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Capital punishment for murder , treason , arson , and rape was widely employed in ancient Greece under the laws of Draco fl.


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The Romans also used it for a wide range of offenses, though citizens were exempted for a short time during the republic. Yet capital punishment has been prescribed for many crimes not involving loss of life, including adultery and blasphemy.


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  • The prevalence of capital punishment in ancient times is difficult to ascertain precisely, but it seems likely that it was often avoided, sometimes by the alternative of banishment and sometimes by payment of compensation. Death was formerly the penalty for a large number of offenses in England during the 17th and 18th centuries, but it was never applied as widely as the law provided. As in other countries, many offenders who committed capital crimes escaped the death penalty, either because juries or courts would not convict them or because they were pardoned, usually on condition that they agreed to banishment; some were sentenced to the lesser punishment of transportation to the then American colonies and later to Australia.

    Because during medieval times the only proof of ordination was literacy, it became customary between the 15th and 18th centuries to allow anyone convicted of a felony to escape the death sentence by proving that he the privilege was extended to women in could read. To ensure that an offender could escape death only once through benefit of clergy, he was branded on the brawn of the thumb M for murder or T for theft.

    Branding was abolished in , and benefit of clergy ceased in From ancient times until well into the 19th century, many societies administered exceptionally cruel forms of capital punishment. In Rome the condemned were hurled from the Tarpeian Rock see Tarpeia ; for parricide they were drowned in a sealed bag with a dog, cock, ape, and viper; and still others were executed by forced gladiatorial combat or by crucifixion. Executions in ancient China were carried out by many painful methods, such as sawing the condemned in half, flaying him while still alive, and boiling.

    Although by the end of the 20th century many jurisdictions e. Other methods of execution were electrocution , gassing, and the firing squad. Historically, executions were public events, attended by large crowds, and the mutilated bodies were often displayed until they rotted. Public executions were banned in England in , though they continued to take place in parts of the United States until the s.

    In the last half of the 20th century, there was considerable debate regarding whether executions should be broadcast on television, as has occurred in Guatemala. In many countries death sentences are not carried out immediately after they are imposed; there is often a long period of uncertainty for the convicted while their cases are appealed.

    In the case Kennedy v. Louisiana , the court also held 5—4 that the death penalty is unconstitutional when applied to non-homicidal crimes against the person, including child rape. Only two death row inmates both in Louisiana were affected by the decision. In , New York and Kansas capital sentencing schemes were struck down by their respective state highest courts. Marsh , holding it did not violate the U.

    The decision of the New York Court of Appeals was based on the state constitution, making unavailable any appeal. The state lower house has since blocked all attempts to reinstate the death penalty by adopting a valid sentencing scheme. In , New Jersey became the first state to repeal the death penalty by legislative vote since Gregg v.

    Georgia , [38] followed by New Mexico in , [39] [40] Illinois in , [41] Connecticut in , [42] [43] and Maryland in New Mexico is the only state with remaining death row inmates and no civilian death penalty statute for capital crimes committed post-repeal. Capital punishment for certain offenses is still possible for National Guard members in Title 32 status under the New Mexico Code of Military Justice NMSA , and for capital offenses committed prior to the repeal of New Mexico's death penalty statute.

    Nebraska 's legislature also passed a repeal in , but a referendum campaign gathered enough signatures to suspend it. Capital punishment was reinstated by popular vote on November 8, The same day, California 's electorate defeated a proposal to repeal the death penalty, and adopted another initiative to speed up its appeal process. On October 11, , Washington state became the 20th state to abolish capital punishment when its state Supreme Court deemed the death penalty unconstitutional on the grounds of racial bias.

    New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish capital punishment on May 30, when its state senate overrode Governor Sununu 's veto by a vote of 16—8. Since Furman , 11 states have organized popular votes dealing with the death penalty through the initiative and referendum process.

