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Supreme Court refuses to block upcoming federal executions

Supreme Court refuses to block upcoming federal executions

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday refused to block the execution of four federal prison inmates who are scheduled to be put to death in July and August.

The executions would mark the first use of the death penalty on the federal level since 2003.

The justices rejected an appeal from four inmates who were convicted of killing children. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor noted that they would have blocked the executions from going forward.

The court’s action leaves no obstacles standing in the way of the executions, the first of which is scheduled for July 13.

The inmates are separately asking a federal judge in Washington to impose a new delay on their executions over other legal issues that have yet to be resolved.

The activity at the high court came after Attorney General William Barr directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions. Three of the men had been scheduled to be put to death when Barr first announced the federal government would resume executions last year, ending an informal moratorium on federal capital punishment as the issue receded from the public domain.

“The American people, acting through Congress and Presidents of both political parties, have long instructed that defendants convicted of the most heinous crimes should be subject to a sentence of death,” Barr said in a statement last month. “The four murderers whose executions are scheduled today have received full and fair proceedings under our Constitution and laws. We owe it to the victims of these horrific crimes, and to the families left behind, to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

The federal government’s initial effort was put on hold by a trial judge after the inmates challenged the new execution procedures, and the federal appeals court in Washington and the Supreme Court both declined to step in late last year. But in April, the appeals court threw out the judge’s order.

The federal prison in Indiana where the executions would take place, USP Terre Haute, has struggled to combat the coronavirus pandemic behind bars. One inmate there has died from COVID-19.

The inmates scheduled for execution are Danny Lee, who was convicted in Arkansas of killing a family of three, including an 8-year-old; Wesley Ira Purkey, of Kansas, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and killed an 80-year-old woman; Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children; and Keith Dwayne Nelson, who kidnapped a 10-year-old girl who was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home and raped her in a forest behind a church before strangling the young girl with a wire.

Three of the executions — for Lee, Purkley, and Honken — are scheduled days apart beginning July 13. Nelson’s execution is scheduled for Aug. 28. The Justice Department said additional executions will be set at a later date.

Ruth Friedman, an attorney for Lee, decried the federal death penalty as “arbitrary, racially-biased, and rife with poor lawyering and junk science.”

“Despite these problems, and even as people across the country are demanding that leaders rethink crime, punishment, and justice, the government is barrelling ahead with its plans to carry out the first federal executions in 17 years,” Friedman said in a statement. “Given the unfairness built into the federal death penalty system and the many unanswered questions about both the cases of the men scheduled to die and the government’s new execution protocol, there must be appropriate court review before the government can proceed with any execution.”

Purkey’s lawyers separately filed court papers last week asking a federal judge to halt his execution, arguing that he isn’t mentally fit to be executed because he suffers from “advancing Alzheimer’s disease and deteriorating cognitive functioning.” The lawyers argue that Purkey doesn’t understand why the government plans to execute him and that he believes it is retaliation for many complaints about conditions in the federal prison system.

Executions on the federal level have been rare and the government has put to death only three defendants since restoring the federal death penalty in 1988 — most recently in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young female soldier.

Mark Sherman, The Associated Press

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Canada

Atlantic Canadians against lifting travel restrictions next month, survey finds

A new survey indicates Atlantic Canadians are largely opposed to lifting quarantine requirements for Canadians who live outside the region.

More than 3,300 Atlantic Canadians participated in the Halifax-based Narrative Research survey that asked questions about existing travel restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

More than three-quarters of respondents were opposed to lifting 14-day quarantine requirements for visitors from the rest of Canada within the next month.

Seventy-nine per cent of respondents said they had not left their home provinces since Atlantic Canada created the so-called travel “bubble” in July, which waived the 14-day self-isolation rules for residents of the region who cross provincial borders.

Prince Edward Islanders were most likely to have travelled within the Atlantic region, at 38 per cent, while Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were the least likely, at seven per cent.

