2002: Daniel Pearl

1 comment February 1st, 2012 Headsman

“I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head.”

-9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, in a claim made after torture in Guantanamo but nonetheless considered accurate according to a detailed 2011 report on Pearl’s death*

Warning: Although the filming was botched, this execution video still has plenty of gore and a severed head.

On this date in 2002, American hostage Daniel Pearl was executed by his captors in Karachi, Pakistan.

The 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter had been abducted January 23 by Islamic radicals while pursuing an interview with a (mistakenly) suspected handler of shoe bomber Richard Reid. Instead of being taken to the interview, Pearl was disappeared and held hostage for a variety of implausible demands targeting the United States’ relationship with Pakistan’s military government.

The reporter’s death this day was not confirmed until late February, when his killers released a video on the Internet interspersing images of American and Israeli violence with footage of Pearl speaking — and then, horrifically, of Pearl being beheaded with a knife.** It was the first of several hostagebeheading videos various militants would release in the next few years.

Pearl’s captors drew a direct line from his Jewishness to his murder in the statements they forced him to make:

My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California USA … I come from, uh, on my father’s side the family is Zionist … My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish … My family follows Judaism. We’ve made numerous family visits to Israel … Back in the town of B’nei Braq there is a street named after my great grandfather Chayim Pearl who is one of the founders of the town.

It was the more startling because Pearl himself was a very secular Jew. Pearl did not set out to be a martyr for his cultural or religious heritage: that identity as the identity was thrust upon him.

And it’s been suggested that it was thrust upon Pearl’s captors as well, whose object in kidnapping an American reporter might have been a much more parochial kidnapping commonplace — publicity, cash — but who became politically boxed in when their hostage was publicized by the media as a “Jewish-American reporter”. One of the emails the captors had pre-drafted actually announced Pearl’s release. It was edited after the kidnapping … to announce Pearl’s execution within 24 hours, as a Mossad agent. Al-Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed seems to have been summoned from outside the abductors’ circle as a ringer with the captors unsure of how to dispose of their prey.

As an investigative reporter, Pearl’s own work had in some notable instances countered the preferred narratives of American hegemony. For instance, his reporting rubbished American charges that the Khartoum pharmaceutical factory Bill Clinton ordered bombed in 1998 was actually a chemical weapons plant. His work in Kosovo led him to contradict the most bellicose “genocide” allegations from that region’s dirty ethnic war.

He was a star reporter in the prime of his life, a man who poured out words that defined a career and a public persona. From February 1, 2002, suddenly and without justice, that text was torn from his hands. In its place, during the charged months after September 11 and the American invasion of Afghanistan, came a silent Rorschach blot.

Pearl, the Jewish martyr. Pearl, the victim of blowback. Pearl, the journalistic icon. Pearl, the naive liberal in the heart of darkness. Pearl, the mandate for waterboarding and Iraq.

Pearl, the object lesson.

Pearl, the axe for others’ grinding.

Omar Sheikh, a Pakistani militant reportedly linked to Britain’s MI6 and the author of the kidnapping, was arrested within days of Pearl’s murder. He remains imprisoned under sentence of death in Pakistan for the crime.

* Mohammed also claimed that he wanted to kill Pearl personally to “make sure I got the death penalty” if he were eventually arrested.

** Among the many bone-chilling details to emerge from the subsequent investigation, it became clear that the actual murder was not shown — only some quick flashes of re-enacted throat-cutting — because the cameraman missed the shot of the kill.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Beheaded,Borderline "Executions",Cycle of Violence,Famous,Famous Last Words,God,Hostages,Jews,Martyrs,Mature Content,No Formal Charge,Notable Participants,Notable Sleuthing,Occupation and Colonialism,Popular Culture,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,USA,Wartime Executions

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2002: Napoleon Beazley, who threw it all away

1 comment May 28th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 2002, Napoleon Beazley was executed by lethal injection in Texas.

A high school class president and football hero, Beazley was 3 ½ months shy of his 18th birthday when he made the first entry on his criminal record.

It was a doozy:

Beazley (with two accomplices who later testified against him) shot a Tyler, Texas, couple in their garage to steal their Mercedes Benz.

