What's New

NEW RESOURCE: Dedication Scheduled for National Death Penalty Archive

The dedication of the National Death Penalty Archive at the State University of New York at Albany will take place on August 9, 2005.  Hugo Bedau of Tufts University will keynote the program, which will also feature William J. Bowers, Scott Christianson, David Kaczynski, and Michael Radelet. The Archive is a partnership between the Capital Punishment Research Initiative at the School of Criminal Justice and the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Albany Libraries. This collection of historical materials is an excellent resource for scholars, students, and members of the public who are interested in the history of capital punishment in America and in the legal and political battles related to the death penalty. Among other resources, the collection includes The Hugo Adam Bedau Papers, The William J. Bowers/Capital Jury Project Collection, The Alvin Ford Collection, and The Joe Ingle/Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons Papers. It also includes a program of oral history interviews featuring prominent activists and professionals involved in death penalty work.


Attempt to Strip the Federal Courts' Review Power in Death Penalty Cases Meets Conservative Opposition

The following article by Henry Weinstein appeared in the Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2005:

(DPIC Note: The Senate Judiciary Committee put off markup of the Streamlined Procedures Act, probably until September.  Also, see Letter from former Attorneys General and prosecutors opposing this legislation.)

Bid to Speed Death Penalty Appeals Under Fire
Conservatives and former prosecutors are among foes of a bill, before a
Senate panel today, to curtail 'endless' delays in cases.

Protecting Human Life Should be at Least as Important as Protecting Property Rights

In a recent Washington Post column, Richard Cohen compared the deep objections voiced by many Americans after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that communities can condemn property in distressed areas to make way for economic development to the tepid reaction to strong evidence that a Missouri man may have been wrongly executed for a crime he did not commit. Cohen, noting that it seems "far easier for the government to wrongfully take a life than a parcel of run-down real estate," wrote:

The city of New London, Conn., narrowly (5 to 4) won the right last month from the Supreme Court to condemn a parcel of land in a distressed part of the town to make way for economic development. The ruling has generated a tsunami of objection and an effort in many states and localities to have its effects undone . . . .

At the same time, in a far different area of the law, authorities are wondering if two men long ago convicted of murder might be innocent. This has generated almost no interest, no nationwide protest movement, suggesting that in this country it is far easier for the government to wrongfully take a life than a parcel of run-down real estate. Is this a great country or what?


NEW VOICES: Victim's Family Opposes Federal Death Sentence

The parents and three children of Louisiana murder victim Kim Groves have asked the federal government to forgo seeking the death penalty for co-defendants Paul Hardy and Len Davis.  In a letter to prosecutors, the Groves family urged U.S attorneys to halt proceedings that  might lead to death sentences in rehearings for both defendants.

"Executing these two men will not bring Kim Groves back to life. It will not ease the deep sorrow and loss that her family has and will continue to experience as a result of her death...Perversely, it appears that he (Davis) has enjoyed the attention and notoriety which his vulnerability to the death penalty has provided. The family believes the death penalty would in fact be the lesser of the punishments and that the finality and duration of a life sentence would be much more difficult and severe to Mr. Davis, in particular, than death," the letter stated.

The letter, which was also addressed to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was entered into the court record last week.   The presiding judge ruled that if prosecutors have family members testifying about the facts of the crime, the letter may be used on Davis' behalf. 


Virginia Insists on Execution Even in "Close Case" of Mental Retardation

Even though the state of Virginia admits that the question of Daryl Atkins' mental retardation is a "close case," it is still pursuing a lengthy jury trial to ensure his execution.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia in 2002 that those with mental retardation must be excluded from the death penalty, but they issued no opinion with regard to Mr. Atkins' mental status.  As the trial in Virginia began this week, Atkins' mother and former teachers testified about his long-term struggles in dealing with his disability, noting that he did not finish high school, could not get a driver's license, and was cut from the football team because he could not grasp the rules.


New Trial Ordered for Death Row Inmate Following DNA Testing

A North Carolina Superior Court judge orderd a new trial for death row inmate Rex Penland following DNA testing that discredited the state's case.  Penland was convicted of a rape and murder 11 years ago, but DNA testing at the time of his trial was inconclusive.  More recent testing was favorable to Penland and did not place him at the scene of the crime.  Penland was convicted largely on the basis of testimony from his two nephews who were also involved in the crime.  Ken Rose, one of the Penland's attorneys, said: "I think there are substantial questions about whether they got the wrong person.  We have other evidence calling into question the [nephews'] testimony."


Editorial Criticizes Proposed Bill to Limit Death Penalty Appeals

A recent Philadelphia Inquirer editorial criticized the proposed "Streamlined Procedures Act," federal legislation that would deny or sharply restrict the reach of federal judges in hearing habeas-corpus claims from those on death row. Noting that the measure would increase the possibility of executing an innocent person, the editorial stated:

Amid Washington lawmakers' latest drive to further restrict the appeals of (capital) defendants, they need to recognize what could be at risk with their tough-on-crime crackdown - innocent lives.

In both Senate and House versions, the innocently titled Streamlined Procedures Act amounts to an unconscionable assault on federal court oversight of the fairness of criminal trials in the state courts.

The Republican-sponsored measure would deny or sharply restrict the reach of federal judges in hearing habeas-corpus claims from convicts. These claims range from whether adequate legal counsel was provided to indigent (and often minority) defendants, on up to whether an innocent person may have been convicted wrongly.


Birmingham News, Chicago Tribune, "Deadline" Documentary to Receive DPIC Journalism Awards

The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) will honor journalists from The Birmingham News and The Chicago Tribune, and directors from Big Mouth Productions during its 9th Annual Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards at the National Press Club on Monday, July 25. The awards recognize those journalists who have made an exceptional contribution to the understanding of problems associated with capital punishment.