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"The Witness"

Michelle Lyons has witnessed 278 executions in Texas, first in her role as a reporter, and then as part of her job in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Texas Monthly has a long, fascinating profile.
posted by Charity Garfein on Aug 26, 2014 - 24 comments

terrible consequences . . . the execution of an innocent man

Fresh doubts over Cameron Todd Willingham's execution (Previously) For more than 20 years, the prosecutor who convicted Cameron Todd Willingham of murdering his three young daughters has insisted that the authorities made no deals to secure the testimony of the jailhouse informer who told jurors that Willingham confessed the crime to him. Since Willingham was executed in 2004, officials have continued to defend the account of the informer, Johnny E. Webb, even as a series of scientific experts have discredited the forensic evidence that Willingham might have deliberately set the house fire in which his toddlers were killed. But now new evidence has revived questions about Willingham’s guilt: In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb’s prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line.
posted by daHIFI on Aug 4, 2014 - 143 comments

"A system that serves no penological purpose... is unconstitutional."

A federal judge declared California's death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, saying delays of 25 years or more in deciding appeals and carrying out occasional executions have created an arbitrary and irrational system that serves no legitimate purpose. Executions in California have already been on hold since 2006, due to problems with the procedures associated with lethal injection. If the ruling is upheld, California will join 18 other states (plus D.C.) that have abolished capital punishment. (Read the court's opinion here.)
posted by scody on Jul 16, 2014 - 46 comments

The Patron Saint of Defense Attorneys

Ted Kaczynski. Jared Lee Loughner. Eric Rudolph. Susan Smith. And now, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. They all stood (or stand) accused of committing heinous crimes. They all faced (or face) the death penalty. And they all have something- or rather, someone- else in common. [more inside]
posted by showbiz_liz on Jul 1, 2014 - 17 comments

The eyes of Texas are upon you

The Gold Standard in Executions.
For two years now, Texas has used a single drug, the barbiturate pentobarbital, instead of the three-drug regimen used in neighboring Oklahoma. Prison administrators from other states often travel to Texas to learn how it performs lethal injections and to observe executions. Texas officials have provided guidance and, on at least a few occasions, carried out executions for other states.
posted by four panels on May 12, 2014 - 101 comments

Forty-three Werner Herzog films that can be streamed

Inside, please find a list of forty-three movies, TV episodes, and short subjects by Werner Herzog, all of which can be streamed, along with some short descriptions of their content. One or two of the films are in German without subtitles; this is noted in the description. [more inside]
posted by Going To Maine on May 4, 2014 - 65 comments

State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma

At 6:36 p.m. on Tuesday in McAlester, Okla., Clayton Lockett started kicking his leg, then twitching, then writhing and moaning in agony, and everyone watching knew something had gone terribly wrong. Mr. Lockett, a convicted murderer, was strapped to a gurney in the death chamber of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, about to be executed by lethal injection, but the untested combination of a sedative and a paralyzing agent had failed. [more inside]
posted by tonycpsu on May 1, 2014 - 316 comments

Stuff White People Like

Shrinking Majority of Americans Support Death Penalty "According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 55% of U.S. adults say they favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder. A significant minority (37%) oppose the practice. While a majority of U.S. adults still support the death penalty, public opinion in favor of capital punishment has seen a modest decline..." Jamelle Bouie at Slate notes that , "Nearly twice as many whites as blacks favor the death penalty. There is a simple, and disturbing, reason why" and blames racism. [more inside]
posted by MisantropicPainforest on Mar 31, 2014 - 145 comments

What really happened at the lake that night?

