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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.


RESOURCES: BJS Report Finds Murder Rate Unchanged

Posted: September 16, 2004
In the latest National Crime Victimization Survey, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that the U.S. murder rate for 2003 was about 5.6 per 100,000 persons, unchanged from 2001 and 2002. Of the victims of murder, approximately 49% were white and 49% were black. (DPIC note: While the report found that the race of victims is evenly split nationally, victims in death penalty cases are mostly white (about 81%)). In murder cases, 76% of the offenders were known to the victim, and 24% of offenders were strangers. Firearms were used in 71% of murders and homicides were

NEW VOICES: Many Call For A More Thorough Review of the Death Penalty in NY

Posted: September 16, 2004
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a long time supporter of capital punishment, called for New York's legislature to step back and more thoroughly review the state's death penalty system, which has not resulted in any executions and has cost the state more than $170 million in the last decade. Speaker Silver said that his chamber would not follow the lead of the state Senate, which passed an amendment to fix the state's death penalty law without hearings. "After 10 years of having the death penalty, and very limited ...


Posted: September 15, 2004
The Death Penatly Information Center has issued a new report, Innocence and the Crisis in the American Death Penalty, cataloging 116 cases of former death row inmates who have been exonerated in 25 states since 1973. The report also notes that as the number of innocent people freed from death row has risen and become more public in recent years, there has been a dramatic drop in death sentences around the country. The number of death sentences, which have been steadily dropping since 1998, are now about 50% less than they were in the late 1990s.

RESOURCES: Bloodsworth--The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA

Posted: September 14, 2004
A new biography by Tim Junkin entitled Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA recounts the events that led first to the conviction and death sentence, and then to the freeing of Kirk Bloodsworth for the murder of a nine-year-old girl in Maryland.

NEW VOICES: Lead Prosecutor Questions Value of Death Penalty

Posted: September 13, 2004
Thomas F. Kelaher, the new president of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey, said that it is time to start rethinking the use of the death penalty in the state. Although Kelaher is a supporter of the death penalty, he noted: "If the death penalty hasn't been used in 20 years, society should ask if it should be continued. It was supposed to act as a deterrent. If it hasn't been used in 20 years, you really can't say it's a deterrent."

NEW RESOURCE: DePaul University's Race to Execution Symposium

Posted: September 10, 2004
Presentations at DePaul University's symposium on Race and the Death Penalty were recently published in the university’s Law Review. National experts examined statistical evidence and attitudes regarding race discrimination in the capital punishment system. A keynote address was delivered by Bryan Stevenson, Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, and former Governor George Ryan gave the closing remarks. To read DPIC's summary of the articles click here.

Innocence Protection Legislation Delayed in Senate Judiciary

Posted: September 10, 2004
Despite broad bipartisan Congressional support for the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act, which includes the "Innocence Protection Act" (IPA) to help states pay for the costs of post-conviction DNA testing, the Senate Judiciary Committee has delayed action on the bill. Kirk Bloodsworth (pictured), whose name accompanies the IPA, urged Congress to act: "Nobody should have to wait for justice. I struggled for nearly 20 years to clear my name. This legislation will prevent innocent people from ending up on death row, and it will ensure

Federal Judge Vacates One of California's Oldest Death Sentences

Posted: September 9, 2004
A federal judge has overturned one of California's oldest death sentences based on his finding that the 1979 trial of Earl Lloyd Jackson was tainted by unreliable jailhouse informants and poor representation. "The special circumstance finding and the death sentences in this case rest on an evidentiary foundation constructed largely from the false testimony of two jailhouse informants," wrote U.S. District Judge Edward Rafeedie in his ruling. Rafeedie further found a "dereliction of duty" by prosecutors and Jackson's defense attorney,