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POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: DNA Evidence Leads to Juvenile Offender's Release

Posted: June 30, 2004
Following a fifth round of DNA tests, a Louisiana death row inmate has been released on bond while awaiting a new trial. Earlier this year, Ryan Matthews' conviction and death sentence were overturned. The recent round of DNA tests on a ski mask, which prosecutors claimed was worn by Matthews during the crime, excluded Matthews but matched the genetic markers of another inmate. To date, no physical evidence linking Matthews to the crime has been found. Following the latest round of DNA testing, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney's office did not oppose Matthews' request for bond.

U.S. May Be Wavering on Respecting Extradition Conditions from Other Countries

Posted: June 30, 2004
The U.S. Justice Department indicated that it may no longer feel bound by extradition orders from other countries against the seeking of the death penalty in the U.S., a significant policy shift that experts feel could hinder international relations. In a preliminary case memo by federal District Court Judge Jack Weinstein, it was noted that a federal prosecutor had stated that officials in Washington believe a Dominican judge's order to not seek the death penalty for an extradited man is "not binding." Weinstein's memo stated that he

Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justices Urge Vote on Moratorium

Posted: June 30, 2004
Eight former North Carolina Supreme Court justices are urging the leadership of the North Carolina House of Representatives to allow a vote on legislation that would impose a two-year moratorium on executions in the state while capital punishment is studied. Among the 8 former justices are Democrats and Republicans, some who support the death penalty and others who oppose it. "This legislation is about fundamental fairness, an issue that should not be controversial. The recent exonerations of Alan Gell and Darryl Hunt give clear evidence of the

NEW VOICES: Texas Democrats Endorse Moratorium on Executions, End to Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: June 29, 2004
The Texas Democratic Party has adopted an historic party platform that contains a number of death penalty reform recommendations, including a call for legislators to enact a moratorium on executions, to ban the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally ill, and to consider adopting a life without paroles sentence in Texas. More than 1,700 attendees at the Democratic Party’s state convention signed a resolution calling for the moratorium, surpassing the 30% signature threshold required to bring a measure before the full voting

Death Penalty Took Heavy Toll on Malvo Jurors

Posted: June 28, 2004
Although Virginia jurors in the trial of Lee Boyd Malvo maintained their camaraderie during the six weeks of trial and deliberations on whether he was guilty of capital murder in one of a series of sniper shootings, the group became sharply divided when weighing the question of whether to sentence the teen to death. The jury foreman and a second member of the jury revealed that a core group of four jurors did not believe Malvo’s role in the murders warranted the death penalty. They stated that the debate between life and death destroyed the previously cordial atmosphere within the

Court Says New York’s Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional

Posted: June 25, 2004
New York’s highest court has ruled that a provision of the state’s capital punishment statute violates the state constitution, a decision that appears to invalidate the sentences of all four men on New York’s death row. In New York, if a jury deadlocks, the judge imposes a sentence of 20-25 years to life, giving the possibility of parole. In its 4-3 ruling, the Court of Appeals said that these sentencing rules might unconstitutionally coerce jurors into voting for a death sentence rather than risk a deadlock by holding out for life without parole. The Court advised the legislature to correct

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.