3 Men Shot Execution-Style In Birmingham, Alabama

Korde Turner.jpg
Korde Lorodius Turner

Three men shot execution-style in a house in Birmingham, Alabama have now been identified.

The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office has identified the victims as Willie Cornelius Washington, 35, Johnny Kordara Griffin, 24 and Korde Lorodius Turner, 24. All were identified by family members, said Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates.

The bodies were found inside the home at 457 3rd Street North at 12:05 p.m. Monday. They were officially pronounced dead at 12:58 p.m., according to al.com.

al.com writes that Washington was found dead on the floor just inside the front door where it appears he had been sleeping prior to his death. He was lying on a pillow with a blanket on top of him. Griffin and Turner were found lying on couches. Police recovered all three bullets underneath each of the victims, writes al.com.

In 2013, Turner was acquitted for the 2009 murder of another man.  On April 10, 2009, Leroy “Little Fred” Yarbrough was shot in the chest while in the 300 block of Fourth Terrace North in Smithfield.  Turner admitted to shooting Yarbrough in self-defense, and that was his only arrest, according to al.com.

No arrests have been made in the killings, said Birmingham police spokesman Lt. Sean Edwards. Police are looking into several tips.


Is There Censorship Surrounding The Death Penalty?

Due to a European Union ban on selling drugs used in lethal injections, death penalty states now rely on compounding pharmacies, according to Business Insider.

Compounding pharmacies are typically small businesses who produce execution cocktails to order. These compounds are unregulated by the FDA, and their manufacturers are cloaked in secrecy, states ReasonTV.

“Since the 70s, America has tried to sanitize the way it kills people in death chambers by saying that this is an act of medical intervention,” says Ed Pilkington, chief reporter for The Guardian US.

Pilkington describes the botched execution of Clayton Lockett of Oklahoma in April 2014, as related to him by a Guardian colleague who witnessed Lockett’s execution:

“He was groaning, he was shouting out. They were finding it impossible to get the vein, so blood was spurting over all the people in the death chamber, I mean it was the most horrendous situation. And right at that moment they decided to shut the curtain, which would prevent any witnesses, including reporters, from seeing what happened.”

Pilkington calls this the “most visceral form of censorship” and says “there should be maximum transparency.”

He claims the current system has complete secrecy surrounding every step of the execution process, from the sources of the drugs themselves to the grisly reality when those drugs fail to kill the condemned in a timely and painless fashion.

Missouri is one of 13 states to have expanded what are known as “black hood laws,” which are meant to protect the identities of executioners, to now also make confidential everyone involved in the production and delivery of lethal injection drugs. These laws even supersede the Freedom of Information Act.

In response, The Guardian, Associated Press, and several prominent Missouri newspapers have filed suit against the state, in what is believed to be the First Amendment challenge to the death penalty.

The lawsuit argues the public has a First Amendment right to access all information pertaining to government activities in capital cases, beginning in the courtroom, through the death chamber, and into the autopsy room. No court date has been set.


More on Ed Pilkington

Utah Looks At Bringing Back Firing Squads

World War 1 Firing Squad – Serbia

Wouldn’t it make sense just to eliminate the death penalty altogether?

Utah Representative Paul Ray, a Republican, sponsored a bill passed this week by the Utah Legislature that would reinstate firing squads if the state cannot track down lethal injection drugs.

Lethal injection drugs have been hard to come by, since European nations have banned their sale to the U.S. The E.U. has abolished the death penalty.

The Chicago Tribune says that Pharmaceutical companies such as Lake Forest-based Hospira have been pushed by activists and overseas regulators to move to keep their drugs from being co-opted in the executioners’ cocktails. “The well is running dry,” states the Tribune.

According to The Tribune, just in the last week:

•Texas’ pantry is quite nearly bare. The state reportedly is left with a single dose of pentobarbital because European manufacturers of the anesthetic are prohibited from allowing it to be used by prisons.

•Georgia postponed its first execution of a woman in 70 years because the blend to be injected appeared unusually cloudy.

•And, of course, Utah’s legislature sent the governor a bill that would authorize the return of firing squads when the state can’t get its hands on the requisite toxins.

A woman who was married to a bailiff who was injured during a courthouse shooting three decades ago in Utah says she supports Utah’s efforts to bring back the firing squad, writes fox2now.com.

VelDean Kirk witnessed the 2010 firing squad execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner. He was convicted of killing two men and wounding Kirk’s husband, Nick Kirk, during a courthouse escape attempt in 1985 in Salt Lake City.

VelDean Kirk says the firing squad wasn’t inhumane at all.

She shares the opinion of state Representative Ray, who introduced the bill.

Obviously, there are no shortage of ways to end a life and there are various drug cocktails that that can be administered to do so.

But according to the Chicago Tribune, American executions must meet certain standards or run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

More here

(Updated post)

The Death Penalty Of Indonesia

Indonesian police stand guard at Wijaya Pura port as the Bali Nine duo Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran pass through on their way to Nusa Kambangan ahead of their execution.

