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Federal Judge Declares Electrocution Unconstitutional and Ring v. Arizona to be Retroactive

In a decision vacating the death penalty for Nebraska death row inmate Charles Jess Palmer, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon declared that electrocution is unconstitutional. Bataillon wrote, "In light of evidence and evolving standards of decency, the court would find that a death penalty sentence imposed on a defendant in a state that provides electrocution as its only method of execution is an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Nebraska is the only state that maintains electrocution as its sole method of execution. Bataillon's ruling also stated that the U.S.

 

NEW RESOURCE: The Angolite Focuses On Texas Death Penalty

The most recent edition of The Angolite, a bimonthly magazine produced by inmates at Louisiana's Angola State Penitentiary, focuses on the Texas death penalty. The publication's feature article, "If Not For Texas," is an overview of capital punishment in Texas compared to other states and to national death penalty developments. The high number of executions in Texas, inadequate representation, innocence, juveniles, race, victims' families, the mentally retarded, and women on death row are among the topics discussed.

 

World Day Against the Death Penalty

Amnesty International members around the world are observing the organization's inaugural World Day Against the Death Penalty. The October 10, 2003, observance includes activities sponsored in conjunction with the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. In addition to an Internet demonstration for all countries that still practice the death penalty demanding the immediate end to all executions, the day's events will include debates, lectures, and demonstrations to raise public awareness and promote change.

 

Experts Warn Execution Drug May Mask Suffering

A growing number of medical and legal experts are warning that the chemical pancuronium bromide, a commonly used lethal injection drug, could leave a wide-awake inmate unable to speak or cry out as he slowly suffocates. Advances in medicine have found that the drug, used by executioners to paralyze the skeletal muscles while not affecting the body's brain or nerves, can mask severe suffering.

 

Inadequate Representation in Pennsylvania Produces Large Death Row

When New Jersey enacted its death penalty law in 1982, it established a special unit of lawyers and experts for defendants facing capital charges. After two decades, the state has 14 individuals on death row. In contrast, when Pennsylvania enacted its death penalty law, the state failed to establish a similar system for assistance. For Pennsylvania, a state of comparable population to New Jersey, the result of this decision has been a death row population of 237 and a capital punishment system that is plagued by evidence of inadequate representation.

 

Death Penalty Declines in Key Areas

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Pima County, Arizona have been the main jurisdictions in their respective states for death sentences in the past. Now they are sending considerably fewer people to death row or seeking the death penalty less. Philadelphia prosecutors have sought the death penalty 24 times since last September, but jurors from the city have not sent anyone to death row in more than a year. In fact, the city has only secured death sentences against 4 people since 2000.

 

NEW VIDEO: American Constitution Society Death Penalty Panel

A streaming video on the death penalty from the American Constitution Society's first National Conference August 1-3, 2003 in Washington, DC is now available. Participants included Joseph Curran, Attorney General of Maryland; Angela Davis, American University professor of law; John Gibbons, former Chief Justice of the 3d Circuit US Court of Appeals; Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama; and Diann Rust-Tierney, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project.

 

NEW RESOURCE: "Poetic Justice" Explores Life on Death Row

"Poetic Justice: Reflections on the Big House, the Death House and the American Way of Justice" is Professor Robert Johnson's first collection of poems about prison and capital punishment. The collection explores the day-to-day life of prisoners and examines the emotional impact of serving time on death row. Johnson, a professor of justice, law and society at American University, is an award-winning author of several social science books on crime and punishment and has won the Outstanding Book Award from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

 

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