Tag Archives: Catholics

Cincinnati’s Aggressive DA and a Vatican Priest (His High School Classmate) Spar About the Death Penalty

Our shame

Pope Francis’ recent declaration committing the Catholic Church to opposing capital punishment in all circumstances has produced an unusual public war of words about the practices of Catholic public officials in one of the country’s most aggressive death-penalty counties. Hamilton County, Ohio, has produced more death sentences and executions than any other county in Ohio, and is one of the 2% of U.S. counties reponsible for a majority of death sentences and executions in the United States. Its County Prosecutor, Joe Deters (pictured, left) is Catholic but, while pursuing a death sentence in the resentencing of Anthony Kirkland, made dismissive comments about Pope Francis’ declaration that the death penalty is “inadmissible.” “My dear friends who are priests don’t understand what we’re dealing with,” Deters said. “There is evil in this world and there comes a point where society needs to defend itself.” Those comments provoked a rebuke from Rev. Paul Mueller (pictured, right, with Pope Francis), vice director and superior of the Jesuit community at the Vatican Observatory, and a high school classmate of Deters. In a letter to the prosecutor, Father Mueller wrote, “I am disappointed, embarrassed, and scandalized that you, not only a Catholic but also a fellow alumnus of St. Xavier High School, have used the platform of your public office to oppose and confuse the moral teaching of the Church in so open a fashion.” Deters reiterated his stance in comments to WLWT television on August 21, saying, Pope Francis is “in an ivory tower, God bless him. … I’m just telling you they don’t know what we’re dealing with.” St. Xavier High School, which both Deters and Mueller attended, weighed in on the issue, as the school’s president, Tim Reilly, wrote, “St. Xavier is a Catholic school, and we intentionally and specifically follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. The Church teaches that people are obliged to follow a well-formed conscience. One of the key components of a well-formed conscience is a serious consideration of and reflection upon Catholic moral and social teaching.” Kirkland was resentenced to death on August 28. At his sentencing, Judge Patrick Dinkelacker, also a Catholic, tangentially referred to the religious debate about capital punishment, saying, “As a person who morally believes in the sanctity of life, to judge another to determine if the imposition of the death penalty is appropriate is not a duty I take lightly. … I took an oath to follow the law and I will do that. To do otherwise, is morally, legally, philosophically and theologically wrong.”

(Sharon Coolidge, Joe Deters reconciled his faith with the death penalty: ‘There is evil in this world’, Cincinnati Enquirer, August 2, 2018; Byron McCauley, Schools: Catholic Church trumps Joe Deters on death penalty, Cincinnati Enquirer, August 21, 2018; John London, Prosecutor stands by death penalty after getting letter from Vatican, Associated Press and WLWT, August 21, 2018; Sharon Coolidge, Kirkland judge imposes death penalty, references theology during sentencing, Cincinnati Enquirer, August 28, 2018.) See Religion.

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Pope Francis Formally Changes Catholic Church Stance on Death Penalty, Calling It “Inadmissible”

Pope Francis (pictured) has formally changed the official Catholic Church teaching on the death penalty, calling capital punishment “an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and deeming it “inadmissible” in all cases. The Vatican’s August 2, 2018 announcement that it had revised its Catechism—the Church’s official compilation of teachings on a wide range of issues—to unambiguously oppose capital punishment also committed the Church to work “with determination” to abolish the death penalty worldwide. Prior to the revision, the Catechism used softer language on the death penalty, allowing it “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor,” while noting that “the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’” In a letter to Bishops accompanying the change, Pope Francis wrote, “This conclusion is reached taking into account the new understanding of penal sanctions applied by the modern State, which should be oriented above all to the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the criminal. Finally, given that modern society possesses more efficient detention systems, the death penalty becomes unnecessary as protection for the life of innocent people.” His letter places the new stance in the context of the Church’s broader teachings on the dignity of human life, and previous statements by Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis on the need to end capital punishment. Vatican observers said there is no mistaking the political intent of the new revision. The letter to the bishops said the new doctrine sought to “give energy” to efforts working “for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect.” Vatican expert and author John Thavis called Pope Francis’s action “the next logical step” in the evolution of formal Catholic opposition to the death penalty. “I think this will be a big deal for the future of the death penalty in the world,” Thavis said. “People who work with prisoners on death row will be thrilled, and I think this will become a banner social justice issue for the church.” The new catechism also poses a direct challenge to Catholic politicians like Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has sought to bring capital punishment back in his nation, and U.S. governors such as Greg Abbott and Pete Ricketts of Texas and Nebraska, who have made support for the death penalty a cornerstone of their policies. “There is no doubt the pope wants politicians to pay attention to this,” said John Gehring, the Catholic program director at the advocacy group Faith in Public Life. “He is not just speaking internally. The pope wants to elevate this as a definitive pro-life issue.”

