Arbitrariness

NEW VOICES: Former Alabama Prosecutor Questions Value of Capital Punishment

Billy Hill spent seven years as a district attorney in Shelby, Coosa, and Clay counties in Alabama, and has reconsidered his stance on capital punishment.  Mr. Hill says that he would welcome a moratorium on executions in Alabama while a study commission examines the state's death penalty to evaluate whether it is "a wise and humane use of our resources." Wrongful convictions, the arbitrary nature of capital punishment, poor representation, and the long-term suffering of victims' family members are among Hill's main concerns about current death penalty laws.

NEW VOICES: Federal Judge Calls the Death Penalty Arbitrary, Biased and Fundamentally Flawed

Judge Boyce F. Martin, Jr. (pictured) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit called the death penalty "arbitrary, biased, and so fundamentally flawed at its very core that it is beyond repair." Judge Martin dissented in the case of Getsy v. Mitchell and said it made no sense that Jason Getsy received a death sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire conspiracy, while the other two triggermen and the mastermind of the crime, all escaped a death sentence. He wrote:

Government Ordered to Pay Former Death Row Inmate and Others $102 Million

A federal judge ordered the U.S. government to pay a record $102 million for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's role in the wrongful murder convictions of four men in 1968, including one man who was sentenced to death. U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner said the FBI's conduct was "shocking" and characterized the government's explanation for the events leading to the wrongful convictions of Louis Greco, Henry Tameleo, Peter Limone and Joseph Salvati as "absurd." She wrote, "Now is the time to say and say without equivocation: this 'cost' -- to the liberty of four men, to our system of justice -- is not remotely acceptable. This case is about intentional misconduct, subornation of perjury, conspiracy, the framing of innocent men. . . . The FBI's conduct was intentional, it was outrageous, it caused plaintiffs immeasurable and unbearable pain and the FBI must be held accountable."

News Series Highlights Problem of Lost and Destroyed Evidence, Wrongful Convictions

In continuing a series that DPIC had highlighted earlier, the Denver Post has featured more than a dozen news articles and a series of online videos, providing an in-depth look at the handling of crucial biological evidence gathered during criminal investigations. "Trashing the Truth: The Hidden Story of Lost Evidence" examined the nationwide problems with evidence storage, the destruction of evidence, and the relationship between missing evidence and wrongful convictions.

NEW RESOURCES: Destroyed DNA Evidence Blocks Possible Exonerations

A recent four-part series in the Denver Post about evidence in criminal cases detailed how police departments across the U.S. store and dispose of crucial biological evidence. The Post examined 10 states in which authorities destroyed biological evidence in nearly 6,000 rape and murder cases during the past decade. The investigation also revealed that over the past 30 years, destruction of DNA evidence in 28 states has undermined efforts by at least 141 prisoners to prove their innocence.

ARBITRARINESS: Woman Faces Federal Death Sentence While Triggerman Receives 17 Years

Donna Moonda (pictured) is facing the federal death penalty in Ohio for hiring a man to kill her husband.  The person who actually shot and killed the victim, Damian Bradford, received a sentence of only 17.5 years in exchange for his testimony against Moonda.  Moonda and Bradford were convicted in separate trials of orchestrating and carrying out the plot to kill Dr. Gulam Moonda in an alledged effort to share his estate. The two defendants met in a drug rehabilitation center.

Report Fails to Erase Doubt that Texas Executed an Innocent Man

Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed recently issued a report finding that Ruben Cantu (pictured) was guilty of the crime for which Texas executed him in 1993.  However, critics have noted that Reed was formerly a judge who handled Cantu's appeal and set his execution date, raising a conflict of interest in conducing an investigation of his guilt.  Moreover, many who are familiar with the case doubt Reed's conclusions and say the report's findings do not add up.

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Louisiana Case with All-White Jury and References to O.J. Simpson

On June 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a capital case from Louisiana in which an all-white jury sentenced a defendant to death after the prosecutor urged a death sentence so that the defendant would not "get away with it" like O.J. Simpson.  All five qualified African-Americans had been struck from the jury pool by the prosecution using peremptory challenges.  The defense has challenged the selection of the jury as a violation of equal protection.

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