Updates on matters we have written about:
Abolition in Maryland
Maryland abolished the death penalty: the repeal bill passed in
the Maryland House on March 15, 2013, by 82 to 56. to be signed
into law later by Governor Martin O'Malley. This was the result
of hard work by Amnesty and other abolition activists, and leadership
by the governor. He was exoected to commute the sentences of five
prisoners still on death row. A clause providing support for victims'
families was squeezed out of the bill, and the governor is was urged
to include such funding in the budget. Maryland was the 6th state
in 6 years to abolish the death penalty. The campaign moves to Delaware
and Colorado, which are also seriously considering repeal.
As pointed out by Norma Edwards, it was
nice that MArtin O'MAlley of MAryland, with his Irish name, abolished
the death penalty on or about St. Patrick's Day. They're hanging
them in Ireland for the wearing of the green- no more.
A reprieve in Ohio
John Eley shot shopkeeper Ihsan Aydah of Youngstown, Ohio, in 1986.
It seemed that the retarded Eley had been sent into the shop by
Melvin Green, against whom Eley afterwards refused to testify. Eley
was sentenced to death and was to have been executed on 26 July
2012. One of the judges, the detective who obtained a confession,
and even the prosecutor later said that if the defence had presented
the mitigating evidence they would have been against a penalty of
death. In 2012 the parole board voted 5-3 against the appeal; Eley
was to be executed on July 26; we were (on July 3) among those writing
to Governor Kasich; the parole board's decision was not binding
on him, and on July 10 he commuted the sentence to life in prison
without possibility of parole.
In Burma (called Myanmar by the military
regime that has ruled it since 1962), there was a release of 651
prisoners on January 13, 2012, and a further 46 on July 3. Only
a fraction were political prisoners, but among these were some for
whom Amnesty had been appealing. We eventually learned (it took
time) that they included Myo Min Zaw, Ko Aye Aung, Khun Bedu, Khun
Dee De, and Khun Kawrio. All had been leaders of student protests,
the first two in Rangoon, the three Khuns in the Karenni ethnic
region of eastern Burma; all had been condemned to fantastically
long prison sentences; their stories included torture, hunger strikes,
removal to prisons remote from their families. The Greenville, S.C.,
group "adopted" Myo Min Zaw in 1999; the Lyme Regis, England,
group later took up this and the other cases; and there were many
other groups who had cause to celebrate the release of their prisoners
with a Toast to Freedom. There still remained many prisoners of
conscience in Myanmar.
Okoroafor was released on April 30, 2012. He had long been
featured in Amnesty International's holiday card campaigns, which
was how we first heard of him. He was imprisoned at age 14 and was
now 31. He was the youngest of seven youths who were accused, probably
falsely, of a robbery, tried with gross unfairness, and sentenced
to death; the others, including one aged 15, were shot. He suffered
terrible conditions in prison. We keep the fuller story at this
Student who wouldn't keep quiet
release, on Friday Jan. 13, 2012, of a few hundred out of the possibly
thousands of political prisoners in Burma (Myanmar) did not at first
seem to include Myo Min Zaw, but after several days of rumors and
bated breath, it did.
He was one of the leaders of student protests
for democracy in 1996, dodged arrest and continued his activities
for a while, but was caught in 1998 and sentenced to 38 years, later
increased to 52! He was moved to successively more remote prisons,
was beaten, shackled, etc. His case was taken up by the Amnesty
group of Greenville, S.C., groups in New York and California, and
the Lyme Regis group in England. He was in prison for more than
13 long years, and would have had three more of such spans to go,
but perhaps for the attention we tried to keep on him with thousnds
of letters, cards, and petition signatures.
That;s essentially the ground on which Troy Davis was executed.
It's supposed to be guilt that must be proved beyond reasonable
doubt, not innocence.
He was executed by the state of Georgia
(U.S.) on September 22, 2011, despite multiple doubts of his guilt
and a worldwide outcry including several Urgent Actions by Amnesty
International, calls for clemency from the Pope and the UN, huge
petitions and vigils, and waves of letters, emails and phone calls
at the several times when execution dates loomed.
