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Federal Courts Find Problems with Lethal Injections in Two More States--Executions on Hold

Posted: June 28, 2006

Below are summaries from two U.S. District Court decisions regarding problems with lethal injection procedures in Arkansas and Missouri.  The court in Arkansas granted a stay of execution for Don Davis to allow further investigations into the lethal injection procedures.  In Missouri, in Michael Taylor's case, the District judge put all executions in the state on hold until changes are made in the state's execution protocols.

Nooner v. Norris, No. 5:06CV00110 SWW
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas


NEW VOICES: Deepak Chopra Writes About the Death Penalty

Posted: June 28, 2006
Dr. Deepak Chopra recently wrote that continuing use of the death penalty in the U.S. is irrational because it does not deter crime, risks innocent lives, and isolates the U.S. among the majority of First World nations that have chosen to abandon capital punishment:

The U.S. has isolated itself among First World countries by allowing the death penalty -- 123 countries have abolished it completely, or in practice never use it, a few permitting it under extreme circumstances.

Of the 50 countries that newly abolished the death penalty since 1985,

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Kansas Death Penalty Law

Posted: June 27, 2006

In a 5-4 decision that revealed a deep division among the Justices over the fairness of capital punishment, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Kansas's death penalty statute on June 26. In Kansas v. Marsh, the Court held that juries may be required to sentence a defendant to die when there is an equal weight of mitigating and aggravating evidence. The ruling overturns a Kansas Supreme Court decision that found the practice unconstitutional because it violated the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas noted, "Our precedents establish that a state enjoys a range of discretion in imposing the death penalty." Justice David Souter wrote in his dissent for the minority that Kansas's law could lead to death sentences in doubtful cases, and he pointed to reviews finding that dozens of people sentenced to death were later exonerated. Citing pressure for prosecutors to win convictions, misidentifications, and false confessions that have contributed to the "hazards of capital prosecution," Souter called the Kansas law "obtuse by any moral or social measure." Because of the problem of innocence, he noted that, "We are thus in a period of new empirical argument about how 'death is different' ...."

Justice Antonin Scalia, concurring separately, discounted the dangers of convicting the innocent in capital cases and said that he had seen no clear evidence that an innocent person had been executed in recent years.


DPIC Bestows Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards at National Press Club Luncheon

Posted: June 27, 2006

The Death Penalty Information Center held its 10th Annual Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards at the National Press Club on Monday, June 26.  This year’s award recipients were Jacqui Lofaro and Victor Teich of Justice Productions for their documentary “The Empty Chair,” and reporter Robert Nelson of the Phoenix New Times for his coverage of death row exoneree Ray Krone.

Lofaro and Teich received this year’s Award for excellence in the television broadcast category.  Their documentary, “The Empty Chair,” aired last year on the Hallmark Channel’s World of Faith and Values television network. This documentary tells the story of murder victims’ families confronting the loss of their loved ones and explores whether the death penalty can address their pain.

Robert Nelson of the Phoenix New Times received this year’s Award for excellence in print journalism. Nelson’s article “About Face” profiled the case of Ray Krone, who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in Arizona before he was freed based on DNA evidence. The piece explores the state’s efforts to keep Krone behind bars, as well as Krone’s life after his exoneration. Krone and Renny Cushing of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights presented this year’s Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards.


New York Assembly Committee Blocks Death Penalty By Wider Margin

Posted: June 26, 2006
Members of the New York Assembly's Codes Committee recently voted 13-5 against a bill to reinstate the death penalty, a vote that revealed a growing bi-partisan opposition to capital punishment. Last year's vote on the same measure was 11-7. New York's death penalty was overturned in 2004 by the state's highest court.


Posted: June 23, 2006
A Chicago Tribune investigation set for release this weekend will reveal groundbreaking evidence that Texas may have executed an innocent man in 1989. The defendant, Carlos DeLuna, was executed for the fatal stabbing of Texas convenience store clerk Wanda Lopez in 1983. New evidence uncovered by reporters Maurice Possley and Steve Mills casts doubt on DeLuna’s guilt and points towards another man, Carlos Hernandez, who had a record of similar crimes and repeatedly confessed to the murder. According to a link on the Chicago Tribune’s Web site

Doctors Say There Are Alternatives to Current Lethal Injection Procedures

Posted: June 23, 2006

In the wake of numerous lawsuits challenging current lethal injection procedures and a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that makes it easier for those on death row to file such claims, medical experts have identified alternative protocols that would be less risky to the prisoner but more difficult for witnesses to observe. "There's an innumerably long list of medications that can be given to cause someone to die," said Dr. Mark Dershwitz, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Massachusetts.


South Retains the Highest Murder Rate in 2005

Posted: June 22, 2006

According to the FBI's Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2005, all regions of the country experienced a rise in murder rates in 2005.  The Midwest had the largest increase (5.8%) and the West had the smallest increase (3.2%).  Based on the increases reported by the FBI and the previous year's murder rates, the South again had the highest murder rate in the country-- 6.9 murders per 100,000 people--followed by the West (5.9), Midwest (5.0) and the Northeast (4.4).  The rates for forcible rape were down in every area of the country.  Final statistics will be available from the FBI in the fall.  (FBI Press Release, June 12, 2006).


New Voices: League of Women Voters Supports Abolition of the Death Penalty

Posted: June 20, 2006
The League of Women Voters of the United States has adopted an official national policy calling for abolition of the death penalty. During the organization's 47th biennial national convention in Minneapolis, delegates adopted policy language stating, "The League of Women Voters of the United States supports the abolition of the death penalty." The League of Women Voters has more than 130,000 members and supporters.

NEW RESOURCE: DPIC Resources Available as 30th Anniversary of Gregg v. Georgia Approaches

Posted: June 15, 2006

July 2, 2006 will mark the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gregg v. Georgia, an historic ruling that upheld newly crafted death penalty statutes and signaled the beginning of the modern era of capital punishment. This milestone presents the public with an opportunity to examine the application of the death penalty over the past three decades and to test whether the Court’s expectation of a fairer and less arbitrary system of capital punishment has been fulfilled.