[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Feb 4 11:44:26 CST 2012
A gruesome history of capital punishment in Toronto
In 1798, John Sullivan, an illiterate Irish immigrant new to the town of York,
was on a drinking spree with his friend Flannery, nicknamed "Latin Mike" for
his habit of reciting quotations he had learned in church. During a spirited
drinking bout, Flannery forged a note for three shillings and ninepence (less
than a dollar) under the name "Fisk" and persuaded Sullivan to hand it in to
Successful, the pair spent the money on whisky at a local bar, but when they
were found out Flannery fled town leaving his friend to take the fall. Sullivan
was tried, convicted and hanged from a makeshift rig on King Street opposite
Toronto Street where a crowd of people in their best clothes had turned out to
witness the spectacle. When he finally swung from the gallows — a poorly tied
knot failed to kill him the 1st time — John Sullivan became the 1st recorded
person to be executed in the town of York.
The history of execution in Toronto is a grisly one filled with tales of
sickening murder, heinous and petty criminals. Take the case of a Whitby
resident known as De Benyon. He threw his son out of the house on a freezing
night without proper clothes. When the boy finally got back inside De Benyon
tied the boy in front of the fire and slowly burned him to death.
De Benyon fled when his crime became public and a lynch mob formed to hunt him
down. He was eventually caught in the Don Valley near Eastern Avenue and strung
up to a nearby tree. As John Ross Robertson says in his book Landmarks of
Toronto "this is the only case of Judge Lynch which is known to have occurred
Before the death penalty was officially repealed on July 14, 1976, more than
700 people had been executed for murder, theft, rape and other crimes in
Canada. A number of hangings, 34 in total, took place at the Don Jail between
1908 and 1962.
Completed in 1865 in an Italianate style designed by William Thomas, the
architect behind St. Lawrence Hall on King Street, the building aimed to
inspire a sense of awe to those arriving in shackles. The face of father time
was carved above the main door as a strong message to those entering its
cavernous main hall, never to leave.
The 1st executions were ticketed public events and took place in a special part
of the yard behind the jail. People without entry to the grounds would climb
trees or stand on the roofs of nearby buildings to get a good view of the
gallows. The 1st person to die at the jail was John Boyd, a hotel porter
convicted of killing E. S. Wandle, a restauranteur, on York Street. The photo
earlier in the piece shows the hanging of Stanislaus Lacroix in Hull, Quebec in
1902 — it's representative of the scene that would have taken place at the Don
Executions were moved inside to a converted bathroom when a botched public
execution caused the authorities to put a stop to the practice. By this time
the Don Jail had developed a truly fearsome reputation. The brick cells were
just 6 feet deep and 3 feet wide wide with no bed or plumbing. Talking was
forbidden and most prisoners only left their cells for an hour of daily
exercise. Frequently overcrowded, the cells often held 3 people at a time,
providing barely enough room to stand.
The Gemini nominated documentary Hangman's Graveyard by Mick Grogan and Craig
Thompson — which is well worth a watch — follows the excavation of a graveyard
beneath a parking lot when the Don Jail was undergoing redevelopment in 2007.
The film tells the story of some of the most notable prisoners, their crimes
and executions as the skeletal remains are removed from the ground.
Take George Bennet, a sacked employee of the Globe newspaper who bought a gun
to the office of his former employer, Senator George Brown, a father of
confederation, and after an argument over a reference fired a shot into his
leg. The wound itself wasn't fatal but Senator Brown developed gangrene and
died several weeks later.
Bennet was the 1st person to be executed at the Don Jail on July 23, 1880. His
body, clad in a 3-piece suit, was excavated along with that of the gold-toothed
Frederick Davis in the documentary.
Davis' story is perhaps one of the most gruesome in the history of the jail. In
August 1920, eight-year-old Philip Goldberg was found dying between 2
billboards south of High Park. Bleeding from a severe head wound and a deep
gash across his throat, the boy's fists were full of grass and candy wrappers.
A post-mortem examination would show he had been sexually assaulted.
During an investigation that focused on an illegal booze ring on McCaul Street
near present day OCAD, Frederick Davis emerged as the prime suspect. A
neighbour of Goldberg, the syphilitic Davis walked with a pronounced limp, had
many open sores and was likely was suffering from pronounced dementia as a
result of the advanced stages of his disease. A U.S. citizen, Frederick Davis
was discovered serving time in the Auburn State Penitentiary in New York and
sent back to Toronto to face trial.