In 1989 an off-duty policeman, Mark MacPhail,
working as a night guard at a Burger King, saw a homeless man, Larry
Young,being pistol-whipped by men who had demanded cash from him;
MacPhail went to intervene, and before he could draw his gun someone
shot him. No weapon or other physical evidence was ever found. Troy
Davis was arrested and charged on the basis of eyewitness testimony
given by seven people. After the 1991 trial, five of these retracted
their testimony, some saying they had been coerced by the police.
One of these was Benjamin Gordon, who had
just turned 16 at the time of the crime. In 2008 he signed a statement
that a relative of his by marriage told him he had shot the policeman.
Another witness, Sylvester Redd Coles, was the one who
originally went to the police, along with his lawyer, and said that
he had been fleeing the scene when shots were fired and that Davis
had been there; this was how Davis became the suspect. Several members
of the jury which gave the sentence of death have said that they
would now not do so.
In 2007 Davis came within two hours of execution
when the state Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay. It said
it would not allow execution unless and until its members
are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.
Twice more, in 2008, execution dates were set,then stayed by the
In 2009 the Supreme Court ordered a federal evidentiary hearing
hearing, which was held in 2010 by District Court Judge William
Moore. At this extraordinary hearing, defense lawyers wanted to
call witnesses who had given sworn statements that, after the 1991
trial, Coles told them he was himself the actual killer. Judge Moore
did not allow these witnesses to testify because Davis's lawyers
did not subpoena Coles to testify. A technicaltity if ever there
was one. Yet Moore asserted that if the wirnesses had testified
he could have assessed the truth of what they said and it was probably
that Coles was merely boosting his image as a tough guy; that the
new evidence was largely smoke and mirrors; and that
Davis was simply not innocent. One who did testify at
this hearing was Benjamin Gordon, who now for the first time said
he had actually seen the alternative suspect do the shooting; he
said he had not done so before because of fear. Judge Moore felt
that Gordon was not credible.
After this the last resort was the Board
of Parsons and Paroles (Georgia being one of three states where
the Governor did not have power of clemency). Despite its previous
assertion, it voted for death (by what majority of its five members,
was not disclosed).
Lawyer wasn't ready
Martin Grossman was executed in Florida by lethal injection on Feb.
16, 2010. He was 19 in 1984 when he shot Margaret Park, a wildlife
warden on patrol. His co-defendant received a third-degree conviction.
Grossman, according to a forensic psychologist,
suffered "a high level of fear and depression, and parental neglect,
abandonment and mistreatment", which made it doubtful that his crime
was premeditated. But this only came out later; the defence presented
no mental health testimony to the jury. A second defence lawyer,
hired only two weeks before the sentencing, said he should have
told the trial judge that they were not ready. Grossman's lead trial
lawyer said in an affidavit to the Appeals Court that he and his
defence colleague had done a "very poor and ineffective job".
In his final statement Grossman said " . . . I
fully regret everything that happened that night, everything that
was done, whether I remember everything or not", and recited a Jewish
prayer. Jewish leaders, and the Vatican, were among those who appealed
for clemency, and Governor Charlie Crist received 49,000 letters,
phone calls, and emails; an online clemency petition was signed
by more than 34,000.
This was the 7th state killing this year
in the USA. Since the resumption of judicial killing in 1977, it
was the 69th in Florida and the 1195th in the USA.
Ricardo Ucán Seca (or Ceca) was released on December 31,
2009, after serving more than 9 of the 22 years' imprisonment to
which he had been sentenced in June 2000. He was the peasant farmer
in Yucatán state of Mexico who, after killing in self-defense
a neighbor who threatened to rob him of his land, received an unfair
trial, without interpreter from Spanish to his own Mayan language.
