Some states bring back firing squads while others seek to abolish the death penalty – National & International News – FRI 24Mar2023

Some states bring back firing squads while others seek to abolish the death penalty.

Officers sue rapper Afroman for using footage of them raiding his home in a music video.

“Hotel Rwanda” hero to be freed.



Some states bringing back firing squads while others seek to abolish the death penalty

Idaho’s legislature has just voted to join Mississippi, Utah, South Carolina and Oklahoma in authorizing the use of firing squads for executions. Though once common in the military, firing squads have never been common in civilian justice. But thanks to a lack of drugs necessary for lethal injections, and several high-profile botched injections, states are looking for alternatives. This has included reauthorizing electric chairs and gas chambers for executions. One Tennessee lawmaker recently proposed hanging from a tree before quickly backpedaling.

The last person to be executed by firing squad was Utah inmate Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010. In that case, sandbags were piled up on either side of the execution seat and a target was pinned over Gardner’s heart. Five state prison staffers drawn from a pool of volunteers fired .30 caliber rifles at Gardner from about 8 paces. The prison physician pronounced Gardner dead two minutes later. 

Some have argued that firing squads may actually be more humane than other methods of execution. Even lethal injection can be excruciatingly painful. However, it lacks the clinical and sterilized veneer of civility afforded by lethal injection and may be more traumatic for witnesses, including victims’ family members. But there is also trauma for prison staff participating in executions. In Gardner’s execution, one of the rifles was loaded with blanks to allow the executioners to believe that maybe they didn’t fire a fatal bullet.

Other governors look to halt executions

Former Oregon Governor Katie Brown made headlines in December 2022 when she commuted the sentences of all the state’s death row inmates to life without parole. In a statement, Brown called the death penalty “dysfunctional and immoral”. She said capital punishment is “wasteful of taxpayer dollars; does not make communities safer; and cannot be and never has been administered fairly and equitably”.

Pennsylvania’s new Gov. Josh Shapiro has vowed to sign no execution warrants during his term. He also wants state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty. Shapiro once believed the death penalty was a just punishment for the most heinous offenses. But while he was attorney general, “My son asked me why it’s OK to kill someone as a punishment for killing someone,” Shapiro said. “I couldn’t look him in the eye and explain why.”

In Arizona, new Gov. Katie Hobbs has also halted executions while new committee examines the state prison’s failures in managing executions. In 2014, the state prison hideously botched a lethal injection, prompting an 8-year hiatus in executions. Then in 2021, Arizona refurbished its gas chamber, unused for over two decades. The state planned to use hydrogen cyanide gas, the same gas the Nazis used to exterminate millions in their death camps.

In 2022, the state gave three inmates (one of whom was the son of a Holocaust survivor) two weeks to decide if they wanted the needle or the gas chamber. All three chose the needle, and all three executions were botched, again.


Officers sue rapper Afroman for using footage of them raiding his home in a music video

Afroman’s “Officer Pound Cake” t-shirt.

Joseph Edgar Foreman, better known as rapper Afroman, is being sued by several officers who conducted a botched raid of his Adams County, OH, home last year. The officers executed a warrant on suspicion of kidnapping, drug possession and trafficking. They found no usable evidence in the home but did seize over $5000 in cash from the home (some of which went missing).

Afroman (best known for his 2000 hit “Because I Got High”) was not at home at the time but his wife was. His wife filmed the police as they busted through the door and searched the home, weapons drawn. The home also had a home surveillance system which captured video of the officers as they searched. Afroman then released several music videos using footage from the raid (you can see one here).

He’s also selling t-shirts with one of the officer’s images next to a picture of Peter Griffin from “Family Guy”. The officer, identified as Shawn D. Cooley, features in this humorous clip from the raid in which he eyes some lemon pound cake in Afroman’s kitchen.

The officers who invaded Afroman’s home are suing him for invasion of privacy and emotional distress. The lawsuit states that the “Plaintiffs have suffered damages, including all profits derived from and attributable to Defendants’ unauthorized use of Plaintiffs’ personas, and have suffered humiliation, ridicule, mental distress, embarrassment, and loss of reputation”.

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“Hotel Rwanda” hero to be freed

The government of Rwanda announced it will be freeing Paul Rusesabagina, 68, from prison. Rusesabagina famously sheltered hundreds of ethnic Tutsis during Rwanda’s genocide in the 1990s. He was portrayed by Don Cheadle in the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda”.  

Rusesabagina was tricked into boarding a flight from Dubai to Rwanda in 2020. Upon arrival, he was arrested on various terrorism charges linked to his opposition of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. Kagame’s government has been accused of human rights abuses including targeted killings of political opponents.  Rusesabagina left Rwanda in 1996 and settled in Belgium and then the US. He now holds Belgian citizenship.

During his incarceration, Rusesabagina was denied opportunities to speak with his family and his legal team. He has also claimed he was gagged and tortured. The trial which followed was denounced internationally as an unfair and heavy handed proceeding. 

Rusesabagina’s family, human rights advocates and the international community have been calling for his release. Kagame announced today that he was issuing an order to release him after intercession from the US and Qatar. Rusesabagina should be free tomorrow.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



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