Where the Death Penalty Still Lives. In the U.S., 20 states and the District of Columbia have abolished capital punishment and four others have imposed a moratorium on executions. Of the 26 states that remain, only 14 handed down death sentences last year for a total of 50 across the country — less than half the number six years before. California, which issued more than one-quarter of last year’s death sentences, hasn’t actually executed anyone since 2006. A new geography of capital punishment is taking shape, with just two percent of the nation’s counties now accounting for a majority of the people sitting on death row. [more inside]
"He was a schemer who used the courts for profit and revenge. He was a paranoid, angry meth addict who had been arrested for battery and domestic violence seven times. He had been involuntarily committed, by his family’s count. And yet, in its report on Phoebe’s death, the Florida Department of Children and Families concluded, “There was nothing in the preceding several years that could have reasonably been interpreted as predictive of such an event.”
In 1997, Smith retired from the police force. He needed a job to help cover his two daughters' college expenses, so he signed up as an investigator in the Broward County Public Defender's Office. He had little idea that he'd end up a key player in a bold experiment in criminal justice, one that aims to give tens of thousands of people who can't afford lawyers a fighting chance in a system stacked against them. It's an effort that suggests new ways for court-appointed attorneys to get at the truth, despite their insane caseloads. And a big part of it is getting former cops to police the police.
Freddie Lee Hall, as a child, had been classified as "mentally retarded"; he is illiterate, cannot cook for himself, bathe independently, clean his clothes, and is unable to handle his own finances. Halll was sentenced to death for murdering Karol Hurst, a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was abducted leaving a Leesburg, Fla., grocery store in 1978. His guilt is not at issue; what is at issue, before the Supreme Court this morning, is whether the Florida Supreme Court's definition of mental retardation (having an IQ of 70 or less) was correctly applied to Hall, who has tested at an IQ of 71. [more inside]
In 1994, the Tampa Bay Times published a riveting story about Kenneth Hardcastle. One of Tampa Bay's civic elites, Hardcastle also had a burgeoning crack addiction and a fondness for underage prostitutes. [more inside]
Quartavious Davis of Florida, now twenty, has been sentenced to 162 years without parole for his role in several armed robberies during which he discharged a firearm but no one was hurt. He was a teenager at the time of the crimes and had no previous record. The Supreme Court has recently ruled that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment." Davis was 18 and 19 at the time of the crimes, and the sentence was discretionary, so this ruling does not apply.
Marcus McKinney was arrested Wednesday for the gang-related shooting of Michael Jacola at Orange Park High School in Jacksonville. Florida. Marcus was caught because left his photo on his Myspace.com profile alongside various comments about belonging to a gang.
Missed Opportunity A Florida motorist was arrested on Wednesday on charges of trying to run down U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris.
Joseph P. Smith had a criminal record dating back to 1993, now suspected of kidnapping and murdering eleven year old Carlie Brucia in Sarasota. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Smith had a history of "second chances." How typical is this, or is this just a case of hindsight being everything?