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Chicago Tribune Investigates Forensic Science and Wrongful Convictions

Posted: October 19, 2004
A five-part Chicago Tribune investigation of forensics in the courtroom has revealed that flawed testing analysis, questionable science once considered reliable, and shoddy crime lab practices can often lead to wrongful convictions. Developments in DNA technology have helped shed new light on these problems by revealing the shaky scientific foundations of techniques like fingerprinting, firearm identification, arson investigation, and bite-mark comparison. A review of 200 DNA and death row exonerations nationwide in the last 20 years found that more than a quarter (55
 

NEW VOICES: Bush and Kerry Express Views on Executing Juvenile Offenders

Posted: October 19, 2004
In a forum hosted by the New Voters Project, U.S. Presidential candidates George Bush and John Kerry expressed their views on executing juvenile offenders. "Federal law prohibits execution of those under 18 when the offense was committed, and I see no reason to change that statute," said President Bush. Senator John Kerry stated, "I do not think that executing minors is good policy." (Knight-Ridder, October 17, 2004). On October 13th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Roper v. Simmons, a case that will determine whether the execution of juvenile offenders is
 

INNOCENCE: After 19 Years, Innocent Man to Walk Free

Posted: October 18, 2004
The Utah Attorney General's office has recommended that Bruce Dallas Goodman's murder conviction be set aside as a result of new DNA tests that have confirmed Goodman's steadfast claims of innocence. Goodman was convicted in 1984 for the murder of his girlfriend, Sherry Ann Fales, who was raped, sodomized, beaten to death and abandoned off an interstate exit, a crime that qualified for the death penalty. Since his arrest, Goodman has maintained that he did not murder Fales, and the state's case against him was largely circumstantial. Last year, the
 

EDITORIAL: Examine the systemic problems in the death penalty before reinstating it in NY

Posted: October 14, 2004
New York's death penalty remains in abeyance, having been found unconstitutional by the state's high court. A recent N.Y. Newsday editorial called on lawmakers to carefully examine the fundamental problems with the death penalty before considering any reinstatement legislation. The editorial noted:


On the steps of New York City Hall on Thursday, a coalition of death penalty opponents - prominently including City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo - called for a "legislative moratorium" before
 

Newspapers, Opinion Leaders Call for End to Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: October 14, 2004
As the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Roper v. Simmons on October 13, newspapers throughout the country featured editorials and opinion pieces calling on the U.S. to abandon the practice of executing juvenile offenders:

The New York Times

When the Supreme Court considers an Eighth Amendment challenge, it looks to "evolving standards of decency" - and there has been a steady movement nationally away from the juvenile death penalty. In the 15 years since the Supreme Court last considered this question, a
 

NEW VOICES: Major Texas Newspapers Call for a Halt to Executions in Cases from Houston

Posted: October 12, 2004
Following a call from the Houston Police Chief and from state legislators to halt executions in cases from Harris County, four of the state's largest newspapers published editorials in support of a moratorium on executions. The Houston police crime lab has been plagued with errors in DNA testing and preservation of evidence. There have been far more executions from Harris County (Houston) than from any other county in the country.


AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

(N)othing can justify an execution if there is any good reason to question
 

NEW RESOURCE: An Account of Life on Death Row

Posted: October 12, 2004
In "Waiting to Die: Life on Death Row," Richard M. Rossi provides a first-hand account of his daily life on Arizona's death row. Rossi was sentenced to death in 1983 and has taken responsibility for the murder he committed. He was originally offered a plea bargain with a life sentence, but he decided to go to trial. He has been on death row for 20 years. In his book, Rossi details how prisoners survive on death row, the conditions under which they live, and the psychological toll that living under a sentence of death takes on prisoners. He also provides a straightforward account of
 

LEGISLATION: Senate and House Pass Versions of Innocence Protection Act

Posted: October 10, 2004
On October 9, the U.S. Senate passed by voice vote a bill called the "Justice for All Act of 2004" that contains important elements of the Innocence Protection Act, originally introduced in 2000. A similar bill recently overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives (HR 5107), and it is expected that the final legislation will now be signed into law. The bill provides for expanded access to DNA testing for prison inmates and assistance to states for both defense and prosecution in conducting death penalty trials.
 

ARBITRARINESS: Execution May Go Forward Despite Nearly Even Split on Innocence

Posted: October 8, 2004
A deeply divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled 8-7 that the execution of Tennessee death row inmate Paul Gregory House may move forward despite the fact that nearly half of the judges believe he is not guilty and should be freed immediately. "We are faced with a real-life murder mystery, an authentic 'who-done-it' where the wrong man may be executed," wrote
 

NEW RESOURCE: Research with Jurors Finds Reluctance to Sentence Juveniles to Death

Posted: October 8, 2004
A recently published study by Northeastern criminal justice professors William J. Bowers and Michael E. Antonio, in conjunction with University of Delaware professors Valerie P. Hans and Benjamin D. Fleury-Steiner, finds jurors very reluctant to give the death penalty to juvenile defendants because of their immaturity and dysfunctional family backgrounds.

 

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