2007: Jafar Kiani, stoned

Add comment July 5th, 2015 Headsman

On this date in 2007, Jafar Kiani was stoned to death in Iran for committing “adultery while married” with Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, by whom Kiani had two children. She was condemned to the same death, for the same crime.

Ma’iz b. Malik al-Aslami came to Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Allah’s Messenger, I have wronged myself; I have committed adultery and I earnestly desire that you should purify me … a ditch was dug for him and he (the Holy Prophet) pronounced judgment about him and he was stoned.

… There came to him (the Holy Prophet) a woman from Ghamid and said: Allah’s Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me. … He said: Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child). When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: Here is the child whom I have given birth to. He said: Go away and suckle him until you wean him. When she had weaned him, she came to him (the Holy Prophet) with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: Allah’s Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food. He (the Holy Prophet) entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her. Khalid b Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her. Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) heard his (Khalid’s) curse that he had huried upon her. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven. Then giving command regarding her, he prayed over her and she was buried.

-one of many hadiths to sanction stoning (the Quran does not do so explicitly)

A frighteningly primitive form of execution, stoning is a legally prescribed form of execution for extramarital concupiscience in Iran.

“Article 102 — An adulterous man shall be buried in a ditch up to near his waist and an adulterous woman up to near her chest and then stoned to death.” (

Such sentences were implemented fairly widely in the immediate aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, when sharia strictures were inscribed in law. (Human Rights Watch estimates that the Islamic Republic has conducted at least 70 executions by stoning since its birth in 1979, though reckonings of double that figure or more can also be had. Iran has not exactly prioritized transparency in this area.)

In the 21st century, however, Iran has distinctly toned down stoning executions.

The head of Iran’s judiciary announced in 2002 what was widely reported as a “moratorium” or even a “ban” on stonings.

It is obvious from Kiani’s execution that this directive did not carry absolute authority; with a pair of 2009 stonings, a judiciary spokesman explained that the so-called moratorium was merely an “advisory”, and that “judges are independent.” Kiani’s execution was justified on the grounds that the Supreme Court had approved the sentence.

Amnesty International reported at least six stonings from 2006 to 2009, but the independence of local judges has not since that time sufficed to overcome Tehran’s growing reservations about the controversial punishment. It appears that Iran has not carried out any known stonings from 2010 onward, which was right around the time worldwide outcry saved adulteress Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from death by stoning. (She was eventually released altogether.)

Nevertheless, the stoning laws have remained on the books, and people are still being sentenced to be buried in a hole and lethally pelted with rocks. Iran explored removing stoning from its penal codes altogether in 2012, but the Guardian Council reportedly rescued stoning and the final version of that legislation in 2013 retained the option.

Jafar Kiani’s lover Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, who had also been languishing under the same sentence for 11 long years at the time of Kiani’s execution, was, at least, a beneficiary of Iran’s growing reticence to implement such sentences. Campaigners were able to win her release in March 2008.

Elahe Amani discusses stoning in Iran in a 2013 podcast here.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Gruesome Methods,History,Iran,Ripped from the Headlines,Sex,Stoned

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2007: Daryl Holton, wanted dead

Add comment September 12th, 2014 Headsman

Daryl Holton went to the Tennessee electric chair.

Holton was an depressive Gulf War veteran with an acrid relationship with his ex-wife Crystle.

Bitter at being kept from his children for weeks on end, Holton picked up his three kids and their half-sister on November 30, 1997 and told them they’d be going Christmas shopping.

According to the confession that he gave when he turned himself in later that night, he instead drove them to an auto repair shop in Shelbyville, where he shot them in two pairs by having first Stephen and Brent (aged 12 and 10) and then Eric and Kayla (aged 6 and 4) stand front-to-back facing away from him, then efficiently shot them unawares through the back with an SKS. (Eric and Kayla played elsewhere while the older boys were murdered. Eric was hearing-impaired.)

“They didn’t suffer,” Holton would tell his shocked interrogators that night. “There was no enjoyment to it at all.”

The original plan was to complete a family hecatomb by proceeding to murder Crystle and her boyfriend, and then commit suicide. But on the drive over, Holton lost his zest for the enterprise, smoked a joint, and just went straight to the police where he announced that he was there to report “homicide times four.”

Holton had a light trial defense focused on disputing his rationality and competence at the time of the murders — a theme that appellate lawyers would attempt to return to, hindered significantly by Holton’s refusal to aid them or to participate in legal maneuvers that would prevent his execution. A spiritual advisor reported him at peace with his impending death: “He’s very clear, very focused.”

Holton is met in depth in the 2008 documentary Robert Blecker Wants Me Dead, detailing his remarkable relationship — even friendship — with vociferous death penalty proponent Robert Blecker.

Holton’s was Tennesee’s first electrocution in 47 years and, as of this writing, its last. The Volunteer State subsequently removed electrocution from its statutes altogether — but in 2014 it re-adopted the electric chair as a backup option in view of the nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Electrocuted,Execution,History,Murder,Tennessee,USA,Volunteers

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2007: John Joe “Ash” Amador

4 comments August 29th, 2013 Headsman

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.

On this day..

