Prosecutors in North Carolina will seek the death penalty for alleged triple-murderer Craig Hicks, who reportedly shot and killed three students in Chapel Hill on Feb. 10.
Hicks is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Prosecutors decided to seek the death penalty after working with federal and local investigators to determine whether the killings were motivated by hatred due to their religion. Hicks is known as an atheist and a follower of Richard Dawkins, while all three students were Muslim.
"I want to express my deepest sympathies and condolences for the victims," Hicks' wife Karen, said during a press conference addressing the notion that the murders were motivated by hate. "Like everyone else, I was just completely shocked. I can say with my absolute belief that this incident had nothing to do with religion or the victims' faith, but in fact was related to a long-standing parking dispute that my husband had with the neighbors and our neighbors are of various religions, races and creeds." more >>
Georgia's only woman on death row was not executed Monday night due to "an abundance of caution" about the drug being used for the execution.
Kelly Gissendaner's execution at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson was temporarily postponed after the drug in question, pentobarbital, appeared cloudy. That cloudiness caused concern that it was somehow tainted or would not be effective in the procedure. The Georgia Department of Corrections did not take any questions but simply said the execution was "postponed."
In recent weeks, numerous groups, including many Christians, took up the cause of sparing Gissendaner from death. She was sentenced to death 18 years ago for conspiring with her boyfriend to kill her husband, Douglas. Her lawyers argued that Gissendaner did not actually take part in the murder and had been rehabilitated during her time in prison. However, the board denied the petition for clemency and the execution was to be carried out on Monday evening. more >>
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.— Appearing as a guest speaker on a criminal justice reform panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback explained how Kansas' provision of mental healthcare and private mentors for its prisoners have played a significant role in cutting the state's prison system recidivism rate in half.
Brownback, who was elected governor in 2010 after serving as a U.S. senator, told the audience that reducing states' crime rates and corrections spending can be easily accomplished if state prisons provided more to their prisoners than just a place to live and food to eat until they're released back into society.
"I think we have gotten stuck in the old mantra that 'If you do the crime, you do the time,'" Brownback said. "When I first ran [for Congress] in the 1990s, that is one of the mantras that I put up. The problem of it was that at some point in time you find that [the time] is done then you got a guy coming out and we were having 60 percent recidivism rates. That is what we were having in our state — 60 percent recidivism rates." more >>
Tom Schweich, Missouri's Republican state auditor who was the frontrunner for the governor's office in the upcoming 2016 election who died in an "apparent suicide" at his home Thursday, was worried that his political rivals were planning to spread rumors that he was Jewish even though he was a member of a Christian church.
According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Schweich confided in Post-Dispatch Editorial Page Editor Tony Messenger on Tuesday morning that he believed John Hancock, the newly elected chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, had been misinforming people that he was Jewish. The Post-Dispatch notes that he was a member of the Church of St. Michael & St. George, an Episcopal congregation in Clayton.
The 54-year-old father of two was hospitalized Thursday following a "medical situation at his home," according to Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy in a KSDK report. He said Schweich suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at Barnes-Jewish Hospital's trauma center Thursday. An autopsy was expected to be performed at 7:30 a.m. Friday but officers indicated that the evidence so far points to suicide. more >>
Seven people were fatally shot across south-central Missouri on Thursday night before the suspect took his own life, according to reports.
The victims were shot during multiple shootings in Texas County as well as south-central Missouri, the Missouri State Highway Patrol confirmed. A ninth body of an elderly woman who apparently died of natural causes was found in a nearby home. The suspected shooter, a 36-year-old male, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his vehicle east of Texas County.
Authorities first received a call around 10:15 p.m. on Thursday by a female reporting gunshots at a residence, according to the Houston Herald. She fled to a neighbor's home and police later found two bodies there. more >>
An American blogger has been hacked to death by a "knife-wielding mob" in Dhaka, Bangladesh, police have said. Avijit Roy, an atheist, is believed to have been attacked for promoting secularism and criticizing religious extremism online, which has angered hardline Islamic groups.
"Avijit Roy has been killed the way other free thinker writers were killed in Bangladesh. No freethinker is safe in Bangladesh," blogger Taslima Nasreen, who left Bangladesh in the mid-1990s after receiving death threats from extremists, said about the killing.
"Islamic terrorists can do whatever they like. They can kill people with no qualms whatsoever." more >>