Mr. Bush. They're very good at playing dumb, but there's a reason for everything this Administration does.

"He told them [his brothers] he was happy he would meet his death at the hands of his enemies and be a martyr, not just languish in jail."

- Badie Aref, one of Saddam's lawyers

If this is all about war crimes, why isn't Mr. Bush and his entire Administration being tried? The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in the deaths of anywhere from 100,000-655,000 civilians. THAT is a war crime. Talk about hypocrisy.

Lastly, one cannot ignore the speed of this execution. While the people involved are night and day different in their actions, it's reminding me all too much of Sophie Scholl and her expedited execution at the hands of the Nazis. Would this happen with an American official? I certainly don't think so. But then, we are exempt from most international rules because we're AMERICA damn it!

Just another soldier in the good fight.

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The Hanging of Saddam Hussein

December 29, 2006 at 20:52:33

The Hanging of Saddam Hussein

by Jan Baumgartner

As we lick our chops, collectively salivating as Hussein is led to the gallows, American bloodlust ranks up there with a diminishing number of countries in Asia and Africa that impose capital punishment, yet we are unremarkably unparalleled in the Developed, Western, Industrialized world.

By the time this reaches print, Saddam Hussein will be dead. And I have no doubts that if his public hanging had been offered for American viewing, stations would have scrambled to air the execution. Under the pretext of being "newsworthy," and therefore, worth witnessing, the event would have covered our home screens with death images not unlike those once viewed publicly in the Gladiator-like arenas.

But surely, watching a "live death" would be far more civilized from the privacy and comfort of our own home theaters. However, the American penchant for "reality based television" and violence is the perfect coupling for record-breaking ratings during a televised execution.

The very anticipation of a noose around Saddam Hussein's neck has been getting good airtime, but not the non-stop coverage that television executives would hope for due to the obligatory coverage of one of the many Gerald Ford funerals.

This is not to make light of Hussein's crimes against humanity. That is a given. Rather, this is a look at a diminishing number of countries that still impose capital punishment - and the irony of whose company we keep.

According to Wikipedia and Amnesty International, there are approximately 70 countries that "retain the death penalty in both law and practice." Note that this distinguishes said countries from others that have the death penalty by law, or on the books, but no longer practice or enforce capital punishment.

The following breakdown is only a partial list of countries that either support or do not suppport the death penalty.

Of the nations described as Western, Developed or Industrialized, very few impose capital punishment. Nearly all of the European continent opposes the death penalty with the exception of Belarus. Latvia has the death penalty by law, but only imposes such sentences on "exceptional crimes." Turkey and Russia, too, list it by law, but it is not used in practice.

Canada does not impose capital punishment nor does Mexico. Japan is one of the few industrialized nations that continues to impose such a penalty.

Most interestingly, is the following "short list" of countries in relation to the United States and much of our continued rhetoric regarding nations that we have described as barbaric or part of the "Axis of Evil."

Along with the United States in supporting and imposing capital punishment are: Iraq, Iran and North Korea - the latter three all "Axis of Evil" designees. And for good measure, Syria is keeping company with us as well.

A few of the other Middle Eastern, Asian or African countries that impose the death penalty include: Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

I do not make judgments on any of the above countries, but rather, am pointing out what I see as the blatant hypocrisy of the United States in our loose canon of condemnations, insults, judgments and deadly labels that we have placed on many nations whose company we keep on the list of those who "violate human rights" - a quote and description often used by international Human Rights agencies and watchdogs.

A complete list of countries and how they stand on the issue of capital punishment can be found at Wikipedia, and more detailed information and up to date listings of countries that are abolishing capital punishment, can be found at Amnesty International.

A native Californian, Jan Baumgartner is a freelance writer currently living in Maine. Her background includes scriptwriting for video and film production companies, comedy writing for the Northern California Emmy Awards, and travel writing for The New York Times. She has worked as a grant writer for the non-profit sector in the fields of academia, AIDS, and wildlife conservation and research in the U.S. and Kenya. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous online and print publications. Her travels in Africa are the inspiration for much of her work. She's finishing a memoir about her husband's death from ALS.

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Friday, 29 December 2006

House chairwoman opposes capital punishment

House chairwoman opposes capital punishment

Healey’s committee is likely to address decision blocking lethal injections

Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006

The new head of the state legislative committee that would have to develop a new policy for administering lethal injections opposes the death penalty.