The wife survived the attack by playing dead.

The husband was not so lucky. He was businessman John Luttig, the father of archconservative federal judge J. Michael Luttig. When Beazley’s appeal reached the U.S. Supreme Court, a third of its justices recused themselves for their own connections to Luttig.

(J. Michael Luttig testified at Beazley’s trial. “Individuals must be held accountable at some point for actions such as this,” he told the media afterward. “I thought this was an appropriate case for the death penalty.”)

Both in the legal arena and in public opinion, Beazley’s case turned in an unusually uncluttered fashion on the principle of executing juvenile offenders.

Beazley was not mentally impaired, nor warped by childhood trauma, nor even generally underprivileged. His had been the black family accepted by the white community in his native Grapeland.

There was no question of Beazley’s guilt in the crime. None of the typical extenuating circumstances applied, save Beazley’s own eventual remorse.

“I don’t blame anybody else for being here but me,” Beazley would say later.

And since he pulled the trigger just weeks shy of his legal adulthood, even his youth was barely in play.

So, the question of whether Napoleon Beazley deserved to die was a pretty close proxy for the question of how bright a line the age of 18 ought to be where the death penalty was concerned.

Beazley lost crucial votes by the closest of margins: one Supreme Court appeal denied him on a 3-3 tie, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles turned him down 10-7.

If these votes reflected uncertainty over the juvenile death penalty as a policy, the matter would soon pass the tipping point to a resolution: Napoleon Beazley was the 19th person put to death in the modern American death penalty regime for a crime committed as a juvenile. Only three more followed before the Supreme Court (consisting of the same nine justices who had rejected Beazley’s appeal a few years before) ruled the death penalty for minors unconstitutional in the 2005 Roper v. Simmons decision.

There’s cinematic treatment of Beazley’s shocking crime in the recent documentary Two Hours to Tyler. There’s also a play about him.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Children,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Texas,Theft,USA

Tags: , , , , , ,

2002: Craig Neil Ogan, drug war informant

1 comment November 19th, 2009 David Carson

(Thanks to David Carson of the informative Texas Execution Information Center for the guest post, originally run on his site. -ed.)

Craig Neil Ogan, 47, was executed by lethal injection on 19 November 2002 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a police officer.

Mugshot clipped from Texas Department of Criminal Justice. More information, including some of Ogan’s own writing, at the Clark County Prosecutor site.

Craig Ogan had worked as an informant for the federal Drug Enforcement Agency since January 1988. Upon his request, the DEA relocated him from St. Louis to Houston in late 1989 after his identity had been revealed in a court proceeding. Ogan was under orders to not personally get involved in any drug transactions. He was also prohibited from carrying a weapon. Despite these instructions, Ogan insisted on arming himself and seeking involvement in drug transactions.

On 8 December 1989, Ogan, then 34, called the DEA agent who supervised him and told him that he was in a restaurant where he had just had an armed confrontation over a drug deal that fell through. He said that a man pointed a gun at his head and called him “narc.” He said that he feared for his life and asked for an escort from the restaurant. The agent arranged for two Houston police officers to escort Ogan from the restaurant back to his apartment. Once at the apartment, the officers watched as Ogan packed his belongings, which included a pistol, a sawed-off shotgun, and some knives. They then followed him to a motel. Ogan checked into a room, and the officers left at around 9:00 p.m.

At about 12:30 a.m., Ogan went to the lobby to complain about his telephone charges and the heater in his room. He argued loudly with the clerk and began kicking at a door. When the clerk called 9-1-1 for assistance, Ogan left.

Around this time, Houston police officers Clay Morgan Gainer and James C. Boswell pulled a car into a parking lot across the street from the motel, for a minor traffic violation. Ogan, then 34, walked over to them and knocked on the passenger window. Officer Boswell, 29, lowered his window and asked Ogan what he wanted. After a heated exchange, Boswell got out of the car. Ogan took Boswell’s pistol and shot him once in the head. He ran. Officer Gainer chased Ogan on foot, shot him in the back, and arrested him.

