Death Row

Vietnam Vet on Death Row Receives His Medals and Waits for Execution

A recent article in the Fayetteville Observer in North Carolina captures the poignant story of one man's life on death row.  James Floyd Davis is a Vietnam veteran who lashed out with a burst of violence fourteen years ago, killing three people including his boss who had fired him a few days before.  He suffers from mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Through the intervention of a therapist who also served in Vietnam, it was learned that Davis was entitled to a Purple Heart and other medals earned during his service.  The army agreed to award him the medals and the prison eventually agreed to let him receive them.  The reporter, Chick Jacobs, sums up the story this way: "This is a story of how one veteran, wounded in body and spirit, reached into the demon-filled darkness of a fellow veteran who lost his way long ago. It's the unlikely tale of how a medal earned in one horror helped bring a touch of humanity to another."  The entire article can be read below:

NEW RESOURCES: Death Row U.S.A. Winter 2009 Released

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has released the latest Death Row U.S.A. report, covering death penalty statistics through January 1, 2009.  The total number of death row inmates decreased from 3,309 a year earlier to 3,297.  The states with the largest number of death row inmates were California with 678, Florida with 402, and Texas with 358.  The states (with 10 or more inmates) with the highest percent of minorities on death row were Texas at 70%, Connecticut at 70%, and Pennsylvania with 69%.  The complete Death Row U.S.A. report may be found here.

NEW RESOURCES: Latest "Death Row USA" Report Released by NAACP Legal Defense Fund

According to the latest edition of Death Row U.S.A. published by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), the size of death row decreased slightly as of July 1, 2008 compared to Jan. 1.  After increasing steadily for about 25 years, the death row population started decreasing in 2000.  The current total of defendants on state and federal death rows is 3,307, of whom 45% are white, 41.6% are black, and 11% are Latino/Latina.  Over 98% of those on death row are male. The states with the largest death rows are California (662), Florida (399), Texas (367), and Pennsylvania (226).  Among states with at least 10 people on death row, Texas, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania have the highest percentage of minorities among those on death row--70%, 70%, and 69% respectively.  The full report can be read here.

Supreme Court Justices Raise Concerns About Time on Death Row

On March 9, the U.S. Supreme Court declined review in Thompson v. McNeil, but three Justices issued strongly worded statements about the importance of the legal issue raised.  William Thompson has been on death row in Florida for 32 years.  He claimed the excessive time he has spent on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.  Justice John Paul Stevens, in an opinion respecting the denial of certiorari, called the treatment of the defendant during his 32 years on death row “dehumanizing,” noting that Thompson “has endured especially severe conditions of confinement, spending up to 23 hours per day in isolation in a 6- by 9-foot cell” and has experienced two stays of execution “only shortly before he was scheduled to be put to death.” Justice Stevens added that neither retribution nor deterrence were served in such a case and “a punishment of death after significant delay is ‘so totally without penological justification that it results in the gratuitous infliction of suffering.’” (quoting Gregg v. Georgia (1976)). 

NEW RESOURCES: Death Row U.S.A. 2008 Released

The latest version of Death Row U.S.A. has been released by the Capital Punishment Project of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.  The report contains death row and execution data for all states and federal jurisdictions as of January 1, 2008.  The report lists inmates by state, name, and race.  The report also contains information on each person executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and information on U.S. Supreme Court decisions.  The last version of DRUSA

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Costs for New California Death Row Soar to $400 Million

A recent audit of the construction costs for a new death row facility at California’s San Quentin prison revealed that estimates have soared over 80% from previous projections. Ground still has not been broken for the project, but the new death row is likely to require nearly $400 million, instead of the $220 million originally quoted, and it will provide even fewer cells than planned. As an average of 12 new condemned inmates arrive at San Quentin annually, the new facility will be full only three years after it opens.

BOOKS: “Last Rights” by Rev. Joseph Ingle with Introduction by Mike Farrell

Reverend Joseph B. Ingle’s book, Last Rights: Thirteen Fatal Encounters with the State's Justice, will be re-released in May with a new introduction by Mike Farrell (of M*A*S*H*) and with its original forward by William Styron.  Rev. Ingle, who has counseled inmates on death row for over 30 years, recounts his close relationships with 13 of these inmates before their executions. Devoting a chapter to each one, Ingle stresses the need to see each inmate as an individual. He writes, “The public needs to see them for who they were and how their love enriched my life.”

DPIC Releases Interim Death Row Numbers

The Death Penalty Information Center has conducted a survey of death row populations as reported by the various state departments of correction in January/February 2008. From that survey, the current death row population across the country is 3,263. California continues to have the highest death row population with 669 inmates. Florida follows with 388, and Texas has 370 inmates. A state-by-state breakdown appears below.

Except for Illinois and the federal government, these numbers are the official totals from each state's prison system. The death row number for Illinois comes from the Supreme Court Unit of the Public Defender's Office in Springfield, while the federal number comes from the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel and the Federal Defender Organization.

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