His case was taken up, as an example of discrimination against indigenous
Maya people, by local activists called Equipo Indignación
("Team Indignation"), and by Amnesty International. We
long campaigned for him (http://humanrightsletters.com/MexicoUcan.htm)
and in January 2008 Tilly Lavenás and Guy Ottewell visited
him in prison at Tekax. The Interamerican Commission for Human Rights
agreed in 2008 to consider his case, and did so on Nov. 5, 2009.
Jorge Fernandez and Raul Lugo of Equipo Indignación went
to Washington to present Ricardo's case, along with Red Todos los
Derechos para Todas y Todos ("network of all rights for all
people"). Some weeks later, the Mexico and Yucatán governments
agreed to a friendly settlement. Equipo Indignación volunteers
said that if this did not come to pass by Humanr Rights Day, Dec.
10, they would protest outside the governor's palace. The release
came on the last day of the year, and on Jan. 2, 2010, Cristina
Muñoz of Equipo Indignación sent us her press release
(Don Ricardo Ucán, libre!).
A Briton's death in China
Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen from London, with three
children, mentally ill for many years with a probable bipolar disorder,
traveled to Poland. He behaved bizarrely, wanted to become a pop
star though he had no singing experience, and was tricked by a criminal
gang, who promised him introductions to people in the music business.
They arranged for him to fly to Kyrgyzstan, from there to Tajikistan,
then on 12 Sep. 2007 to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, the northwest
province of China. He was arrested on arrival. In a suitcase the
gang had asked him to carry were found four kilograms of heroin
of which he disclaimed knowledge. He was imprisoned; in October
2008, after a half-hour trial in which not all the evidence was
heard, he was sentenced to death. The British embassy and the charity
Reprieve offered to arrange for a mental health assessment, but
no such examination by a doctor was allowed. According to China's
Criminal Law, Article 18, the mentally ill should receive medical
treatment and reduced sentences. Despite intensive appeals from
British authorities and his family, two of whom traveled to China,
he was killed (by lethal injection or by a bullet in the back of
the neck accounts differ) on 29 Dec. 2009, at the age of
53 the first British or indeed European Union citizen to
be executed in China for at least a century. It was suspected (by
Reprieve) that China used the case to punish Britain because Gordon
Brown had implicitly blamed China for wrecking the Copenhagen world
climate conference. "Face" is more important than a man's
life or the planet's.
Some releases in Sri Lanka
We appealed in November 2009 for the 260,000 detainees being kept
under miserable conditions in camps after the crushing in May of
the Tamil Tiger rebellion. On Dec. 1 several thousand were allowed
to leave, though told they must register wherever they go and must
return within 10 days. An estimated 127,000 civilians are still
in the camps.
China's revenge on the Uighurs
We appealed on 9 Nov. 2009 for nine people (apparently eight Uighurs
and one with a Han Chinese name) sentenced to death. But later the
same day Chinese authorities announced that all nine had been executed,
at an unstated date. They had been convicted, after unfair trials,
of robbery, arson, or murder during riots on July 5, including attacks
on Chinese immigrants. These riots were a reaction to the crackdown
by police on a peaceful protest against the killing of Uighur migrant
workers in a distant part of China. Many more Uighurs are in detention
The Uighurs, Turkic in speech and Muslim in religion, are the native
people of Xinjiang (formerly known as Sinkiang or Chinese Turkestan
or Eastern Turkestan), the high, dry region north of (and even larger
than) Tibet. Another of their grievances is that China has begun
to demolish and rebuild one of their ancient cities, Kashgar.
She kidnapped six policemen?
