At the time, Nigeria was liable to put to death condemned prisoners without warning at any time, like Japan does today … except that Nigeria carried out such executions by the dozens. In one instance Angel witnessed, there were 58 executions in a single day.
On August 2, 1994, a Tuesday, that occasion finally arrived for Arthur Judah Angel — or so it seemed.
“I was chained; I was given my last meal that was August 2, 1994,” Angel said in an interview. “38 others were executed that very day. Only God knew how I was spared. He was the one that made my name disappeared in the book. I did not know how it happened. But it happened. I died, in fact, every person on the death row dies every day.”
Who exactly it was that saved Angel on that date I have not seen conclusively documented, but they say that God helps those who help themselves. In this case, Angel helped himself with his charcoal sketches on death row, which soon brought him to the attention of some well-placed people in the prison bureaucracy, a Catholic bishop — even a British arts organization which organized exhibitions of his work in 1993 and 1994.
Angel’s death sentence was commuted in 1995, and he was released outright in 2000. He well knows that, like those other 38 people who hanged this date, he’d be forgotten if not for his fortuitous escape. Life is just too damn cheap for exonerating the dead.
“I am able to clear my name because I am alive,” Angel said. “If I had been executed, nobody would believe that I was innocent. If I didn’t make it, no one would know. I knew many people who were innocent in prison. Yet they died in prison. Only people like me, who were close to them until their death, knew they were innocent. The rest of the world learnt that armed robbers were executed on so and so day; nobody knew they were innocent.”
But Angel did survive, and is remembered — not only for his exoneration, but for the 51 startling sketches he made of Nigeria’s death row. They (and other anti-death penalty art Angel has created since) have been exhibited worldwide by human rights NGOs.
On this date in 1994, Glenn (or Glen) Ashby was hastily hanged at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
Ashby’s strange and internationally condemned (pdf) case was a milestone en route to the creation of the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Constrained by a 1993 legal decision from the British Privy Council — still the court of final appeal for Commonwealth Caribbean countries — to the effect that death-sentenced prisoners who awaited execution for more than five years were inherently being subjected to “cruel and inhuman treatment,” Trinidad raced to hang Ashby before his five years ran out. Since Ashby had been sentenced on July 20, 1989 (he stabbed a guy to death during a burglary) that newly-discovered deadline was practically on top of them.
Ashby’s date with the hemp was scheduled for July 14, but his lawyers appealed to the Privy Council. However, in spite of an undertaking by Trinidad and Tobago Attorney General Keith Sobion that the execution would wait on the Council’s ruling, Ashby was hurried to the gallows around 6:30 a.m. Minutes later, word arrived that the Privy Council had actually granted the stay.
Needless to say, hanging a fellow while his appeal was still pending got some legal briefs in a twist.
“I’m disgusted that a country can sign international human rights law and then execute one of their citizens while an appeal is still pending,” death row barrister Saul Lehrfreund total The Guardian.* “From the information I have, this is a summary execution, it’s judicial murder.”
Most Trinidadians felt otherwise when it came to Ashby’s hanging.
And indeed, the jurisdiction of the Privy Council, and especially its reluctance to sanction capital punishment, became particularly controversial in the region during the high-crime 1990s; a similar execution hurried to circumvent the body took place in St. Kitts and Nevis, with similar post-hanging recriminations.
This perceived overseas meddling in local criminal justice helped bring about the creation of the Caribbean Court of Justice as a potential alternate court of last resort. But in the decade since its putative establishment, actual full-on adoption of the CCJ continues to lag: even though the court is actually based in Port of Spain and has judges from Trinidad and Tobago, that country has still not replaced the Privy Council with the CCJ as a court of final appeals.
The Death Penalty Information Center’s executions database classes around 10% of all prisoners put to death in capital punishment’s modern American incarnation as “volunteers,” men and women who ultimately assent to their own execution — most famously including the very first, Gary Gilmore.