People who had travelled within the Atlantic bubble were more likely under the age of 55 and higher income earners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

 

The Canadian Press

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Canada

Asylum seekers on front lines of COVID-19 to have chance at permanent residency

OTTAWA — Asylum seekers working on the front-lines of the COVID-19 crisis are getting an early chance at permanent residency in Canada.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced the program today in response to public demand that the so-called “Guardian Angels” — many in Quebec — be recognized for their work in the health-care sector during the pandemic.

Ordinarily, asylum seekers must wait for their claims to be accepted before they can become permanent residents, but the new program waives that requirement.

To apply for residency now, they must have claimed asylum in Canada prior to March 13 and have spent no less than 120 hours working as a orderly, nurse or other designated occupations between the date of their claim and today.

They must also demonstrate they have six months of experience in the profession before they can receive permanent residency and have until the end of this month to meet that requirement.

The approach recognizes the extraordinary contribution of asylum claimants, particularly in long-term care centres, Mendicino said in a statement.

“As these individuals face an uncertain future in Canada, the current circumstances merit exceptional measures in recognition of their service during the pandemic,” he said.

The new program was the result of negotiations between the federal government and Quebec.

That province has housed many of the nearly 60,000 people who have requested asylum in Canada after crossing on foot into the country from the U.S., the majority using an entry point in Quebec called Roxham Road.

About half the claims have already been heard, and the rest are still working their way through the system.

The irregular border crossers, as they are known, did so to get around a loophole in an agreement between Canada and the U.S. that forbids most people from entering the country by land and asking for safe haven.

The Safe Third Country Agreement, however, was struck down by the Federal Court in July, when a judge ruled elements of it violate constitutional rights.

The judgment was suspended for six months to give the government time to find a solution.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Canada

Vigils to take place tonight for Alberta doctor killed in walk-in clinic

RED DEER, Alta. — Two vigils are planned tonight for a family doctor who was killed at a walk-in clinic in central Alberta earlier this week.

Dr. Walter Reynolds, a 45-year-old father of two girls, died in hospital after he was attacked Monday morning at the Village Mall clinic in Red Deer, Alta.

Deng Mabiour, who is 54, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Reynolds, as well as assault with a weapon and assaulting a police officer.

Police have said Mabiour and Reynolds knew each other through the clinic, but did not say whether Mabiour was a patient.

One witness told media that she heard cries for help and a man in the clinic had a hammer and a machete.

The Alberta Medical Association, which is organizing the vigils in Red Deer and Edmonton, is asking doctors who attend to wear white lab coats or white clothing to honour Reynolds.

The clinic where Reynolds worked has described him as a devoted husband, father and doctor who came to Canada from South Africa in 2003.

It says Reynolds and his wife, Anelia, first lived in Manitoba then moved to Red Deer in 2006.

“From the delivery room to the hospice, he dedicated himself 100 per cent,” the Village Mall clinic said in a statement earlier this week.

“If there was a task at work that needed to be done, he would step up to the plate. If a patient needed help, he walked the extra mile … and then some.”

Reynolds and his wife were often seen jogging around the neighbourhood. He was an avid runner, often participating in marathons and mud races, the clinic said.

“If there was a campsite to explore, then they were there. Always exploring, always an adventure, always on the move … so full of life.”

A GoFundMe page was set up to raise funds for the education of Reynolds’ children. It reached more than $230,000 by Thursday afternoon. 

Dr. Edward Ohanjanians said in an interview that Reynolds was “the best colleague I ever had.”

Reynolds founded the Village Mall clinic and took care of all of its shopping and scheduling, he said.

Ohanjanians was there when Reynolds was attacked. He said he was unable to talk about what happened.

“I witnessed the tragic death of my colleague and friend,” he said. “It’s a difficult time.”

The vigils, both scheduled for 7 p.m., are to take place outside Red Deer City Hall and Edmonton City Hall.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 14, 2020

The Canadian Press


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