    All resulted in a vote for reinstating it, rejecting its abolition, expanding its application field, specifying in the state constitution that it is not unconstitutional, or expediting the appeal process in capital cases. Below is a table of the 21 states and the date that the state abolished the death penalty. Although treason remained a crime punishable by the death penalty in Michigan despite the abolition, no one was ever executed under that law, and Michigan's Constitutional Convention codified that the death penalty was fully abolished.

    From to July 1, , there were 1, executions, of which 1, were by lethal injection, by electrocution, 11 by gas inhalation, 3 by hanging, and 3 by firing squad. No state in the Northeast has conducted an execution since Connecticut , now abolitionist, in Executions increased in frequency until ; 98 prisoners were executed that year. Since , the number of executions has greatly decreased, and the 20 executions in were the fewest since There has been a small increase since , with 25 executions in The death penalty became an issue during the presidential election.

    It came up in the October 13, , debate between the two presidential nominees George H. Bush and Michael Dukakis , when Bernard Shaw , the moderator of the debate, asked Dukakis, "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer? I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent, and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime.

    In , Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act to streamline the appeal process in capital cases. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton , who had endorsed capital punishment during his presidential campaign. A study found that at least 34 of the executions carried out in the U.

    The rate of these "botched executions" remained steady over the period. Rees , again in Glossip v. Gross , and a third time in Bucklew v. Precythe , that lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. On July 25, , Attorney General William Barr reinstated the death penalty for federal crimes after 16 years. The federal government also scheduled the execution of five death row inmates. In , 24 years after the first recorded male execution in the colonies, Jane Champion became the first woman known to have been lawfully executed.

    She was sentenced to death by hanging after she was convicted of infanticide; around two-thirds of women executed in the 17th and early 18th centuries were convicted of child murder.

    10 Teenagers Who Were Sentenced To Death

    A married woman, it is not known if Champion's illicit lover, William Gallopin, also convicted for their child's murder, was also executed, although it appears he was so sentenced. The second half of the 17th century saw the executions of 14 women and 6 men who were accused of witchcraft during the witch hunt hysteria and the Salem Witch Trials. Mary Surratt was executed by hanging in after being convicted of co-conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. She was the first black woman to be executed in the US since In , the first ever juvenile, Thomas Graunger, was sentenced to death in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts for bestiality.

    Since then, other juveniles have been sentenced to the death penalty. Kent v. United States , turned the tides for juvenile capital punishment sentencing when it limited the waiver discretion juvenile courts had. Before this case, juvenile courts had the freedom to waiver juvenile cases to criminal courts without a hearing, which did not make the waiving process consistent across states. Thoughts about abolishing the death penalty started happening between and In , Thompson v. Oklahoma , the Supreme Court threw away Thompson's death sentence due to it being cruel and unusual punishment.

    It was not until Roper v. Simmons that the juvenile death penalty was abolished due to the United States Supreme Court finding that the execution of juveniles is in conflict with the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment , which deal with cruel and unusual punishment. Prior to abolishing the juvenile death penalty in , any juvenile aged 16 years or older could be sentenced to death in some states, the last of whom was Scott Hain , executed in Oklahoma in for burning two people to death in a robbery at age Aggravating factors for seeking capital punishment of murder vary greatly among death penalty states.

    California has twenty-two. Several states have included child murder to their list of aggravating factors, but the victim's age under which the murder is punishable by death varies. In , Texas raised this age from six to ten.

    Historical considerations

    In some states, the high number of aggravating factors has been criticized on account of giving prosecutors too much discretion in choosing cases where they believe capital punishment is warranted. In California especially, an official commission proposed, in , to reduce these factors to five multiple murders, torture murder , murder of a police officer, murder committed in jail, and murder related to another felony.

    In order for a person to be eligible for a death sentence when convicted of aggravated first-degree murder, the jury or court when there is not a jury must determine at least one of sixteen aggravating factors that existed during the crime's commission. The following is a list of the 16 aggravating factors under federal law.

    The opinion of the court in Kennedy v. Louisiana says that the ruling does not apply to "treason, espionage, terrorism, and drug kingpin activity, which are offenses against the State". Since no one is on death row for such offenses, the court has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the death penalty applied for them. Treason , espionage and large-scale drug trafficking are all capital crimes under federal law. Treason is also punishable by death in six states Arkansas, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri.