Last Wednesday, two Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia were taken from their Bali prison to an island where they will be executed.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia said his country was “revolted” by their looming deaths after frantic diplomatic efforts to save them.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug smuggling gang, left Bali’s Kerobokan jail in two armored vehicles and were taken to the airport.

The pair, sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia, were woken up in the early hours and given a few minutes to get ready, said local justice ministry official Nyoman Putra Surya.

They said “thank you” before leaving, and “we handcuffed them and they were quiet” before their transfer on a chartered flight, added Surya.

About 200 police, 50 soldiers and a water cannon were stationed outside the Bali prison as the men, in their early 30s, were driven out, said an AFP reporter.

The two men were being flown to Cilacap, on Java island, and will then be transferred to Nusa Kambangan island, home to several high-security prisons.  The executions take place in a jungle-skirted clearing on Nusa Kambangan.

Officials are yet to announce a date for their executions, but the transfer indicates it is imminent. Authorities must give convicts 72 hours notice before they are put to death.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has repeatedly called for Indonesia not to go ahead with the executions, said Australians were sickened by the developments, according to The Telegraph.

“We frankly are revolted by the prospect of these executions,” he said, adding that “right now millions of Australians are feeling sick in their guts”.

Australia has outlawed the death penalty.

The British newspaper The Guardian states that the two Australians are a part of a group of 11 prisoners being prepared for execution, and “the spotlight has been thrown on the use of the death penalty in the country.”  Dozens more are on death row and the government has declared there will be no mercy for those convicted of drug offenses.

Britain has also outlawed the death penalty.

The Guardian spoke to a police officer who has been part of the firing squad which operates on the prison island, Nusa Kambangan.  The officer is part of a wing of the Indonesian police corps known as the Mobile Brigade (“Brimob”).

His story is one that reveals Indonesia’s justice system and the conflicting emotions of those responsible for upholding the death penalty.

He says that pulling the trigger is the easy part.  The worst part is the human touch, he says, the connection with those who are about to die.  The executioner has to lace the prisoner’s limbs, hands and feet to a cross-shaped pole with thick rope.  The intimacy haunts people, he claims.

In the darkness of the night a light will be shined onto a circle drawn over the prisoner’s heart.

The firing squad, made up of 12 Brimob officers, will be five to 10 meters away and will shoot their M-16s when given the order.

“The mental burden is heavier for the officers that are responsible for handling the prisoners rather than shooting them,” he says. “Because those officers are involved in picking them up, and tying their hands together, until they are gone.”

The brigade carries out the executions on top of its regular duties, claims The Guardian.

Five Brimob officers are assigned to each prisoner, to escort them from the isolation cells in the middle of the night and accompany them to the clearing.

One team is assigned to escort and shackle the prisoners, a second team is the firing squad.

The officer says prisoners can “decide if they want to cover their face” before they are tied up.  They are tied up to make sure their heart or the position of their body does not move.

Using a thick rope known as “tali tambang” in Indonesian, the officer says he avoids speaking to the prisoners when he binds their hands behind their back and onto the poles, kneeling or standing as they wish.  He treats the prisoners gently.

“I don’t make conversation with the prisoners. I treat them like they are a member of my own family,” he claims. “I say only, ‘I’m sorry, I am just doing the job.'”

He says that by the time he escorts the prisoners from their cells to the clearing “they are resigned to their fate…”

There’s a limit to the number of executions an officer can take, states The Guardian.

When asked whether shooting someone in this way takes a psychological toll, the man says, “If we do the executions once or twice it is not a problem, but if we have to do it many times we will certainly be subject to psychological problems.”

Search Continues For Unbiased Jury In Tsarnaev Trial

How selecting a jury really works

The courts are in the process of choosing the jury for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev is an accused terrorist.  Authorities say he and his brother set off two pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

The courts need to walk a fine line when selecting a jury, because this case may involve the death penalty.

Massachusetts abolished the death penalty more than 30 years ago and last carried out a death sentence in 1947, according to CNN.  Some claim that Boston has a brutal, eye-for-an-eye past and the jury may choose execution.

This case is not a state case, but rather a federal case and the death penalty is still allowed.

There’s ambivalence about capital punishment in Boston’s DNA, and that makes picking a jury to decide Tsarnaev’s fate all the more challenging.

So the state might not have the death penalty, but the feds do.  His crimes, if he is convicted, include the murder of an 8-year-old boy – raising the bar for heinousness and cruelty.

The people with the strongest opinions – those on the extreme ends of the juror questionnaire rating scale – are the least likely to make the jury.

A 2013 poll by the Boston Globe showed that just a third of Boston’s residents favor the death penalty for Tsarnaev; two-thirds would choose life in prison as his sentence.

It’s a story that has been underscored, one by one, by those called to serve on Tsarnaev’s jury. They sit at the end of a long wooden conference table, surrounded by lawyers and a jury consultant as they answer questions posed by U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole. When he is finished, he passes the prospect off to the lawyers. CNN claims that with many potential jurors, their body language says “deer in the headlights.”

Many have difficulty with the question.

It has taken 19 days of juror interviews to reach this point: The court announced Friday that it expects to empanel a jury early next week. The trial itself, with opening statements and the first witnesses, is expected to begin the week of March 2.