Del. Anne Healey (D-Dist. 22) of Hyattsville was named the House chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review — the panel that gives legislative oversight of state agency regulations.

Healey, who opposes abortion, said it is too soon to say how the legislature would react to last week’s decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals to block lethal objections.

‘‘I think we’re going to have to look at it, at this point,” she said.

The court ruled that the General Assembly should not have left it up to the state Division of Correction to develop the lethal injection protocols without public comment.

While death penalty opponents have welcomed the ruling as a legal excuse to end executions, one prosecutor said the state should use the gas chamber now that lethal injections have been blocked.

‘‘Currently you can choose [if you’re an inmate] between the gas chamber and lethal injection,” said Frederick County State’s Attorney Scott L. Rolle (R). ‘‘Does that mean there’s no choice between the two now or that they can’t get the death penalty?”

The state should not end the death penalty, he said.

‘‘My view on it: You rape and kill a child or commit a terrorist act or kill a police officer, you should face the death penalty,” Rolle said. ‘‘I don’t necessarily like it. I think it’s just a necessary law to have on the books for prosecutors in the appropriate cases. We should make it race neutral, gender neutral, but we should have it.”

Others, however, say fixing the state’s capital punishment system is not as simple as switching from lethal injection to the gas chamber.

‘‘Maryland’s elected leaders should avoid the legal quagmire this ruling has created and end the state’s use of capital punishment,” said Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.

Henderson and others called for Gov.-elect Martin O’Malley (D) to end capital punishment.

At a news conference in Baltimore last week, O’Malley said he opposes the death penalty. ‘‘I think we should evolve to the point that we realize the death penalty does not reduce violent crime,” he said.

However, O’Malley said, he would sign a death warrant if one reached his desk as governor. When he is sworn in as governor next month, O’Malley said, he will take an oath to uphold the law. ‘‘But that doesn’t mean those laws couldn’t be made better and more effective,” he said.

Lawmakers should not wait for the courts to fix the problem, but should fix it themselves, said Rolle, who campaigned unsuccessfully for attorney general.

‘‘It’s no secret our Court of Appeals doesn’t like the death penalty,” he said.

Saddam lawyer in last-ditch plea

Saddam lawyer in last-ditch plea

Saddam Hussein in court. File photo
Saddam Hussein's sentence must be carried out within 30 days
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's lawyer has urged the international community to stop him being handed over to the Iraqi authorities for execution.

Chief defence lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said Saddam was a prisoner of war and should not be handed to his enemies.

The former leader could be hanged on any day over the next four weeks, after an appeal against his execution failed.

The Vatican has condemned the sentence, saying it was wrong to answer crime with another crime.

The sentence is for killings in the town of Dujail in the 1980s. A trial for a second case continues.

Clemency call

"I ask all international organisations, the United Nations, the Arab League and world leaders, to intervene urgently with the American administration to prevent Saddam being handed to the Iraqi authorities," Mr Khalil al-Dulaimi told AFP news agency.

"Saddam is a prisoner of war and according to international law he should not be handed to his enemies," he added.

Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi president: found guilty and sentenced to death
Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein's half-brother: found guilty and sentenced to death
Awad Hamed al-Bandar, Chief Judge of Revolutionary Court: found guilty and sentenced to death
Taha Yasin Ramadan, former Iraqi vice-president: found guilty and sentenced to life in jail
Abdullah Kadhem Ruaid Senior Baath official: found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in jail
Abdullah Rawed Mizher, Senior Baath official: found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in jail
Ali Daeem Ali, Senior Baath official: found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in jail
Mohammed Azawi Ali, Baath official: acquitted

Meanwhile, a senior Vatican official, Cardinal Renato Martino, told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper that life should be protected from conception to natural death, and that execution was not a natural death.

He said there was no doubt that Saddam Hussein was guilty of mass murder.

However, he hinted that he hoped for clemency in the 30 days before the sentence had to, by law, be carried out.

Saddam Hussein is being held in US military custody near Baghdad.

In a letter written from his prison cell, he said he was ready to die as a "sacrifice" for Iraq.

He urged his countrymen to unite against enemies and said his death would make him a "true martyr".

His lawyers, who released the message, said it was written on 5 November, the day an Iraqi tribunal sentenced him to death for ordering the killings of scores of Shia Muslims in Dujail.