The Murders at The Lake. "In the summer of 1982 the city of Waco was confronted with the most vicious crime it had ever seen: three teenagers were savagely stabbed to death, for no apparent reason, at a park by a lake on the edge of town. Justice was eventually served when four men were found guilty of the crime, and two were sent to death row. In 1991, though, when one of the convicts got a new trial and was then found not guilty, some people wondered, Were these four actually the killers? Several years after that, one of the men was put to death, and the stakes were raised: Had Texas executed an innocent man?" [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 19, 2014 - 18 comments

Black Is the Day, Black Is the Night

Artist Amy Elkinsbegan corresponding in 2009 with prisoners on death row in California. Of the seven men with whom Elkins made contact in June 2009, she remains in touch with only one, Freddy, who has been held in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay since 1995, when he was 16 years of age. Freddy has been incarcerated since he was 13. Parting Words is "a visual archive of the 500+ prisoners to date executed in the state of Texas."
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Feb 7, 2014 - 5 comments

Ohio executes inmate using untried, untested lethal injection method

On Thursday morning, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire for the 1989 rape and murder of Joy Stewart. However, due to an embargo on the common used lethal injection drug pentobarbital, the state used an untried combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, a morphine derivative, for the execution. The procedure took 24 minutes, during which McGuirse was reported to have been "choking and snorting" and was described as "horrific". [more inside]
posted by I am the Walrus on Jan 17, 2014 - 292 comments

Larry Flynt, Activist:

Don't Execute the Man Who Paralyzed Me "I would love an hour in a room with him and a pair of wire-cutters and pliers, so I could inflict the same damage on him that he inflicted on me. But, I do not want to kill him, nor do I want to see him die."
posted by maggieb on Oct 17, 2013 - 42 comments

Awaken Human Nature and Perceive the Value of Life

For over five years, journalist and TV presenter Ding Yu headed up a  massively popular Chinese TV talk show. Every week, She would sit down with convicted murderers and interview them about their life and crimes, before they were taken out and put to death by either firing squad or lethal injection. The show, "Interviews Before Execution", was taken off the air in March 2012. [more inside]
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey on Jul 24, 2013 - 18 comments

Lost Words in the Chamber

Lost Words in the Chamber. "This blog will post the last words of criminals executed in the United States, starting with Texas, the state with the highest annual number of executions." Via NYT.
posted by milquetoast on Jul 1, 2013 - 15 comments

Prop 34

Among the ballot initiatives up for consideration on Tuesday is California's Proposition 34, which would eliminate the death penalty in favor of life imprisonment without parole. If successful, this measure would make California the 18th state to abolish capital punishment, following Connecticut's April 2012 abolition. It would also apply retroactively to the 727 people currently on death row in the state, the most of any state in the country by nearly 100%. While support has been increasing for Prop 34, as many as 17% of California voters remain undecided. [more inside]
posted by likeatoaster on Nov 4, 2012 - 135 comments

The happiest man on death row

Joe Arridy didn't ask for a last meal. It's doubtful that he even understood the concept.
An article (one page print version) in Denver Westword News by Alan Prendergast recounts the life of Joe Arridy (1915 - 1939), his conviction and execution and Robert Perske's later investigation of the case. Perske has documented many cases of innocent people with mental disabilities being coerced into confessions, and he considers the case of Joe Arridy the most telling. [more inside]
posted by tykky on Sep 25, 2012 - 19 comments

A Tale of Two Carlos

Los Tocayos Carlos - a comprehensive investigation by Columbia Law School Professor James Liebman and a team of students which uncovers evidence that Carlos DeLuna, a poor Hispanic man with childlike intelligence who was executed in Texas in 1989, was innocent. The issue of The Columbia Human Rights Law Review, entirely dedicated to this investigation, is available at this website.
posted by Gyan on May 14, 2012 - 42 comments

"The stories of these cases are very painful."

This is an animated documentary about Mohammad Mostafaei who is an Iranian lawyer in exile in Norway. Mostafaei specialized in advocating for defendants who faced the death penalty and the animation focuses on one of these cases, that of Behnoud Shojaee. The animation features Paul Bettany reading Mostafaei's words, is a part of Amnesty International's campaign against the death penalty.
posted by Kattullus on Mar 28, 2012 - 3 comments

"We thought we would empty death row, not triple its population."

