Tag: death penalty (page 3)

Virginia: First Female Execution Since 1912

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.

John Grisham weighs in. A writer in the Sydney Morning Herald says Iran does not have a monopoly on barbarism and reminds the U.S. that humanity begins at home.

The execution is set for September 23. Save Teresa Lewis. More here.

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Sotomayor's First Criminal Opinion Disappoints

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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"Effective Death Penalty Apeals Bill" Introduced in House

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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Death Penalty Opera To Premiere in Indianapolis

"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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New Study: Ending Death Penalty Could Save States Millions

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.

From DPIC:

“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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The High Cost of the Death Penalty

The New York Times has an editorial today on the economic toll of the death penalty. Some stats it obtained from the Death Penalty Information Center:

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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Dershowitz: Scalia's Death Penalty Remarks a "Betrayal" of Constitution and Church

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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Senate Adds Expanded Death Penalty to Hate Crimes Bill

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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Florida May Execute Innocent Man Tonight

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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Supreme Court Refuses to Reject Victim Impact Videos in Death Cases

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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12 Texecutions Set for Over Next Six Weeks

Texas has 12 executions scheduled for the next six weeks.

Two were executed the week of Oct. 13. Two were scheduled for this week. And two more the week after that. Then six more in November, adding to Texas' standing as the nation's most active death penalty state.

[Hat tip Sentencing Law and Policy.]

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World Medical Assoc. Expands Ban on Physician Assisted Executions

The World Medical Association's General Assembly met Friday and Saturday in Seoul, South Korea. It passed the following resolution, expanding those of prior years prohibiting physcian participation in executions:

RESOLVED, that it is unethical for physicians to participate in capital punishment, in any way, or during any step of the execution process, including its planning and the instruction and/or training of persons to perform executions, The World Medical Association REQUESTS firmly its constituent members to advise all physicians that any participation in capital punishment as stated above is unethical. URGES its constituent members to lobby actively national governments and legislators against any participation of physicians in capital punishment.


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Supreme Court Denies Cert for Troy Davis

The Supreme Court today denied cert for Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis. In September, the Court had granted a stay hours before Davis was to be executed. 7 of the 9 witnesses against him recanted their testimony and the eyewitness evidence in the case was extremely problematic.

Amnesty International responds:

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Davis’ petition for writ of certiorari that was submitted on constitutional grounds of due process and cruel and unusual punishment violations if an individual is put to death despite significant claims to innocence. Davis’ attorneys filed the petition after the Georgia Supreme Court’s narrow 4-3 ruling to deny Davis an evidentiary hearing last March; the ruling was based on technicalities rather than basic questions of guilt and innocence.


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TX Commission to Investigate Whether Innocent Man Was Executed

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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Dem Platform Committee Meeting in Cleveland

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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