July, 19 2019

IDPN 2019 Issue 28

China: On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Zhang Koukou was executed for the murder of three of his neighbors. The murders occurred due to blood feud between the two families, dating back to 1996.


Iran: On Monday, July 8, 2019, 42-year-old Mostafa Shiri was executed by hanging at Zanjan prison. Mostafa was convicted of murder.

On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, an unnamed man was executed by public hanging in Khandab. The 60-year-old was convicted of the murder of his wife and three of her relatives on March 27, 2019.

Also on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, four prisoners were executed by hanging at Urmia prison. All were convicted of murder.


On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, a 43-year-old woman, identified only by her initials, was executed by hanging at the Prison of Noshahr. She had been imprisoned for the last 11 years. She was executed after having undertaken the crime committed by her son.



Sri Lanka: President Maithripala Sirisena and MP Bandula Lal Bandarigoda are sharply divided on the issue of capital punishment in the nation. President Sirisena is working to revive capital punishment and begin executions again, while MP Bandarigoda has submitted a bill to block the restoration of capital punishment. The bill would also commute all death sentence to life in prison.



Pakistan: For years, the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for “blasphemy,” captured the attention of the world. Earlier this year, Asia was finally released from prison after spending eight years on death row. On May 1, 2019, another Christian accused of “blasphemy,” Farhan Aziz, was also released after spending nine months imprisoned. International human right groups have decried the nation’s blasphemy laws, which allows for the death penalty for anyone convicted of defiling the name of Muhammad. Often, evidence in these cases is weak, and there are reports that the law has been abused, as the mere accusation of blasphemy can incite a riot. Currently, there are at least eight Christians on death row in the nation, all convicted under the Islamic law of blasphemy. Despite the convictions, no Christians have reportedly been executed on the charge of blasphemy.



United States of America: On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, William Rivera was scheduled to be executed in Pennsylvania. His execution has been stayed by the US District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe has also perviously announced a moratorium on executions in the state. William is convicted of the murder of Tae Hun a/k/a Kumok Kang on September 25, 1995, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died at the age of 99. His cause of death was due to complications from a stroke he suffered the day before. Justice Stevens was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States by President Gerald Ford in 1975. He retired in 2010, at the age of 90. President Barack Obama replaced him with Justice Elena Kagan. Justice Stevens voted with the majority in Gregg v. Georgia, in 1976, which again allowed the use of capital punishment, overruling Furman v. Georgia. Justice Stevens later said that was the only vote he regretted. In future appeals, he voted to restrict capital punishment in certain circumstances, including for mental deficiency.


On Saturday, July 13, 2019, Jospeh Goff, a death row inmate in Mississippi, died while awaiting his execution in the Mississippi State Penitentiary Hospital. His cause of death is not yet known, however it is thought to be natural causes. Goff was sentenced to death for the 2005 murder of Brandy Stewart Yates. Goff also set fire to the motel room where Brandy’s body was found.


On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, Howard Dean Goodin, a death row inmate in Mississippi, died at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Mississippi, after an extended illness. His exact cause of death has not been reported. He was 65 years of age. Goodin was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of 64-year-old Willis Rigdon on November 5, 1998, during a robbery in Union, Mississippi.


After a 12 member jury in Florida was unable to unanimously agree on a death sentence for Scott Nelson, Scott was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Jennifer Fulford, a personal assistant, in 2017. During the trial, Scott admitted to the murder, but claimed that his parole officer forced him to commit the murder.


The 37 death row inmates in South Carolina have been moved to another prison for the second time in two years. The move is an attempt to address concerns over the treatment of inmates that has been raised in a federal lawsuit. The prisoners have been relocated to Kirkland Correctional Institution, where they will be able to eat meals together, worship together, and, for the first time in decades, have jobs. They will still be kept in individuals cells. At the new prison, the inmates will be treated similar to inmates in general population, however the death row inmates will be kept separate. Previously, death row inmates in the state were kept in solitary 23 hours a day and taken outside for one hour each day, also by themselves. They were fed in their cells. Lawyers for the inmates who protested their previous confinement conditions have announced that they would need to inspect the conditions where the prisoners are now located before deciding what to do next.


The Supreme Court of the United States will hear the case of James McKinney, who has been sentenced to death for the murder of Christine Mertens and James McClain in two separate botched burglaries in 1991, in Phoenix, Arizona. The decision on this could affect 19 other death row inmates in the state. According to McKinney’s lawyers, state courts in the 1990s, in several cases, were not considering mitigating evidence as they should. In McKinney’s case, his post-traumatic stress from his “horrific childhood.” Additionally, his lawyers are arguing that Arizona law has changed since 1996, the last time McKinney’s sentence was upheld.


Democratic presidential candidate Pete Bettigieg has announced that if elected president, he plans to eliminate the death penalty as part of his plan to “dismantle racist structures and systems.” Also included in his plan is the legalization of marijuana. While Bettigieg has achieved fundraising success, he has struggled to attract voters.


Judge William T. Lawrence from the Southern District of Indiana has ruled the Bruce Webster, who has been on federal death row for 23 years, is ineligible for execution. Webster, was convicted along with four other men of kidnapping 16-year-old Lisa Rene from her Texas home, and taking her to Arkansas, where she was beaten, raped, and buried alive. For his part in the crime, Webster was sentenced to death. During his trial, Webster’s attorney argued that Webster was mentally challenged and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. At the time, his lawyers were unable to find government records to support their claims, while the state had witnesses that testified Webster was faking his disability. Now, Social Security records have been revealed to show that Webster had applied, and been granted, benefits a year before the murder occurred. The benefits were granted because Webster was shown to have a low IQ and psychological deficiencies.


Larry Krasner, the District Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to declare the capital punishment system unconstitutional in the state. During his campaign, Larry promised he would not seek out any death sentences. Like many opponents to the death penalty, Larry argues that the capital punishment is a “cruel punishment,” and that it is racist and disproportionally affects those in poverty. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is also an outspoken opponent of capital punishment, issuing a moratorium on executions in the state.


Judge Phillip Shepherd has ruled that the death penalty in Kentucky is unconstitutional because it does not protect people with intellectual disabilities. For years, Kentucky relied upon IQ tests to determine a person’s mental competency. In 2018, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that IQ alone is not a sufficient measure to determine mental competency. Kentucky’s death penalty protocol has been in court for over a decade. There are currently 33 individuals on death row in the state.

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