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]
A Mother Jones Investigation: Fully Loaded: Inside the Shadowy World of America's 10 Biggest Gunmakers. [more inside]
The Deadly Consequences of Solitary With a Cellmate. "The 4'8"-by-10'8" space was originally built for one, but as Menard became increasingly overcrowded and guards sent more people to solitary, the prison bolted in a second bunk. The two men would have to eat, sleep, and defecate inches from one another for nearly 24 hours a day in a space smaller than a parking spot, if a parking spot had walls made of cement and steel on all sides. With a toilet, sink, shelf, and beds, the men were left with a sliver of space about a foot-and-a-half wide to maneuver around each other. If one stood, the other had to sit."
The Equal Justice Initiative has released a report (pdf) on the history of lynchings in the United States, the result of five years of research. The authors compiled an inventory of 3,959 victims of “racial terror lynchings” in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950 -- documenting more than 700 additional victims, which places the number of murders more than 20 percent higher than previously reported. "The process is intended... to force people to reckon with the narrative through-line of the country’s vicious racial history, rather than thinking of that history in a short-range, piecemeal way." Map. [more inside]
Why Did Michael Brown Die in Ferguson? - According to the police of Fergusson, Missouri it was because he reached for an officer's weapon, necessitating that he be shot multiple times as he ran away empty handed. Eyewitness tell a different story. Whatever happened the killing has prompted demonstrations and looting. Ferguson police responded in full force, firing teargas and wooden rounds into crowds of protestors and sealing the area off from the media. In the wake of the tragedy questions of racial profiling, the paramilitarization of police and media depictions of black shooting victims have been raised. Meanwhile the shooter has not been named to preserve his safety.
"The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal: A Fortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust." [more inside]
David Grann of the New Yorker writes about the power of the Aryan Brotherhood inside America's federal prisons.
In 1933, Anthony Marino, Joe Murphy, Frank Pasqua and Dan Kriesberg decided to make money by taking out life insurance on drunks and then letting the victims drink themselves to death. Then they encountered Mike Malloy...
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]
A year ago this August, 72 migrant workers -- 58 men and 14 women -- 'were on their way to the US border when they were murdered by a drug gang at a ranch in northern Mexico, in circumstances that remain unexplained. Since then, a group of Mexican journalists and writers have created' a "Day of the Dead-style Virtual Altar" Spanish-language website, 72migrantes.com, to commemorate each of the victims, some of whom have never been identified. The New York Review of Books has English translations of five of their profiles. [more inside]
Betty Anne Waters's brother Kenny was sent to prison for first degree murder and armed robbery in 1982. Over the next 16 years, Betty Anne got her GED, college degree, and law degree, all in an effort to prove Kenny was innocent. With the assistance of the Innocence Project, Betty Anne was able to use DNA evidence to show Kenny was innocent. [more inside]
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives deliberately allowed assault rifles to be smuggled into Mexico, so they could be tracked. The weapons were then used in a spree of murders, including that of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. The operation was called "Fast and Furious". The Mexican government was apparently unaware of the operation, and is investigating. The ATF is going to have a review of whether their strategy supports "the goals of ATF to stem the illegal flow of firearms to Mexico".
"'It's been a magical evening,' Joel says as the Great Khali hits the Undertaker with a dustbin lid." Jon Ronson (and son) journey into the world of WWE to investigate the death of Chris Benoit.
Now here's an interesting story. And well worth the read. It mentions some disturbing facts - he reloads and starts shooting again - but is still sympathetic to our hero. Of course if you compare it with this... "nothing to see here folks, keep moving right along!" Oh, and is "frought" a word?
Three Strikes Laws May Increase Murder Rates A recent article in the journal Criminology & Public Policy suggests that the politically popular "three strikes" laws may have the perverse effect of causing more murders. Because the sentences for murders and "third strikes" are the same, criminals have an incentive to change their M.O. to murder witnesses and police officers. Maybe using baseball metaphors in determining crime policy isn't such a good idea after all.
Dog-mauling convicts' adopted Aryan son might be the Night Stalker says the SF Chronicle. This case continues to get weirder. The DA now wants DNA evidence from Paul "Cornfed" Schneider -- the Pelican Bay inmate and Aryan Brotherhood gang leader whose Presa Canario dogs mauled Diane Whipple to death and whose lawyers (convicted in that death) adopted him -- to see if he is the missing link in the decades old "Night Stalker" serial killer case in California. Yeesh.
England vs. USA Over the death penalty. Initially I felt like saying "butt out" but America tends to get involved in other countries when our citizens are in trouble (like that kid in Singapore way back).