TIME Qatar

Qatar Has Asked a U.S. Family if They Want Their Daughter’s Alleged Killer Executed

Prince Charles Visits Qatar - Day 2
A general view of the skyline in Doha, Qatar, on Feb. 20, 2014 Chris Jackson—Getty Images

They also have the option to pardon him or get financial compensation

A Pennsylvania family is being asked to decide on whether the alleged killer of their daughter should be put to death in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar.

A Kenyan security guard reportedly confessed to murdering English teacher Jennifer Brown, 40, who was found dead in her company apartment in November 2012, Agence France-Presse says.

Qatari authorities have now asked Brown’s family whether they want to pardon the guard, get financial compensation from him, or have him executed.

Brown’s case has languished in Qatar’s courts because of slow witness testimony, eliciting disappointment from her family. An announcement of their decision is expected on March 8.

[AFP]

TIME Crime

Catholics Selected for the Boston Bomber Jury Could Be Going Against Their Faith

Jury Selection Begins For Tsarnaev Trial
Jury selection for the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber started on Jan. 5, 2015 at Moakley Federal Court. A jogger runs past police vehicles in front of the courthouse John Tlumacki—Boston Globe/Getty Images

There's a potential clash between jury selection criteria and Catholic teachings

There is a distinct possibility that many of Boston’s 2 million Roman Catholics won’t be able to perform jury service in the trial of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without violating their faith.

The criteria for selecting jurors requires them to be able to sentence the accused to death should that eventuality arise, USA Today reports.

According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, however, the death penalty must not be used if “nonlethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor.”

“It is both ironic and unfortunate that Catholics who understand and embrace this teaching will be systematically excluded from the trial,” the Rev. James Bretzke, professor of moral theology at Boston College, told USA Today.

Read more at USA Today.

TIME Crime

No Plea Deal Likely in Boston Bomber Case

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, George O'Toole Jr.
Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is depicted beside U.S. District Judge George O'Toole Jr. as O'Toole addresses a pool of potential jurors in a jury assembly room at the federal courthouse, in Boston Jane Flavell Collins—AP

There may be little incentive for prosecutors who believe they have incontrovertible evidence to negotiate away their ability to seek the maximum penalty possible

(WASHINGTON) — The focus of the Boston Marathon bombing trial figures to be as much on what punishment Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could face as on his responsibility for the attack.

With testimony expected to start later this month, the Justice Department has given no indication it is open to any proposal from the defense to spare Tsarnaev’s life, pushing instead toward a trial that could result in a death sentence for the 21-year-old defendant.

In a deadly terror case that killed three people, including a child, and jolted the city, there may be little incentive for prosecutors who believe they have incontrovertible evidence to negotiate away their ability to seek the maximum penalty possible.

“There would be now, in my judgment, no reason for the government to reverse course and not let 12 citizens decide if the death penalty is appropriate,” said Larry Mackey, a former Justice Department prosecutor involved in the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2001.

The prospect of a death sentence, a rare punishment in the federal system, raises the stakes of a trial that will revisit in gory detail the 2013 attack that also injured more than 260. Should the jury find Tsarnaev guilty, it would then decide in a separate penalty phase whether he should be sentenced to death. Jury selection is underway and the judge has said he hopes to begin testimony on Jan. 26.

Only three federal inmates, including McVeigh, have been put to death since 2001. Recent botched executions at the state level have placed the practice under scrutiny, with President Barack Obama directing the Justice Department last year to investigate how the death penalty is applied across the nation.

Despite his own personal reservations about the death penalty, Attorney General Eric Holder says the government is committed to seeking that punishment for Tsarnaev. Prosecutors have cited factors including a “lack of remorse,” the evident premeditation involved in the attack and allegations that Tsarnaev also killed an MIT police officer after the bombing that left an 8-year-old boy dead.

“The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision,” Holder said in a statement last January.

There has been no indication the government has wavered in that decision, even though one of Tsarnaev’s lawyers, Judy Clarke, has gotten prosecutors to spare the lives of multiple high-profile killers, including Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph and Jared Loughner, who killed six people and wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

But there’s also no predicting how a trial will play out, including whether a conviction would result in a death sentence — particularly in liberal Massachusetts, which abolished its state death penalty in 1984. In a bid to save his life, defense lawyers may hope to cast Tsarnaev as an impressionable young man pressured into participating in the attack by his older brother, Tamerlan, who died after a firefight with police days after the bombing.

Gerald Zerkin, a Virginia defense lawyer who represented Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now serving a life sentence, said there are obvious benefits for the government to accept a plea in death penalty cases, including to reduce the uncertainty of a trial and to spare victims and their loved ones from reliving the horrific facts of a case.

“You can get a resolution that is life without parole, and you could do it for a lot less money, a lot less time, a lot fewer resources” and without “re-traumatizing victims,” Zerkin said.

Rob Owen, a professor who runs a death penalty case clinic at Northwestern University, said a death sentence will result in years of legal appeals whereas a guilty plea would presumably help the case fade faster from public attention.

