Tag: death penalty (page 3)
This is really big news. For the first time in U.S. history, a state commission will investigate whether an innocent man was executed.
A Texas panel will investigate whether a man executed for setting a fire that killed his three daughters actually started the blaze.
The Texas Forensic Science Commission agreed Friday to review conclusions that Cameron Todd Willingham set the fire in 1991. He was executed in 2004.... The Innocence Project, a legal group that works to overturn wrongful convictions, says experts in a report it commissioned concluded the fire was not intentionally set.
You can read JR's diary about it on Daily Kos . One of the experts who co-authored the Innocence Project report is his father, John Lentini, who has written extensively on fire science and errors made during investigations.
The executed inmate was Cameron Todd Willingham #999041. Read the results of a 2004 exhaustive investigation into the case by award-winning Chicago Tribune investigative reporters Maurice Possley and Steve Mills. [More...]
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The DNC Platform Committee is meeting this weekend in Cleveland.
The sessions begin Friday afternoon when policy experts suggest planks for the Democratic platform. On Saturday party leaders will hear comments from the public and then will turn their attention to writing a draft platform.
The draft goes before the full platform committee Aug. 9 in Pittsburgh....The platform is expected to closely reflect Obama's views.
In 2004,John Kerry insisted on removing support for the death penalty from the platform. It was the first time since the 1980's that the Democratic platform did not contain an endorsement of the death penalty. Will Obama keep it out or put it back in?
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Where is Sen. Barack Obama on the death penalty? With Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas. Here is what Sen. Obama had to say about today's excellent Supreme Court ruling striking down a state statute allowing the death penalty to be imposed for crimes where no death occurs:
When asked about Supreme Court ruling against the use of the death penalty in instances of child rape today at a news conference in Chicago, Obama answered, “I disagree with the decision. I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for most egregious of crimes. I think that the rape of a small child, six or eight years old is a heinous crime, and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable. That does not violate our constitution.”
He continued, “Had the Supreme Court said, ‘We want to constrain ability of states to do this to make sure that it's done in a careful and appropriate way,’ that would've been one thing, but it basically had a blanket prohibition and I disagree with that decision.”
He sounds just like John McCain: [More...]
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Via Scotus Blog: The Supreme Court decided Kennedy v. Louisiana today, holding that "the death penalty for child rape is unconstitutional if the defendants' acts were not intended to cause death." The decision was 5-4.
The Court has released the opinion in Kennedy v. Louisiana (07-343), on whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits states from imposing the death penalty for child rape, and, if not, whether Louisiana’s statute fails to narrow the class of offenders eligible for the death penalty. The ruling below, which upheld the state law, is reversed and remanded.
Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion. Justice Alito dissented, joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Thomas. We will provide a link to the decision as soon as it is available.
The opinion is available here. The Court categorically says the death penalty is forbidden for crimes that do not result in death. [More..]
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At the Death House Door airs tonight at 9:00 pm ET on IFC, the Independent Film Channel: It is the story of a minister to death row inmates in Texas, who became convinced that the risk that even one innocent person will be executed justifies abandoning capital punishment.
One person who shares such a conviction is Carroll Pickett, minister to death row inmates at a penitentiary in Texas; for 15 years, Pickett had no reservations about presiding over executions, until that fateful day when his path crossed with that of a Hispanic man named Carlos de Luna, unjustly accused of homicide.
Shortly before this - his 96th official execution - was to occur, Pickett tape recorded much of his last day with de Luna. Listening to it, he became unshakably convinced of the man's innocence, and used his inner conviction as an impetus to team up with crime reporters from the Chicago Tribune and delve into the facts surrounding De Luna's highly questionable arraignment. With their documentary At the Death House Door, James and Gilbert both tell Pickett's heart-rending story and use it as a springboard into broader penetrative issues about capital punishment.
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Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights, a champion in the defense of capital cases and a personal hero of mine, discusses what's next for the death penalty in the video above and in a blogpost today at MoBlogic.tv .
Although public opinion polls continue to show support for the death penalty, imposition of the death penalty is down by more than 50% over 10 years. In the late 1990s, around 280-300 people were being sentenced to death a year. In the last 5 years, it’s been around 125 to 150 a year. No one has noticed this. But it is significant that a country this large with as many homicides as we have is sentencing so few people to death each year.
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William Earl Lynd was executed in Georgia last night.
Lynd's execution at 7:51 p.m. was the first since the court ruled April 16 that the three-drug protocol most commonly used in executions by states and the federal government did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Around the country, the 129th person was recently freed from death row in North Carolina. Levon Jones was exonerated after his conviction was overturned because of inadequate representation. The state's star witness has also recanted her testimony implicating Jones. The District Attorney dismissed all charges against him on May 3. Jones is the sixth person to be freed from death row in the past 12 months, the eighth person from North Carolina, and the 3rd from North Carolina since December 2007. The last four inmates who have been freed from death row in the U.S. are black.
The New York Times reports questions of fairness remain.
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Adam Liptak in the New York Times examines the results of a new study on the death penalty and crime. There are two key findings.
The first one is not a surprise: The death penalty is imposed more often when the victim is white.
The second is potentially ground-breaking:
It found that the race of the defendant by itself plays a major role in explaining who is sentenced to death.
