Today’s Death Row News, December 15

I’ve been a bit swamped lately, thus the lack of posts recently. So some of this news is a bit old and I’ve had it pulled up to blog about for a while now, but I’m trying to get back on a regular schedule. Thanks for bearing with me. 

  • States push to end the death penalty: Could capital punishment be at death’s door in 2012? That’s the goal for several states next year, say leading anti-death penalty advocates who are making a push to end the controversial practice.Advocates say the coming year could be their best opportunity yet to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole in these states, pointing to shifts in public opinion, rising concern over execution costs, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s recent decision to place a moratorium on capital punishment, and Troy Davis’s high-profile execution galvanizing opposition to the death penalty.
  • Death row inmate gets new trial because of tweet:  The Arkansas Supreme Court said on Thursday a death row inmate deserves a new trial because one juror tweeted during court proceedings. The Court said, “More troubling is the fact that after being questioned about whether he had tweeted during the trial, Juror 2 continued to tweet during the trial.”
  • American Bar Association Releases Assessement of Kentucky’s Death Penalty: On December 7, the American Bar Association released a report assessing Kentucky’s system of captial punishment and calling for a halt to executions in the state. The review reported that courts have found an error rate of more than 60 percent in the trials of those who had been sentenced to death.  The review also found that at least 10 of the 78 defendants sentenced to death were represented by attorneys who were subsequently disbarred.Among the problems identified by the Assessment Team were the absence of statewide standards governing the qualifications and training for attorneys in capital cases, and uniform standards on eyewitness identifications and interrogations.  Many of Kentucky’s largest law enforcement agencies do not fully adhere to best practices to guard against false eyewitness identifications and false confessions, two of the leading causes of wrongful convictions nationwide.

    Linda Ewald, a law professor at the University of Louisville who co-chaired the assessment team, said, “We came in to this with no real idea of what we would find.  But at the close of our two-year deliberations, we were left with no option but to recommend that the Commonwealth halt executions until the problems we identified are remedied. This report is really about the administration of justice in Kentucky.”
    Related: ABA: Kentucky should suspend executions

  • Former San Quentin warden pushes anti-death penalty initiative: “I’ve killed four people for the state of California, and it didn’t make anything better for anyone,” said Jeanne Woodford, a former warden at San Quentin prison. Now Woodford is pushing a state ballot initiative that would scuttle the death penalty, replacing it with life without the possibility of parole.
  • Prosecutors No Longer Seek Death Penalty for Former Black Panther Member for Killing White Cop: Prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will no longer pursue the death penalty against former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, meaning he will spend the rest of his life in prison for gunning down a white police officer nearly 30 years ago.Abu-Jamal was convicted of fatally shooting Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner on Dec. 9, 1981. He was sentenced to death after his trial the following year. He has garnered worldwide support from those who believe he was the victim of a biased justice system. A one-time journalist, Abu-Jamal has garnered worldwide support from the “Free Mumia” movement. Hundreds of vocal supporters and death-penalty opponents regularly turn out for court hearings in his case, even though Abu-Jamal is rarely entitled to attend.
    Related: Mumia Abu-Jamal: Man, myth and the death penalty
  • N.J. Lawmaker Wants to Bring Back Death Penalty: he death penalty was killed on the floor of the New Jersey Legislature four years ago. Now a new bill is breathing new life into this controversial issue. State Sen. Robert Singer, R-Ocean County, wants to bring the death penalty back, but only for what he calls “heinous crimes.””Killing a police officer, killing a child in the state of New Jersey, mass murderers or people act of terrorism kill people deserve to have the death penalty,” he said. Singer voted against repealing the death penalty in 2007.
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