Posts filed under '21st Century'
November 28th, 2013
On this date in 2008, Chinese biochemist and businessman Wo Weihan was shot for espionage along with his alleged co-conspirator Guo Wanjun.
Wo had been resident in Austria since 1990, and his daughters Chen Ran and Chen Di were Austrian citizens. In 2004, he returned to his native soil to launch a medical equipment firm in Beijing.
Wo was arrested in China in January 2005 and accused of passing “state secrets” to Taiwan and the U.S. He didn’t have a lawyer until 2006 — by which time he had produced a coerced confession that he tried in vain to retract — and the 2007 trial took place in secret, so the case against him was troublingly opaque at the time of his execution. The verdict publicly released in March 2008 even included such trifles as “discussing the health of senior Chinese leaders” — an actual crime in China but awfully difficult to accept as a factor in a capital case.
“The lack of transparency does nothing to reassure us that the court’s conclusion was the right one,” said a Dui Hua Foundation spokesman.
Allegedly, Wo got information about Chinese ICBMs from missile expert Guo Wanjun, and passed drawings to Taiwanese and American intelligence. Chinese state media have claimed that Wo’s wife was able to open a restaurant in Austria with the payoffs.
His daughters mounted a last-ditch clemency campaign involving European Union officials, Austrian President Heinz Fischer, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, all to no avail.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,China,Death Penalty,Espionage,Execution,History,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Spies,Taiwan
Tags: 2000s, 2008, november 28, wo weihan
November 15th, 2013
(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)
On this day in 2011, multi-filicide Reginald Brooks was executed in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio.* He was the fifth man executed that year and, at 66, the oldest since 1999.
Brooks (top) and the children he murdered.
Although his guilt was never in question, he had spent close to thirty years on death row while his appeals wound their way through the system.
On March 6, 1982, just days after his wife filed for divorce, Brooks shot their three sleeping sons: Reginald Jr., 17, Vaughn, 15, and Niarchos, 11. He then bought a bus ticket to Las Vegas, taking the gun with him in his suitcase, as well as his birth certificate and high school diploma. The police caught up with him in Utah.
Brooks had some history of domestic violence, but his only prior arrest had been for grand theft. His aunt, when asking the appeals board for clemency, said he had a normal, loving relationship with his children. Before shooting them all in their sleep, that is.
His attorneys argued that his crimes were motivated by mental illness, namely paranoid schizophrenia. Brooks had a normal childhood and young adulthood, but started to fall apart in the years prior to the murders. He quit his job in the 1970s because he thought his coworkers were trying to poison him. (He never worked again and his wife had to support their family.)
Beginning around 1980, he began isolating himself from friends and family, and accused his wife of committing incest with Reginald Jr. The family tried to get psychiatric help for him, to no avail.
In spite of overwhelming evidence, Brooks never admitted to his crime and suggested various bizarre theories as to what had really happened. A psychiatrist who evaluated him in 2010 and 2011 believed Brooks genuinely could not remember shooting his sons.
There was, however, clear evidence of premeditation: Brooks had purchased the murder weapon nine days before the murders, lying on his application form where it asked if he’d ever been convicted of a felony. He also turned on the stereo in his apartment and left the music blaring loudly, presumably to drown out the sound of the gunshots. Then, after the murders, Brooks immediately left town, taking documents he would need to start a new life — clearly suggesting cognizance of guilt.
The prosecution conceded Brooks did have schizophrenia, but argued that his illness was not so severe as to make him incompetent or legally insane, and that he was lying when he said he couldn’t remember committing the murders. Attorneys for the state suggested he murdered his children to spite his wife, “through a twisted sense of jealousy, hatred, or despair.”
Brooks’s ex-wife, Beverly, witnessed his execution. He had no last words, but he did give a message: glaring at the glass behind which the witnesses were standing, he stuck out the middle fingers of both hands. And as he slowly lost consciousness and breathed his last, his middle fingers still stood erect.
* The Texas of the North when it comes to capital punishment.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Guest Writers,Lethal Injection,Murder,Ohio,Other Voices,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Ripped from the Headlines,USA
Tags: 2010s, 2011, family, filicide, mental illness, mentally ill, november 15, reginald brooks, schizophrenia
November 13th, 2013
On this date in 2010, Farid Baghlani was hanged in Ahvaz for a 2004-2008 serial murder spree that claimed the lives of six women.
At trial, Baghlani openly attributed his crimes to his hatred for women, probably not a defense calculated to maximize his prospects of acquittal. Those who lost loved ones to Baghlani returned the sentiment, and celebrated his execution by handing out sweets.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Iran,Murder,Ripped from the Headlines,Serial Killers
Tags: 2010, 2010s, ahvaz, farid baghlani, misogyny, november 13
November 4th, 2013
On this date in 2005, Hastings Arthur Wise was executed in South Carolina for a shooting rampage at his workplace.
