What's New

NEW VOICES: Understanding Mental Illness and the Death Penalty

Posted: January 18, 2005

In a recent Hartford Courant opinion piece, psychiatrist Robert C. Goodwin spoke about the mental illness afflicting Michael Ross, who is scheduled for execution in Connecticut on January 26. Dr. Goodwin was a psychiatric consultant to the state of Connecticut from 1983-2001 and took part in Michael Ross' evaluation and treatment over the years, appearing as an expert witness in Ross' second trial. Dr. Goodwin believes the execution should be stopped:

Although demonstrably sane, Ross suffers from a clear-cut, well-documented case of the most severe sort of paraphilia (sexual deviation). This is not just my view. It is the considered opinion of almost every psychiatrist and mental health professional who has examined him, including at least one who customarily testifies for the prosecution. In Ross' case, the condition resulted in intense, constant and virtually irresistible violent fantasies toward women.

 

Kansas Death Penalty Advisory Committee Releases Report

Posted: January 18, 2005

A recent report issued by the Kansas Judicial Council Death Penalty Advisory Committee examines the state's application of capital punishment and the hefty price tag of seeking the death penalty. The Committee found that since Kansas reinstated the death penalty in 1994 there were 44 potential capital cases involving minority victims. However, none of these cases resulted in a death sentence. Of the eight defendants in Kansas who did receive death sentences, all of their victims were white.

 

Los Angeles Times Urges Clemency for Beardslee While Challenging the Arbitrariness of the System

Posted: January 17, 2005
Just days before the scheduled execution of Donald Beardslee in California, the Los Angeles Times has called for his clemency while questioning the even-handedness of the whole system. The editorial concludes that the death penalty is a "lie" to the people of California:


Donald Beardslee was 38 years old in 1981 when he shot one woman and strangled and slashed another in San Mateo County, retaliation for a soured drug deal. He is now 61. So many years have passed since a jury sentenced him to die in the gas chamber that the infamous green room at
 

Former Death Row Inmate Wilbert Rideau Freed After 44 Years

Posted: January 16, 2005
Following a manslaughter conviction for a crime committed when he was 19 years old in Louisiana in 1961, Wilbert Rideau, the acclaimed prison journalist, was set free by the trial judge on Saturday, January 15. His conviction carries a maximum sentence of 21 years and Rideau has already served 44 years in prison, primarily in Angola. Rideau, who is black, was originally convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white, all-male jury for killing a white woman. His death sentence was overturned when the U.S.
 

Former Death Row Inmate Wilbert Rideau Freed After 44 Years

Posted: January 16, 2005
Following a manslaughter conviction for a crime committed when he was 19 years old in Louisiana in 1961, Wilbert Rideau, the acclaimed prison journalist, was set free by the trial judge on Saturday. January 15. His conviction carries a maximum sentence of 21 years and Rideau has already served 44 years in prison, primarily in Angola. Rideau, who is black, was originally convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white, all-male jury for killing a white woman. His death sentence was overturned when the U.S.
 

9th Circuit Weighs Lethal Injection Challenge in California

Posted: January 14, 2005

Note: The Court of Appeals denied the challenge to California's lethal injection process. Just one week before the scheduled execution of California death row inmate Donald Beardslee, judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit are considering a suit filed by the ACLU of California, Death Penalty Focus, and Beardslee's defense attorneys concerning the state's use of a paralyzing chemical called Pavulon in lethal injections. Beardslee's attorneys said that Pavulon could prevent an inmate from crying out in pain, and that it could mask suffering caused by asphyxiation and the searing sensation caused by the last administered chemical in the lethal injection process, potassium chloride. Some of the judges expressed concerns about the state's secretiveness and lack of detail regarding the chemical: "You're putting us in an awkward position," said Judge Sidney Thomas to the state's lawyer. "Some other states don't use it." Defense attorneys argued that the purpose of including Pavulon is to keep the public in the dark about whether the state's lethal injection method is inhumane. A ruling is still pending regarding this appeal, and a separate bid for clemency from the governor will be heard soon by the state's parole board. (Sacramento Bee, January 13, 2005). This would be the 11th execution in California since the death penalty was reinstated 30 years ago. There are 638 people on the state's death row.

 

New Resources Available on DPIC's Web Site

Posted: January 13, 2005

Among the new resources available on DPIC's Web site are summaries of death penalty cases the U.S. Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear, including the case involving Mexican citizens on U.S. death rows. The upcoming cases summarized include Medellin v. Dretke, Bell v. Thompson, and Mitchell v. Stumpf.

 

NEW RESOURCE: "Executed on a Technicality" Scheduled for April Release

Posted: January 12, 2005

Executed on a Technicality: Lethal Injustice on America's Death Row, by Professor David Dow, to be released in April 2005, is a behind-the-scenes look at the death penalty through the lens of an attorney who formerly supported capital punishment. Dow, who teaches at the University of Houston Law Center and founded the Texas Innocence Network, provides case histories illustrating serious flaws in the death penalty system. He uses these cases to guide readers through a web of coerced confessions, incompetent representation, racist juries, and unfair judges, all of which he believes contribute to the arbitrariness of capital punishment.

In many cases, obscure technicalities in the law prevented courts and juries from hearing evidence that would have prevented an execution or a death sentence. Dow relates the case of one man who was executed because the jury never heard from two eyewitnesses who swore he was not the murderer. In another case, a man was allowed to represent himself despite the fact that his mental imbalance - which resulted in attempts to issue a subpoena to Jesus Christ and to dressing as a cowboy during his trial - was obvious.

 

Arizona Case Exposes Prosecutorial Misconduct and Wrongful Convictions

Posted: January 11, 2005

In an examination of the case against three men sentenced to death for a triple murder that occurred in Tucson's El Grande Market, reporter Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker describes the incidents that led to the fall of the lead prosecutor, Kenneth Peasley, for presenting false evidence in the case. Only one of the co-defendants, Martin Soto-Fong, remains on Arizona's death row. Of the other two defendants, Christopher McCrimmon was acquitted at a re-trial in 1997, and Andre Minnett had his conviction reversed in 1996, with subsequent prosecution barred on double jeopardy grounds in 2002 because of Peasely's intentional misconduct. In 2004, Peasley was disbarred for his actions in the El Grande case. Soto-Fong, who was 17-years-old and a foreign national when the crime occurred, is appealing in federal court and has maintained his innocence. Recently, a new witness has emerged pointing to other defendants and excluding the three who were originally convicted.

 

Indiana Governor Grants Clemency While Calling for Death Penalty Review

Posted: January 10, 2005

With just days remaining in his term, Indiana Governor Joe Kernan (pictured) has granted clemency to Michael Daniels, whose case underscored the Governor's concerns about the death penalty. "I have now encountered two cases where doubt about an offender's personal responsibility and the quality of the legal process leading to the capital sentence has led me to grant clemency. These instances should cause us to take a hard look at how Indiana administers and reviews capital sentences," said Kernan, who hopes the state government can soon examine whether Indiana's sentencing system is fair in death penalty cases.

The Governor noted that evidence casting doubt on Daniels' guilt was never presented in court, and that Daniels' IQ of 77 is just above the level to be considered mentally retarded. He also stated that Daniels, who was the only one of three co-defendants to receive a death sentence, was psychotic for some time and unable to assist in his defense. In July 2004, Kernan granted clemency to Darnell Williams just days before his scheduled execution.

 

Pages