Category Archives: Reading

The Latest Death Penalty Headlines

Editor’s Note: Some readers may have noticed this blog hasn’t been updated in almost a year. Due to a variety of factors, not least of which was a simple lack of time, I took a hiatus from posting here. I’m now trying to make more time in my schedule for this project, so with any luck regular postings will be returning. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

The Tennessee Senate Has Backed a Bill to Reinstate the Electric Chair

Tennessee Senators overwhelming voted on Wednesday to reinstate the electric chair to execute capital inmates in the event that the state is unable to procure the necessary chemicals to perform lethal injections.

In a 23-3 vote, the Senate approved the Capital Punishment Enforcement Act, tabled by Sen. Ken Yager, which would provide the state’s Department of Corrections with the legal backing to kill inmates with the electric chair as an alternative, according to The Tennessean.

A similar piece of legislation has reportedly been tabled in Tennessee’s House of Representatives.

Related: The First Photograph of an Execution by Electric Chair

Now He Tells Us: John Paul Stevens Wants to Abolish the Death Penalty:

A man who consistently upheld capital convictions and the death penalty itself for over 35 years, who helped send hundreds of men and women to their deaths by failing to hold state officials accountable for constitutional violations during capital trials, who more recently endorsed dubious lethal injection standards because he did not want to buck up against court precedent, now wants the Eighth Amendment to read this way, with five new words added:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments such as the death penalty inflicted.

 

Indiana Woman Starts Petition to get the American Pharmacist Association to Alter Code of Ethics to Ban Participation in Executions: 

“The Association could help put a stop to the manufacturing and supplying of drugs used for lethal injections,” Kauffman’s petition, which garnered more than 36,000 signatures, explains, “and help end the use of the death penalty in the U.S. once and for all.”

“I was reading an article last July about an execution that was postponed in Georgia because the Department of Corrections wouldn’t give any information to the lawyers or the judges about what execution drugs were going to be used and where they had gotten them from. The article mentioned that pharmacists, unlike other medical professionals, are not banned from participating in executions. And I remember thinking — wow, that’s surprising,” Kauffman recounted in an interview with ThinkProgress. “I happen to be opposed to the death penalty. But I’m especially opposed to the medicalization of the death penalty.”

Report Recommends 56 Changes to Ohio Death Penalty, Would Restrict Use of Law: 

Ohio should restrict the use of capital punishment charges and create a state panel to approve them, according to two of the 56 recommendations in the final report by a committee that spent more than two years studying changes to the law.

The committee proposes eliminating cases where an aggravated murder was committed during a burglary, robbery or rape, requiring solid proof of a defendant’s guilt such as DNA evidence, and banning the execution of the mentally ill, according to a draft copy of the report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

 

New York Times Debate: What It Means if the Death Penalty Is Dying:

Last week, lawmakers in New Hampshire heard testimony on a bill outlawing the death penalty. If passed, the law would make New Hampshire the 19th state to abolish capital punishment. The United States, the only country in the Americas to practice the death penalty last year, executed 39 people, four fewer than the year before, and Texas accounted for 41 percent of them, according to Amnesty International.

As executions become concentrated in fewer and fewer states and racial disparities continue, does the application of capital punishment make it unconstitutionally cruel and unusual?

 

Man on Texas Death Row Testifies in Court to Hurry His Execution:

A Corpus Christi man on death row for fatally shooting a five-year old boy nearly 22 years ago is one step away from getting a solid execution date.

Larry Hatten, 38, testified Thursday in the 347th District Court about his own competency before Judge Missy Medary. He was brought back from death row to testify after he sent his attorney a letter saying he did not want anymore appeals.

On Thursday, Hatten told the judge that he just didn’t want to waste anymore time.

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The Execution of An Innocent Man

It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby.

— Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, 2006, Kansas v. Marsh

Carlos De Luna (left) and Carlos Hernandez

Carlos De Luna (left) and Carlos Hernandez

At 11 p.m. Monday night, the Columbia University Human Rights Review published its Spring 2012 issue, comprised entirely of a massive research project by Professor James Liebman and 12 students, examining the conviction and execution in Texas of a man named Carlos De Luna. The team contends, and backs up with a wealth of irrefutable evidence, that Texas executed an innocent man for the crimes of another.

***

 Ed Pilkington of The Guardian does a good job summarizing the facts of the case:

“Carlos DeLuna was arrested, aged 20, on 4 February 1983 for the brutal murder of a young woman, Wanda Lopez. She had been stabbed once through the left breast with an 8in lock-blade buck knife which had cut an artery causing her to bleed to death.