Jacinta Francisco Marcial, for whom we wrote on August 24,2009,
was released on or just before September 16. She was an Otomi Indian,
non-speaker of Spanish, aged 46, mother of six, making a living
by hawking ice cream. In March 2006, agents of the Mexican Federal
Investigation Agency made a raid for pirate DVDs in a market on
Santiago Mexquititlán square in Querétaro, provoking
a protest. Six of the agents claimed that some stall holders kidnapped
them and held them hostage. In their original statements the agents
made no mention of Jacinta. A month later, after seeing a photo
in a local newspaper that showed Jacinta walking behind the crowd
of protesters, the agents accused her of involvement, and this photo
was the only evidence against her. Many witnesses testified that
she took no part in the protest, and during it was seen selling
ice cream and attending mass. The trial was an unfair one in which
she had no interpreter and the state-appointed public defender never
spoke to her to explain her rights or defence. In August 2006 she
was sent to prison for 21 years. When she had served three, Amnesty
International adopted her as a prisoner of conscience in August
2009, and she was released the same month.
This is an example of the effectiveness of international
outcry. There may be many little people like Jacinta imprisoned
in obscurity for absurd reasons. As soon as the absurdity was noticed
internationally, Mexico was shamed into releasing her.
An Uighur intellectual
Ilham Tohti, for whom our group wrote, was released on 23
August 2009. An economics professor, he was editor of a website
for the Uighur people (the native people of Xinjiang, which is ruled
by China). After the mass demonstrations by Uighurs on 5 July, Chinese
authorities said his website had fuelled violence. He says he would
never agree with using violence. He was taken from his home on 8
July and imprisoned in Beijing, without charge. He says he was not
tortured, but was questioned by police "day and night".
He remains under surveillance; police told him not to criticize
the government or he will face formal charges and punishment.
What the jury wasn't allowed to hear
Dennis Skillicorn was put to death in Missouri in the first
few minutes of May 20, 2009.
In 1994 he and two others, named Nicklasson and DeGraffenreid, took
advantage of the kindness of Richard Drummond, who stopped to help
them with their broken-down car. At gunpoint they made him drive
to a lonely spot; then Nicklasson took him away into a field and
shot him. After his arrest in October 2004, Nicklasson said he had
meant to tie Drummond up and leave him, but had "snapped"
(at something the victim said?). Nicklasson consistently said that
Skillicorn did not know Drummond would be killed.
Thus Skillicorn was party to a nasty form of robbery, but not to
murder. Yet at Skillicorn's trial Nicklasson's statement was not
allowed into evidence; the jury never heard it. Why? because
it counted as "hearsay". This has to count as one of the
most outrageous of the technicalities of American law. The state
was required to prove that Skillicorn had "after deliberation"
aided or encouraged Nicklasson to do the killing, and the jury decided
he had done so. The jury foreman later said he would not have voted
for death if he had known of Nicklasson's statement. Nicklasson
was also sentenced to death, but as yet has no execution date. DeGraffenreid
was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Skillicorn was repentant ("for the last 15 years I've lived
with the remorse of my actions" was his final statement) and
in prison worked with young offenders and terminally ill prisoners;
founded a program that organized visits by inmates' children and
families, and helped inmates develop parenting skills. Many religious
and civic leaders, and former and current staff members of the Missouri
Department of Corrections, supported the clemency petition, but
the governor denied it.
This was the first state killing in Missouri since October 2005,
the 29th this year in the USA. Since the resumption of judicial
killing in 1977, it was the 67th in Missouri and the 1165th in the
Healer of the tortured in danger of torture
In Sudan, Mohammed El Mahjoub was released without charge on April
He was acting director of the Amal center for the treatment and
rehabilitation of victims of torture, in El Fasher, North Darfur.
After the International Criminal Court on March 4 issued a warrant
for the arrest of Sudan's President Omar El Bashir for war crimes
and crimes against humanity, aid agencies were expelled and there
was harassment of human-rights defenders. The Amal centers at El
Fasher and at Nyala in South Darfur were closed down. On 11 April
Mohammed El Mahjoub was arrested from his home by the National Intelligence
Service. For six days he was held incommunicado, and Amnesty International,
concerned that he was himself at risk of torture, issued an Urgent
Action (UA 101/09 of 14 April). Happily, on his release he was in
good health and said he had not been tortured.
