Tag: death penalty (page 2)
If only it were as easy to end the death penalty as it was for Texas to end last meals for those about to be executed.
Texas inmates who are set to be executed will no longer get their choice of last meals, after a prominent state senator voiced concern over a request from a man condemned for a notorious race killing.
...It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege," Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote in a letter to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Livingston agreed and with one fell swoop of his pen, ended the practice. [More...]
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The ACLU tweeted last nightt:
In case it wasn't obvious: the only way to avoid executing the innocent is end the deathpenalty.
Back in 2009, I wrote this post about Justice Anton Scalia's view of the Troy Davis case, the presumption of innocence, which back in 1895 in a case called Coffin v. U.S, the Supreme Court called a "bedrock" of our criminal justice system, and on why those who "did it" may be just as at risk of a miscarriage of justice as those who are innocent. From the Coffin case: [More...]
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McClatchy has a report today on the flaws in the military's death penalty system:
Of the 16 men sentenced to death since the military overhauled its system in 1984, 10 have been taken off death row. The military's appeals courts have overturned most of the sentences, not because of a change in heart about the death penalty or questions about the men's guilt, but because of mistakes made at every level of the military's judicial system.
The problems included defense attorneys who bungled representation, judges who didn't know how to properly instruct a jury and prosecutors who mishandled evidence....At almost every level - from trial to appeals - young, inexperienced lawyers routinely have been appointed to represent capital defendants.
McClatchy contrasts these cases with those of the 9/11 defendants: [More...]
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Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed the bill abolishing the death penalty passed by the legislature in January. He also commuted the sentences of the 15 inmates now on death row to life in prison without parole. The law goes into effect July 1.
Illinois is now the 16th state to abolish the death penalty.
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Yong Vui Kong is on death row in Singapore, arrested at age 18 for carrying 1.5 ounces of heroin. Singapore's law provides the death penalty for anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin (Kong had 47) and provides no exceptions.
His dedicated family (particularly his brother and sister) and his attorney Madasamy Ravi, a Singapore human rights lawyer and member of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, have done a herculean job so far of keeping the case in the courts. The end is now here, but he still could be saved.
Al Jazeera made the excellent video above telling the story, I hope you will all watch. [More...]
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Teresa Lewis didn't pull the trigger. She confessed, pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities. She has an IQ of 70, right on the border of mental retardation. She has no prior criminal record, and no prior history of violence. The triggermen in the murder got life without parole. Yet she's scheduled to die by lethal injection. She is the first female sentenced to death in Virginia since 1912.
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Supreme Court Justice Sonja Sotomayor's issued her first signed criminal opinion this morning in Wood v Allen, upholding the death penalty for a man with a borderline IQ. It affirms the 11th Circuit's denial of habeas relief, deferring to the Alabama Supreme Court's decision under AEDPA that defense counsel was not ineffective, because he made a "strategic decision" not to present evidence of the mental deficiencies.
Justice Stevens and Kenney dissented. (Opinion here.) [More...]
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Recognizing the difficulty that death row inmates have in bringing innocence claims before the court, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) has introduced H.R. 3986, "The Effective Death Penalty Appeals Act." (Received by e-mail from Amnesty International USA , no link yet:)
When a person facing execution has strong evidence of his innocence, he should have ample opportunity to bring those claims back into a court of law. The law as it stands today is flawed in this respect. Rep. Johnson's bill would ensure that death row inmates have the opportunity to present newly discovered evidence of innocence.
Given that 139 people have been wrongfully convicted and sent to death row in the last three decades in the United States, it is especially important that lawmakers take a close look at the flaws in a system that irreversibly takes human life.
This bill would help inmates like Troy Davis, who due to AEDPA, came within hours of being executed because courts said he could not raise his factual innocence claim. In August, the Supreme Court ruled David should be allowed a new hearing to establish his innocence. Legislation is needed to help others in this situation. [More...]
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"Small Box", an opera about the death penalty, will play for one night only on Nov. 7th in Indianapolis.
