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Louisiana's Death Penalty Record Comparable to Illinois's: Moratorium Called For

Posted: November 30, 2004
A review of Louisiana's death penalty in recent years revealed that twice as many condemned inmates have walked free from death row than have been executed. Since 1999, of the 22 people whose cases were finally resolved, 12 had their death sentences reversed and were ordered to serve lesser sentences, 6 were freed after courts ordered their charges dismissed, 1 died of natural causes, and 3 were executed. Of the three who were executed, two were represented by attorneys no longer allowed to practice law. One of the disbarred

NEW VOICES: Former FBI Chief and Texas Judge Call for Halt to Texas Executions

Posted: November 29, 2004
William S. Sessions, who served as director of the FBI from 1987 to 1993, and Charles F. Baird, a former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge from 1990 to 1998, have called for a halt to executions in Texas because of the risk of executing an innocent person. Sessions and Baird, both of whom are native Texans, cited the problems at the Houston Crime Lab as a principal reason for their doubts about the reliability of the death penalty system:

Since November 2002, when its police department's crime lab problems first surfaced, Houston citizens have

PUBLIC OPINION: Gallup Poll Finds Decline in Support for the Death Penalty

Posted: November 23, 2004
A recent Gallup Poll measuring public opinion regarding the death penalty revealed a decline in support for capital punishment. The poll found that 66% of Americans support the death penalty for those convicted of murder, down 5% from an earlier 2004 poll and significantly lower than the high of 80% in 1994. In an analysis of Gallup polls on this question from 2001 to 2004, women were more likely to oppose the death penalty than men. Among African-American respondents, 49% opposed the death penalty

North Carolina Prepares to Execute Man Convicted Solely on Snitch Testimony

Posted: November 23, 2004
Charles Walker is scheduled to be executed in North Carolina on December 3 for the 1992 murder of Elmon Davidson. His conviction rests solely on the testimony of snitch testimony because authorities were unable to find Davidson's body or any evidence linking Walker to the crime. Walker's attorneys have asked North Carolina Governor Mike Easley to grant clemency for their client and to reduce his sentence to life in prison without parole.

Walker was convicted on the testimony of five witnesses whose recollections of the crime were inconsistent and could not be

NEW VOICES: New York Lawmakers Say Death Penalty's Future May Be in Doubt

Posted: November 23, 2004
According to prominent New York lawmakers, there is little chance that legislators will pass a bill this year to fix the state's unconstitutional death penalty. Many experts believe that the state's statute, which N.Y.'s highest court struck down earlier this year, may never be re-enacted. Republican Senator Dale M. Volker noted that when the Court of Appeals struck down the law, New York heard "the death knell of the death penalty, for the time being." Sheldon Silver, the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly and a death penalty proponent, noted that

Editorials Note Growing Unease With Death Penalty

Posted: November 23, 2004
Editorials in papers around the country have noted that many Americans are rethinking the death penalty because it is deeply flawed. Among the recent editorial observations were the following:

New Jersey's Star-Ledger

Fewer people are being given the death penalty in the United States, according to the Justice Department, which says such sentences are at a 30-year low. Last year, the number of people who were sentenced to die totaled 144.

While these numbers are heartening in that they reflect a decrease in

COSTS: Indiana Spends Millions on Death Penalty But Prosecutors Unsure of Its Future

Posted: November 22, 2004
According to a recent news report, Indiana taxpayers spend millions of dollars to send dozens of people to death row, but more than half of those sentenced have had their convictions overturned or their sentences vacated. In addition, the rising costs of the death penalty have resulted in a more arbitrary application of capital punishment due to funding constraints in certain rural counties, a fact that has many state residents questioning the punishment's true value. Defense expenses in capital trials can cost the state more than $500,000 per case, and that

Conservative Support Moves Ohio Death Penalty Study Bill

Posted: November 17, 2004
With bipartisan support, Ohio's House of Representatives passed a bill to create an 18-member committee to conduct an exhaustive study of capital punishment in the state. Under the bill, which passed by a vote of 64-30 in the Republican-controlled House, the committee would examine all capital trials since the state reinstated the punishment in 1981. The committee would examine issues such as race, gender, and the economic status of defendants and their victims. It would also investigate whether death row inmates receive adequate legal counsel, whether capital cases are

NEW VOICES: Former Missouri Chief Justice Reiterates His Concerns about Capital Punishment

Posted: November 17, 2004
Former Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Blackmar recently reiterated his opposition to the death penalty and his concerns about wrongful convictions, noting that the exoneration of Missouri death row inmate Joseph Amrine "makes me wonder how many people there are who were wrongfully convicted." Amrine spent 26 years in prison, 17 of them on death row, before his conviction was overturned and he was released in July 2003. "The lesson is that people were persuaded eventually that he was innocent. But there are a fair number

NEW RESOURCE: The American Prospect Issues Special Report on U.S. Human Rights

Posted: November 16, 2004
The latest edition of The American Prospect features a series of articles by prominent writers and human rights leaders regarding the effect of the international movement for human rights on the U.S. Two of the articles highlight U.S. death penalty policies. Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh points out the conflict between the U.S.'s efforts to support international human rights and our domestic practices such as the use of the juvenile death penalty. "In my view, by far the most dangerous and destructive form of American