The former leader is on trial separately in connection with a military campaign against Kurdish communities in the 1980s.

I don't think Saddam's death will make much difference in Iraq
Loukopoulos, USA

However, under Iraqi law, he must be executed regardless of the second trial.

The time and location of the hanging has not been made public.

It may only be revealed after the former president is dead in order to avoid civil disruption and unrest.

Why Saddam Hussein should not hang

Why Saddam Hussein should not hang

December 29, 2006 01:13 AM


"The Iraqi government should not implement the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, which was imposed after a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal, which was first reported by Iraq’s national security adviser to have upheld the sentence, should have conducted a thorough legal review of the verdict and then announced its findings. Imposing the death penalty, indefensible in any case, is especially

wrong after such unfair proceedings. That a judicial decision was first announced by Iraq’s national security advisor underlines the political interference that marred Saddam Hussein’s trial."


” The appeal judgment is a lengthy and complex decision that requires careful study. There were a number of concerns as to the fairness of the original trial, and there needs to be assurance that these issues have been comprehensively addressed. I call, therefore, on the Iraqi authorities not to act precipitately in seeking to execute the sentence in these cases."


"We are against the death penalty as a matter of principle, but particularly in this case because it comes after a flawed trial."


"Saddam's execution would punish a crime with another crime. The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the State."


"While I don't want to minimize the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein, and the ferocity with which he governed during his regime, and while respecting the autonomy and legitimacy of Iraqi institutions, I must express the Italian government's, and my personal, firm opposition to the death sentence."


"The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances, and it should not be carried out in this case either."


"Carrying out this verdict will explode violence like waterfalls in Iraq. The verdict will transform (Iraq) into pools of blood and lead to a deepening of the sectarian and ethnic conflicts."


"He will go to the gallows with his head held high because he built a strong, united and non-sectarian Iraq. We urge honourable people such as [President Jalal] Talabani and [Prime Minister Nouri] Maliki and all those who practised all sorts of deceits against the people of Iraq to apologise and face the national courts of Iraq on charges of participating and legalising the killing of 665,000 and wounding five-fold this number. We also call for their prosecution for igniting the fire of civil war, sectarianism and ethnic cleansing."


US officials are making a new mistake more dangerous than any in the past. They think executing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will lead to calm in Iraq, but the exact opposite is likely to happen. The US Administration may gain more by keeping Saddam alive behind bars and using him as a bargaining card... to negotiate with the Baath party for the sake of calm.


"We urge parties, organisations, national and Islamic figures and official bodies in Arab countries to engage in a public, political and human rights action against the Maliki government's adventure - supported by the US and Iran - to execute Saddam. This is a political execution which will lead to violence. It is in the interests of the occupation and its agents, and Iran and its allies, for Saddam not to be executed, and for the crisis to be solved through serious dialogue."


"The US, UK and the ruling parties have so far not been able to provide Iraqis with a better Iraq than Saddam's! He remains a symbol for the failure of the occupation and its project."


One of the main criticisms of the trial was that the special court was not equipped to handle such a complex case. Questions have also been raised about timely disclosure of evidence, the rights of defendants to confront witnesses and impartiality of the judges. New Delhi has rightly condemned the trial as lacking credibility. It has also raised the issue of the effect of the death sentence on Iraq's future. There is good reason to believe that executing Saddam can only worsen the situation in Iraq. The memory of Saddam as a martyr is likely to have much more of a hold on popular imagination than a Saddam behind bars.


The confirmation yesterday of the death sentence against Saddam Hussein is the final act in a legal charade directed from Washington. The Iraqi Appeal Court upheld the verdict against Hussein and two of his co-accused—Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Hamed al-Bandar—brought on November 5 for the execution of 148 Shiites from the town of Dujail in 1982. With the only avenue of appeal exhausted, all three can be hanged at any time within the next 30 days. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel hailed the court decision, declaring it to be "an important milestone" in efforts "to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law." In fact, the Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated its contempt for basic legal norms, riding roughshod over international and US law. It has pressed for the execution of Hussein as a means of demonstrating to the world that it is capable of killing its opponents with impunity.


"The Iraqi Government should have spared Saddam the death penalty."