    Vermont still has a pre- Furman statute providing the death penalty for treason despite removing capital punishment for murder in The legal administration of the death penalty in the United States typically involves five critical steps: 1 prosecutorial decision to seek the death penalty 2 sentencing , 3 direct review, 4 state collateral review, and 5 federal habeas corpus.

    Clemency, through which the Governor or President of the jurisdiction can unilaterally reduce or abrogate a death sentence, is an executive rather than judicial process. While judges in criminal cases can usually impose a harsher prison sentence than the one demanded by prosecution, the death penalty can be handed down only if the accuser has specifically decided to seek it. In the decades since Furman , new questions have emerged about whether or not prosecutorial arbitrariness has replaced sentencing arbitrariness. A study by Pepperdine University School of Law published in Temple Law Review , surveyed the decision-making process among prosecutors in various states.

    The authors found that prosecutors' capital punishment filing decisions remain marked by local "idiosyncrasies", suggesting they are not in keeping with the spirit of the Supreme Court's directive. This means that "the very types of unfairness that the Supreme Court sought to eliminate" may still "infect capital cases".

    Wide prosecutorial discretion remains because of overly broad criteria. California law, for example, has 22 "special circumstances", making nearly all premeditated murders potential capital cases. A proposed remedy against prosecutorial arbitrariness is to transfer the prosecution of capital cases to the state attorney general. Of the 29 states with the death penalty, 27 require the sentence to be decided by a jury , and 26 require a unanimous decision by that jury. The only state which does not require a unanimous jury decision is Alabama. In Alabama, at least 10 jurors must concur.

    A retrial happens if the jury deadlocks. Nebraska is the only state in which the sentence is decided by a three-judge panel.

    If one of the judges on the panel opposes death, the defendant is sentenced to life imprisonment. Montana is the only state where the trial judge decides the sentence alone. In all states in which the jury is involved, only death-qualified veniremen can be selected in such a jury, to exclude both people who will always vote for the death sentence and those who are categorically opposed to it. However, the states differ on what happens if the penalty phase results in a hung jury : [99] []. The first outcome is referred as the "true unanimity" rule, while the third has been criticized as the "single-juror veto" rule.

    If a defendant is sentenced to death at the trial level, the case then goes into a direct review. An appellate court examines the record of evidence presented in the trial court and the law that the lower court applied and decides whether the decision was legally sound or not. If the appellate court finds that no significant legal errors occurred in the capital sentencing hearing, the appellate court will affirm the judgment, or let the sentence stand. At times when a death sentence is affirmed on direct review, supplemental methods to attack the judgment, though less familiar than a typical appeal, do remain.

    These supplemental remedies are considered collateral review, that is, an avenue for upsetting judgments that have become otherwise final. If the case is a federal death penalty case, it proceeds immediately from direct review to federal habeas corpus. Although all states have some type of collateral review, the process varies widely from state to state.

    State collateral review, though an important step in that it helps define the scope of subsequent review through federal habeas corpus, is rarely successful in and of itself. Only around 6 percent of death sentences are overturned on state collateral review. In Virginia, state habeas corpus for condemned men are heard by the state supreme court under exclusive original jurisdiction since , immediately after direct review by the same court.

    To reduce litigation delays, other states require convicts to file their state collateral appeal before the completion of their direct appeal, [] or provide adjudication of direct and collateral attacks together in a "unitary review". After a death sentence is affirmed in state collateral review, the prisoner may file for federal habeas corpus , which is a unique type of lawsuit that can be brought in federal courts. Federal habeas corpus is a type of collateral review, and it is the only way that state prisoners may attack a death sentence in federal court other than petitions for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court after both direct review and state collateral review.