A mother whose children turned their thumbs
down on her
'Aisha Ghalib al-Hamzi was executed in Yemen on 19 April
2009 for the murder of her husband in October 2003. All seven of
her children refused to pardon her. In Yemen, relatives of the victim
may seek execution, grant pardon for monetary compensation, or grant
pardon freely. We don't know whether 'Aisha had been suffering intolerable
abuse from her husband, as in other recent cases of women in Muslim
countries driven to kill their husbands or employers. I (Guy) called
my human-rights book Think Like a Mother. Perhaps it is more
nearly universal for mothers to agonize for their children than
the other way around.
A state outgrows the death penalty
New Mexico became the second US state since 1965 to abolish
the death penalty. It hadn't seemed certain that the governor would
sign the bill passed by the state legislature, but a lot of people
wrote, he signed it on March 18, 2009, and we supported him with
letters of gratitude.
Condemned by planted evidence?
Edward Bell, a Jamaican national, black, aged 44, with probably
mental retardation, was killed by lethal injection on the evening
of Feb. 19, 2009.
In 1999 in Winchester, Virginia, white police Sergeant Richard Timbrook,
chasing a fleeing suspect, was shot as he climbed over a fence.
Another officer said the shooter was dressed in black. Police conducted
a meticulous day-long search for the murder weapon, but found none.
Then they left the crime scene unsecured for several hours. Next
morning they returned, found Edward Bell hiding in the basement
of a nearby house, and "found" the gun in an obvious location
under the house's porch. Forensic testing showed that it was the
murder weapon; DNA on it was a mixture from at least three people,
and neither excluded nor identified Bell. Rather than being dressed
in black, Bell was wearing a jacket with reflective stripes on its
sleeves that "lit up like a Christmas tree". He said he
had fled when people he did not realize were police got out of a
car and ran toward him, and hid when he heard the gunshot.
There was another person in the area who was fleeing the police
but was never investigated. The prosecution produced a witness,
Terry Johnson, who was in jail with Bell before the trial and who
testified (not under oath) that Bell had confessed to the murder
and that he, Johnson, had not been offered anything by the state
in return for his testimony. He later signed an affidavit under
oath that when first approached by the authorities, he had told
them repeatedly that he knew nothing about the case; that the prosecutor
promised a reduction in his own prison sentence, as well as relocation
to a more favorable prison, and contact visits with his family and
At the sentencing phase, Bell's court-appointed lawyer, who had
never before handled a capital case, failed to tell the jury of
any mitigating evidence. A later investigator with experience in
over 200 cases described this as "the most disorganized case"
she had ever tried to work on. The trial lawyers consistently failed
to respond to her efforts to carry out her work. Such a wealth of
mitigating evidence about Bell and his family was later found that
one of the jurors wrote: "It was very important for me to hear
about Eddie Bell's background. I was undecided at sentencing and
I wanted to hear something, anything about Eddie Bell. We were looking
for something mitigating, some reason not to sentence him to death,
but we were given nothing by his lawyers..." The US District
Court in 2006 concluded that Bell had had deficient representation
and the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling to the contrary was unreasonable.
But this was overridden by later courts and the governor.
Governor Kaine's words, five hours before the execution: "Having
carefully reviewed the petition for clemency and judicial opinions...
I find no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was recommended
by the jury, and then imposed and affirmed by the courts. Accordingly,
I decline to intervene."
Edward Bell's last words: "To the Timbrook family, you definitely
have the wrong person. The truth will come out one day. This here
killing me there's no justice about it."
There are some cases where it can't help appearing that police are
determined to convict someone in revenge for the killing of one
of their own.
This was the 1st state killing this year in Virginia, the 14th in
the USA. Since the resumption in 1977, it was the 103rd in Virginia
and the 1150th in the USA.
Spared for blood-money
Reza Alinejad was released on December 3, 2008, from Adelabad prison
in Shiraz, Iran.