Breaking: Hussein's lawyers ask US court to stop execution

Breaking: Hussein's lawyers ask US court to stop execution
29 Dec 2006

Lawyers for former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who could be hanged within hours, on Friday asked a U.S. court to order a halt to his execution. In a last-minute filing to the U.S. District Court of Washington, Hussein's lawyers asked for a temporary stay of execution because Hussein is a defendant in a civil case in the same court and he has been prevented from being able to defend himself.

"The time has been agreed upon. It will be done by six o'clock in the morning." Hussein 'to be executed before 3am' 29 Dec 2006 Saddam Hussein will be executed before 6am Saturday Baghdad time (3am Irish Time), a senior Iraqi government official said tonight. The time was agreed upon during a meeting between US and Iraqi officials, said the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Lethal injection needs study

Lethal injection needs study

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that executions need not be painless. Instead, the high court interpreted the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution forbidding “cruel and unusual punishments” to mean that executions could not wantonly and unnecessarily inflict pain.

Enter Angel Nieves Diaz, 55, who was put to death in Florida on Dec. 14 by lethal injection, widely accepted as the preferred and most humane method to end a person’s life.

His death, which took more than half an hour after receiving an initial lethal injection, showed chemical execution may in fact be inhumane. Diaz’s executioners had to inject him with lethal chemicals a second time, after witnesses said he moved and opened his eyes some 20 minutes after first receiving the deadly drugs.

Diaz’s death exemplified a British medical journal study reporting that failure to properly administer anesthetic would lead “to the unnecessary suffering of at least some of those executed.”

In California, a federal judge found that “it would be ‘unconscionable’ to inject a conscious person with the contemplated amount of potassium chloride.” He further ruled that the state has no safeguards to ensure these drugs are administered properly.

Diaz’s executioners may have pushed the anesthetic into his muscle tissue rather than his vein, or Diaz’s liver damage may have led to the botched execution. But the fact is it took twice the normal time for him to die and that he likely suffered.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was absolutely right to suspend executions in that state pending a review of this specific case. His action put Florida in the ranks with California and a handful of other states with moratoriums on capital punishment. Other states that still rely on chemicals to put inmates to death should take note and review their own procedures for potential flaws.

Until lethal injections can be performed properly, with the correct dosages by trained professionals, no one should be put to death via that method.

Capital punishment on trial

Published December 28, 2006 01:24 pm -

EDITORIAL: No matter how you feel about the death penalty, you should be appalled at how wrong this execution went.

Capital punishment on trial


Angel Nieves Diaz, 55, was put to death for murdering a Miami bar manager 27 years ago. Witnesses said Diaz grimaced before dying, although an autopsy report has not concluded whether, in fact, he did suffer.

What the report did confirm, however, was that needles were wrongly inserted into the flesh of his arms, instead of into his veins as is proper procedure.

Along with a national uproar has come decisions by Florida and California officials to suspend all executions pending further investigations. Both states use lethal injection.

The suspensions and further studies would certainly seem appropriate.

Meanwhile, there has been growing sympathy for Diaz, a man convicted of taking another person’s life, and his family.

“They had to execute him twice,” said Mark Elliot, a spokesman for Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “If Floridians could witness the pain and the agony of the executed man’s family, they would end the death penalty.”

In a twist of irony, you can just sense that a lawsuit and perhaps a large payout of taxpayer money to the family could be on the horizon.

— The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

Death penalty support wanes as life without parole gains public favor

WASHINGTON LETTER Dec-29-2006 (840 words) Backgrounder. With photo and graphic. xxxn

Death penalty support wanes as life without parole gains public favor

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As 2006 came to an end, capital punishment was making headlines for what it is not doing: overall declining use, waning support and recent challenges at the state levels about how it is conducted.

Shifting public support for capital punishment is a "ray of good news" for Frank McNeirney, co-founder of Catholics Against Capital Punishment, who said he hopes the trend continues.

Death penalty statistics in a year-end report from the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington offered reasons for optimism among opponents of capital punishment. For starters, the group noted the results of a newly released Gallup Poll showing that more Americans support alternative sentences of life without parole over the death penalty as punishment for murder.

The center also reported that U.S. death sentences are the lowest they have been in 30 years; executions have sharply declined and the number of people on death row has decreased. During 2006, 53 people were executed, down from 60 in 2005 and 98 in 1999, the report said.

