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.
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."
DOCUMENTARY: "After Innocence" Tells the Stories of the Wrongfully Convicted Following Their Release
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 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
Several provisions contained within the U.S. House of Representatives version of legislation to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law aim to dramatically transform the federal death penalty system by allowing smaller juries to decide on executions and giving prosecutors the ability to try again if the jury deadlocks on sentencing. The legislative changes, sponsored by Texas Congressman John Carter, would also triple the number of terrorism-related crimes eligible for the death penalty.
Carter's amendment, called the Terrorist Death Penalty Enhancement Act, would add 41 crimes to the 20 terrorism-related offenses currently eligible for capital punishment. It would also make it easier for prosecutors to seek a capital conviction in cases where the defendant did not have the intent to kill. In addition, the provisions would allow a trial with fewer than 12 jurors if the court finds "good cause," with or without the agreement of the defense team. Lastly, it would give prosecutors the chance to retry cases if a jury is deadlocked over a death sentence. Currently in federal death penalty cases, a hung jury at sentencing automatically results in a life sentence, a system that is used in all but 5 of the 38 U.S. states that have capital punishment.