July 5, 2019

IDPN 2019 Issue 26

Iran: On Wednesday, June 26, 2019, five men were executed by hanging at Karaj’s Rajai-Shahr prison, during the early morning hours. Three of the prisoners were identified as Ghorban Soleimani, Hanif Motaharinejad and Majid Hassanzadeh, while the other two prisoners have not yet been identified. Most of the five men were convicted for murder.


Prosecutors are asking for the death penalty for several individuals arrested and accused of spying for the United States of America. Last August, officials announced that “tens of spies” had been arrested, many who carried dual nationalities. In June of this year, a man was executed after being convicted of the spying for the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States. Additionally, over recent weeks, tensions between the United States and the Iranian government has increased regarding Iran’s nuclear program.



Malaysia:Parliament is currently working on a bill that would replace mandatory capital punishment, giving judges three options, including life imprisonment and a 30 year jail term. The judge would make the final decision. The bill that is being considered would affect 11 different serious offenses. There are currently over 1,200 inmates on death row in the country. It is not yet known if the bill would be applied retroactively, should it pass.



Sri Lanka: A five-judge panel has been appointed to examine the 12 fundamental right petitions the Supreme Court has received against the death penalty. The petitions state that the imposition of the death penalty on selected convicts, by the president, violates the fundamental rights of the convicts and the general public. They argue that the selection of inmates convicted of drug related offenses, over inmates convicted of murder, violates their fundamental rights. These petitions come as the president has begun signing execution warrants, ending an unofficial moratorium that had been in place since 1976.


While President Maithripala Sirisena has signed four execution warrants for men convicted of drug related offenses, the nation has not yet filled the two positions of hangman. Additionally, there are several legal challenges that need to be overcome before executions can be resumed.



United States of America: Judge Phillip Shepherd, with the Franklin Circuit in Kentucky, has struck down Kentucky’s death penalty protocol as unconditional, because it does not specifically prohibit the execution of prisoners with intellectual disabilities. Executing inmates with intellectually disabilities is prohibited by the Supreme Court of the United States. Executions in the state have been on hold for some time, due to legal issues surrounding Kentucky’s means of lethal injection, among other issues. The attorney general for the state is currently reviewing the ruling. This ruling is the latest ruling for three inmates, Thomas Bowling, Brian Keith Moore and Ralph Baze, who began challenging the execution regulation in 2006. Bowling has since died of cancer.


Over the past several years, many states have run out of lethal injection drugs and have struggled to replace their supplies due to increasing difficulties of obtaining the drugs. Idaho has now announced that it also has no lethal injection drugs on hand, as it supplies have expired. There are eight offenders on death row in the state; seven men and one woman. There are not currently plans to carry out an execution.


Wayne Kubsch was twice sentenced to death in Indiana for the 1998 murders of 31-year-old Beth Kubsch, her 35-year-old ex-husband Rick Milewski, and their son 11-year-old Aaron Milewski in Mishawaka, Indiana, As a third death penalty trial was scheduled to begin, a deal was reached, in part, at the request of the victims’ family, who was tired of the continuing appeals. As part of the deal, Wayne pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. Also as part of the deal, he no longer has the right to appeal his sentence.


In 2009, New Mexico repealed capital punishment in the state. Now, 10 years later, the New Mexico Supreme Court has set aside the death sentences of the final two inmate on death row in the state. In a split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the death sentences were disproportion for the two remaining men on death row, Timothy Allen and Robert Fry, compared to similar cases. The cases were returned to district court for resentencing. Both men received life sentences and will become eligible for parole after 30 years, however they would then immediately begin serving additional sentences of at least 25 years. Robert will not be eligible for release, as he was also sentenced to life in prison in a separate, triple murder case. New Mexico carried out its last execution in 2001. It was the only execution to occur since the Supreme Court of the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976.


Sixty-nine-year-old Vicente Benavides spent 25 years on death row in California, after being falsely convicted of murder. Now, he is suing those whom he believes framed him. Vicente was arrested on November 18, 1991, and sentenced to death two years later for the sexual assault and murder of 21-month-old Consuelo Verdugo, the daughter of his girlfriend. A recent investigation into the case, in preparation for another trial, revealed that the initial trial featured fabricated evidence and witness who were pressured by law enforcement to make false statements. Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green dropped all charges against Vicente, who was then released from prison on April 19, 2018.

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