From the moment of his arrest until the day of his death by lethal injection six years later, DeLuna consistently protested he was innocent. He went further—he said that though he hadn’t committed the murder, he knew who had. He even named the culprit: a notoriously violent criminal called Carlos Hernandez.

The two Carloses were not just namesakes—or tocayos in Spanish, as referenced in the title of the Columbia book. They were the same height and weight, and looked so alike that they were sometimes mistaken for twins. When Carlos Hernandez’s lawyer saw pictures of the two men, he confused one for the other, as did DeLuna’s sister Rose.

Carlos DeLuna mugshot

Carlos DeLuna in a file photo from the Corpus Christi Police Department.

At his 1983 trial, Carlos DeLuna told the jury that on the day of the murder he’d run into Hernandez, who he’d known for the previous five years. The two men, who both lived in the southern Texas town of Corpus Christi, stopped off at a bar. Hernandez went over to a gas station, the Shamrock, to buy something, and when he didn’t return DeLuna went over to see what was going on.

DeLuna told the jury that he saw Hernandez inside the Shamrock wrestling with a woman behind the counter. DeLuna said he was afraid and started to run. He had his own police record for sexual assault—though he had never been known to possess or use a weapon—and he feared getting into trouble again.

“I just kept running because I was scared, you know.” When he heard the sirens of police cars screeching towards the gas station he panicked and hid under a pick-up truck where, 40 minutes after the killing, he was arrested.

At the trial, DeLuna’s defense team told the jury that Carlos Hernandez, not DeLuna, was the murderer. But the prosecutors ridiculed that suggestion. They told the jury that police had looked for a “Carlos Hernandez” after his name had been passed to them by DeLuna’s lawyers, without success. They had concluded that Hernandez was a fabrication, a “phantom” who simply did not exist. The chief prosecutor said in summing up that Hernandez was a “figment of DeLuna’s imagination.”

Carlos Hernandez in a file photo from the Corpus Christi Police Department.

Carlos Hernandez in a file photo from the Corpus Christi Police Department.

Four years after DeLuna was executed, Liebman decided to look into the DeLuna case as part of a project he was undertaking into the fallibility of the death penalty. He asked a private investigator to spend one day—just one day—looking for signs of the elusive Carlos Hernandez.

By the end of that single day the investigator had uncovered evidence that had eluded scores of Texan police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges over the six years between DeLuna’s arrest and execution. Carlos Hernandez did indeed exist.”

***

Several articles, which I’ll link to below, continue the story of what happened next, but the basics are something like this: Liebman and his students began piecing together a profile of Carlos Hernandez. He was an alcoholic with a tendency to become violent. He always carried a lock-blade buck knife. He was arrested 39 times over the years and spent most of his adult life on parole. He was never put in prison, likely because he was used as a police informant. He was known to have bragged about killing a woman named Lopez and getting someone else to take the fall for him.

The researchers also found an incredible array of gross mistakes, the kind that should never happen when someone’s life is on the line. For example:

1. There was no DNA evidence linking DeLuna to the case, despite a very bloody crime scene.Photos show blood spattered three feet high on the walls of the gas station counter, yet none was on DeLuna’s clothes or shoes.

2. The detectives investigating the crime scene did such a terrible job that no usable fingerprints were taken from the scene.

3. None of the items found at the scene, including a cigarette butt, chewing gum, a comb, beer cans and a button, were tested for saliva or blood.

4. No scrapings of the victim’s fingernails were taken.

5. There was a bloody footprint at the scene from a man’s shoe. It was never measured.

6. Less than two hours after the murder, the police chief ordered all the detectives to leave the scene and allowed the owner to wash it down, washing away vital evidence.

7. When Liebman and his team asked to see all the stored evidence in the case so it could be tested for DNA, he was told it had disappeared.

***

“Maybe one day the truth will come out. I’m hoping it will. If I end up getting executed for this, I don’t think it’s right.

—Carlos DeLuna

In an excellent analysis of the case in The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen points out that”the district attorney lobbyists will argue that capital cases, in Texas and elsewhere, are handled much more professionally today than they were 30 years ago. And because both of the Carloses are now long dead, there isn’t much of a media hook here, either. Posthumous exonerations don’t give the cameras the just-out-of-prison “walk shot” television producers love.”

However, what the terrifying and honest truth is that there are currently a wealth of other cases, including recent ones, where these issues have arisen. Just think of Troy Davis, Hank Skinner and Cameron Todd Willingham, another executed Texas inmate who was almost undoubtedly innocent. In fact, Cohen reached out to legal experts and found a list of just a few cases with some of these very same glaring mistakes. They include:

I would encourage anyone and everyone who sees this to take a moment to read about Carlos DeLuna. Because no longer can Americans say that the death penalty is without flaws. And as Cohen said, “No one can ever say again with a straight face that America doesn’t execute innocent men. No one.”

