Punishment 2001" - The Bureau of Justice Statistics released
annual report on the death penalty with statistics from the previous
The report contained a number of interesting findings:
See also DPIC's
2002 Year End Report for statistics on 2002.
The number of people sentenced to death in 2001 was 155, the smallest
since 1979, and an almost 50% drop from the average number of death
Between 1973 and 2001, Texas sentenced the most people to death (889),
followed by Florida (863) and California (779).
The number of people under sentence of death declined in 2001, the
decrease in 25 years.
The time between sentencing and execution for those executed in 2001
11 years and 10 months, slightly longer than for those executed in
Overall, the average time between sentencing and execution for those
between 1977 and 2001 was 10 years and 3 months.
A recent investigation by The Miami Herald found that 38 false or
confessions have been discredited in just one Florida county since
The confessions were either thrown out by Broward County courts,
by juries, or abandoned by police or prosecutors. The Herald's study
examples of illegal interrogation, coercive questioning, and flawed
At least six confessed "killers" who were charged with murder were
determined to be innocent. Among the false confessions listed was that
of Frank Lee Smith who spent 14 years on Florida's death row. DNA
eventually cleared him of the charges, but he died of cancer six months
before his exoneration. (Miami Herald, Dec. 22, 2002).
report by the Texas Defender Service, "Lethal Indifference: The
Combination of Incompetent Attorneys and Unaccountable Courts in Texas
Death Penalty Appeals," examines the quality of representation for
death row inmates in Texas post-conviction proceedings. The study
examined state habeas appeals of nearly every Texas death row inmate
1995 and found that many of these individuals were represented by
attorneys or by attorneys who failed to file a meaningful appeal.
The inmates studied had a one in three chance of being executed without
their cases being adequately investigated or argued by a competent
attorney. The report also examines the role of the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals in appointing inadequate attorneys. "The state habeas
process is where the innocent or those undeserving of the death penalty
are discovered," said Jim Marcus, Executive Director of the Texas
Service. "Thus, short-circuiting these proceedings with lawyers who
to do meaningful work for their clients undermines the integrity and
of the system." (Texas Defender Service Press Release, December 3,
2002 and New York Times, December 3, 2002).
Journal Examines Wrongful Convictions - The September-October 2002
edition of Judicature, the Journal of the American Judicature
provides an extensive examination of wrongful convictions and the
flaws that could lead to the execution of an innocent person. The
contains articles written by a number of national death penalty
law enforcement officials, and legal scholars. Among the contributors
James S. Liebman, Michael L. Radelet, Lawrence C. Marshall, C. Ronald
Barry C. Scheck, Hugo Adam Bedau, Robert K. Olson, Peter Loge, Ronald
Earle, Carl Bryan Case, Jr., Thomas P. Sullivan, Gerald Kogan, and
the journal summary.
Ethics and Physician Participation in Executions - In "Lethal
Injection: A Stain on the Face of Medicine," Jonathan I.
trauma medical director at the Department of Surgery, Children's
in Columbus, OH, considers the ethics of medical professionals
in lethal injections despite the opposition of their professional
(325 British Medical Journal 1026 (Nov. 2, 2002)).
and internationally illegal: The death penalty against child offenders,"
Amnesty International examines the juvenile death penalty in the United
States. The report looks at the U.S. Supreme Court's Atkins v.
decision exempting prisoners with mental retardation from the death
and applies its reasoning to the issue of juvenile offenders. The
also provides a broad overview of the history of the juvenile death
through case reviews, international human rights policies, and recent
around the world. See also, Juvenile
Penalty and Human Rights: U.S. Death Penalty and International
Law. DPIC's Executive Director, Richard Dieter, recently
delivered this paper on human rights and the death penalty at Oxford
in England. The paper was presented at the Oxford Round Table on human
and civil rights before an international gathering of human rights
The paper traces the development of capital punishment as a human
issue, and it examines recent international challenges to the death
in the United States.
|"Dignity Denied: The Experience
of Murder Victims' Family Members Who Oppose the Death Penalty"
A report released by Murder Victims' Families for
Reconciliation provides an account of the experiences of murder
family members who oppose capital punishment and steps that can be
to protect these individuals from discrimination based on this
"Dignity Denied" challenges lawmakers, the federal government's Office
of Victims of Crime, and leaders within the victims' services community
to address past and current discrimination and commit to equitable
of survivors of homicide victims. Specifically, the report offers model
legislation and recommends that victims' rights laws be amended to ban
unequal treatment based upon a victim's position on the death penalty.
It also states that victims' services should be administered
not as part of the prosecutor's office, and that leaders in the
services community should develop protocols for serving victims'
who oppose the death penalty.
