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POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Federal Judge Throws Out Texas Capital Conviction

Posted: August 6, 2004
A federal judge has thrown out Ernest Ray Willis' capital conviction after finding "strong reason to be concerned that Willis may be actually innocent" and that West Texas authorities needlessly drugged him and concealed evidence at his trial. The decision casts doubt on Willis' 1987 conviction for the arson-murder of two women in Pecos County, a crime that another death row inmate, David Long, later confessed he had committed. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson said that anti-psychotic medication used incorrectly by prison

North Carolina Governor Signs Open Discovery Bill Into Law

Posted: August 5, 2004
North Carolina Governor Mike Easley signed a bill into law that requires prosecutors to share their files in all felony cases. The bill was approved in the wake of allegations that prosecutors withheld evidence in the capital murder trial of Alan Gell, who was later exonerated and freed from death row. The new open discovery statute requires district attorneys to open their investigative files in felony cases to defense lawyers who request such access prior to trial. The law requires DAs to provide such things as police investigator notes,

Experts on Adolescence Call for End to Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: August 3, 2004
An op-ed appearing in the Arizona Republic and authored by Dr. Mark Wellek, past president of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, and Carol Kamin, current president of the Arizona Chapter of the Children's Action Alliance, echoed growing national concerns about the culpability of juvenile offenders who face capital charges despite scientific evidence that they may be less culpable than adult offenders. Wellek and Kamin noted:

"American society has many gray areas. Our many cultures, systems and ideologies overlap in small ways and

Prosecutor Forgoes Costly Death Penalty Trial

Posted: July 30, 2004
In Alameda County, California, prosecutors announced that they will not seek the death penalty against Richard Dean Wilson because it is unlikely that a jury would return a death sentence. State authories say the decision to seek a life sentence for Wilson avoids a costly death penalty case and saves taxpayer dollars from financing a lengthy trial with an uncertain outcome. Wilson pleaded no contest to the murder of Angela Marie Bledsoe. Prosecutor Jim Anderson noted, "This was the best penalty phase mitigation I have ever seen. We

Judge Accused of Assisting Prosecution in Capital Cases

Posted: July 30, 2004
The California Supreme Court is asking the state's attorney general's office to explain why Fred Freeman's death sentence should not be reversed on allegations that a now-deceased Superior Court Judge colluded with prosecutors to ensure a capital conviction by eliminating potential Jewish jurors. The Supreme Court issued the show cause order after Freeman's attorneys filed a claim stating that Freeman was denied a fair trial because Judge Stanley Golde allegedly told prosecutors to keep Jews off the jury because they would never vote to send someone to the gas chamber. Prosecutor John

NEW VOICES: Texas DA Sees "Beginning of the End of the Death Penalty"

Posted: July 29, 2004

In Texas, Jefferson County District Attorney Tom Maness recently noted that the time-consuming and costly nature of capital punishment may lead to its demise. "I think this is the beginning of the end of the death penalty," said Maness after a Criminal District Court Judge recommended that the Court of Criminal Appeals commute the death sentence of Walter Bell to life in prison.


NEW RESOURCE: Study Identifies Flaws in Recent Deterrence Research

Posted: July 28, 2004
A new study conducted by Professor Richard Berk of the UCLA Department of Statistics has identified significant statistical problems with the data analysis used to support recent studies claiming to show that executions deter crime in the United States. In "New Claims about Executions and General Deterrence: Deja Vu All Over Again?," Professor Berk addresses the problem of "influence," which occurs when a very small and atypical fraction of the available data dominates the statistical results of a study. He found that this statistical problem

New York Legislators Put Off Attempts to Fix State's Death Penalty Law

Posted: July 27, 2004
Despite efforts by some state leaders to quickly "fix" the state's death penalty statue, opposition from many legislators halted attempts to pass a bill before the summer recess at the end of July. At a legislative conference on the issue, Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry noted that "a lot of people who spoke were against it." These sentiments prompted Majority Leader Paul Tokasz to announce that legislators were "going to take some time with it" before deciding how to address concerns raised by the court. The Court of Appeals struck

DPIC Presents 2004 Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards

Posted: July 26, 2004
The Death Penalty Information Center honored journalists and producers from the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, Frontline, Sound Portraits Productions, and investigative journalist Alan Berlow during its 8th Annual Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards at the National Press Club on Monday, July 26. The awards honor those journalists who have made an exceptional contribution to the understanding of problems associated with capital punishment. Award-winning human rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director

As Alabama Prepares to Execute Elderly, Ill Inmate, Officials Block Clemency Petition

Posted: July 22, 2004
A clemency letter-writing campaign organized by Alabama death row prisoners on behalf of James Barney Hubbard, an ailing 74-year-old man who is scheduled to be executed on August 5th, was recently halted by Department of Correction authorities at Donaldson Prison. Just two months before Hubbard's scheduled execution, Willie Dorrell Minor wrote a clemency petition to Alabama Governor Robert Riley. He planned to have the petition asking Riley to spare Hubbard's life signed by other individuals on the state's death row before submitting