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    Afzal Guru

    Mohammad Afzal Guru (1969 - 9 February 2013), an Indian national, was convicted by Indian court for the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, and sentenced to death by a special Prevention of Terrorism Act Court in 2002. The Delhi High Court confirmed the judgment in 2003 and his appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of India in 2005. The Supreme Court did not find any evidence as to his membership to any terrorist organisation but stated that the circumstances clearly established that Guru was associated with the deceased terrorists in almost every act done by them in order to achieve the objective of attacking the Parliament and there was sufficient and satisfactory circumstantial evidence to establish that he was a partner in the conspiracy. The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on 20 October 2006, but Guru was given a stay of execution after protests in Jammu and Kashmir and remained on death row. On 3 February 2013, his mercy petition was rejected by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. He was secretly hanged at Delhi's Tihar Jail around 08:00 am on 9 February 2013 and afterward buried inside jail grounds in Operation Three Star. His family was not informed prior to execution and his dead body was later denied to his family, while his execution resulted in violent protests across the Kashmir region.

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    “Warriors who sacrifice their lives for the emperor will not die. They will live forever. Truly they should be called gods and Buddhas for whom there is no life or death. Where there is absolute loyalty there is no life or death.”
    Sugimoto Goro, the posterboy of the Zen office.
    Lt. Col. Sugimoto Goro

    “Warriors who sacrifice their lives for the emperor will not die but live forever. Truly, they should be called gods and Buddhas for whom there is no life or death. . .. Where there is absolute loyalty there is no life or death. Where there is life and death there is no absolute loyalty. When a person talks of his view of life and death, that person has not yet become pure in heart. He has not yet abandoned body and mind. In pure loyalty there is no life or death. Simply live in pure loyalty!”– Sugimoto Goro

    Colonel Sugimoto Goro (May 25, 1900 to September 14, 1937) was a Japanese army officer and Buddhist philosopher, he was killed in combat during the Battle of Taiyuan in sept 1937, Sugimoto was a very pure imperialist, when he was shot he moved his sword to the left hand and gave a salute to the direction of the imperial palace, after his dead his friends and family decided to publish a posthumous book called Great Duty (Taigi) and became especially popular among Japanese army officers and soldiers, 1,200,000 copies were sold from 1938 to 1945, in his book he said: The reason that Zen is necessary for soldiers is that all Japanese, especially soldiers, must live in the spirit of the unity of the sovereign and subjects, eliminating their ego and getting rid of their self. It is exactly the awakening to the nothingness (mu) of Zen that is the fundamental spirit of the unity of sovereign and subjects. Through my practice of Zen I am able to get rid of myself. In facilitating the accomplishment of this, Zen becomes, as it is, the true spirit of the imperial military.

    One can easily see how a belief in the transient unreality of the world could lead to an unsentimental attitude towards life. A seventh-century Chan (Chinese Buddhist) text, the Treatise on Absolute Contemplation, argued that killing is ethical if one recognizes that the victim is only empty and dream-like.[4] A millennium later, the seventeenth-century Zen master Takuan Sōhō wrote that:

    The uplifted sword has no will of its own, it is all of emptiness. It is like a flash of lightning. The man who is about to be struck down is also of emptiness, and so is the one who wields the sword. None of them are possessed of a mind that has any substantiality. As each of them is of emptiness and has no “mind,” the striking man is not a man, the sword in his hands is not a sword, and the “I” who is about to be struck down is like the splitting of the spring breeze in a flash of lightning.[5]

    The samurai appear to have had little difficulty in reconciling their Zen religion with their warrior ethos.

    It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. – Sun Tzu

    In the twentieth century, the Imperial Japanese developed soldier-Zen as a particular spiritual ethos compatible with their nation and state. This was advocated in particular by Lieutenant Colonel Sugimoto Gorō (1900-1937), who died in battle in China, and was honored by the Zen orders as a “military god” (gunshin).

    Buddhist monks practice military drill in the 1930s under the gaze of an army officer. By the 1930s, Buddhism had effectively been militarized to support Japan’s wars abroad.

    Here are some passages from Sugimoto’s writings and sayings:

    The Zen that I do . . . is soldier-Zen. The reason that Zen is important for soldiers is that all Japanese, especially soldiers, must live in the spirit of the unity of sovereign and subjects, eliminating their ego and getting rid of their self. It is exactly the awakening to the nothingness of Zen that is the fundamental spirit of the unity of sovereign and subjects. Through my practice of Zen I am able to get rid of my ego. In facilitating the accomplishment of this, Zen becomes, as it is, the true spirit of the Imperial military.

    * * *

    The emperor is identical with the Great [Sun] Goddess Amaterasu. He is the supreme and only God of the universe, the supreme sovereign of the universe. All of the many components [of a country] including such things as its laws and constitution, its religion, ethics, learning, art, etc. are expedient means by which to promote unity with the emperor. That is to say, the greatest mission of these components is to promote an awareness of the non-existence of the self and the absolute nature of the emperor. Because of the nonexistence of the self everything in the universe is a manifestation of the emperor . . . including even the insect chirping in the hedge, or the gentle spring breeze. . . .

    * * *

    If you wish to penetrate the true meaning of “Great Duty,” the first thing you should do is to embrace the teachings of Zen and discard self-attachment.

    * * *

    War is moral training for not only the individual but for the entire world. It consists of the extinction of self-seeking and the destruction of self-preservation. It is only those without self-attachment who are able to revere the emperor absolutely.

