March 2, 2018
IDPN 2018 Issue 09
Bahrain: The death sentence has been upheld for a man convicted of the murder of 42-year-old teacher Fakhriya Musallam Ahmad. Another individual has had their life sentence upheld, while seven others have had their three-year sentences upheld. The two offenders with the most serious convictions have also had their Bahrain citizenship revoked and been fined. All were convicted of being part of the Revolutionary Guard, a group attempting to undermine the state and political regime. They planted a device along the highway south of the capital Manama, and exploded it when a police patrol was passing by. However, the explosion missed the police and instead Fakhriya was killed by debris from the explosion.
Indonesia: A prison official, identified only as FR, has been arrested on drug couriering charges. FR worked at the notorious Kerobokan prison, where several high profile prisoners have been housed, such as members of the Bali Nine and the American “Suitcase Murderers”. Several packets of meth and ecstasy were found on his person when he was arrested. FR faces a minimum of six years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Iraq: A criminal court has sentenced to death 15 Turkish women who have been convicted of joining the Islamic State. All 15 women have admitted to being part of the terrorist group. The nation perviously returned a French female jihadist to France after she served a seven year prison term. She was convicted of entering Iraq illegally. In December 2017, Iraq claimed victory against the Islamic State, regaining much of the territory previously lost to the terrorist group. Hundreds of foreigners were subsequently arrested for their involvement with the Islamic State.
Japan: The death penalty is being sought against 25-year-old Hayato Imai who is accused of murdering three elderly residents at a nursing home in Kawasaki, Japan. The residents were murdered by being thrown from a balcony. Hayato confessed to the police, however, he has since retracted his confession, claiming he was forced into making the false statement. The focal point of his trial was the credibility of his confession.
United States of America: On Friday, February 23, 2018, Raghunandan Yandamuri was scheduled to be executed in Pennsylvania. His execution was stayed by Pennsylvania District Court Judge Petrese Tucker. Raghunandan was convicted of the murders of 61-year-old Satyavathi Venna and her granddaughter, 10-month-old Saanvi Venna in 2014, in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Read more about Raghunandan’s case here.
The Supreme Court of the United States will hear the case of 67-year-old Alabama death row in mate Vernon Madison. Attorneys for Vernon, who was granted a stay of execution last month, are arguing that he should not be executed because he no longer remembers the crimes for which he was convicted. According to Vernon’s attorneys, Vernon has suffered a series of strokes while in prison resulting in dementia, memory impairment, slurred speech, the inability to walk on his own, and losing his vision. They further argue that to executed Vernon would be a violation of his 8th Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The federal appeals court ruled that Vernon could be executed because the Supreme Court of the United States had not established a precedent “that a prisoner is incompetent to be executed because of a failure to remember his commission of the crime.” Vernon is convicted of murdering Mobile, Alabama police officer Julius Schulte. Read more about the case here.
The British government is asking that Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, former British citizens who were captured as members of the Islamic State, be tried in civilian court, rather than at Guantanamo Bay prison. In addition, the British government does not want the death penalty sought against them. Kotey and Elsheikh are accused of playing a central role in the torture and murder of Western hostages, including several Americans. They were recently captured in Syria by a Kurdish militia. As the British government has stripped the two men of their British citizenship, and do not want them returned to the United Kingdom, it is expected that United States will eventually take custody.
The Florida Supreme Court has been extremely busy in recent months reviewing numerous death row appeals. All the cases, including the nine ruled on this past week, deal with inmates sentence before 2002. The appeals are a result of 2016 Supreme Court of the United States ruling which found the sentencing procedure for the death penalty in Florida unconstitutional because it gave judges the ability to override the recommendation of a jury. In establishing a new death penalty sentencing procedure, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that juries must unanimously agree to a death sentence. The decision was also made to apply retroactively to all cases after June 2002, the date in which the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling on Ring v. Arizona. That decision was the premise for the later striking down of Florida’s death penalty sentencing procedure. Darryl Brian Barwick, Paul Anthony Brown, Milford Wade Byrd, Louis B. Gaskin, Mark Allen Geralds, Ronald Palmer Heath, Thomas Dewey Pope, Bobby Allen Raleigh, and Pablo San Martin all lost appeals, and had their death sentences upheld, after arguing that the new requirement for an unanimous jury should also apply to their cases.
Chris Sununu, Governor of New Hampshire as vowed to veto a death penalty bill, should it ever reach his desk. Lawmakers in the state are currently making a bipartisan effort to pass a bill which would end capital punishment in the state. For the first time in recent years, it is looking as if the bill has enough support to pass the Senate. There is currently only one inmate on death row, for the murder of a police officer in 2008. The proposed bill would not apply retroactively to his case. In stating that he would veto such a bill, Governor Sununu reiterated that the top priority for his administration is strengthening laws against crimes, not reducing punishment.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has lifted stays of execution for two men who were scheduled to be executed on April 17, 2017. Bruce Ward and Don Davis each received a stay of execution over arguments that they should have, by law, given access to indecent psychiatrist in order to help develop trial strategies. According to the state, the men did not meet the minimum requirement to qualify for such aid. Additionally, the state accused the men of using the courts to delay their executions. Lawyers for Bruce and Don can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. Bruce is convicted of murdering 18-year-old Rebecca Lynn Doss in 1990. Read more here. Don is convicted of murdering Jane Daniel in 1990. Read more about Don here. Due to this ruling, new execution dates can be sought for both men.
After the Delaware Supreme Court ruled the death penalty law in the state was unconstitutional, the death row inmates were resentenced to life in prison. James E. Cook, Jr., attempted to fight his life sentence for a 2005 rape and murder of 20-year-old Lindsey Bonistall of White Plaines, New York. James attempted to argue that ti was unconstitutional to sentence him to death because the judge did not consider a sentence with a set number of years in prison. James’ argument was rejected by the court as being without merit or legal support.
The Senate in Alabama has unanimously approved a bill that would allow for executed by nitrogen gas if lethal injection drugs are available or ruled unconstitutional. Additionally, the inmates on death row could choose to have their executions carried out by nitrogen gas. The bill was passed by the Senate just hours after the state was unable to carry out an execution due to poor vein access. The bill must now pass the Alabama House of Representatives.
Yemen: On January 2, 2018, a Baha’i man, Hamed Kamal Haydara, was sentenced to death by Houthi authorities, due to Hamed’s religious beliefs. Six other Baha’i men were also detained. Baha’i are the religious minority in the country. Human Rights Watch is calling on the government to release these men and allow them to return to their families.