Related reading:

Yes, America, We Have Executed an Innocent Man

The Wrong Carlos: How Texas Sent an Innocent Man to His Death

Carlos De Luna Execution: Texas Put To Death An Innocent Man, Columbia University Team Says

Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution

Why It’s Constitutional to Execute an Innocent Man

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Death Sentences Drop To Historic Lows

Stats from the DPIC annual report

From NPR

Death sentences dropped dramatically this year, marking the first time in more than three decades that judges and juries sent fewer than 100 people to death row, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center.

Just 78 offenders were handed capital sentences, and only 43 inmates were executed — almost half as many as 10 years ago.

American Reaction

Just three months ago, in early September, the Republican presidential debate made headlines when the audience erupted into applause when moderator Brian Williams noted Texas had executed 234 people in recent years.

“I think Americans understand justice,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry responded. “I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of cases, are supportive of capital punishment.”

That may be the perception, but experts say it’s not the reality.

“When I saw the reaction [at] the debate, I thought, ‘This is not what I’m seeing about the death penalty around the country,’ ” says Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center, which collects statistics on capital punishment. “Everything that I’ve been following for 20 years says we are in a deep decline.”

Dieter says polls consistently show the majority of Americans are ambivalent or opposed to the death penalty.

“The death penalty in 2011 is starting to reflect the unease that many people feel,” Dieter says. “The practice has been flawed, and it’s getting very expensive.”

Dieter points to the millions of dollars that states have spent on capital cases, the frequent exonerations of people on death row, and growing concerns about fairness.

Most notable this year were the multiple protests on behalf of Troy Davis, who was executed in Georgia despite appeals that raised questions about his guilt.

Meanwhile, Illinois abolished the death penalty entirely, and just a few weeks ago, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said he would not execute another inmate while he is in office.

“It’s time for this state to consider a different approach,” Kitzhaber said at a news conference in November. “I refuse to be part of a compromised and inequitable system any longer.”

Define ‘Life In Prison’

But Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, says it’s not that people are turning against the death penalty. It’s that people have been given another — perhaps less complicated — option: life without parole.

“Victims and prosecutors and others have unfortunately come to learn that the death sentence really means 25 years of appeals and habeas and more appeals, and the penalty is seldom imposed,” Burns says.

Twenty years ago, the choice was often death or “life in prison,” which actually meant about 15 to 30 years in prison. In some cases, inmates served even less when let out for good behavior. Now all 50 states — and the federal government — have the option of imposing a sentence of natural life in prison, without any chance of parole.

“When you can tell them this person will never get out of prison again,” Burns says, “that’s a more appealing alternative.”

Burns says there’s one other factor to consider: crime rates. This year the murder rate fell to where it was in the 1960s, meaning there are fewer people to charge with capital murder. That’s an enormous drop from the 1990s — when the U.S. executed more inmates than in at least half a century.

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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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Reading: No Country for Innocent Men

From Mother Jones which also has a fine piece about the number of innocent people in U.S. prisons:

“DEAR MR. COLE,” THE LETTER BEGAN.”My name is Jerry Wayne Johnson. I’m presently a Texas prisoner. You may recall my name from your 1986 rape trial in Lubbock.”

Ruby Session was shaking as she read on. The year was 2007, and the letter was addressed to her son Timothy Cole. “I have been trying to locate you since 1995 to tell you I wish to confess I did in fact commit the rape Lubbock wrongly convicted you of.”

Ruby sat down, stood up. A picture of Tim in a tuxedo, taken at his junior prom, smiled from the mantle. Before his trial the prosecutor had offered him a deal to plead to lesser charges. “Mother,” Tim had said, “I am not pleading guilty to something I didn’t do.” He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Thirteen years later, he died behind bars.

