What's New

Justice Department Releases "Capital Punishment, 2003"

Posted: November 12, 2004

Mirroring statistics released this year in the Death Penalty Information Center's Innocence Report, the Justice Department's Capital Punishment, 2003 revealed that the nation's death row is continuing to decline and that the amount of time between death sentencing and execution has increased. Compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the report noted that 3,374 inmates were on death row at the conclusion of 2003, 188 fewer than a year earlier.


Inmate Exonerated of Murder After His Death; Co-Defendant Who Had Been Given Death Sentence Exonerated Earlier

Posted: November 9, 2004
A murder charge against Louis Greco was finally dismissed by Massachusetts authorities 9 years after he died in prison. According to the Associated Press, in 2000, a Justice Department task force uncovered secret F.B.I. memoranda showing that Mr. Greco and three co-defendants, Peter J. Limone, Joseph Salvati, and Edward Tameleo, had been wrongly convicted of a murder that occurred in 1965 based on perjured testimony. (Limone had been sentenced to death, but was later released and exonerated in 2001.

NEW RESOURCE: Capital Punishment Research Initiative

Posted: November 5, 2004
Based at the State University of New York's Albany campus, the Capital Punishment Research Initiative (CPRI) is dedicated to conducting and supporting empirical and historical studies of the death penalty. CPRI research is conducted by the University's graduate students and professors, as well as by collaborating researchers from around the country. The center's current projects include:

  • Capital Jury Project II - Research on the decision-making of capital jurors. This research draws on the literature concerning cognitive schema, identification and empathy, the

NEW RESOURCE: New York's Wrongful Convictions

Posted: November 4, 2004
Scott Christianson's new book, Innocent: Inside Wrongful Conviction Cases, examines mistakes in New York's criminal justice system with an emphasis on mistaken identifications, perjury by eyewitnesses, ineffective counsel, false confessions, and police and prosecutorial misconduct. The book includes a log of the state's wrongful conviction cases, including some capital cases. Christianson reminds readers, "Unfortunately, not much is known about the current nature and extent of wrongful conviction. The state does not maintain a master list of its mistakes." He does

Juveniles and the Mentally Disabled More Likely to Give False Confessions

Posted: November 4, 2004
Studies and surveys have found that both minors and the mentally impaired are more likely to make false confessions, in part because they are more vulnerable to suggestion. A recent study conducted by Northwestern University law professor Steve Drizin and UC Irvine criminologist Richard Leo examined 125 cases in which individuals were exonerated after giving false confessions. The researchers found that 32% of the cases involved minors and 22% of the cases involved individuals with mental retardation. "They are more likely to go along,

NY Times Magazine Article on the Science of Adolescent Brain Development

Posted: November 4, 2004
As the U.S. Supreme Court considers Roper v. Simmons, a case that will determine the constitutionality of executing juvenile offenders, new scientific research continues to emerge regarding the brain development of those under 18 years of age. New MRI-based research has shown that the brain continues to develop and mature into the mid-20's, and that prior to the completion of this process, adolescents use their brains in different ways than adults. For example, teens often operate from a more instinctual and reflexive part

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).