Or rather — and this was the problem — his former workplace.
Canned from his machine-operator job of four years at the Aiken County R.E. Phelon engine manufacturing plant that July, Wise warned that he’d be back.
On September 15, 1997, he turned up packing a 9 mm pistol and exacted his revenge — just another of America’s endless cavalcade of mass shootings.
He shot a guard to get into the plant. The guard survived, but four others were not so fortunate as Wise stalked through his former employer’s halls screaming and firing. Police later recovered four empty eight-round magazines.
The human resources director who had fired him was the first Wise killed.
Two men in the tool and die area who had jobs that Wise had once sought unsuccessfully were the next.
A young woman in a job Wise had sought promotion to was wounded with shots to the back and leg, then finished off execution-style.
Wise took to firing almost indiscriminately and wounded a few others, but the body count still might have been higher. Some others Wise saw and could have murdered, but did not — some possibly saved by happenstance, others whom Wise said in court that he declined to shoot because he used to get along with them as coworkers. The whole rampage was calculated to such an extent that Wise took a 9,000-mile road trip to California and Texas to tick a few items off his bucket list first.
Wise always intended to check out at the end of his spree; the SWAT team found him on the floor suffering from a swallow of insecticide that turned out to be non-fatal. The judicial process was the slow train, but the destination remained the same.
“I don’t have much to say except that I did not wish to take advantage of the court as far as asking mercy,” Wise said to the court at his sentencing. “It’s a fair trial. I committed the crimes.”
As good as his word, Wise voluntarily dropped his appeals and went quickly from his 2001 conviction to execution, declining to make any final statement.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,History,Lethal Injection,Murder,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,South Carolina,USA,Volunteers
Tags: 2000s, 2005, hastings arthur wise, labor, names, november 4
October 11th, 2013
At dawn this date in 2009, Iran hanged Behnoud Shojaee in Tehran’s Evan Prison for a murder committed while he was still a juvenile.
His attorney, Mohammad Mostafaei, later had to flee Iran in the face of persecution over his own activism against the death penalty, and the juvenile death penalty in particular.
Mostafaei wrote a Farsi post detailing the harrowing moments leading up to the Shojaee’s hanging, complete with the young offender kneeling in front of the parents of his victim imploring them to exercise their power to spare his life. That post, excerpted below, was translated to English by the site Persian2English.com.
The plan was to get the parents of the victim to drop the case so he would be spared from execution. We could hear the prayers of the activists from outside the prison. After a few minutes we were admitted into another salon. Behnoud was there along with a few of the prison guards. When the parents of the victim entered the room, Behnoud kneeled in front of them and begged them to not execute him. The head of convictions prepared the conviction papers. A few of the prison guards, Mr. Oliyaifard, and I went to the parents of the victim and begged them to not go through with the execution. The mother of the victim replied, “I cannot think right now. I have to put the rope around his neck.” After a few minutes we heard the Call for Prayer. Behnoud walked to another room to say his last prayers. He went to ask God for forgiveness.
After the prayer we all went to the prison grounds. My entire body was shaking and I didn’t know what would become of this boy without a mother. When Behnoud kneeled in front of the parents of the victim, he told the mother, “I don’t have a mother. Please act as a mother and tell them to not execute me.” We all went to another room. In that room there was a metal stool and a blue plastic hanging rope suspended above it. The parents of the victim entered that room. Then they brought Behnoud into that horrible room where they carried out the executions. I had never heard of sole executions in Evin prison. I thought it strange that only Behnoud was being executed that night.
Maybe this was his unfortunate fate that took him to die all alone. The people present in the room asked the parents to forgive and to stop the execution. The mother said you have to put the rope around his neck. Behnoud stood on top of the stool and they put the rope around his neck. After only a few seconds the mother and father of the victim ran toward the stool and pulled it away.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Children,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Iran,Murder,Ripped from the Headlines
Tags: 2000s, 2009, behnoud shojaee, evin prison, mohammad mostafaei, tehran
September 25th, 2013
China has announced the execution this day of “homicide criminal” Xia Junfeng, a kebab vendor from Shenyang.
This case has been in the public eye for several years, and the predominant sentiment has been sympathetic towards the condemned man.
Xia and his wife Zhang Jing were part of China’s vast population of working urban poor, Xia having found his way into job insecurity by virtue of a layoff from the state electricity company. In the entrepreneurial spirit of the age, Xia started up an unlicensed business selling sausages and the like.
