Read this – don’t instantly discount or believe – read.
Faced with doubts about prosecutorial misconduct and the accuracy of forensic evidence, the Ohio Parole Board has recommended that Governor John Kasich grant executive clemency to William T. Montgomery (pictured), scheduled to be executed on April 11. Montgomery was convicted and sentence to death in 1986 for two murders he has long maintained he did not commit. An Ohio federal district court, affirmed by a federal appeals court panel, overturned his conviction in 2007 because prosecutors had suppressed evidence and witness statements that undermined its version of how the crime occurred, but with five judges dissenting, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reinstated the conviction. Montgomery’s supporters argued to the parole board that there was too much doubt about his guilt to risk executing a potentially innocent man. Prosecutors argued at trial that Montgomery murdered Debra Ogle and then killed her roommate, Cynthia Tincher to prevent her from testifying against him, then dumped Ms. Ogle’s body in the woods where it was not discovered for four days. However, prosecutors withheld from the defense evidence that multiple witnesses had seen Ms. Ogle alive four days after she supposedly had been killed and an independent review of the autopsy report showed that Ms. Ogle’s body likely had been discovered within hours of her death. The report noted that a body left in the woods for four days in above-freezing temperatures would have shown signs of decomposition, insect infestation, and animal predation, none of which were present, and the body’s state of lividity indicated death had occurred within twelve hours of its discovery. Adding to the doubt in the case, Montgomery’s co-defendant, Glover Heard told police five different stories before settling on a version of events that fit the prosecution’s theory and, instead of facing the death penalty, was sentenced to a term of years with eligibility for parole. Montgomery’s lawyers also presented the parole board with affidavits that undermined its confidence in the jury verdict, including one from a juror who was confused as to what the law required, another from a juror who had doubts about Montgomery’s guilt, and a third juror whose psychiatric behavior raised questions about her ability to serve. The Board majority cited both the State’s failure to disclose the witness reports that Ms. Ogle was alive after the State claimed she had been killed and the jurors’ affidavits as reasons for recommending commutation. Four Board members opposed commutation, arguing that the information presented was insufficient to overturn the jury verdict and finding no “manifest injustice” in the case that they believed warranted clemency. In an op-ed in the Toledo Blade, Phyllis Crocker, Dean of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and a former member of the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty, wrote: “At best, Montgomery was convicted on a false set of facts and at worst, he may be actually innocent. In death penalty cases there must be no doubt whatsoever. There is too much doubt to allow this execution.” Montgomery’s lawyer, Jon Oebker, reiterated that his client’s assertion of innocence and said the defense plans to “explore every avenue we can.” Governor Kasich must issue a decision on the pardons board’s recommendation before the April 11 execution date.
(Jim Provance, Parole board recommends clemency for William T. Montgomery, Toledo Blade, March 16, 2018; Phyllis L. Crocker, Op-Ed: Next Ohio execution raises too much doubt, Toledo Blade, March 10, 2018; Jim Provance, Death row inmate William T. Montgomery seeks new trial, Toledo Blade, March 3, 2018; Jim Provance, Forensic experts question prosecution’s theories, Toledo Blade, March 8, 2018.) Read William Montgomery’s application for clemency here and the Ohio Parole Board’s clemency recommendation here. See Clemency, Innocence, and Prosecutorial Misconduct.
Tax dodging secret cash payments!
BuzzFeed News investigation has disclosed that Missouri carried out seventeen executions between 2014 and 2017 using supplies of the drug pentobarbital it secretly obtained from a pharmacy the Food and Drug Administration had classified as “high risk” because of repeated serious health violations. The February 20 exposé describes a complex system of clandestine meetings, code names, and undocumented cash payments that Missouri employed to conceal the identity of Foundation Care, a suburban St. Louis compounding pharmacy that reporter Chris McDaniel discovered “has been repeatedly found to engage in hazardous pharmaceutical procedures.” Foundation Care—which was reportedly paid more than $135,000 for execution drugs—is alleged to have engaged in illegal practices, medicare fraud, and numerous manufacturing improprieties and, McDaniel reports, its cofounder has been accused of “regularly ordering prescription medications for himself without a doctor’s prescription.” Two former senior employees of the company—including the head of pharmacy operations—have alleged in a lawsuit that Foundation Care violated government regulations by reselling drugs returned by patients, intentionally omitting the names of ingredients in drugs it prepared, and failing to notify other states about a $300,000 settlement with Kansas over allegations of Medicaid fraud. Another suit by a former employee alleges that she was fired after complaining to her supervisors and the Missouri Board of Pharmacy about “serious operational violations.” Missouri switched to Foundation Care after reporters discovered the identifty of the state’s prior secret supplier of execution drugs—an Oklahoma compounding pharmacy called The Apothecary Shoppe. Reporters learned that The Apothecary Shoppe was not licensed to sell drugs in Missouri and had admitted to nearly 2,000 health and safety violations. Foundation Care first came to the attention of FDA investigators after a doctor complained to the agency that a patient he was treating had developed “a ‘life threatening’ illness” after taking a drug that had been prepared by the pharmacy. At that time, the investigators found that the pharmacy had shipped drugs to patients without conducting tests for sterility and bacteria, and a lab sample revealed drugs that had been contaminated with bacteria. In 2013, the FDA designated Foundation Care as a “high-risk” compounding pharmacy, and cited it as an example as to why greater federal oversight of compounders was necessary. A second inspection of the company that year found “multiple examples” of practices that could lead to contamination, and that Foundation Care had failed to “assure that drug products conform to appropriate standards of identity, strength, quality and purity.” In a February 2014 letter to the Missouri