February 23, 2018
IDPN 2018 Issue 08
Botswana: Twenty-eight-year-old Joseph Poni Tselayarona was executed in prison on Saturday, February 17, 2018. He was convicted on March 10, 2017, for the murder of his girlfriend Ngwanyanaotsile Keikanne and her 3-year-old son Miguel Keikanne, in 2010.
Gambia: President Adama Barrow announced on Sunday, February 18, 2018, that the nation was suspending the death penalty, with the ultimately goal of abolishing capital punishment. President Barrow was elected in December 2016, and took over from Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled for 22 years and supported the death penalty. In his announcement, President Barrow said it was time to break away from the ways of Jammeh and maintain peace and democracy.
Japan: Prosecutors are demanding that 32-year-old Peruvian national Vayron Jonathan Nakada Ludena be sentenced to death for the murders of 55-year-old Minoru Tasaki, his wife 53-year-old Maisae Taseki, 84-year-old Kazuyo hiraishi, 41-year-old Miwako Kato, and her two daughters, 10-year-old Misaki Kato and 7-year-old Haruka Kato in 2015. The murders occurred after he broke into their Tokyo home. Lawyers for Jonathan are arguing that he is not competent to stand trial.
Malaysia: Sixty-year-old M. A. Ambika could be sentenced to death if she is found guilty of the murder of Adelina Sau, a domestic worker from Indonesia. Adelina, originally from Indonesia, died at a hospital. Her head and face were swollen and she had injuries to her hands and legs. She had also allegedly been forced to sleep outside with a dog. A murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of death.
Pakistan: Twenty-four-year-old Imran Ali has been sentenced to death by a court in Lahore for the rape and murder 7-year-old Zainab Ansari. Zainab’s body was found dumped in a garbage close to the city of Kasur. She had been kidnapped from near her home while her parents were in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage. She was the latest in a series of child abductions and murders.
South Korea: Thirty-six-year-old Lee Young Hak has been sentenced to death for the sexual assault and murder of a 14-year-old friend of his daughter. Lee confessed to choking the girl to death after he drugged her and committed lewd acts while she was drugged. He then dumped her body.
United States of America: On Thursday, February 22, 2018, Eric Branch was executed by the state of Florida. He was 47 years of age. Eric was executed for the murder of 21-year-old Susan Morris on January 11, 1993, in Pensacola. Read more about Eric and his crime here.
On Thursday, February 22, 2018, Texas Governor Greg Abbott commuted the death sentence of Thomas Bartlett “Bart” Whitaker, to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Governor Abbott’s decision came after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously recommended that the death sentence be commuted. Whitaker’s father, a victim of the crime which landed Whitaker on death row, was also asking that his son’s sentence be commuted. Read more about Whitaker’s crime and his commutation here.
Doyle Lee Hamm was scheduled to be executed in Alabama on Thursday, Friday, 22, 2018. The execution was delayed several hours by the Supreme Court of the United States, who eventually lifted their stay. The execution was ultimately called off as the execution warrant approached its expiration date, with officials stating that they had “insufficient time to prepare inmate for execution,” after the Supreme Court lifted their stay. Lawyers for Doyle allege that the execution was called off because they were unable to locate a suitable vein for use in the lethal injection. The Alabama Attorney General Office could give Doyle another execution date in the future. Doyle was sentenced to death for the murder of hotel clerk Patrick Cunningham on January 24, 1987. Read more about Doyle and his crime here.
Nikolas Cruz, the man charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder for the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is willing to plead guilty in order to avoid the death penalty and spare the community from reliving the massacre during a trial. Prosecutors have not yet agreed to such a plea deal. Nikolas and his lawyers are not denying that he committed the school shooting which killed 14 students and three staff members.
Death row inmates in Tennessee have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to prevent the state from using its new three-drug protocol for lethal injections. They are arguing that the three-drug combination creates a substantial risk for pain and suffering during the execution. Several other states have used similar combinations, with some claiming the executions were “botched.” Attorneys for the state argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the Supreme Court of the United States has already ruled that the drug midazolam can be used in executions.
By a vote of 34-25, a bill to eliminate capital punishment in the state of Wyoming failed for the fifth year in a row. The vote was to assign the bill to a committee for further consideration. It was six votes short of the necessary number of votes in order for it to assigned to a committee. Wyoming last carried out an execution in 1992, and there are currently no inmates on death row in the state.
Former Florida death row inmate Cleo Leroy is asking that he be released from prison on parole. Cleo, now 54 years of age, was convicted of murdering 27-year-old John Hardeman and his new wife, 24-year-old Gail Hardeman, in January 1981. Cleo was initially sentenced to death and he spent 20 years on death row. He was taken off death row when it was made illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be sentenced to death, as he was 17 at the time of the crime. Additionally, he could not be sentenced to life without parole, also because he was a juvenile at the time of the murders. He was sentenced to two life sentences. Cleo and his attorney are arguing that since being in prison, he has turned his life around, receiving a high school diploma, completing numerous self-improvement programs, and maintaining a good prison record, with only two disciplinary reports, none of which occurred in the last 11 years.
Forty-eight-year-old Robert Hobart has taken a plea deal that will prevent a jury trial in which he could be sentenced to death. In 2012, a jury in Florida sentenced Robert to death by a vote of 7-5. A few years later, it was ruled that jury sentences must be unanimous in order to sentence an inmate to death. The decision retroactively applied to all death penalty cases from 2002 onward. In accordance to the plea deal, Robert’s original conviction will stand and he will now be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Robert is convicted of murdering 41-year-old Robert Hamm and 43-year-old Tracie Tolbert.