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House Overwhelmingly Passes DNA Bill That Includes The Innocence Protection Act

By a vote of 357-67, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation designating $25 million in funding over five years for DNA testing that could help prove the innocence of some death row inmates. The bill also provides funding for states to improve the quality of legal representation for those facing capital charges. The bipartisan-supported bill, entitled The Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003 (H.R. 3214), includes a comprehensive package of programs that provides over $1 billion over the next five years to assist
 

North Carolina Newspaper Series Reveals Prosecutorial Misconduct in Death Penalty Cases

A Charlotte (North Carolina) News & Observer investigative series about the death penalty found that prosecutorial misconduct led to a number of North Carolina capital convictions being overturned, and that more cases are currently under review due to questions of improper behavior by the state. The series noted that prosecutors who have withheld evidence often receive no significant punishment. Among the cases highlighted in the report were the following:
  • Alan Gell was sentenced to death in 1998. Four years later, a Superior
 

ARBITRARINESS: Serial Killer Receives Life Sentence While 3,500 Others Face Execution

In a plea agreement reached with Washington state prosecutors, Gary Ridgway, a Seattle-area man who admitted to 48 murders since 1982, will serve a sentence of life in prison without parole. Prosecutors spared Ridgway from execution in exchange for his cooperation in leading police to the remains of still-missing victims. (Associated Press, November 5, 2003)
 

Race Plays Powerful Role in Washington State Death Penalty Cases

Race plays a significant role in who receives the death penalty in Washington. Research compiled by the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center, revealed that death notices have never been filed in a case with a white defendant and a black victim, while such notices have been filed in 42% of murder cases with a black defendant and a white victim. Of the 10 individuals currently on death row in Washington, nine cases involved a white victim and none involved a black victim. In addition, every juror that convicted and sentenced the black defendants
 

NEW VOICES: Justice O'Connor Stresses Importance of International Law

During a speech hosted by the Southern Center for International Studies in Atlanta, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stressed the importance of international law for American courts and the need for the United States to create a more favorable impression abroad. She cited recent Supreme Court cases, including the Court's ruling to ban the execution of those with mental retardation, that illustrate the increased willingness of U.S. courts to take international law into account. "I suspect that over time we will rely increasingly, or take notice at least increasingly, on international
 

NEW RESOURCE: The Innocents

A new book of photography by Taryn Simon features portraits of 45 men and women who served more than 500 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. The book includes summaries of each case accompanied by related images, such as re-creations of the scenes of the arrest, portraits of alibi witnesses, or vignettes from the lives of the wrongfully convicted. The book also contains commentary by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld of The Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School in New York. (Umbrage Editions, 2003). See Resources.
 

NEW VOICES: Conservative Commentator Concludes that the Death Penalty Can No Longer Stand the Test of Reason

In a recent column examining Massachusetts' consideration of the death penalty, conservative columnist George Will cites the conclusions of death penalty experts who have closely examined the accuracy and effectiveness of this punishment. Will cited the work of the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment and especially the experience of author Scott Turow. Will believes that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's effort to find a faultless death penalty will ultimately fail:
 A properly, meaning narrowly, drawn capital punishment
 

Report Reveals Police Rarely Reopen Cases After Death Row Exonerations

A report in the Chicago Tribune reveals that police and prosecutors rarely pursue new leads and suspects after a wrongly convicted defendant has been exonerated of the crime and released from death row. As a result, few suspects are brought to justice for crimes once considered so heinous that they were worthy of the death penalty, and the actual perpetrators remain in society to potentially commit additional crimes. The Tribune report noted that court records indicate that an alternate suspect was identified in dozens of cases that resulted in
 

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