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Posted: May 27, 2004
Gordon “Randy” Steidl is scheduled to be freed from an Illinois prison today (May 28th), 17 years after he was wrongly convicted and sentenced to die for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads. He will be the nation’s 114th death row inmate to be exonerated and the 18th freed in Illinois. The case against Steidl has long drawn criticism from journalists such as Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune, and investigators familiar with the facts of the crime. An Illinois State Police investigation in 2000 found that local police had botched their investigation so badly

NEW RESOURCE: “Death Penalty – Beyond Abolition”

Posted: May 27, 2004
“Death Penalty – Beyond Abolition” details the path to abolition of the death penalty in Europe, the only region in the world where capital punishment has been almost completely eradicated. The book also examines how this development has impacted other nations around the world. With articles focusing on issues such as working with murder victims’ families and finding appropriate alternatives to the death penalty, the book examines the pioneering role that the Council of Europe has played in eliminating the death penalty through a series of enacted protocols

Good Quality Representation Makes All the Difference in Death Penalty Cases

Posted: May 27, 2004
In the 11 years since the Defender Association of Philadelphia began to represent clients facing murder charges, it has compiled an enviable record: Not one of its 994 clients has been sent to death row. (During the same time, scores of defendants in Philadelphia represented by appointed private attorneys have been sentenced to death.) “It stands out as something that is not matched anywhere else,” said David J. Carroll of the National Legal Aid and Defender Service. The Defender Association of Philadelphia, a non-profit corporation financed by the

Texas Juvenile Pardoned After Faulty Lab Work Exposed

Posted: May 26, 2004
Texas Governor Rick Perry has issued a pardon on the basis of innocence to Josiah Sutton, a juvenile offender who had served four years of a 25-year prison term before new DNA tests proved his innocence. The faulty DNA results used to convict Sutton in 1998 were processed by the now thoroughly discredited Houston Police Department crime lab, the same facility that processed DNA and other forensic evidence used in cases that have resulted in death sentences. The lab was shut down in 2003 after questions about the quality and


Posted: May 26, 2004
Maryland prosecutors used the same DNA evidence that freed Kirk Bloodsworth (pictured) from Maryland’s death row to secure a life-in-prison sentence for Kimberly Shay Ruffner, the man who has now confessed to the 1984 murder of Dawn Hamilton. Bloodsworth spent years on death row for the rape and murder of Hamilton before DNA evidence conclusively showed that he could not have committed the crime. In 1993, he became the first death row inmate in the country to be freed on the basis of DNA testing. Despite the fact that Ruffner was a known sexual offender with an interest in

Insistence on the Death Penalty May Interfere with Trial for Saddam Hussein

Posted: May 25, 2004
Great Britain may refuse to hand over evidence of Saddam Hussein’s crimes to Iraqi prosecutors or permit government staff to testify against the former dictator because of the nation’s opposition to the death penalty. Despite human rights objections from British officials who helped establish the special tribunal that will try Hussein and other senior members of his regime, Iraqis have insisted that capital punishment remain a sentencing option for some crimes. Coalition forces have suspended the death penalty during their occupation of Iraq, but it is anticipated

Supreme Court Unanimously Allows Lethal Injection Procedure Challenge to Continue

Posted: May 24, 2004
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that an Alabama death row inmate could pursue his claim that the lethal injection procedures in his case constitute cruel and unusual punishment. David Nelson, who was less than three hours away from his scheduled execution last fall when the Supreme Court gave him a temporary reprieve, had filed a claim under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Law stating that his damaged veins would make it impossible to insert an intravenous line without cutting deep into

POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Former Massachusetts Death Row Inmate Released After 30 Years in Prison

Posted: May 21, 2004
Laurence Adams, who was sentenced to death in Massachusetts in 1974 shortly before the state finally abandoned capital punishment, was released on May 20 after spending three decades of his life in prison. In April 2004, a judge overturned Adams’ conviction when new evidence, including conflicting statements from the state’s star witness and a statement from a witness who said two other people committed the murder, cast doubt on his guilt. Superior Court Judge Robert A. Mulligan said that he vacated the conviction to “avoid a

PUBLIC OPINION: North Carolinians Support Death Penalty Moratorium

Posted: May 20, 2004
An April 2004 poll of North Carolinians revealed that 63% of respondents support a halt to executions while the state’s death penalty is studied, and many respondents have doubts about the accuracy of the death penalty. “Support for the two-year suspension of executions is widespread and cuts across all demographic groups, regions of the state and political party affiliation. This is clearly an issue that resonates with the people of North Carolina,” stated John Doble, founder of Doble Research Associations, the national

San Francisco Voters Back DA's Decision to Not Seek Death Sentence

Posted: May 19, 2004
Both city voters and the Bar Association of San Francisco have voiced support for San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’ decision to not seek the death penalty in the case against David Hill, who is accused of killing city police officer Isaac Espinoza. A recent poll found that 70% of respondents backed Harris’ decision, while only 22% opposed the choice and 8% remained undecided. The poll also found that 65% of those surveyed gave Harris’ overall performance as District Attorney favorable marks. Harris ran for office as an opponent of capital punishment. The San