What's New

NEW RESOURCE: Gubernatorial Politics and Executions

Posted: November 4, 2004
The University of Chicago Law School's Journal of Law and Economics features an article by researchers Jeffrey Kubik and John Moran examining the relationship between politics and executions. In their article, Lethal Elections: Gubernatorial Politics and the Timing of Executions, Kubik and Moran found that states are about 25% more likely to conduct executions in gubernatorial election years than in other years. They also found that the effect of elections on executions is more pronounced for African-American defendants than for white defendants

California's Record on Wrongful Convictions

Posted: November 2, 2004
A recent San Francisco magazine article entitled "Innocence Lost," examines California's record of wrongful convictions. The researchers report that the nation's largest criminal justice system has sent more innocent people to prison for longer terms than any other state. Among the exonerees are three from the state's death row and nearly 200 people who were serving either life or very long terms. The magazine notes that despite these numbers, state lawmakers have repeatedly passed up opportunities to put safeguards in place that could prevent such errors from happening

FBI Releases 2003 Uniform Crime Report: South Has Highest Murder Rate

Posted: November 2, 2004
The FBI recently released its Uniform Crime Report for 2003. The number of murders in the United States increased slightly from 16,229 to 16,503. Once again, the South had the highest murder rate (6.9 murders per 100,000 people). In 2003, the South carried out 89% of the executions in the country. The Northeast had the lowest murder rate in the country (4.2 murders per 100,000 people) and carried out no

LEGISLATION: Innocence Protection Act Signed Into Law

Posted: November 2, 2004
President Bush signed into law the Justice for All Act (H.R.5107) that includes a version of the Innocence Protection Act. The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Orrin Hatch (R.-Ut.). It will create a post-conviction testing process to protect innocent defendants and provide training funds for the defense and prosecution in death penalty cases. (Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 2, 2004).

Texas Execution Proceeds Despite Widespread Concerns About Houston Lab's Role

Posted: November 1, 2004
Dominique Green was executed in Texas on October 26 despite calls for a stay from a federal judge, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, and the victim's family. A U.S. District Court judge in Houston had postponed the execution until the city's police department could complete cataloging 280 boxes of recently discovered evidence that could impact thousands of criminal cases. That stay was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Green had admitted that he was present during the robbery that resulted in Andrew

INTERNATIONAL: Iran Poised to End Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: October 29, 2004
According to an Iranian justice department spokesperson, the Iranian Parliament is expected to approve legislation that would end the death penalty for offenders under the age of 18. The measure would also prohibit lashings for those under 18. Under pressure from the European Union to reform its human rights record, Iran has had no recorded stonings since late 2002, and the parliament has enacted laws banning torture and the upholding of citizens' rights. (AFP, October 26, 2004). The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard the case of Roper v. Simmons that will

RELIGIOUS VIEWS: Catholic Bishops Oppose Expansion of Federal Death Penalty for Terrorism

Posted: October 29, 2004
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington and acting as Chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has urged House and Senate conferees working on anti-terrorism legislation to report out a final bill that would not expand the federal death penalty for terrorists. McCarrick wrote a letter to House and Senate leaders crafting their final version of the National Intelligence Reform Act (S. 2845). The House version of that bill contains provisions to

Poll Finds Tepid Support for Death Penalty as State Sets Execution Date

Posted: October 29, 2004
As Maryland Circuit Court Judge Steven I. Platt signed a death warrant scheduling the execution of Heath W. Burch for the week of December 6, a Potomac Inc. poll of state residents revealed that only 53% support capital punishment. Burch has been on death row since 1996 and would be the first person since 1953 to be executed for a crime committed in Prince George's County. Experts predict that his execution would be met with resistance from county residents, 50% of whom oppose capital punishment according to the Potomac Inc. poll. Judge Platt also granted

Justice O'Connor Notes Importance of International Law

Posted: October 28, 2004
During a recent speech at Georgetown Law School, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor emphasized the growing importance of international law in U.S. courts, saying judges would be negligent if they disregarded its importance in a post-September 11th world of heightened tensions. O'Connor said the Supreme Court is taking cases that demand a better understanding of foreign legal systems, noting, "International law is no longer a specialty. ... It is vital if judges are to faithfully discharge their duties. Since September 11, 2001, we're reminded some

NEW VOICES: Texas Judge Calls for Halt to Executions

Posted: October 27, 2004
Judge Tom Price, a 30-year veteran Republican jurist on Texas's highest criminal court, recently stated that those on the state's death row convicted with evidence from the Houston Police Department crime lab should not be executed until questions about its work are resolved. Price called for a limited moratorium on executions, saying, "I think it would be prudent to delay further executions until we have had a chance to have this evidence independently verified. Once a death sentence is carried out, you cannot reverse that." The call came after Price