March 11, 2016

IDPN 2016  Issue 11


India:  In Bihar, government officials are considering a bill which would allow capital punishment for those convicted of manufacturing illicit liquor, once prohibition takes effect on April 1.  The Bihar government has said that the prohibition of country and spiced liquor is designed to help save families and individuals from ruin.



Iran: Babak Zanjani, a billionaire businessman, has been convicted of embezzlement (spreading corruption on earth) and received a sentence of death.  Babak was arrested in December of 2013, for withholding money from oil revenue through his companies.  Two others were also convicted of embezzlement, sentenced to death, and ordered to repay the embezzled funds.  Babak has been accused by the United States and European Union for helping Iran evade oil sanctions.  His sentence can be appealed.  Babak could also have his sentence commuted if he agrees to repay the money he is convicted of embezzling.



Pakistan:  Seventy-one-year-old Mohammad Asghar has been on the nation’s death row for the past six years.  Mohammad, who has family in Scotland, was convicted under the country’s blasphemy law.  Family members claim that Mohammad is frail, blind, and mentally ill, and are asking that his death sentence be lifted so that he may return to Scotland.



Papua New Guinea:  The island nation had considered reinstating the death penalty for serious crimes, however, the government has now decided against such action.  The last execution in Papua New Guinea occurred in 1954.  Reconsideration of using capital punishment came after a string of horrific crimes, including the abuse and horrific murder of women and young children.  Pressure from the Australian government was, in part, responsible for the government of Papua New Guinea deciding against reinstating the death penalty.



Saudi Arabia:  On Sunday, March 6, 2016, Alaa al-Zahrani became the 70th individual to be executed in the kingdom so far this year.  Alaa was executed by beheading for the murder of fellow Saudi national Abdullah al-Sumairi.  He was executed in Jeddah, near the Red Sea.


Abdullah Rouwaili was executed by beheading for trafficking amphetamines.  Abdullah was executed in the northern Tabuk region.



United States of America: On Wednesday, March 9, 2016, Coy Wesbrook was executed by the state of Texas.  He was pronounced dead at 8:04 pm CST, inside the execution chamber at the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas.  Coy’s execution was delayed due to an appeal.  Coy was convicted of killing five individuals.  Click here to read more about Coy and his case.


Rick Scott, governor of Florida, has signed a bill changing the way Florida sentences individuals to death.  Florida’s sentencing procedure was recently ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the Untied States.  Under this new law, judges must have the recommendation of a jury in order to sentence a defendant to death, and at least 10 out of 12 jurors must be in favor of recommending death.  However, it is uncertain what will happen to individuals already sentenced to death, as the Supreme Court did not state if their ruling was to be retroactively applied.  Two executions in Florida have already been placed on hold while legislatures worked to correct the law.


Sammy Van Woudenberg, an inmate on death row in Oklahoma, has died of natural causes.  Sammy was convicted of murdering fellow inmate Mark Berry in Muskogee County Jail in 1984.  Sammy had been serving a life sentence for a 1972 murder, when he escaped in 1983.  In 2001, Sammy was spared from execution by a judge who deemed him mentally incompetent.


An attempt by Kentucky legislatures to abolish the death penalty in the state has failed.  The bill, which would have replaced capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole, was narrowly defeated in a House committee.  Those who sponsored the bill have declared that they will try again.


A bill in Utah to abolish the death penalty will not be heard during the 2016 legislative session.  The bill had previously been passed by state Senate and a House committee.  No official reason was given for the House not considering the bill, although some have stated that they would need more time to fully consider the bill.


Luther Strange, attorney general for the state of Alabama is asking the state court of criminal appeals to vacate a judge’s ruling declaring that the state’s death penalty sentencing system is unconstitutional.  Alabama’s sentencing system has come under scrutiny following the Supreme Court of the United States ruling that Florida’s system for sending inmates to death was unconstitutional.  Florida and Alabama have similar processes, however, Alabama is arguing that there is enough of a difference to make their system legal.  However, a Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge, Tracie Todd, recently ruled that Alabama cannot seek the death sentence against defendants who are being charged with capital murder.