(Edward Pentin, Pope Francis Changes Catechism to Say Death Penalty ‘Inadmissible’, National Catholic Register, August 2, 2018; Elisabetta Povoledo and Laurie Goodstein, Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All CasesNew York Times, August 2, 2018; Chico Harlan, Pope Francis changes Catholic Church teaching to say death penalty is ‘inadmissible’, Washington Post, August 2, 2018; Nicole Winfield, Pope seeks to abolish death penalty, changes church teaching, Associated Press, August 2, 2018.) See Religion.

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Arkansas Prisons Suspend Search for Execution Drugs, Ask For Even Broader Drug Secrecy Law

ugh

Unable to legitimately purchase lethal-injection drugs or carry out executions without revealing who manufactured its drugs, Arkansas has suspended efforts to obtain a new supply of execution drugs until state law is amended to keep secret the identity of the drug manufacturers. The Arkansas Department of Corrections confirmed on July 17, 2018 that it had halted its search for execution drugs earlier this year following a November 2017 Arkansas Supreme Court decision requiring the state to disclose portions of the pharmaceutical drug and packaging labels for the drugs it intended to use in executions. Those labels permitted the public and the pharmaceutical industry to identify the manufacturers of the execution drugs, who then sued the state or charged state officials with violating the companies’ contract rights. Solomon Graves, spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said the department has been working with the governor’s and attorney general’s offices on amending the Arkansas Method of Execution Act to prevent disclosure of information that would identify drug manufacturers. “We are not actively looking for additional drug supplies at this time,” he said. Arkansas does not currently have any execution dates set, but it scheduled eight executions in an unprecedented 11-day period in April 2017 in an attempt to carry out the executions before its supply of the sedative midazolam expired. Four of the executions went forward, but not before controversy surrounded the state’s purchase of all three drugs in its execution protocol. Prior to the executions, Associated Press learned that the state’s second drug—the paralytic vecuronium bromide—had been manufactured by Hospira, a subsidiary of the drugmaker Pfizer. Pfizer, which made international news with its May 2016 announcement of strict distribution controls designed to block states from obtaining and using its medicines in executions, informed its drug distributor, McKesson Medical-Surgical, that the sale violated their distribution agreement. McKesson then sued Arkansas, alleging that the state had deliberately misled the company to believe that the drug would be used for legitimate medical purposes. The companies Fresenius Kabi USA, LLC, and West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Corp.—the manufacturers of the potassium chloride that Arkansas used as the third drug in its executions—also attempted to intervene in federal litigation to stay the April executions, writing that “use of their medicines for lethal injections violates contractual supply-chain controls that [they] have implemented … to prevent the sale of their medicines for use in capital punishment.” Following the expiration of its supply of midazolam, the director of the Department of Correction, Wendy Kelley, purchased a new supply of the drug in cash. The package identified a New York company, Athenex, as the manufacturer, who said Arkansas acquired the drug in violation of the company’s agreements with distributors barring the use of its products in executions. McKesson’s lawsuit remained active until the state’s supply of vecuronium bromide expired this Spring and the parties agreed the suit had become moot. However, the expiration of the drug left Arkansas without the means to carry out any executions until it obtains a new supply of the paralytic. Graves said that the Department of Corrections has no intention of resuming its search for execution drugs until the state legislature exempts the suppliers and manufacturers from the state’s public disclosure laws. The legislature does not meet until 2019, at which point the other two execution drugs will have expired.

