California Prosecutors Again Seek Death for Scott Peterson

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Northern California prosecutors said Friday they will again seek the death penalty for Scott Peterson in the slaying of his pregnant wife and unborn son nearly 19 years ago, even as a county judge considers throwing out his underlying conviction because of a tainted juror. Stanislaus County Assistant District Attorney Dave Harris announced that it is prosecutors’ intention to retry the penalty phase of the case, spokesman John Goold said after a court hearing. He said prosecutors otherwise won’t comment or discuss the decision. Peterson, 47, wearing a buzz haircut and a mask designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, appeared remotely in the Modesto courtroom from San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco, home to the state’s death row. District Attorney Birgit Fladager acted after the California Supreme Court in August overturned Peterson’s 2005 death sentence in a case that attracted worldwide attention. The state’s high court upheld his conviction in that ruling. But the same justices in October ordered a new hearing in San Mateo Superior Court to determine whether his underlying murder conviction must also be tossed out if a juror committed “prejudicial misconduct.” “He’s innocent—an innocent man’s been sitting in jail for 15 years. It’s time to get him out,” attorney Pat Harris told reporters outside the courtroom in explaining why he is again taking the case. He also was on Peterson’s original trial team alongside celebrity attorney Mark Geragos. Janey Peterson, his sister-in-law, said the family is looking forward to his new day in court. “We still need justice for Laci, Connor and Scott,” she told reporters. “We don’t have justice for Laci with Scott on death row, because Scott is innocent.” Peterson was convicted in San Mateo Superior Court after his trial was moved from Stanislaus County due to the massive pre-trial publicity that followed the Christmas Eve 2002 disappearance of 27-year-old Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant with their unborn son, Connor. Investigators say Peterson took the bodies from their Modesto home and dumped them from his fishing boat into San Francisco Bay, where they surfaced months later. The Supreme Court said his death sentence could not stand because potential jurors were improperly dismissed from the jury pool after saying they personally disagreed with the death penalty but would be willing to follow the law and impose it. In the second ruling, it ordered a San Mateo judge to decide whether the conviction itself must be overturned because one juror failed to disclose that she had sought a restraining order in 2000 against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. The juror said in seeking the order that she feared for her unborn child. The San Mateo judge will have to decide if that was juror misconduct, and if so if it was so prejudicial that a new trial is warranted. Pat Harris said he was “sandbagged” by prosecutors’ surprisingly swift announcement that they would again seek the death penalty, and said he needs to consult with Peterson before agreeing to put off the penalty phase until the judge decides whether to throw out underlying conviction. They set a new court appearance for Nov. 6. “It’s been 15 long years, and as you can imagine there are ups and downs, but overall he was very happy that the court is basically taking a look at the motions, taking a look at the evidence, and has given him two separate chances here. So we’re excited about that,” Pat Harris said of Peterson’s reaction to the high court’s dual rulings. Peterson was convicted of first-degree murder of his wife and second-degree murder of his unborn son. Peterson was arrested after Amber Frey, a massage therapist living in Fresno, told police that they began dating a month before his wife’s death, but that he had told her his wife was dead. Despite throwing out the death penalty, the Supreme Court said there was considerable incriminating circumstantial evidence against Peterson, including that he researched ocean currents, bought a boat without telling anyone, and couldn’t explain what type of fish he was trying to catch that day. He also sold his wife’s car, considered selling their house, and turned the baby nursery into a storage room before their bodies were found, the court said in August, all indicating that “he already knew Laci and Conner were never coming back.” California has not executed anyone since 2006 because of legal challenges, and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a moratorium on executions for as long as he is governor.

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Justice Department Prepares for First Federal Execution of a Woman Since 1953

