December 21, 2018
IDPN 2018 Issue 51
Belarus: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has stated that he believes it is up to the people to decide if the death penalty should be abolished and that a recent referendum showed that a majority of the people supported the death penalty. Because of that referendum, he does not believe that he can abolish the death penalty in the nation.
China: Thirty-year-old Zhu Xiaodong is appealing his death sentence for the murder of his wife, 30-year-old Yang Liping. The murder occurred on October 18, 2016. After the murder, Zhu acted as the deceased on social media in order to avoid raising suspicion. He also hid Yang’s body in the freezer for 105 days. Eventually Zhu felt he could no longer continue the charade and turned himself into the police. Zhu and his attorney are arguing that he should not have his death sentence carried out because he turned himself into the police and has shown remorse for his crime. Additionally, he claims the murder was not premeditated. Prosecutors argue that his attitude following the murder, including impersonating his wife on social media and the carefree attitude he had, qualify him for the death penalty.
Sun Bo, the former general manager of China Shipbuildign Industry Corporation, has been found guilty of taking bribes and is currently under investigation for allegedly passing secrets to foreign intelligence agents about China’s first aircraft carrier. If he is found guilty, Sun could possible face the death penalty. If executed, it could serve as a warning to other senior officials. President Xi Jinping has an ongoing anti-corruption campaign which has resulted in the arrests of more than 1.3 million part officials at various levels throughout the government.
India: The Bombay High Court has confirmed the death penalty of 30-year-old Chandrabhan Sanap. Sanap was sentenced to death in 2015 after being convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old software professional. In their decision, the court noted the increase in crimes against woman in the country.
Iran: Babak Zanjani was arrested in 2013 and convicted of embezzling money from black market oil exports sanctioned by the government. In 2016, Babak was sentenced to death. An official of Iran’s Judiciary has announced that it will not be executing Babak until they are able to recover the funds that are currently out of the country. The government, at this time, is not able to repatriate the monies.
An unnamed 50-year-old has been executed at Mashhad Central Prison on Wednesday, December 12, 2018. He was convicted of murdering his wife in 2010. His daughters had the power to spare his life, however he was unable to persuade them.
Japan: Forty-eight-year-old Koji Yamada has been sentenced to death by the Osaka District Court for the murder of 13-year-old Natsumi Hirata and 12-year-old Ryoto Hoshino. Yamada killed the children by strangling them to death on August 13, 2015. The court ruled that the deaths were intentional. Hoshino was killed first and, according to the Yamada’s lawyers, Hirata was accidentally killed after she began screaming after Hoshino’s murder. Yamada’s lawyer also claimed that Yamada had diminished mental capacity and should be spared from death.
Maldives: The government has vowed to enforce the death penalty after reforming the judiciary in the country. The country recently and surprisingly voted against supporting a United Nations general assembly resolution of a moratorium on the death penalty. They had previously supported such a resolution. Voting in support of such a moratorium goes against the constitution of Maldives which states that Islam should be the basis of all law in the nation. The death penalty is supported for premeditated murder in shariah. It has been over 60 years since an execution was carried out. There are three men on death row.
United States of America: The death penalty in Oregon is part of the state’s constitution, meaning that the only way to remove it would be by a vote by the people, however some legislatures are looking for possible ways to dismantle capital punishment in the state, without a vote of the people. Led by Democratic lawmakers, numerous legislators are considering changing the definition of crimes that qualify for the death penalty to only acts that have deaths resulting from domestic or international terrorism. Other crimes that had previously qualified for capital punishment would be moved into other degrees of homicide that are not punishable by death. Executions are currently on hold due to a moratorium issued by former Governor John Kitzhaber and continued by Governor Kate Brown.
According to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center, less than 50 individuals were sentenced to death throughout the year. The United States carried out 25 executions this year. According to a Gallup survey, support for the death penalty in the nation has failed to 56 percent in 2018. In 1994, support was at 80 percent. Death sentences given have been down due to, in part, courts ordering that more stringent standards be used to sentence an individual to death. The number of executions has been decreasing, in part, due to states difficulty obtaining drugs for use in executions and ongoing lawsuits.
In 2016, voters in California chose to attempt to fix the death penalty in the state instead of repeal it. Now, vocal anti-death penalty opponents are calling for Governor Jerry Brown to overrule the vote of the people and commute the death sentences of many on death row in the state. Some are calling for the governor to commute all the death sentences of all those on death row in California. Supporters of capital punishment argue that such commutations would be an overreach of power, as well as subverting justice and the will of the people.
For the second year in a row, no person was sentenced to death in North Carolina. A total of three capital cases were tried in the state, in three different counties. In each trial, the convicted was given a sentence of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, instead of the death penalty. Multiple reasons could explain the decline in death sentences, including greater awareness, numerous recent high-profile cases where wrongful convicted death row inmates had their sentences overturned, and a decreased in the number of capital cases.
Jeffrey Harvard in Mississippi has spent 16 years on death row for the murder of 6-month-old Chloe Britt, the daughter of his girlfriend. Jeffrey has insisted that he is innocent of murder, claiming he accidentally dropped the child, resulting in her death. Jeffrey has now been re-sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He and his lawyers have stated that they will continue to appeal.
Fifty-nine-year-old Arthur Lee Williams was sentenced to death in Texas for the murder of Houston police detective Daryl Shirley in 1982. Two years ago his death sentence was overturned by a federal judge. Now, he has been resentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors decided not to retry the case due to multiple issues, including evidence being lost or damaged, witnesses having passed away, and laws having been changed. If prosecutors had proceed with the case and failed to secure a sentence of death, Arthur could have been immediately eligible for parole. Instead, it will be several more decades before he is eligible, after having received two consecutive sentences: one life term with parole, and on 60-year sentence for aggravated assault.