Democracy Now! Ju;y 02, 2002

Program Title:
Democracy Now! Ju;y 02, 2002
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Today we'll hear from Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American woman who lost 19 members of her family during US military strikes on Afghanistan. The US bombs a wedding party in Afghanistan. The death toll: estimates range between 40 and 250. But first, the federal death penalty is declared unconstitutional by a New York judge who says it creates "undue risk" of executing innocent defendants. We'll talk to two death row prisoners who were freed after DNA evidence proved they were innocent of their crimes. All that and more coming up. 9:01-9:06 Headlines: 9:06-9:07 One Minute Music Break 9:07-9:20 A NEW YORK JUDGE DECLARES THE FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY UNCONSTITUTIONAL The federal death penalty was declared unconstitutional Monday by a New York judge who said it creates "undue risk" of executing innocent people. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff is the first judge to declare the 1994 federal Death Penalty Act unconstitutional. The judge told federal prosecutors they could not seek the death penalty for two alleged heroin dealers accused of murdering a government informant. He cited DNA testing, which has proved the innocence of 12 death row prisoners. Altogether, 101 prisoners have been exonerated from death row. Monday's decision follows two major legal blows to the US death penalty system last week. Just days after the Supreme Court ruled it is unconstitutional to execute mentally retarded convicts, the court declared that it is also unconstitutional for judges to decide death penalty verdicts without juries. Rakoff wrote that if the death penalty is enforced, "a meaningful number of innocent people will be executed who otherwise would eventually be able to prove their innocence." And he called that "tantamount to foreseeable, state-sponsored murder of innocent human beings." The ultimate impact of yesterday's decision is unclear. Only two people have been executed under federal law so far, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. But if the case were upheld, the reasoning would also apply to state death-penalty cases. 784 people have been executed under state laws since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Altogether, more than 3700 people await execution on death row today. Today we are going to talk to two former death row prisoners who were freed after DNA evidence proved they were innocent of their crimes. Guest: Ron Tabak, New York Lawyers Against the Death Penalty. He is also co-chair of the American Bar Association's death penalty committee, which called for an executions moratorium in 1997. IN STUDIO Guest: Kirk Bloodsworth, first death row prisoner to be exonerated from death row because of DNA evidence. Bloodsworth served nine years, including time on death row, before he was freed based on DNA evidence in 1993. He is currently a commercial fisherman; he is speaking to us from his boat off the east coast of Maryland. Guest: Ray Krone, 100th prisoner to be exonerated from death row since 1976, the year the US death penalty was reinstated. Krone was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing a cocktail waitress in Phoenix, Arizona. The main evidence was a bite mark on the woman's breast that allegedly matched his teeth. He was imprisoned for ten years and sat on Arizona's death row for three years. In April, when the prosecution and a new judge finally allowed DNA tests, they cleared him and implicated the guilty man. Guest: David Kaczynski, New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty and brother of Ted Kaczynski, the so-called "Unabomber", a Harvard-trained former mathematician who mailed bombs to universities and airlines that killed three people and injured 17. In his Unabomber manifesto, Kaczynski blamed technology for social ills and claimed the government and political leftists wielded too much power. David Kaczynski fought hard to show that his brother was mentally ill to dissuade federal prosecutors from seeking to execute him. In return for a guarantee that he would not be executed, Theodore Kaczynski pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence. Links: 9:20-9:21 One Minute Music Break 9:21-9:40 A NEW YORK JUDGE DECLARES THE FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY UNCONSTITUTIONAL, CONT'D 9:40-9:41 One Minute Music Break 9:41-9:58 THE US BOMBS A WEDDING PARTY IN AFGHANISTAN; DEATH TOLL ESTIMATES RANGE BETWEEN 40 AND 250 US forces dropped a B-52 bomb on an Afghan wedding party early Monday morning. killing scores of civilians. This according to Afghan officials and area residents. US military officials have acknowledged that a bomb dropped in southern Afghanistan missed its target, but they would not confirm that a wedding party was attacked. The London Independent says estimates put the number of deaths at more than 120, though one unconfirmed report said up to 250 had been killed. This would make it the worst loss of civilian life at US hands since the war began. Among those wounded was Haji Mohammed Anwar, a political ally of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and one of the first prominent local figures who rose up against the Taliban. Reports were contradictory but the US forces apparently launched a two-hour assault involving a B-52 bomber and an AC-130 gunship after mistaking the wedding guests' celebratory gunshots into the air early yesterday morning as hostile fire. The U.S. military at Bagram air base issued a statement saying, "We extend our deepest sympathies to those who may have lost loved ones as a result of this incident and to those who may have suffered injuries." But another statement, issued by the Central Command, was more hesitant, saying only that the U.S. action "may have resulted in civilian casualties." It omitted any statement of regret or sympathy. This is just the latest in a series of incidents in Afghanistan in which civilians have been killed by so-called "friendly fire". During the heaviest period of the bombing last fall, US bombs killed as many as 3,500 civilians. Well, we are joined in the studio by Masuda Sultan and Rita Lasar, two women who have been lobbying congress to provide funds for Afghan victims of the US bombing. Masuda is an Afghan American woman who lost 19 members of her extended family in a US bombing raid last fall. Guest: Masuda Sultan, Afghan-American woman who lost 19 members of her family during US military strikes on Afghanistan IN STUDIO Contact: tape: Masuda Sultan, reporting from Afghanistan on December 27 Guest: Rita Lasar, who lost her brother Abe Zelmanowitz in the World Trade Center attack IN STUDIO Links: We are also joined on the phone by Dr. Sima Samar in Afghanistan. Dr. Samar served as the Minister for Women's Affairs during the 6-month interim Afghan government. But president Hamid Karzai turned her down for the post in the new government after conservative religious factions launched a campaign of slander and intimidation against her. Dr. Samar received a summons on June 22 calling for her to appear before a Kabul court to face a blasphemy charge. A letter to the editor in the weekly newspaper, "Message of the Holy Warrior," had previously alleged that Sima Samar told a Canadian newspaper that she did not believe in Sharia, or Islamic law. The writer had demanded that she be given "appropriate punishment," and that judicial authorities carry out an investigation. The court ultimately dropped the charges against Sima Samar after she complained to President Karzai. But she had already lost the position of Minister of Women's Affairs. This was not the first time Dr. Samar suffered intimidation from religious parties. She was among several female delegates at the loya jirga targeted by warlords and their representatives. Guest: Dr. Sima Samar, former Women's Affairs minister of the Afghan government, speaking from Afghanistan 9:58-9:59 Outro and Credits

Date Recorded on: 
July 02, 2002
Date Broadcast on: 
Ju;y 02, 2002
Item duration: 
59 min.
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WPFW; Amy Goodman, host. July 02 , 2002
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