Philippine Standard Time
Monday, June 10, 2019, 2:18:54AM

In Defense of the Right to Life: International Law and Death Penalty in the Philippines

A study by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and Dr. Christopher Ward, SC, Australian Bar, Adjunct Professor, Australian National University


Zimbabwe Considers Abolishing Death Penalty
Human Rights Watch |, February 15, 2024
Death penalty incompatible with right to life
OHCHR |, January 31, 2024
Debunking narratives for a return of the death penalty
WCADP |, November 13, 2023
Jury in Pittsburgh synagogue trial to begin deliberating death penalty
The New York Times |, July 31, 2023
Singapore executes a woman for first time in almost two decades
The Guardian |, July 28, 2023
Ghana votes to remove death penalty, calling it sign of ‘inhumane’ society
The Washington Post |, July 26, 2023
Comment by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk after Ghana’s Parliament votes to abolish death penalty
UN OHCHR |, July 26, 2023
Parents in South Korea who kill newborns now face death penalty after law passed
The Straits Times |, July 19, 2023
Capitol Hill Democrats introduce bill to end federal death penalty
Catholic News Agency |, July 19, 2023
North Koreans risk death penalty for using South Korean language
Scottish Legal News |, June 30, 2023
Arizona Man Is Freed After 28 Years on Death Row
New York Times |, June 16, 2023
Two Australians facing death penalty in Vietnam granted clemency
Al Jazeera |, June 06, 2023
Japanese Supreme Court upholds mans death sentence for Manila murders
The Japan Times |, June 05, 2023
Zimbabwe’s new bill that imposes death penalty for ‘unpatriotic acts’
Africa Feeds |, June 01, 2023
Iran hangs three on drug charges amid criticism
Al Jazeera |, May 21, 2023
Singapore: OHCHR calls on authorities to halt imminent trafficking execution
United Nation News |, April 25, 2023
Washington state eliminates death penalty from law
CNN |, April 21, 2023
HC: Death penalty should be abolished in the 21st century
UN OHCHR |, April 03, 2023
HC: Death penalty should be abolished in the 21st century
UN OHCHR |, April 03, 2023
HC: Death penalty should be abolished in the 21st century
UN OHCHR |, April 03, 2023
HC: Death penalty should be abolished in the 21st century
UN OHCHR |, April 03, 2023
Malaysia ends mandatory death penalty for serious crimes
BBC News |, April 03, 2023
Surge in executions of drug offenders in 2022, more on death row
Al Jazeera |, March 16, 2023
Pope condemns Irans use of death penalty against protesters
Reuters |, January 09, 2023
Pope Francis’ prayer intention for September: ‘Abolition of the death penalty’
CBCP News |, September 01, 2022
Singapore executes two drug traffickers despite pleas for clemency
CNN |, July 07, 2022
Malaysia to abolish mandatory death penalty
Al Jazeera |, June 10, 2022
Missionary priest praises Central African Republic for abolishing death penalty
Crux |, June 02, 2022
Saudi Arabia: Release Abdullah al-Howaiti, revoke death sentence
Un News |, May 31, 2022
Rights office welcomes Zambia’s pledge to abolish the death penalty
UN News |, May 22, 2022
Kazakhstan Finalizes Commitment to Abolishing Death Penalty, Submits Ratification of Protocol to UN
The Astana Times |, March 28, 2022
Papua New Guinea abolishes death penalty
JURIST |, January 24, 2022
‘Just Mercy’ author urges Utah Legislature to abolish death penalty
Deseret News |, January 20, 2022
Macron calls for worldwide end to death penalty on 40th anniversary of French abolition
France 24 |, September 10, 2021
Virginia Becomes First Southern State to Abolish the Death Penalty
The New York Times |, March 24, 2021
Death penalty debate reemerges in Nevada after past stalls
Fox 5 (Las Vegas) |, March 24, 2021
Virginia becomes first state in US south to abolish death penalty
ALJAZEERA |, March 24, 2021
Abolish the federal death penalty
Chicago Sun-times |, March 01, 2021
Family members of murder victims speak out against the death penalty
KPVI News 6 |, March 01, 2021
Bill To Repeal Death Penalty Filed In Wyoming Legislature
Kgab |, March 01, 2021
State Senate Votes to Abolish Death Penalty
Newsradio 1140 WRVA |, February 04, 2021
Trump administration carries out 13th, final federal execution
Aljazeera |, January 16, 2021
A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for the only woman on federal death row pending a competency hearing
CNN |, January 12, 2021
Asian Nations Reject UN Vote Against Death Penalty
Human Rights Watch |, November 24, 2020
Holy See: ‘Death penalty the most shocking thing in the world
Vatican News |, October 10, 2020
Tunisia president calls for return of death penalty following brutal killing
The Guardian |, October 01, 2020
Kazakhstan takes important step towards abolishing death penalty
Amnesty Internatonal |, September 24, 2020
US Bishops stress opposition to death penalty
Independent Catholic News |, September 23, 2020
‘Travesty of justice’: Reaction to execution of Iranian wrestler
Aljazeera |, September 14, 2020
Unpacking public opinion on the death penalty
Asia Pacific Forum |, July 28, 2020
The Florida Supreme Court’s U-turn on the death penalty
