NEW RESOURCES (12/21): DPIC has released our "Year End Report: The Death Penalty in 2016," documenting continuing historic declines in death sentences, executions, and public support for the death penalty in the United States.
NEWS (1/19): The Texas Court of Appeals for the 13th District, an intermediate state appellate court, has dismissed all charges against Jerry Hartfield, an intellectually disabled former death row prisoner. Hartfield's conviction had been overturned and his death sentence commuted in 1983, and he had remained imprisoned without a conviction and without being tried for more than 30 years. Prosecutors must decide whether to appeal the order to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. If they do not, Hartfield's exoneration from death row will become final.
NEWS (1/19): The Florida Supreme Court overturned the death sentences imposed on three death row prisoners, but upheld the death sentence for one other under its 2016 decisions declaring that death sentences imposed in cases in wihch juries had not voted unanimously for death violated the state' and federal constitutions. In cases in which three jurors had voted for life, the court granted new sentencing trials to Lancelot Uriley Armstrong and Donald Otis Williams. It also granted a new penalty trial to William Kopsho, in whose case two jurors had voted for life. However, it upheld the death sentence imposed on Louis Gaskin after four of his jurors had voted for life, saying his sentence had already become final before the U.S. Supreme Court had declared the constitutional right to have a jury decide all facts necessary to impose a death sentence.
NEWS (1/18): Virginia has executed Ricky Gray. He was the 2nd execution in the U.S. in 2016, and the first in Virginia. The execution, which was the first in the U.S. to use a compounded version of the drug midazolam, took more than 30 minutes, with witnesses reporting that Gray shows signs of reacting to the execution drugs, even after corrections personnel performed a consciousness check.
NEWS (1/17): The Delaware Supreme Court continues to clear the state's death row after its decision in Rauf v. State declaring the state's death penalty statute unconstitutional. The Court vacated the death sentence imposed on Otis Phillips and directed that he be resentenced to life.
NEWS (1/13): The U.S. Supreme Court has granted petitions filed by death row prisoners in Alabama and Texas asking the Court to review their cases.
In McWilliams v, Dunn, No. 16-5294, the Court agreed to hear an Alabama death penalty case that raises a question about the independence of mental health experts who are appointed to assist an indigent capital defendant. James McWilliams argued that Alabama violated his right to due process when it provided him an expert who was not independent of the prosecution.
In Davila v. Davis, No. 16-6219, the Court agreed to hear a Texas death penalty case that raises a technical procedural question of when a state may assert the defendant's failure to raise a claim in state court as a bar to his obtaining review of a constitutional violation by the federal court. In Erick Davila's case, Davila argued that the federal habeas corpus court should hear his claim that his appeal lawyer had provided ineffective representation even though he had not presented that claim to the state courts in his post-conviction appeal because the state had also provided him an ineffective lawyer in his post-conviction proceedings.
NEWS (1/11): Texas has executed Christopher Wilkins. He is the first person to be executed in the United States in 2017.
NEWS (1/10): A federal jury in South Carolina has sentenced Dylann Roof to death in the killing of nine African-American parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
NEWS (1/10): A Virginia federal district court judge has denied a preliminary injunction that would have permitted Ricky Gray to obtain discovery and move forward with a lawsuit challenging Virginia's lethal injection procedures. Gray is scheduled to be executed on January 18, 2017.
NEWS (1/9): A federal jury in Boston Massachusetts has re-sentenced Gary Sampson to death on one of two capital murder charges arising out of two carjacking murders to which he had pled guilty and been sentenced to death in 2003. The jury did not reach a unanimous verdict on the second charge, which will result in a life sentence. Sampson had been granted a new penalty hearing as a result juror misconduct in his prior senterncing trial.
NEWS (1/5): Florida has released a new three-drug execution protocol in which it drops the use of the controversial sedative midazolam, which had been implicated in botched executions in at least four states.
NEWS (1/3): The California Attorney General's office has decided not to appeal a ruling by the California Court of Appeals, which had upheld a decision by an Orange County Superior Court judge to disqualify the entire Orange County District Attorney's office from the capital prosecution of accused murderer, Scott Dekraai. The Superior Court had removed the District Attorney's office from the case as a result of a history of withholding evidence about the county sheriff's unlawful planting of jailhouse informants to obtain confessions from defendants and for lying to the court about the unconstitutional informant program.
NEWS (1/3): With execution dates pending in January and February 2017, federal courts in Virginia and Ohio conducted evidentiary hearings on prisoners' challenges to lethal injection procedures employed in those states. Decisions are expected in advance of the scheduled execution dates.
NEW PODCAST -- Discussions with DPIC (12/22): DPIC's 2016 Year End Report. DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham and Director of Research and Special Projects Robin Konrad discuss the findings and themes of the 2016 DPIC Year End Report. This year marked historic lows in death sentences, executions, and public support for the death penalty. They explore the reasons for the declines, look at what this year's election results say about the death penalty, and describe the cases that resulted in executions this year. Click here to read the Year End Report, which is the basis for this episode. Download / Listen or Subscribe
DPIC 2016 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.