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Three stays of execution were issued on February 4th in cases in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania. The United States Supreme Court briefly stayed an execution in Florida to examine the appeal from Johnny Robinson. However, the Court voted 5-4 to allow the execution to take place. In Pennsylvania, the March 11 execution of Kenneth Miller was stayed by a Philadelphia court. In Texas, a 60-day stay was granted to Scott Panetti who was to be executed February 5.
In his book "Still Surviving," Nanon Williams (pictured right), who was 17 at the time of the crime that placed him on death row, provides a first hand account of living under a sentence of death in Texas. The book details Williams's journey from teenage boy to adulthood while living in the shadow of the nation's busiest execution chamber. His text introduces readers to the experiences of solitary confinement and having friends executed, as well as to maintaining relationships with those on the other side of the prison gate.
Just hours after a judge ordered that a death sentence handed down in federal court in Massachusetts be carried out in New Hampshire, the N.H. House Democratic Leader, Peter Burling, said the state should renew its consideration of legislation to repeal the death penalty. "I think the issue is so profoundly divisive and so completely founded on people's core values that there be some response," said Burling. "I think most of us believed we'd never see an execution in New Hampshire. It's easy to become complacent." New Hampshire has not
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed a constitutional amendment to reinstate the death penalty after nearly a century without it. The idea has been met with some firm resistance from state lawmakers, including criticism from Representative Keith Ellison, who noted, "The death penalty serves no legitimate purpose. It's applied unfairly, falling disproportionately on the poor, people of color and, in too many cases, on the innocent. It's also a budget buster, sapping resources from education, health care, and public safety." (Star Tribune,
In 2003, California juries sent 16 individuals to death row, the lowest number since 1985 and a dramatic decline from 1999's total of 42 new death sentences. Some believe the decline is evidence of prosecutors being more selective in seeking death convictions, as well as the public's skepticism about the capital punishment system. Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, noted, "I think that (incidences of wrongfully convicted death row inmates) has given increased vigor to the argument
The Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty has issued a new report, "Questioning a Broken System: Capital Punishment in Illinois in 2003," an in-depth review of capital punishment in Illinois following actions by the former governor and the legislature to address systemic flaws in the state's death penalty system. The report notes that prosecutors continue to aggressively seek the death penalty, but public skepticism is growing over the use of capital punishment. For example, 80% of jurors who considered imposing a death sentence in 2003 rejected
Arnold Holloway, a Pennsylvania death row inmate who was convicted 18 years ago, was granted a new trial after a federal appeals court found that prosecutors improperly excluded blacks from the jury. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said that an assistant district attorney in Holloway's case used 11 of his 12 peremptory strikes during jury selection to eliminate blacks. "The pattern here was certainly strong enough to suggest an intention of keeping blacks off the jury," said Circuit Judge Robert Cowen. Philadelphia prosecutors'
Just one day before Georgia was scheduled to execute Willie James Hall, the state's parole board commuted his sentence to life in prison without parole. During the hearing on Hall's request for clemency, 6 of the jurors from his original trial testified that they would have given Hall life without parole if that sentence had been an option at his trial. In addition, the parole board noted that Hall had excellent behavior in prison and no criminal record before the murder. In 2001, a federal judge in Atlanta threw out Hall's death sentence
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the execution of those who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crime violates the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." The Court will likely hear arguments in the case of Roper v. Simmons , No. 03-633, this coming fall. The Justices have not visited this issue since 1989 and will likely decide whether there is now a national consensus against the practice of executing juvenile offenders. The Justices used a similar "evolving standards of decency" test when they ruled to forbid
On February 5th, Texas is scheduled to execute Scott Panetti, a mentally-ill man who defended himself at his trial despite the fact that he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Panetti was convicted of killing his parents-in-law in 1992, several years after he was first diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was hospitalized for mental illness in numerous facilities before the crime. Evidence suggests that Panetti was psychotic at the time of the shootings, and that he may not have been competent to stand trial when he did. When he served as his own attorney at trial, Panetti