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Recent Developments in the Federal Death Penalty

Posted: February 16, 2004
Federal prosecutors dropped charges against Darrell Rice shortly before he was to face capital charges for two murders in Shenandoah National Park.  New forensic evidence cast doubt on the case against Rice, despite the fact that Attorney General John Ashcroft had made a public announcement of Rice's indictment employing a new law in 2002.  (Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2004).
  • A federal judge threw out a jury's (July 2003) verdict of guilt in the capital case of Jay Lentz, accused of murdering his wife. 
 

State Medical Examiner Indicted for Lying; Participated in a Third of Death Row Cases

Posted: February 12, 2004
A Tennessee medical examiner who helped convict about a third of the state's death row inmates has been indicted for faking an attack in which he was strapped with a homemade bomb around his neck. Dr. O'Brian Smith was found in 2002 wrapped head to toe in barbed wire and bound to window bars in his office, an incident investigators first believed was carried out by those who were angry with Smith for helping to convict Philip Workman and other inmates on Tennessee's death row. The indictment against Dr. Smith accuses him
 

Despite Upcoming Supreme Court Argument, Texas Schedules Execution Dates for Four Juvenile Offenders

Posted: February 11, 2004
Texas has scheduled the execution of four juvenile offenders between March and June of 2004 despite the fact that the U. S. Supreme Court has agreed to review whether such executions are constitutional. Arguments in Roper v. Simmons, No. 03-633, a case from Missouri where the state Supreme Court ruled that the execution of those under the age 18 at the time of their crime would be cruel and unusual punishment, are not expected to take place until this coming fall, months after the scheduled executions of Edward Capetillo, Anzel Jones, Efrain Perez, and
 

NEW VOICES: Charlize Theron Criticizes Death Penalty After Her Movie Role

Posted: February 9, 2004
Charlize Theron, who recently won a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of executed Florida death row inmate Aileen Wuornos in the movie "Monster," has stated that making the movie made her more aware of how "ineffective" capital punishment is. Theron, who is opposed to the death penalty, was only 15 when her own mother shot and killed her drunken father after he threatened to kill his wife and daughter. "I don't think condemning people who murder and then killing them necessarily sends out the right message. And I have a huge problem with the way these people are used as political
 

Prosecutors Drop Death Penalty As Victims' Mother Seeks Closure

Posted: February 9, 2004
Prosecutors from Middlesex County, New Jersey, have decided to adhere to the wishes of the victim's family and will not seek the death penalty against Dwayne Carreker of New Brunswick at his retrial. They will instead seek a sentence of life in prison. "The victim's mother has said she is more interested in justice and closure than she is with the death penalty," said First Assistant Prosecutor William Lamb. Lamb noted that his office considered the victim's family's wishes and the result of the first trial against Carreker when deciding whether to proceed with
 

Geography Influences California Death Penalty Policies

Posted: February 9, 2004
A recent investigation of California's death penalty by the Associated Press found that the geographic location of a crime plays a significant role in whether a defendant receives the death penalty. California has the nation's largest death row. A disproportionately high number of inmates are from places such as Kern, Riverside, and Shasta Counties, where prosecutors have voiced strong support for the death penalty and jurors have been more likely to support the sentence. On the other hand, in counties such as San Diego and San Francisco, prosecutors
 

NEW VOICES: Victim's Family Requests Life Sentence For Death Row Inmate

Posted: February 9, 2004
After consulting with the family of the murder victim, Maryland prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty against Kenneth Collins during a recent resentencing hearing. Collins' death sentence was overturned because of an inadequate defense at his originial trial. Margaret Breeden, the victim's widow, noted that seeking the death penalty for Collins would result in years of agonizing appeals and that her family is "tired of reliving the memories of his death every time a new hearing is scheduled." The prosecutor, Stephen Bailey, noted that the
 

Maryland Death Penalty Numbers Decline, Reflecting U.S. Trends

Posted: February 6, 2004
Mirroring a nationwide decline in both executions and death row population, Maryland's death row has fallen by 50% in recent years and the state has not carried out an execution since 1998. An in-depth review of Maryland's death row by The Washington Post found that the state's death row has dropped from a population of 18 to 9, largely due to reversals in cases and the impact of court rulings elsewhere. Victims' families, emotionally frayed by the years of appeals, are also telling prosecutors not to seek death in instances where inmates win resentencing, and many juries are choosing
 

New Jersey Supreme Court Changes Death Penalty Process

Posted: February 5, 2004
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors who plan to seek the death penalty must submit that request to a grand jury for approval. Prior to the 4-2 ruling by the Court, prosecutors could decide to seek the death penalty as late as the middle of the trial. The Court's decision was made in the case of Scott Fortin, and will probably affect other cases currently being prosecuted. The remaining 13 inmates on death row may not be affected unless the ruling is held to be retroactive. The Court's decision
 

Mentally Ill Man's Execution Stayed in Texas

Posted: February 5, 2004
Three stays of execution were issued on February 4th in cases in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania. The United States Supreme Court briefly stayed an execution in Florida to examine the appeal from Johnny Robinson. However, the Court voted 5-4 to allow the execution to take place. In Pennsylvania, the March 11 execution of Kenneth Miller was stayed by a Philadelphia court. In Texas, a 60-day stay was granted to Scott Panetti who was to be executed February 5.
 

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