"Each of us remains a staunch Republican conservative, but our perspectives on the death penalty have changed.... Each of us, independently, has concluded that the death penalty isn't working for California." The authors of California's Death Penalty Act of 1978, which expanded use of the death penalty in the state, have publicly endorsed the SAFE Initiative to abolish capital punishment in California. (Previously)
posted by scody on Feb 12, 2012 - 26 comments

Interpol supports death penalty for tweets

Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari was arrested in Kuala Lumpur and deported to Saudi Arabia for at the behest of Interpol. Mr. Kashgari faces the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for a series of tweets insulting the prophet Muhammad, including 'I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you I will not pray for you.' (BBC, Al Jazeera) [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on Feb 12, 2012 - 59 comments

"a killing spree of staggering proportions"

Amnesty International believes that Iran has executed at least 600 people in 2011 in what it calls "a killing spree of staggering proportions". [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on Jan 22, 2012 - 67 comments

Those without the capital get the punishment

All this brings me to an Indian I want you to know better than his jury did—Douglas Ray Stankewitz, the longest tenured inmate on California’s death row. Like most Indians who find themselves in a group of non-Indians, he is currently known as Chief, but unlike many Indians, he is proud of the nickname. The government wants to kill Chief because Theresa Greybeal was shot dead in the course of a robbery by a group of people high on heroin, and there is no question that Chief was one of them. There is a serious question about who pulled the trigger, and juries are reluctant to kill individuals who did not pull the trigger. But as far as his jury knew, Douglas Stankewitz pulled the trigger. And he might have, but we will never know, based on his trial.
posted by latkes on Jan 15, 2012 - 31 comments

The Year Secrecy Jumped the Shark

The EFF's Year End Review   The ACLU's This Year in Civil Liberties   Amnesty International's Anual Report (video) [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on Dec 25, 2011 - 11 comments

Now what am I going to do with all these signs

After almost 30 years of appeals and legal maneuvering, Philadelphia prosecutors have abandoned attempts to impose the death penalty on Mumia Abu-Jamal for killing police office Daniel Faulkner in December 1981. Background, previously.
posted by anigbrowl on Dec 7, 2011 - 56 comments

"...compromised and inequitable..."

Governor John Kitzhaber halts all executions in Oregon [more inside]
posted by OverlappingElvis on Nov 22, 2011 - 49 comments

Troy Davis execution imminent

In 1991, Troy Davis was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of policeman Mark MacPhail in a Savannah, Georgia parking lot. Since then, seven of the nine prosecution eyewitnesses have recanted all or part of their testimony, with some citing pressure from the police to make false statements. An exception is Sylvester "Redd" Coles, who made the initial report of Davis’s guilt, and is regarded by the defense as the chief suspect. New witnesses have sworn affidavits that Coles confessed the crime to them. An array of figures have called for a stay of execution, including death-penalty supporters Senator Bob Barr and former FBI director William S. Sessions. Today, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency; barring action from the District Attorney, Davis is set to be executed by lethal injection tomorrow at 7pm. [Previously]
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 on Sep 20, 2011 - 432 comments

They hanged him down by the river.

Seventy-five years ago today, Rainey Bethea was the last person to be publicly executed in the U.S. [more inside]
posted by longsleeves on Aug 11, 2011 - 44 comments

"I decided that forgiveness was not enough."

"I decided I had to do something to save this person’s life. That killing someone in Dallas is not an answer for what happened on Sept. 11." Rais Bhuiyan petitions the state of Texas to stay the execution of a white supremacist who shot him and murdered two others in a hate-motivated crime.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jul 18, 2011 - 87 comments

"The thing I regret most that I cannot change -- except by what I do now -- was drafting the death penalty initiative."