(John Moritz, Arkansas not actively seeking drug needed for executions, prisons official confirms, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 18, 2018; Max Brantley, State suspends search for execution drug, Arkansas Times, July 18, 2018; Jessi Turnure, ADC: Search for Controversial Lethal Drug Used in Executions Temporarily Suspended, KARK-TV, Little Rock, July 18, 2018; Arkansas, Company Seek to Dismiss Case Over Execution Drug, Associated Press, March 19, 2018; Kelly P. Kissel and Andrew DeMillo, Arkansas got execution drug made by resistant manufacturer, Associated Press, November 9, 2017; Chris Geidner, Arkansas Paid Cash To Secure New Supply Of Execution Drug, Seeks New Execution Date, Buzzfeed News, August 17, 2017.) See Lethal Injection.

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Ohio Governor Commutes Death Sentence Based on Jurors Concerns About Unfair Sentencing

Ohio Governor John Kasich (pictured, left) has commuted the death sentence imposed on Raymond Tibbetts (pictured, right) to life without parole, in response to a juror’s concerns about the unfairness of the sentencing proceedings in the case. It was the seventh time Kasich had commuted a prisoner’s death sentence. The July 20, 2018, news release announcing the commutation explained that Kasich had granted clemency because “fundamental flaws in [the] sentencing phase of [Tibbetts’s] trial … [had] prevented the jury from making an informed decision about whether Tibbetts deserved the death penalty.” Kasich had previously issued Tibbetts a reprieve, delaying his scheduled February 13 execution until October 17, after receiving a detailed letter from juror Ross Geiger asking him “to show mercy” to Tibbetts. Geiger’s January 30 letter alerted the governor to serious flaws in the trial that misled jurors to sentence Tibbetts to death, including defense counsel’s failure to present critical mitigating evidence about Tibbetts’s horrific upbringing and the prosecution’s misrepresentation of important details of Tibbetts’s family history. “If I had known all the facts,” Geiger wrote, “if the prosecutors had been honest and forthcoming about the horrors [Tibbetts] and his siblings experienced in the foster care system, and if we had an accurate understanding of the effects of Mr. Tibbetts’ severe drug and alcohol addiction and his improper opioid prescription, I would have voted for life without parole over death.” As part of his order granting the reprieve, Gov. Kasich directed the Ohio Parole Board to reconvene to hear Geiger’s concerns and to reconsider Tibbetts’s request for clemency. However, even after hearing from Geiger, the parole board voted 8-1 to recommend against clemency. In a statement by Tibbetts’s lawyers praising the commutation, Erin Barnhart said, “Governor Kasich acted in the interests of fairness and justice by recognizing that Mr. Tibbetts’ death sentence was fundamentally unreliable. The jury was deprived of crucial information about the abusive and traumatic upbringing and the long-term impact it had on Mr. Tibbetts and his siblings. These circumstances provided compelling reasons for the exercise of clemency to correct the failures in the legal process in this case.” Kasich also granted a reprieve to Ohio death-row prisoner Cleveland Jackson, pushing back his execution by nine months to “allow his newly appointed legal counsel sufficient time to review the case and properly prepare for his clemency hearing before the Parole Board.” Jackson’s September 13 execution is now rescheduled for May 29, 2019.

Tibbetts’s commutation is the third in the United States in 2018 and the second in Ohio. On February 22, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott commuted Thomas Whitaker’s sentence to life in prison, and on March 26, Gov. Kasich granted a commutation to William Montgomery.

(Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Gov. Kasich Spares Life Of Convicted Killer Raymond Tibbetts, Associated Press, July 20, 2018; Kasich Grants Reprieve to Cleveland Jackson and Commutes Sentence of Raymond Tibbetts, Office of John Kasich, July 20, 2018; Atty Stmt Re: Breaking: Gov. Kasich Commutes Death Sentence of Raymond Tibbetts, July 20, 2018.) Read the Warrant of Commutation here. See ClemencyInnocence, and Prosecutorial Misconduct

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In Two Mississippi Cases, Justice Breyer Renews Call to Review Constitutionality of Death Penalty

As its 2017-2018 term came to a close, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review two Mississippi cases that presented significant challenges to capital punishment as implemented in that state and across the country. Over the dissent of Justice Stephen Breyer (pictured), who renewed his call for the Court to review the constitutionality of the death penalty as a whole, the Court on June 29 denied certiorari in the cases of Timothy Evans and Richard Jordan. Reiterating concerns he first voiced in his landmark dissent three years ago in Glossip v. Gross (2015), Justice Breyer wrote: “the death penalty, as currently administered, suffers from unconscionably long  delays, arbitrary application, and serious unreliability.” Two Mississippi cases, he wrote, illustrate the first two of those factors. Evans and Jordan were both sentenced to death in Mississippi’s Second Judicial District, which—according to death sentencing data maintained by Mississippi’s Office of the State Public Defender—has imposed more death sentences than any of the 21 other judicial districts in the state and nearly 1/3 of all the death sentences imposed in the state this century. Evans’s petition for writ of certiorari had argued that his death sentence was unconstitutionally arbitrary because of the geographic disproportionality in the way in which the death penalty was imposed and carried out across the state. Jordan had asked the Court to review the constitutionality of his more than forty-year tenure on Mississippi’s death row for a crime committed in 1976. Jordan’s death sentence was overturned three separate times because of different constitutional violations in each of his sentencing trials. In 1991, after his sentence had been overturned for the third time, a special prosecutor agreed that Jordan should be sentenced to life without parole. However, the Mississippi Supreme Court vacated the life sentence saying the sentence was invalid because it had not been authorized by Mississippi law in effect at the time of the murder. The state then sought and obtained the death penalty against Jordan for a fourth time. “Jordan has lived more than half of his life on death row,” Breyer wrote, living most of that time “in isolated, squalid conditions.” Breyer said the cruelty of the conditions of Jordan’s imprisonment constitute an “additional punishment” that warrants review by the Court to address whether the lengthy delay, in and of itself, violates the Eighth Amendment. The geographically arbitrary death-sentencing practices in the Second District also warranted review, Breyer wrote. “This geographic concentration reflects a nationwide trend. Death sentences, while declining in number, have become increasingly concentrated in an ever-smaller number of counties,” he wrote. This arbitrariness, Justice Breyer explained, “is aggravated by the fact that definitions of death eligibility vary depending on the state.” As a result, in Mississippi, unlike most states, a defendant may be sentenced to death for a felony robbery-murder, which does not require that the defendant actually intended to kill someone. Justice Breyer also found evidence in Mississippi that the death penalty was not reliably administered. He noted that just “[f]our hours before Willie Manning was slated to die by lethal injection, the Mississippi Supreme Court stayed his execution,” and in April 2015, Manning became the fourth Mississippi death-row prisoner to be exonerated. With six more death-row prisoners exonerated throughout the U.S. since January 2017, the unreliability of the death penalty, Justice Breyer argued, provides a third reason for the Court to review the constitutionality of capital punishment. “[M]any of the capital cases that come before this court,” Justice Breyer wrote, “involve, like the cases of Richard Jordan and Timothy Evans, special problems of cruelty or arbitrariness. Hence, I remain of the view that the court should grant the petitions now before us to consider whether the death penalty as currently administered violates the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.” 

(Emily Wagster Pettus, US Supreme Court Rejects 2 Mississippi Death Row Appeals, Associated Press, June 28, 2018; Marcia Coyle, US Supreme Court Turns Down Challenges to Death Penalty, National Law Journal, June 28, 2018.) Read Justice Breyer’s dissent here. See U.S. Supreme Court.

 

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ASIA/ISRAEL – Israeli Parliament cancels the vote on the Armenian Genocide

I.R.O.N.I.C? or TOXIC?

