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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
 

Patriot Act Reauthorization Could Impact Federal Death Penalty

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.

 

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