    * * *

    Life and death are identical. [Compare the Zen concept: “Unity of life and death” (shōji ichinyo)] . . . Warriors who sacrifice their lives for the emperor will not die, but live forever. Truly, they should be called gods and Buddhas for whom there is no life or death. . . . Where there is absolute loyalty there is no life or death. Where there is life and death there is no absolute loyalty. When a person talks of his view of life and death, that person has not yet become pure in heart. He has not yet abandoned body and mind. In pure loyalty there is no life or death. Simply live in pure loyalty!

    * * *

    In Buddhism, especially the Zen sect, there is repeated reference to the identity of body and mind. In order to realize this identity of the two it is necessary to undergo training with all one’s might and regardless of the sacrifice. Furthermore, the essence of the unity of body and mind is to be found in egolessness. Japan is a country where the Sovereign and the people are identical. When Imperial subjects meld themselves into one with the August Mind [of the emperor], their original countenance shines forth. The essence of the unity of the sovereign and the people is egolessness.

    There is an almost “national-pagan” quality to soldier-Zen’s sublimation of the self into an assertive nation mystically united around a divine monarch.

    Monks at Asakusa Temple, in Tokyo, perform air raid drills with gas masks in 1936

    Following his death in battle, Sugimoto was honored as a national hero by Yamazaki Ekijū, the head of the Rinzai Zen school. This is unsurprising given that Yamazaki’s Zen was firmly national and self-sacrificing. He said, “Japanese Buddhism must be centered on the emperor; for were it not, it would have no place in Japan, it would not be living Buddhism. Even Buddhism must conform to the national structure of Japan. The same holds true for Shakyamuni [Buddha]’s teachings.” He claimed that the Japanese had so cultivated selflessness that, “[f]or Japanese there is no such thing as sacrifice.”[6]

    Yamazaki described Sugimoto’s death thus:

    A grenade fragment hit him in the left shoulder. He seemed to have fallen down but then got up again. Although he was standing, one could not hear his commands. He was no longer able to issue commands with that husky voice of his. . . . Yet he was still standing, holding his sword in one hand as a prop. Both legs were slightly bent, and he was facing in an easterly direction [toward the imperial palace]. It appeared that he had saluted though his hand was now lowered to about the level of his mouth. The blood flowing from his mouth covered his watch.

    In the past it was considered to be the true appearance of a Zen priest to pass away while doing zazen [seated meditation]. Those who were completely and thoroughly enlightened, however, . . . could die calmly in a standing position. . . . The reason this was possible was due to samādhi[concentration] power.

    To the last second Sugimoto was a man whose speech and actions were at one with each other.
    When he saluted and faced the east, there is no doubt that he also shouted, “May His Majesty, the emperor, live for 10,000 years!” [Tennō-heika Banzai]. It is for this reason that his was the radiant ending of an Imperial soldier. Not only that, but his excellent appearance should be a model for future generations of someone who lived in Zen.[7]

    For Yamazaki, Sugimoto “demonstrated the action that derives from the unity of Zen and sword [zenken ichinyo].” Furthermore, “[t]hrough the awareness Sugimoto achieved in becoming one with death, there was, I think, nothing he couldn’t achieve.”[8]

    “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” – Isoroku Yamamoto

    Isoroku Yamamoto(山本五十六Yamamoto Isoroku, April 4, 1884 – April 18, 1943) was a JapaneseMarshal Admiral of the Navy and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II until his death.
    Yamamoto held several important posts in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), and undertook many of its changes and reorganizations, especially its development of naval aviation. He was the commander-in-chief during the decisive early years of the Pacific War and therefore responsible for major battles, such as Pearl Harbor and Midway. He died when American code breakers identified his flight plans and his plane was shot down. His death was a major blow to Japanese military morale during World War II.
    “The fiercest serpent may be overcome by a swarm of ants.” - Isoroku Yamamoto

    Statement in opposition of the planned construction of the Yamato class battleships, as quoted in Scraps of paper: the disarmament treaties between the world wars (1989) by Harlow A. Hyde. In this statement, Yamamoto implies that even the most powerful battleships can be sunk by a huge swarm of carrier planes. This remark also proved prophetic as both Yamato and Musashi would be sunk by overwhelming air attacks.


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     Ryozo Watabe

    Demons still haunt Christian soldier
    He didn't kill but couldn't stop atrocities
    by Setsuko Kamiya

    26th in a series

    Before and during the war, Japanese believed the Emperor was a living god. They also believed they were fighting for him and dying on the battlefield was honorable.

    Christians were often the targets of discrimination during the era of Emperor worship, largely because they were judged as not regarding the monarch’s divinity as absolute. Some people may have even viewed Christians as followers of an enemy religion. During the war, however, Christian churches obeyed authorities and were controlled by the military government.

    Ryozo Watabe, 86, is highly critical of Japanese churches for giving in to what he now sees as a government that misled the people into wars of aggression. A devout Christian, Watabe followed his faith and refused to kill as a soldier.

    And though he never took anyone’s life, Watabe is still in agony. He says he has no words to express how much he regrets not being able to stop others from killing.

    “As a Christian, the answer was clear. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ But I couldn’t say that to others,” Watabe said.

    To this day, he is filled with remorse that he lived in fear rather than faith during the war.

    Watabe was a 21-year-old economics student at Chuo University in Tokyo when he was drafted in January 1944. He was among the university students who were forced after 1943 to give up their studies and make up for the shortage in soldiers.

    Watabe said he didn’t consider refusing the mandatory service, not because it would have been futile but because, as he put it, the Bible says everyone must submit to the governing authorities.

