NEW DISCUSSIONS WITH DPIC PODCAST: Women and the Death Penalty, With Professor Mary Atwell.
In observance of Women's History Month, DPIC staff members Anne Holsinger and Robin Konrad interview Mary Atwell, Ph.D., one of the nation’s foremost experts on women on death row. The podcast discusses Dr. Atwell's research and highlights the themes and patterns present in capital murder cases in which women were the defendants.
NEWS (3/24): The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has reinstated a prison-conditions lawsuit brought by Virginia death-row prisoners. The decision reverses a ruling by a federal district court that had declared the suit moot after the Virginia Department of Corrections had agreed to change the challenge policies. However, Virginia prison officials refused to rule out returning to the challenged policies in the future.
NEWS (3/23): The Florida Supreme Court has decided another three death penalty cases involving the application of the Hurst v. Florida and Hurst v. State decisions declaring Florida's capital sentencing procedures unconstitutional.
The court granted new sentencing trials to Randall Deviney, Cornelius Baker, and Kenneth Jackson, whom judges had sentenced to death after non-unanimous jury recommendations for death. The jury votes were 8-4 in Smith's case, 9-3 in Baker's case, and 11-1 in Jackson's case.
NEWS (3/21): Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has granted full pardons to the "Norfolk Four," wrongly convicted of rape and murder based on false confessions and false testimony obtained by threatening them with the death penalty. Danial Williams, Derek Tice, and Joseph Dick were sentenced to life imprisonment after their convictions for rape and murder. Eric Wilson was wrongly convicted of rape.
NEWS (3/21): The Judiciary Committee of the Arkansas House of Representatives considered three death penalty bills, rejecting by voice vote bills that would create an exemption from the death penalty for those with serious mental illness and would change the prosecution's burden of proof in capital cases to beyond all doubt. Consideration of a bill to repeal the death penalty was deferred pending an amendment to provisions on the life-sentencing replacement for capital punishment. See Recent Legislative Activity.
NEWS (3/20): The United States Supreme Court has issued rulings declining to review three cases presenting questions about states' use of unscientific standards to reject claims that a defendant is ineligible for the death penalty because of intellectual disability.
The Court denied certiorari in Payne v. Tennessee, No. 16-395, and Sims v. Tennessee, No. 16-445, declining to review the decision of the Tennessee Supreme Court refusing to retroactively apply the Court's 2014 decision in Hall v. Florida to the cases of death-row prisoners Pervis Payne and Vincent Sims. Hall rejected Florida's use of an IQ cutoff score of 70 to automatically deny a defendant's claim of intellectual disability.
The Court also denied certiorari in Smith v. Royal, No. 16-7393, declining to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Cir. that let stand Oklahoma's denial of Michael Smith's claim of intellectual disability. Smith alleged that the Oklahoma courts had applied a scientifically unsound standard for measuring IQ, overstating his IQ by refusing to consider the inflationary impact of obsolete testing norms on his IQ scores.
In a fourth case, Habeas Corpus Resource Center v. Department of Justice, No. 16-880, the Court declined to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit declaring that, in the absence of any decision by the Department of Justice certifying a state as qualifying for special statutory provisions limiting the time and scope of habeas corpus review in death penalty cases, the federal regulations governing the so-called habeas corpus "opt-in" provisions were not ripe for judicial review.
NEWS (3/20): In a direct appeal decision in a 1999 murder, the California Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and death sentence imposed in Los Angeles County on Donald Brooks.
NEWS (3/17): The Florida Supreme Court has decided three more death penalty cases involving the application of the Hurst v. Florida and Hurst v. State decisions declaring Florida's capital sentencing procedures unconstitutional.
The court granted new sentencing trials to Corey Smith and Willie James Hodges. Smith had been sentenced to death for two counts of murder based on jury votes of 10-2 and 9-3. Hodges had been sentenced to death based upon a 10-2 jury recommendation for death.
