Today’s Death Row News, Oct. 7

  • Today a death row prisoner walked out of jail a free woman in Tennessee. Gaile Owens, a 58-year-old Memphis woman convicted of hiring a hit-man to kill her husband, came within two months of being executed in 2010 before Gov. Phil Bredesen commuted her sentence. Owens chose to do so not because she was innocent, but because he thought her sentence was excessive. She became part of the general prison population and last week at her parole hearing, she was granted parole. You can read more about Owens and her story here.
  • A death row inmate in Utah is arguing that he is ineligible for the death penalty because his IQ is too low. The Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that it was cruel and unusual, and therefore illegal, to execute mentally retarded criminals. His defense team claims his low IQ scores prevent him from understanding right from wrong.
  • Somewhere I stumbled across this blog post from a law student detailing what she has seen in law school regarding the death penalty and how it shaped her views. An interesting perspective.
  • In Florida, the Supreme Court put Ted Herring back on death row, reversing a lower court’s order vacating his sentence. Herring filed a motion in 2003 claiming he is mentally retarded. The state argued he didn’t meet the criteria, but a defense expert testified that he did. The Circuit court found his IQ to be within the range for mental retardation, but yesterday the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Circuit Court was wrong.
  • The Florida Supreme Court was busy yesterday. In another ruling, they said a judge must grant a hearing on new evidence in the case of death row inmate Derrick Tyrone Smith, reversing the ruling of a Circuit judge in Pinellas County. The hearing will include new evidence regarding alleged flaws in bullet analysis and will also consider the state’s failure to disclose information about a witness to the defense attorneys.
  • Catholic parishes throughout Sarasota County are preparing for the 2011 Florida Respect Life Conference by planning a series of speakers, videos and other programs. Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, Florida kicked off their month of events with a talk by Sister Helen Prejean, known as the death row nun and subject of the movie “Dead Man Walking.” 
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