    The purpose of federal habeas corpus is to ensure that state courts, through the process of direct review and state collateral review, have done a reasonable job in protecting the prisoner's federal constitutional rights. Prisoners may also use federal habeas corpus suits to bring forth new evidence that they are innocent of the crime, though to be a valid defense at this late stage in the process, evidence of innocence must be truly compelling. James Liebman, a professor of law at Columbia Law School, stated in that his study found that when habeas corpus petitions in death penalty cases were traced from conviction to completion of the case, there was "a 40 percent success rate in all capital cases from to ".

    A similar process is available for prisoners sentenced to death by the judgment of a federal court. The AEDPA also provides an expeditious habeas procedure in capital cases for states meeting several requirements set forth in it concerning counsel appointment for death row inmates. In , Congress conferred the determination of whether a state fulfilled the requirements to the U. If the federal court refuses to issue a writ of habeas corpus , the death sentence ordinarily becomes final for all purposes. In recent times, however, prisoners have postponed execution through another avenue of federal litigation; the Civil Rights Act of — codified at 42 U.

    While direct appeals are normally limited to just one and automatically stay the execution of the death sentence, Section lawsuits are unlimited, but the petitioner will be granted a stay of execution only if the court believes he has a likelihood of success on the merits. Traditionally, Section was of limited use for a state prisoner under sentence of death because the Supreme Court has held that habeas corpus , not Section , is the only vehicle by which a state prisoner can challenge his judgment of death.

    McDonough case, however, the United States Supreme Court approved the use of Section as a vehicle for challenging a state's method of execution as cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

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    The theory is that a prisoner bringing such a challenge is not attacking directly his judgment of death, but rather the means by which that the judgment will be carried out. Therefore, the Supreme Court held in the Hill case that a prisoner can use Section rather than habeas corpus to bring the lawsuit. Yet, as Clarence Hill 's own case shows, lower federal courts have often refused to hear suits challenging methods of execution on the ground that the prisoner brought the claim too late and only for the purposes of delay. Further, the Court's decision in Baze v.

    Rees , upholding a lethal injection method used by many states, has narrowed the opportunity for relief through Section While the execution warrant is issued by the governor in several states, in the vast majority it is a judicial order, issued by a judge or by the state supreme court at the request of the prosecution. The warrant usually sets an execution day. Some states instead provide a longer period, such as a week or 10 days to carry out the execution. This is designated to avoid issuing a new warrant in case of a last-minute stay of execution that would be vacated only few days or few hours later.

    In recent years there has been an average of one death sentence for every murder convictions in the United States. Alabama has the highest per capita rate of death sentences. This is because Alabama was one of the few states that allowed judges to override a jury recommendation in favor of life imprisonment, a possibility it removed in March The distribution of death sentences among states is loosely proportional to their populations and murder rates. California , which is the most populous state, has also the largest death row with over inmates.

    Wyoming , which is the least populous state, has only one condemned man. But executions are more frequent and happen more quickly after sentencing in conservative states. Texas , which is the second most populous state of the Union, carried out over executions during the post- Furman era, more than a third of the national total. California has carried out only 13 executions during the same period, and has carried out none since However, this is an under-representation relative to the proportion of convicted murderers; Approximately As of October 1, , the Death Penalty Information Center reports that there are only 54 women on death row.

    This constitutes 1. The states that have executed the most women are California, Texas and Florida. All 29 states with the death penalty provide lethal injection as the primary method of execution.

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    Some states allow other methods than lethal injection, but only as secondary methods to be used merely at the request of the prisoner or if lethal injection is unavailable. Several states continue to use the historical three-drug protocol: firstly an anesthetic , secondly pancuronium bromide , a paralytic, and finally potassium chloride to stop the heart. While some state statutes specify the drugs required, a majority do not, giving more flexibility to prison officers. Pressures from anti-death penalty activists and shareholders have made it difficult for correctional services to get the chemicals.

    Hospira, the only U. Since then, some states have used other anesthetics, such as pentobarbital , etomidate , [] or fast-acting benzodiazepines like midazolam. Lethal injection was held to be a constitutional method of execution by the U. Supreme Court in two cases: Baze v. Rees and Glossip v. Gross In the following states, death row inmates with an execution warrant may choose to be executed by: [].