Massachusetts as a state hasn’t executed anyone since 1947 and wiped the death penalty off its books in 1984. But its past is far more varied. It was one of the first colonies to carry out the death penalty, hanging murderer John Billington in Plymouth in 1630. In all, Massachusetts has executed 345 people. Until 1951, first-degree murder carried a mandatory death sentence, and some Tsarnaev jury prospects who still think that is the case.

Indeed, the executions in Massachusetts seem to reflect the worst fears of their times. Mary Dyer was one the so-called “Boston martyrs” hanged in 1660 under a law that banned Quakers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Then came the pirates and witches: 19 women were hanged in 1692 alone in the infamous Salem witch trials. Two Italian-born anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were executed in the electric chair in 1927 amid a huge public outcry spurred by writers, academics and celebrities of the time; many people believed them innocent.

CNN: Jordan May Get More Involved Against ISIS

According to CNN, the recent execution of Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh being burned alive was different than the previously publicized executions of journalists and tourists: the victim was a Muslim.

Al-Kasasbeh was from a prominent Sunni tribal family in Jordan, and his killing has sparked outrage.

Support in Jordan for King Abdullah’s involvement in the anti-ISIS coalitions is now stronger than before, according to CNN.  There has also been outrage across the Sunni Arab world, with the head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious center of learning, reportedly calling for ISIS fighters to be crucified.

The video of the execution was a calculated move by ISIS to weaken the resolve of Jordan and other Sunni Arab powers that have joined the U.S.-led coalition against the terror group.

However, early signs indicate the video, which may have been shot up to a month ago, has had the opposite result, creating a significant backlash from Sunnis in the region.

Spreading propaganda terror has worked before for ISIS, allowing it to punch above its weight.

Prior to launching an assault on Mosul in June, the group released a series of videos showing the militants brutalizing and killing Iraqi soldiers they had captured. It put the scare in the Iraqi army. When ISIS fighters attacked Mosul, Iraqi soldiers turned and fled despite greatly outnumbering the attackers.

The release of the video to coincide with Jordanian King Abdullah II’s visit to the United States may have been deliberate — the optics of the Jordanian King in Washington served ISIS’ narrative of the kingdom being a puppet for the “Crusaders.”

While the video has rallied ISIS’ most hard-line supporters and will likely help persuade some foreign fighters to join it, it is also likely to shrink its potential pool of recruits.

The reality is that burning to death a fellow Muslim is at odds with mainstream Islamic teaching and even some ISIS sympathizers may have second thoughts. It’s a point underscored in November when Sulaimaan Samuel, a mentor in a UK Home Office scheme to prevent radicalization, said ISIS’ beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning was putting off young British Muslims from joining the group.

In the long run, ISIS’ brutality is not a winning strategy, as al Qaeda has recognized. Exactly a year before the release of the video of the Jordanian pilot being burned alive, al Qaeda’s general command cut ties to ISIS for its excess brutality and killing of Muslims.

In the coming weeks, Jordan is likely to step up its air campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But its greatest contribution to the anti-ISIS coalition will likely be its significant intelligence gathering capabilities in those two countries, which we can expect to be expanded. Jordan intelligence played a key role in gathering intelligence that led to the U.S. airstrike that killed Jordanian ISIS founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq in June 2006.

Of course, such expanded action carries the risk that ISIS will retaliate with attacks in Jordan. The executions of Sajida al-Rishawi, an ISIS female icon who was part of a team that killed almost 60 in hotels in Amman in 2005, and Ziad Karbouli, an al-Zarqawi aide captured in 2006, has deeply angered the group.

Jordan already has a significant home-grown radicalization problem — as many as 2,000 Jordanians are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight, many with ISIS. Meanwhile, several Jordanian fighters appeared in an ISIS video released last year calling for King Abdullah to be slaughtered.

Also, last summer there were significant pro-ISIS demonstrations in Zarqa (Al Qaeda leader al-Zarqawi’s birthplace) and Ma’an by extremists excited by ISIS’ declaration of an Islamic caliphate.

Altogether, there are an estimated 9,000 pro-jihadi extremists in Jordan, according to The Associated Press, and analysts fear that number is growing due to high unemployment and other socioeconomic problems that are creating a fertile atmosphere for recruitment. Another worry is the presence of extremists among the 620,000 Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan.

All that said, the picture in Jordan is not all bad — its overwhelmingly Sunni population at least has meant there is relatively little sectarian tension. And the brutal burning to death of one of their own has also mobilized Jordan’s conservative tribes against ISIS.

Are Firing Squads Making A Return In Utah?

Last Wednesday, the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee in Utah voted 9-2 to approve legislation that would bring back firing squads for executions.

The bill, which will likely head to the full legislature early next year, would mandate a court hearing prior to an execution, in which a judge would determine whether the state had sufficient drugs to carry out a lethal injection. If the judge ruled that there were insufficient drugs, a firing squad would be mandated.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, State Rep. Paul Ray says the state currently doesn’t use them.

TYT video.