But with the trial’s opening arguments projected for later this month, any window for a deal to spare Tsarnaev’s life has likely closed and there’s little reason for the government to entertain the possibility, Mackey said.

“The calculus was done, I’m sure in this case, the day after the bombing, when people were faced full-front with the ugly scenario left on the streets of Boston,” he said.

TIME georgia

Georgia Executes Vietnam Veteran for Killing Police Officer in Traffic Stop

Andrew Howard Brannan
Andrew Howard Brannan. Reuters

Lawyers said the shooting was tied to mental illness directly traced to Andrew Brannan's military service

(JACKSON, Ga.) — A man who fatally shot a sheriff’s deputy who stopped him for speeding on a Georgia interstate was put to death Tuesday for the 1998 killing, which was captured on the patrol car’s video camera.

Andrew Howard Brannan, 66, was pronounced dead at 8:33 p.m. Tuesday after a single-drug injection at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted of the January 1998 shooting death of Kyle Dinkheller, a 22-year-old sheriff’s deputy in Laurens County, central Georgia.

“I extend my condolences to the Dinkheller family, especially Kyle’s parents and his wife and his two children,” Brannan said in a statement moments before the injection was administered.

Lawyers for Brannan, a Vietnam veteran, had unsuccessfully argued to authorities to spare the inmate’s life, saying the shooting was tied to mental illness directly traced to Brannan’s military service.

Dinkheller had stopped Brannan for driving 98 mph and demanded he take his hands from his pockets during a traffic stop, officials said Brannan then began cursing, dancing in the street and saying “shoot me” before he rushed the deputy. After a scuffle, Brannan pulled a high-powered rifle from his car and shot Dinkheller at least nine times, authorities said.

The confrontation was captured by a video camera in Dinkheller’s patrol car and a microphone he wore. Parts including the scuffle between the two happened off camera, according to court documents. But Dinkheller can be heard yelling orders at Brannan, who responded with expletives, authorities said. Brannan can also be seen crouching by his car and firing at the deputy as Dinkheller yelled at him to stop. Brannan walked toward the patrol car, still firing, exhausted one magazine, reloaded and continued firing, authorities said.

Police found Brannan the next day hiding under a camouflage tarp near his home. He had been shot in the stomach, apparently by Dinkheller.

Dinkheller, who was married, had been promoted months before to an elite interstate highway squad. He had nearly three years with the sheriff’s department.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles held a hearing Monday on a petition for clemency from Brannan’s lawyers and denied the request to commute the sentence to life without parole.

“Is it right to execute a mentally-ill veteran whose sole incidence of violent behavior is traceable directly and inexorably to mental illness resulting from his combat service?” Brannan’s lawyers had written in that clemency petition.

Brannan volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army in 1968 and received two Army Commendation Medals and a Bronze Star for his service in the Vietnam War, the clemency petition said, adding he was repeatedly exposed to death and violence in Vietnam.

Veterans Administration doctors had diagnosed Brannan with post-traumatic stress disorder in 1984 and determined that his condition had deteriorated to the point of 100 percent disability by 1990, the petition said. That mental illness was compounded by bipolar disorder diagnosed in 1996, his lawyers added.

Brannan was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000. He challenged the legality of his conviction and sentence in 2003, and a state court judge threw out his sentence on grounds that his trial lawyer failed to present complete mental health defenses. But the Georgia Supreme Court later tossed out that ruling and reinstated the death sentence.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 23

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

Today we’re highlighting five of our favorite “Best Ideas” from 2014.

1. Affirmative Action should be adapted to accommodate structural racism and America’s modern segregation.

By Sheryll Cashin in the Root

2. The death penalty is incompatible with human dignity.

By Charles Ogletree in the Washington Post

3. The border isn’t the problem: A detailed, map-powered breakdown of the real story behind this immigration crisis.

By Zack Stanton in the Wilson Quarterly

4. Forty lost years: the case for one six-year term for U.S. presidents.

By Lawrence Summers in the Financial Times

5. The wisdom of crowds: The CIA is learning a lot by aggregating the guesswork of ordinary Americans.

By Alix Spiegel at National Public Radio

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Colorado Movie Theater Shooter’s Parents Plead for His Life

"He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness," James Holmes' parents said

The parents of the man accused of killing 12 people when he opened fire in a Colorado movie theater in 2012 are pleading that their mentally ill son be spared the death penalty.

In a letter published Friday in the Denver Post, Robert and Arlene Holmes argued that their son James has a “serious mental illness” and should be either imprisoned for the rest of his life or placed in an institution for the mentally ill, but not executed. “We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster,” the couple wrote. “He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.

“We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill,” the added.

