Craig Haney, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has just published a new book, Death By Design: Capital Punishment as a Social Psychological System (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2005). Haney explores a number of areas that skew death penalty sentencing in America:
Jury selection--By systematically screening out opponents of capital punishment, the process produces unrepresentative juries and juries that include a high concentration of people who are more inclined to convict defendants.
Recent research has revealed a close correlation between the U.S. states that historically carried out the most lynchings and the states that today have the highest homicide rates and most death sentences. In a study led by sociologist Steven Messner of the State University of New York at Albany, county data from 10 southern states where historically reliable information on vigilante lynchings between 1882 and 1930 is available were examined (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee).
The Amicus Journal discusses death penalty issues from around the world. The latest edition contains articles on the "teamwork" approach used by capital defense attorneys in Virginia, Africa's progress in abandoning the death penalty, and a feature on the experience of being a lawyer on the front lines of capital litigation in the U.S. The publication also examines the recent U.S. Supreme Court cases of Medellin v. Dretke and Miller-El v. Dretke. (13 Amicus Journal (2005), published in London by the Andrew Lee Jones Fund). See Resources.
According to a new study to be published in the Santa Clara Law Review, a defandant in California is more likely to be sentenced to death for killing a white person than for murdering a person of any other race, despite there being more black and Hispanic murder victims in the state. The research also shows that geography plays a key role in whether the death penalty will be sought in a particular case.
The latest edition of the Consular Rights in America newsletter is now available. The newsletter discusses legal and political developments concerning citizens of other countries who are in prison or on death row in the U.S. Issue 29 contains excerpts from the Texas Lawyer of recent arguments before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in the case of Jose Medellin, a Mexican citizen on death row in Texas. This case has already been the subject of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the International Court of Justice, and of a presidential decision. The newsletter also discusses the decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals regarding Osbaldo Torres, a former death row inmate also from Mexico. The newsletter is published by Mark Warren of Human Rights Research.
Qin Yanhong was convicted of rape and murder in China in 1999. A panel of judges sentenced him to death. His conviction was the result of a confession that followed days of torture and interrorgation by police, despite the fact that such tactics are forbidden under Chinese law. The senior detective on the case expressed absolute confidence in the conviction and even offered to accept the punishment if it was proven wrong. In 2001, another man walked into a nearby police station and confessed to a spate of killings and described the murder that Mr. Qin had been accused of in perfect detail. Even then, officials tried to cover up the new revelations and keep Mr. Qin on death row until a reporter heard about the confession by the serial killer. Qin was finally freed in 2002. In 2005 alone, there have been about 12 similar reversals of convictions, including a number for murder.