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Jerusalem – An Israeli parliamentary vote on Tuesday 26 June for recognising the killings of Armenians as genocide was cancelled because of government opposition. Last month the Knesset had approved a motion penned by Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing opposition Meretz party to hold a plenary debate and vote on recognising the Armenian genocide. Turkey had expressed its opposition and to try to ensure the support of the governing coalition for her motion, Zandberg agreed to postpone the vote until after Sunday’s Turkish elections. It became clear that the coalition was still opposed to Zandberg’s initiative, even after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s re-election on Sunday 24 June. It was Tamar Zandberg, the leader of Meretz, who withdrew the bill, after the government coalition and the Foreign Ministry had asked to remove the expression “Genocide” from the text under discussion to replace it with the words ” tragedy” or “horrors”. It was the President of the Knesset himself, Yuli Yoel Edelstein, who proposed the adjustments to the text under discussion, after the government parties had received the signal that the expression “Armenian Genocide” would not be approved.
The postponement of the discussion and of the Genocide vote is interpreted by the Turkish media as a signal of relaxation sent by the Israeli government to the Turkish leadership.
At the beginning of June, as reported by Fides , the President of Parliament, Edelstein had rejected criticism for postponing the discussion on the bill for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Edelstein, on that occasion, had claimed the intention to promote the recognition of the Genocide by responding to Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, Armenian Apostolic Patriarch of Jerusalem, who in a letter had expressed his bitterness for the news about a possible stop of the process initiated by Israeli institutions to discuss and eventually approve the recognition as “genocide” of the anti-Armenian massacres perpetrated in Turkish territory between 1915 and 1916. In previous days, Israeli media had reported the input which came from the Israeli government to postpone the debate on the issue of the Armenian Genocide until after the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June. According to Israeli observers and analysts, the opening of this discussion in such a sensitive moment could have politically favored President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, becoming a topic of his electoral campaign.
After the harsh diplomatic clash between Israel and the Turkish government following the last massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, the proposal for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide had been presented to the competent offices of the Knesset by MP Itzik Shmuli, a member of the “Zionist Union”. The proposal was supported by at least 50 parliamentarians belonging to both the governing Parties – including Likud – and those of the opposition. This bill also provided for the establishment of an annual commemoration day for the Armenian Genocide in Israel. Three months earlier, on February 14th, the Israeli Parliament itself had in fact rejected a bill presented by Yair Lapid, representative of the center party and layman Yesh Atid, who would have made the recognition by Israel of the “Armenian Genocide” official. The Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, had declared that Israel would not have officially taken a position regarding the issue of the Armenian Genocide, “taking into account its complexity and its diplomatic implications”.
On April 26, 2015, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted a commemorative event at the Presidential residence in Jerusalem to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the planned extermination of Armenians that had occurred a century earlier in Anatolia. During that ceremony, President Rivlin recalled that the Armenian people were “the first victims of modern mass exterminations”, but had avoided using the word “Genocide” to indicate the massacres in which more than one million and 500 thousand people died .

STUDY: Local Mississippi Prosecutors Struck Black Jurors at More than Four Times the Rate of Whites