"The way I look at it, what I created can and may already have resulted in the [execution] of an innocent person." Donald Heller is partly responsible for turning California's death row into the most populous and expensive in the nation. So why'd the lawyer known as "Mad Dog" change his mind?
posted by scody on Jul 16, 2011 - 24 comments

"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history": Illinois abolishes the death penalty

IL Gov. Pat Quinn—formerly a strong supporter of capital punishment—today signed into law the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois. This comes eleven years after Gov. George Ryan—also a former supporter of capital punishment—signed a moratorium on the death penalty, commuting the sentences of 167 death row inmates to life (including ten men who had made false confessions under torture directed by police commander Jon Burge [previously here and here]). Between 1977 and 1999, Illinois executed 12 inmates, while freeing 13 innocent men from Death Row. [more inside]
posted by scody on Mar 9, 2011 - 42 comments

Lonely Last Suppers

The last meals of executed prisoners - photographs of the final choices of death row inmates.
posted by mdn on Jan 20, 2011 - 75 comments

A strange social fact that stands in need of explanation

The death penalty in America is “a strange social fact that stands in need of explanation.” John Paul Stevens served as Associate Supreme Court Justice from 1975 to 2010 and became a beacon for progressive and liberals. Here he writes on the death penalty, reviewing David Garland’s new book Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition.
posted by JL Sadstone on Dec 15, 2010 - 55 comments

Let's Harvest the Organs of Death Row Inmates

Let's Harvest the Organs of Death Row Inmates [more inside]
posted by Daddy-O on Nov 13, 2010 - 100 comments

truth hangs by a hair

A DNA test has proven that a man was executed for murder by the State of Texas on the basis of false forensic evidence. [more inside]
posted by hat on Nov 12, 2010 - 99 comments

Justice is a train that is nearly always late.

Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck gave an interview today describing the complexities of DNA evidence and why it is so pivotal in many appeals. What we hear referred to as "DNA evidence" can really mean any number of things: a restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis that focuses on enzyme restriction sites; using a polymerase chain reaction to amplify a segment of DNA; or a short tandem repeat analysis, looking at small segments of repeated DNA in an individual's genome. These tests, he believes, must be done whenever possible-- because more and more, they are proving people innocent. [more inside]
posted by karminai on Sep 2, 2010 - 13 comments

Only 58 to go…

Pleix makes a great case against the death penalty. [more inside]
posted by iloveit on Jul 2, 2010 - 97 comments

"Today is a victory for every poor person": Jon Burge found guilty

It took a few decades, but today a federal jury has found former Chicago police commander Jon Burge guilty on all counts of perjury and obstruction of justice in covering up his knowledge of and participation in the systematic torture of suspects in the 1980s. (Previously.) [more inside]
posted by scody on Jun 28, 2010 - 26 comments

"Hallmark of a civilised society"

While nobody has been executed in Australia since 1967 and no capital punishments have been on any state books since 1984 there has been the possibility that a state government could reintroduce the death penalty. Today the Australian Senate passed the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Bill 2009 without amendment which effectively blocks states from reintroducing the death penalty as soon as the bill received the royal assent. Needless to say, pro-death penalty advocates were up in arms over the vote.
posted by Talez on Mar 16, 2010 - 34 comments

21st century executions.

10 executions that defined the 2000s. Ten executions that most palpably captured the decade’s Zeitgeist. Some clips may be NSFW.
posted by stinkycheese on Jan 23, 2010 - 30 comments

All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you.

This past Tuesday, China executed Briton Akmal Shaikh for heroin smuggling, the first foreigner to be executed in China since Italian Antonio Riva was put to death in 1951. Shaikh's family, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and U.N. officials all had asked for clemency based on the fact the 53-year old, father-of-three Shaikh was a mentally ill person who believed he was a pop star on a mission for world peace and had been duped into being an unwitting drug mule. Nonetheless, regardless of international outcry, Shaikh was put to death. The outcry continues. A music video has been created for Shaikh's music single, Come Little Rabbit.
posted by humannaire on Dec 31, 2009 - 65 comments

Criminalizing Homosexuality in Uganda.

