Tag Archives: death penalty

Nearly 100 Groups Send Letter to Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) Opposing Death Penalty for Fentanyl Bill

 

Drug Policy Alliance

Press Release | 10/18/2016

Outdated Approach Would Expose Drug Sellers to Death Penalty

Legislation Repeats Worst Mistakes of the Drug War

Nearly 100 groups working on criminal justice reform, including NAACP, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and the Drug Policy Alliance today sent a letter to Representative Tom Reed (D-NY), opposing H.R. 6158, the HELP Act of 2016. The letter notes that “H.R. 6158 would also exacerbate the opioid epidemic our country is currently undergoing. The bill is out of step with the times, science, data, and public opinion and doubles down on 30 years of ineffective drug policy, and we ask that it be revised.” The proposal would mean that individuals caught selling certain quantities of fentanyl or fentanyl-laced heroin would receive the death penalty or life without parole, if the sale is linked to an overdose fatality.

“The Congressman would be better served by introducing progressive bills that are based in harm reduction rather than expounding on drug war tactics with more punitive action,” said Robert Tolbert, board member with VOCAL New York.

The bill is particularly disappointing given the U.S. Congress’s embrace of treatment over incarceration, as embodied by this year’s passage of CARA, and the bipartisan support for reducing sentences for drug offenses.

“The 1980s called and wants its bill back,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director of Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs, “Rep Reed should know that the War on Drugs has failed and that harsh sentences for drug offenses have no impact on drug use. The only consequence of this bill will be to contribute further to our mass incarceration problem.”

Just last month, House Speaker Paul Ryan committed to completing work on criminal justice reform in the lame duck session. The Reed bill flies in the face of these efforts.

Read the full letter here.

Contact:

Tony Newman 646-335-5384

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PDF – RE: Opposition to H.R. 6158, the HELP Act of 2016

H.R. 6158: HELP Act of 2016

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Why Are So Many Veterans on Death Row?

By Jeffrey Toobin

A new study shows that at least ten per cent of death-row inmates are military veterans.

The death penalty has always provided a window into the darkest corners of American life. Every pathology that infects the nation as a whole—racism, most notably—also affects our decisions about whom to execute. A new report from the Death Penalty Information Center adds a new twist to this venerable pattern.

The subject of the report, just in time for Veterans Day, is the impact of the death penalty on veterans. The author, Richard C. Dieter, the longtime executive director of the invaluable D.P.I.C., estimates that “at least 10% of the current death row—that is, over 300 inmates—are military veterans. Many others have already been executed.” In a nation where roughly seven per cent of the population have served in the military, this number alone indicates disproportionate representation. But in a nation where military service has traditionally been seen as a route into the middle class—and where being a vet has been seen as more of a benefit than a burden—the military numbers are especially disturbing.

Why are so many veterans on death row? Dieter asserts that many veterans “have experienced trauma that few others in society have ever encountered—trauma that may have played a role in their committing serious crimes.” Although this is hardly the case with every veteran, or even the overwhelming majority of them, Dieter goes on to relate several harrowing stories that follow this model. Because of such traumas, many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, for which they have too often received poor treatment, or none at all.

Veterans who kill are not, by and large, hit men or members of organized crime or gangs. They very often lash out at those around them. Dieter notes that a third of the homicide victims killed by veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were family members or girlfriends. Another quarter were fellow service members. This record suggests that, if these veterans had received adequate mental-health care, at least some of them and their victims might have had a different fate.

But it’s possible to see, in the D.P.I.C. study, an echo of another recent high-profile study. Anne Case and Angus Deaton, of Princeton, found that the death rates for middle-aged white men have increased significantly in the past decade or so. This was largely due, according to the authors, to “increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.” The Princeton study fits into a larger pattern in American life, which is the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites.

That cohort has gravitated to military service for generations. And while, again, most veterans never commit any crime, much less crimes that carry the death penalty, the sour legacies of our most recent wars certainly play into the despair of many veterans. Earlier generations of veterans came home from war to ticker-tape parades, a generous G.I. Bill, and a growing economy that offered them a chance at upward mobility. Younger veterans returned to P.T.S.D., a relatively stagnant economy, especially in rural and semi-rural areas, and an epidemic of drug abuse. And they came home to a society where widening income inequality suggested the futility of their engagement with the contemporary world.

In an interview with Vox, Deaton said that the death rate for members of this cohort had increased, in part, because they had “lost the narrative of their lives.” This elegant, almost poetic phrase can be read to include the lost promise of military service—the vanished understanding that veterans earned more than a paycheck, that they also gained a step up in status, both economic and social. The reality has been that many veterans returned to lives that were materially and spiritually worse than the ones they left, and far worse than the ones they expected.

According to the Princeton study, a shocking number of poorly educated whites turned their rage inward, in the form of drug abuse and suicide. But a small handful inflicted their rage on others, and an even smaller number wound up on death row. They are different groups of people, and their individual stories are even more variegated, but it’s possible to see across them the symptoms of a broader anguish.

