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.

On this day..

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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2007: Duan Yihe, mistress-murderer

3 comments September 5th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 2007, former senior Chinese lawmaker Duan Yihe was executed in Jinan along with the policeman nephew who had helped him spectacularly assassinate Duan’s mistress just two months before.

Taking up with a teenager 30 years his junior must have been an appealing perk of the job when Duan Yihe was a rising official in the early 1990’s.

Fast forward 14 years, and he’s in for several cars, a couple of apartments, and tired of the now 31-year-old Liu Haiping, who’s blackmailing him for more. Much less appealing.

Solution?

Why, detonate a remote-controlled explosive in her car.

“The blast was so powerful that her Honda sedan was ripped apart, her lower body was destroyed and her torso landed 30 metres away,” reported The Times.

The case helped crystallize growing official concern with the corrupting potential of senior officials’ ubiquitous mistresses. The day before the car-bombing, the Chinese Supreme Court issued a ruling extending anti-graft laws to mistresses.

The method of execution (either gunshot or — more likely — lethal injection) was not publicized.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Murder,Politicians,Ripped from the Headlines,Scandal,Sex

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2007: Not Earl Wesley Berry … for the time being

1 comment October 30th, 2008 Headsman

Minutes before he was to die this day last year, the lethal injection of Mississippi murderer Earl Wesley Berry was stayed by the Supreme Court — the signal that it had imposed a de facto moratorium on executions while it considered the constitutionality of lethal injection.

Condemned to die for kidnapping and beating to death Mary Bounds in 1987, Berry was your basic unappealing death row case with no particular issue either substantive or technical likely to help him out in the courts.

Luckily for Berry, the fundamental issue of whether whether the lethal injection regime used in Mississippi and in most of the United States was cruel and unusual punishment had reached the high court at just time time.

Also luckily, the phone lines were open: Berry got his reprieve with about 15 or 20 minutes to spare.

Berry’s stay finally clarified a few weeks of uncertainty that prevailed after the Court took last year’s lethal injection challenge, Baze v. Rees.

Could executions still go forward while lethal injection was under review? Would the holdup be limited to Kentucky, where the appeal originated? Was there any manner of case-by-case flexibility?

Berry was the bellwether. The execution-friendly Fifth Circuit Court let Berry’s scheduled date go ahead, making the hapless killer “the last best chance for prosecutors to restart executions this year [2007].”

But Earl Wesley Berry’s luck was only about seven months long: he was executed on May 21, 2008, the second prisoner put to death after the moratorium expired upon the Court’s rejection of Baze.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Execution,Kidnapping,Last Minute Reprieve,Lethal Injection,Lucky to be Alive,Mississippi,Murder,Not Executed,USA

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2007: Five young men

1 comment October 25th, 2008 Headsman

Last year on this date, according to a Deutsche Presse-Agentur report of the Syrian news service, five youths were publicly hanged in Aleppo, Syria.

Syria executed five youths by hanging in a public square on Thursday after they were convicted of murder and robbery, the Syrian news agency reported.

The hanging was carried out in Bab al-Faraj, a public square in the centre of the city of Aleppo, 350 kilometres north of Damascus, in the early hours on Thursday, according to the agency.


Bab al-Faraj square.

A military court had convicted the men, aged between 18 and 23, of premeditated murder for the purpose of committing robbery, according to the online news service, Syriano.

Syrian human rights groups have called for the abolition of military courts, which were installed under emergency law in 1963.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Known But To God,Mass Executions,Murder,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Syria,Theft

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2007: A factory manager in a packed stadium

2 comments October 5th, 2008 Headsman

Last year on this day, six people were reportedly trampled to death when a massive crowd stampeded after watching the execution of a 75-year-old factory manager in North Korea.

The man, who is not named in English-language sources I’ve perused, had fabricated his father’s past as a good Communist when in fact dad worked to suppress the reds. That con kept the family among North Korea’s privileged elite for years.

According to the South Korean nonprofit Good Friends, he faced a snap tribunal and immediate execution in Suncheon this day, in a stadium with 150,000-plus* onlookers, part of a campaign of stepped-up public executions that Good Friends says (.doc) has been driven by the insular country’s decade-long famine. (See another one — illicitly filmed graphic video included — here.)

