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EDITORIAL: Examine the systemic problems in the death penalty before reinstating it in NY

Posted: October 14, 2004
New York's death penalty remains in abeyance, having been found unconstitutional by the state's high court. A recent N.Y. Newsday editorial called on lawmakers to carefully examine the fundamental problems with the death penalty before considering any reinstatement legislation. The editorial noted:

On the steps of New York City Hall on Thursday, a coalition of death penalty opponents - prominently including City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo - called for a "legislative moratorium" before

Newspapers, Opinion Leaders Call for End to Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: October 14, 2004
As the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Roper v. Simmons on October 13, newspapers throughout the country featured editorials and opinion pieces calling on the U.S. to abandon the practice of executing juvenile offenders:

The New York Times

When the Supreme Court considers an Eighth Amendment challenge, it looks to "evolving standards of decency" - and there has been a steady movement nationally away from the juvenile death penalty. In the 15 years since the Supreme Court last considered this question, a

NEW VOICES: Major Texas Newspapers Call for a Halt to Executions in Cases from Houston

Posted: October 12, 2004
Following a call from the Houston Police Chief and from state legislators to halt executions in cases from Harris County, four of the state's largest newspapers published editorials in support of a moratorium on executions. The Houston police crime lab has been plagued with errors in DNA testing and preservation of evidence. There have been far more executions from Harris County (Houston) than from any other county in the country.


(N)othing can justify an execution if there is any good reason to question

NEW RESOURCE: An Account of Life on Death Row

Posted: October 12, 2004
In "Waiting to Die: Life on Death Row," Richard M. Rossi provides a first-hand account of his daily life on Arizona's death row. Rossi was sentenced to death in 1983 and has taken responsibility for the murder he committed. He was originally offered a plea bargain with a life sentence, but he decided to go to trial. He has been on death row for 20 years. In his book, Rossi details how prisoners survive on death row, the conditions under which they live, and the psychological toll that living under a sentence of death takes on prisoners. He also provides a straightforward account of

LEGISLATION: Senate and House Pass Versions of Innocence Protection Act

Posted: October 10, 2004
On October 9, the U.S. Senate passed by voice vote a bill called the "Justice for All Act of 2004" that contains important elements of the Innocence Protection Act, originally introduced in 2000. A similar bill recently overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives (HR 5107), and it is expected that the final legislation will now be signed into law. The bill provides for expanded access to DNA testing for prison inmates and assistance to states for both defense and prosecution in conducting death penalty trials.

ARBITRARINESS: Execution May Go Forward Despite Nearly Even Split on Innocence

Posted: October 8, 2004
A deeply divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled 8-7 that the execution of Tennessee death row inmate Paul Gregory House may move forward despite the fact that nearly half of the judges believe he is not guilty and should be freed immediately. "We are faced with a real-life murder mystery, an authentic 'who-done-it' where the wrong man may be executed," wrote

NEW RESOURCE: Research with Jurors Finds Reluctance to Sentence Juveniles to Death

Posted: October 8, 2004
A recently published study by Northeastern criminal justice professors William J. Bowers and Michael E. Antonio, in conjunction with University of Delaware professors Valerie P. Hans and Benjamin D. Fleury-Steiner, finds jurors very reluctant to give the death penalty to juvenile defendants because of their immaturity and dysfunctional family backgrounds.


NEW RESOURCES: Research Shows Significant Decline in Death Sentences for Juveniles

Posted: October 5, 2004
In a forthcoming article, Columbia University researchers found that, since 1994, when death sentences for juvenile offenders peaked, these sentences have declined significantly. In particular, the decline in juvenile death sentences since 1999 is statistically significant after controlling for the murder rate, the juvenile homicide arrest rate, and the rate of adult death sentences. This downward trend in juvenile death sentences is indicative of an evolving standard in state trial courts opposing the imposition of death sentences on minors who commit capital offenses.


Another Innocent Inmate Close to Release in Texas

Posted: October 5, 2004
Ernest Willis is likely to be the eighth person exonerated and freed from Texas's death row. He would be the 117th person freed nationwide since 1973. Willis was sentenced to death 17 years ago for allegedly setting a house fire that killed two people.

Following a One-day Trial and no Appeal, Mentally Ill Man Executed in Alabama

Posted: October 1, 2004
David Kevin Hocker, a mentally ill man who waived all his appeals, was executed in Alabama last night (Sept. 30). He was the first person to be executed in that state without a review by the state's Supreme Court. Hocker had murdered his employer in 1998. No one from the victim's family attended the execution. Hocker's mother did attend her son's execution, and was so distraught she had to leave the witness room. She said that her son had been suicidal for many years. Hocker's trial lasted one day and at his request no witnesses were called on his behalf.