It has never been conclusively proven that, all else being equal, blacks are more likely to be sentenced to death than whites in the three decades since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Many experts, including some opposed to the death penalty, have said that evidence of that sort of direct discrimination is spotty and equivocal.
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Kennedy v. Louisiana, an important and closely followed case is being argued today in the Supreme Court: Can the death penalty be imposed as a punishment for child rape, if the child isn't murdered.
First, there is a strong national consensus against imposing the death penalty for child rape. In addition, the death penalty is a disproportionate punishment for the crime of rape, regardless of the age of the victim, because it does not cause death. Moreover, imposing the death penalty for child rape would fail to serve, and would likely inhibit, the retribution and deterrence functions of the U.S. penal system.
The Scotus Wiki page for the case with briefs and synopsis and other links is here.
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Clifton White will not be executed. The Ohio Supreme Court today ruled a judge erred in substituting his opinion for that of experts as to whether White was mentally retarded. Case synopis here and the full opinion is here. (pdf).
In 2002, the Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia banned execution for the mentally retarded as cruel and unusual punishment. White was pursuing post-conviction relief at the time.
Later that year, the Supreme Court of Ohio in State v. Lott established criteria and procedures to be applied ....a petitioner is required to show by a preponderance of the evidence:
- “(1) significantly subaverage intellectual functioning,
- (2) significant limitations in two or more adaptive skills, such as communication, self-care, and self-direction, and
- (3) onset (of the intellectual and adaptive limitations) before the age of 18.”
The trial court in White's case appointed experts and held a hearing. Both the state's expert and the defense expert determined he met the criteria. [More...]
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Two murderers were sentenced in federal courts in Missouri yeterday.
Lisa Montgomery got the death penalty in federal court. She will be the third woman on federal death row. Her crime: She cut the fetus out of a woman who was 8 months pregnant. She wanted the baby because she had told her husband she was pregnant and felt she had to produce one. She is mentally ill, likely a result of the sexual abuse she suffered as a child. The baby lived and is healthy, and has been returned to the family.
Other women on federal death row:
Since 1927, only two women have been executed under the federal system, both in 1953. Ethel Rosenberg was the first, sent to the electric chair after her and husband Julius were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.
Bonnie Heady was sent to the gas chamber with her lover Carl Hall for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City. Mary Surratt was hanged by the U.S. government in 1865 for her involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln.
Timothy Krajcir, 63, is a serial killer who pleaded guilty to murdering five woman on separate occasions. He got a life sentence by making a deal to plead guilty in exchange for the Government not seeking the death penalty. [More...]
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There's progress on the death penalty front to report:
VA Governor Tim Kaine has imposed a moratorium on executions until the Supreme Court decides Baze v. Rees on whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.
Kaine said about 30 executions nationwide have been stayed since September, either by the Supreme Court, lower courts or governors.
In Missouri legislators are considering a bill that would impose a moratorium on executions until 2011 so that death sentences in the state can be reviewed.
Besides the freeze, the measure also would create a 10-person commission to study a random sample of death penalty cases to judge the fairness of the process. The panel could look at topics such as possible racial disparities and the quality of evidence used to convict the person.
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Attorney General Michael Mukasey was in London speaking to a group at the London School of Economics. After his speech, and speaking for himself only, he said he he personally opposed the death penalty for the 9/11 detainees at Guantanamo. He gave an analogy.
"I kind of hope they don't get it," Mukasey said after a speech at the London School of Economics. "Because many of them want to be martyrs, and it's kind of like the conversation … between the sadist and the masochist."
"The masochist says hit me and the sadist says no, so I am kind of hoping they don't get it," he said.
Mukasey noted that the military commission trials at Gitmo are being conducted by the Defense Department, not the Justice Department, although DOJ is cooperating with them.
Law professor Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy is outraged at Mukasey's comments. I'm not. [More...]
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The New York Times examines why the feds have been so unsuccessful in getting death penalty convictions in New York State.
In the 20 years since the federal death penalty statute was revived, no federal juries have been more reluctant to sentence federal defendants to death than those in New York.
The Justice Department's losing record in New York: 19 to 1, since 1988. Nationally, the feds win about 1/3 of their capital cases.
One reason is the reluctance of jurors to impose it. Another is the quality of the New York capital defenders. A third is the sometimes unsympathetic victims.
But there's more. The Judges are weighing in, on everything from the exorbitant expense to the arbitrariness and disparity in the system. More...
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Today, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey showed he might be taking a different tack. North Dakota U.S. Attorney Drew Wigley announced today that Mukasey had rejected seeking the death penalty against several defendants in a drug conspiracy case involving an alleged murder:
The decision was announced Friday by U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, after he received a letter from U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Wrigley said it was a short statement by Mukasey.
"He now sets the record for the most direct of the three attorneys general I've worked for. I'll leave it at that," Wrigley said.
The latest decision came in the case of defendant Martin Avila, age 21, accused of being a fugitive and a meth trafficker who used a firearm to kill Lee Avila of East Grand Forks, Minn. Avila is one of "more than 60 people charged in the case known as Operation Speed Racer."
Mukasey also rejected death filings against three other defendants accused in Avila's death.
"The facts are obviously well-known to them," said Wrigley, referring to the Justice Department. "We put together an entire synopsis with every possible aspect of the case and they considered it very thoroughly (in the death penalty decision)."
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