    “But I was determined to refuse (to do certain things) without reservation, if I faced a situation where I should do so based on my faith,” Watabe said.

    There were a few people around Watabe who advised him to follow orders if he wanted to avoid getting into trouble in the military.

    Growing up in the town of Oguni, Yamagata Prefecture, Watabe developed his religious beliefs under the influence of his father, Yaichiro, a dedicated Christian and disciple of Kanzo Uchimura, an important figure in Japan’s Christian community in the early 1900s. The rural area had very few other Christians.

    Watabe said he grew up in an environment where it was natural that his father welcomed his nanny to the table for meals with the family, teaching him that discrimination was not the way of their God. In those days, it was common for masters and servants to eat separately.

    Before Watabe’s departure to China in January 1944, his father begged him to come home alive because the war was not worth dying for. On the night before his departure, “my father also told me to always pray to God,” Watabe said.

    While Watabe was in China, his father was seized by the special police because of his Christian beliefs. His mother and sisters meanwhile suffered unfair distribution of food and supplies, he said.

    Once staff officers learned of Watabe’s religious beliefs, he was blacklisted. “In the military, they had a term for those who were considered at risk of disobeying the regime — ‘tagged’ — and I became one of them,” he said.

    Watabe was assigned to a brigade based in Hebei Province in northern China. He was in a group of 49 new recruits who were trained for combat.

    In April that year Watabe faced his first test. One morning, a senior soldier announced that as part of the recruits’ training and to test their nerve, they were going to bayonet Chinese Eighth Route Army prisoners of war.

    Watabe said he could only pray to God for guidance.

    Later, when the first POW was brought to the execution site, an officer instructed the trainees to thrust their bayonets upward when they stabbed and demonstrated the technique. Watabe said he couldn’t believe the horrific sight.

    The recruits were ordered to follow suit. Watabe recalled how the first one shook as he ran to bayonet the Chinese victim. The soldier’s first attempt failed, or at least it wasn’t the way the officer had shown them. The commander shouted at him and ordered to do it again. And he did.

    “No one had killed others before this. Murder was a crime that resulted in a life sentence or the death penalty, but now it was an act of service to the Emperor,” he said. “I just feel that there were actually few people who could accept that without much hesitation.”

    But one after another, the recruits took turns executing the POWs. Watabe’s turn was approaching.

    Right before his turn came, Watabe said he heard the voice of God: “Put on Christ. It is a sin not to follow God’s teaching. Refuse the slaughter with your life.”

    Watabe later heard that the human body can feel pain when one is under extreme pressure, but he believes it was God talking to him. And on hearing his voice, Watabe did not move.

    The commander came to him and asked: “Are you telling me that you refused to kill the POW because of your faith?” To this, he replied “Yes, sir!”

    Several hardened troops cursed Watabe and spat on him. One seized him by the collar. The ranking officer stopped them and ordered the training to resume. He said Watabe would be punished later.

    Watabe said he was not court-martialed or locked up. Nor was he condemned. Instead, he was subjected to torture. It began at night a few days later and it came in many variations.

    Ranking officers would take any occasion to beat him, using gaiters, boots and belt buckles. They also kicked and punched him. On other occasions, he was made to hold a wash basin with a hole over his head and bear the water dripping from it in the cold weather.

    Sometimes when one soldier failed to follow orders, all of the recruits had to face each other and slap the other. Watabe said that because his platoon had 15 soldiers, he was always the odd man out and had to face a hardened veteran who would use any tool at hand to beat him.

    “I thought it was happening to me because my faith was not strong enough,” Watabe said.

    On one such occasion, Watabe passed out. When he came to, a medic talked to him. “He told me that I was a fool, and I should just shut my eyes and stab (the POW) and that would be the end of it,” Watabe said. “These words still give me the shivers.”

    Standing out as a rebel, Watabe was assigned several times to other duties. He thinks the officers didn’t want a troublemaker under their command. In the end, he became one of the unit’s two communications soldiers. Watabe was trained in Morse code and became good at it. He feels luck was on his side as this assignment helped him survive.

    Despite avoiding direct combat, however, the two years he spent in the military forced him to witness many atrocities.

    Of all the horrific sights, Watabe said the memory of taking a village with around 500 households still haunts him. The combat lasted six days, and Watabe estimates that around 500 out of the 800 Japanese soldiers taking part were killed or severely wounded. All of the villagers were killed.

    During the operation, Watabe helped treat wounded soldiers with the medics. He saw soldiers turning ferocious as the combat became severe. But the image that haunts him to this day is the execution of a young Chinese woman and her small child.

    “I just cannot forget the innocent look in the eyes of the baby. I don’t think he knew what was happening,” Watabe said. “At that moment, I should have shouted not to kill them, or stood in front of the baby and the mother and be killed with them. That’s what a man with faith should have done. But I closed my eyes.”

    Watabe said he is ashamed he was intimidated by something other than God, believing this means his faith wavered.

    He secretly kept a diary in the form of tanka. Soldiers were strictly prohibited from keeping diaries and their belongings were inspected, but Watabe wrote his poems in a small notebook when he was in the latrine. Luckily, it was never found.

    After the war, Watabe worked as an official at the Board of Audit. He kept quiet about his experiences until about 15 years ago, when his granddaughter sat on his lap and innocently asked him whether war was scary.

    In 1994, Watabe published “Chiisana Teikou” (“Small Resistance”), a compilation of around 600 of his wartime tanka. Each describes what he saw or felt as he lived through the ordeal.