Board of Pharmacy, the FDA warned that the pharmacy’s practices “could lead to contamination of drugs, potentially putting patients at risk.” The possibility of drug contamination is one of the centerpieces of prisoner challenges to Missouri’s execution process, and experts in the case have indicated that contamination could create a “substantial risk of pain and suffering.” However, in a deposition in the Missouri prisoners’ legal challenge, state officials refused to say whether they were aware of any problems with their drug manufacturer, and lawyers for the state have affirmatively used Missouri’s secrecy provisions to deny prisoners’ access to information about its drug supplier and the company’s safety record, while at the same time arguing the prisoners have not proven that the execution may be unconstitutionally cruel. Foundation Care was acquired by AcariaHealth, a subsidiary of health-care giant Centene Corporation, in October 2017. After McDaniel’s report was published, the company issued a statement that, “[u]nder Centene’s ownership, Foundation Care has never supplied, and will never supply any pharmaceutical product to any state for the purpose of effectuating executions.”
Compounding pharmacies are drug producers that mix small batches of medications to meet the specialized needs of patients for whom mass produced medicines are not available. Regulated primarily by states, their drugs are reported to have a significantly higher failure rate than drugs produced by FDA-regulated manufacturers. An estimated twenty percent of drugs created by Missouri compounding pharmacies failed to meet Missouri Board of Pharmacy standards.
(Chris McDaniel, Missouri Fought For Years To Hide Where It Got Its Execution Drugs. Now We Know What They Were Hiding.,” BuzzFeed News, February 20, 2018; Samantha Liss, Centene says subsidiary will no longer provide drugs for Missouri executions, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 2018; Will Schmitt, The identity of Missouri’s execution drug dealer, long a state secret, reportedly unmasked, Springfield News-Leader, February 20, 2018). See Lethal Injection and Missouri.
Washington – “The decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador is heartbreaking”. As detailed in our recent delegation trip report to the region, El Salvador is currently not in a position to adequately handle the return of the roughly 200,000 Salvadoran TPS recipients. Today’s decision will fragment American families, leaving over 192,000 U.S. citizen children of Salvadoran TPS recipients with uncertain futures. Families will be needlessly separated because of this decision”: with these harsh words , the US Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its profound disagreement with the current government policy.
A statement sent to Fides, signed by Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration, informs that on January 8th, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it is terminating Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador.
“DHS has provided an 18-month period during which TPS recipients from El Salvador can legally stay in the United States and prepare for their departure. While we recognize and appreciate this extra time, it will not remedy the underlying protection and family unity concerns that remain for Salvadoran TPS recipients.
We renew our call to Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for long-term TPS recipients, and we stand ready to support such efforts”, continues the text.
“TPS recipients are an integral part of our communities, churches, and nation. Without action by Congress, however, recipients’ lives will be upended and many families will be devastated. As with DACA, we strongly urge Congressional members and leadership to come together and address this issue as soon as possible. To Salvadoran TPS recipients, we promise to continue to stand in solidarity with you and pray for you and your families, and all those who are displaced or forced to flee from their homes”, concludes the statement.
Pants on fire award!
Moscow – Thanks to Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian conflict, the “genocide” of Christians was stopped. And now, the Russian Orthodox Church will take on the task of supporting the reconstruction of Syrian churches, but also of mosques and historical monuments. This was stated by Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, in the traditional television interview broadcast on Rossija channel 1 on Sunday 7 January, the day when Russian Orthodox Christians celebrated Christmas. In the interview, focusing on the condition and recent trials the Middle Eastern Christian communities have had to face, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church also reproposed personal memories useful to account for the Russian approach regarding the Middle Eastern events of recent years. “In 2013”, said the Russian Patriarch, “the heads of local Orthodox Churches came to Moscow to celebrate the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, and when they met Vladimir Putin, one of the strongest messages was the request that Russia should accept to take part in the protection of Christians in the Middle East. I am pleased”, Kirill added, “that this happened, and thanks to Russia’s intervention, the genocide of Christians was stopped”. The Head of the Russian Church confirmed the intention of the Patriarchate of Moscow to contribute to the humanitarian aid of Middle Eastern populations, and also to the reconstruction of “places of worship, monasteries, monuments, including Muslim monuments and historical monuments”. Kirill also reread in parallel the recent Syrian events and those related to the fall of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein, emphasizing their impact on the condition of local Christian communities. According to the Russian Patriarch, “already in 2014 it was clear that the conflicts started in Syria were caused by extremist groups that, once they had reached power, they would have eliminated the Christian presence in that Country. This is why Christians actively supported Assad and his government “bearing in mind that with him” the Country had a certain balance of power and, very importantly, people felt safe”. In Iraq, on the contrary, recent events have seen the drastic decline of the native Christian communities, rooted in those territories since apostolic times. “During the regime of Saddam Hussein”, said Patriarch Kirill in this regard “I visited Iraq, including the northern part of Iraq. I was in Mosul, I was visiting the ancient Christian monasteries: There I saw the devotion of the people, and they were all happy to see that Christian churches lived in safety in a Muslim environment… Now there is practically nothing: monasteries destroyed, temples blown up”.
