Arbitrariness

Truth Finally Emerges for Man Imprisoned for Murder

Alton Logan was sentenced to life in prison for the 1982 murder of a security guard in a McDonald’s restaurant in Illinois. The state had originally sought the death penalty. New information in the form of a confession has now come forward from an attorney in another case indicating that Logan may not be guilty of the crime. Soon after the restaurant murder, two Chicago police officers were shot to death, and a man named Andrew Wilson was charged with their murder.

Prosecutorial Misconduct Leads to Life Sentence for Daryl Atkins

Daryl Atkins, the defendant in the 2002 Supreme Court case (Atkins v. Virginia) that banned the execution of the mentally retarded, had his death sentence reduced to life without parole after a Virginia judge heard that evidence had been withheld from his trial attorneys. Sentenced to death for the 1996 robbery and murder of Eric Nesbitt, Atkins received much attention because of his mental limitations and the question of whether it was constitutional to execute those with mental retardation. Atkins, however, was not spared because of his mental retardation. Instead, Atkins received his reprieve because an attorney for the co-defendant in the case revealed that prosecutors had not disclosed the whole story of his client's involvement in the crime.

Supreme Court to Review Unusual Death Sentence in Louisiana

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Jan. 4 to review the case of a man in Louisiana who was sentenced to death for a crime in which the victim, a child, did not die. Of the approximately 3,350 people on death row in the U.S., only two inmates received the death penalty for a non-homicide crime. Patrick Kennedy was convicted and sentenced to death in 2004 for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter. He is challenging his sentence as a violation of the Eighth Amendment based on the rarity of a death sentence for this crime.

ARTICLES: Time Magazine: "This weighty moral issue. . . involves a lot of winging it.”

A recent article in Time Magazine by Editor-at-large David Von Drehle examines the current state of the death penalty in the United States at a time when the Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of the most widely used method of execution--lethal injection. Von Drehle writes, “In a perfect world, perhaps, the government wouldn't wait 30 years and several hundred executions to determine whether an execution method makes sense. But the world of capital punishment has never been that sort of place.

Man on Texas Death Row for over 30 Years May Be Tried for a Fourth Time

Ronald Curtis Chambers, who was originally sentenced to death for the 1975 murder of Mike McMahan, may be given a fourth trial following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Chambers was 20 at the time of his crime, and has been on death row longer than any other inmate in Texas. His second trial came 10 years after his first, following a Texas court ruling that Chambers should have been told that information from a psychiatric consultation could be used against him.

NEW RESOURCES: Connecticut Study Reveals Arbitrariness in Death Cases

Professor John Donohue of Yale University's School of Law recently conducted a study of death sentences in Connecticut and found that seeking the death penalty often correlated with the race of the victim and the defendant, and not necessarily with the severity of the crimes, as the law requires. "There was basically no rational system to explain who got the death penalty," Donohue said. "It really is about as random a process as you can possibly construct."

INNOCENCE: North Carolina Death Row Inmate is Second in U.S. to be Exonerated this Month

Prosecutors in North Carolina on December 11 dropped all charges against Jonathon Hoffman, who had been convicted and sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of a jewelry store owner. Hoffman won a new trial in 2004 because information favorable to Hoffman was withheld from the defense. During Hoffman’s first trial, the state's key witness, Johnell Porter, had received immunity from federal charges for testifying against his cousin. The defense attorneys, jury, and the judge did not know of the deal.

U.S. Supreme Court to Address Discriminatory Jury Selection in Death Penalty Case

On Tuesday, Dec. 4, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Snyder v. Louisiana, a case involving a black defendant sentenced to death by an all-white jury after the prosecution used its peremptory strikes to exclude all of the qualified black jurors.  During Allen Snyder’s 1996 trial for the murder of a man his estranged wife was dating, prosecutor James Williams of Jefferson Parish urged the all-white jury to sentence the defendant to death so that Snyder would not "get away with it" like O.J. Simpson.

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