In 2008, Ryu En Nam, a North Korean defector, was extradited from Russia and executed. He was tied to the train going back to North Korea. “It was horrible. The train started moving and for as long as he could, Ryu En Nam ran with it,” human rights lawyer Lubov Tataretz said, recalling what a Korean diplomat’s son had told her, a few years after she tried and failed to prevent Ryu En Nam’s extradition. Under a recently signed treaty, the few asylum seekers who manage to escape the hermit kingdom and make it to Russia will be forcibly repatriated, to a country where prison inmates have to burn bodies of those who starve to death and use the remains as fertilizer.
When the state of Oklahoma stopped the execution of Richard Glossip on the day he was scheduled to die this week, it wasn’t because he may very well be be an innocent man, but because they’d received the wrong lethal injection drug. Today, the state’s highest criminal court decided to postpone two other pending executions because of the mixup.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday approved the continued use of a sedative called midazolam in lethal injections, despite the controversy around a painful botched execution in Oklahoma last year. The petitioners in the case, Glossip v. Gross, are three Oklahoma death row inmates arguing the state’s execution drug cocktail constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Texas has executed a 38-year-old woman who was sent to death row for starving her girlfriend's 9-year-old son to death nearly a decade ago. Lisa Ann Coleman died by lethal injection shortly after 6 p.m. tonight at the state execution chamber in Huntsville, Texas. She's only the 15th woman to be executed in the United States since 1976, when the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume.
While convicted double murderer Duane Buck's guilt is not in question, his death penalty sentence is. So in a last-minute measure — Buck had already eaten his last meal — his execution was stayed, because during his sentencing hearing the prosecution had a psychologist testify that black people are more likely to commit crimes.
Sunday Telegraph US editor Toby Harnden better still have that badass flak jacket. He's enjoying a flurry of abuse after an article he filed about Saddam Hussein's execution appeared to describe details of the scene that never happened — particularly, Saddam wearing a hood on the gallows. After the obvious inaccuracies in the December 29 article were called out by readers, Harnden obtusely admitted on his Telegraph-sanctioned blog that the article had not been his "finest hour." This pseudo-admission of kinda-guilt inspired a bloggy uproar among the gotcha crowd, which in turn caused the Telegraph to panic and yank Harnden's blog entirely. But it appears the real culprit in this teapot-tempest might be Harnden's editors.
A new bit of citizen journalism related to Saddam Hussein's execution has appeared online. In this clip, Saddam's dead body is shown under a sheet on a gurney; the shroud is pulled back, revealing Saddam's broken neck and various (one assumes) related neck-face wounds. Apparently shot on the DL (and again with a cellphone camera), those involved in capturing the vid can be heard bickering fearfully about getting caught. "Hurry up you're going to get us into a catastrophe," says one to the cameraman. Little late for that, really. Incredibly, the video hasn't yet made it onto YouTube, at least as of this writing. That should be resolved by noonish or so, latest. At least for now, media sources reporting on the video are choosing the high road, identifying the online source of the video only as an "Iraqi news Web site." That coyness likely also won't last.
In another blow to citizen journalism, social media, and the culture of You, two Iraqi guards and an "official" have now been arrested for shooting and distributing the Saddam Hussein execution video. (President Bush supposedly has not seen the video, by the way, which strikes us as charmingly preposterous.) Early rumors claimed the filmic operation was arranged by Saddam's longtime ethnic and political foes, though now it appears that $20,000 may have changed hands over the deal. Take that, Ze Frank. In other death video news, the world will likely never see the Steve Irwin demise clip. Someone else famous better die on camera quick, or else we'll all lose interest when the new TV seasons start next week.
The era of You continues. With Saddam Hussein's cellphone execution video drawing international disgust and internal Iraqi damage control, the Iraqi prime minister moved yesterday to discover who captured and leaked said video. After the jump, more worldwide reaction and the first arrest of a possible video leaker.
We asked who would distribute the inevitable Saddam Hussein execution video, and the answer was the same as for every other question in 2006: You. We won't bother posting the clip here, but your friendly neighborhood YouTube has dozens of duplicates available for your Faces of Death viewing pleasure. So presented with this huge gift of a news story during the holiday dead zone, how did media outlets finesse the grisly, standards-and-practices-breaking problem of airing an execution?
TVNewser asks an interesting question — how are the networks planning to handle video of Saddam Hussein's impending execution, assuming it happens? It does seem likely that most news orgs have already decided whether or not they'll run the actual video (considering it will "inevitably" make it to YouTube). We're guessing that few American nets will show the actual moment o' death, but those that do show it (or the moments right before/after) will indeed use the "story of the video" angle (as the TVNewser tipster speculates) to weasel around questions of impropriety in broadcasting the clip. Expect a hilariously redubbed version on The Colbert Report after the initial furor dies down.