A new study shows that the Mississippi District Attorney’s office that has prosecuted Curtis Flowers for capital murder six times—striking almost all black jurors in each trial—has disproportionately excluded African Americans from jury service for more than a quarter century. Reviewing the exercise of discretionary jury strikes in 225 trials between 1992 and 2017, American Public Media Reports discovered that during the tenure of Mississippi’s Fifth Circuit Court District Attorney Doug Evans (pictured) prosecutors have exercised peremptory strikes to exclude African Americans from jury service at nearly 4½ times the rate at which they struck white jurors. APM Reports collected and analyzed data on more than 6,700 jurors called for jury service in the the Fifth District. Its study—which was reviewed before its release by a statistics expert and two law professors who had conducted prior jury-strike studies—found that Fifth District prosecutors struck 50 percent of all eligible black jurors compared to only 11 percent of eligible whites. Looking at potentially race-neutral factors raised during juror questioning, APM Reports found that prosecutors were still far more likley to strike black jurors than similarly situated white jurors (click here to enlarge graph). Controlling for these factors, the study found that the odds prosecutors would strike a black juror were six times greater than the odds that they would strike a white juror. APM Reports prepared the study in connection with its acclaimed podcast series In the Dark, which this season focuses on the Flowers case. Evans’ office has been scrutinized for alleged race-related abuses of powers during the course of Flowers’ six trials for the murder of four furniture store employees. Flowers has consistently professed his innocence. In his first three trials, Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death by all-white or nearly all-white juries. In each of these cases, the state Supreme Court overturned the convictions and ordered new trials. Just before the second trial, Flowers’ parents’ house burned down. Shortly afterwards, his mother was told of a threat made by a white resident that, “If they let that n—– go, another house is going to burn.” Jurors deadlocked in Flowers’ fourth and fifth trials, split along racial lines. All the white jurors voted for death in both of those trials. Only one black juror served on the sixth jury, and Flowers was sentenced to death in that trial. Although it is unconstitutional to exclude jurors from service based on race, the practice is ubiquitous in many jurisdictions that heavily use the death penalty. Over the course of 332 criminal trials in CaddoParish, Louisiana in the decade from 2003-2012, prosecutors struck black jurors at more than triple the rate of other jurors, approximately the same disproportionate rate at which black jurors were struck in 35 cases resulting in death sentences in South Carolina in the fifteen years between 1997-2012. In 173 capital cases tried over a twenty-year period in North Carolina, and in more than 300 capital trials over more than two decades in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, prosecutors struck black jurors twice as frequently as other jurors. Most recently, in Georgia, Johnny Gates, who was sentenced to death in Columbus, Georgia in 1977, has challenged his conviction with evidence that his prosecutors struck every black juror they could in the seven capital trials they prosecuted between 1976 and 1979, empaneling all-white juries in six of those cases. 

(Will Craft, Mississippi D.A. has long history of striking many blacks from juries, American Media Reports, June 12, 2018; Jerry Mitchell, Report: Mississippi DA struck black jurors at 4½ times greater rate, June 12, 2018; Sarah Larson, Why “In the Dark” May Be the Best Podcast of the Year, The New Yorker, June 1, 2018; In the Dark, Series 2, Episode 8: The D.A.) See Studies, RaceProsecutorial Misconductand Mississippi

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New York Times Columnist Says Kevin Cooper May Have Been Framed, Urges DNA Testing That Could Prove His Innocence

