May 23, 2014

IDPN 2014  Issue 21


China: Huang Qingheng has been sentenced to death for leading a group who kidnapped a total of 23 Vietnamese infants and sold them to families in China.  Other members of the group have received sentences from 22 months to life imprisonment.  The court also ordered that the properties of the members be confiscated as fines for their crimes.  Nearly half of the children kidnapped have been recovered and returned to their families.



Gaza: A man, identified by initials only has been sentenced to death by hanging for the premeditated murder of Gaza police officer Sami Suleiman al-Rawwagh in 2008.



Indonesia: Eighty-four-year-old Arasain bin Anwar, from Maura, East Java, has been arrested at an airport in Bali for allegedly attempting to smuggle 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine.  Arasain was arrested on Friday, May 16, 2014.  He was given $62 by a friend to carry a package.  Arasain alleges he did not know what was in the package.  Arasain also pointed to another man on the same flight who was also carrying drugs but was not stopped by security.  Bali Police are attempting to track him down.  The maximum sentence for smuggling drugs is death.



Iran: On Saturday, May 17, 2014, three prisoners, Mohsen, Yousef, and Saeed, were executed in the main prison in the city of Qazvin.  All three prisoners were arrested and convicted on drug related charges.  Two other prisoners were flogged.  Also on Saturday, 10 prisoners were executed by hanging in the main prison of the city of Kerman.  All prisoners were identified by initials only and were convicted of drug smuggling.


On Monday, May 19, 2014, five prisoners, of which only two were identified by name, were executed by hanging in Rajaisharhr prison in Karaj.  All were charged with murder.  Three other prisoners were also scheduled to be executed.  One was pardoned by the victim's family.  The executions of the other two were postponed for unknown reasons.

On Tuesday, May 22, 2014, an unidentified 40-year-old prisoner was hanged in the prison of Mashhad, according to an Iranian newspaper.  He was convicted of murdering his wife in 2007.



Japan: A 66-year-old man, Susumu Nakayama, who is on death row, has died of cancer of the esophagus, according to Osaka prison officials.  Susumu was on death row for the February 1998 murder of 37-year-old Takemitsu Kikukawa and 40-year-old Minako Kobuchi in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture.  Susumu had been having an affair with Takemitsu's wife.  Previously, Susumu had been convicted of robbery and served 18 years in prison.



Maldives: Recently, Maldives introduced new legislation in which minors as young as seven could be sentenced to death for murder related charges.  On Wednesday, May 21, 2014, three minors, a 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds, have been charged with the death of 21-year-old Hussein Waheed, who was murdered on December 24, 2013.  The new regulations were, in part, a response to an increase of gang related killings.



North Korea: Forty-nine-year-old stage lighting engineer, Ri Kyung Ho was executed in March for calling family members in South Korea.  During his interrogation, it was discovered that he was also aiding and abetting those who wished to defect from North Korea.  His family has since been incarcerated.  It is unclear if they face additional charges.



Sudan: An 8-month pregnant, Christian Sudanese woman has been sentenced to death because she refused to recant her Christian faith.  She has been charged with adultery and apostasy (abandoning her religion).  She is currently in jail, along with her 20-month-old son.  Twenty-seven-year-old Meriam Yehya Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father and an Orthodox Christian mother.  Her father left when she was six.  In 2012, she married a Christian man, Daniel Wani, from South Sudan who is also a United States citizen.  Daniel was in the process of filing paperwork to have Meriam and her son come to the United States with him.  Before the paperwork could be completed, a man claiming to Meriam's brother denounced her to police.  Since her father is Muslim, Meriam is considered Muslim by the court, even though she had publically stated that she is a Christian, as she was raised by her mother, and that she was never a Muslim.  In Sudan, Muslims are not allowed to change their religion.  They are also not allowed to marry outside of their religion, therefore, the court does not recognize her marriage to Daniel and has charged her with adultery.  She has been sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery, which will be postponed until sometime after she gives birth.  Sharia Law prevents the execution of pregnant women until two years after she ceases nursing.  Unsurprisingly, this case has drawn international outrage and criticism.  Family members are concerned she will not survive labor, as her first childbirth was difficult and she is being denied medical attention.



