NEW PODCAST -- Discussions with DPIC (11/28): Moore v. Texas, Intellectual Disability, and the Death Penalty. As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral argument Nov. 29 in Moore v. Texas and consider the constitutionality of that state’s approach to deciding whether a defendant is intellectually disabled, Cornell Law School Professor John Blume joins DPIC's Anne Holsinger to discuss intellectual disability and the death penalty. Prof. Blume provides context on the Supreme Court's 2002 decision, Atkins v. Virginia, which banned the execution of defendants with intellectual disabilities, and describes the clinical criteria used in most determinations of intellectual disability. In the second half of the conversation, Professor Blume explains Texas' idiosyncratic method for determining intellectual disability, the background of the Moore case, and how the Court's decision in Moore may affect the death penalty system in Texas and other states. Listen or Subscribe
NEWS (12/2): The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay of execution to John Battaglia with directions to the parties to file briefs within 60 days on the question of whether Battaglia is competent to be executed. Battaglia had been scheduled to be executed on December 7.
NEWS (12/1): The Florida Supreme Court has granted limited relief in two more cases whose constitutionality had been put in question by recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The state court granted Paul Beasley Johnson a new sentencing hearing, ruling that the death sentence imposed by the court after the jury split on the appropriate punishment violated the Hurst v. Florida. It was the third time Johnson's conviction or death sentence had been overturned. The court also granted Roger Lee Cherry an evidentiary hearing to determine if he is ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability, holding that the lower court's decision applying a strict 70 IQ cutoff in his case violated Hall v. Florida.
NEWS (11/28): After ruling on Nov. 25 that Dylann Roof is competent to stand trial, a federal judge in South Carolina has granted a motion to permit Roof to represent himself in the murders of 9 African American parishioners at the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
NEWS (11/23): The Florida Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence imposed by a trial judge on Richard Franklin after the jury in his case had divided 9-3 on its sentencing recommendation violated Franklin's right to a jury trial and that the constitutional error was not harmless. The court remanded his case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. However, Florida currently does not have any constitutionally valid statute in place to conduct a resentencing.
NEWS (11/22): After a count of provisional and absentee ballots, Associated Press reports that California voters approved Proposition 66 and its limitations on death penalty appeals, with Yes receiving 51.3% of the votes cast on the proposition.
NEWS (11/22): A California appeals court has upheld a trial court ruling disqualifying the entire Orange County District Attorney's office from prosecuting the capital sentencing hearing of Scott Dekraai. The trial court had disqualified office for repeatedly withholding evidence about an unconstitutional jailhouse informant program and then lying about it to the court. The 4th District Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling, citing "substantial" failures to turn over evidence to the defense and saying that the county prosecutors "cannot be relied upon to comply" with their constitutional obligations.
NEWS (11/22): A Caddo Parish, Louisiana trial court has freed Rodricus Crawford on bond, pending a court appearance on January 30, 2017 to determine whether prosecutors will attempt to retry him after the Louisiana Supreme Court overturned Crawford's conviction and death sentence. National experts in a variety of medical fields have submitted affidavits concluding that Crawford's son, whom he was convicted of killing, was not murdered at all, but died of pneumonia and sepsis.
NEWS (11/22): The Alabama Supreme Court has has denied Ronald Smith's petition challenging the constitutionality of the state's death penalty statute under Hurst v. Florida. A trial judge sentence Smith to death despite the 7-5 recommendation by the jury that he receive a life sentence. Smith, who is scheduled to be executed December 8, is expected to seek review in the United States Supreme Court.
NEWS (11/18): The Alabama Supreme Court has issued decisions denying relief or refusing to consider appeals in five cases brought by Alabama death row prisoners. The Alabama courts had denied a claim filed by Christopher Anthony Floyd that he was entitled to a new trial because prosecutors had struck 10 of 11 African-American jurors In his case. The United States Supreme Court had reversed that decision and directed Alabama to reconsider that decision in light of the Supreme Court's decision on race discrimination in jury selection earlier this year in Foster v. Chatman. On November 18, the Alabama Supreme Court again denied relief.
NEWS (11/18): The Alabama Supreme Court also declined, without opinion, to review the appeals of four capital defendants who had argued that the Alabama death penalty statute violated their rights to a jury trial by allowing the trial judge, rather than the jury, to make critical fact finding decisions that could result in a death sentence. The trial court in those cases had declared the state's statute unconstitutional, but an intermediate appeals court had overturned that decision.
NEWS (11/18): An Alabama federal district court has dismissed the challenge brought by Ronald Smith to Alabama's three-drug execution protocol. Smith is scheduled to be executed on December 8. Smith, who was sentenced to death after a judge overrode his jury's 7-5 recommendation for a life sentence, filed a challenge to Alabama's death-sentencing practices in the state's supreme court on November 14. See Upcoming Executions.
NEWS (11/17): The Florida Supreme Court vacated death sentences imposed in two cases and ordered that Robert McCloud and Terrance Phillips be resentenced to life without parole, finding that the death penalty was a disproportionate punishment in both cases.
NEWS (11/16): Georgia has executed Steven Frederick Spears after lawyers for the prosecution and the defense told the court that mental health experts had found Spears competent to waive his appeals. Spears was the 18th execution in the U.S. in 2016 and the 8th in Georgia. He is the 145th death row prisoner since 1976 to have been executed in the U.S. after waiving his or her appeals.
NEWS (11/16): The Louisiana Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of Rodricus Crawford (pictured) and ordered that he be given a new trial in a controversial death penalty case that attracted national attention amid evidence of race discrimination, prosecutorial excess, and actual innocence. The court ruled that his trial prosecutor had unconstitutionally exercised discretionary jury strikes to exclude black jurors from serving in his case.
NEWS (11/9): California death penalty opponents have filed a taxpayer suit to block Proposition 66 from going into effect. Among other things, Prop 66 seeks to limit state death penalty appeals, eliminate administrative review of the execution process, make changes in jurisdiction over capital appeals, change the process for identifying and assigning death penalty appeals lawyers, and change the housing status of the state's death-row prisoners. The suit was filed Wednesday by former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp and former El Dorado County supervisor Ron Briggs.
DPIC 2015 Year End Report
DPIC Podcast Series: We have begun a new set of podcasts on the death penalty in each state, each with interesting historical facts. The following are now available: Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. Check out our podcasts now! Also listen to DPIC's podcasts on death penalty issues.