I just freed an innocent man from death row. And I’m still furious. "Some people expect me to feel satisfied, or even happy. The truth is: I am angry. I am angry that we live in a world where two disabled boys can have their lives stolen from them, where cops can lie and intimidate with impunity, where innocent people can be condemned to die and where injustice is so difficult to bring to light. As I lie awake at night, mulling over the maddening details of this case, I wonder: How many more Henry McCollums are still imprisoned, waiting for help that will never come?" [more inside]
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
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]
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
"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)
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.
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
"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?
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]
10 executions that defined the 2000s.
Ten executions that most palpably captured the decade’s Zeitgeist. Some clips may be NSFW.
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]
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
The Case of Cory Maye. A cop is dead, an innocent man may be on death row, and drug warriors keep knocking down doors.
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.
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.
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
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
A report commissioned by outgoing Maryland governor Parris Glendening has found interesting racial disparities in the death penalty
: although it appears the race of the defendant
is irrelevant individually in the application of capital punishment, such is is not the case when one weighs in the race of the victim
of a crime, in which the killing of a white person by a black person nearly doubles the likelihood of the defendant receiving the death penalty, "primarily because they are substantially more likely to be charged by the state's attorney with a capital offense."
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?
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.
Killer to be executed
even though victim's mother requested a commuted sentence to life imprisonment. Shouldn't family members of the victim have some sort of say in whether a convicted killer should be executed or not? Especially when they are against
the execution of the perpetrator?
Just an add-on toThe Texas Conveyor Belt of Death
thread from yesterday.
Life, not Death
for Ms. Yates. And, Texas doesn't have a no-parole sentence, so she'll be eligible for release. Where does she go from there?
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.
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.
Long, closely-argued explanation of how America went back to the death penalty