Death Penalty Challenged by Somali Pirates

By MarEx 2012-11-19 12:50:00

Attorneys for three Somalis charged with murder for shooting four Americans aboard a hijacked yacht want a federal judge to stop prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty if they are convicted.

Attorneys for the Somalis defendants wrote in a court filing that the death penalty’s rare use makes it arbitrary and unconstitutional, violating the defendant’s right to due process and equal protection of the law. 

Executions under the federal law are very rare. Only three out of more than 1,300 executions have occurred since 1976 having been carried out by the federal government. These statistics came from the Death Penalty Information Center who are a non-profit organization serving the public with information and analysis on capital punishment.

Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle, and Shani Nurani Abrar face a host of death penalty entitled charges associated to the February, 2011 hijacking of the yacht Quest. 22 out of the 26 counts the defendants are charged with are death-eligible offenses. Trial is scheduled to begin in 2013. The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Twelve other men who are linked to the case have already either pleaded guilty or have been convicted of piracy and sentenced to life in prison.

Prosecutors have not yet responded to the filing. Experts say some of the arguments have been made ineffectively in the past.