What's New

NEW RESOURCE: Jurors' Stories of Death

Posted: August 12, 2004
In his new book "Jurors' Stories of Death: How America's Death Penalty Invests in Inequality," author Benjamin Fleury-Steiner draws on real-life accounts of white and black jurors in capital trials to discuss the effect of race on the sentencing process. Through his survey of the jurors' experiences, he reveals that race is often a factor in sentencing and that the U.S. justice system can foster an "us versus them" mentality among jurors serving in capital trials. Fleury-Steiner finds that the the jurors, who frequently view

NEW VOICES: Maryland Families Urge Prosecutor to End Death Penalty Bid

Posted: August 10, 2004
Expressing their desire to end emotionally straining court proceedings, the families of Maryland murder victims Betina "Kristi" Gentry and Cynthia V. Allen recently urged Anne Arundel County's top prosecutor to end his 3rd attempt to get a death sentence for the man accused of killing the two women 10 years ago. "They've been through so much. I can't look them in the eye and say, 'Nah, you have to relive it again.' I can't do that," said State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee after agreeing to seek a sentence of life without parole instead of a capital

NEW VOICES: Massachusetts DA Asks that the Death Penalty Be Avoided

Posted: August 10, 2004
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft requesting that the Justice Department not seek the death penalty for a Dorchester drug dealer charged with murdering a rival. Ashcroft has indicated that the 25-year-old defendant, Brima Wurie, could be a candidate for the federal death penalty. Conley believes a federal death penalty case against Wurie would alienate community leaders whose assistance has been a valuable part of efforts to eliminate violence in Boston. "The

Houston Crime Lab Scandal Escalates

Posted: August 10, 2004
The possible exoneration of a man convicted of rape in 1987 has led investigators of the Houston police department crime laboratory to conclude that the lab's reliability crisis may be worse than was first anticipated. This revelation could lead to re-testing of evidence in thousands of additional cases from the past 25 years. Six independent forensic scientists said that a crime laboratory official either lacked the basic knowledge of blood typing or knowingly gave false testimony leading to the conviction of George Rodriguez for rape nearly two decades ago. Rodriguez's case led


Posted: August 9, 2004
Jefferson Parish prosecutors today dismissed all charges against former Louisiana death row inmate Ryan Matthews. He became the nation’s 115th death row inmate to be freed according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Matthews was sentenced to die in 1999 and spent nearly five years on death row before DNA evidence helped clear him of a murder that occurred just two weeks after his 17th birthday. (The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether death sentences for 16- or 17-year-olds are constitutional in October.)


ABC's "In the Jury Room" Debuts With Death Penalty Case

Posted: August 9, 2004

ABC-TV begins a new six-part documentary series "In the Jury Room" on Tuesday, August 10 (10 PM Eastern time), with a first-hand look at a death penalty deliberation. Narrated by senior legal correspondent Cynthia McFadden (pictured), the debut captures the deliberations of twelve jurors selected to decide the capital murder case against Ohio defendant Mark Ducic. The program allows the audience to see jurors struggling through the clashes that often accompany death penalty deliberations.


NEW VOICES: Time to Review the Costs of the Death Penalty

Posted: August 9, 2004
A recent San Jose Mercury News editorial recommended including the death penalty in the California Performance Review prepared for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce public spending. The paper stated that the abandonment of capital punishment would save valuable taxpayer dollars in the state and praised local efforts to support a temporary halt to executions while capital punishment is reviewed. The editorial noted:

Termination of the death penalty would add immeasurably to the $32 billion in savings projected if all of the

POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Federal Judge Throws Out Texas Capital Conviction

Posted: August 6, 2004
A federal judge has thrown out Ernest Ray Willis' capital conviction after finding "strong reason to be concerned that Willis may be actually innocent" and that West Texas authorities needlessly drugged him and concealed evidence at his trial. The decision casts doubt on Willis' 1987 conviction for the arson-murder of two women in Pecos County, a crime that another death row inmate, David Long, later confessed he had committed. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson said that anti-psychotic medication used incorrectly by prison

North Carolina Governor Signs Open Discovery Bill Into Law

Posted: August 5, 2004
North Carolina Governor Mike Easley signed a bill into law that requires prosecutors to share their files in all felony cases. The bill was approved in the wake of allegations that prosecutors withheld evidence in the capital murder trial of Alan Gell, who was later exonerated and freed from death row. The new open discovery statute requires district attorneys to open their investigative files in felony cases to defense lawyers who request such access prior to trial. The law requires DAs to provide such things as police investigator notes,

Experts on Adolescence Call for End to Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: August 3, 2004
An op-ed appearing in the Arizona Republic and authored by Dr. Mark Wellek, past president of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, and Carol Kamin, current president of the Arizona Chapter of the Children's Action Alliance, echoed growing national concerns about the culpability of juvenile offenders who face capital charges despite scientific evidence that they may be less culpable than adult offenders. Wellek and Kamin noted:

"American society has many gray areas. Our many cultures, systems and ideologies overlap in small ways and