- Arkansas Supreme Court reverses death sentence of inmate convicted of Lafayette Co. slaying: The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a death row inmate’s sentence Thursday because of what the justices called a breakdown in the appellate process.In Thursday’s opinion, the Court wrote that the jury had erred in filling out a form in Williams’ case. At least on paper, the jury said there wasn’t evidence of mitigating circumstances — the kinds of events or conditions that juries consider in deciding punishment. But, during court proceedings, the jury had heard testimony from a counselor who said Williams grew up in a dysfunctional family.
“Additionally, evidence was presented that he was functioning with a low I.Q., understanding things in society about as well as a nine or ten year old,” associate judge Paul Danielson wrote. The Court concluded that the jury “sentenced Williams to death solely based on the aggravating circumstance, which is reversible error,” Danielson wrote in the unanimous decision from the seven-member court.
- Former Texas Governor Supports Actions by Oregon’s Governor: In a recent op-ed in Oregon’s Statesman Journal, former Texas Governor Mark White applauded Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s decision to grant a reprieve to death row inmate Gary Haugen and to halt all executions in the state. Governor White wrote, “I think Kitzhaber’s decision is respectable and courageous. In Oregon, as in Texas, it is clearly within the constitutional authority of the governor to grant reprieves and commutations. With that authority comes the responsibility to ensure the state’s laws are carried out fairly and within the state and federal constitutions. He concluded that Oregon’s death penalty as a system was not passing that test.” Governor White also said that Governor Kitzhaber’s decision now allows time for the state to study the death penalty and address serious concerns about the system. Governor White concluded, “Such a decision should be welcomed by all who value justice, regardless of their personal beliefs about the death penalty.”
- Exoneration: Conviction in 20-year-old murder wiped from books: A man who served 10 years in prison after confessing to the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Dixmoor girl, a crime in which four other teens also were implicated despite contrary DNA evidence, was exonerated Monday. Robert Veal’s murder conviction was vacated by Cook County Circuit Judge Michele Simmons, said Veal’s attorney, Stuart Chanen. Prosecutors say they will not seek a retrial.
- Inmate: Judge allowed drinking during trial: The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Friday in favor of a Republican county judge who is running for chief justice and was accused by a capital murder defendant of allowing an alcoholic juror to drink during his trial. Death row inmate Jeremy Bryan Jones contends in an appeal that Mobile County Circuit Judge Charlie Graddick let a juror identified only by his initials consume alcohol during his 2005 trial, which ended in the death sentence.
- Will innocent Illinoisans be found guilty? Illinois’ abolition of the death penalty could have a boomerang effect on some defendants: more innocent people might be convicted of murder.
- The Prosecution’s Case Against DNA: This article is quite long, but definitely worth the read. It details the way the prosecution used new and novel techniques to keep Juan Rivera in prison despite the DNA evidence indicating his innocence.
- The Looming Death of the Death Penalty: An excellent analysis by The Atlantic about the declining support for the death penalty and what it might mean.
- Florida Innocence Commission’s Latest Meeting: The Innocence Project of Florida live-blogged the latest meeting of the Florida Innocence Commission and posted the notes on their blog. The Florida Innocence Commission was formed in 2010 to recommend to the Supreme Court of florida solutions to reduce or eliminate wrongful convictions. There are mixed opinions as to how effective the Commission has been so far or can be, as they can only make recommendations to the Court.