After multiple delays, jury selection for Holmes’ trial is scheduled in January. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

TIME Capital Punishment

U.S. Executions Reach a 20-Year Low

An independent autopsy of death row inmate Clayton Lockett, who was executed in April at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla., ruled that Lockett died as a result from the drugs administered to him by prison officials and not from a heart attack. AP

It has been a tortured year for capital punishment in the U.S., with multiple botched executions, last-minute stays, and exonerations raising questions about the nation's ability to constitutionally met out the punishment

Amidst a nationwide reflection on the future of the death penalty in the U.S., the nation in 2014 reached a 20-year low in carried-out executions, the Death Penalty Information Center said in its annual report.

Seven states executed 35 people this year, the lowest number since 1994, said the think tank, which does not have a position on whether capital punishment should be banned. The number of executed prisoners nationwide has been in decline since 1999, when 98 death sentences were carried out.

Meanwhile, the number of people sentenced to death also dropped to a 40-year low of 72 people, the report found. There are 30 executions scheduled for 2015.

The center said that three botched executions, including the 43-minute ordeal of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, where all executions are now on hiatus, prompted a national re-examination of the death penalty and led to delays. In each of those bungled executions, the state relied on lethal injection drugs it sourced from providers it refused to name, as well as mixed in untested cocktails, according to the report.

Also at issue in a re-evaluation of capital punishment are inexact or violated protocols for measuring prisoners’ mental competence and eligibility for execution, as well as the threat of executing an innocent person, the center said. Seven death row inmates were exonerated this year, according to the center.

TIME China

China Sets Deadline to Stop Taking Organs From Executed Prisoners

Starting next month, China will end its ethically unsettling reliance on transplant organs culled from its condemned prisoners, state media said

China will no longer harvest transplant organs from executed prisoners from the start of 2015, a decision praised as ethical but which renews questions about where the world’s most populous nation will find much needed organs.

State-run newspaper China Daily says the Chinese government will end the globally criticized practice of taking organs from its condemned population by Jan. 1.

China is the only country to as a rule take organs from executed people, a practice that has led to allegations that prisoners and their families are coerced into signing off on the donations and that demand for more organs could translate into more death sentences.

China carefully guards the number of people it executes as a state secret, but U.S.-based human-rights group Dui Hua estimates that the Chinese state killed about 2,400 people last year, an enormous drop from around 12,000 people in 2002 and marking a continuous decline in executions over the past decade.

Chinese supplies of transplant organs are far short of the nation’s needs, partly because of traditional burial procedures, as well as to public suspicion that organ waiting lists are holding pens for those who cannot pay their way out of them, Huang Jiefu, China’s Vice Minister of Health, was quoted in local press as saying. State officials said in 2011 that condemned prisoners provided about 64% of the nation’s transplant-organ supplies.

Huang told local media that about 300,000 patients are annually wait-listed in China for an organ donation that, ultimately, only about 10,000 of them receive. Just 1,500 organs have been donated so far this year, he said. The paucity of donated organs has fueled a black-market organ trade that has also raised considerable ethical questions.

In the U.S., which has a population about a quarter of China, 9,512 people donated organs in the first half of this year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some 120,000 people in the U.S. are still awaiting organs.

TIME Crime

Florida Executes Man Convicted of Killing His Wife and Stepdaughter

Death row inmate Chadwick Banks is seen in an undated picture from the Florida Department of Corrections in Raiford, Florida
Death-row inmate Chadwick Banks is seen in an undated picture from the Florida Department of Corrections in Raiford, Fla. Handout—Reuters

Chadwick Banks had spent half his life in prison

A Florida man who spent more than 20 years in prison for killing his wife and stepdaughter was executed by the state on Thursday.

Chadwick Banks, 43, was administered a lethal injection on Thursday evening at the Florida State Prison, Reuters reports.

Banks was arrested in 1992, four days after he fatally shot his wife Cassandra Banks while she was sleeping. He later confessed to raping and killing his 10-year-old stepdaughter Melody Cooper soon after the shooting.

Banks’ execution is the 89th in Florida since the U.S. reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

[Reuters]

TIME South Korea

South Korean Ferry Captain Sentenced to 36 Years in Prison

SKOREA-ACCIDENT-BOAT-TRIAL
Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-seok, center, is escorted upon his arrival at the Gwangju District Court in the southwestern South Korean city of Gwangju on June 24, 2014 Wonsuk Choi—AFP/Getty Images

The chief engineer received a 30-year sentence, while the other 13 members of the crew will serve up to 20 years

The South Korean ferry captain in charge of the vessel that capsized in April and killed more than 300 people, most of them high school students, was sentenced to 36 years in prison on Tuesday.

Lee Joon-seok, 68, on trial along with 14 other crew members for their role in the sinking of the Sewol ferry, was convicted of gross negligence, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors had demanded that Lee be given the death penalty.

The ship’s chief engineer was convicted of murder and handed a 30-year sentence while the rest of the crew were given sentences ranging from five to 20 years, South Korean agency Yonhap News reported.

Earlier in the day, South Korean authorities called off the search for the bodies of remaining victims with nine still unaccounted for.

[AP]

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