Racists posing as Hindu are still racists! Except for them, your race is your religion of your poligion!
Vidisha – Hundreds of police deployment was done at the St. Mary’s Post Graduate College in Vidisha, Sagar Diocese in Madhya Pradesh, central India as Hindu right-wing groups threaten to perform Hindu rituals in the premises.
“Calm has returned to the place now as only policemen on watch have remained in the area. We thank once again the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singhji and the Madhya Pradesh police force. And a big thank you for your prayers. The Fathers and Sisters and other personnel are in a state of shock. Do continue to pray for them,” said Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary general of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India , who is following the issue, told Fides news.
On January 4, more than 900 Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad , one of the Hindu right wing student groups threatened to gather and forcibly perform “Aarti of Bharat Mata” and other Hindu goddesses in the college.
“The Madhya Pradesh police assured church authorities full police protection. The priests who manage the College, however feel that the situation is potentially very dangerous as over 900 activists were expected to gather in violation of police orders. There was already an aggression earlier on 30 December despite the presence of 20 policemen. We need to pray more. We are in touch with the Federal Home Ministry,” said Mascarenhas.
“We thank our Home Minister Singh for directly intervening to ensure safety of our Institution and priests, nuns, college personnel and staff and students. A large crowd of activists were reported to have gathered outside the college wanting to enter the premises. But a huge battalion of police is confident of dealing with the situation,” Bishop Theodore added.
It can be recalled that during the last Christmas season, a group of Hindu radicals seminarians and priests of Satna were attacked, when they were in the villages for Christmas carols.
Days ago the “Hindu Jagran Manch” extremist group warned the Christian schools of the state of Uttar Pradesh not to celebrate Christmas, calling it an “act of proselytism”. “It is abominable that the hard-line Hindu outfit groups continue to issue repeated dictate, intimidations and threats to Christians and attacking them in different parts of India”, says Carmelite Father Johnson Digal, a teacher in a Catholic school in Uttar Pradesh state to Agenzia Fides. “Most of all the students are Hindus and Muslims here, but they are cooperative with us so far. Last year one Pastor was forced to tonsure his head and was paraded on a public road, thinking he was converting people without any solid evidence”, he says.
Agra – It is unacceptable that national Hindu right-wing groups keep on threatening Christians ahead of Christmas, say Church leaders in India. Days ago the “Hindu Jagran Manch” extremist group warned the Christian schools of the state of Uttar Pradesh not to celebrate Christmas, calling it an “act of proselytism”. “It is abominable that the hard-line Hindu outfit groups continue to issue repeated dictate, intimidations and threats to Christians and attacking them in different parts of India”, says Carmelite Father Johnson Digal, a teacher in a Catholic school in Uttar Pradesh state to Agenzia Fides. “Most of all the students are Hindus and Muslims here, but they are cooperative with us so far. Last year one Pastor was forced to tonsure his head and was paraded on a public road, thinking he was converting people without any solid evidence”, he says.
Christian schools in Uttar Pradesh – India’s most densely populated state, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party – have been issued a warning by several Hindu nationalist organizations affiliated to the “Hindu Yuva Vahini”, led by the leader Yogi Adityanath : these suspect that Christmas celebrations in schools, attended by many Hindu students, can encourage conversions.
The threat comes just days after Bajrang Dal activists accused a group of Christians, who were singing carols, a centuries-old tradition in India, of “proselytizing”, and burned their cars in front of a police station in Satna district, in Madhya Pradesh.
Such episodes on Church leaders is not a new phenomena but the fact is the attackers enjoy patronage from different quarters, in a country of great democratic tradition like India, which guarantees religious freedom to its citizens. The Hindu Yuva Vahini, an organization created in 2002 by Adityanath, had lodged a complaint against the Pastor of a Protestant church earlier this year, accusing him of converting Hindus to Christianity. The Pastor was only guiding a Christian liturgy. Back in 2014, Adityanath had warned Christians not to celebrate Christmas outside Churches. “False propaganda of religious conversions, intimidating minority institutions in the name of religion under the patronage of ruling parties has become a great threat to the very constitutional right of citizens in India. Slowly but steadily India is moving towards pseudo-theocracy. It is a time that all the Indians woke up to realize this and defend India against these fascist forces”, comments to Fides Jesuit Fr. Savarimuthu M, a teacher at Xavier Institute for Tribal Education in Jharkhand state.