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

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2007: Taha Yasin Ramadan, Iraqi Vice-President

1 comment March 20th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 2007, Saddam Hussein‘s former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was hanged for helping conduct the 1982 Dujail Massacre of Shia Iraqis in revenge for an assassination plot against Saddam.

Pushing 70, the Kurd was a longtime pillar of the Iraqi Ba’ath party and had served in a variety of posts since it took power in 1968. For instance, he brought his management expertise to the Ministry of Industry: “I don’t know anything about industry. All I know is that anyone who doesn’t work hard will be executed.”

He was noted for his role in orchestrating Saddam Hussein’s terrifying 1979 internal purge.

While the first operations of America’s 2003 invasion took place on March 19, it was March 20, 2003 local time that the land invasion proper commenced. That made Ramadan’s execution a fourth-anniversary gift to the occupier’s preposterous foreign policy blunder.

Which was all too bad, since Ramadan had also floated a 2002 plan to avert conflict: have Saddam Hussein fight a duel with George W. Bush. Of course, the offer was declined. “An irresponsible statement,” replied the spokesman of a government that was at that moment engaged in a mendacious campaign to justify its coming aggressive war with creative fables about Iraq’s nuclear capacity.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Crimes Against Humanity,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Iraq,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Ripped from the Headlines,USA,Wartime Executions

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2007: Majid and Hossein Kavousifar

6 comments August 2nd, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 2007, cousins Majid and Hossein Kavousifar (or Kavoosifar, or Kavoosi-far) were publicly hanged in Tehran for murdering a judge.

The judge in question had been noted for clapping some democracy activists in jail, but the authorities insisted that the case wasn’t political — that Majid admitted targeting Hassan Moghaddas (whose outsized portrait grotesquely decorated the scene) in a personal vendetta, as well as killing a couple of other people in a string of robberies.

The first public executions in the capital in five years, these hangings attracted an ample crowd, amply armed with the ubiquitous digital media equipment that characterizes our age.


Age-appropriate entertainment? A spectator at the hanging.

And while the 24-year-old Hossein died in fright, 28-year-old Majid played to those onlookers in the most insouciant execution pictures you’ll ever want to see.

Warning: Graphic images (and video) follow. (Many more can be searched up around the web.)

… and the inevitable video.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Iran,Mature Content,Murder,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines

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2007: Christopher Newton

Add comment May 24th, 2011 Headsman

After Christopher Newton’s death in Lucasville, Ohio by lethal injection on this day in 2007, his attorney read a prepared last statement that apologized for the murder of a fellow inmate: “If I could take it back, I would.”

But the evidence of the “bizarre” execution says Newton was right where he wanted to be.

From the time the obese career criminal (pdf) garroted his cellmate in 2001,* he cooperated with investigators only to the extent that cooperation would grease the wheels of that so-called machinery of death. The entire thing was engineered to get Newton his last parole.

It still took him over five years to land on a gurney, but if you think that’s inefficient, get a load of the execution itself.

For going on two hours, the injection team poked and prodded at Newton’s veins in vain, trying to squeeze a lethal shunt into its gargantuan subject.

“We have told the team to take their time,” read a sign that a prison spokesperson held up in the hush-hush viewing chamber an hour into this discomfiting procedure. “His size is creating a problem.”

Minutes later, the 19-stone condemned man got a bathroom break during his own execution.

So far as anyone could see, the delay was anything but agony for Newton, who was generally observed smiling, laughing, and chatting it up with the prison personnel who were struggling to kill him. Finally, they managed to do it — an achievement which Ohio has latterly demonstrated is by no means a given.

* And allegedly drank some of Jason Brewer’s blood to boot, though this claim proceeding from a man who was intentionally pursuing a death sentence merits skepticism.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Gallows Humor,Lethal Injection,Murder,Ohio,Ripped from the Headlines,USA,Volunteers

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2007: Ajmal Naqshbandi, Fixer

4 comments April 8th, 2010 Headsman

On this date in 2007, the Taliban beheaded hostage Ajmal Naqshbandi, an Afghan “fixer” who arranged local contacts for foreign journalists.

Naqshbandi had been pinched on March 6 with La Repubblica writer Daniele Mastrogiacomo while both were out on a story together, even though Naqshbandi himself had set up Taliban interviews before.*

Quiet negotiations over several weeks produced a swap that would free the scribes, but a last-minute breach by the authorities — who decided not to return one of the agreed-upon prisoners — caused the Taliban to hang onto the Fixer. (Mastrogiacomo was set free. The man who was driving these two had been beheaded at the outset to prove the captors meant business.)

The story wasn’t quiet any longer, and as it mushroomed into a worldwide cause celebre with a scramble to save Ajmal, the Taliban evidently perceived a political advantage in butchering its hostage.

Success! Afghan President Hamid Karzai looked like a total stooge, willing to ransom a foreigner but not an Afghan.

So, for that matter, did the Italian government, which got it from both sides for being abject enough to deal with terrorists in the first place, and then ignoble enough once it did so to bail out its own national while letting his local partner die.

Naqshbandi is the subject of the (aptly titled) documentary Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (review).