McNeirney, who founded Catholics Against Capital Punishment with his wife, Ellen, 14 years ago in their Maryland home, said the change in attitude against the death penalty has been developing over recent years as more people, and jury members in particular, have become aware of the availability of life without parole sentences. Only Alaska and New Mexico currently do not have life without parole sentences, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The 2006 Gallup Poll shows that two-thirds of Americans still support the death penalty, but for the first time in two decades it found that Americans by a 1 percent margin -- 48 percent to 47 percent -- prefer life without parole over capital punishment.

The slim difference in opinion is more of a shift when compared with figures from the 2005 Gallup Poll which showed that 56 percent of Americans preferred the death penalty and only 39 percent supported life without parole.

The overall change in attitude toward capital punishment also reflects a shift that has occurred in recent years among Catholics, McNeirney told Catholic News Service Dec. 21. In 2005, a poll conducted by Zogby International for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found Catholics almost equally divided on the issue, with 48 percent favoring it and 47 percent opposing it. The shift was a marked difference from 1994, when about 80 percent of Americans supported the death penalty, with Catholics favoring it by about the same margin.

McNeirney attributes the change in part to Pope John Paul II's clear message against the death penalty during his 1999 visit to St. Louis when he described capital punishment as "both cruel and unnecessary" and noted that "modern society has the means of protecting itself without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform."

McNeirney also noted that the anti-death penalty stance has recently gained new support from pro-life groups that had previously focused primarily on anti-abortion measures and from politicians on both ends of the political spectrum.

But it's not only political and religious leaders who are raising questions about capital punishment. Currently, a number of court rulings and several state challenges to the death penalty's lethal-injection procedure are holding up executions in several states, including California, Maryland, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Florida.

Maryland's Court of Appeals ordered a temporary halt in executions Dec. 19, saying the state had improperly followed protocol for lethal injections. The ruling came on the heels of other death penalty controversies across the country.

On Dec. 15, a California federal judge ruled that the state's lethal injection procedure violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The same day, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suspended state executions two days after an execution failed to work within 15 minutes and a second lethal injection was given, prolonging the execution to 34 minutes.

Currently 37 states administer lethal injections as the preferred execution method but the procedure is getting closer scrutiny following concerns that it may cause unnecessary pain and suffering as documented by the April 2006 Human Rights Watch report, "So Long as They Die: Lethal Injections in the United States."

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear four death penalty cases in 2007.

Activists in North Carolina and California have been trying unsuccessfully to promote a moratorium on state executions while legislative studies examine death penalty procedures. In 2005, New Jersey became the first jurisdiction to enact such a moratorium that is in place until January 2007.

Celeste Fitzgerald, founder and director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, said she hopes the commission's findings on the fairness and accuracy of capital punishment are released before the state's moratorium expires.

During a recent death penalty program sponsored by the Metuchen Diocese, she told participants that faith organizations across the country are "watching what happens in New Jersey very closely."

"This is a moment in New Jersey," she added. "I ask that you help us seize it."

It's time to discuss giving it up.

Maryland's Death Penalty

It's time to discuss giving it up.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006; A18

THE MARYLAND COURT of Appeals has thrown a big wrench into the state's already anemic death penalty enforcement. It ruled last week that Maryland's procedures for lethal injection were adopted without adequate legislative oversight. With that ruling, which will effectively halt executions until new procedures are adopted, the Maryland court joined what is fast becoming a national trend. Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) halted executions there after a botched lethal injection took over half an hour. A court in California blocked use of that state's execution cocktail. Nationally, there have been fewer executions this year than in any in the past decade -- and delays associated with challenges to lethal-injection protocols, which are now said to cause significant pain, constitute one of the reasons for the low figure.

For those of us who oppose capital punishment, any public debate that slows the wheels of death is a good thing. That said, this issue seems more than a little absurd. Leaving aside the technicalities of Maryland administrative law, it is a little tough to understand why states that have no scruples about killing people as punishment for their crimes might blanch at a brief period of discomfort for the condemned along the way. This is, after all, the intentional infliction of death; why should anyone expect it to be pretty? The sudden scruples around the country about the fact that taking human life may actually involve pain can only be understood as a surrogate for the real issue: whether Americans want to be taking life at all.

In some states this question is still taboo. Getting rid of the death penalty is all but unthinkable in Virginia, for example. But Maryland is different. Its death penalty has been used only five times since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976. It plays only the most incidental role in the state's criminal justice system -- so incidental, ironically, that its use creates wild regional and racial disparities in the administration of justice. Executions have been suspended in the past. Were the death penalty abolished in Maryland, almost nobody would miss it.