The Ugandan government is considering a law that would criminalize homosexuality, advocacy for gay rights, or even failing to report homosexuals to the govenment. And death for HIV+ gays. And who is behind this? An American group with purported ties to the administration called the Family. [more inside]
posted by idiopath on Dec 2, 2009 - 113 comments

Ludovic Kennedy, 1919-2009

Sir Ludovic Kennedy has died at the age of 89. Kennedy was a journalist, broadcaster and long standing campaigner against miscarriages of justice and the death penalty and for euthanasia. [more inside]
posted by Electric Dragon on Oct 20, 2009 - 14 comments

Justice Delayed

Nearly 100 years had passed since nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner's "great-uncles, Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin were wrongfully executed in South Carolina. On Wednesday, a board voted 7-0 to pardon both men, clearing their names in the 1913 killing of a veteran of the Confederate Army. ...It marks the first time in history that South Carolina has issued a posthumous pardon in a capital murder case." [more inside]
posted by darkstar on Oct 15, 2009 - 8 comments

"We close at 5"

Charles Hood, sentenced to death for a double murder committed in 1989, is currently fighting for his conviction to be overturned and subsequent death sentenced to be stayed. Why? Because the lead prosecutor and judge were having an alleged affair at the time of the trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, no strangers to controversy regarding the possible misuse of the death penalty, declined to hear the petition lodged by Hood's lawyers regarding the fairness of the trial saying the defense should have brought the issue up at trial despite the lack of evidence towards the allegations until recently. [more inside]
posted by Talez on Sep 21, 2009 - 42 comments

I gotta go, road dog. I love you Gabby.

Expert tells Texas state-sanctioned review that they killed an innocent man. If the commission reaches the same conclusion, it could lead to the first-ever declaration by an official state body that an inmate was wrongly executed. Cameron Todd Willingham was accused of killing his three children in a house fire. There have been doubts about the case for years, thoroughly outlined in this 2004 Chicago Tribune article and this 2005 NPR interview (summarized in this Daily Kos diary). [more inside]
posted by desjardins on Aug 25, 2009 - 92 comments

Because you needed another reason to hate Twitter

Dennis Skillicorn was sentenced to die in 1996 for the murder of businessman/good Samaritan Richard Drummond and two other deaths in connection with a 1994 crime spree. Yesterday morning, local news outlet Missourinet, with a slight time delay, tweeted his execution. Elyria, Ohio's Chronicle Telegram is discussing plans to tweet an upcoming execution, but they are not sure if they should.
posted by cashman on May 21, 2009 - 42 comments

Before Abu Ghraib, there was Area 2.

For nearly 20 years, Chicago has known about police torture of suspects. Torture at the city's notorious Area 2, under Commander Jon Burge, resulted in numerous false confessions in the 1980s, including the men who became known as the Death Row 10. The Death Row 10 case was among the reasons former Gov. George Ryan's called a moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois in 2000 and pardoned four in 2003. Burge, fired in 1993, retired to Florida on his police pension, where he seemed to escape any measure of justice. Until today. [more inside]
posted by scody on Oct 21, 2008 - 45 comments

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Troy Davis Appeal

The Supreme Court today issued a one line statement refusing to hear Troy Davis' appeal. Troy Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of a police officer in Savannah, GA, and sentenced to death solely on eyewitness testimony. No murder weapon or any physical evidence linked him to the crime. Since the conviction, seven of the nine witnesses have recanted or changed their stories, and one of the two who haven't changed their stories is the other suspect in the case. Things were looking good for Davis when the Supreme Court issued a stay two hours before his execution last month. Justice may really be dead in this country.
posted by x_3mta3 on Oct 14, 2008 - 60 comments

Executed Today

Executed Today offers "each day the story of an historical execution that took place on this date, and the story behind it."
posted by Knappster on Aug 12, 2008 - 19 comments

SCOTUS tells the ICJ to go hang

On March 25, the Supreme Court held (pdf) that rulings by the International Court of Justice are essentially not binding upon state courts. This paves the way for Texas to execute one Jose Ernesto Medellin for the rape and murder of two teenage girls. [more inside]
posted by valkyryn on Mar 31, 2008 - 59 comments

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