At Ogan’s trial, Gainer testified that when Boswell lowered his window and asked Ogan what he wanted, Ogan replied, “DEA dropped me off out here, and I’m cold.” Boswell told Ogan that they would help him as soon as they finished with the traffic stop, and to back away from the car. Boswell then raised his window. Ogan, however, demanded immediate attention. He knocked on Boswell’s window again, repeating that he was a DEA informant and that he was cold. Boswell told him, “You need to get out of here if you are not willing to step out of the way and wait. You either need to leave, or you are going to jail.” Ogan persisted with his demands. Boswell got out of the police car. According to Gainer, Boswell removed his sidearm from the holster and held it down against his leg. As he was reaching into the car to unlock the back door, Ogan grabbed Boswell’s gun and shot him once in the head. Ogan then said, “Well, [expletive] you then” and ran.

In addition to the above testimony, Darryl O’Leary, one of the two officers who escorted Ogan from the restaurant, testified that Ogan was “extremely excited” when he arrived. O’Leary said that when he told Ogan he could not take him until a backup officer arrived, Ogan became “impatient, hostile, and loud.”

Ogan had no prior criminal convictions. He had numerous assault charges that had been filed against him, then dismissed.

Sally Webster, a psychologist testifying for the defense, said that Ogan suffered from paranoia and had a passive-aggressive personality, but that these disorders were not mental illnesses and had no bearing on his competency to stand trial. She described Ogan’s mental state on 8 and 9 December as “anxious, agitated, almost hyperactive, very touchy, very worried.” Ogan’s lawyers called Webster to testify in an attempt to assert his mental state as a mitigating factor in determining his punishment, but the tactic backfired. Instead, prosecutors convinced the jury that Ogan’s history of high-strung paranoia made him a future danger to society.

A jury convicted Ogan of capital murder in June 1990 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in April 1993. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.

In his appeals, Ogan’s attorneys claimed that their client suffered from a mental illness and that his trial counsel was incompetent for failing to use that in his defense. Ogan, who had an IQ of 140, had attended college, and spoke several languages, told a reporter, “They’re trying to sell me as a nut case. I don’t appreciate that.”

Ogan had a longstanding interest in espionage and had ambitions of joining the Central Intelligence Agency. In one of his letters from death row, he claimed that he had an appointment for an interview with the CIA the day he killed Officer Boswell. His career as a spy, however, never took off. At his trial, DEA agents testified that they considered Ogan to be, though a “marginally successful” informant, mostly a comical figure who ducked behind newspapers whenever a stranger entered their office. They derisively called him “special agent double-oh-five” behind his back. They also criticized him for getting involved in a drug deal without their permission, then calling for their assistance when it got him into trouble.

From death row, Ogan wrote letters that were posted on an anti-death-penalty web site. In one of them, he claimed that his execution represented the “premeditated mass murder” of possibly thousands of his potential descendants. He also provided his version of the conversation between himself and Officer Boswell. In Ogan’s account, he was extremely polite, courteous to a fault, and non-confrontational. Boswell and Gainer, on the other hand, were hostile to him without provocation and called him a “[expletive] DEA snitch.” Ogan wrote that when he told Boswell, “All right, sir; I was only asking for help,” Boswell then threw his door open and burst out of the car “in an insane rage, running/lunging furiously right at me, like a football tackle gone berserk, and clawing frantically at his gun/holster.”

An anti-death-penalty spokesman who visited Ogan on death row described him as “extremely tense.”

Ogan’s execution was delayed for nearly an hour as the Supreme Court considered late appeals questioning his mental competence.

“I would like to say first of all the real violent crimes in this case are acts committed by James Boswell and Clay Morgan Gaines,” Ogan said in his lengthy last statement. “I am not guilty; I acted in self-defense and reflex in the face of a police officer who was out of control,” he said. Ogan referred to a head injury Boswell had suffered and suggested that he had mental problems. He described Boswell as “filled with anger” and “mad at the world.” The lethal injection was given while Ogan was two minutes into his last statement. At 7:05 p.m., he was still talking about Boswell when he paused briefly to collect his thoughts. The lethal drugs took effect as Ogan then snorted, gasped, and lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at 7:13 p.m.

