Florida Inmate Facing Imminent Execution Despite Evidence of Witness Tampering by Prosecution

A Florida inmate faces execution despite new revelations that the state prompted a trial witness to lie. Inmate Wayne Tompkins was to be executed in Florida on October 28, 2008, but was granted a stay of execution to allow time for the state Supreme Court to review his case. On November 7, the court denied Tompkins' appeal, even though the court acknowledged that a state witness, a jailhouse informant, admitted to providing false testimony at Tompkins' original trial in 1985.

Justice Harry Anstead dissented from the court's ruling, noting that jailhouse informants are often unreliable, and in this case the informant was apparently prompted to lie.  He wrote, "Indeed, if the claim is true, we have a state prosecutor who committed a criminal act in tampering with a witness. Surely, common sense would tell us this is the kind of 'bombshell' disclosure that could change the jury's entire evaluation of the case." Tompkins' attorney Martin McClain cited numerous concerns about the state's case. "This is one of the most troubling cases that I have," he said. "The evidence against Mr. Tompkins is just absurd."  Tompkins' stay of execution expires on Nov. 18.

EDITORIAL: Imperfections Abound with Death Penalty

A recent editorial in The Virginian-Pilot points to the problem of arbitrariness in applying the death penalty. The editorial asks, “Is it right to look at who the victims were? Is it fair to consider the strength of the evidence and the time and resources required to pursue the death penalty, a costly process? Does it make a crime less important, a victim's life less memorable, if prosecutors decide that life in a tiny prison cell is punishment enough for the killer?”

VICTIMS: DA To Seek Death Sentence Despite Victim's Beliefs and Family's Wishes

A North Carolina prosecutor has announced he will seek the death penalty in a case where the victim spoke out against capital punishment and her family opposes it. Before her death, college student and University of North Carolina student body president Eve Carson told fellow students gathered for a death penalty discussion that she did not agree with the death penalty due to the flaws in its application.

Professor Anthony Amsterdam Delivers Speech at Southern Center of Human Rights Event

Leading attorney, law professor, and advocate Anthony Amsterdam was honored by the Southern Center for Human Rights with the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award in Washington, DC on October 2. Professor Amsterdam conducts the Capital Defender Clinic at New York University Law School and is recognized for his four decades of prominent work in cases ranging from death penalty defense to claims of free speech and the press, privacy, and equality of opportunity for racial minorities and the poor.

Professor Amsterdam’s remarks addressed those who “have a perspective on life and death that has not been warped all out of shape by daily exposure to the documents that States’ lawyers file in capital cases, proceedings like those in Troy Davis’ case and Mendellin’s,” commenting that the cases must seem “bizarre” and “inexplicable.” 

He continued, “Why, you may ask, are we even debating whether an execution should be delayed for a few weeks or months until significant questions can be resolved that may prove the death judgment to be factually or legally erroneous?  How can lawyers for any American government that has a Due Process clause in its constitution contest a stay in such a case?”  He utilized his expertise and knowledge to answer those questions and more while addressing capital punishment.  The complete text of the speech may be found here.


There have been 24 executions so far in 2008. Executions resumed on May 5 after the U.S. Supreme Court approved Kentucky's lethal injection process in Baze v. Rees. One hundred percent of the executions have been in the South, including 9 in Texas, 4 in Virginia, and 3 in Georgia. At least 12 cases have been granted stays of executions in the past two months, including Troy Davis, whose execution in Georgia was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

ARBITRARINESS: Louisiana Serial Killer Sentenced to Life

Prosecutors decided against pursuing a death sentence for a serial killer in Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana. Roland Dominique, who was arrested at a homeless shelter, pled guilty to the murder of eight young men, and he may have killed as many as 23 men. Terrebonne Parish District Attorney Joe Waitz, Jr. decided against seeking the death penalty after consulting with members of the victims' familes.

NEW VOICES: Former U.S. Attorney Cites Improper Pressure in Use of Federal Death Penalty

Former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton expressed relief that the Justice Department is no longer seeking to execute a defendant in the case that was cause for his termination. Charlton told the Associated Press that he did not think the government had sufficient evidence to pursue the death penalty in the prosecution of Jose Rios Rico. Charlton's boss, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, wanted him to pursue it anyway and testified to a Senate panel that he fired Charlton over his “poor judgment” in the case.

Georgia Execution Stayed to Allow a Parole Board Hearing

UPDATE: Parole Board Denied Clemency on Sept. 16 and Jack Alderman was executed.

On September 15, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Melvin Westmoreland granted a stay of execution for Jack Alderman in Georgia. Judge Westmoreland stayed the execution, scheduled for Sept. 16, until Alderman receives a “meaningful” meeting with the state’s Board of Pardons. The judge stated: “If the state’s going to impose the extreme penalty of death … due process of the law is never more important.” Alderman was sentenced to death in 1975 for the murder of his wife a year earlier.

The Board of Pardons had denied Alderman's request for a hearing, saying they had enough information on the case. The judge asked, “How hard, how difficult would it before the state takes someone’s life, as a matter of grace … for you to have this hearing?”