Citing extensive evidence that California death-row prisoner Kevin Cooper (pictured) may have been framed, New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof has urged Governor Jerry Brown to permit advanced DNA testing of evidence that could potentially prove Cooper’s innocence. In a column electronically posted by the Times on May 17, 2018 and scheduled to appear in the paper’s May 20 Sunday print edition, Kristof joins a former FBI agent, the American Bar Association, and Judge William A. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in calling for closer review of the case. In his column, Kristof calls Cooper’s case “a failure at every level,” and says that he believes Cooper was framed by the San Bernardino‘s sheriff’s office, which had a history of planting and mishandling evidence. Cooper, who is Black, became the lead suspect in the 1983 killings of Doug and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter Jessica Ryen, and 11-year-old neighbor Chris Hughes, in spite of statements by 8-year-old Josh Ryen, the sole survivor of the attack, who twice told investigators that three White men had committed the murders. The four victims had been stabbed or slashed a combined 140 times with an ice pick, a hatchet, and at least one knife—an assault, Kristof said, that a single perpetrator, much less the 155-pound Cooper, was unlikely to have been able to carry out. Multiple witnesses saw three White men driving a vehicle fitting the description of the Ryens’ car—which had been stolen from their home—near the time of the murders. Other witnesses reported three White men in bloody clothes acting strangely at a nearby bar the night of the crime. When the car was found 30 miles away, Kristof writes, it “inconveniently had blood on the driver’s seat, the front passenger seat and the back seat—suggesting at least three killers.” Cooper came under suspicion because he had escaped from a local prison, where he had been incarcerated for robbery, and had hidden in an empty house near the Ryen family’s home. An initial police search of Cooper’s hideout turned up no evidence, but the day after they identified him as a suspect, police “found” the sheath of a hatchet and a bloody prison-uniform button in a room they claimed—falsely, Kristof says—to have not previously searched. The hatchet itself was found in a different direction, near the path the Ryens’ vehicle took the night of the murder, and the button later turned out to be a different color from the uniform Cooper had been wearing. Numerous leads pointed to an alternative suspect, a recently released convicted murderer whom Kristof identifies only as “Lee,” but police destroyed key evidence—a pair of bloody coveralls given to police by Lee’s girlfriend—before any testing took place. In 2004, Cooper was allowed to test a blood sample from a tan T-shirt that was found near the murder scene. The shirt was the same color, size, and brand as a T-shirt Lee’s girlfriend said she had recently bought for him and that he had been wearing earlier on the day of the murders. The testing found Cooper’s blood on the shirt, but his blood was contaminated with a chemical used in preserving blood samples, indicating that it had likely been planted on the shirt. The lab then tested the sample of Cooper’s blood held by the sheriff’s office and found multiple blood types, suggesting that Cooper’s sample had been topped off with someone else’s blood. Testing of other evidence, including the murder weapon and strands of hair found at the scene, could prove Cooper’s claim that he is innocent. Kristof said, “[I]f we execute a man in so flawed a case without even bothering to test the evidence rigorously, then a piece of our justice system dies along with Kevin Cooper.”

(Nicholas Kristof, Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?, The New York Times, May 17, 2018.) See Innocence.

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ASIA/HOLY LAND – Catholic Bishops: the massacre in Gaza could have been avoided. Jerusalem can also be the capital of Palestine

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Jerusalem – The dozens of deaths and about 3 thousand people wounded during the Palestinian protests organized at the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel could have been avoided “if non-lethal tools had been used by the Israeli forces”. The Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land are pointing their finger at the Israeli army, who yesterday, Tuesday, May 15, issued a statement about the tragic events that bring bloodshed to the land where Jesus Christ was born, died and resurrected. In their message, released through the official channels of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and also sent to Agenzia Fides, the Ordinary Catholic Bishops’ Assembly of the Holy Land calls to end the siege imposed on about two million Palestinians in Gaza Strip as soon as possible.
The Catholic Bishops add that the relocation of the US Embassy in the State of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, like any other unilateral moves and decisions about the Holy City of Jerusalem, “does not contribute to advancing the long awaited peace between Israelis and Palestinians”. And they also refer to the need, insistently referred to by the Holy See, to make Jerusalem “a city open to all peoples, the religious heart of the three monotheistic religions”, avoiding unilateral measures that could alter the profile of the Holy City. “We believe”, say the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land, “that there is no reason that could prevent the City from being the capital of Israel and Palestine,”, adding that this should be done through “negotiation and mutual respect”.
The Assembly of ordinary Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land gathers all the Bishops of the Catholic Churches – Latin, Greek Melkite, Armenian, Maronite, Chaldean and Syrian Catholic – present in that region, together with the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land. On Tuesday, May 15, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, also invited “all priests, religious men and women, seminarians, all the faithful of Jerusalem and those who wish “to take part in the prayer vigil for peace that will be celebrated in the afternoon of next Saturday, on the eve of Pentecost, in the church of Sant’Etienne.
Since March 30, when Palestinian demonstrations started along the Israeli border line, at least 110 Palestinian demonstrators have been killed and more than 3,000 have been wounded in the Gaza Strip.