It has been nearly 70 years since the federal Bureau of Prisons executed a woman. That will change in December if Attorney General William Barr gets his way. The Department of Justice announced Friday that Lisa Marie Montgomery, 52, will be executed via lethal injection on December 8. Montgomery was convicted in 2007 of choking a pregnant woman to death in 2004, then cutting the baby out of the victim's body so she could pass it off as her own. Montgomery traveled from Kansas to Missouri and kidnapped the victim, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, making the murder a federal crime. A jury unanimously recommended a death sentence. Until this year, the Federal Bureau of Prisons' death chamber had been silent, with no federal executions since 2003. But last year Barr announced that he was reinitiating protocols and resuming executions. These executions began in July, with three prisoners dying over the course of a single week. So far, Barr's Justice Department has had seven inmates executed, all of them male. Two other men have been scheduled for execution (one in November and one in December). This administration has set a modern record for federal executions. If the Bureau of Prisons follows through with Montgomery, she'll be the first woman executed by the federal government since 1953. Bonnie Brown Heady was put to death in December 1953, as was her partner in crime, Carl Austin Hall, for kidnapping and murdering a 6-year-old boy they had taken for ransom. Heady's execution came on the heels of the much more famous execution of Ethel Rosenberg, electrocuted in June (along with her husband, Julius) for spying and leaking American military secrets to the Soviet Union. The descriptions of Montgomery's crimes are brutal, as has been the case for pretty much all of the men executed as well. The circumstances of Montgomery's crimes also show what experts have stated was serious mental illness. According to her family and attorneys, Montgomery was a victim of severe abuse, raped repeatedly by her stepfather while she was a teen, and subjected to physical violence that might have left her brain damaged. She also had a history of claiming to be pregnant when she was not. (She had tubal ligation surgery in 1990 and could not get pregnant.) A lot of this family information was not provided to the jury during her sentencing phase; her appeals team uncovered it after her sentencing. While Montgomery's background is no excuse for murder, it should raise some red flags. There is little deterrence in executing an inmate whose murder motives are bizarre and clearly a sign of mental illness. Killing Montgomery does not make the United States any more safe or just than simply leaving her in federal prison to live out the remainder of her life. If the Department of Justice succeeds in completing all of its executions planned out for the end of the year, Trump over the course of just six months will have tied the number of federal executions—10—carried out under President Harry S. Truman across his two terms. President Franklin D. Roosevelt will still have Trump beat by six.

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The Federal Death Penalty Returns  

The federal government is back in the business of executing prisoners. Prior to 2020, the last federal death row inmate to be executed was Louis Jones Jr., put to death by lethal injection in 2003. Only three federal prisoners were executed under GOP President George W. Bush, among them Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. None were executed under Democratic President Barack Obama. Seventeen years after Jones' execution, on July 14, the United States government executed Daniel Lewis Lee. Just two days later, the feds executed Wesley Ira Purkey. The next day, the feds executed Dustin Lee Honken. On August 26, they executed Lezmond Mitchell. The Trump administration has now executed more death row inmates than any president since Dwight Eisenhower. U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced in July 2019 that he had directed the Bureau of Prisons to resurrect the execution protocols and scheduled Lee, Purkey, Honken, and two other men for lethal injections. The Justice Department selected death row inmates who had been convicted of particularly brutal crimes involving either the elderly or children. When Barr made his announcement, he said that the Justice Department and the federal government "owe it to their victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system." But in Lee's case, the family of the victims had opposed his execution for years. Lee was convicted in 1999 after he traveled to Arkansas to rob gun dealer William Mueller as part of a white separatist plot. He ended up killing Mueller, his wife Nancy, and their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah, and dumping their bodies in the Illinois Bayou. Lee was the accomplice of another man who had masterminded the crimes and had been sentenced to life in prison—the same sentence the victims' family wanted for Lee. While the legal fights delayed Lee's execution, with challenges making it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Justice Department was ultimately granted permission to carry out the execution via injection of pentobarbital. Barr's move is a significant reversal of a broad trend away from capital punishment. State-level executions have been on the decline since 2000. Since 1973, 170 inmates on death row have been exonerated, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Three have been freed just this year. There's a very real possibility that if federal executions continue, Barr will be sending innocent men to their deaths.

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Compilation of Signs at D.C. Women's March: 'We Are Not Ovary-Acting'

Participants brought signs with various sayings written on them such as “We Are Not Ovary-Acting” to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. One marcher wearing a Biden/Harris shirt held a sign that read “Pussy Power,” while another sign read “GOP Hates Democracy.” Another participant held a sign reading, “If I wanted a Republican in my vagina, I’d sleep

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Two Get Death as Dong Tam Violent Land Dispute Trial Ends in Vietnam