The Maryland court action is therefore an opportunity for a much broader discussion of the utility, justice, necessity and morality of capital punishment. It comes at a propitious moment. Incoming governor Martin O'Malley (D) personally opposes the death penalty. He did not appear inclined to dismiss the court ruling as a mere technicality -- which, formally speaking, is all it really is. That's good. Maryland doesn't need a big debate about how it kills people, but the time is ripe to debate whether it should stop.

Execution Date Set for Hamilton

W.A. Drew Edmondson, Attorney General

Execution Date Set for Hamilton

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals today set Jan. 9 as the execution date for Tulsa County death row inmate Corey Duane Hamilton.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson requested the execution date Nov. 6 after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Hamilton’s final appeal.

Hamilton, 37, was convicted of the Aug. 17, 1992, murders of Theodore Kindley, 19, Senaida Lara, 27, Joseph Gooch, 17 and Steven Williams, 24. The four victims, all restaurant employees, were murdered during a robbery at Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, a restaurant on South Sheridan Road. Each died of a close-range gunshot wound to the back of the head.

There are currently no other Oklahoma inmates scheduled for execution.

FN advarer mot å henrette Saddam Hussein

ADVARER: FNs høykommissær for menneskerettigheter, Louise Arbour, advarte fredag irakiske myndigheter mot å henrette Saddam Hussein. Foto: REUTERS
- Det er stilt en rekke spørsmål om rettferdigheten i rettssaken, og det trengs forsikringer om at disse spørsmålene er behandlet skikkelig, heter det i en uttalelse fra Arbour.

- Jeg ber derfor irakiske myndigheter om ikke å gjøre noe overilt ved å fullbyrde dødsdommen, sier Arbour.
Høykommissæren minner om at Irak har undertegnet internasjonale avtaler som gir Saddam Hussein anledning til å søke om nedsatt straff eller benådning.

- Kan få martyrstatus

Norske myndigheter håper at dødsdommen blir omgjort til livsvarig fengsel. Statssekretær Raymond Johansen (Ap) frykter at Hussein kan få martyrstatus.

- Den norske regjeringen er prinsipielt imot dødsstraff, slår Johansen i Utenriksdepartementet fast overfor NTB.

Han mener at et rettssamfunn ikke bør ha dødsstraff, og at en dom på livsvarig fengsel ville vært bedre. Han frykter at henrettelsen kan forstyrre forsoningsprosessen i Irak.

- Henrettelsen av Saddam Hussein kan føre til at han får en martyrstatus. Det kan skape større splittelse mellom sjia- og sunnimuslimer og gjøre forsoningsarbeidet vanskeligere, sier Johansen.

Han understreker likevel at det er godt Hussein er dømt i en rettssak for de grusomhetene han står bak.


Også EU advarer Irak mot å henrette Saddam Hussein, som ble dømt til døden 5. november. Dommen ble rettskraftig 26. desember, og ekspresidenten skal da i henholdt til irakisk lov henrettes i løpet av 30 dager.

- EU er motstander av dødsstraff, og det bør heller ikke benyttes i dette tilfellet, sier Finlands utenriksminister Erkki Tuomioja. Finland har formannskapet i EU fram til 1. januar, da Tyskland overtar.


Vatikanet har også sluttet seg til protestene mot den varslede henrettelsen.

- Forbrytelser må ikke hevnes med nok en forbrytelse, mener kardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, som leder Vatikanets justis- og fredsdepartement.

- Kirken proklamerer at menneskeliv skal beskyttes fra unnfangelse til en naturlig død. Dødsstraff er ingen naturlig død. Ingen har rett til å drepe, ei heller staten, sier Martino til den italienske avisen La Repubblica.

Maliki utelukker

Iraks statsminister Nuri al-Maliki utelukket fredag benådning, og slo fast at dødsdommen mot ekspresidenten er endelig.

- Ingen kan forhindre at Saddam Hussein blir henrettet, sa Maliki da han fredag møtte familiene til noen av ekspresidentens ofre.

- Når domstolene har avgjort dette, kan ingen motsette seg beslutningen om å henrette den kriminelle Saddam, sier Maliki.
- De som motsetter seg henrettelse av Saddam, krenker de irakiske martyrenes verdighet, la statsministeren til.

(© NTB 29.12.06 kl. 20:54)