    In four states Arizona, Kentucky, Tennessee and Utah , the alternative method is offered only to inmates sentenced to death for crimes committed prior to a specified date usually when the state switched from the earlier method to lethal injection. See Stewart v. LaGrand , US Depending on the state, the following alternative methods are statutorily provided in the event that lethal injection is either found unconstitutional by a court or unavailable for practical reasons: [] [] [].

    Oklahoma is the only state allowing more than two methods of execution in its statutes, providing lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia , electrocution and firing squad to be used in that order in the event that all earlier methods are unavailable. The nitrogen option was added by the Oklahoma Legislature in and has never been used in a judicial execution, though it is routinely used in animal euthanasia. Three states Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah have added back-up methods recently in or or have expanded their application fields in reaction to the shortage of lethal injection drugs.

    In Arkansas, electrocution is only used if lethal injection is "invalidated by a final and unappealable court order". Some states such as Florida have a larger provision dealing with execution methods unavailability, requiring their state departments of corrections to use "any constitutional method" if both lethal injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional.

    This was designed to make unnecessary any further legislative intervention in that event, but the provision applies only to legal not practical infeasibility. In May , an Oklahoma grand jury recommended the state to use nitrogen hypoxia as its primary method of execution rather than as a backup, after experts testified that the method would be painless, easy and "inexpensive". The method of execution of federal prisoners for offenses under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of is that of the state in which the conviction took place.

    If the state has no death penalty, the judge must choose a state with the death penalty for carrying out the execution. The federal government has a facility at U. Penitentiary Terre Haute and regulations only for executions by lethal injection, but the United States Code allows U. Marshals to use state facilities and employees for federal executions. The last public execution in the U. It was the last execution in the nation at which the general public was permitted to attend without any legally imposed restrictions. Similar to " public record " or "public meeting", it means that anyone who wants to attend the execution may do so.

    Around , a political movement developed in the United States to mandate private executions. Several states enacted laws which required executions to be conducted within a "wall" or "enclosure", or to "exclude public view". Most state laws currently use such explicit wording to prohibit public executions, while others do so only implicitly by enumerating the only authorized witnesses. All states allow news reporters to be execution witnesses for information of the general public, except Wyoming which allows only witnesses authorized by the condemned.

    An hour or two before the execution, the condemned is offered religious services and to choose his or her last meal except in Texas which abolished it in The execution of Timothy McVeigh on June 11, , was witnessed by over people, most by closed-circuit television. Gallup, Inc. Accordingly, any analysis of death penalty attitudes must account for the responsiveness of such attitudes, as well as their reputed resistance to change. A study found that the belief that the death penalty helps victims' families to heal may be wrong; more often than finding closure, victims' families felt anger and wanted revenge with potential side effects of depression, PTSD, and a decreased satisfaction with life.

    Further, the researchers found that a sense of compassion or remorse expressed from the perpetrator to the victim's family had a statistically significant positive effect on the family's ability to find closure. Capital punishment is a controversial issue, with many prominent organizations and individuals participating in the debate. Amnesty International and other groups oppose capital punishment on moral grounds. The United States is one of the four developed countries that still practice capital punishment, along with Japan , Singapore , and Taiwan. Religious groups are widely split on the issue of capital punishment.

    In October , the American Law Institute voted to disavow the framework for capital punishment that it had created in , as part of the Model Penal Code , "in light of the current intractable institutional and structural obstacles to ensuring a minimally adequate system for administering capital punishment". A study commissioned by the institute had said that experience had proved that the goal of individualized decisions about who should be executed and the goal of systemic fairness for minorities and others could not be reconciled.

    Advocates of the death penalty say that it deters crime, is a good tool for prosecutors in plea bargaining , [] improves the community by eliminating recidivism by executed criminals, provides "closure" to surviving victims or loved ones, and is a just penalty. The murder rate is highest in the South 6. A report by the US National Research Council in stated that studies claiming a deterrent effect are "fundamentally flawed" and should not be used for policy decisions. Data shows that the application of the death penalty is strongly influenced by racial bias.