And he wasn’t the only one to depart the premises in a body bag. The stampede is said to have occurred after the proceedings as spectators were leaving; the cause, if there was one, is sketchily described, although some news reports call it a “melee.” Thirty-four others were reportedly injuried in the crush.

* The figure 170,000 is also cited.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Known But To God,Korea,North Korea,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot,Summary Executions

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2007: Frank Duane Welch, a cold case CSI caught

Add comment August 21st, 2008 Headsman

One year ago today, justice was served better late than never, courtesy of the crime lab.

The 1987 rape and murder of Jo Talley Cooper, a pregnant 28-year-old Norman woman killed while her infant son lay unharmed in the next room, had stood unsolved for a decade.

Coincidentally — unluckily for Frank Duane Welch — forensic DNA testing was just coming online during that decade. A match in another case led the database to its culprit, in the Cooper murder and a similar crime around the same time.

Apart from the manner of his capture — and the incidental minor distinction of being the last person killed in Oklahoma’s busy death chamber before the 2007-2008 execution moratorium due to court challenges to lethal injection — Welch is an almost wholly unremarkable character, central casting for the modern American death row, a paragon of the banality undergirding appalling, life-shattering crimes.

The penpal site of the Canadian Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty still preserves Welch’s c. 1999 appeal for correspondence:

My name is Frank Duane Welch, I am a 38 yr. old white male who is confined on Death Row within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. I enjoy watching numerous sporting events, such as football, baseball, tennis and rodeo. Here on Death Row we have only two options of exercise, basketball or handball. I try and take advantage of both in order to stay in shape. Besides sports, I enjoy a good book, novels mostly. My tastes in music are first country and then some light rock, no heavy metal. My educational background consists of a bachelors degree in Animal Science. Now as for what I am looking for in a pen pal. I am looking for a friend, age not important. One who is willing to be straight forward with me, no games. For I will be straightforward with them. I need someone who is willing to help me both emotionally and financially. Someone who, when I am having a bad day, is willing to listen and give support. I am a proud man, but it is hard being alone in this place, no one to share your thoughts and feelings with. For this is the reason I have written this letter. If you are willing to accept me as I am and not hold my faults against me, I would love to hear from you.

According to the macabre* blog Dead Man Eating, Welch checked out with a belly full of pizza and a two-liter Coke, tritely last-wording:

There is nothing that can change the horrible thing I done. There is nothing that can change that. I take full responsibility for what I done. I am truly, truly sorry for all the hurt and pain I have caused you. I take full responsibility for what I’ve done. There’s no excuse for it. There never was. It was just me.

I love y’all. God bless y’all. I’m ready.

Maybe that’s as much closure as one can have in this world. That infant child who survived the horror had grown into a 20-year-old man who had never known his mother. Travis Cooper’s testimony at the clemency board hearing helped seal Welch’s fate.

It would be different if my mother would have died of natural causes. It would be different if it was God’s will, but the truth is that an evil man named Frank Welch took her life … And the unspeakable things he did to her, my mother, is what fills me with anger, the pain, and the loneliness that I feel to this day.

“None of this will ever bring my mom back,” Cooper told reporters after the execution. “I miss my mom.”

* Pot. Kettle. Black.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Lethal Injection,Murder,Notable Sleuthing,Oklahoma,Rape,USA

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2007: Not Sina Paymard, saved by a flute

July 18th, 2008 Headsman

On this date one year ago, a teenager who saved himself with a flute cheated Iran’s hangman by the narrowest of margins.

Sina Paymard had had the hemp about his throat the previous fall for murdering — at the tender age of 16 — a drug dealer in a pot buy gone bad.

The bipolar young musician’s last request was to play the ney (a Persian flute), and in a feat fit for legend, he played so movingly that the family of the victim reprieved him.

This power under Islamic sharia law comes with a price: the reprieve bought time for the families to negotiate alternative financial compensation known as diyeh. Come July, the lad’s family was still $90,000 short, and he was shifted to Tehran’s Evin prison to do the whole thing over again.

Sina’s new execution date received worldwide attention:

… helping them scrape together enough from donors (“notably a substantial donation from a university lecturer”) to make good his escape.

