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News Series Investigates North Carolina Man's Innocence Claim

Posted: November 18, 2003
An 8-part series titled "Murder, Race, Justice: The State vs. Darryl Hunt" examines the case against Darryl Hunt, who has been in prison in North Carolina for nearly 20 years despite credible evidence of his innocence. The series concludes a six-month investigation conducted by The Winston-Salem Journal that found that police used questionable tactics and unreliable witnesses to convict Hunt for the 1984 rape and murder of reporter Deborah Sykes. It also reveals that instead of reinvestigating the crime after evidence of Hunt's innocence emerged, the state chose to
 

NEW RESOURCE: Scott Turow's "Ultimate Punishment"

Posted: November 17, 2003
In his latest book, "Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty," attorney and author Scott Turow provides a detailed look at his personal journey with the death penalty issue from his days as a federal prosecutor to his more recent service as a member of the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment. In addition to Turow's first-hand account, the book analyzes the potential reasons for and against the death penalty, discusses its impact on victims' families and politicians, and tells "the stories behind the statistics." (Farrar,
 

ACLU Report Finds Virginia's Death Penalty Riddled With Flaws, Recommends Reforms

Posted: November 17, 2003
In a report examining Virginia's death penalty system, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has urged the state to enact a moratorium on executions until its flawed capital punishment system is reformed. The report, "Broken Justice: The Death Penalty in Virginia," reviews issues such as the quality of defense counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, racial bias, innocence, and the execution of those with mental retardation and juvenile offenders. The findings, which were endorsed by a coalition of civic organizations in Virginia, led the ACLU to propose
 

Doctor Recants Testimony As North Carolina Man's Execution Date Approaches

Posted: November 11, 2003
Psychiatrist Cynthia Smith, who served as a key witness in the 1990 death penalty case against John Daniels of North Carolina, has recanted her testimony because state prosecutors withheld important information from her. "My testimony was erroneous with gross errors. Not only did the prosecution fail to give me all the relevant information, I did not look for the information either," White said in an affidavit about the testimony she gave in her first and only capital case. She added, "John Daniels used much more alcohol and crack cocaine before the killing than the prosecution
 

NEW RESOURCE: Bureau of Justice Statistics Releases 2002 Report

Posted: November 11, 2003
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released its yearly report on capital punishment on November 4, 2003. The figures reported were for the year 2002. (See also DPIC's Year End Report 2002). The BJS reported that death sentences in the U.S. have declined for four straight years, dropping by almost 50% since 1998. DPIC will release a report with 2003 figures in mid-December 2003. Read Capital Punishment, 2002.
 

NEW VOICES: Washington Judge States Death Penalty "No Longer Has Validity"

Posted: November 10, 2003

In a Seattle Times op-ed reflecting on the plea agreement for serial killer Gary Ridgway resulting in a life without parole sentence (read more), Washington State Superior Court Judge David A. Nichols stated that the "death penalty as a response to any criminal behavior no longer has validity and should be repealed, because it is impossible to administer with justice and fairness." He further noted:

 

Pardons Could Result From Destruction of Houston Lab DNA Evidence

Posted: November 6, 2003
Evidence from a capital murder case and seven other cases tested for DNA by the Houston Police Department's crime lab have been destroyed. The District Attorney's office said that it may have to ask for pardons in these cases if the defendants were convicted largely on the weight of DNA evidence. "We're going to have to alert the judges and the defense attorneys and evaluate each case to see what we have got to support the conviction without the DNA. If DNA played a large role, I may be writing the governor about more pardons," said District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. The eight cases
 

Texas Report Finds Noncompliance With State Defense Laws

Posted: November 6, 2003
A review of death penalty defense policies in Texas has uncovered widespread noncompliance with state laws that require each region to adopt qualification standards for capital defense attorneys. Only two of the nine judicial regions in Texas have adopted the standards. A report on the findings has been published by the Equal Justice Center, a Texas organization that advocates for greater fairness in the justice system, and the Texas Defender Service, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of
 

House Overwhelmingly Passes DNA Bill That Includes The Innocence Protection Act

Posted: November 6, 2003
By a vote of 357-67, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation designating $25 million in funding over five years for DNA testing that could help prove the innocence of some death row inmates. The bill also provides funding for states to improve the quality of legal representation for those facing capital charges. The bipartisan-supported bill, entitled The Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003 (H.R. 3214), includes a comprehensive package of programs that provides over $1 billion over the next five years to assist
 

North Carolina Newspaper Series Reveals Prosecutorial Misconduct in Death Penalty Cases

Posted: November 5, 2003
A Charlotte (North Carolina) News & Observer investigative series about the death penalty found that prosecutorial misconduct led to a number of North Carolina capital convictions being overturned, and that more cases are currently under review due to questions of improper behavior by the state. The series noted that prosecutors who have withheld evidence often receive no significant punishment. Among the cases highlighted in the report were the following:
  • Alan Gell was sentenced to death in 1998. Four years later, a Superior
 

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