    Various commentators predicted that the death penalty would likely have disappeared in the United States if Hillary Clinton had been elected U. Because Donald Trump won and citizens in three states voted the same day for ballot measures supporting capital punishment, columnists came to the conclusion that it will remain indefinitely. One of the main arguments against the use of capital punishment in the United States is that there has been a long history of botched executions. Radelet described a "botched execution" as an execution that causes the prisoner to suffer for a long period of time before they die.

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    The following is a short list of examples of botched executions that have occurred in the United States. The largest number of clemencies was granted in January in Illinois when outgoing Governor George Ryan , who had already imposed a moratorium on executions, pardoned four death-row inmates and commuted the sentences of the remaining to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Previous post- Furman mass clemencies took place in in New Mexico , when Governor Toney Anaya commuted all death sentences because of his personal opposition to the death penalty.

    In , outgoing Ohio Governor Dick Celeste commuted the sentences of eight prisoners, among them all four women on the state's death row. And during his two terms — as Florida 's Governor, Bob Graham , although a strong death penalty supporter who had overseen the first post- Furman involuntary execution as well as 15 others, agreed to commute the sentences of six people on the grounds of doubts about guilt or disproportionality. All executions were suspended through the country between September and April At that time, the U.

    Supreme Court was examining the constitutionality of lethal injection in Baze v. This was the longest period with no executions in the United States since The Supreme Court ultimately upheld this method in a 7—2 ruling. In addition to the states that have no valid death penalty statute, the following states and jurisdictions are noted that have an official moratorium , or have had no executions for more than ten years, as of In addition to the above, Kansas has had no executions for over ten years either, but in this state it is because of the lack of death row inmates having exhausted the appeal process.

    Since , four states have executed only condemned prisoners who voluntarily waived further appeals: Pennsylvania has executed three inmates, Oregon two, Connecticut one, and New Mexico one. In California , United States District Judge Jeremy Fogel suspended all executions in the state on December 15, , ruling that the implementation used in California was unconstitutional but that it could be fixed.

    On November 25, , the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed a decision by the Franklin County Circuit Court suspending executions until the state adopts regulations for carrying out the penalty by lethal injection. In November , Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced a moratorium on executions in Oregon, canceling a planned execution and ordering a review of the death penalty system in the state. Wolf will issue a reprieve for every execution until a commission on capital punishment, which was established in by the Pennsylvania State Senate , produces a recommendation.

    Capital punishment

    Heidnik in On July 25, , the Justice Department announced that Attorney General William Barr had ordered the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the execution of five inmates who had exhaused the appeals process. The executions have been scheduled for December and January From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Legal penalty in the United States. States with a valid death penalty statute. States where the death penalty is officially outlawed.

    Capital punishment abolished. Capital punishment in statute, but formal moratorium in place. Capital punishment in statute, but de facto hiatus — no executions for at least 10 years. Capital punishment in statute, other unique circumstances apply. Capital punishment practiced. Further information: Furman v. Further information: Gregg v. Main article: Race and capital punishment in the United States. State uses only this method. State uses this method primarily but also has other methods.

    State once used this method, but does not today. State once adopted this method, but dropped before its use. State has never adopted this method. This section is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor's personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic. Please help improve it by rewriting it in an encyclopedic style. July Learn how and when to remove this template message.

    Capital punishment abolished or never existed. Capital punishment remains in statute, but formal moratorium in place. Capital punishment remains in statute, but de facto hiatus — no executions for at least 10 years. Capital punishment remains in statute, other unique circumstances apply. Capital punishment continues to be practised. National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved June 23, Bienen Northwestern University Press.

    Tonry Oxford University Press. Columbia University Press. An Introduction to Criminal Psychology. Bryant; Dennis L. Peck Sage Publications. CRC Press. Retrieved March 16, Guatemala, Philippines, Thailand Death Penalty Information Center. Retrieved April 24, Retrieved January 26, June 21, Retrieved June 21, Archived from the original on May 13, Retrieved May 13, Retrieved October 11, Retrieved April 12, Archived from the original on December 30, Retrieved December 28,