Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

India: Death penalty hangs by a thin thread

While not revisiting the subject of the constitutional validity of the death penalty, the Supreme Court recently took up the matter of the mode of execution of those on the death row and issued a notice to the Centre, with the observation whether the State could think of an alternative mode to hanging by the neck.
A Delhi advocate has challenged Section 354 (5) of the Criminal Procedure Code, which states that when any person is sentenced to death, he shall be hanged by the neck till he is dead. The petitioner has sought the court's intervention to reduce the suffering of the condemned prisoner, contending that when a person is hanged, his dignity is destroyed.
While admitting the petition, the court observed, "Legislature can think of some other means by which a convict, who under law has to face death sentence, should die in peace and not in pain. It has been said since centuries that nothing can be equated with painless death,"
This is not the 1st time that the Suprem…

South Dakota Sees Funding Increase Amid Death Penalty Cases

2 high-profile death penalty cases in western South Dakota have led to large increases in funding for a county courthouse and public defender's office.
Defending 2 men facing the possibility of the death penalty in a murder case will cost a western South Dakota county's budget as much as $1 million more in 2018.
Pennington County commissioners granted the request made by the courthouse and public defenders last month for more than $500,000 increases each to their 2018 budgets. 
A large portion of those will go toward defending two men facing the death penalty on 1st-degree murder charges, the Rapid City Journal reported .
Jonathon Klinetobe, 28, and Richard Hirth, 36, have been charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the disappearance and death of Jessica Rehfeld, 22, in 2015. 
Klinetobe is represented by 3 appointed lawyers, 2 from the county public defender's office and 1 private attorney. Hirth has 2 court-appointed private lawyers.
The law requires defendants…

Pennsylvania: Study Finds Victim Race Factor in Imposing Death Sentences

A new study of capital punishment in Pennsylvania says death sentences are more common when the victim is white, and less frequent when the victim is black.
A new study of capital punishment in Pennsylvania found that death sentences are more common when the victim is white and less frequent when the victim is black.
The report, which drew from court and prosecution records over an 11-year period, concluded that a white victim increases the odds of a death sentence by 8 %. When the victim is black, the chances are 6 % lower.
"The race of a victim and the type of representation afforded to a defendant play more important roles in shaping death penalty outcomes in Pennsylvania than do the race or ethnicity of the defendant," according to the 197-page report obtained by The Associated Press.
Penn State researchers produced the $250,000 study for the Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness, and its findings are expected to be incorporated into a separate, o…

Egypt frees Irish student after four-year ordeal

The Egyptian authorities have released an Irish citizen who was arrested at a protest at the age of 17, and who had been facing a death sentence.
Ibrahim Halawa from Dublin, was 17 when he was arrested with hundreds of other people in 2013, as part of a crackdown on protests in Egypt. 
He was held in pre-trial detention for over four years, and reported being regularly tortured.
Ibrahim was tried as an adult alongside 493 other people, despite having been a juvenile at the time of his arrest. 
The mass trial – one of several to have taken place since 2013 – was frequently postponed. 
Hearings of the trial were criticised for failing to meet basic standards. 
Maya Foa, Director of human rights organization Reprieve – which has been assisting Ibrahim – said:
"It is fantastic news, and long overdue, that Ibrahim is finally free. He and his family have been through an unimaginable ordeal, even though Ibrahim's only 'crime' was to attend a protest. He must now be given tim…

Texas death row plot triggers call for more prison guards

After a bizarre death row confession plot between 2 prisoners slated for execution, the correctional officers' union is calling for more staffing they say could have prevented the scheme that ultimately derailed the state's effort to put to death a Houston-area serial killer.
"This was definitely a security breakdown," said Lance Lowry, who heads the Texas Correctional Employees union based in Huntsville. "You're playing Russian roulette when you don't have enough security."
Texas prisons have more inmates per officer than other large states like New York and California, he said, adding that death row in particular needs "a lot more officers." But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice begged to differ.
"Death row is appropriately staffed and all critical positions are filled," spokesman Jason Clark said Friday. "Staffing played no role in this confession scheme between death row offenders."
The hand-wringing over st…