A jury took just a minute to return a guilty verdict and Davis was sentenced to
death despite being found mentally unsound by a physician. Of all the bodies
removed from the burial ground, Davis' was the only one that had not had the
brain removed for examination. It was common practice for prisoners at the Don
Jail to be dissected after execution to look for a physical reason to explain
The last people to be executed at the Don Jail, and in Canada, were Ronald
Turpin and Arthur Lucas, two men convicted of separate murders, on December 11,
1962. The executioner charged with springing the trap beneath the condemned
men's feet was "John Ellis," Canada's last official hangman.
To maintain his anonymity, Ellis had assumed the name of another Canadian
executioner — Arthur Ellis — who himself had borrowed the name of an English
executioner, another John Ellis. The most recent John Ellis, the one who
performed the last execution in Canada, appeared on Take 30 in an interview
Paul Soles in 1976. He wore a black hood with eye-holes to hide his face and
spoke candidly about the process of ending someone's life and the detachment
required for such a job.
The concept of taking someone's life as punishment usually rears its head when
there is a particularly heinous high-profile crime. Most recently Conservative
senator Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu made an off-the-cuff remark, for which he later
apoligized, advocating giving convicted murderers a rope to hang themselves in
Iraq Court Confirms Death Sentences For Church Attack
An Iraqi appeals court has confirmed death sentences for 3 men convicted of a
2010 attack on a Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad that left more than 50
people dead and scores injured.
A spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council said the sentence is “final" and
was sent to the presidential council.
Under the Iraqi Constitution, the presidential council, comprising the
president and two vice presidents, must ratify death sentences before they are
The 3 were sentenced to death on August 2, 2011, while an accomplice was given
20 years in prison.
At least 52 hostages and police were killed and 67 wounded in the attack, which
ended when security forces stormed the church.
Al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility
for the attack.
(source: Radio Free Europe)
Jack Warner suspends death penalty petition
Just 2 days after launching a campaign to petition support for the resumption
of the death penalty, Government Minister Jack Warner yesterday suspended the
initiative saying he does not want to “endanger” the Government.
“It is not my desire, however, well intentioned to do anything, however,
remotely to injure or fracture or in any way endanger the People’s Partnership
Government and if that were the case I say fine I will withdraw, however, well
intentioned,” Warner told the media yesterday during the Parliament’s tea
Earlier in the day, Warner’s office issued a release stating, “Following a
meeting of the Cabinet yesterday (Thursday), I wish to inform the general
public that, with immediate effect, I have decided to suspend the initiative
that was started to implement the death penalty. My thanks are hereby extended
to all those persons and/or organisations that had assisted me at the launch.
This is my final statement on this matter.”
He launched the campaign on Wednesday—entitled “A Fisherman’s Cry” at his
constituency office, with the parents of murdered fishermen, Ravi and Kasinath
Ramsaran, pleading for the return of the hangman. A third man, Pream Squires,
was also murdered at sea. Two men are now before the court charged for the
Pressed yesterday whether he was instructed or forced in any way to suspend the
campaign, Warner said: “Nobody gave me any instructions, I repeat, my motive,
my initiative was well intentioned but then following the Cabinet meeting I got
the impression that, however, remote it was, it may have caused some
disaffection and I withdrew it.”
Asked if he felt defeated in his purpose, he responded: “There is no defeat in
something that is good. It might be some kind of postponement but it can’t be a
defeat … this is not a case where you win or lose, you know.”
Warner has been complaining over the past few months with his ministry being
split into 2 last year and an audit into the Programme for Enhancing Road
Efficiency (PURE) has halted road works under his ministry.
Asked if he was happy, Warner said: “But look I smiling. In life sometimes you
have a good day and a bad day but overall life is good and so is the UNC.”
He said the campaign to resume hanging, however, short lived, “opened people’s
eyes” and in the fullness of time the legislation will return to Parliament.
Warner’s hanging campaign was born after three Felicity fishermen were murdered
He said yesterday he promised to take care of the families of the men for three
months and he extended it for another three.
At the launch of his campaign, Warner had said that the petition called upon
every parliamentarian to “get serious with fixing the laws concerning the
enforcement of the death penalty, including addressing the issue of lengthy
delays with petitions to the human rights bodies”.
However, the campaign saw trouble the very day when it was launched with Prime
Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar saying this was not Government policy, but
Warner’s own initiative.
A day after, Government ministers Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Vernella Toppin Alleyne
and Winston Peters distanced themselves from Warner’s campaign, citing
collective Cabinet responsibility when questioned during the post-Cabinet press
At a news conference at Tower D of the Waterfront Complex yesterday, the Prime
Minister, when questioned on the issue, made it clear neither she nor Cabinet
instructed Warner to suspend the petition.