Illinois Governor Uses Gun-Control Veto to Attempt to Re-Enact Death Penalty

What follows is the definition of a political A-hole trying to save his skin by “looking” tough and undermining the democratic process!

lllinois Governor Bruce Rauner has conditionally vetoed a gun-control initiative unless the legislature agrees to reinstate capital punishment in the state. Exercising an amendatory veto—a power some governors are granted that permits them to amend legislation in lieu of an outright veto—Rauner called for making the killing of a police officer or any murder in which more than one person was killed a new crime of “death penalty murder.” In a May 14, 2018 news conference at the Illinois State Police forensic laboratory in Chicago, Rauner said “individuals who commit mass murder, individuals who choose to murder a law enforcement officer, they deserve to have their life taken.” He attached his death-penalty plan and several other gun-control amendments to a bill that would have established a 72-hour waiting period for the purchase of assault rifles in Illinois. Legislative leaders and major Illinois newspapers blasted the action as diversionary political gamesmanship by a weakened governor facing a difficult re-election campaign, and said the death-penalty plan had little chance of enactment. Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Carroll, the gun-control bill’s sponsor, said the governor had not consulted him about possible changes and had “hijacked my bill and put politics ahead of policy.” Senate President John Cullerton said: “The death penalty should never be used as a political tool to advance one’s agenda. Doing so is in large part why we had so many problems and overturned convictions. That’s why we had bipartisan support to abolish capital punishment.” Thomas Sullivan, the co-chair of Commission on Capital Punishment in Illinois appointed by Republican Gov. George Ryan, said Rauner’s plan was a “lousy idea.” He called the death penalty expensive and time-consuming, and said, “It doesn’t reduce crime.” The Chicago Tribune editorial board characterized Rauner’s amendatory veto as “cynical” and a “death penalty ploy” that the paper said was intended “to re-establish [Rauner’s] bona fides with disgruntled conservative Republicans.” A Chicago Sun-Times editorial said the governor knew he was “load[ing] up the bill with so many major new provisions that there is no way” the state legislature would approve it, enabling Rauner to claim he “didn’t technically kill the cooling off period … without strictly telling a lie.” In 2000, after a series of death-row exonerations, Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in Illinois and appointed the commission, and in 2003 commuted the sentences of everyone on the state’s death row. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill to abolish the state’s death penalty in 2011. The Tribune editorial said: “The death penalty issue in Illinois was examined and debated for years in light of notorious incidents of wrongly convicted defendants sent to death row. In Illinois, the legitimate sentiment of many that certain heinous criminals should be put to death was weighed against the risk of errors, and the decision was made to end capital punishment. … [N]othing has changed to make Rauner’s [May 14] announcement worthy of consideration.”

Rauner’s plan would mandate the death penalty upon conviction of “death penalty murder.” A conviction would require proof “beyond all doubt” and appeals courts would conduct an independent review of the evidence without deferring to the jury’s judgment. Although the jury would be told a death sentence would be imposed upon conviction, there would be a separate hearing before a judge in which the defendant would present mitigating circumstances in an attempt to spare his or her life. Mandatory death sentences and falsely instructing juries about the law both violate the constitution, and the judicial factfinding provision may violate a capital defendant’s right to a jury trial. 

A Death Penalty Information Center analysis of U.S. murder data from 1987 through 2015 has found no evidence that the death penalty deters murder or protects police. Instead, the evidence shows that murder rates, including murders of police officers, are consistently higher in death-penalty states than in states that have abolished capital punishment. The data showed that 18 of the 20 states that have the highest rate of officer victimization are death-penalty states, while 8 of the 9 safest states for police officers do not have the death penalty. The study hypothesized that if the death penalty contributed to the safety of police officers, death penalty states would experience comparatively fewer killings of police officers as a percentage of all murders. But the data showed no such effects, and states without the death penalty—including Illinois—comprised 9 of the 10 states with the smallest percentage of homicides involving law-enforcement victims. 

(Kim Geiger, Monique Garcia, and Dan Hinkel, Rauner proposes reinstating death penalty in Illinois, which outlawed it earlier this decade, Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2018; John O’Connor, Gov. Rauner seeks to reinstate death penalty, Associated Press, May 14, 2018; Editorial: Rauner’s death penalty ploy, Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2018; EDITORIAL: Bruce Rauner plays pure politics with death penalty and guns, Chicago Sun-Times, May 14, 2018.) Read Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto message. See Editorials and Recent Legislative Activity.

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