    Since then, Watabe has given numerous speeches and has written about his experiences and thoughts on the war in the hope that young people will not repeat the same mistake.

    He repeatedly said that the fact he could not try to stop others from killing was not simply out of fear of being persecuted, but because he also could not stand up to authority, a quality he feels is typical of Japanese. And he feels people need to overcome this.

    “It’s easy for a person to blindly follow the decision of a government or a nation, but that decision is not always right,” Watabe said. “Even though one may end up disobeying orders, each person must establish a strong ‘self’ and act according to their conscience. This could be anguishing, but in the long run that’s the only key to happiness.”

    In this occasional series, we interview firsthand witnesses of Japan’s march to war and its crushing defeat who wish to pass on their experiences to younger generations.

    Military portrait of prison camp guard Takashi Nagase
    Resisting immoral leadership
    Dec 3, 2009
    Thank you for running Setsuko Kamiya’s Nov. 19 article, “Demons still haunt Christian soldier.” The story of Ryozo Watabe is important. I was moved to read his words of personal struggle against what he knew to be immoral, and I am thankful for his desire to share his experiences with others.

    Watabe spoke of the Japanese church obeying the government during the time, and yet there are examples of churches that refused to obey the government, such as the Mino Mission church in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, in 1933. This church stood against “kokutai” (state structure) and Shinto militarism, and was persecuted because of it. It was a conflict between the principles of “Don’t resist that which is more powerful” and “We must obey God rather than man.”

    Watabe’s Christian faith served him as a guide for what was moral or immoral, whereas those around him gave their allegiance to whatever power was winning at the time. Another example of resistance is found in the founder of the Mukyoukai in Japan, Uchimura Kanzo. Watabe is right when he says we must learn to resist following immoral leadership.

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    Billy Ray Irick
    William Ray Irick
    August 26, 1958
    Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
    Criminal penalty
    Death (December 3, 1986)
    Criminal status

    First degree murder
    (November 1, 1986)
    Two counts of aggravated rape (November 1, 1986)
    Paula Kay Dyer
    April 15, 1985

    William Ray Irick(August 26, 1958 – August 9, 2018) was an American convicted murderer from Tennesseewho was sentenced to death and executed for the 1985 murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer in Knoxville. Irick, then aged 26, had been living with Dyer's family for over a year, and was babysitting five of the family's children (including Dyer) on the night of the girl's murder.
    Irick is also notable for having been the first inmate executed in Tennessee in almost a decade.

    Irick's background

    Irick was born on August 26, 1958, in Knoxville, Tennessee. He allegedly suffered extensive abuse from his family from a young age, including one incident where a neighbor witnessed Irick's father clubbing him with a piece of lumber, as well as Irick telling stories about how his parents would tie him up and beat him from a young age. His mental health was reportedly first questioned in March 1965, when he was 6. A psychological evaluation was subsequently performed at the request of his school's principal, owing to his "extreme behavioral problems". Nina Braswell Lunn, a clinical social worker who performed the subsequent evaluation of Irick, described that Irick may have been suffering from mild organic brain damage since birth.

    Irick was briefly institutionalized before being sent to an orphanage for emotionally disturbed children. During an arranged visit to his parents' home in 1972, Irick (then aged 13) reportedly hit the household's TV set with an axe of some description, destroyed flower beds, and cut up his sister's pajamas with a razor blade.

    Relationship with the Jeffers family

    In 1983, while working as a dishwasher at a truck stopin Knoxville, Irick met and befriended Kenny Jeffers, an auto mechanic who lived in nearby Clinton. Jeffers later introduced Irick to Kathy, his wife whom he had married the previous year, and ultimately in 1984 Irick moved in with the couple and five of the eight children between them (seven of the children, including Paula Dyer, were the offspring of previous relationships, while the Jeffers' first child together was born in 1983.) Irick frequently babysat the children while the Jeffers parents worked long hours. At the start of April 1985, the family home in Clinton burned down, an ordeal during which Irick saved two of the boys from the burning building. Nobody was severely injured or killed during the fire, however, the family had to live in separate abodes as a result of difficulty in finding a house big enough for all eight of them. Thus, Irick moved to the Western Heights neighborhood with Kenny Jeffers, where they lived with Kenny's parents, while Kathy and the children moved to a small rental home on Exeter Avenue in Knoxville.

    Paula Dyer
    Paula Dyer
    Paula Kay Dyer
    March 5, 1978
    Tennessee, U.S.
    April 16, 1985 (aged 7)
    Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
    Cause of death
    Resting place
    Glenwood Baptist Church Cemetery, Powell, Tennessee, U.S.
    Kenny and Kathy Jeffers

    Paula Kay Dyerwas born on March 5, 1978. She was described as a positive young girl who saw the best in others and was extremely trusting of people. Her mother claimed that, when told she could not randomly try to hold hands with strangers, Paula replied with: "Why, mommy? Jesus loves everybody. Why can't I?"

    Paula's kind personality quickly made a positive impression on the neighbors of their new home. Her mother recalled one instance of Paula befriending a next-door neighbor shortly after their arrival at the address, after presenting the neighbor with flowers she had picked from the flower beds at the very front of the house.

    Dyer's murder

    On the morning of Monday, April 15, 1985, following an argument, Kathy Jeffers kicked Irick out of the Exeter Avenue home. That night, because the family's regular babysitter was unavailable, Kenny Jeffers dropped Irick off at the same house to babysit the children. When Kathy left for work at 10 pm, the children were asleep, and she felt uncomfortable leaving the children in Irick's care, on account of the argument earlier that day, Irick's behavior, and her suspicions that he had been drinking.