At age 17, he had been attacked by bullies wielding martial-arts
weapons; defended himself with a knife; one of them died. By religious
law the family of the dead bully could accept blood money in lieu
of execution. Reza's father had a month to raise one billion Iranian
rials, desperately tried to sell his house, was afraid that even
if managed in time it would not be enough. But apparently he succeeded
and the victim's family accepted it. (We are not told whether Reza's
family is now houseless.)
We learned about Reza's release on the morning of Dec. 10, Human
Rights Day, when we were putting on an event with an Iranian speaker,
so we were able to say that "For example, one of Amnesty's
Urgent Actions that came today was about yet another Iranian death-penalty
case though of the rare kind with a happy ending." Happier
would be an end to the grotesque blood-money system.
Campaigner against torture released
Osman Hummaida was released on Nov. 28, 2008. He had been in incommunicado
detention since Nov. 24, and had once before been imprisoned for
a year and a half. He had been director of the Sudanese Organization
Turkey acknowledges a police crime
Ozgur Karakaya and Cihan Gun were released on Oct. 15, 2008, from
Metris prison in Istanbul.
After their arrest on Sep. 29, they and Engin Ceber were beaten
so badly over several days that Engin Ceber died. The Minister of
Justice (one of those we wrote to) recognized that Engin Ceber died
as a result of torture, and took the unprecedented step of publicly
apologizing to the family. And 19 state officials were suspended
pending an inquiry into the allegations of torture.
Executed though the real killer owned up
Gregory Wright was lethally injected in Texas on October 30, 2008,
for the stabbing of Donna Vick in 1997. John Adams reported the
murder, accusing Wright. In 2008 Adams took the sole blame on himself:
"I want the record clear that Greg Wright is innocent of the
crime he's here on death row for. If you kill him your killing a
In his final statement, Gregory Wright said: "John Adams is
the one that killed Donna Vick... I was in the bathroom when he
attacked. I am deaf in one ear and I thought the TV was up too loud.
I ran into the bedroom. By the time I came in, when I tried to help
her with first aid, it was too late... I have done everything to
prove my innocence. Before you is an innocent man."
This was the 14th state killing this year in Texas, the 30th in
the USA; since the resumption in 1977, it was the 419th in Texas
and the 1129th in the USA.
Plenty of witnesses but they say they
Troy Davis, for whom we have appealed over and over again,
received on Oct. 24, 2008, a stay of execution from the federal
appeals court in Atlanta, Georgia. His latest execution date had
been set for Oct. 27. He had been convicted of the killing of police
officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. There was no physical evidence pointing
to Davis; the only evidence was that of 9 supposed witnesses, 7
of whom recanted their testimony implying that it was forced; the
remaining two were a police officer and the other principal suspect.
But courts had maintained that new evidence of innocence came too
late to be considered. On Sep. 23 he was just hours from execution
when the US Supreme Court issued a stay; later, decided not to hear
the case. This latest stay is conditional: Davis has to make a showing
he can meet the "stringent requirements" to pursue another
round of appeals.
Iran begins to limit its death penalty
Iran on Oct. 16, 2008, outlawed the death penalty for juveniles
(people whose offences were committed when they were under 18).
A senior Iranian judiciary official issued a directive to judges
to abolish execution for juveniles and replace it with life imprisonment
with possibility of parole. Hossein Zabhi, Assistant Attorney for
Judicial Affairs (it is not clear in The Independent's article whether
he is the senior official referred to), told the state-run news
agency that "in cases of good behaviour and signs of rehabilitation,
juvenile offenders may qualify for conditional release under Islamic
compassion guidelines." The decision is not legally binding
until it has been ratified by the Iranian parliament. The judiciary
in 2004 issued a similar directive, which was largely ignored by
judges. Up to now Iran has led the world in executing juveniles.
There are about 130 on death row. Six have been arrested so far
in 2008. The latest known to be executed was Behnam Zare, hanged
in Shiraz on Aug. 26 for a crime committed when he was 15. Since
January 2005, Iran has been responsible for 26 of the 32 known executions
of juveniles worldwide. The other states defying international law
by executing juveniles are Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Pakistan.