The opera has a cast of eight -- six men and two women. Two of the men are prison officers assigned to the death row visiting room. The officer in charge is an older man, whose assistant is a new officer, still learning the ropes after two weeks on the job.
One inmate is a multiple murderer who, because of a judge's error, had his death sentence reduced to life in prison. He works as the unit's janitor.
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The Death Penalty Information Center released a new study today (pdf) showing that states could save millions by ending the death penalty. A poll of police chiefs across the country was released with the report, Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis (pdf).
[The poll] found that they ranked the death penalty last among their priorities for crime-fighting, do not believe the death penalty deters murder, and rate it as the least efficient use of limited taxpayer dollars.
“With many states spending millions to retain the death penalty, while seldom or never carrying out an execution, the death penalty is turning into a very expensive form of life without parole. At a time of budget shortfalls, the death penalty cannot be exempt from reevaluation alongside other wasteful government programs that no longer make sense,” said Richard C. Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center and the report’s author.
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According to the organization, keeping inmates on death row in Florida costs taxpayers $51 million a year more than holding them for life without parole. North Carolina has put 43 people to death since 1976 at $2.16 million per execution. The eventual cost to taxpayers in Maryland for pursuing capital cases between 1978 and 1999 is estimated to be $186 million for five executions.
Perhaps the most extreme example is California, whose death row costs taxpayers $114 million a year beyond the cost of imprisoning convicts for life.
As to how the money could be better used: [More...]
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Professor Alan Dershowitz, writing in the Daily Beast today calls Justice Antonin Scalia's remarks about the death penalty a betrayal of both the Constitution and the Catholic Church.
The Supreme Court justice’s shocking remarks about capital punishment are not just a distortion of the Constitution, says Alan Dershowitz, they’re also an outrage against his church.
My views on Scalia's remarks are here. To recap, Scalia wrote in his dissent in the Troy Davis case:
“This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged ‘actual innocence’ is constitutionally cognizable.”
Alan makes this analogy: [More...]
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Two things I already knew: Sen. Jeff Sessions is a danger as the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate's Hate Crimes bill is ill-conceived legislation.
Things I now know: It's worse than I thought. The ACLU reports the Senate yesterday approved an Amendment by Jeff Sessions expanding the use of the death penalty for hate crimes. (Why not just life plus cancer as a penalty while he's at it?)
From the ACLU and then an action alert to get this removed.
The U.S. Senate yesterday passed an amendment extending the death penalty for certain hate crimes. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), was added to the hate crimes amendment to the Defense authorization bill that passed last Thursday. In a letter sent to Senators, the American Civil Liberties Union urged lawmakers to oppose this misguided and wrong expansion of the federal death penalty.
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Wayne Tompkins is scheduled to be executed tonight in Florida. From the Florida Innocence Project(via e-mail):
We believe there are very serious doubts about whether Tompkins is guilty of murder – because the body in the case might not be that of the alleged victim, meaning no murder even took place. Several individuals have signed affidavits saying they have seen the victim alive since the alleged murder, but the Governor has failed to stay the execution.
Yesterday, we sent a letter to Governor Charlie Crist (pdf). Today, we filed a motion to preserve the evidence in the case, signaling our intent to go ahead with DNA testing, even if Tompkins is executed. One day soon, the truth will come out, and perhaps Governor Crist will become the first in US history to execute a man who was proven to be innocent.
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Very little is more prejudicial in the penalty phase of a death case than a video of the victim's life set to music. Juries are instructed to base their decisions on reason rather than emotion, and then view a video, on a larger than life screen, depicting images of the victim and events in his or her life, as prepared by their family, set to music.
Today, the Supreme Court refused to reject the practice in two cases.
The order Monday comes in two California cases in which jurors were shown video montages of the victims' lives, in one instance set to music by Enya.
Three justices disagreed with the ruling: Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens. Justice Stevens' statement is here (pdf.)
"The videos added nothing relevant to the jury's deliberations and invited a verdict based on sentiment, rather than reasoned judgment," Stevens said.
You can watch one of the videos here.
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