Death penalty


A photo of a desperate young Palestinian boy, badly wounded and screaming for his father as he clutches at the shirt of a paramedic in a hospital, has captured the tragic and bloody tension of the Gazan conflict.

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Shirtless and with cuts to his face, torso, arms and legs, the child clings to the hospital worker who is attempting to lay him flat on a girdle.

The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian publication, reports the photo, taken at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City last Thursday, was captioned with the boy’s desperate cry: ‘I want my father, bring me my father’, according to Fairfax.

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The Palestinian paper claims the young boy was one of four siblings brought to the hospital wounded, two of them just three years old.

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It comes as grinning Israeli tank commanders were pictured flashing the victory signs as they blast their way through Gaza in the bloodiest day of the offensive so far – as one resident of the troubled region said: ‘The gate of hell has opened.’

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At least 65 people have been killed since this yesterday’s dawn strike on Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighbourhood – including the son, daughter-in-law and two small grandchildren of a senior Hamas leader.

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Hamas says it has captured an Israeli soldier – a scenario that has proven to be fraught with difficulties for the country in the past – but Israel’s U.N. Ambassador has denied the claims.

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The neighbourhood has come under heavy tank fire as Israel widened its ground offensive against Hamas, causing hundreds of residents to flee.

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The dead and wounded – including dozens of women and children – have reportedly been left in streets, with ambulances unable to approach.

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Source: (July 21, 2014)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2699772/This-desperate-little-boy-face-tragedy-Palestinian-toddler-clutches-shirt-hospital-worker-screaming-I-want-father-bring-father.html?ito=social-facebook

A federal judge Wednesday struck down California’s death penalty, saying the “dysfunctional” system that makes prisoners wait decades to be executed violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

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The ruling marks the first time a federal court has found the state’s death penalty to be unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, sitting in Orange County, wrote that since California voters reinstated capital punishment in 1978, more than 900 inmates have been sentenced to death row but only 13 have been executed.

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“For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote in his 29-page ruling on a petition filed by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones. He was convicted of raping and murdering a 50-year-old Southern California accountant in 1992.

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“When an individual is condemned to death in California, the sentence carries with it an implicit promise from the state that it will actually be carried out,” he said. “But for too long now, the promise has been an empty one … it has resulted in a system that serves no penological purpose.”

Carey, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, declared that “arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed.”

That, he said, violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The state could appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, is reviewing the opinion, her press secretary said.

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Death penalty opponents hailed the ruling.

“Judge Carney’s ruling today is truly historic,” said Gil Garcetti, former Los Angeles district attorney. “It further proves that the death penalty is broken beyond repair; it is exorbitantly costly, unfair, and serves no legitimate purpose whatsoever. The only solution is to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

No executions have been carried out in California since 2006, when another federal judge determined that the state must revise its procedures for lethal injection. The death house is located inside San Quentin State Prison, north of San Francisco.

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In November 2012, California voters narrowly rejected a referendum that would have converted all death sentences to life without parole. Garcetti was a major supporter of that ballot measure, known as Proposition 34.

Buoyed by Californians’ support for capital punishment — and by polls showing their frustration over delays — three former California governors began collecting signatures in February for a state constitutional amendment designed to limit death penalty appeals and to speed executions.

At least 807,615 valid signatures were needed to put the proposition on the November ballot. The filing deadline was July 10, and the secretary of State is determining whether the measure qualified.

 

* Text by Michael Winter, USA TODAY

David Ranta spent 22 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit — and now the Brooklyn dad is struggling to adapt to the fast-paced world of 2013.

“I feel like I’ve been dropped onto another planet — everything has changed, and everything that I’ve known is gone,’’ said Ranta, 58, who will file a notice of claim today of his $150 million lawsuit against the city.

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BIG ERROR: David Ranta is led away in handcuffs after his false arrest for a rabbi’s murder in 1990.

“The first time I ate at a restaurant and used their restroom, I couldn’t figure out how to use the sink; it was one of those automatic motion-sensor faucets,’’ Ranta told The Post. “I had to get someone to show me what to do, and I felt embarrassed.”

Ranta, who was convicted of killing a prominent rabbi when cops convinced witnesses to make a false identification, said he has had trouble adjusting to life on the outside.

“To tell you the truth, mentally I still fell like I’m in prison,’’ he said. “You can’t just flip a switch and say, ‘Hey, you’re free; go enjoy the time you have left.’ ”

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NIGHTMARE: David Ranta (right, yesterday), who was falsely convicted of killing Brooklyn Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger (left), is now struggling to adjust to life outside prison.

Ranta was arrested for allegedly gunning down Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger on Aug. 8, 1990. He was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to 37 years.

Werzberger was shot in the head during a botched robbery of a jewelry courier in Williamsburg, and several witnesses, including the courier, initially fingered Ranta as the shooter.

Ranta, an out-of-work painter, fit the description — a tall, blond man. But there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

After his conviction, Ranta tried several times to appeal, to no avail.

His attempts to clear his name included a 1996 hearing during which a woman said her late, coke-addled husband, a known stick-up artist, had killed Werzberger.

But lead detective Louis Scarcella — who knew the husband, Joseph Astin, and even admitted that he had been a prime suspect — never showed Astin’s photo to witnesses. Still, the judge sided with prosecutors during the hearing and dismissed Ranta’s claim.