Beavers was among them. In the last weeks of his life, the legal issues surrounding his case were not the usual battery of dilatory strategems — but Beavers repelling (successfully) the attempted intervention of the Texas Resource Center’s appellate attorneys despite his objections.
Beavers may have embraced death, but that didn’t make him immune to the pleasures of the flesh.
Last meal request: Six pieces of french toast with syrup, jelly, butter, six barbecued spare ribs, six pieces of well-burned bacon, four scrambled eggs, five well-cooked sausage patties, french fries with ketchup, three slices of cheese, two pieces of yellow cake with chocolate fudge icing, and four cartons of milk.
Our day’s malefactor contributed no last statement to the annals, but was quoted as telling an Associated Press reporter that “it’s really a great day to die, to leave the body.” You’d think so too after that kind of meal.
On this date in 1994, Ukrainian serial killer Andrei Romanovich Chikatilo was shot dead in a soundproof room in Novocherkassk, Russia, for a stupendous serial murder spree in the 1980s USSR.
The quintessential case study in anonymous middle-aged melancholy turned larger-than-life horror, the sexually dysfunctional Chikatilo raped, murdered and mutilated dozens in a homicidal career beginning at the unusually late age of 42.
After that initial foray into rape-murder in 1978, three years passed before the factory clerk (molestation allegations had drummed him out of teaching in the interval) began his harvest of 50-plus victims: children and teenagers of both sexes, and young adult women.
In addition to the staggering body count, the murders of the “Rostov Ripper” were marked by orgiastic savagery: breasts severed, eyes gouged out, genitalia mutilated and even eaten, and bodies lacerated with scores of stab wounds.
Like many monsters, he was also, as much as his more well-adjusted fellows, a creature of his own time and place.
Chiktilo was a socially maladjusted child in part due to his father’s capture by the Germans during World War II, subjecting the family to the postwar ostracism that awaited returning POWs. (Some sources also say Chikatilo saw his mother raped by German soldiers.)
The part of his life for which he’s most famous, meanwhile, drew out into a years-long bloodbath even though he was a suspect from the very first murder — a crime for which another man was wrongfully executed. Sclerotic bureaucracy and investigative cock-ups hobbled the police effort throughout, a sort of criminological emblem of the Soviet Union’s twilight. Authorities were loathe to involve the public by admitting the presence of a serial killer, a type officially associated with bourgeois society.
Chikatilo was arrested once in 1984 carrying a Bundy-esque murder kit, but authorities couldn’t make anything stick (Chikatilo’s Communist Party membership helped); another officer stopped him leaving the forest where bodies turned up, but didn’t search the satchel which contained his most recent victim’s severed breasts. Chikatilo was investigated early on, but ruled out as a suspect because of a blood type mismatch between his blood and crime-scene semen — apparently the result of a rare biological anomaly that (combined with authorities’ outsized confidence in forensic detection) bought him years of killing and involved thousands more suspects before investigators finally circled back to Andrei Romanovich.
Even at his last arrest, investigators who knew they had their man nearly let him slip away because they couldn’t charge him within 10 days — finally cajoling a confession and the killer’s cooperation at nearly the last possible hour.
According to Cannibal Killers, the Chikatilo task force solved 1,062 unrelated crimes, including 95 murders, while puzzling out the Rostov Ripper.
There’s much more about Chikatilo’s career at trutv.com; the 1995 film about the Chikatilo murders, Citizen X, indulges some dramatic license, but it’s pretty watchable for a TV movie.
That calm lasted a mere fortnight, however, and was shattered this date in 1994 when the aged widow of Rwanda’s last monarch was hauled to Butare city’s national museum and shot along with several of her caregivers.
Being an emblematic Tutsi in April 1994, however, was all the political involvement needed to doom her. According to Human Rights Watch.