She said she cannot say what influenced Warner as she stressed that Cabinet is
about collective responsibility.
“It would be foolhardy of any minister to step out of any decision making to
make policy on their own, it does not work that way. I would not sign a
petition that was not sanctioned by the Government, by the Cabinet. … There was
no instruction or agreement by the Cabinet on the petition,” said
Government’s position, she said, is to continue pursuing the legal channels in
order to implement the death penalty.
“So we will proceed, the AG is again drafting, we will come back with it and
we’ll take it from there. We will never give up, we will continue to try,” she
promised. She said it is in the interest of the country to implement the law of
the land. She spoke of the challenges in doing so.
“I will remember well the case of Glen Ashby, when in breach of the law, when
the matter was before the Privy Council, the then regime hanged Glen Ashby. We
do not want to follow that route,” the Prime Minister said.
Before learning of the suspension of Warner’s petition, Justice Minister,
Herbert Volney who has been vocal in the call for the death penalty, said he
would be willing to sign the petition.
(source: Trinidad Express)
Rights groups urge international community to press Iran to end violations
Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation for Human Rights
(FIDH), and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights urge the
international community to take a much firmer stance on respect for human
rights in Iran by raising this essential issue in the talks currently under way
with the country’s authorities.
These 3 human rights organizations also urge the EU and international community
to publicly condemn the unacceptable treatment that imprisoned journalists and
netizens receive at the hands of the Revolutionary Guards.
Farsnews, an Iranian news agency that is close to the Revolutionary Guards,
reported on 29 January that the supreme court had upheld the death sentence
that was passed on Saeed Malekpour, a computer specialist and Canadian
resident. Farsnews also published a communiqué by the Centre for the
Surveillance of Organized Crime expressing “satisfaction” with the supreme
court’s decision. Malekpour’s execution is believed to be imminent.
2 other netizens, information technology student Vahid Asghari and website
administrator Ahmadreza Hashempour have also had their death sentences
confirmed by the supreme court in the past few days.
A 4th netizen, Mehdi Alizadeh, a website developer and humorist who was
arrested for the second time in March 2011 in connection with his satirical
posts, has just learned that he has been sentenced to death by Abolghasem
Salevati, the head of a revolutionary court.
“We call on the international community to intercede directly with the Iranian
authorities on behalf of these four netizens and to request the acquittal and
release of all imprisoned journalists and bloggers,” the three human rights
organizations said. “The issue of respect for fundamental rights must at the
same time be raised during the ongoing economic and scientific discussions.”
These 4 netizens, aged from 25 to 40, are the victims of machinations by the
Centre for the Surveillance of Organized Crime, an entity that was created
illegally by the Revolutionary Guards in 2008. In March 2009, this centre
announced the dismantling of a “malevolent” Internet network and the arrests of
several website moderators, whose photos and “confessions” were published a few
days later by the Gerdab website and other outlets.
Under torture, they admitted to having links with websites that criticize Islam
and the Iranian government and to having intended to “mislead” Iranian youth by
distributing pornographic content. They were also forced to confess to
participating in a plot backed by the United States and Israel.
The detainees were placed in solitary confinement for long periods – more than
a year in some cases – and the confessions obtained under torture were used
against them at their trials. Malekpour and Asghari described how they were
tortured during interrogation in letters to the judges in charge of their
cases. At the same time, their defence lawyers were unable to meet with them or
have access to their case files.
The 3 human rights organizations support the appeal that 39 political
prisoners, journalists and intellectuals issued on 25 January, calling for the
release of all prisoners of conscience including the leaders of the protests
against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, the former Prime minister and owner of the closed
newspaper Kalameh Sabaz, his wife, the bestselling writer and intellectual
Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karoubi, the former President of Parliament and
owner of the closed newspaper Etemad Melli, have been under house arrest since
24 February 2011. Karoubi’s wife, Fatemeh Karoubi (the editor of the magazine
Iran Dokhte), who was arrested at the same time as him, was finally released in
Mousavi, Rahnavard and Mehdi Karoubi have been deprived of all their rights for
nearly a year. Their relatives have not been able to visit them for months and
are very worried about their state of health.
The Islamic Republic must bring this unacceptable state of affairs to an end.
Arbitrary arrest and the holding of political prisoners incommunicado violate
international law. Such practices are tantamount to enforced disappearance, yet
are widely and frequently used by the authorities.
(source: Reporters Without Borders)
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