Tampa Bay Times |, May 28, 2020
Man sentenced to death in Singapore via Zoom
BBC News |, May 20, 2020
Saudi Arabia ends death penalty for crimes committed by minors
The Guardian |, April 27, 2020
Catholic leaders praise abolition of death penalty in Colorado
CRUX |, March 25, 2020
Colorado Abolishes Death Penalty and Commutes Sentences of Death Row Inmates
The New York Times |, March 23, 2020
UK urged to act over men facing death in Egypt for alleged childhood crimes
The Guardian |, March 08, 2020
Berlin International Film Festival: Iranian film about executions wins top prize
BBC |, February 29, 2020
Trump condemned after claiming very powerful death penalty would reduce drug dealing
The Independent |, February 11, 2020
Outsourcing injustice: Guantanamo on the Euphrates
Al Jazeera News |, February 04, 2020
British Isis prisoners may end up in Iraq, where death sentences are handed down without due process
Independent |, February 02, 2020
Saudi Arabia executed record number of prisoners in 2019: Report
ABC News |, January 14, 2020
Death Sentence Overturned for Pervez Musharraf, Ex-Leader of Pakistan
The New York Times |, January 13, 2020
Japan executes foreigner for first time in a decade
Independent |, December 26, 2019
The Khashoggi verdict is exactly what impunity looks like. It must be denounced.
Agnes Callamard, Opinions, Washington Post |, December 24, 2019
5 foreigners in drug case could face death in Indonesia |, December 18, 2019
Pervez Musharraf: Pakistan ex-leader sentenced to death for treason
BBC News |, December 17, 2019
Botswana urged to abolish death penalty after latest execution
The Guardian |, December 09, 2019
I Oversaw Executions. We Cannot Resume the Federal Death Penalty
New York Times |, December 04, 2019
Americans Now Support Life in Prison Over Death Penalty
Gallup News |, November 25, 2019
UN criticizes Irans use of death penalty against minors
DW |, October 24, 2019
The Death Penalty for Drugs: What Public Opinion Surveys in Asia Teach Us
Giada Girelli, Filter Mag |, October 17, 2019
Malaysia: Unfair trials, secretive hangings and petty drug convictions reveal ‘cruel injustice’ of the death penalty
Amnesty International |, October 10, 2019
Against the death penalty: barrister Julian McMahon
ABC Radio |, July 25, 2019
Malaysia’s repeal of death penalty opens deep wounds, including that of Mongolian model murder
The Independent|, July 09, 2019
Why is Sri Lanka reinstating death penalty?
DW|, July 07, 2019
Debate on death penalty not very vigorous 1 year after Aum executions
Japan Today|, July 06, 2019
Prosecutor won’t seek death penalty in death of grandmother
News 4 Tucson|, July 06, 2019
SC issues Interim Order against death penalty
Daily FT|, July 06, 2019
Latter-day Saint Church defends involvement in death penalty case
Fox13 Salt Lake City|, July 06, 2019
Death penalty debate remains muted in Japan 1 year after AUM executions
Kyodo News|, July 05, 2019
Source: Govt will not table Bill to abolish death penalty this Parliament meeting
The Star|, July 05, 2019
The murder was caught on surveillance video. The accused now faces death if convicted
Miami Herald|, July 05, 2019
Sri Lanka- Supreme Court issues interim order against death penalty
MenaFN|, July 05, 2019
Jury to consider death penalty in Chinese scholar killing
Federal News Network|, July 05, 2019
As Malaysia eyes death penalty repeal, Al Jazeera documentary explores dilemma of capital punishment
Malay Mail|, July 04, 2019
Kentucky judge declares death penalty protocol unconstitutional
Crux Now|, July 04, 2019
Jose Martinez, The Hit Man Who Confessed To Killing Three Dozen People, Avoids The Death Penalty
BuzzFeed News|, July 03, 2019
Merced County DA is seeking the death penalty. And it could get costly, experts say
The Merced Sunstar|, July 03, 2019
Activists Hold Annual Fast Outside Supreme Court to Protest Death Penalty
Spektrum News|, July 02, 2019
Kentucky judge declares states death penalty protocol unconstitutional
The Courier Journal|, July 02, 2019
Lawmakers vote to substantially limit Oregon’s death penalty
Oregon Live|, June 29, 2019
Abolish the Death Penalty?
New York Times|, June 22, 2019
The Intercept|, June 18, 2019
In Los Angeles, only people of color are sentenced to death
The Guardian|, June 18, 2019
Poll finds Californians support the death penalty — and Newsom’s moratorium on executions
The LA Times|, June 17, 2019
Debunking the Court’s Latest Death-Penalty Obsession
The Atlantic|, June 17, 2019
Using Saudi death penalty vs. children is barbaric
CNN|, June 17, 2019
Reader reluctantly accepts governor’s death penalty moratorium
The LA Times|, June 14, 2019
Saudi Teenager Faces Death Sentence for Acts When He Was 10
New York Times|, June 09, 2019
GOP Lawmakers Are Quietly Turning Against the Death Penalty
The Atlantic|, June 07, 2019
Death knell: taking a stand to abolish capital punishment
Monash University |, February 26, 2019
Germany abolishes death penalty in public vote
Independent |, November 21, 2018
Pope Francis: ‘death penalty inadmissable’
Vatican News |, August 02, 2018
One Test Could Exonerate Him. Why Wont California Do It?
The New York Times|, May 17, 2018