    At around midnight, Kenny Jeffers received a call from Irick, telling him to come because Irick was unable "to wake (Paula) up". Upon arriving at the Exeter Avenue address, Kenny found Irick standing in the doorway looking vacant, before finding Paula unconscious on the living room floor in a pool of her own blood. After finding a pulse, Kenny wrapped Paula in a blanket and took her to the nearest children's hospital, where a doctor attempted unsuccessfully for 45 minutes to revive her. The same doctor, Dr. Jim Kimball, pronounced Paula dead of asphyxiation in the early hours of April 16, 1985. She was 7 years old.

    Following Paula's autopsy, her cause of death was confirmed to be asphyxiation. In addition, the severe tears in her vagina and rectum were confirmed to be consistent with a brutal rape, as well as a head injury sustained during her ordeal being attributed to blunt force trauma that may have knocked her unconscious. As a result of Paula's murder, the Knoxville police department told the public on the morning of April 16 to be on the lookout for a man matching Irick's physical description. By 5 pm, Irick had been found and arrested beneath a bridge on the I-275. Paula Dyer was buried on April 19 following a fundraising campaign by the community she had been part of for mere weeks.

    Legal proceedings and incarceration

    Police testified that Irick readily confessed to murdering Paula Dyer, both verbally and in writing, and described his behavior as cooperative and remorseful. On April 17, 1985, Irick was arraigned in Dyer's murder, and was appointed two attorneys by a judge after he claimed that he planned to confess and thus did not want a lawyer.

    On October 26, 1986, Irick went on trial for killing Dyer. Six days later, on November 1, he was found guilty by a Knox Countyjury. The defense had launched a failed mental illness claim in an attempt to spare Irick from the death penalty. Irick's mother refused to testify for the defense in an attempt to save Irick's life. On December 3, 1986, that same jury sentenced Irick to death by electrocution, with a tentative execution date of May 4, 1987 (which was stayed). Upon delivery of this verdict, Irick merely smiled and shrugged his shoulders.


    On March 28, 2017, the Tennessee Supreme Court (TNSC) upheld the lethal injection protocols adopted by the Tennessee Department of Correction(TDoC). Thus, on January 18, 2018, the TNSC scheduled Irick's execution for August 9, 2018 — his sixth execution date since arrival on death row. In July 2018, a bench trial was held in Nashville regarding a lawsuit against the TDoC and its execution protocol, filed by over half of the population of Tennessee's death row. On July 26, the chair of the bench, Davidson CountyChancellorEllen Hobbs Lyle, ruled in favor of the TDoC. On August 6, the TNSC refused to grant a stay of Irick's execution to allow an appeal of the ruling. That same day, Tennessee GovernorBill Haslam refused to intervene in Irick's case.

    Finally, on August 9, 2018, the United States Supreme Court refused to grant a stay of execution to Irick on the grounds of his mental health. Subsequently, Irick was executed at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution on August 9, 2018, less than three weeks before what would have been his 60th birthday. He was pronounced dead at 7:48 pm. Irick's execution was the first in Tennessee since Cecil Johnson was executed on December 2, 2009. 

    Crimes against children are the most heinous crime. That, for me, would be a reason for capital punishment because children are innocent and need the guidance of an adult society. – Clint Eastwood

    'I'm really sorry': Rapist and child murderer apologizes before 'coughing, turning purple and dying' from lethal injection in Tennessee's first execution in a DECADE after a last supper of a burger and onion rings

    ·         The Supreme Court denied Billy Ray Irick's final request for a stay of execution

    He was pronounced dead at 7.48pm on Thursday at a Nashville state prison
    Irick ate a burger and onion rings before he was executed on Thursday night
    Midazolam, vecuronium bromid and potassium chloride stopped his heart
    Irick's lawyers argued that the combination of drugs may not be enough to numb him to the pain and their use could constitute torture

    By Associated Press and Reporter
    Published: 05:43 AEST, 10 August 2018 | Updated: 07:11 AEST, 11 August 2018

    The last words spoken by Billy Ray Irick were, 'I just want to say I'm really sorry,' before he was put to death in a Tennessee state prison on Thursday.

    Witnesses to Tennessee’s first execution in nearly a decade say Irick, 59, at first signaled he would have no last words, but then gave a brief statement to those in attendance.

    Journalists present reported that the blinds between a witness room and the execution chamber were opened at 7.26pm on Thursday, and about one minute later, Irick was asked if he had any words before the lethal injection drugs began flowing.

    Irick was convicted in the 1985 rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl he was babysitting.
    At the question of whether he had any final words to say, Irick first appeared to sigh and say 'no.'

    But then he said, 'I just want to say I’m really sorry and that... that’s it.'

    Irick was convicted of raping and murdering seven-year-old Paula Dyer in 1985.

    'What he did to her is the reason he's where he is,' Kathy Jeffers, the other of Paula, told WBIR.

    'I am sick of hearing about his pain and his suffering. What about her pain and her suffering? She was 7 years old, raped, sodomized, and strangled to death. I'm sorry, I feel nothing for his pain. Nothing at all. God, forgive me, but I don't.'

    Irick was babysitting Paula, along with four of her brothers, the night she was raped, sodomized and strangled to death.

    Her brothers were just in the next room and tried to save their sister, but Irick has barricaded the door and they couldn't break through.

    He had come to be a trusted member of the large Jeffers family, which included a total of eight children, and had lived with them for more than a year before sexually assaulting and killing Paula.