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UN: Freeze Funding of Iran Counter-Narcotics Efforts

Source: Human Rights Watch

Surge in Executions for Drug Trafficking

(London) – The United Nations agency charged with combating illicit drug trafficking should withdraw its support for counter-narcotics police operations in Iran until the death penalty for drug offenses is abolished, six rights groups said in a letter published today. The groups made the plea after Iran’s judiciary hanged 18 alleged drug traffickers within 24 hours on December 3, 2014, bringing the number of drug offenders executed in the country during 2014 to at least 318.
Reprieve, Human Rights Watch, Iran Human Rights, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Harm Reduction International and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) should follow its own human rights guidance and impose “a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support” if “following requests for guarantees and high-level political intervention, executions for drug related offenses continue.” The six organizations warned the UNODC of “the widening gulf between Iran’s rhetoric and the realities of its justice system,” and described the agency’s decision to continue funding supply-side counter-narcotics efforts in the country as “ineffective if not counterproductive.”
“As Iran executes alleged drug offenders in ever-greater numbers, it beggars belief that the UN sees fit to continue funding Iranian anti-drug operations,” said Reprieve director Maya Foa. “How many more hangings will it take for the UN to open its eyes to the lethal consequences of its current approach, and make its counter-narcotics support conditional on an end to the death penalty for drug offenses?”
The UN agency’s records show it has given more than $15 million to “supply control” operations by Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Police, funding specialist training, intelligence, trucks, body scanners, night vision goggles, drug detection dogs, bases, and border patrol offices, the groups said. UNODC projects in Iran have come with performance indicators including “an increase in drug seizures and an improved capability of intercepting smugglers,” and an “increase of drug-related sentences.”
The United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark have all chosen to withdraw their support from Iranian counter-narcotics operations administered by the UNODC because of concerns that this funding was enabling the execution of alleged drug traffickers. When announcing its decision to do so, Denmark publically acknowledgedthat the donations are leading to executions.
The groups had previously written a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in May 2014 on the issue of UNODC counter-narcotics funding in Iran and Vietnam. In their letter, the groups expressed concern that UNODC continuing support of Iran’s counter-narcotics operations was “lending legitimacy” to executions of drug offenders. In an August 2014 response, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov responded that his agency sought progress through “engagement and dialogue,” and that he was “gratified” by “potentially favourable developments regarding the application of the death penalty in relation to drug offenders in Iran.”

Iran’s anti-narcotics law imposes a mandatory death sentence for manufacturing, trafficking, possession, or trade of five or more kilograms of opium and other specified drugs, and 30 or more grams of heroin, morphine, or specified synthetic and non-medical psychotropic drugs, such as methamphetamines. International law requires countries like Iran that retain the death penalty to impose it for only the “most serious crimes,” which does not include drug crimes.

Although international law says that all death sentences should be subject to appeal, Iran has apparently limited appeals in drug-related cases. Figures suggest Iran is executing those charged with drug offenses in increasing numbers, despite recent calls for reform by the chair of the country’s Human Rights Council, Mohammad Javad Larijani, who said there were legislative efforts under way to end the death penalty for drug-related offenses.
The rights groups are not aware of any pending legislation in parliament that would end, or even reduce, the number of executions related to drug offenses. On December 16, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reportedthat a high ranking official with the country’s counter-narcotics agency opposed the elimination of the death penalty for drug traffickers, noting that any changes in the law would have to be made by the Expediency Council, an advisory body to the supreme leader, and not Iran’s parliament.
Harm Reduction International and Human Rights Watch previously urged UNODC to freeze funding of drug enforcement programs to Iran, and said Iranian authorities should move quickly to end the death penalty for drug-related offenses. The two groups first met UNODC officials in Vienna in 2007 to discuss concerns regarding the execution of drug offenders in Iran.

… Payvand News – 12/18/14 … —

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Three men sentenced to death by hanging for selling weed in Malaysia

By Jack Daniel in Culture, Global, News

Thursday, June 20, 2013

malaysia.map.flikr.jpg

Deep in the conservative heartland of the upper Malaysian peninsula, the state of Kelantan was once known for its secluded location and coastal piracy, but today is known more for the strict Islamic order that has been put in place by the long standing hardline government. It is that draconian set of laws that has three friends facing death by hanging after being found guilty of selling weed in a hospital parking lot.

The isolated region has been ruled by the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) since 1990. With a Muslim population of over 95%, the PAS has managed to pass local laws in Kelantan that segregate supermarket lines, as well as public seating, by gender. They have restricted public performances by women if any men are present, and have placed outright bans on many traditional Malaysian forms of theater.

These laws, they say, are in place to squash immorality in the name of Islam. Following their interpretation of Islamic doctrine, the PAS attempted to institute punishments like chopping off fingers or hands of thieves, and execution for something as simple as blasphemy. Fortunately, cooler heads at the national level intervened, blocking the most extreme local legislation on constitutional grounds.

But even national laws in Malaysia leave little room for sympathy when it comes to drug-related offenses. Getting busted with any controlled substance can earn you a heavy fine and instant deportation, at best. Anyone caught with a mere 7 grams of marijuana can be labeled and tried as a drug trafficker, an offense punishable nationwide by the death penalty. They don’t mess around.

The three men convicted today were accused of selling 4.8kg, or over ten and a half pounds, of herb in the parking lot of the Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital in August of 2007. Ultimately found guilty of all charges, the three men will be put to death by hanging.
They had previously avoided the death penalty when the same High Court ruled on the case in 2010, acquitting two of the men altogether, and reducing the third man’s charges to drug possession, earning him 12 years in prison.

The prosecution wasn’t satisfied though. They appealed the case and were granted a re-trial, through which they somehow cast a newfound doubt in the mind of the Judge. With the facts of the case unchanged since the Court’s first decision back in 2010, today Judge Datuk Azman Abdullah announced his decision, stating that the defense put forth was not enough to re-convince him.

Their story is almost identical to a similar case from March of this year, where three men were convicted of pushing over 14 pounds of illegal pot on the west coast of the peninsula, also in 2007. Seriously, if you like your neck at its current length, don’t sell weed in Malaysia.

The friends in this latest case – ages 42, 48, and 52 – all appear to be Malaysian nationals. Charged and convicted under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1952, which carries a mandatory death sentence, their only hope now is for some sort of reprieve from the notoriously dispassionate Malaysian national government.

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