 

Keep reading the rest of the article here: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/tim-cole-rick-perry

 

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Today’s Death Row News, November 27

  • Idaho executes first convicted killer in 17 years: Idaho carried out their first execution in 17 years with the lethal injection of Paul Ezra Rhoades on Friday, Nov. 18. Rhoades was convicted of abducting and murdering two Idaho women in 1987. Rhoades was reportedly “anxious and lucid” in the days leading up to his death and ate a last meal of hot dogs, baked beans and strawberry ice cream.The execution was scheduled to take place at 8 a.m. but was delayed by a motion filed at 3 a.m. Friday morning. However, the motion was denied and the execution was carried out at 9:05 a.m. In his final statement, Rhoades took responsibility for one of the murders, but claimed there were more people involved in the other crimes. Read more about the execution and last statement here: http://www.ktvb.com/home/Paul-Ezra-Rhoades-execution-134051813.html
  • Two exonerated death row inmates tie the knot: Most married couples will tell you that the things they hold in common helped cement their relationships. For Sonia Jacobs, 64, and Peter Pringle, 73, married in New York last Sunday, common ground was the decade and a half each had served on death row before their convictions were overturned for the murders that they steadfastly maintained they did not commit.
  • Court upholds tough standard of proof for death-row inmates: A divided federal appeals court on Tuesday let stand Georgia’s tough burden of proof required of death-penalty defendants seeking to prove they are mentally disabled and thus ineligible for execution. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ 7-4 decision means Georgia is the only state in the country that sets the highest barrier for defendants raising such claims to escape execution. Dissenting judges said it will lead to mentally disabled inmates being executed. “This utterly one-sided risk of error is all the more intolerable when the individual right at stake is a question of life or death,” Judge Rosemary Barkett wrote in her dissent.
  • Grandfather, 79, dies after nurse gives him execution drug rather than over-the-counter medicine: In a horrifying turn of events, a Miami hospital nurse gave 79-year-old grandfather Richard Smith a drug used in state executions rather than the over-the-counter antacid he was prescribed. Rather than picking up Pepcid, nurse Uvo Ologboride picked up a vial of Pancuronium and injected the former teacher with it instead. Pancuronium is used in lethal injections and is a muscle relaxant. Smith’s heart stopped after he was given the drug and then left alone for 30 minutes. Doctors resuscitated him but he never recovered and died a few weeks later.
  • California Death Row inmate commits suicide: A California death row inmate who was convicted of killing a 9-year-old boy in a park restroom has committed suicide. Prison officials say Brandon Wilson, 33, was found hanging in his cell Thursday morning, Nov. 17 shortly before 7 a.m.
  • Death row inmates’ desire to die renews debate: Serial wife-killer Jerry Stanley wants to die. Imprisoned on death row for the past 28 years, Stanley insists he deserves execution for the cold-blooded killing of his fourth wife in 1980 and for shooting to death his second wife five years earlier in front of their two children.He is one of at least three condemned men on the nation’s death rows volunteering to expedite their sentences. Gary Haugen, an Oregon man convicted of killing his former girlfriend’s mother in 1980, and a fellow inmate in 2003, was ruled competent in September and faced a Dec. 6 death by lethal injection until Gov. John Kitzhaber just days ago banned further executions during his term. The third, Eric Robert, killed a guard at his South Dakota prison in April while serving an 80-year sentence for kidnapping. He has vowed to kill again until his death wish is granted.

    Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Florida and other states with more frequent executions see more inmates asking their lawyers to drop appeals, said Blume, who believes that more than 10% of the 1,277 executed nationwide since 1977 had lost the will to live by the time they were executed.

  • Lawyer for Ark. death row inmate says failure to toss tweeting juror should require new trial: Attorneys for an Arkansas death row inmate ague that the inmate should have his conviction overturned because a judge failed to dismiss a juror caught tweeting during the trial. Erickson Dimas-Martinez’s attorney told justices the juror was tweeting during her client’s 2010 trial for the slaying of Derrick Jefferson, despite the judge’s instruction to not to post on the Internet or otherwise or communicate with anyone about the case. “He’s paying more attention to his Twittering than the evidence,” said Janice Vaughn with the Arkansas Public Defender Commission.Courts in Arkansas and around the country are grappling with problems caused by jurors using Twitter, Facebook or other online services during trials. In 2009, a Washington County judge dismissed an attempt to overturn a $12.6 million judgment against a building materials company, despite the firm’s complaint that a juror’s Twitter posts showed bias.
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Today’s Death Row News, November 7

  • ‘When Times Are Bad, People Feel it Will Help:’ Jimmy Berry has kept more than 50 convicted killers from the death chamber. He takes on cases few other lawyers would want. In this short Q&A, he discusses what it’s like to be a capital case defense attorney.

“I think people get a wrong perception about defense lawyers. It’s not to get people off. It’s to protect someone’s constitutional rights. If a person gets arrested, they’re going to want their constitutional rights protected. Otherwise, we’d be a police state — whoever gets arrested goes to jail without a trial.”