The break for Ranta came in 2011, when Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes put Ranta’s case before a special review panel. Too many witnesses were recanting on their own.

The courier said cops told him to pick Ranta out of a lineup. Other witnesses admitted that they were either coached or told to lie by NYPD cops.

Other damning details of the shoddy investigation surfaced, too, including that Scarcella never took notes during what he said was a confession by Ranta.

“I would ask [Scarcella] one thing: ‘Why?’ ” Ranta said.

A judge finally freed Ranta on March 21. But the former inmate’s joy was short-lived.

The day after his release, he suffered a heart attack.

“The doctors have said that the stress of being innocent and imprisoned for decades, combined with not being able to eat a fresh fruit or vegetable for 22 years, can do that to a heart,’’ Ranta said.

The gray-haired, bespectacled man said he’s doing “much better’’ now.

Ranta has hired civil-rights lawyer Pierre Sussman to represent him in the case, claiming malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment.

Amazingly, Ranta doesn’t blame the legal system for his woes — just a few bad apples.

“Most people in the justice system are trying to do the right thing. But when you have some police officers and detective[s] who are given too much power and higher-ups looking to solve a high-profile case, bad things can happen,” he said.

Ranta admitted that he barely managed to survive prison.

“You do what the guards tell you to do 24 hours a day, seven days a week; no decision is your own,” he said. “I spent a lot of time reading. You can only count the 13 bars and 862 holes in the ceiling of your cell so many times.

“It eats you up from the inside,’’ he said of knowing he was wrongly imprisoned.

“The most stressful part is wanting to be with your family and knowing that you can’t, especially [realizing] all those years I lost with my daughter, who was 2 at the time and is now about to have a baby of her own.

“The only things that I had were hope and faith: hope that one day the truth will come out and faith that I would be set free.”

Ranta said he is relying on that faith to now help him with his new challenges.

“It’s going to take a long time for me to feel normal again, if I even remember what normal is,’’ he said.

“Once I was released, the government washed their hands of me. It’s like, ‘You didn’t exist for 22 years and then you’re free, good luck, you’re on your own,’ ” he said. “I had no ID, no health insurance, nothing.

But “I have to let go,’’ he said. “The anger won’t get me those 22 years I missed with my family back.” Now “I appreciate every moment I have with them,” Ranta said.

“Once I’m fully on my feet, I’d like to work with other falsely convicted individuals to help them transition into society,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like me out there.”

 

By JAMIE SCHRAM Police Bureau Chief, May1, 2013

THERE is no abuse of government power more egregious than executing an innocent man. But that is exactly what may happen if the United States Supreme Court fails to intervene on behalf of Troy Davis.

Mr. Davis is facing execution for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., even though seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony against him. Many of these witnesses now say they were pressured into testifying falsely against him by police officers who were understandably eager to convict someone for killing a comrade. No court has ever heard the evidence of Mr. Davis’s innocence.


After the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit barred Mr. Davis from raising his claims of innocence, his attorneys last month petitioned the Supreme Court for an original writ of habeas corpus. This would be an extraordinary procedure — provided for by the Constitution but granted only a handful of times since 1900. However, absent this, Mr. Davis faces an extraordinary and obviously final injustice.

This threat of injustice has come about because the lower courts have misread the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, a law I helped write when I was in Congress. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s, I wanted to stop the unfounded and abusive delays in capital cases that tend to undermine our criminal justice system.

With the effective death penalty act, Congress limited the number of habeas corpus petitions that a defendant could file, and set a time after which those petitions could no longer be filed. But nothing in the statute should have left the courts with the impression that they were barred from hearing claims of actual innocence like Troy Davis’s.

It would seem in everyone’s interest to find out as best we can what really happened that night 20 years ago in a dim parking lot where Officer Mark MacPhail was shot dead. With no murder weapon, surveillance videotape or DNA evidence left behind, the jury that judged Mr. Davis had to weigh the conflicting testimony of several eyewitnesses to sift out the gunman from the onlookers who had nothing to do with the heinous crime.

A litany of affidavits from prosecution witnesses now tell of an investigation that was focused not on scrutinizing all suspects, but on building a case against Mr. Davis. One witness, for instance, has said she testified against Mr. Davis because she was on parole and was afraid the police would send her back to prison if she did not cooperate.

So far, the federal courts have said it is enough that the state courts reviewed the affidavits of the witnesses who recanted their testimony. This reasoning is misplaced in a capital case. Reading an affidavit is a far cry from seeing a witness testify in open court.
Because Mr. Davis’s claim of innocence has never been heard in a court, the Supreme Court should remand his case to a federal district court and order an evidentiary hearing. (I was among those who signed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Davis.) Only a hearing where witnesses are subject to cross-examination will put this case to rest.

 


Although the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution last fall, the court declined to review the case itself, and its intervention still has not provided an opportunity for Mr. Davis to have a hearing on new evidence. This has become a matter of no small urgency: Georgia could set an execution date at any time.

I am a firm believer in the death penalty, but I am an equally firm believer in the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution. To execute Troy Davis without having a court hear the evidence of his innocence would be unconscionable and unconstitutional.
By BOB BARR, NYT, June 1, 2009

Bob Barr served in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and was the United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990.