Suriname: This South American nation has announced plans to remove the death penalty from it criminal books and extend life prison terms from 20 years to 30 years.  The Justice Minister believes capital punishment is outdated and that it is not the government's place to decide life and death matters. 



United States of America: Russell Bucklew was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 am, CDT, on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.  He was first granted a stay of execution by a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Missouri appealed that decision to the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, who lifted the stay shortly before the scheduled execution.  Russell's attorneys appealed the decision to Supreme Court of the United States, who ultimately issued a stay of execution and sent the case back to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that they reconsider the issue raised by Russell and his attorney, regarding a rare birth defect which could prevent the execution drugs from properly being circulated, thereby causing a prolonged and agonizing execution.  Forty-six-year-old Russell was convicted of killing 27-year-old Michael Sanders on March 21, 1996, at Hickory Hollow trailer park in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. Russell also kidnapped, beat, and raped 21-year-old Stephanie Pruitt. Read the full story here.


Robert Pruett was scheduled to be executed in Texas at 6 pm CDT, also on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.  He was granted a stay of execution to appeal Judge Bert Richardson's decision that DNA testing conducted on a partial palm print found on a piece of evidence at the crime scene would not have swayed a jury against the death penalty.  The partial palm print could not be identified.  Read Robert's story here.


The Indiana Department of Corrections has announced a new lethal injection protocol.  Due to the shortage of thiopental sodium, Indiana will now be using Brevital, a barbiturate anesthetic similar to thiopental sodium.  According to the Department of Corrections spokesman Douglas Garrison, Indiana has a sufficient supply of drugs to carry out an execution, although none have yet been scheduled.


State Representative Paul Ray, plans to introduce a bill to reinstate the firing squad in Utah, arguing it is a more human form of execution.  Although similar proposals have been defeated in other states, Utah, as recently as 2010, carried out an execution by firing squad.  Execution by firing squad was banned in Utah in 2004, however, those sentenced prior to 2004 retained the option to choose it, which is how Ronnie Lee Gardner came to be executed by firing squad in 2010.  Ronnie was executed for the murder of a Salt Lake City attorney Michael Burdell during an attempted escape from the courthouse.  


Seventy-one-year-old Sidney Porterfield died at 2:47 pm at Lois DeBerry Special Needs Facility in Tennessee.  Sidney was Tennessee's oldest death row inmate.  He spent the last 28 years of his life on death row for the murder of Ronald Owens.  Sidney was hired by Ronald's wife, Gaile Owens, and paid $17,000 for the crime.  Gaile claims she was abused by her husband.  She was released from prison in 2011.  Reports indicated that Sidney died of natural causes.


As states face execution drug shortages, other options are being considered, or, in most cases, reconsidered.  Tennessee has recently voted to bring back the electric chair.  The bill was passed overwhelmingly in the House, 68-13, and in the Senate 23-3.  On Thursday, May 22, 2014, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law.  The bill allows the state to perform executions by electrocution if the state is unable to procure the drugs necessary for executions.  Tennessee is the first state to pass such a bill, where the inmates are not given the choice about their method of execution.


Beginning in July, Alabama will allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for murder in cases where the victim had a protection from abuse order against the defendant.  The defendants could also face life in prison.  Proponents of the new law believe it will help reduce domestic violence crimes and prevent violent criminals from being released back into society.


Last month a tie vote in New Hampshire's Senate, 12-12, kept a bill repealing the death penalty from advancing to the governor.  The House again sent the bill to Senate, which it again voted down, meaning capital punishment will remain in New Hampshire.  New Hampshire currently has one death row inmate.  House members had hoped that the recent prolonged execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett may sway enough Senate members to vote for a repeal.