What's New

Texas Police Chief Calls for Halt to Executions in Wake of Scandal

Posted: October 1, 2004
In the wake of a scandal that has called into question the reliability of the police crime lab's testing and handling of evidence in Harris County, Texas, Police Chief Harold Hurtt has said that executions of inmates from the county should not be scheduled until all relevant evidence has been reexamined to assure accuracy. He went on to note that the executions of nine individuals convicted in Harris County that are scheduled to take place before March 2005 should not be allowed to go forward. "I think it would be very prudent for us as a criminal justice

International Conference on the Death Penalty to Convene in Montreal

Posted: September 30, 2004
On October 6, the 2nd World Congress Against the Death Penalty will convene in Montreal, Canada. More than 1,000 participants from around the world are expected to gather at the city’s Place des Arts, including many U.S. policy makers and death penalty experts. Americans such as Mike Farrell, Barry Scheck, and several death row exonerees will join international human rights leaders including former U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights Mary Robinson, Bianca Jagger, and actress Catherine Deneuve for the 3-day conference. The Congress will explore

North Carolina Preparing to Execute Mentally Ill Man

Posted: September 30, 2004
Sammy Perkins is scheduled for execution in North Carolina on October 8, despite his mental illness and the fact that the jurors at his trial did not learn the extent of his disability. According to a press release from Perkins's attorneys:

"The jury never heard the full story of Sammy Perkins' mental disorder: A family history of psychiatric problems left its mark on Sammy Perkins. Several family members suffered from mental illnesses. In his late teens and early twenties, the time when bi-polar disorders are often discovered,

Supreme Court to Hear Pennsylvania Death Penalty Case

Posted: September 29, 2004
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear a death row appeal from a Pennsylvania man who maintains that jurors at his trial should have been told that they had the option of sentencing him to life without parole instead of the death penalty.

Arkansas Execution Stayed, Raising New Legal Questions

Posted: September 29, 2004
The execution of Rickey Dale Newman in Arkansas, scheduled for the night of September 28, was stayed by the state Supreme Court. Newman had waived his appeals. Nevertheless, there is evidence that he may be mentally retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia (2002) that people with mental retardation cannot be executed. Newman's case raises the question of whether a third party can intervene to request a stay of execution, even though the defendant does not want to appeal but is mentally retarded. (DPIC; also Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Sept. 29, 2004).

Innocence Case Results in Prosecutor Reprimands

Posted: September 28, 2004
The North Carolina State bar has reprimanded two former assistant attorney generals for withholding evidence that could have prevented the wrongful conviction of Alan Gell, who was finally freed from death row in 2004 (pictured). The State Bar panel found that prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves failed to turn over evidence to Gell, did not adequately supervise the conduct of their chief investigator for the case, and brought the judicial system into disrepute by their conduct. Hoke and Graves received a written reprimand for their behavior, which the panel found to be

NEW VOICES: Author of Arizona's Death Penalty Law Has Second Thoughts

Posted: September 28, 2004
When Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was a senator in Arizona, one of the people she asked to draft the state's death penalty law was Rudolph Gerber. She requested that he "write a law we can live with." Mr. Gerber went on to become a prosecutor, an Arizona trial judge, and eventually a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals for 13 years. He recently expressed his changing views on capital punishment as he experienced how the law was put into practice:


NEW RESOURCE: Law Review Adresses "Who Deserves Death?"

Posted: September 27, 2004

Articles from a symposium entitled "Rethinking the Death Penalty: Can We Define Who Deserves Death?" can be found in the Fall 2003 edition of the Pace Law Review. The symposium, hosted by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in May 2002, featured speakers Robert Blecker, Jeffrey Kirchmeier, the Honorable William Erlbaum, David Von Drehle, and Jeffrey Fagan. The speakers addressed the question of whether it is possible to limit the death penalty to the "worst of the worst" and, if so, who would fall into this category.


NEW RESOURCE: Address to the American Correctional Association on the Death Penalty

Posted: September 23, 2004
The American Correctional Association has recently published the proceedings of their 2003 Annual Conference in Nashville containing a presentation by DPIC Executive Director Richard Dieter on the death penalty. The text of the speech is available on DPIC's site, click here. The full publication is available from the ACA, and also contains remarks on the death penalty by Prof. John McAdams of Marquette. (The State of Corrections: 2003 Proceedings, ACA Annual Conferences, American Correctional

NEW RESOURCE: More Blacks Deprived of Vote Because of Felony Convictions

Posted: September 23, 2004
A new report by The Sentencing Project, "The Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement in Atlanta, Georgia," examines the racial effects of depriving citizens of voting rights because of criminal convictions. The report reveals sharp disparities in voting eligibility by race and neighborhood. Among the report's key findings are the following:

  • One out of every seven African American males in Atlanta is disenfranchised as a result of a felony conviction;
  • One-third of the black male disenfranchisement rate in Georgia is