Why Executing the New Delhi Rapists Won’t Help the Women of India

Women call for the death penalty for the four men convicted of rape and murder today in New Delhi, India (Photo Credit: Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images).

Women call for the death penalty for the four men convicted of rape and murder today in New Delhi, India (Photo Credit: Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images).

By Tara Rao, Director of Amnesty International India

Today, a New Delhi court found four Indian men guilty of a December 2012 gang-rape and murder and sentenced them to death. A 17-year old convicted in the same case was sentenced to three years detention in a juvenile home on August 31. Another accused was found dead in his prison cell in March.

The rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi last year was a horrific crime and our deepest sympathy goes out to the victim’s family. Those responsible must be punished, but the death penalty is never the answer.

Far-reaching procedural and institutional reform, and not the death penalty, is needed to tackle the endemic problem of violence against women in India.

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Mental Illness, Politics and Florida’s Death Penalty

(Photo Credit: Allen Hailey).

(Photo Credit: Allen Hailey).

Marshall Gore is scheduled to be put to death in Florida on October 1. It is his fourth execution date this year. As arguments about his serious mental illness have come and gone, his execution has three times been moved back. According to Amnesty International’s Urgent Action on the case, a federal judge

…noted that there was a “reasonable basis” for asserting that Marshall Gore might be incompetent for execution, given the various “delusional” statements he had made. The judge noted that Marshall Gore had indicated a belief that his execution was set for his ‘death and organ harvesting/to be a human sacrifice or both,’ that his then execution date of June 24 added up to 6-6-6 and that “because of his virgin innocence of murder, he is a target of Satan Worshipers who have threatened that date by mail for years.”

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Which U.S. State Has the Most Error-Prone Capital Punishment System?

It is an affront to human rights that the state, any state, should have to power to kill a prisoner; and it is an affront to common sense that this irreversible punishment can be imposed by a system as unreliable and fraught with error as the U.S. criminal justice system.

In most states, a jury must at least be unanimous before issuing a sentence of death. But in the state of Florida, the state that leads the nation in number of wrongfully convicted prisoners exonerated from death row, only a bare majority of jurors is required. In the Sunshine State, although judges ultimately decide the sentence, a jury by a 7-5 vote can recommend execution.

No other state allows this.

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BREAKING: Judge Issues Findings in Reggie Clemons Case

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Judge Michael Manners, the Special Master reviewing the case of Reggie Clemons, has submitted his findings to the Missouri Supreme Court.

He finds that prosecutors suppressed evidence (a “Brady violation”) and writes that he believes the statement Reggie Clemons gave to police was coerced. He also writes that he does not believe that Clemons has established a “gateway claim of actual innocence.” It is a complex case, and serious allegations of misconduct by prosecutors and police appear to have been affirmed.

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U.S. Death Penalty: Botched Executions And Suicide Attempts

Billy Slagle died in a holding cell, like the one in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility featured here, three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

Billy Slagle died in a holding cell, like the one in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility featured here, three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him (Photo Credit: Mike Simons/Getty Images).

Back in 2010, the cruelty – and absurdity – of the death penalty was on full display when Brandon Rhode tried to commit suicide just days before he was to be executed by the state of Georgia. The state rushed him to the hospital and saved his life – only to execute him a week later.

The suicide attempt reportedly left Rhode brain damaged. He was shackled to a restraint chair for the next 7 days, and then the execution proceeded. The lethal injection may have been botched, as Rhode’s eyes remained open the entire time.

This weekend, Billy Slagle was found hanged in his cell on Ohio’s death row. Slagle died three days before the state of Ohio was to execute him. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has promised a “complete investigation.”

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The Cruel And Pointless Effort To Execute John Ferguson

Despite several diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia and even though the Supreme Court has declared executing the severely mentally ill unconstitutional, John Ferguson is scheduled to be executed in Florida on August 5th (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers).

Despite several diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia and even though the Supreme Court has declared executing the severely mentally ill unconstitutional, John Ferguson is scheduled to be executed in Florida on August 5th (Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers).

John Ferguson, a 65-year-old man with a long history of mental illness, including several diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia by prison doctors, and who refers to himself as the “Prince of God,” is set to be executed in Florida on August 5th. His crimes were horrific, no question. Ferguson was convicted of a total of eight murders committed near Miami, earning him a total of eight death sentences.

But executing the severely mentally ill, or “the insane,” has been unconstitutional since 1986 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled so in Ford v. Wainwright (a Florida case, as it turns out). In its decision, the Court, led by Thurgood Marshall, reasoned that it is cruel and pointless to put prisoners to death who don’t understand why (or in some cases even that) they are being killed.

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Warren Hill Execution Stay Extended

Warren Hill

Warren Hill

A challenge to Georgia’s “Lethal Injection Secrecy Act has led the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta to extend Warren Hill’s stay of execution. An appeal from the state of Georgia won’t be filed in time and his execution warrant will expire.

The secrecy law, which went into effect July 1, allows the state to withhold from the courts information about the drugs they intend to use in executions. This, of course, makes it impossible for the courts to determine if said drugs will be effective enough to prevent excessive pain and suffering that would render the execution a “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the constitution.

There is also a “separation of powers” question: can the executive and legislative branches of government set up a system that keeps the judicial branch in the dark about the most awesome and extreme power the state can wield? In other words, is it OK that the public and the courts are denied information they need to ensure that the law is upheld and that human rights and constitutional rights are protected?

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Warren Hill Gets A Stay Of Execution

Warren Hill – an African American man with an IQ of 70 who was convicted of murder in 1991 – was set to be executed at 7 p.m. tonight. He has been found intellectually disabled by all the doctors and experts who have examined him. The carrying out of his execution would directly contradict the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Virginia, in which the Court found the execution of the “mentally retarded” to be ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ Several jurors as well as the victims’ family have expressed their opposition to the use of the death penalty in this case and have asked that his sentence to be commuted to life without parole.

Hill was granted a stay today, not on those grounds, but on the grounds that the secrecy surrounding Georgia’s lethal injection drugs violates Hill’s constitutional rights. Georgia’s new “Lethal Injection Secrecy Act” shields from the courts and the tax-paying public how Georgia has managed to obtain its lethal injection drugs. This prevents Hill from know whether or not the drugs to be used will be effective or whether they will cause serious pain and suffering in violation of the Constitution.

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GA Determined To Execute An Intellectually Disabled Man

Late afternoon on July 3 when the least possible number of people would be paying attention, using a new law that makes the acquisition of execution drugs a state secret,  Georgia scheduled the execution of Warren Hill, who is now set – barring intervention from the US Supreme Court or the Georgia Attorney General - to be put to death on July 15.

Georgia authorities did this despite the fact that:

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Texas’ 500th Execution Highlights Need for Change

The Wynne Unit in Huntsville, one of the seven prison units in Walker County, Texas. Texas is preparing to execute its 500 convict since the death penalty was restored in 1976, a record in a country where capital punishment is elsewhere in decline. (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/GettyImages).

The Wynne Unit in Huntsville, one of the seven prison units in Walker County, Texas. Texas is preparing to execute its 500 convict since the death penalty was restored in 1976, a record in a country where capital punishment is elsewhere in decline. (Photo Credit: Chantal Valery/AFP/GettyImages).

By MbaLuka Michael Mutinda, Youth Activist and AIUSA Ladis Kristof Fellow.

On Wednesday, Kimberly McCarthy may eat her last meal. Barring a last-minute stay, she will be led down the hallways of Huntsville Penitentiary, make a last statement, and be given a lethal injection that will stop first her breathing and then her heart. She will be Texas’ 500th execution.

The death penalty is emblematic of the many problems still prevalent, not only in the American justice system, but in society as a whole. Capital punishment is racially and economically biased. It places more value on some victims over others. Since 1976, 260 black defendants have been executed for murdering white victims, but only 20 white defendants have received the same sentence for murdering black victims. Death sentences also depend more on geography than the severity of a crime.

And yet, death sentences can be wrong. In the last 40 years, 142 death row inmates have had their innocence proven. This margin of error alone should awaken us to the deep flaws in the system. You cannot have absolute punishment without absolute certainty.

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