World News

Jose Martinez, The Hit Man Who Confessed To Killing Three Dozen People, Avoids The Death Penalty

July 03, 2019, BuzzFeed News

The dramatic three-week trial of the hit man, whose reign of killing was chronicled in a in a BuzzFeed News investigation last year, featured testimony about cold-blooded murders — and wholesome swimming parties with his grandkids.

OCALA, Florida — The confessed drug cartel hit man Jose Manuel Martinez had already been sentenced to 10 life terms in prison by the time he was sent to Florida to face charges on two murders here.

But Florida prosecutors thought they could do something that California and Alabama prosecutors could not: They thought they could get a death sentence.

After all, he had told multiple police detectives from multiple states about how he had killed three dozen people, many of them on behalf of drug cartels, over a 30-year run of impunity.

If the death penalty wasn’t appropriate for someone like Martinez, who sometimes laughed as he described the damage his bullets did, prosecutors asked the jury, then who was it right for?

But prosecutors hadn’t counted on the impact on the jury of hearing from more than a dozen members of Martinez’s family, who testified, often through tears, about how he had sacrificed himself to protect his siblings during a brutal childhood in California’s Central Valley and how he took his children and grandchildren to Disneyland and on swimming adventures.

At the end of the three-week trial, after less than two hours of deliberations, a jury of seven women and five men decided late last week to spare Martinez’s life. For the 2006 murders of Javier Huerta and Gustavo Olivares-Rivas, whose bullet-riddled bodies were left to rot inside a Titan truck parked at the edge of Florida’s swampy Ocala National Forest, he was instead sentenced to two more life terms.

Martinez said that he executed the two men because Huerta had stolen 10 kilos of cocaine from Martinez’s employers. In the course of the killing, Martinez recovered $210,000 in cash, some of which he gave to his mother, and some of which he spent on a quinceañera party for one of his daughters.

One of Martinez’s lawyers, John Spivey, said the case came down to two opposing visions of his client: “the cold killer executing people for payment for over 30 years” versus “a truly dedicated father, uncle, grandfather.”

“The human side outweighed the monster side, in the end,” he said.

After the jury gave its verdict, one of the defendant’s daughters, Joanna Martinez, cried in the courtroom. “I know it was in God’s hands,” she said. She added that she was “sorry to every single person that my dad has caused suffering. I’m sorry on his behalf. I hope they can find peace.”