The court denied Timothy Hurst's Double Jeopardy and Due Process challenges to bar resentencing in his case.
NEWS (3/17): The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has denied a stay of execution to Ivan Teleguz, who is scheduled to be executed in Virginia on April 25. See Upcoming Executions.
NEWS (3/14): Texas has executed James Bigby. He is the 4th person executed in Texas and the 6th in the U.S. in 2017. See Executions in 2017.
NEWS (3/13): Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a bill that requires Florida capital sentencing juries to reach a unanimous recommendation for death before a judge may impose the death penalty against a capital defendant.The state's action leaves Alabama as the only remaining state in which a judge may impose a death sentence based upon a non-unanimous advisory recommendation by a jury.
Three other states do not require a unanimous jury vote before a death sentence may be imposed. Indiana requires a judge to impose the jury's sentence when it has reached a unanimous verdict but empowers the judge to independently determine the sentence when the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict. Montana and Nebraska exclude the jury altogether from the final sentencing determination, providing for judge sentencing in capital cases after the jury unanimously finds at least one aggravating circumstance that makes the defendant eligible for the death penalty.
NEWS (3/13): Arkansas announced that it has obtained 100 vials of potassium chloride to replace the supply of that drug that had expired in January. Potassium chloride is the third drug used under the state's execution protocol. The state has scheduled 8 executions between April 17-27 before its supply of the first drug, midazolam, expires.
NEWS (3/9): The Florida Supreme Court has decided five more death penalty cases involving the application of the Hurst v. Florida and Hurst v. State decisions declaring Florida's capital sentencing procedures unconstitutional.
The court granted new sentencing hearings in the cases of Charles Anderson (8-4 jury recommendation for death) and Howard Ault (9-3 jury recommendations for death on each of two counts in first trial; 9-3 and 10-2 recommendations for death on the two counts in Ault's re-sentencing trial). On 3/10, it issued an order, citing Hurst, granting a new sentencing hearing to Lamar Brooks.
It denied relief to Cary Michael Lambrix, despite a prejudicial violation of Hurst (8-4 and 10-2 jury recommendations for death), on the grounds that Lambrix's initial appeal predated the U.S. Supreme Court's 2002 decision on which Hurst is based.
It also denied relief to Dale Middleton (unanimous jury recommendation for death), holding that any violation of Hurst was harmless.
NEWS (3/7): Texas has executed Rolando Ruiz. It was the 5th execution in the United States in 2017 and the 3rd in Texas. See Execution List 2017.
NEWS (3/6): In Rippo v. Baker, No. 16-6316, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and unanimously vacated the decision of the Nevada Supreme Court denying death-row prisoner Michael Rippo's claim that his trial before a judge who was being criminally investigated by the prosecutor violated due process. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings in the state courts.
The Court issued a ruling declining to review the case of Young v. Davis, in which Texas death-row prisoner Christopher Young had argued that the prosecution had improperly excluded a juror based solely upon her church affiliation.
NEWS (3/6): As part of a settlement of a lawsuit on death-row prison conditions, California has agreed to end its practice of keeping certain death-row prisoners in multi-year solitary confinement based solely on their purported gang affiliation.
NEWS (3/5): University of Maryland Criminology Professor and death penalty researcher Ray Paternoster has died, following an extended hospitalization for pancreatitis. He was 65. Prof. Paternoster's study of the cost of capital punishment in Maryland was instrumental in the efforts leading to the repeal of the state's death penalty.
NEWS (3/2): The Arkansas Supreme Court has declined to void the notice setting execution dates for eight prisoners, saying that the lower court stay that had permitted litigation of their lethal injection challenges is no longer in effect.
NEWS (3/1): After 28 minutes of deliberation, a Texas jury sentenced John Ray Falk, Jr. to death. Falk pled guilty to capital murder during the course of a prison escape, despite the fact that he did not commit the killing. He represented himself in the penalty phase. Under the Texas law of parties, he could be sentenced to death based upon the actions of a co-defendant.
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.