June 24, 2016

IDPN 2016  Issue 26


Canada: In 1974, Elery Long was convicted of murdering Staff Sergeant Ron McKay and sentenced to death.  Two years later, Canada outlawed the death penalty and his sentence was commuted to life in prison.  In 2000, Elery was granted parole, however he spent the next several years in-and-out of prison for numerous offenses including drug use, stalking, and lying to his parole officers.  In March of 2015, he was again granted parole, which was suspended in April when a woman alleged that Elery assaulted her.  Elery has denied the charges and has once again been released on parole, with the court ruling that he has potential to reintegrate into the community.  



Indonesia:  Four businessmen have been convicted of smuggling crystal methamphetamine from Malaysia.  They have been sentenced to death by the Medan District Court.



Iran: On Thursday, June 16, 2016, three prisoners, identified by initials only, were executed by hanging at Bandar Abbas Central Prison in southern Iran.  All were executed on drug related charges.



Tunisia:  The leader of a 13 member group of Takfiri Salafists has been sentenced to death for his part in the murder of a guard at a Sufi shrine in Menzel Bouzelfa.  Three of the group members were acquitted, with the remaining nine receiving various prison terms.  Tunisia has not carried out an execution since 1991, and has recently voted in favor of a UN moratorium on executions.


United States of America: Robert Roberson, III, was scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas.  His execution was stayed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals due to questions over the science used to convict him.  Robert was convicted of killing his daughter Nikki Curtis by shaking her, commonly known as Shaken Baby Syndrome.  Now, four experts have come forward saying that injuries that used to be attributed only to Shaken Baby Syndrome could be the result of other actions, such as falling off a bed, which Robert always claimed to have happened.  Robert has also always insisted upon his innocence.  Read more about Robert and his case here.


Voters in California will once again be able to make known their opinion on capital punishment in the state.  In 2012, voters were asked vote on whether California should repeal the death penalty, with 52 percent voting to keep the death penalty.  In November of 2016, voters will be asked to vote on the issue once more.  If successful, the measure would replace all death sentences with life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Interestingly, another group has submitted a measure for the November ballot which attempts to expedite the appeals process, leading to faster executions.  California has the largest death row in the nation, at 750 inmates, however just 13 have been executed since 1978.  For the past six years, executions have been on hold due to court proceedings.


The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that the state’s death penalty sentencing law is constitutional.  They also ordered Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Tracie Todd to vacate her earlier ruling saying Alabama’s capital sentencing procedure was unconstitutional.  The attorney general is seeking to decide if the death penalty should be considered for four men convicted of murder.  The men, prior to their trials, filed motions to bar the death penalty, arguing that the similarity of Alabama’s capitol sentencing procedure to Florida’s, which was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States, made Alabama’s procedure also unconstitutional.  The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that the state’s sentencing procedure is lawful, in accordance with the recent ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States.


On Thursday, June 17, 2016, 55-year-old Gilbert Rubio was found unresponsive in his cell on death row in California.  He later died.  The cause of death has not been reported.  Gilbert had been sentenced to death for the 1998 murder and robbery of high school vice principal George “Skipper” Blackwell.  Gilbert, and two other men robbed George’s Long Beach, California home.  After the other two men left the home, Gilbert shot and killed George.  


In April of 2012, Connecticut legislators passed a bill that would repeal the death penalty in the state.  During debates about the bill, it was assured that the bill would not be retroactive and that those who had already been sentenced to death could have their executions carried out.  Last year, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional; those on death row could not be executed.  Steven Hayes has become the first death row inmate to be given a new sentence: life in prison with no chance of parole.  Steven was one of the Cheshire killers, who brutally raped and ultimately killed, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, on July 23, 2007.  Jennifer’s husband, Dr. William Petit, was beaten but managed to escape and seek help.


The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled, in a split decision, that the state can executed eight death row inmates using a three-drug protocol.  It also upheld the state law that protects the identity of the supplier of execution drugs a secret.  One of the drugs used is midazolam, which was approved by the Supreme Court of the United States last year.  It is unclear how soon any executions will occur, as one of the drugs will expire on June 30, 2016, and het supplier has stated that they will not provide more to the state.