  • Judge OKs New Ohio Death Penalty Rules, Denies Appeal: U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost backed new death penalty practices enacted in Ohio in response to concerns over inconsistent practices. Frost’s decision clears the way for the upcoming execution of Reginald Brooks. Brooks was convicted of killing his three sons after being served divorce papers by his wife. Brooks was trying to stop his execution by challenging the state’s death penalty practices after Judge Frost ruled in July that Ohio’s execution rules were inconsistently enforced. Several other executions were stayed after the ruling, but the judge now thinks the issues have been remedied and has denied Brooks’s appeal. “With some caution, the court today reaches the conclusion that the state of Ohio has apparently learned the lessons of its prior embarrassments and corrected its course,” Frost wrote in his opinion.
  • Exoneration Is Not the End of the Story: The Innocence Project of Florida published a blog post this week detailing the difficulties faced by exonerees who manage to walk off of death row. It’s easy to think that walking out of prison is the happiest moment of their lives and it’s all downhill from there. But as many exonerees will detail, getting out is just the beginning. Many have to fight for any kind of compensation from the state, and if they have managed to get off death row in a plea deal, like the famous West Memphis Three in Arkansas, they are free but must bear the label of a convicted felon for the rest of their lives, putting a serious damper on any job opportunities. There was an excellent series of articles about the exonerees from Florida done a few years back that details their struggle: they live “modestly and anonymously, fearful that word of their past will get out, struggling to get back some of what they lost: marriages, self-respect, jobs, health, mental stability.” Read the main article and the profiles of the exonerees here: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/1911
  • Nebraska Has New Death Penalty Drug: The title of this article is a bit misleading. Nebraska doesn’t actually have a “new” drug, what it has is 485 grams of sodium thiopental, the drug used in most states for lethal injections. Prisons have been having a hard time getting their hands on the drug after several American and European companies stopped producing it in order to prevent its being used in executions. Nebraska had previously found an Indian supplier, but it was determined the supplier did not have proper licenses. Officials have now found a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland willing to sell them the drug and they intend to use it soon, with Nebraska’s attorney general asking the state Supreme Court to set an execution date for Michael Ryan.
  • Questionable Evidence for Deterrence: One of the popular reasons many cite for supporting the death penalty is the deterrence factor; the idea that having a death penalty reduces crime. Paul Heroux wrote a piece for the Huffington Post discussing some of the studies that examine the deterrence effect and attacks it as illogical and untrue, claiming the methods of studies that find evidence to support deterrence are scientifically flawed.
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Today’s Death Row News, Oct 26

Lots of articles making the rounds this week about death row inmates, executions, etc. Here’s some of the more interesting ones.

  • Anti-Death Penalty Activists, Exonerated Death Row Inmates March to Texas Capital: Hundreds of activists and 25 exonerated death row inmates participated in the 12th annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty in Austin. The demonstrators marched through downtown Austin, ending up outside the Texas State Capitol. The article has quotes from two Florida exonerees, David Keaton, who I spoke to for one of my video stories, and Delbert Tibbs. There’s also video from the march.
  • Finding Forgiveness on Death Row: This is the story of Mark Stroman, who went on a shooting rampage after the September 11 attacks and shot several men he thought were Arabs in a string of convenience stores. It’s also the story of one of Stroman’s victims, Rais Bhuiyan, who was blinded in the shooting, but forgave Stroman and became friends with him, fighting for his life up until Texas executed him on July 20.

There has also been a great deal of commentary on the death penalty this week in editorials and columns, as a number of executions draw near. Here’s a roundup of what I’ve come across in the past few days:

  • A Buddhist Perspective on the Death Penalty, from Tibetan nun Lobsang Tendrol for the Washington Post:
    “Both murderers and supporters of the death penalty deserve our compassion because they will experience the karmic effects of killing…Buddhism does allow ending the life of another when it is done in self-defense, and the argument could be made that, sometimes, capital punishment could be viewed as a society’s attempt at self-defense. But when there are other means available to prevent a person form harming others, such as imprisonment, it would seem that the less lethal option should be favored.”
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The Death Penalty’s Unlikely Opponents

There’s an excellent article on CNN about the death penalty’s unlikely opponents. These are people who are the families of murder victims and yet still oppose the death penalty. One of the several family members interviewed in the article is Charisse Coleman, who had this to say:

“My opposition to the death penalty has nothing to do with Bobby Lee Hampton,” Coleman said. “He’s a bad dude. He’s never going to be a good dude. If I got a call that said Bobby Lee Hampton dropped dead in his cell last night, I don’t think it would create a ripple in my pond.”

She added, though, “I will be goddamned if I will let Bobby Lee Hampton make me a victim, too, by taking me down that road of bitterness and revenge.”

Read more of the article here: http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/23/justice/death-penalty-opponents/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

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