A national poll of Roman Catholic adults conducted by Zogby International found that Catholic support for capital punishment has declined dramatically in recent years. The Zogby Poll was released on March 21, 2005 at a press conference of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as it announced a new Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. The poll revealed that only 48% of Catholics now support the death penalty. Comparable polls by other organizations had resgistered a 68% support among Catholics in 2001. In addition, the percentage of Catholics who a
America Without the Death Penalty: States Leading the Way provides a comprehensive review of the conditions that resulted in twelve U.S. states not having capital punishment. The book looks at factors such as economic conditions, public sentiment, mass media, population diversity, murder rates, and the regional history of executions, that led to abolition in those states. The book's authors, Professors John F. Galliher, Larry W. Koch, David Patrick Keys, and Teresa J.
The capital convictions of dozens of people from Alameda County, California are coming under legal scrutiny because of an accusation that Jews and black women were excluded from juries in capital trials in the county as "standard practice." The practice was revealed in a sworn declaration by former Alameda prosecutor John R. Quatman in the habeas corpus proceedings of Fred Freeman, a man on California's death row who is seeking to have his conviction overturned.
A recent Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey of Maryland voters found that 63% believe that life without the possibility of parole is an acceptable substitute for the death penalty. Only 21% stated that they believe it is not an acceptable alternative to the death penalty, and 16% were not sure. The poll, sponsored by the Maryland Catholic Conference, revealed that among women, 66% believe the alternative sentence of life without parole is an acceptable substitute for capital punishment. Among black respondents, the number agreeing with the statement registered at 69%.
In an historic move to ensure that Texas fairly applies the death penalty and that defendants are afforded proper legal protections to prove their innocence, Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed a nine-member special council with sweeping powers to review an array of legal issues ranging from police investigations to court appeals. The appointment of the panel is the first acton of its kind by a Texas governor in decades.
"I have great confidence in our justice system, but no system is perfect, and we must not be afraid of asking the questions that will lead to creating a more perfect system of justice for all the people of Texas," Gov. Perry said after issuing the Executive Order to create the panel. He noted that among the factors leading to the panel's creation were evidence testing mistakes at the Houston crime lab that affected thousands of criminal cases, court rulings barring the execution of juvenile offenders and those with mental retardation, and questions about whether Texas is properly affording full legal rights to foreign citizens imprisoned in the state.
By a vote of 25-15, members of the Connecticut Judiciary Committee voted for legislation to repeal the state's death penalty and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole, an action that clears the way for the House to debate the measure. Supporters of the bill say that the state's death penalty is an unenforceable statute, a source of agony for families of murder victims, and a fiscal burden the state can no longer afford to bear. "We should not be debating spending $3 million or $4 million to kill one man when we should be spending that money on school books.
The Bush administration has pulled out of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, an international agreement that has been in place for more than 30 years and that the United States initially supported to protect its citizens abroad. In recent years, the provision has been successfully invoked by foreign nations whose citizens were sentenced to death by U.S. states without receiving access to diplomats from their home countries, events which served as the basis for President Bush's decision to withdraw from the agreement.
The Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires signatories to let the United Nation's highest tribunal, the International Court of Justice at the Hague, make the final decision when their citizens say they have been illegally denied the right to seek consulate assistance when jailed abroad. The administration's withdrawal from the Optional Protocol comes just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider what effect U.S. courts should give to an International Court of Justice ruling in favor of 51 Mexican foreign nationals. The World Court found that the U.S. government had failed to comply with the requirements of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and it directed that U.S. courts give the death row inmates "meaningful review" of their convictions and sentences, without applying procedural default rules to prevent consideration of the defendants' claims. It is unclear what affect the administration's decision to abandon the Optional Protocol will have on this case.
Some analysts say President Bush's decision will weaken both protections for U.S. citizens abroad and the idea of reciprocal obligation that the protocol embodied. The United States was the first to invoke the Optional Protocol before the World Court to successfully sue Iran for the taking of 52 U.S. hostages in 1979.
By a margin of 46-42 percent, New Yorkers do not want to see the death penalty reinstated, according to a recent Siena Research Institute poll of state voters. The poll also found that a clear majority (56 percent) support the sentencing option of life without parole over capital punishment.
On February 28, 2005, Ohio Common Pleas Judge Richard Niehaus dismissed all charges against Derrick Jamison for the death of a Cincinnati bartender after prosecutors elected not to retry him in the case. (Associated Press, March 3, 2005). The prosecution had withheld critical eyewitness statements and other evidence from the defense resulting in the overturning of Jamison's conviction in 2002. Jamison was convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 based in part on the testimony of Charles Howell, a co-defendant who had his own sentence reduced in exchange for his testimony against Jamison.
The prosecution withheld statements that contradicted Howell’s testimony and that would have undermined the prosecution’s theory of how the victim died, and would have pointed to other possible suspects for the murder. Two federal courts ruled that the prosecution's actions denied Jamison of a fair trial. (Jamison v. Collins, 291 F.3d 380 (6th Cir. 2002)).
One of the withheld statments involved James Suggs, an eyewitness to the robbery. Suggs testified at trial that he had been unable to make a positive identification when the police showed him a photo array of suspects. In fact, police records show that Suggs identified two suspects, neither of which was Derrick Jamison. Additional withheld evidence consisted of a series of discrepancies between Jamison’s physical characteristics and the descriptions of the perpetrators given to police investigators by eyewitnesses.
A recent article in the Wayne Law Review by Prof. Phillys L. Crocker of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law examines the Supreme Court's struggle with the issue of death row inmates waiving their appeals. Crocker uses Rees v. Peyton, a capital case that remained on the Court's docket from 1965-1995, to explore the issue. In that case, Virginia death row inmate Melvin Rees sought to withdraw his petition for a writ of certiorari so that he could be executed. In 1967, the Supreme Court stayed the proceeding after Rees was found incompetent to waive his appeal, but it did not dismiss the case until after he died of natural causes. In her article, Not to Decide is to Decide: The U.S. Supreme Court's Thirty-Year Struggle with One Case About Competency to Waive Death Penalty Appeals, Crocker concludes: