Updated: Sep 09, 2022

News Brief

News Brief: Pope Francis Calls for Prayer to Abolish the Death Penalty

Sep 08, 2022

Pope Francis has issued a renewed call to all peo­ple of good will to mobi­lize for the abo­li­tion of the death penal­ty through­out the world,” devot­ing the September 2022 world­wide prayer inten­tion of his papa­cy to end­ing cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. In a video announc­ing his month­ly prayer inten­tion, the pon­tiff said, Capital pun­ish­ment offers no jus­tice to vic­tims, but rather encour­ages revenge. And it pre­vents any pos­si­bil­i­ty of undo­ing a pos­si­ble mis­car­riage of justice.”

Pope Francis has been a strong advo­cate for end­ing cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, revis­ing the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2018 to call the death penal­ty an attack on the invi­o­la­bil­i­ty and dig­ni­ty of the per­son” and deem­ing it inad­mis­si­ble” in all cas­es. He revis­it­ed those themes in the prayer ini­tia­tive, say­ing the death penal­ty is moral­ly inad­mis­si­ble, for it destroys the most impor­tant gift we have received: life.”

Society can ensure pub­lic safe­ty with­out with­out defin­i­tive­ly depriv­ing the offend­ers of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of redeem­ing them­selves,” the Pope said, mak­ing cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment unnec­es­sary as a legal tool. Always, in every legal sen­tence, there must be a win­dow of hope. … Let us not for­get that, up to the very last moment, a per­son can con­vert and change,” he said.

Each day, there is a grow­ing NO’ to the death penal­ty around the world,” Pope Francis said, describ­ing that as a sign of hope” for the Church. Let us pray,” he said, that the death penal­ty, which attacks the dig­ni­ty of the human per­son, may be legal­ly abol­ished in every country.”

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Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Stays Ramiro Gonzales’ Execution

Jul 12, 2022

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) has stayed the sched­uled July 13, 2022 exe­cu­tion of Ramiro Gonzales (pic­tured) and direct­ed the tri­al court to con­sid­er his claim that his death sen­tence was a prod­uct of false expert tes­ti­mo­ny con­cern­ing his alleged future dan­ger­ous­ness. The stay order, issued July 11, 2022, marked the eleventh time since 2019 that the TCCA has halt­ed an exe­cu­tion to direct a tri­al court to con­sid­er new evi­dence or inter­ven­ing caselaw that could estab­lish the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of a death-row pris­on­er’s con­vic­tion or death sentence. 

Gonzales pre­sent­ed the TCCA with new evi­dence that the psy­chi­a­trist who served as a pros­e­cu­tion expert in his tri­al had recant­ed his tes­ti­mo­ny that Gonzales posed con­tin­u­ing threat of vio­lence if the jury vot­ed to spare his life. The expert, Dr. Edward Gripon, now admits that his opin­ion was based on false infor­ma­tion about recidi­vism rates and, after review­ing Gonzales’ prison record and con­duct­ing a new inter­view, con­clud­ed that Gonzales is not a future danger. 

The TCCA denied relief to Gonzales based upon Gripon’s recant­ed opin­ion, say­ing that the deter­mi­na­tion of future dan­ger­ous­ness is made at the time of tri­al and is not prop­er­ly reeval­u­at­ed on habeas.” However, the court ruled that Gonzales had also pre­sent­ed at least a pri­ma facie show­ing that tes­ti­mo­ny of recidi­vism rates Gripon gave at tri­al were false and that that false tes­ti­mo­ny could have affect­ed the jury’s answer to the future dan­ger­ous­ness ques­tion at pun­ish­ment.” The TCCA grant­ed a stay of exe­cu­tion and remand­ed the case to the tri­al court for fur­ther review of that por­tion of Gonzales’ claim.

Malaysian Government Pledges to End Mandatory Death Penalty

Jun 12, 2022

The cab­i­net of the gov­ern­ment of Malaysia announced on June 10, 2022 that it had reached agree­ment to abol­ish the nation’s manda­to­ry death penal­ty laws and sub­mit leg­is­la­tion to par­lia­ment to pro­vide judges dis­cre­tion to impose oth­er penal­ties for cap­i­tal crimes. Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the cab­i­net also agreed to study pro­pos­als to sub­sti­tute sen­tences for those cur­rent­ly on death row for offences car­ry­ing the death penalty. 

Amnesty International reports that as of February 2022, Malaysia had 1,341 peo­ple on its death row, with 905 hav­ing been con­demned under manda­to­ry death sen­tences for drug trafficking.

The announce­ment comes three years after the gov­ern­ment of for­mer Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a sim­i­lar pledge. However, Mahathir’s coali­tion gov­ern­ment col­lapsed in February 2020, one month before par­lia­ment was sched­uled to table the abo­li­tion legislation. 

Human rights groups offered cau­tious praise for the government’s action. Amnesty International Malaysia’s Executive Director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv called the announce­ment a wel­come step in the right direc­tion” and urged the gov­ern­ment to table the nec­es­sary amend­ments in Parliament with­out delay and estab­lish a full review of all cas­es involv­ing the manda­to­ry death penal­ty with a view to com­mut­ing these sentences.”

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said the cab­i­net deci­sion was an impor­tant step for­ward. … But,” he added, before every­one starts cheer­ing, we need to see Malaysia pass the actu­al leg­isla­tive amend­ments to put this pledge into effect because we have been down this road before, with suc­ces­sive Malaysian gov­ern­ments promis­ing much on human rights but ulti­mate­ly deliv­er­ing very little.” 

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Kareem Jackson Receives Fourth Execution Reprieve in Ohio, Execution Date Re-Set for 2025

May 14, 2022

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has issued a reprieve to death-row pris­on­er Kareem Jackson, call­ing off his sched­uled September 15, 2022 exe­cu­tion and set­ting a new December 10, 2025 exe­cu­tion date. In a news release, the governor’s office said that the reprieve had been issued due to ongo­ing prob­lems involv­ing the will­ing­ness of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal sup­pli­ers to pro­vide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), pur­suant to DRC pro­to­col, with­out endan­ger­ing oth­er Ohioans.”

Pharmaceutical com­pa­nies have told DeWine that they will not sell their med­i­cines to the state for use in exe­cu­tions and that if the state diverts drugs sold for ther­a­peu­tic use to car­ry out exe­cu­tions, they may stop sell­ing their med­i­cines to the state. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that such an action could endan­ger the abil­i­ty of thou­sands of Ohioans — such as Medicaid recip­i­ents, state troop­ers, and prison inmates — to get drugs through state programs.”

Jackson was con­vict­ed of two mur­ders and sen­tenced to death in 1997. This is the fourth time Governor DeWine has issued a reprieve of Jackson’s exe­cu­tion and the eighth reprieve of an Ohio exe­cu­tion sched­uled for 2022. On March 7, 2019, DeWine halt­ed Jackson’s exe­cu­tion, then sched­uled for July 10, 2019, and resched­uled it for January 16, 2020. He issued a sec­ond reprieve on October 30, 2019, resched­ul­ing Jackson’s exe­cu­tion for September 16, 2020. That exe­cu­tion was halt­ed on June 5, 2020 and resched­uled for September 152022

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Florida Death Penalty Lawyer Marty McClain, the Gold Standard’ of Capital Representation, Has Died

Mar 11, 2022

Marty McClain, a Florida cap­i­tal defense lawyer who rep­re­sent­ed the state’s death-row pris­on­ers for more than 30 years, died March 7, 2022 at the age of 67. McClain was a tow­er­ing pres­ence in Florida cap­i­tal lit­i­ga­tion, rep­re­sent­ing more than 300 death-sen­tenced peti­tion­ers in post-con­vic­tion appeals before the Florida Supreme Court. He was respon­si­ble for the exon­er­a­tions of mul­ti­ple inno­cent death-row pris­on­ers, includ­ing Juan Roberto Melendez, and is cred­it­ed with lead­ing efforts to elim­i­nate the elec­tric chair as Florida’s pri­ma­ry exe­cu­tion method. His advo­ca­cy for Terrance Phillips McClain, a Black cap­i­tal defen­dant sen­tenced to death by Circuit Judge Mark Hulsey, who report­ed­ly said Blacks should go back to Africa,” led to Hulsey’s res­ig­na­tion from the bench.

McClain received acco­lades from col­leagues, as well as judges who presided over his cas­es. Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Pariente told The News Service of Florida, Marty McClain, in my view, set the gold stan­dard for advo­ca­cy for Death Row inmates.” Former Florida Supreme Court Justice James E.C. Perry called McClain the best I’ve seen.” He was com­pas­sion­ate and he cared about it and he was pre­pared and he was not afraid to push the enve­lope,” Perry said. He was cre­ative and on point as it relates to the law. He’s one of the few attor­neys whose names I remem­ber. I’m telling you the truth. You see them. They come and go. But Marty McClain, he was an icon. He’s a loss to the whole jus­tice sys­tem and the legal system.”

Todd Scher, a fel­low death-penal­ty lawyer, called McClain a pas­sion­ate advo­cate for his clients and for the cause of expos­ing injus­tice and unfair­ness in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.” He wrote, In the world of cap­i­tal lit­i­ga­tion, Marty was and will for­ev­er be a titan, a peer­less mentor.”

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