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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

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

"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

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

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

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

"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

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

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

New Supreme Court Opinions

A very big day for the Supreme Court. In Morse v. Fredrick, the Court ruled that a school could suspend a child for holding up a "Bong HiTs for Jesus" banner. (Previous post here). In Hein v. Freedom from Religion, the Court held that taxpayers lacked standing to challenged Faith Based Initiatives (previous discussions). In Wilke v. Robbins, the Court held that land owners do not have Bivens claims if the federal government harasses landowners for easements. In FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, the Court held that the portion of the campaign finance law which had blackout periods before elections on issue advocacy advertising was an unconstitutional restriction of speech (other). This Thursday, the Justices will deliver their last opinions of the term, including a death penalty case and the school assignment cases. (Opinions are .pdfs)
posted by dios on Jun 25, 2007 - 224 comments

Dark days for the death penalty

This year, Maryland has been on a path to become the first state to abolish capital punishment, and a bill to repeal the death penalty will be voted on in committee within days. Exonerated death row inmates have been campaigning fervently in support of the bill (including Kirk Bloodsworth, a Marylander who was the first death row inmate ever to be proven innocent by DNA)--and the exonerated are joined by a gamut of other voices that one might not normally expect in the debate. Murder victim family members are vocally supporting abolition. Law enforcement officials, including prosecutors, wardens and police chiefs, are vocally supporting abolition. The Baltimore city council – which presides over the lion’s share of Maryland’s violent crime -- is unanimously in support of abolition. Even Maryland's governor, Martin O’Malley, has taken a bold stance in support of abolishing executions, going so far as to publish an op-ed, "Why I Oppose the Death Penalty," in the Washington Post on the day of the abolition bill’s hearings in Annapolis. And, last but not least, the public is more than 60% in support of replacing the death penalty with life without parole.

So why are so many legislators still supporting death penalty?
Even if the bill doesn’t pass in this session, it seems like Governor O’Malley has nothing to worry about for having come out ahead of the legislature on this issue. It’s the legislatures—in Maryland and elsewhere—that are falling behind, as the entire country backs steadily away from capital punishment.
posted by snortlebort on Mar 15, 2007 - 91 comments

O Florida

Krishna Maharaj is a British businessman who was convicted of the 1986 murder of a Jamaican father and son in a hotel room in Miami, Florida. He was given the death penalty, but this was commuted to a life sentence in 2002 due to irregularities in his trial. Well, "irregularities" is an understatement: none of Maharaj's seven alibi witnesses were called to the stand. Maharaj is widely understood to be innocent, and another prime suspect has been identified. In 2001, 300 British politicians wrote to Jeb Bush, requesting a retrial. Considering this possibility in 2004, the Florida judge said that “newly discovered evidence which goes only to guilt or innocence is insufficient to warrant relief" and denied the motion. The US Supreme Court refused to take the case. Krishna Maharaj must now rely on the mercy of Jeb Bush.
BBC Newsnight with 2-part video documentary
2004 FAQ
Campaign website
posted by thirteenkiller on Oct 18, 2006 - 58 comments

Alito's First Vote

Alito's First Vote. In his first significant act on the Supreme Court, Justice Alito splits with his conservative colleagues, and votes to refuse to let Missouri execute a death-row inmate contesting lethal injection. You can read the (very short) order on page four of yesterday's order sheet [pdf]. More commentary at SCOTUSblog, and discussion of Alito's approach to the death penalty is available at Sentencing Law & Policy.
posted by monju_bosatsu on Feb 2, 2006 - 38 comments

Violence Begets Violence Begets Violence or: What the Hell is going on in Alabama?

Man Sentenced to Death in Alabama. but not just any old death sentence. This is the fellow who killed two cops and a police dispatcher, then blamed his actions on Grand Theft Auto, which is a popular video game. Alabama, the state whose residents fought so hard to keep the 10 commandments on display in a courthouse. Maybe they should have been allowed to display that monument, to remind them that murder is a crime - no matter how you dress it up.
posted by the theory of revolution on Oct 7, 2005 - 66 comments

A job well done

Woman stoned to death for adultery ...... in Afghanistan.
posted by magullo on Apr 26, 2005 - 63 comments

The Exonerated

The Exonerated
Want to see some great theater and learn a bit about our great system of justice and capital punishment? Then The Exonerated may be the show for you.

The other night I went to see The Exonerated, which has been playing Off Broadway since last fall and is also appearing in theaters around the country this year. Composed wholly from court records and interviews by playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, this documentary drama recounts true tales of horror from the American criminal-justice system. The actors sit downstage and read their parts as the stories of six innocent citizens condemned to death row unfold. If this sounds like a worthy endeavor, it is; if it sounds dull or didactic, it isn’t.
posted by nofundy on Jul 3, 2003 - 2 comments

DNA frees 3 convicts after 17-year incarcerations.

DNA frees 3 convicts after 17-year incarcerations --Barry Scheck and The Innocence Project have struck again. Thus far, they have used DNA to free 128 wrongly convicted people. Read Frontline's interview with Scheck. Learn about a sister organization, Northwestern's Center on Wrongful Convictions, which has freed nine Illinois men who were once sentenced to death. For those sentenced to time in the can, prison can be a rough place. How can we prevent innocent people from being put to death? Or fates worse than death?
posted by trharlan on Jun 12, 2003 - 39 comments

the plot sickens

"Mr. Banks, a man with no prior criminal record, is most likely innocent of the charge that put him on death row. Fearing a tragic miscarriage of justice, three former federal judges (including William Sessions, a former director of the F.B.I.) have urged the U.S. Supreme Court to block Wednesday's execution.

"So far, no one seems to be listening." [via atrios]
posted by donkeyschlong on Mar 11, 2003 - 15 comments

Three Supreme Court Justices publicy oppose executing teenage criminals.

Three Supreme Court Justices publicy oppose executing teenage criminals. In a rare move, Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens made a public statement in a delay request to state their opposition to executing someone who committed murder before the age of 18. With the Court already banning the execution of the mentally retarded this year, is this another sign of a soon-to-be next step in the abolishment of the death penalty? Or does the average American still believe that regardless of what time, when you do the crime you walk the line?
posted by XQUZYPHYR on Aug 30, 2002 - 49 comments

Even if it works, using the detah penalty as deterrent is morally flawed

Even if it works, using the detah penalty as deterrent is morally flawed The mere fact that an orthodontist in Cleveland feels more anxious about crime shouldn't make the state more "right" to take a life. And, if you are in favor of the death penalty, the mere fact that the same orthodontist feels comfortable leaving his door unlocked shouldn't mean that a murderer should pay less of a price for killing a child.
posted by magullo on May 24, 2002 - 45 comments

on a budget madame, well incarceration is our cheaper plan.

on a budget madame, well incarceration is our cheaper plan. Yes it seeems that the economics suggest that life imprisonment is the prudent option rather than the wanton excess of execution.
posted by johnnyboy on Feb 28, 2002 - 17 comments

Not in favor of the death penalty?

Not in favor of the death penalty? How about a gulag in Alaska? It sounded ludicrous to me at first, but after reading the article I'm a little more open to the idea.
posted by RylandDotNet on Jun 18, 2001 - 56 comments

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