What's New

Georgia Supreme Court Denounces Official Misconduct, Orders New Trial

Posted: November 8, 2005

In a ruling that criticized the state for concealing a $500 payoff to a key state witness in a 1997 death penalty case, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court decision ordering a new trial for Willie Palmer.


SUPREME COURT Agrees to Hear Cases with Death Penalty Implications

Posted: November 8, 2005

On November 7, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear cases in two areas that could have broad implications for many defendants facing the death penalty.  In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, No. 05-184, the Court will rule on the constitutionality of the military tribunals established by President Bush following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  A U.S. District Court had halted the military trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who had been captured in Afghanistan, because the trial violated domestic law and U.S. international treaty obligations.  This decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Hamdan is charged with conspiracy, murder and terrorism.  Under the current military tribunals, the government may seek the death penalty for certain offenses.  Chief Justice John Roberts has recused himself from the case because he was part of the panel of judges in the prior decision. (N.Y. Times, Nov. 8, 2005).


NEW VOICES: The Birmingham News Changes Its Position on the Death Penalty

Posted: November 7, 2005
In an editorial in its Sunday, November 6 edition, the Birminham News announced that "After decades of supporting the death penalty, the editorial board no longer can do so."  The paper cited both practical and ethical reasons for the change in its stance: "[W]e have come to believe Alabama's capital punishment system is broken. And because, first and foremost, this newspaper's editorial board is committed to a culture of life. . . . We believe all life is sacred. And in embracing a culture of life, we cannot make distinctions between those we deem 'innocents' and

VIDEO EDITORIAL: Dayton Daily News Urges Ohio Governor To Halt Spirko Execution

Posted: November 4, 2005

A recent Dayton Daily News video editorial urged Ohio Governor Bob Taft to grant clemency to John Spirko, an Ohio death row inmate scheduled to be executed on November 15. The video states that Spirko's case was plagued with gaps and inconsistencies, and that he may actually be innocent. The video was partly shot inside Ohio's "death house" in Lucasville prison. To view the video on the Web, click here.


NEW VOICES: Texas Prosecutors Address Concerns About Innocence

Posted: November 3, 2005

In an article about the approaching 1,000th execution in the U.S., Tarrant County prosecutor Alan Levy and Harris County District Attorney Charles Rosenthal addressed the current state of the death penalty and the impact of growing concerns about the issue of innocence:

Levy, who heads the criminal division of the Tarrant County D.A.'s office, said that he often wonders whether the executions that have taken place have been worth the expense, controversy, and time: "It's a pretty clumsy mechanism." When the penalty isn't paid until "eight or 10 or 15 years later, it's difficult to think of it being very useful." Levy added that prosecutors in his office are encountering prospective jurors who are concerned about sentencing an innocent person to death. According to Levy, these prospective jurors are "absolutely convinced that innocent people are being executed," and believe that they might "wake up in the middle of the night and find out they've sentenced an innocent man to death row."


Puerto Rican Court Bars Extradition of Man Facing Death Penalty to Pennsylvania

Posted: November 1, 2005
An Appeal Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico recently held that it would be unconstitutional to extradite Juan Melendez Cruz to Pennsylvania if he faces a possible death sentence. The court referred to the issue as one involving the fundamental right to life. In July 2003, Philadelphia District Attorney spokeswoman Cathie Abookire confirmed that Melendez Cruz, a Puerto Rican native, could face the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Melendez Cruz's attorney, Eileen Diaz, argued that extradition of her client under such circumstances is prohibited by the Puerto Rican constitution.

PUBLIC OPINION: Gallup Poll Reports Lowest Death Penalty Support in 27 Years

Posted: October 31, 2005
An October 2005 Gallup Poll found that only 64% of Americans favored the death penalty for those convicted of murder.  The last time the poll found a lower support was in 1978 when 62% favored the death penalty.  The high point for public endorsement of the death penalty came in 1994 when 80% supported capital punishment.  This most recent poll result is consistent with Gallup Polls taken in October 2004 and 2003, both registering a 64% support of the death penalty.  (See Gallup Poll Document, posted Oct.

North Carolina Death Penalty Study Commission Announced

Posted: October 31, 2005
North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black has appointed 20 House members to a study commission that will examine how the death penalty is carried out in the state. The commission will also recommend possible capital punishment-related policy reforms for their colleagues to consider during their session next spring. The commission will be chaired by Representatives Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill and Beverly Earle of Charlotte.

DOCUMENTARY: "After Innocence" Tells the Stories of the Wrongfully Convicted Following Their Release

Posted: October 28, 2005

A new documentary, "After Innocence," by Jessica Sanders and Marc Simon, is opening in cities around the country.  This award-winning film (Sundance and other film festivals) tells the stories of wrongfully convicted defendants who were exonerated through DNA evidence, and about what happens to them after their release as they attempt to rebuild their lives.  The film opens in Washington, D.C. at the Landmark's E St. Cinema, 555 11th St. NW, on Friday, Nov. 4.   A discussion will follow the film and bulk discounts are available. 


EDITORIAL: L.A. Times Calls for End to Death Penalty

Posted: October 27, 2005
In an editorial on October 27, the Los Angeles Times called for an end to the death penalty in California.  The Times stated that the punishment should end not because of the merits of individual death row inmates, such as Stanley Williams, scheduled for execution on December 13, but because of "who we are" as a civilized society:

EDITORIAL Shut down death rowOctober 27, 2005

STANLEY "TOOKIE" WILLIAMS is a charismatic symbol of what's wrong with the death penalty — and of what's wrong with the debate about the death