Stockholm academic given death sentence in Iran: reports

Ahmadreza Djalali, a researcher at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, has been sentenced to death in Iran, according to reports.
Researcher Ahmadreza Djalali has been detained since April 2016. He was arrested in Tehran for espionage and 'enmity with God' – a crime which in Iran can result in the death penalty – during a visit for a conference.
An Iranian citizen, the academic has a permanent residence permit in Sweden, where he conducted research in disaster medicine at the prestigious Karolinska Institute, and lived with his wife and two children.
“We have received reliable information that suggests he has been sentenced to death. We are working to obtain a confirmation. We would like to stress that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs condemns the use of the death penalty in all cases,” Lina Eidmark of the Swedish foreign ministry told TT.
Acting on the basis of information available to it, the ministry has raised the issue with high-level Iranian representatives, according to t…

U.S.: Executions rise in 2017, but downward trend continues

"What remains of capital punishment these days is largely decades-old death sentences being carried out."
WASHINGTON — The nation's rapidly declining rate of executions has leveled off, but opponents of capital punishment say the death penalty remains on borrowed time.
The execution Thursday of Alabama cop killer Torrey McNabb was the 21st this year, marking the first time that number has risen since 2009. The 2017 total could approach 30 before the year is out, depending on last-minute legal battles.
That ends a relatively steady drop in executions since 2009, when there were 52. Only three times has the annual number increased since executions peaked at 98 in 1999.
Several factors have contributed to this year's hiatus in the broader trend. Eight states carried out executions, a spike from recent years. Among them were Arkansas, which executed four prisoners over eight days in April before its supply of lethal injection drugs expired, and Florida, which had halted …

U.S. Supreme Court to take up bad lawyers, immigration, and death penalty in next case

The Supreme Court will hear a case about ineffective lawyers when it next meets for oral arguments at the end of the month, but the case also is wrapped up in the hot-button issues of the death penalty and illegal immigration.
Ayestas v. Davis has not received much attention from court-watchers anticipating a slew of blockbuster cases this term, but the justices' ruling on the dispute could have a lasting impact on many criminal and death penalty cases and the legal protections given to illegal immigrants.
A Texas court sentenced Carlos Manuel Ayestas, a Honduran man, to death in 1997 after his conviction for murdering Santiago Paneque during a burglary of her Houston home.
Ayestas appealed his conviction on the grounds that his trial lawyer failed to collect testimony from his family members who could have provided evidence to support his case. The Texas courts rejected Ayestas' appeals.
Then in 2009, Ayestas again appealed his case, this time with a different lawyer, and sai…

After lifting his bloody war on drugs, Philippines’ Duterte says he will shoot criminals

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has offered to shoot criminals himself, while warning he may bring police back to the frontlines of his deadly war on drugs.
Duterte made the comments late Friday following his announcement on October 11 to withdraw the police from his anti-drug war after they were accused of rights abuses in killing thousands of people while following his orders to eradicate illegal drugs in society.
He replaced them with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which has about 2,000 officers compared with 165,000 for the police force.
Duterte has repeatedly insisted he has not ordered or incited police to murder drug addicts or suspects, while at other times he has said he would be happy to slaughter them or have tens of thousands killed.
On Friday he said he would be prepared to kill criminals himself, as he raised doubts about the PDEA being able to contain illegal drugs.
“Those who rape children, who rape women, those sons of… if you don’t want the polic…

Group plans push to end the death penalty in Utah next year

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A group advocating for the end of Utah's death penalty intends to make another push to abolish the practice next year following the failure of a similar effort in 2016.
Utah Justice Coalition, a criminal justice reform group, plans to push lawmakers to act during the 2018 legislative session, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .
Darcy Van Orden, the group's executive director, said they already have a sponsor in the state Senate to back a bill on abolishing the death penalty, and they're seeking a backer in the House. Van Orden discussed the matter with other criminal justice reform advocates during a panel at the University of Utah on Tuesday.
While lawmakers had considered studying the costs of the death penalty in 2016, a bill never reached the House floor
In 2012, Legislative fiscal analysts estimated that a death sentence costs an additional $1.6 million to handle appeals and the costs over 20 years when compared with a sentence of life without paro…