June 15, 2018
IDPN 2018 Issue 24
Algeria: Merzoug Touati has been in prison since January 2017, after being accused of collaborating with a foreign country and inciting an uprising. If convicted, Merzoug could face the death penalty. Merzoug, a blogger, was arrested after encouraging protests against a new financial law on Facebook, and posting a video interview with an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson.
Iran: Hamidreza Amini could face the death penalty after being charged with insulting the Prophet, insulting the supreme leader, acting against national security, propaganda against the state, and disturbing public opinion. Amini created a telegram channel where anyone could post their views, thoughts, and opinions; he is now being held responsible for everything posted, including what thousands of others wrote. Amini is currently in prison and scheduled to go on trial at the end of the month.
Malaysia: Three unnamed individuals could face the death penalty after being charged with possession of cannabis. Prosecutors believe the drugs came from a supplier in Kuala Lumpur. Other punishments could include jail time, a fine, or both.
United States of America: On Saturday, June 9, 2018, staff at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary found 35-year-old Jeremy Williams dead in his cell. It is thought that Jeremy committed suicide. Jeremy was convicted and sentenced to death for his part in a 2004 bank robbery that resulted in one death. Jeremy’s final appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of the United States in January 2016. Jeremey’s accomplice was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty.
On April 27, 1989, 85-year-old Ann Presler was raped and killed in her home in Port Orchard, Washington. The perpetrator was identified as 17-year-old Michael Furman, whom Ann had hired to clean her windows. Michael was charged as an adult and his trial began in 1990. He was sentenced to death. However, in 1993, the execution of juveniles was outlawed by the Supreme Court. Michael’s sentence was reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be automatically sentenced to life in prison, forcing a retrial. Michael has now been resentenced to 48 years in prison. The prosecution was asking for 60 years. Michael will be eligible for release in approximately 18 years.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen has been an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, and has participated in anti-death penalty protests, including one outside the Arkansas’ governor’s mansion, by lying on a cot, surrounded by anti-death penalty signage. A three-member panel of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has charged Judge Griffen with an ethic’s violation for failing to dismiss himself from numerous death penalty cases. According to the panel, “Judge Griffen holds the right to free speech, but once Judge Griffen asserted his free speech in unequivocal opposition to the death penalty, he had an obligation to disqualify himself in every case effecting the death penalty.” Griffen has 30 days to respond to the charge and his attorney has expressed their disappointment in the ruling, as well as the thoroughness and impartiality of the investigation.
A California jury has recommended that 53-year-old Andrew Urdiales be sentenced to death for murdering five women in Southern California between 1986 and 1995. Andrew has previously received a life sentence in Illinois for murdering three others. Andrew was serving his time in Illinois, when he told prosecutors that they should ask him about the California murders.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled in favor of death row inmate Robert Keith Woodall, who was arguing that Kentucky’s practice of determining mental competency was unconstitutional. When Robert was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 16-year-old girl 20 years ago, Kentucky determined competency by only looking at IQ. Anyone will an IQ of 71 or above was ruled competency and thereby eligible for execution. Now the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that the state cannot only look at the IQ, but must also consider other factors including, but not limited to, a persons ability to learn new basic skills and adjust their behavior to circumstances.