These denizens of the gray economy are, as a class, afflicted by the attentions of the City Urban Administrative and Law Enforcement Bureau, better known as the chengguan. Their benign job description entails administering municipal regulations, but this much-loathed force’s relationship to everyday citizens is perhaps best illustrated by the word chengguan‘s status as a shorthand neologism for bullying and abuse. Too many people know this goon squad firsthand, and too many stories of their worst excesses have circulated. Just this past July, the chengguan made headlines by killing a watermelon vendor.
“Chengguan abuses are an open scandal in China,” said Human Rights Watch’s China director. “The chengguan’s ability to flout China’s laws and inflict harm on members of the public is a recipe for greater public resentment and more violent confrontations.”
In the violent confrontation at issue in today’s execution, the chengguan chengguanned Xia Junfeng in May 2009. Xia fought back with his meat-carving knife, and slew two of his tormenters.
Death penalty cases redolent of the social stratification and institutional corruption that ordinary Chinese people experience have proven to be lightning rods in recent years.
Xia Junfeng’s turned, legally, on his claim that he killed protecting himself from the chengguan‘s beating.*
“Extralegal violence, thus employed to compensate for inadequate regulation and an absence of authority and legal deterrence, is no longer individual behavior. Such violence exists everywhere with the permission of the authorities. It is needed because of an overriding concern for “city image” and “urban management.” Finally, when extralegal violence is not monitored by the people and the media, and not punished by the law, it is only natural for Chengguan members to feel justified. Using violence with impunity enables the Chengguans to see violence psychologically as their “privilege,” a sign of status and pride. Since the legal and political status of Chengguan is unclear, it is only natural for its members to seek personal gain, vent their anger, and prey on the citizens they were intended to protect.”
-from the closing argument of Xia’s defense attorney
This allegation didn’t fly in court, where brother chengguan denied that they’d been abusing the shishkebaber, but it’s won in a rout when it comes to the court of public opinion. “His life and death are more than just a legal matter, but a bellwether of the era, with the tsunami-like public opinion firmly on the side of Xia Junfeng,” wrote author Yi Chen today.
Particularly galling for many is the disparity in treatment between Xia Junfeng and the likes of Gu Kailai, the latter a powerful business and political figure who was able to avoid execution despite being convicted of a scandalous contract murder. And Chengguan themselves never seem to be at risk of harsh punishment for any misbehavior; had Xia Junfeng been the one to leave that confrontation in a body bag, there certainly wouldn’t have been a death penalty case.
Anonymous cartoon circulated on Weibo criticizing Xia Junfeng’s condemnation. (Via) The drawing of the boy in the background was done by Xia’s son, whose art school fees were earned by his father’s roadside business.
Chinese speakers might want to peruse the Weibo feed of Xia’s widow.
* Several years ago, self-defense helped a Beijing migrat worker avoid execution for killing a chengguan who attempted to confiscate his bicycle cart.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Businessmen,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Lethal Injection,Murder,Ripped from the Headlines
Tags: 2010s, 2013, capitalism, literally executed today, police misconduct, september 25, shenyang, xia junfeng
August 29th, 2013
On this date in 2007, John Joe “Ash” Amador died of lethal injection in Texas.
Amador, age 18, and a 16-year-old cousin, hailed a taxi in San Antonio in the dark predawn hours of January 4, 1994, directed it on a long drive to a dark street in Poteet, Texas, and abruptly shot the cabbie in the head with a .25 caliber handgun. Amador’s cousin shot the cab driver’s ride-along companion.
It’s possible to get unusually up close and personal with Amador — both the man himself, and the gears of the death penalty process at the anticlimax of 13 long years.
To begin with, journalist Dave Maass interviewed Ash Amador a month before the latter’s execution, and posted 52 minutes of audio on Archive.org.
And in a more outre vein, a team of British filmmakers crafted a surreal and digressive but frequently touching documentary of Amador’s end, most especially through the eyes of the condemned man’s wife and family. As Maass put it, they’ve “given the man one wicked afterlife.”
If that teaser intrigues, the entire documentary is freely available online here — complete with an amazing scene of a death mask being cast from the freshly-executed, just-body-bagged Ash.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Lethal Injection,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Ripped from the Headlines,Texas,USA
Tags: 2000s, 2007, 402, august 29, cinema, john amador
August 16th, 2013
(Thanks to Robert Elder of Last Words of the Executed — the blog, and the book — for the guest post. This post originally appeared on the Last Words blog. Fans of this here site are highly likely to enjoy following Butler’s own pithy, almanac-style collection of last words on the scaffold. -ed.)
“For almost nine years I have thought about the death penalty, whether it is right or wrong and I don’t have any answers. But I don’t think the world will be a better or safer place without me. If you had wanted to punish me you would have killed me the day after, instead of killing me now. You are not hurting me now. I have had time to get ready, to tell my family goodbye, to get my life where it needed to be. It started with a needle and it is ending with a needle.”
