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Supreme Court to Hear Pennsylvania Death Penalty Case

Posted: September 29, 2004
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear a death row appeal from a Pennsylvania man who maintains that jurors at his trial should have been told that they had the option of sentencing him to life without parole instead of the death penalty.

Arkansas Execution Stayed, Raising New Legal Questions

Posted: September 29, 2004
The execution of Rickey Dale Newman in Arkansas, scheduled for the night of September 28, was stayed by the state Supreme Court. Newman had waived his appeals. Nevertheless, there is evidence that he may be mentally retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia (2002) that people with mental retardation cannot be executed. Newman's case raises the question of whether a third party can intervene to request a stay of execution, even though the defendant does not want to appeal but is mentally retarded. (DPIC; also Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Sept. 29, 2004).

Innocence Case Results in Prosecutor Reprimands

Posted: September 28, 2004
The North Carolina State bar has reprimanded two former assistant attorney generals for withholding evidence that could have prevented the wrongful conviction of Alan Gell, who was finally freed from death row in 2004 (pictured). The State Bar panel found that prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves failed to turn over evidence to Gell, did not adequately supervise the conduct of their chief investigator for the case, and brought the judicial system into disrepute by their conduct. Hoke and Graves received a written reprimand for their behavior, which the panel found to be

NEW VOICES: Author of Arizona's Death Penalty Law Has Second Thoughts

Posted: September 28, 2004
When Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was a senator in Arizona, one of the people she asked to draft the state's death penalty law was Rudolph Gerber. She requested that he "write a law we can live with." Mr. Gerber went on to become a prosecutor, an Arizona trial judge, and eventually a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals for 13 years. He recently expressed his changing views on capital punishment as he experienced how the law was put into practice:


NEW RESOURCE: Law Review Adresses "Who Deserves Death?"

Posted: September 27, 2004

Articles from a symposium entitled "Rethinking the Death Penalty: Can We Define Who Deserves Death?" can be found in the Fall 2003 edition of the Pace Law Review. The symposium, hosted by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York in May 2002, featured speakers Robert Blecker, Jeffrey Kirchmeier, the Honorable William Erlbaum, David Von Drehle, and Jeffrey Fagan. The speakers addressed the question of whether it is possible to limit the death penalty to the "worst of the worst" and, if so, who would fall


NEW RESOURCE: Address to the American Correctional Association on the Death Penalty

Posted: September 23, 2004
The American Correctional Association has recently published the proceedings of their 2003 Annual Conference in Nashville containing a presentation by DPIC Executive Director Richard Dieter on the death penalty. The text of the speech is available on DPIC's site, click here. The full publication is available from the ACA, and also contains remarks on the death penalty by Prof. John McAdams of Marquette. (The State of Corrections: 2003 Proceedings, ACA Annual Conferences, American Correctional

NEW RESOURCE: More Blacks Deprived of Vote Because of Felony Convictions

Posted: September 23, 2004
A new report by The Sentencing Project, "The Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement in Atlanta, Georgia," examines the racial effects of depriving citizens of voting rights because of criminal convictions. The report reveals sharp disparities in voting eligibility by race and neighborhood. Among the report's key findings are the following:

  • One out of every seven African American males in Atlanta is disenfranchised as a result of a felony conviction;
  • One-third of the black male disenfranchisement rate in Georgia is

Innocence Protection Act Advances in U.S. House and Senate

Posted: September 22, 2004
Just one day after the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed the "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act," a measure that includes the Innocence Protection Act and that ensures access to post-conviction DNA testing for those in prison with claims of innocence, the bill has been incorporated into legislation introduced in the House Judiciary Committee. As part of the "Justice for All Act of 2004," the DNA bill is anticipated to quickly advance to the House floor for a vote, after which point it can

Autopsies of Executed Inmates by State Medical Examiners Reveal Probability of Botched Procedures

Posted: September 17, 2004
An autopsy of the last man executed in Kentucky, Edward L. Harper, found only 3 to 6.5 milligrams per liter of barbiturate in Harper’s blood – a level leaving a high chance that Harper was conscious throughout the execution and that he felt pain when he was injected with subsequent drugs that paralyzed and suffocated him, and then stopped his heart. Dr. Mark Dershwitz, the prosecution expert who developed the standards that Kentucky relies upon, said the low level of barbiturate found in Mr.

Report Analyzes Washington Death Penalty System

Posted: September 16, 2004
A new report from the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center reviews the efficiency of Washington State’s death penalty system. The report includes an overview of Washington’s statute and an explanation of the differences between capital and non-capital cases, demonstrating why capital cases require significantly greater resources. The authors report that:

o Of death penalty cases that completed the appeals process, 81% were overturned after errors were found. When those cases were tried a second time, not one of the inmates received a death sentence.