Fellow-hostage Daniele Mastrogiacomo wrote this book about the ordeal.

The film follows Ajmal’s work with journalist Christian Parenti.

Doug Henwood of Left Business Observer interviewed Christian Parenti in the second half of this August 2009 episode from his (highly recommended, though rarely death penalty-related) WBAI radio program/podcast Behind the News, with intriguing coverage of the political context and the role of Pakistani intelligence:

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(Another leftist outlet, Democracy Now!, interviewed Parenti here.)

Pretty brutal.

But then, war is hell for journalists.

* “This work is very dangerous,” Naqshbandi said a few months before his death. “I bring one enemy to meet another.”

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Afghanistan,Arts and Literature,Beheaded,Borderline "Executions",Cycle of Violence,Execution,History,Hostages,Innocent Bystanders,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Political Expedience,Power,Ripped from the Headlines,Scandal,Wartime Executions

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2007: Seven Tuareg and Arab civilians

Add comment December 9th, 2009 Headsman

On this date two years ago, seven civilians were apparently summarily executed by Niger security forces in that country’s long-running internal conflict with its Tuareg population.

Extrajudicial executions have been a recurring event (among the other usual charms of warfare) in Niger’s fight against the Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice (MNJ).

Amnesty International charged that these were among 13 civilians executed in a four-week span, possibly in retaliation for MNJ armed attacks.

A close relative of one of the dead told Amnesty International: “We were waiting for our relatives in Agadez when we saw their vehicles arrive driven by soldiers. We asked them where our relatives were. They refused to answer and then, as we insisted, they agreed to drive us to the place where the seven were buried.”

The people who identified the bodies said that they saw numerous signs on the victims of cigarette burns and whipping as well as many bullet wounds to the face and chest.

The nomadic Tuareg people of Niger’s (and neighboring Mali’s) northern Sahara territories have a long-running history of rebellion against the southerly federal government stretching back into the colonial period. (There’s a very detailed pdf paper on the subject here.)

These executions, which also swept up Arab businessmen, were part of the most recent (as of this writing) incarnation, a 2007-2009 campaign that seems ostensibly to have simmered down for now.

But the lucrative, contentious, and damaging (to the Tuareg) uranium mining industry that fuels the conflict (and that put Niger in the American news for the Bush administration’s duplicitous attempt to impute nuclear ambitions to Iraq in order to justify invading) still remains … and that fact seems to promise more bloodshed yet to come.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Borderline "Executions",Businessmen,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Innocent Bystanders,Mass Executions,Niger,No Formal Charge,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Summary Executions

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2007: Five women in Hoiryeong Public Stadium

Add comment October 7th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2007, according to the Daily NK, five women were publicly tried, then immediately shot, in Hoiryeong Public Stadium in North Korea’s North Hamkyung province.

Their crime, “prostitution”, is supposed to be a euphemism for aiding refugees escaping to China in the area that also generated an infamous execution film broadcast on Japanese television in 2005. (And other death sentences earlier in 2007. North Korea is not enthusiastic about escapees.)

As usual with the insular state, details are hard to come by. The North Korean Human Rights Infringement Center claimed Pyongyang carried out 901 public executions in 2007; that figure would potentially make it the world’s #2 (after China) death penalty user, though Amnesty International doesn’t even venture a tally of North Korean executions.

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Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Known But To God,Korea,Mass Executions,North Korea,Power,Public Executions,Shot,Women

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2007: Michael Richard, whose time ran out

3 comments September 25th, 2009 Headsman

Two years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court unexpectedly accepted a case, Baze v. Rees, challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection — the supposedly humane execution method that seemed less and less so.

Texas inmate Michael Richard, condemned for raping and murdering Marguerite Dixon in 1986, was slated to die that very evening, also by lethal injection.

As Richard’s Texas Defender Service lawyers scrambled to prepare a last-minute legal challenge based on the pending Supreme Court case — for how could Texas carry out a procedure whose constitutionality was in question? — they tripped over an unexpected stretch of red tape that ultimately claimed their client’s life:

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals closed at 5 p.m. on the day of the scheduled 6 p.m. execution, and refused to accept an appeal filed a few minutes after 5.

Or more specifically, Judge Sharon Keller refused to accept the appeal, for which she came under immediate fire — and launched campaigns like the website SharonKiller.com.

This bizarre situation, complicated by the fact that the Lone Star State did not have written rules for handling last-minute appeals (it does now), has a thicket of procedural detail best appreciated by lawyers.

But it caught worldwide attention as an illustration of Texas’s cavalier approach to its numerous death penalty cases.

Keller, who has what you might say is an inordinate regard for “finality” (and for prosecutors), has herself been forced to defend her conduct in hearings of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Those hearings could result in her removal from the bench over this incident; a decision is expected soon. (Update: She skated.)

Though it was not completely clear for a few more weeks, it was in fact true that the pending Baze decision suspended the death penalty in the United States. As a result, Michael Richard — whose execution would have been stayed had the appeal entered the judicial system — was the last American put to death until May of 2008.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Notable Participants,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Rape,Ripped from the Headlines,Texas,USA

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