Jack Alderman, of Georgia: in 1974, his wife Barbara Jean was
murdered. John Brown confessed to the killing, but claimed that
Jack had promised to pay him for it. For this Brown got a light
sentence, was in prison for 12 years, and after getting out committed
various crimes against young women and children. Jack was sentenced
to death. Two jurors said afterwards that if they had known of the
plea bargain they would not have voted for the death penalty. Jack
was offered life if he would plead guilty; he refused to confess
to something he had not done. According to a passionate letter from
a minister who knew him well, Jack was a model prisoner, a peacemaker,
an altogether shining character. Several times, the Georgia Board
of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant clemency hearings. It held
a last hearing on the day of execution, September 16, 2008; Jack's
elderly and ill father was brought from his trailer park home in
Thomaston to Atlanta to testify; this last appeal was turned down.
Jack was put to death about 7 p.m. The execution by lethal injection
took about 14 minutes. He was 56. We suggest that this story is
close to the extreme of tragedy and might provide someone with the
outline for a novel.
Executing a boy from another country
José Ernesto Medellín Rojas, a Mexican national, was
executed in Texas on August 5, 2008. He was barely 18 when he participated
in the 1993 murder for which his two defendants, who were 17, had
their death sentences commuted. His trial had been unfair in that
his court-appointed lawyer spent his time trying to keep himself
out of jail for unethical practices; and Texas never advised Medellín,
and advised his consulate four years too late, of his right to receive
Mexico's extensive consular assistance. The execution thus violated
international law, and defied worldwide appeals including by Mexico
and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This was the 5th state killing
this year in Texas, the 17th in the USA; since the resumption in
1977, it was the 410th in Texas and the 1116th in the USA.
(It's only a bit less than ten years since Tilly as a journalist
had to cover the USA's 500th modern-times execution, in South Carolina.)
Killing not the killer but the one who stood
Dale Leo Bishop was executed on July 23, 2008. Governor Haley Barbour
of Mississippi denied clemency even though the man who actually
did the killing to which Bishop was a rather passive assistant is
serving a life sentence. This was the 1,113rd execution in the USA
since 1977, and the 14th this year; in Mississippi, the 10th since
1977, and the 2nd this year.
A reprieve in Oklahoma
Kevin Young was to be executed on July 22, 2008. On July 15 Governor
Brad Henry granted a 30-day stay to review the clemency recommendation
of the Pardon and Parole Boad; and on July 24 he accepted that recommendation
and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. He said: This
was a very difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly.
I am always reluctant to intervene in a capital case, and I am very
respectful of a jurys verdict, the prosecutors who tried the
case and the victims family who suffered because of the crime.
However, after reviewing all of the evidence and hearing from both
prosecutors and defence attorneys, I decided the Pardon and Parole
Board made a proper recommendation to provide clemency and commute
the death sentence. As a result, Kevin Young will be punished by
serving the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility
of parole. This was only the second time Governor Henry had
granted a clemency recommendation.
A reprieve in Alabama
Also on Aug. 1, it was announced that Thomas Arthur had been granted
a stay of execution on July 30, they day before he was to have been
put to death.)
A loss in Oklahoma
Terry Lyn Short, whose guilt was highly doubtful, was executed
on June 17, 2008. This was the 1106th judicial killing in the USA
since the resumption in 1977; the 87th in Oklahoma; the 7th in the
USA this year.
A reprieve in Virginia
Percy Levar Walton was to be executed on June 10, 2008. This would
have been Virginia's 100th execution in modern times.
On June 9, Governor Tim Kaine commuted the death sentence to life
in prison without possibility of parole. He decided that Walton's
mental state (he shows virtually no awareness of the world outside
himself) is such that he could not have understood what was to happen
to him or why. Thus killing him would contravene the Supreme Court's
ruling that it is unconstitutional to execute a person who is mentally
incompetent. We sent messages of appreciation to the governor.