    It was Paula's father, Kenny Jeffers, who found his daughter, lying unconscious with a pool of blood between her legs that night, after Irick had called him home from work right around midnight, saying he couldn't wake her up.

    Her father took her to the hospital, and after 45 futile minutes of attempts at lifesaving measures, Paula was pronounced dead.

    One minute after he said he was sorry for the horrific events of that night, his eyes closed, and the sounds of snoring and heavy breathing could be heard.

    The subtle sounds gave way at 7.34pm to coughing, huffing and deep breaths.

    An attendant began yelling 'Billy' and checked the inmate and grabbed his shoulder, but there didn’t seem to be any reaction.

    Two minutes later, Irick was not making any noise and began to turn dark purple.

    He was pronounced dead at 7.48pm.

    Irick is the first death row inmate to be executed by the state of Tennessee since 2009.

    The US Supreme Court cleared the way for his execution on Thursday afternoon, denying Irick's final request for a stay.

    But Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a blistering dissent, citing a recent state court trial of a case brought by 33 death row inmates challenging Tennessee's execution drugs.

    The state Supreme Court denied Irick a stay on Monday related to those challenges, saying a lawsuit filed by inmates contesting the execution drugs being used wasn't likely to succeed.

    Sotomayor wrote that the court is overlooking the potential for 'torturous pain' by that method of execution.

    Governor Bill Haslam also had the power to stop his death, but declined to intervene.

    In addition to legal challenges, since its last execution in 2009, Tennessee has had difficulties securing execution drugs including its previous chemical of choice, pentobarbital.

    But none of those hurdles stopped the process for Irick, who was put to death on Thursday using a combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromid and potassium chloride injections, which stopped his heart.

    His final meal consisted of a burger, onion rings and a Pepsi soft drink.

    But Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a blistering dissent, citing a recent state court trial of a case brought by 33 death row inmates challenging Tennessee's execution drugs.

    The state Supreme Court denied Irick a stay on Monday related to those challenges, saying a lawsuit filed by inmates contesting the execution drugs being used wasn't likely to succeed.

    Sotomayor wrote that the court is overlooking the potential for 'torturous pain' by that method of execution.

    Governor Bill Haslam also had the power to stop his death, but declined to intervene.

    In addition to legal challenges, since its last execution in 2009, Tennessee has had difficulties securing execution drugs including its previous chemical of choice, pentobarbital.

    But none of those hurdles stopped the process for Irick, who was put to death on Thursday using a combination of midazolam, vecuronium bromid and potassium chloride injections, which stopped his heart.

    His final meal consisted of a burger, onion rings and a Pepsi soft drink.

    In July Irick's attorney asked for the Tennessee Supreme Court to delay his execution once again amid a challenge to the state's lethal injection protocol.

    For the first time, Tennessee used midazolam as a sedative, the muscle relaxer vecuronium bromid, and then potassium chloride to stop the heart.

    At question is whether midazolam is effective in rendering someone unconscious and unable to feel pain from the other two drugs.

    But Tennessee Supreme Court judges ruled Irick's attorney had failed to demonstrate a substantially less painful means to carry out the execution or that the drugs the state plans to use would cause the inmate to be tortured to death.

    Federal public defender Kelley Henry had requested the US Supreme Court to delay his execution.

    The Supreme Court rarely stays executions.

    Henry had asked Haslam to issue a temporary reprieve while the drugs are studied further.
    But the governor quickly ruled it out, saying he would not intervene.

    'My role is not to be the 13th juror or the judge or to impose my personal views, but to carefully review the judicial process to make sure it was full and fair,' Henry said.

    'Because of the extremely thorough judicial review of all of the evidence and arguments at every stage in this case, clemency is not appropriate.'

    During the last trial, Henry cited witnesses that described some inmates who still could move, shed a tear, gasp and gulp 'like a fish out of water' while being put to death.

    'Today's decision means that Mr Irick faces a scheduled execution date before the courts have had a chance to thoughtfully consider the challenge to the new lethal injection protocol,' Henry said in a statement on Monday.

    In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sharon Lee added that she 'will not join in the rush to execute Mr Irick and would instead grant him a stay to prevent ending his life before his appeal can be adjudicated.'

    Attorneys for the state have said the US Supreme Court has upheld the use of midazolam in a three-drug series.

    Paula's mother, Kathy Jeffers, said she has no sympathy for Irick.

    'What he did to her is the reason he's where he is,' she told WBIR-TV.

    'I am sick of hearing about his pain and his suffering. What about her pain and her suffering?'

    'She was seven years old, raped, sodomized, and strangled to death. I'm sorry, I feel nothing for his pain. Nothing at all. God, forgive me, but I don't.' 

    Remembering Why: Rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer

    Dad says Channon Christian's killer deserves same fate as Billy Ray Irick

    First conservative TN Supreme Court in decades changed rule, paving way for Irick execution

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    Relief of Vienna by Bacciarelli

    John III

    Portrait of John III Sobieski in Roman costume.
    Portrait by Daniel Schultz
    19 May 1674 – 17 June 1696
    2 February 1676

    17 June 1696 (aged 66)
    Wilanów Palace, Warsaw, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

    John III Sobieski(Polish: Jan III Sobieski; Lithuanian: Jonas III Sobieskis; Latin: Ioannes III Sobiscius; 17 August 1629 – 17 June 1696), was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1674 until his death, and one of the most notable monarchs of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
    Sobieski's military skill, demonstrated in combating the invasions of the Ottoman Empire, contributed to his prowess as King of Poland. Sobieski's 22-year reign marked a period of the Commonwealth's stabilization, much needed after the turmoil of the Deluge and the Khmelnytsky Uprising. Popular among his subjects, he was an able military commander, most famous for his victory over the Turks at the 1683 Battle of Vienna. After his victories over them, the Ottomans called him the "Lion of Lechistan"; and the Pope hailed him as the savior of Christendom.