A court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on Monday sentenced two defendants to death, also handing down a life sentence and other sentences ranging from six years to 15-months’ probation, in the trial of 29 villagers over a deadly land-rights clash in January at the Dong Tam commune.Brothers Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong, both sentenced to death, had been charged with murder in the deaths of three police officers who were killed in the Jan. 9 clash when they were attacked by petrol bombs and fell into a concrete shaft while running between two houses.Their father, Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was also killed during the early-morning raid on the village by 3,000 security officers intervening in a long-running dispute over a  military airport construction site about 25 miles south of the capital.Le Dinh Cong’s son Le Dinh Doanh was sentenced on Monday to life in prison, while another defendant, Bui Viet Hieu, was given a 16-year prison term and Nguyen Quoc Tien and Nguyen Van Tuyen were handed 12 and 13 year terms respectively.Others received prison terms of five and six years, and 17 received suspended sentences, with 13 of that group released by the court, sources told RFA’s Vietnamese Service at the end of the trial, which began on Sept. 7 and ended last Thursday, with sentencing postponed till today. [embedded content] Nguyen Thi Duyen—niece-in-law of village leader Le Dinh Kinh, who was shot and killed by police during the raid—told RFA on Monday that she was not surprised by the outcome of the trial, saying, “I had prepared myself for the worst.”“Certainly, [the Vietnamese court and police] would have done all they could to ensure that the Dong Tam residents would have to endure long terms in jail,” she said.‘As I said in court there were four deaths to be accounted for in this case,” added defense attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, also speaking to RFA. “Therefore, the court really needed to investigate and closely check what happened in all of those deaths.”“There was never enough evidence to charge Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc with murder,” Nguyen added.Calls for witnesses rejectedAt the trial, presiding judge Truong Viet Toan had rejected defense requests to summon as witnesses Hanoi chairman Nguyen Duc Chung—now held under detention in an unrelated corruption investigation—and representatives of the Ministry of Defense and Hanoi’s Public Security Department, saying these officials were not relevant to the case.Slain village elder Le Dinh Kinh’s widow Du Thi Thanh, mother of the two men sentenced to death, was also not allowed to appear as a witness in court, sources close to the trial said.On Monday, Du filed a petition with senior Vietnamese leaders, including Vietnam’s prime minister and the Minister of Police, denouncing Public Security Ministry spokesman To An Xo, who had referred in a recent statement to Le Dinh Kinh as a “new type of wicked landlord.”Before he was shot and killed by police, Le had never been prosecuted for any crime and had no criminal record, Du said in her petition, demanding that Vietnamese leaders hold To accountable for slandering her husband’s memory.Reached for comment on the trial, Hanoi-based dissident activist Nguyen Quang A slammed Monday’s sentences, calling Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party “deaf and blind” to justice. “The Vietnamese government always just imposes its will, resulting in atrocities and inhumane acts against [the country’s] people,” he said.'No surprise'“The heavy sentences against the Dong Tam defendants, including the death sentence against two persons, come as no surprise,” added Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch in a statement Monday.“Vietnam’s rulers are bending over backwards to show their toughest possible face against the Dong Tam villagers because they worry this community’s defiance could be contagious unless the defendants are hit with the most severe penalties,” Robertson said.“With the ruling communist party’s national congress just a few months away, there was never a possibility of anything but a rushed trial through a controlled court that would throw the book at these defendants.”Carl Thayer, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, meanwhile called the Dong Tam raid and resulting trial “a culmination of 40 years of problems with land” in Vietnam.“Trials in Vietnam are not free and fair as we understand them,” Thayer said. “It’s not rule of law. It’s rule by law. The political decision is: you either put them on trial or you don’t. And if you’re putting them on trial, you’re predetermining [the outcome].”While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to farming families displaced by development.Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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Iran Summons German Envoy to Protest ‘Meddlesome’ Tweets

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran has summoned Germany’s Ambassador to Tehran in protest at the embassy’s undiplomatic move to interfere in Iran’s domestic judicial affairs by sending a series of tweets. The German ambassador to Tehran was summoned by the Director General of Europe Affairs at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, September 14, over the German Embassy’s recent tweets. In the meeting, the Director General of Europe Affairs of the Iranian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the German embassy’s move as a violation of the diplomatic norms and an interference in the internal affairs of Iran. The Iranian diplomat underlined that meddling in Iran’s laws, regulations and independent judicial procedures is by no means acceptable or tolerable, saying the German Embassy is expected to know the limits of its diplomatic mission and not to go beyond them. The German ambassador said he would convey the issue to his government. The envoy was summoned after the German Embassy criticized the execution of Navid Afkari, an Iranian wrestler convicted of murder, in a series of tweets. Subscribe Facebook Twitter ReddIt Pinterest WhatsApp Viber VK Email Telegram Print LINE The IFP Editorial Staff is composed of dozens of skilled journalists, news-writers, and analysts whose works are edited and published by experienced editors specialized in Iran News. The editor of each IFP Service is responsible for the report published by the Iran Front Page (IFP) news website, and can be contacted through the ways mentioned in the "IFP Editorial Staff" section.

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