Arbitrariness

Alabama District Attorneys Association Criticizes Attorney General for Politicizing Death Penalty Case

In a letter citing political manipulation of the death penalty by the state's chief prosecutor, 41 members of Alabama's District Attorneys Association called on Attorney General Troy King to apologize to Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens (pictured).  King has said that Owens "shirked" his duties when he expressed concerns in a court hearing about the fairness of an inmate's death sentence.

Alabama Prosecutor Punished for Testifying That a Death Sentence Was Unfair

Alabama Attorney General Troy King (pictured) recently stripped a capital murder case from veteran Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens because Owens expressed concerns in a court hearing about the fairness of an inmate's death sentence. Owens testified that it would be disproportionate to execute LaSamuel Gamble for killing two people more than a decade ago in light of the fact that his co-defendant, and the crime's triggerman, Marcus Presley, had his death sentence reduced under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that outlawed the death penalty for juvenile offenders.

Supreme Court Asked to Review Unusual Death Sentence

Attorneys for Patrick Kennedy, the only person on death row in the U.S. for a non-homicide offense, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether a death sentence for a crime where the victim was not murdered is constitutional. Kennedy was convicted of raping his 8-year-old step-daughter in Louisiana in 1998. Only a handful of states have laws that would allow a death sentence for such a crime. No one has been executed for a non-homicide offense since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, and Kennedy is the only person under a death sentence for such an offense.

Texas Governor Grants Rare Death Penalty Commutation

Just hours before tonight's (August 30) scheduled execution of Kenneth Foster, Governor Rick Perry (pictured) has accepted a Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommendation to stop Foster's execution and commute his sentence to life. Perry was not obligated to accept the highly unusual 6-1 recommendation from the board whose members he appoints. The commutation is the first of its kind in his eight years in office. The board decision was announced about seven hours before Foster was scheduled to die. Perry's announcement came about an hour later.

North Carolina Man Freed by DNA Evidence After Nearly Two Decades in Prison

North Carolina dropped all charges against Dwayne Allen Dail (pictured), who spent nearly half his life in prison for a rape he did not commit. Dail, now 39, was sentenced to two life sentences plus 18 years in 1989. He has always maintained his innocence, but was convicted after the 12-year-old victim identified him as her assailant and the state claimed that hair found at the crime scene was microscopically consistent with his.

Since 1996, Federal Courts Have Cut Back in Granting Any Relief to Those on Death Row

A new study by law professors Eric Freedman of Hofstra and David Dow of the University of Houston found that, before the passage of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in1996, death row inmates who filed habeas corpus petitions in federal court succeeded in overturning their convictions or death sentences about 40% of the time. After passage of the 1996 law which restricted the Courts' power to overturn state decisions, the number of successful appeals fell to just 12% between 2000 and 2006, and the rate of successful appeals continues to decline today.

Men Threatened With the Death Penalty May Have Confessed to a Crime They Didn't Commit

After lengthy, intensive interrogations, which in some cases included threats to pursue the death penalty, four enlisted Navy sailors confessed to a rape and murder in Norfolk, Va. that occurred in 1997.  Now, convincing new evidence has emerged indicating that all four may be innocent.  A recent New York Times Magazine article describes how three of the men - Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, and Derek Tice - were sentenced to life without parole for the rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko, and the fourth sailor, Eric Williams, spent 8-1/2 years in prison for the rape before his release. The four men, known as the "Norfolk Four," now maintain their innocence and say that police coerced their confessions during long interrogations that included threats of a death sentence and physical abuse. Their confessions contained accounts of the murder that varied significantly from one another, and the details they provided did not fit with evidence collected by police. In addition, no physical evidence gathered from the scene linked the men to the crime. A letter turned over to police in 1999 also cast doubt on the "Norfolk Four's" guilt. The letter was authored by Omar Ballard, a known criminal and an acquaintance of Moore-Bosko. In it he confessed to the crime, and police testing later confirmed that the only physical evidence found on the victim matched Ballard's DNA.

EDITORIAL: Paper Says Texas Man Sentenced Under "Law of Parties" Should Not Be Executed

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is urging the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Texas Governor Rick Perry to spare the life of Kenneth Foster (pictured), whose execution is scheduled for August 30. Foster was sentenced to death under the Texas Law of Parties that permits a person involved in a crime to be held accountable for the actions committed by someone else. In this case, Texas maintains that Foster deserves the death penalty because he should have anticipated that a passenger in his vehicle, Mauriceo Brown, would exit the car with a weapon and fatally shoot Michael LaHood.

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