Jose Martinez, whose reign of killing was chronicled in a BuzzFeed News investigationlast year, was born in California’s Central Valley. He committed his first murders before he was 18 — to avenge, he said, the murder of a beloved sister.

His first murder-for-hire came shortly after his 18th birthday. He continued to kill with near impunity for more than three decades. By his own account, Martinez committed murders in Washington, Idaho, Oklahoma, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, and Colorado. But the worst of his violence was inflicted in the community where he was born and raised: the sunbaked flatlands of California’s San Joaquin Valley. Police there suspected him in numerous murders but never charged him.

As to how he got away with it, Martinez simply said he was “so damn good.” He left little evidence and few witnesses. But a key element of his success was that he understood the stark injustice of American law enforcement: Kill people who don’t matter — who are poor, who are immigrants, who may be criminals themselves and don’t have anyone to speak for them — and you can get away with it.

In the end, Martinez gave himself up to save his family.

It started in 2013, when police began investigating a murder in Alabama. Martinez had killed the man, an acquaintance of his daughter’s, as revenge for his calling her a bad mother. But in Mexico, where Martinez was safely out of reach of US law enforcement, he heard that police were planning to call his young granddaughter in for questioning. That he could not abide.

He came back to the United States and confessed to the murder. And then he kept going.

When T.J. Watts, a Florida detective investigating the 2006 cold case murder of Huerta and Olivares-Rivas, came calling, Martinez confessed to murdering them, too. Martinez also told Watts that it was “time for me to pay for all the things I’ve done in my life.”

Martinez insisted that unlike other contract killers, he lived by a moral code. He tried to kill only the intended target, not their family members. And he killed men, or so he at least claimed, who had hurt women or children.

Martinez pleaded guilty to one murder in Alabama and nine more in California, receiving multiple life terms. Then he was extradited to Florida.

It took jurors less than 30 minutes to decide that Martinez had murdered Huerta and Olivares-Rivas in cold blood. Then prosecutor Amy Berndt made the state’s case that he should be put to death.

She acted out some of the other murders for which he had been convicted, holding up her fingers in the shape of a gun. Current and retired detectives from around the country showed videos of Martinez confessing.

The jury also heard from the wife of Martinez’s first murder-for-hire, Cecilia Camacho. She told the jury what it was like, as a 21-year-old mother on her way to a day of work in the olive fields, when someone sped up beside them and shot her beloved husband in the head.

For three decades, until Martinez confessed, she never knew who had killed him or why.

Then it was the defense’s turn.

Throughout his long run of killing, Martinez had been lucky. Police had made mistakes, overlooking evidence that was sometimes right in front of their eyes. Even when Martinez had been a suspect, police had not charged him.

Now, with his life on the line, he got lucky again.

He got a public defender who was a seasoned trial lawyer in capital cases, working for an office that was prepared to spend money on experts and cross-country trips to interview witnesses.

Martinez’s lawyers brought in medical experts to argue that his brain was irreparably damaged from a head injury he’d suffered as a young man. He was a product of incest, they noted. His mother had been raped by her own uncle. They called in trauma experts to talk about his childhood amid violent drug traffickers and how it had given him a “skewed moral code.”

And finally, they flew in nearly 20 members of his family to testify about how much they loved him.

Daughters, sons, nieces, grandchildren — all told the jury a version of the same thing: He has done bad things, but he is always there for us, the one who takes us to the hospital, who makes us laugh away our tears, and who comes up with the money for doctors and funerals and other expenses.

Patricia Martinez, the defendant’s younger sister, told the jury the lengths to which her brother had gone, even as a child, to protect her. “He’s been more than a brother. He’s my guardian,” she said. “I’m alive because of him. He took beatings for us. He fed us. He saved me.”

The jury was out for two hours before coming back to say: No death penalty. Judge Anthony Tatti sentenced Martinez and offered him the chance to say something, but Martinez declined.

But afterward, Martinez said the testimony from his family saved his life.

Prosecutors declined to comment.

Cecilia Camacho was back home in California when the verdict was announced. She had remarried and had more children with her second husband. She worked picking oranges for decades to help send those children to college, and on to successful careers. The family was shocked that the jury had not voted for death, a relative said.

Camacho was philosophical: No matter what punishment they gave Martinez, her husband was still gone forever.

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