    Royal titles


    John Sobieski was born on 17 August 1629, in Olesko, now Ukraine, then part of the Ruthenian Voivodeship in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth to a renowned noblefamily de Sobieszyn Sobieski of Janina coat of arms. His father, Jakub Sobieski, was the Voivode of Ruthenia and Castellan of Kraków; his mother, Zofia Teofillia Daniłowicz was a granddaughter of HetmanStanisław Żółkiewski. John Sobieski spent his childhood in Żółkiew. After graduating from the Nowodworski College in Kraków in 1643, young John Sobieski then graduated from the philosophical faculty of the Jagiellonian University in 1646. After finishing his studies, John and his brother Marek Sobieski left for western Europe, where he spent more than two years travelling. They visited Leipzig, Antwerp, Paris, London, Leiden, and The Hague. During that time, he met influential contemporary figures such as Louis II de Bourbon, Charles II of England and William II, Prince of Orange, and learned French, German, and Italian, in addition to Latin.

    Both brothers returned to the Commonwealth in 1648. Upon receiving the news of the death of king Władysław IV Vasa and the hostilities of the Khmelnytsky Uprising, they volunteered for the army. They both fought in the siege of Zamość. They founded and commanded their own banners (chorągiew) of cavalry(one light, "cossack", and one heavy, of Polish hussars). Soon, the fortunes of war separated the brothers. In 1649, Jakub fought in the Battle of Zboriv. In 1652, Marek died in Tatar captivity after his capture at the Battle of Batih. John was promoted to the rank of pułkownikand fought with distinction in the Battle of Berestechko. A promising commander, John was sent by King John II Casimir as one of the envoys in the diplomatic mission of Mikołaj Bieganowski to the Ottoman Empire. There, Sobieski learned the Tatar language and the Turkish language and studied Turkish military traditions and tactics. It is likely he participated as part of the briefly allied Polish-Tatar forces in the 1655 Battle of Okhmativ.

    After the start of the Swedish invasion of Poland known as "The Deluge", John Sobieski was among the Greater Polish regiments led by Krzysztof Opaliński, Palatine of Poznań which capitulated at Ujście, and swore allegiance to King Charles X Gustav of Sweden. However, around late March 1656, he abandoned their side, returning to the side of Polish king John II Casimir Vasa, enlisting under the command of hetmans Stefan Czarniecki and Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski.

    Portrait of John III by Jan Tricius


    By 26 May 1656 he received the position of the chorąży koronny (Standard-bearer of the Crown). During the three-day-long battle of Warsaw of 1656, Sobieski commanded a 2,000-man strong regiment of Tatarcavalry. He took part in a number of engagements over the next two years, including the Siege of Toruń in 1658. In 1659 he was elected a deputy to the Sejm (Polish parliament), and was one of the Polish negotiators of the Treaty of Hadiach with the Cossacks. In 1660 he took part in the last offensive against the Swedes in Prussia, and was rewarded with the office of starost of Stryj. Soon afterward he took part in the war against the Russians, participating in the Battle of Slobodyshche and Battle of Lyubar, and later that year he again was one of the negotiators of a new treaty with the Cossacks (the Treaty of Cudnów).

    Through personal connections, he became a strong supporter of the French faction in the Polish royal court, represented by Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga. His pro-French allegiance was reinforced in 1665, when he married Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d'Arquien and was promoted to the rank of Grand Marshalof the Crown.

    In 1662 he was again elected a deputy to the Sejm, and took part in the work on reforming the military. He was also a member of the Sejm in 1664 and 1665. In between he participated in the Russian campaign of 1663. Sobieski remained loyal to the King during the Lubomirski Rebellion of 1665–66, though it was a difficult decision for him. He participated in the Sejm of 1665, and after some delays, accepted the prestigious office of the Marshal of the Crown on 18 May that year. Around late April or early May 1666 he received another high office of the Commonwealth, that of the Field Crown Hetman. Soon afterward, he was defeated at the Battle of Mątwy, and signed the Agreement of Łęgonice on the 21 July, which ended the Lubomirski Rebellion.

    In October 1667 he achieved another victory over the Cossacks of Petro Doroshenko and their Crimean Tatar allies in the Battle of Podhajce during the Polish–Cossack–Tatar War (1666–71). This allowed him to regain his image as a skilled military leader. Later that year, in November, his first child, James Louis Sobieski was born in Paris. On 5 February 1668 he achieved the rank of Grand Hetman of the Crown, the highest military rank in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and thereby the de factocommander-in-chief of the entire Polish Army. Later that year he supported the French candidacy of Louis, Grand Condé for the Polish throne, and after this candidacy fell apart, Philip William, Elector Palatine. Following the election of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki he joined the opposition faction; he and his allies helped vetoseveral sejms (including the coronation ones), and his attitude once again resulted in him losing popularity among the regular szlachta. While his pro-French stance in politics alienated some, his military victories against invading Tatars in 1671 helped him gain other allies. The year 1672 saw internal politics destabilizing the Commonwealth, as the pro-French faction of Sobieski and pro-court faction of King Michał formed two confederations, which despite major Ottoman incursions in the southseemed more concerned with one another than with uniting to defend the country. The court faction called openly for confiscation of his estates and dismissal from office, and declared him an "enemy of the state". This division culminated in the humiliating Treaty of Buchach, where the Commonwealth was forced to cede territories to the Ottomans, but promise an annual tribute. Sobieski eventually succeeded in balancing politics and national defense, and a combination of his military victories over the invaders, and successful negotiations at the Sejm in April 1673, led to a compromise in which the court faction dropped its demands and challenges against him. 

