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NEW RESOURCES: Study Examines the Scope of Mistakes in Criminal Cases

Posted: April 21, 2004
Researchers at the University of Michigan identified 328 criminal cases, including 73 death penalty cases, over the last 15 years in which the defendant was ultimately exonerated. The study suggested that many more innocent people are in prison today. Most of the cases studied involved murder and rape, crimes that are subjected to the most intense police investigation but that can also provide defendants with the opportunity to prove their innocence based on DNA evidence. Of the 328 cases of innocence examined by law professor Samuel R. Gross and

Supreme Court To Consider Applicability of Prior Ruling to Over 100 Death Row Inmates

Posted: April 14, 2004
On Monday, April 19, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Schriro v. Summerlin that will determine whether a prior decision applies only to some death row inmates in the first stage of their appeals or to all inmates in the affected states. In 2002, the Court held in Ring v. Arizona that juries, not judges, must decide who is eligible for the death penalty. The new ruling could affect over 100 death row inmates in at least 5 states. At the conclusion of Summerlin’s 1982 trial, Judge Philip Marquardt, who was

Juvenile Offender's Conviction Overturned After DNA Tests

Posted: April 14, 2004
District Attorney Paul Connick has agreed that Ryan Matthews, a juvenile offender on Louisiana’s death row, deserves a new trial. Matthews has maintained his innocence since his arrest. Attorneys for Matthews will use the retrial as an opportunity to present new DNA evidence that they believe exonerates their client. Testing of seven DNA profiles gathered as part of key evidence in the case excludes Matthews as the offender, and several point to the guilt of another man, Rondell Love. After Matthews was arrested, Love was convicted of another murder that

President of Police Union Calls Decision to Bypass Death Penalty Proper After Officer is Killed

Posted: April 14, 2004
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has announced that she will seek a life without parole conviction for David Hill, who is accused of murdering a city police officer. Harris, who ran for office promising not to seek the death penalty, said that in cases such as this it is “natural to feel that we should have an eye for an eye” but argued “life without the possibility of parole is a severe consequence.” Harris stated that death penalty cases in California typically drag on for years, and that this lengthy process offers little closure for victims’ families.

NEW VOICES: Law Enforcement Officials Support Bill to End Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: April 14, 2004
A bipartisan measure to eliminate the juvenile death penalty in Florida has passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and is now on its way to the full Senate for consideration. The measure was introduced by Republican Senator Victor Crist, a death penalty supporter who notes that young people are different because they don’t have the same understanding of consequences as an adult. .The bill also has support from the state’s top law enforcement officers, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist and Florida Department of Law Enforcement

President Bush Acknowledges Importance of World Court Ruling Regarding Mexican Foreign Nationals

Posted: April 14, 2004
Unlike officials in some states who dismissed a recent ruling from the International Court of Justice, U.S. President George W. Bush gave credence to the decision by calling Mexican President Vincente Fox on Tuesday to discuss the ruling and possible next steps regarding 51 Mexican foreign nationals on death row in the U.S. In its ruling, the World Court ordered the United States to review the convictions and sentences of 49 Mexican foreign nationals to determine the appropriate remedy for the violation of their rights to seek consular assistance or legal help from the Mexican

New Jersey Death Sentence Overturned After 18 Years

Posted: April 13, 2004
A federal court has ordered a new sentencing hearing for Robert Marshall after determining that his trial attorney failed to adequately represent him at his 1986 trial. In its ruling, the court noted: “This is not a case where, after reasonable investigation, Zeitz (the attorney) determined that it was tactically a better choice not to put on a mitigating case. Rather, it is a situation where Zeitz inadequately prepared for the penalty phase and put on no mitigating evidence because he had none to present.” (Emphasis added). Marshall, who has been on

NEW VOICES: Rosalynn Carter Calls for End to Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: April 12, 2004
In a recent opinion piece published in The Miami Herald, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter called on Florida and other states that continue to sentence juvenile offenders to death to abandon the practice, noting that it “violates current principles of American justice.” Carter stated that America could soon be the last nation on Earth to execute juvenile offenders, and that the U.S. is one of only two nations that have not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Carter wrote:

“Our country has sought to protect

Death Penalty Often a Plea Bargaining Tool

Posted: April 7, 2004
An Associated Press analysis of the 334 capital indictments filed in Franklin County, Ohio, found that only 16 (5%) of the cases ended with a death sentence. Of those sentences, two have been reduced to life in prison without parole, one man died on the row, and two men were executed this year. Research shows that of the remaining Franklin County cases, 183 cases (55%) ended in plea agreements, and in 111 cases (33%) juries or three-judge panels convicted the offenders but did not sentence them to death. In 45 of those 111 cases, offenders

Expert Defense and Resources Make Difference Between Life and Death in Philadelphia

Posted: April 7, 2004
About half of Pennsylvania's death row of 240 inmates comes from Philadelphia. Yet in the 11 years that the Defender Association of Philadelphia has been handling capital cases, not one of their clients has been sentenced to death. The Defender Office handles one of every five capital cases in the city. The difference between life and death appears to rest with the quality of representation and often comes down to dollar and cents. “What is going on in Philadelphia is really a model example of what can be done when capital defense is adequately funded. In jurisdictions