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POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Newspaper Explores Case of Pennsylvania Death Row Inmate

Posted: June 21, 2004
In an exclusive two-part series titled “Snitch Work,” Philadelphia’s City Paper explores the possible innocence of Pennsylvania death row inmate Walter Ogrod. Investigative writer Tom Lowenstein describes Ogrod’s first trial, which resulted in a mistrial when 11 of the 12 jurors voted for acquittal. In Ogrod’s second trial in 1996, the state employed a notorious jailhouse snitch, John Hall, to strengthen their case against Ogrod, who continued to maintain his innocence. Lowenstein’s “Snitch Work” series examines Ogrod’s case, including an alledged coerced

EDITORIALS: Washington Post Criticizes Maryland's "Random" Death Penalty

Posted: June 21, 2004

In an editorial written following the execution of Steven Oken in Maryland on June 17th, The Washington Post criticized the state’s flawed death penalty system and questioned what purpose capital punishment serves. The editorial stated:

Steven Howard Oken went to his death this week in Maryland -- the 1st execution in the state in 6 years, the 1st as well since Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) lifted his processor's moratorium on executions.


NEW VOICES: U.N. Ambassador Nominee Opposed to the Death Penalty

Posted: June 21, 2004
Former Republican Senator John Danforth of Missouri, President Bush’s nominee to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is a long-time opponent of capital punishment. During his tenure in the Senate, Danforth made his position on the death penalty clear in a 1994 Senate floor statement: “I think we should do away with the death penalty. As a matter of personal conscience, I have always opposed the death penalty.... We have had up or down votes on capital punishment. I always vote against it.” CNN notes that as U.S. Ambassador to the

EDITORIALS: Dallas Morning News Says Texas' Statute is "Wrong and Should Not Stand"

Posted: June 17, 2004

A recent Dallas Morning News editorial decried the use of expert witnesses who claim to have the ability to predict future dangerousness, a determination that jurors in Texas heavily rely on in sentencing people to death. The editorial states:

In Texas, we execute criminals not for what they did, but for what they might do.

Convicted murderer David Harris has a date with the executioner June 30 for having killed a man in a Beaumont gunfight. But that's not enough to get Mr. Harris, or any Texas murderer, a death sentence.


Soros Justice Fellowships Available

Posted: June 17, 2004
Applications for Soros Justice Advocacy, Senior and Media Fellowships are now being accepted by the Open Society Institute from lawyers, advocates, organizers, scholars, journalists and documentarians seeking to make advancements in criminal justice. The deadline for applicants is September 22, 2004. Proposed work should focus on reducing the nation’s over reliance on policies of punishment and incarceration, encouraging the successful resettlement of people returning from prison, eliminating race and class disparities in the criminal justice system, and restoring judicial discretion. More

UPCOMING EVENTS: World Congress Against the Death Penalty to Convene in Montreal

Posted: June 16, 2004
The 2nd World Congress Against the Death Penalty will take place in Montreal, Canada, October 6-9, 2004. The conference is sponsored by Penal Reform International, the End to Capital Punishment Movement (ECPM USA), and the ECPM Network (Together Against the Death Penalty). During the four-day event, government officials, representatives from death penalty and law-related organizations, and victims' family members from around the world will host a series of workshops, plenary sessions, and exhibits to discuss the future of the death penalty in those nations that continue to use it.

New Resource: Study Encourages Police to Record Interviews

Posted: June 16, 2004
A recent study conducted by former U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan and released by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law concluded that electronic recording of interrogations of criminal suspects is a cost-effective method that results in more convictions and speedier justice. The researchers contacted 238 law enforcement agencies in 38 states that record interrogations in felony crimes and found that “virtually every officer with whom we spoke, having given custodial recordings a try, was

NEW RESOURCE: The Angolite Highlights Long Road to Clemency for Man with Mental Retardation

Posted: June 16, 2004
The Angolite, a news magazine produced by inmates at Louisiana’s Angola State Penitentiary, highlights the commutation of Herbert Welcome, a man with mental retardation whose death sentence was lifted by Governor Mike Foster in 2003. The article follows Welcome’s decades-long struggle to have his sentence commuted, including a 1988 recommendation for clemency that was never signed. Years later, Welcome’s clemency effort was reignited by his attorneys from the Center for Equal Justice in New Orleans and his

Texas Relies on "Junk Science" in Choosing Who Will Be Sentenced to Death

Posted: June 16, 2004

Texas plans to execute David Harris on June 30th on the basis of a prediction in 1986 that he would be a future danger even if sentenced to life in prison. Dr. Edward Gripon testified that Harris posed a substantial risk of committing further violent acts, even though Gripon had never met or examined Harris. During his nearly two decades on death row, Harris has had only minor infractions, such as having too many postage stamps or hanging a clothesline in his cell. In a 1983 brief to the U.S.


Nichols' Sentencing Demonstrates Heavy Burden on Jurors

Posted: June 15, 2004
After deliberating for 20 hours over three days, the jurors who recently found Terry Nichols (pictured) guilty of murder in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing expressed some of the anguish that choosing between life and death caused them. “It was tough. We had found it much easier to arrive at a guilty verdict, but the penalty phase was much harder,” said juror Terry Zellmer. Cecil Reeder, a Korean War veteran who supported the death penalty for Nichols, said, "This shook me as deep as I've ever been shook in my life." Some of the jurors implied that Nichols'