    John III Sobieski, the victor of the Battle of Khotyn

    On 11 November 1673 Sobieski added a major victory to his list, this time defeating the Ottomans in the Battle of Khotyn and capturing the fortress located there. The news of the battle coincided with the death of King Michal the day before the battle. This made Sobieski one of the leading figures of the state, so on 19 May the following year, he was elected monarch of the Commonwealth. His candidacy was almost universally supported, with only a dozen or so members of the diet opposing him (mainly centered around magnates of the Lithuanian Pac family). In light of the war, requiring Sobieski to be on the front lines, the coronation ceremony was significantly delayed – he was crowned John III almost two years later, on 2 February 1676.

    Relief of Vienna by Bacciarelli

    King of Poland

    Though Poland-Lithuania was at that time the largest and one of the most populous states of Europe, Sobieski became a king of a country devastated by almost half a century of constant war. The treasury was almost empty and the court had little to offer the powerful magnates, who often allied themselves with foreign courts rather than the state.

    Sobieski had a number of long term plans, including establishing his own dynasty in the Commonwealth, regaining lost territories, and strengthening the country through various reforms. One of his ambitions was to unify Christian Europe in a crusade to drive the Turks out of Europe. At the beginning of his reign, however, the Polish state was in dire fiscal straits and faced military threats to the north. King Louis XIV of France promised to mediate a truce between the Ottomans and Poland so that Sobieski could focus his attentions on Prussia. The negotiations ended in failure and Sobieski's Baltic goals had to be tempered by the immediate reality of the Ottoman threat to the south.

    In the autumn of 1674, he recommenced the war against the Ottomans and managed to recapture a number of cities and fortresses including Bratslav, Mogilev, and Bar, which re-established a strongly fortified line defending Poland's southern border in Ukraine. In 1675, Sobieski defeated a Turkish and Tatar offensive aiming at Lviv. In 1676, the Tatars began a counter-offensive and crossed the Dneper, but could not retake the strategic town of Żórawno, and a peace treaty (the Treaty of Żurawno) was signed soon afterwards. Although Kamieniec Podolski and much of Podolia remained a part of the Ottoman Empire, Poland gained the return of the towns of Bila Tserkva and Pavoloch.

    The treaty with the Ottomans began a period of peace that was much needed for the repair of the country and strengthening of the royal authority. Sobieski managed to reform the Polish army completely. The army was reorganised into regiments, the infantry finally dropped pikes, replacing them with battle-axes, and the Polish cavalry adopted hussar and dragoon formations. Sobieski also greatly increased the number of cannon and introduced new artillery tactics.

    Sobieski wanted to conquer Prussia with Swedishtroops and French support. Regaining control of this autonomous province was in the Commonwealth's best interest, and Sobieski also hoped for it to become part of his family domain. To this end he made the secret Treaty of Jaworów (1675), but he achieved nothing. The wars with the Ottoman Empire were not decisively won by the Commonwealth, the ruler of Brandenburg-Prussia made treaties with France, Prussia defeated the Swedish invasion, and Sobieski's plans for the Commonwealth's own military campaign against Prussia was opposed by Commonwealth magnates, many of them taking the Prussian side. Backed by Brandenburg and Austria, internal enemies of Sobieski even planned to dethrone him and elect Charles of Lorraine.

    The French-Prussian treaty of 1678 meant that Sobieski lost the major foreign ally for his planned campaign against Prussia; consequently he started to distance himself from the pro-French faction, which in turn resulted in the cooling down of the Polish-French relations. During the Sejm of 1683, the French ambassador was expelled for involvement with a plan to dethrone Sobieski, definitely marking the end of the Polish-French alliance. At the same time Sobieski made peace with the pro-Habsburg faction and started to gravitate towards an alliance with Austria. This did not end the existence of strong internal opposition to Sobieski; however, it changed a number of allegiances, and further opposition was temporarily weakened through the king's successful political maneuvering, including granting the Grand Hetman office to one of the opposition's chief leaders, Stanisław Jan Jabłonowski.

    Conscious that Poland lacked allies and risked war against most of its neighbours (a situation similar to the Deluge), by 1683 Sobieski allied himself with Leopold I, of the Holy Roman Empire. Both sides promised to come to one's another aid if their capitals were threatened. The alliance was signed by royal representatives on 31 March 1683, and ratified by the Emperor and Polish parliament within weeks. Although aimed directly against the Ottomans and indirectly against France, it had the advantage of gaining internal support for the defense of Poland's southern borders. This was a beginning of what would become the Holy League, championed by Pope Innocent XI to preserve Christendom.

    Meantime, in the spring of 1683, royal spies uncovered Turkish preparations for a military campaign. Sobieski feared that the target might be the Polish cities of Lwów and Kraków. To counteract the threat, Sobieski began the fortification of the cities and ordered universal military conscription. In July, the Austrian envoy asked for Polish assistance. Soon afterward, the Polish army started massing for an expedition against the Ottomans, and in August was joined by Bavarians and Saxon allies under Charles of Lorraine.

    Sobieski sending message of victory to the Pope after the Battle of Vienna, by Jan Matejko, 1880, National Museum, Kraków