Such are the vicissitudes of the Iranian judiciary that Paymard went from all but dancing on air twice to outright liberty: he’s a free man today, or was as of a few months ago.

Though things worked out for Sina Paymard, other juvenile offenders continue to face the ultimate sanction in Iran — virtually the last outpost of the practice on the globe. Earlier this month, StopChildExecutions.com detailed 138 Iranian prisoners condemned for crimes committed as children; Iran has executed at least two such prisoners this year.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Artists,Capital Punishment,Children,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Execution,Hanged,Iran,Last Minute Reprieve,Lucky to be Alive,Murder,Not Executed,Pardons and Clemencies,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines

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2007: Zheng Xiaoyu, former Director of the State Food and Drug Administration

10 comments July 10th, 2008 Headsman

One year ago today, China made to clean up its image — with public health advocates, if not with human rights advocates — by executing* its former Food and Drugs minister for economic crimes.

Zheng Xiaoyu, China’s drug regulation capo from 1994 to 2005 and only (“only”?) the fourth minister-level official to be put to death in China since the immediate aftermath of Mao Zedong’s reign, was sentenced for extracting bribes from pharmaceutical companies he nominally regulated in exchange for approving their worthless and/or unsafe products.

One bogus antibiotic he rubber-stamped killed ten in China before it was pulled from the market, but it was dangerous Chinese products exported abroad — including lethal pet food ingredients to the United States and a cough syrup that killed dozens in Panama — that lit a fire under the export-driven colossus. The court that rejected his appeal explicitly referenced Zheng’s danger to China’s international reputation — simultaneously shifting focus from structural weaknesses by individualizing them to Zheng’s personal failings.

Zheng Xiaoyu hears his death sentence.

On this same day it announced Zheng’s death, China anxiously unveiled plans to safeguard the food supply for its upcoming turn under the Olympic klieg lights. That acid test is now upon it: opening ceremonies are mere weeks away as of this writing.

It may have been a politically-driven execution and an unusually heavy sentence, but Zheng’s passing was exulted in China. Someone even tried to put his name on a rat poison — rejected for that most distinguished reason of modern capitalism, Zheng’s own intellectual property in his name.

For an interesting dive into the social and legal currents surrounding this case, check out this .pdf edition of Criminal Bar Quarterly.

* The method of execution was not announced, and to my knowledge has not been conclusively documented. Gunshot was the longtime standby for Chinese executions, but China has shifted heavily towards lethal injection in recent years; it’s generally assumed that Zheng suffered the latter fate.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Capital Punishment,China,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Infamous,Lethal Injection,Notable Jurisprudence,Pelf,Politicians,Ripped from the Headlines,Scandal

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2007: 23 Shia hostages

Add comment January 7th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2007, during Iraq’s sectarian civil war, Sunni gunmen avenged the execution of Saddam Hussein by hanging 23 Shia hostages in Baghdad’s Haifa Street.

It was but one instance of retaliatory violence ensuing upon the former dictator’s hanging Dec. 30, with scores killed around the country — many in a similar fashion.

London’s Telegraph reports:

The residents of the city’s Haifa Street will long remember the events of Sunday morning. As shop owners raised their shutters and stall holders set out their stock, three minibuses roared to a halt.

Gunmen jumped out and pulled blindfolded prisoners on to the street. Ropes were tied to lampposts and electricity poles. Those hostages who resisted were shot. Others who were still alive had nooses tied around their necks and were then suspended in mid air to choke to death.

All were left hanging, and the victims received little sympathy from those who witnessed the events.

“We watched as all these blindfolded men were hung up and some were shot in the head,” Imad Atwan, a supermarket worker said.

“Altogether there were 23 bodies. We are all Sunni people here so we supported the gunmen. Some of them are the guards of our neighbourhood.”

The discoveries were not limited to Haifa Street. People murdered in the same way had been found in Al Doura district and Amriya, in western Baghdad.

The interior ministry estimates that 200 Iraqis were taken hostage after Saddam was sentenced to death.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,God,Hanged,Hostages,Innocent Bystanders,Iraq,Known But To God,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Ripped from the Headlines,Shot

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