At 11 a.m. … a detachment of soldiers commanded by Lt. (jg) Pierre Bizimana, acting under the orders of Capt. Nizeyimana, invaded the modest home of Rosalie Gicanda … About eighty years old, she lived a quiet life as a devout Catholic, sharing her home with her bed-ridden mother and several women and girls who cared for them both. Because she eschewed any involvement in politics and behaved with discreet dignity, even the most anti-Tutsi politicians had left her largely undisturbed throughout the thirty years of Hutu rule…. The soldiers passed through the wooded enclosure that protected the house from the main street and entered the little house with its air of faded respectability. They seized the former queen and six others, leaving her bed-ridden mother and one girl to care for her. The soldiers passed by the ESO and then took Gicanda and the others to a place behind the national museum where they shot them. One teenaged girl, left for dead, survived to recount the murders. The soldiers returned to pillage Gicanda’s home in the afternoon and, two days later, they killed her mother. …
The news that this gracious lady and others from her household had been taken away by soldiers in the back of a pickup truck spread rapidly and alarmed Tutsi and all others who opposed the genocide. They concluded that if soldiers dared to seize even this revered person, then no one was safe.
That conclusion, of course, was well-founded. Over 200,000 Butare Tutsis are thought to have suffered Gicanda’s fate (or worse) in the ensuing months, making it the Rwandan genocide’s bloodiest province.
Pierre Bizimana was sentenced to death for Gicanda’s killing in 1998; I have been unable to document whether that sentence was ever carried out. His commanding officer, Idelphonse Nizeyimana, was arrested in October 2009.
Fifteen years ago, a Libyan-born dissident of American nationality was abducted from a human rights conference in Cairo.
The fate or current whereabouts of Mansour Kikhia remain unknown to this day — although one widely-suspected scenario (and the conclusion of a CIA report on the incident) is that he was spirited to Libya and secretly executed early in 1994.
While other speculation has had Kikhia being held alive, the insulin-dependent diabetic would have been in a bad way absent the sort of painstaking medical attention he would not likely have been receiving from his captors.
The former Libyan foreign minister and United Nations ambassador, who had broken with dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in 1980, was in Egypt to participate in an Arab Organization of Human Rights conference. The date he vanished from his hotel, last seen in the company of unknown Egyptian men driving vehicles with Mukhabarat markings, was December 10, 1993 — the 45th anniversary of the seminal modern human rights document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Several distinguished Middle Eastern scholars wrote an open letter shortly after Kikhia’s disappearance imploring
Arabs, Americans with an interest in the Arab world and human rights organizations not to rest until he regains his freedom. Nothing could be worse than to let the governments concerned think he will be forgotten.
If not “forgotten” in the strictest sense — see some links of the bulletins issued over the years to keep alive his memory — the governments concerned sure seem to have paid no price for having disappeared Mansour Kikhia.
Van Damme, 59 at his death, claimed ignorance of the illicit contents and his case drew appeals from the Dutch government — to no avail.
The city-state’s severe criminal code and comprehensively ordered society — “Disneyland with the Death Penalty” in cyberpunk author William Gibson’s formulation — is somewhat notorious at this point.
But while foreign migrants and guest workers had regularly faced the gallows for similar offenses, van Damme’s hanging marked a significant ramping-up of enforcement. According to Amnesty International, Singapore carried out 54 drug-related hangings in 1994 and another 52 in 1995, after an early-90′s pace of under ten per year. It’s maintained rates in the dozens of executions per annum since then, making it the heaviest per-capita user of the death penalty in the world.
An intensified pace perhaps came with a new resolve on the part of the former British colony to forswear juridical perks to European offenders — at least to some extent. Van Damme’s fate makes an interesting contrast with that of his countrywoman, Maria Krol-Hmelak (the link is to her scanty Dutch Wikipedia page). Krol-Hmelak had been arrested a few months before van Damme also for possessing enough heroin to be presumed a smuggler and incur an automatic death sentence; at her trial a few months after van Damme’s, she received a surprise acquittal.