Texas Inmate Granted Execution Reprieve After Confusion in the Courts

Charles Hood was placed in the death chamber several times on June 17 before Texas announced that it would be unable to follow its lethal injection protocol prior to midnight when the execution warrant expired. The day was filled with appeal filings, court decisions, and dismissals right until the midnight deadline. The controversy began a week ago when Hood’s attorneys filed motions asserting that the presiding judge and lead prosecutor had a romantic relationship during his murder trial.

ARTICLES:The Story of a Death Row Inmate Who Wanted to Die

In 1996, Illinois Governor Jim Edgar commuted the death sentence of Guin Garcia to life without parole, even though Garcia herself had stopped fighting for her life. Garcia would have been the first woman executed in the U.S. in twelve years. She had been convicted of killing the man who had physically abused her, but she had dropped her appeals because she said she was done “begging for her life.” Chicago Sun-Times reporter Carol Marin followed Garcia's case after the commutation and recently wrote about the changes in Garcia's life.

Oklahoma Man to Be Executed Based on Jailhouse Snitch; Rebuttal Evidence Excluded by Judge

Terry Lyn Short is scheduled to be executed on June 17 in Oklahoma. He was convicted of causing a fire that killed Ken Yamamoto in 1995. A key witness against Short at trial was a jailhouse informant who testified in return for leniency on charges that he was facing. Defense counsel at trial sought to present testimony of a third inmate in the same cell who was prepared to refute everything that the jailhouse informant had said. However, the trial judge refused to let this witness testify, and his story was never heard.

Texas Death Row Inmate May Be Exonerated As Prosecution Recommends Overturning Conviction

Based on statements from the District Attorney's office, it appears that Texas wrongly convicted Michael Blair and sentenced him to death in 1994 for the sexual assault and murder of 7-year-old Ashley Estell.  The case led to the passage of "Ashley's Laws" to increase punishments for such offenses.  Collin County District Attorney John Roach announced that new DNA tests show no physical evidence linking Blair to the crime.

Georgia Death Sentence Commuted to Life Without Parole

The Georgia Pardons and Parole Board commuted Samuel Crowe’s death sentence to life without parole just two and a half hours before his scheduled execution on May 22, 2008. The five-member Board’s statement said, “After careful and exhaustive consideration of the request, the board voted to grant clemency." The Board had heard from several people who knew Crowe, including pastors and a former corrections officer, who said, "I felt like if they released him that morning he would never get in any more trouble and he could make a contribution to society,” and called him a “peacemaker” amongst prison inmates. Crowe’s attorney, Ann Fort, commented, “He deeply regrets what he did,” and that at the time of the crime Crowe was “in the throes of a terrible drug addiction. He has worked hard every day to in some way to atone for what he did.” This is just the third time out of 24 requests since 1995 that the Board commuted a death sentence.

NEW VOICES: Former New Jersey Supreme Court Justices Discuss the Failure of the Death Penalty Law

Former members of the New Jersey Supreme Court recently shared their insights on the death penalty at a symposium sponsored by Seton Hall and Fordham law schools, and by the the New York City and New Jersey State Bar associations. Five former members of the Court, including two chief justices, reviewed the 25 years of capital punishment in New Jersey before 2007’s repeal of the death penalty. Their conclusions echoed the opinion of Justice Barry Albin in State v.

NEW RESOURCES: In Missouri, Death Sentence May Depend on Geography

According to a recent study by Prof. David Sloss of the St. Louis University School of Law, and others, only a small percentage of eligible murder cases in Missouri are prosecuted as death penalty cases, and even fewer result in a death sentence. Only 2.5 percent of defendants prosecuted for intentional homicide are sentenced to death. In another 2.5 percent of cases, juries reject the death penalty. Ninety-five percent of intentional homicide cases are never presented to the jury as capital cases.

Death Penalty Dropped for Lack of Resources

The state of New Mexico agreed to drop its pursuit of the death penalty against two defendants because the state legislature did not provide the money necessary for adequate representation of the defendants, who were accused of killing a prison guard. The trial of Reis Lopez and Robert Young will proceed as a non-capital murder prosecution. The prosecution's decision was spurred by the trial court's ruling barring the seeking of the death penalty because the legislature had adjourned without sufficiently funding the capital defense system. The state legislature finished its session in February and will not return until January 2009. A previous ruling had said the state legislature should allocate another $200,000 to the defense office after attorneys for the defendants complained about lack of money to meet their fees.

"There was no one in the legislature... to sponsor a bill to that effect," Gail Chasey, a New Mexico lawmaker, explained. "We have declining revenues and have to balance our budget."

She added that the lawmakers were "relieved" that they could go off until next year without having to deal with this "big ticket item". New Mexico came close to abolishing the death penalty in 2005 and 2007.