February 3, 2017
IDPN 2017 Issue 5
Belarus: Belarus remains the sole nation in the European Union that retains capital punishment. In the last year, three individuals were executed. According to President Alexander Lukashenko, he cannot abolish capital punishment, despite calls to do so from international groups. The president notes that the nation held a referendum in 1996, and over 80 percent of the voters supported retaining capital punishment.
Iran: On Saturday, January 28, 2017, two prisoners were executed by hanging at Rasht’s central prison, Lankan. The men, who were identified by initials and ages only, were convicted on separate drug related charges.
On Sunday, January 29, 2017, four prisoners were executed by public hanging; two in Mashhad and two in Bandar Abbas. The two names of the two men executed in Bandar Abbas were not reported. Both men were executed for rape, abduction, and assault and battery. The two men executed in Mashhad were also not identified by name. They were executed for armed robbery and creating a state of fear and terror.
Also on January 29, 2017, Hashem Qereqezeloo was executed by hanging in Hamedan in western Iran. Hashem was convicted and executed for drug related charges.
Throughout the month of January, there were a total of 87 individuals hanged thought the nation, however only 19 of the executions were announced by official state media. That averages out to one execution every nine hours. The majority of the executions were for drug related charges.
Maldives:It has been nearly 60 years since the nation has carried out an execution, however the government under President Abdulla Yameen plans to change that, according to an announcement in 2014. Now, it appears that the nation is one step closer to carrying out its first execution in decades. The Maldives Supreme Court has recently upheld the death sentences of three individuals, meaning that they have exhausted all of their legal appeals and that their execution date could be set at any time. Last year, the official method of execution was changed from lethal injection to hanging.
Sri Lanka: President Maithripala Sirisena has chosen to commute the sentence of 60 death row inmates in honor of the nation’s 69th Independence Day on February 4. The 60 death row inmates were selected based on recommendations made by a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge. The 60 inmates will have their sentences commuted to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum of 20 years. If they are first rejected for parole, they can try again every four years. The last execution in the nation was carried out in 1976.
United States of America: On Tuesday, January 31, 2017, Mark Christeson was executed in Missouri. Mark was 37 years of age. He was convicted and executed for the murders of Susan Brouk and her two children, 12-year-old Adrian and 9-year-old Kyle, on January 31, 1998, near Vicky, Missouri. Read more about Mark here.
On Thursday, February 2, 2017, John Ramirez was scheduled to be executed in Texas. His execution has been stayed by US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos and upheld by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals. John is convicted of the murder of 45-year-old Pablo Castro on July 19, 2004, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Read more about the case and John’s stay here.
Since the death of Antonin Scalia a year ago, the Supreme Court of the United States has been reduced to an even number of justices, hindering their ability as they are not always able to reach majority decisions on cases. President Trump has nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to replace Scalia. Judge Gorsuch is currently a member of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for that appointment in 2006. Judge Gorsuch graduated from Harvard Law School and holds a doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar. Recently, Judge Gorsuch participated in a case involving the execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma (read more here). Lockett’s family was suing Oklahoma for the botched execution. Judge Gorsuch, and two other judges ruled against the Lockett family saying the execution was an “innocent misadventure” and “isolated mishap,” but not cruel and unusual punishment.
On Thursday, January 26, 2017, James David Majors, a death row inmate in California, was pronounced dead at a hospital. He was 69 years of age. His cause of death is currently unknown and an autopsy will be performed. James has been on death row since February of 1991. He was convicted of murdering Thomas Probst, Jeanine Copeland, and Patrick Mungavin in a home in Fair Oaks, California on January 25, 1989, during a drug deal gone bad.
On Saturday, January 28, 2017, Fernando Eros Caro, who was on death row in California, was pronounced dead at 11:45 pm. The cause of the death is unknown and an autopsy is pending. Fernando was 67 years of age. He had been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 15-year-old cousins May Booher and Mark Hatcher in August of 1980. In 2002, Fernando’s death sentence was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals due to inadequate legal representation. Fernando was instead given a life sentence, however, he remained on death row as prosecutors had announced their intention to retry him, again seeking the death penalty.
On Monday, January 30, 2017, Walter Lee Caruthers, a Tennessee death row inmate, died of natural causes at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, Tennessee. As required by law, an autopsy will be performed. Walter was convicted of murdering a female hitchhiker, along with robbery and aggravated kidnapping.