— Jeffrey Doughtie, convicted of robbery and murder, lethal injection, Texas.
Executed August 16, 2001
Doughtie had a $400-a-day drug habit, which he financed by selling stolen property. He had once worked for the antique store in Corpus Christi where he sold much of his loot. One day, after shooting a mix of heroin and cocaine, Doughtie beat the store’s proprietors to death with a piece of metal tubing. He confessed to the murders.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Guest Writers,Lethal Injection,Murder,Other Voices,Texas,Theft,USA
Tags: 2001, 200s, august 16, jeffrey doughtie
July 18th, 2013
Ten years ago today, Botswana controversially hanged a South African national named Lehlohonolo Bernard Kobedi.
Kobedi was one of three men in a vehicle whose shootout with pursuing police left Sergeant Kebotsetswe Goepamang dead in the village of Palapye in 1993; despite insisting that the lethal bullet was not his, Kobedi was condemned for the homicide.
He resided thereafter on death row in relative obscurity. He was there in December 1999 when white South African emigre Mariette Bosch was sentenced to die, and he was still there 16 months later when she hanged. Bosch’s high-profile case, to hear Kobedi’s lawyer explain it, cast a pall over her client.
“I think it was at that very moment he started feeling that execution was a reality,” Themba Joina* told South African press. “You can imagine what he went through on realising that even international pressure and threats could not save Bosch.”
Kobedi would not enjoy such publicity. “The foreign media were only concerned about Bosch because she is white. Since she was hanged, we don’t see cameras in Botswana anymore,” Joina said.
Even so, he fought zealously for his client. Supported by the Botswana human rights organization DITSHWANELO, Joina mounted (pdf) both a claim of Kobedi’s actual innocence and a challenge to the constitutionality of Botswana’s death penalty. The country’s high court turned him down early in 2003.
It must have been a terrible ordeal for Kobedi. Packed four to a cell, and bracing every morning for the prospect of a sudden execution, the South African was finally put to death in secrecy the morning of July 18, 2003.
“I got cold. I had no hope at all,” one of his cellmates remembered of the hanging-day. But it’s a narrow space between life and death, and this fellow with only one frightening degree of separation from the gallows was the very next week cleared of his charges and released.
* Joina also happens to preside over a Marxist political party.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Botswana,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Murder
June 25th, 2013
On this date in 2003, four women all condemned for drug offenses were among a group executed by shooting at Wuhan, in central China. This mass execution (conducted in secret but preceded by a humiliating public trial) was scheduled around the June 26 International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. China has a very long history of looking askance at drug-dealing, and it usually uses the prelude to June 26 for some pointed, well-publicized executions.
In 2003, photographer Yan Yuhong spent 12 hours with this quartet of women on the eve and morning of their executions at Detention Center No. 1. Only years later did the photographs get out: a moving glimpse of ordinary people under the pall of death and the guards and prisoners around them, they made worldwide news in 2011. Apparently their distribution in 2003 was quashed on authorities’ concerns that they were a bit too moving for the big anti-drug message.
Select images follow; the entire series can be perused here or here, and in poignant timeline form here.
He Xiuling is the most immediately recognizable among them, a pudgy 25-year-old who looks inordinately mirthful in many pictures, but sobs openly just before she is led away to be shot. Follow-up reporting paints the picture of a simple country girl lured by a boyfriend into being a drug mule. She was evidently led to believe, up until the last, that her sentence would be commuted: “I’ll still only be 40 when I’m free!”
Had she been spared, she would be 35 now.
She thought the white top made her look “too fat”, and a guard kindly provided a black one.
Several pictures how He Xiuling smiling and laughing. Here, she enjoys breakfast on the morning of the 25th. She has about four hours to live.
Weeping moments before her execution.
The oldest of the women and seemingly the only one of the quartet who could be characterized as something more than a small-time mule, 49-year-old Ma Qingxui from Baokang county of Hubei province was on her fourth conviction for smuggling more than 8 lbs. of narcotics.
Dressed all in red, Ma Qingxui donates her clothes to another inmate.
Ma Qingxiu being escorted out of the detention center for the execution grounds at 7:21 a.m.
Li Juhua and Dai Donggui
The prisoners least seen in the series and those of whom the least has been reported in the west.
An ordinary (non-condemned) prisoner paints Li Juhua’s toenails on the morning of the latter’s execution.
She dictates her last will and testament to a fellow-prisoners.
On the evening of June 24th, Dai Donggui carefully folds the execution clothes a guard has purchased for her.
A last supper. Reportedly, McDonald’s food is routinely served at the facility for this occasion.
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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Drugs,Execution,History,Mass Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Women
Tags: 2000s, 2003, Dai Donggui, drug smugglers, He Xiuling, june 25, Li Juhua, Ma Qingxui, photography, wuhan