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NEW VOICES: Washington Judge States Death Penalty "No Longer Has Validity"

Posted: November 10, 2003

In a Seattle Times op-ed reflecting on the plea agreement for serial killer Gary Ridgway resulting in a life without parole sentence (read more), Washington State Superior Court Judge David A. Nichols stated that the "death penalty as a response to any criminal behavior no longer has validity and should be repealed, because it is impossible to administer with justice and fairness." He further noted:


Pardons Could Result From Destruction of Houston Lab DNA Evidence

Posted: November 6, 2003
Evidence from a capital murder case and seven other cases tested for DNA by the Houston Police Department's crime lab have been destroyed. The District Attorney's office said that it may have to ask for pardons in these cases if the defendants were convicted largely on the weight of DNA evidence. "We're going to have to alert the judges and the defense attorneys and evaluate each case to see what we have got to support the conviction without the DNA. If DNA played a large role, I may be writing the governor about more pardons," said District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. The eight cases

Texas Report Finds Noncompliance With State Defense Laws

Posted: November 6, 2003
A review of death penalty defense policies in Texas has uncovered widespread noncompliance with state laws that require each region to adopt qualification standards for capital defense attorneys. Only two of the nine judicial regions in Texas have adopted the standards. A report on the findings has been published by the Equal Justice Center, a Texas organization that advocates for greater fairness in the justice system, and the Texas Defender Service, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of

House Overwhelmingly Passes DNA Bill That Includes The Innocence Protection Act

Posted: November 6, 2003
By a vote of 357-67, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation designating $25 million in funding over five years for DNA testing that could help prove the innocence of some death row inmates. The bill also provides funding for states to improve the quality of legal representation for those facing capital charges. The bipartisan-supported bill, entitled The Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003 (H.R. 3214), includes a comprehensive package of programs that provides over $1 billion over the next five years to assist

North Carolina Newspaper Series Reveals Prosecutorial Misconduct in Death Penalty Cases

Posted: November 5, 2003
A Charlotte (North Carolina) News & Observer investigative series about the death penalty found that prosecutorial misconduct led to a number of North Carolina capital convictions being overturned, and that more cases are currently under review due to questions of improper behavior by the state. The series noted that prosecutors who have withheld evidence often receive no significant punishment. Among the cases highlighted in the report were the following:
  • Alan Gell was sentenced to death in 1998. Four years later, a Superior

ARBITRARINESS: Serial Killer Receives Life Sentence While 3,500 Others Face Execution

Posted: November 5, 2003
In a plea agreement reached with Washington state prosecutors, Gary Ridgway, a Seattle-area man who admitted to 48 murders since 1982, will serve a sentence of life in prison without parole. Prosecutors spared Ridgway from execution in exchange for his cooperation in leading police to the remains of still-missing victims. (Associated Press, November 5, 2003)

Race Plays Powerful Role in Washington State Death Penalty Cases

Posted: November 4, 2003
Race plays a significant role in who receives the death penalty in Washington. Research compiled by the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center, revealed that death notices have never been filed in a case with a white defendant and a black victim, while such notices have been filed in 42% of murder cases with a black defendant and a white victim. Of the 10 individuals currently on death row in Washington, nine cases involved a white victim and none involved a black victim. In addition, every juror that convicted and sentenced the black defendants

NEW VOICES: Justice O'Connor Stresses Importance of International Law

Posted: November 4, 2003
During a speech hosted by the Southern Center for International Studies in Atlanta, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stressed the importance of international law for American courts and the need for the United States to create a more favorable impression abroad. She cited recent Supreme Court cases, including the Court's ruling to ban the execution of those with mental retardation, that illustrate the increased willingness of U.S. courts to take international law into account. "I suspect that over time we will rely increasingly, or take notice at least increasingly, on international

NEW RESOURCE: The Innocents

Posted: October 30, 2003
A new book of photography by Taryn Simon features portraits of 45 men and women who served more than 500 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. The book includes summaries of each case accompanied by related images, such as re-creations of the scenes of the arrest, portraits of alibi witnesses, or vignettes from the lives of the wrongfully convicted. The book also contains commentary by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of The Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School in New York. (Umbrage Editions, 2003). See Resources.

NEW VOICES: Conservative Commentator Concludes that the Death Penalty Can No Longer Stand the Test of Reason

Posted: October 30, 2003
In a recent column examining Massachusetts' consideration of the death penalty, conservative columnist George Will cites the conclusions of death penalty experts who have closely examined the accuracy and effectiveness of this punishment. Will cited the work of the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment and especially the experience of author Scott Turow. Will believes that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's effort to find a faultless death penalty will ultimately fail:
 A properly, meaning narrowly, drawn capital punishment