By David Carson. Originally posted on 20 November 2002. Revised on 5 December 2002.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General’s office, U.S. Fifth Circuit Court documents, Associated Press, Houston Chronicle, letters from Craig Ogan.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Spies,Texas,USA

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2002: Aileen Wuornos, Monster

7 comments October 9th, 2009 Headsman

“Thanks a lot, society, for railroading my ass!”
-Aileen Wuornos

On this date in 2002, the tragically, horrifically iconic serial killer Aileen Wuornos checked out at Florida’s Starke Prison (and into an afterlife as an Academy Award-winning role) with the appropriately bizarre last words,

“I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I’ll be back.”

Her sensational FBI-bestowed reputation as America’s “first” female serial killer rests on exaggeration,* but there’s something of the larger-than-life about prostitute/manslayer Aileen Carol Wuornos.

Heck, Aileen herself sold rights to her story within weeks of her arrest. So did investigators who worked the case. A year before our day’s perp faced lethal injection, her surname titled “the world’s first opera about a lesbian prostitute serial killer survivor of child abuse who is now on death row.” (Here’s the opera’s home page.)

That’s not the sort of legacy usual for a seven-time murderer. But there wasn’t much usual about Aileen Wuornos.

Wuornos — “Lee,” to her friends — projects for all her trail of bodies an irrepressibly humanity; Charlize Theron played her in Monster as the most sympathetic serial killer ever put to celluloid, her crime spree a desperate and impossible cry after human love that her life’s many travails had warped but never drained.

Still professing love for the lover who had sold her out and thereby ducked prosecution, Wuornos resigned her appeals and went her own way out this date in 2002.

Books and Films about Aileen Wuornos

* Or, if you like, a precision of definition not likely shared by the majority of her headline-reading public. What made Wuornos distinctive was killing strangers in a pattern over time; the stereotypical female multiple-murderer kills in a single spree, and/or for distinct pecuniary motives, and/or kills family members or other intimates.

Part of the Themed Set: Women Who Kill.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,21st Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Execution,Florida,Hanged,Infamous,Lethal Injection,Murder,Popular Culture,Ripped from the Headlines,Serial Killers,Sex,USA,Women

Tags: , , , , ,

2002: Sani Yakubu

1 comment January 3rd, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2002, a young murderer from the northern Nigerian state of Katsina became the first person executed under that country’s controversial introduction of sharia law two years before.

Yakubu was convicted of stabbing to death a woman and her children, and according to the BBC was initially to be stabbed to death using the same knife. The sentence was moderated to hanging, perhaps to avoid inflaming sectarian sensibilities.

The introduction in 2000 of sharia in several northern majority-Muslim states of the oil-rich nation has pitted those states against majority-Christian territories to the south in a complex duel of identity politics under the klieg lighting of international human rights pressure.

Yakubu went from a guilty plea to death within three months, apparently because he failed to pursue any form of appeal, which might well have availed him: Nigeria’s federal government has pledged to stay sharia executions. Yakubu is in fact believed to not only be the first Nigerian executed under sharia — but also the last.

(It should be noted that just last month, Amnesty International charged Nigeria with carrying out executions in secret over a period of years. Although there was no explicit sharia connection documented in that expose, such behavior counsels caution with any assertion about recent death penalty activities in Nigeria.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Milestones,Murder,Nigeria,Notable Jurisprudence,Ripped from the Headlines

Tags: , , , , , , ,

2002: ‘Ali bin Hittan bin Sa’id, Muhammad bin Suleyman bin Muhammad, and Muhammad bin Khalil bin ‘Abdullah

1 comment January 1st, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2002, three homosexual men were beheaded with a sword in the resort city of Abha, Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced that the men had “committed acts of sodomy, married each other, seduced young men and attacked those who rebuked them” — suggesting, despite the allusion to molestation, that homosexuality might have been the primary basis for their execution.

The incident created a ripple of worldwide attention and some pungent speculation, but the particulars remain shadowy — not unlike the ambiguous position of gays in Saudi Arabia even in the face of draconian sodomy laws.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Homosexuals,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Saudi Arabia,Sex

Tags: , , , ,


Calendar

April 2019
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930  

Archives

Categories

Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!