We are convicting innocent people in Virginia because of false eyewitness testimony, false confessions, over-eager snitches, faulty forensics, bad defense lawyers but also, and this is the worst of all, because of prosecutorial misconduct and police misconduct. In this last category,
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A new Michigan Law Review article by Professor John Blume of Cornell Law School examines the relationship between "volunteering" for execution and suicide. Blume found that nearly 88% of all death row inmates who have "volunteered" for execution have struggled with mental illness and/or substance abuse. He writes that there is an especially strong link between "volunteerism" and mental illness. Of the "volunteer" executions he reviewed, 14 involved schizophrenia and several more reported delusions that may reflect schizophrenia. Depression and bipolar disorder accounted for at least 23 other cases, and post-traumatic stress disorder was present in another 10. At least 30 of those who "volunteered" for execution had previously attempted suicide. The article also notes that between 1977 and 2003, 85% of the 93 inmates who opted to allow their execution to proceed without exhausting all legal appeals were white males, despite the fact that white males make up only 45% of all death row inmates.
The Death Penalty Information Center recently became aware of two older capital cases in which the defendants had been sentenced to death but were later acquitted at re-trial. We have added Christopher McCrimmon of Arizona and Larry Fisher of Mississippi to our innocence list, bringing the total number of people released from death row on the basis of innocence to 121 since 1973. McCrimmon is the eighth person to be exonerated from Arizona’s death row, and Fisher is the second death row exoneree from Mississippi. A brief description of the cases follows:
Christopher McCrimmon was convicted and sentenced to death for a triple murder that occurred in Tucson's El Grande Market in 1992. Two other co-defendants, Andre Minnitt and Martin Soto-Fong, were also sentenced to death for the same crime. At McCrimmon’s trial, one juror hesitated about his vote for conviction. The trial judge met with the jury, which then shortly returned a unanimous guilty verdict. The Arizona Supreme Court overturned McCrimmon’s conviction in 1996 because of the judge’s undue pressure on the jury. (Arizona v. McCrimmon/Minnitt, 927 P.2d 1298 (1996)). Subsequently, it was discovered that the lead prosecutor against all 3 co-defendants, Kenneth Peasley, presented false evidence in the original case. With this knowledge, McCrimmon was quickly acquitted at his re-trial in 1997. (See Arizona v. Minnitt, 55 P.3d 774, 779 (2002) (vacating co-defendant Minnitt’s conviction and sentence and barring re-trial because of deliberate prosecutorial misconduct)).
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has announced that it will issue a formal pardon this month for Lena Baker (pictured), the only woman executed in the state during the 20th century. The document, signed by all five of the current board members, will note that the parole board's 1945 decision to deny Baker clemency and allow her execution was "a grievous error, as this case called out for mercy." Baker, an African American, was executed for the murder of Ernest Knight, a white man who hired her . Baker was tried, convicted, and sentenced to die in one day by an all-white, all-male jury. Baker claimed she shot Knight in self-defense after he locked her in his gristmill and threatened her with a metal pipe. The pardon notes that Baker "could have been charged with voluntary manslaughter, rather than murder, for the death of E.B. Knight." The average sentence for voluntary manslaughter is 15 years in prison. Baker's picture and her last words are currently displayed near the retired electric chair at a museum at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville.
An article published in the September 2004 issue of Justice Quarterly revealed that 64% of Texans support a h
A new law review article by international death penalty expert Mark Warren concludes that the retention of capital punishment in the United States distances the nation from its closest allies "in ways both symbolic and tangible, and the costs of that isolation are rising steadily." Warren's article, Death, Dissent, and Diplomacy: The U.S. Death Penalty as an Obstacle to Foreign Relations, examines a broad range of concerns, including treaty compliance and global security. Warren notes that in recent years, world leaders have become increasingly vocal about their opposition to the death penalty, and that the U.S. now finds itself on the wrong side of a fundamental human rights issue. Warren notes that some recent Supreme Court decisions narrowing the scope of the death penalty, as well as state efforts to identify flaws in the system, are steps in the right direction.