Decisions: How do jurors decide who should live and who should die"
a new documentary from American RadioWorks, now airing on public radio
stations around the nation and available on the Internet. The program,
created by independent producer and veteran journalist Alan Berlow,
cases where death sentences were handed down, even though jurors were
or racially biased. In recent years, a sizable number of former jurors
in capital cases have stepped forward to assert that they did not fully
understand their responsibilities. Others have said they were confused
by the instructions given to them by a judge or failed to understand
concepts such as mitigation. In a handful of prominent cases, jurors
acknowledged sentencing defendants to death as an "insurance policy"
they were unaware that life without parole was an alternative.
most recent report, "Drug
Companies and Their Role in Aiding Executions," the National
to Abolish the Death Penalty calls upon the nation's manufacturers and
distributors of lethal injection drugs to take steps to prevent their
from being used in executions. The report contains 10 recommendations
manufacturers of lethal injection drugs should implement to make sure
their products are not used in executions. In addition to tracing the
of lethal injection drugs in executions, the report examines what can
wrong during these executions, lists the companies that produce lethal
injection drugs, and discusses medical guidelines regarding doctor
in executions. See NCADP's Press
Juvenile Justice Center Publishes Two Death Penalty Reports -
The American Bar Association's Juvenile Justice Center has published
new death penalty reports. The first report, "The Juvenile Death
in the United States," provides an overview of the topic and
outlines recent developments in the United States and internationally.
The ABA's second report, "Clemency and Consequences: State
and the impact of granting clemency to death row inmates," examines
clemency petitions during the past decade and discusses the perceived
consequences of granting pardons. Both publications are available by
the ABA's Juvenile Justice Center at (202) 662-1506.
of Consistency in the Federal Death Penalty: A Roundtable Discussion on
the Role of the U.S. Attorney," a Vera Institute of Justice
by Robin Campbell, is now available on the Internet. The report
the federal death penalty through the eyes of 11 U.S. Attorneys from
the nation who serve as the first line of decision-makers in the
that identifies which cases may be subject to the federal death
This report examines the challenges prosecutors face in reconciling
conditions against nationwide laws, the issues of racial and ethnic
in the federal death penalty, and what role U.S. Attorneys can play in
addressing these concerns. See also, Federal
issue of the Ohio State Law Review, "Addressing Capital Punishment
Statutory Reform," (Vol. 63, 2002) includes articles on topics
as methods of execution, legislative developments and the death
and reform efforts that are designed to eliminate unjust executions.
the writers featured in the Law Review are death penalty experts James
Liebman, Deborah Denno, Victor Streib, Austin Sarat, Carol and Jordan
and Ronald Tabak.
Reform Judaism Magazine Addresses Capital Punishment - The 2002
of Reform Judaism Magazine examines the question of whether or not
condones capital punishment. An article by Rabbi Dan Polish, Director
the Joint Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, explores the
historical reasoning for opposing capital punishment. Rabbi Polish
"The thrust of the Jewish tradition and the historical positions of the
Reform Movement impel us to oppose capital punishment in principle and
in practice. A person wrongfully flogged for robbery can heal. A person
improperly imprisoned for murder can be exonerated and set free. But
put to death for a crime he/she did not commit can never be redeemed."
(Reform Judaism Magazine, Summer 2002.) Read
Study Finds Serious Problems With California's Death Penalty - In
comprehensive review of hundreds of death penalty cases in California,
the San Jose Mercury News found that the state's capital
system has many of the same problems that have created concern about
death penalty across the nation. The News examined 72 cases
by state and federal courts since 1987 and 150 appeals now pending in
federal courts. In a series of articles, the News released its
Some long-time supporters of capital punishment are asking whether it
be abandoned: "The whole thing is a mess,'' said former state Supreme
Justice Edward Panelli, a conservative who voted to affirm most death
he reviewed. "It wouldn't hurt me at all if they just changed the
California currently has the largest death row in the country, with
than 600 inmates, but has carried out only 10 executions since the
penalty was reinstated. (Mercury News, 4/13/02)
California typically spends much more money on capital cases than most
states, but the dozens of death sentences reversed since 1987 involved
trials marred by the same types of problems found in states known for
less on capital cases, such as Texas and Alabama. These include lawyers
who put on perfunctory defenses, prosecutors who concealed evidence,
mistake-prone trial judges.
California has not taken corrective actions that other states have. It
has not set minimum statewide standards for the qualifications of
lawyers appointed to death-penalty trials. The result has been an
county-by-county system of appointing lawyers.
Defendants who do win a reprieve on appeal are frequently not sentenced
to death when resentenced with a fairer process. Fewer than a third of
those whose sentences have been overturned have received the death
the second time through the system.
California's Supreme Court is in greater conflict with federal courts
any other state's. The state court, one of the most conservative in the
nation, reverses 10 percent of death sentences, one of the lowest rates
in the country. Federal courts have reversed 62 percent of the
affirmed by the California court, the highest rate nationally.
Killing in the English Speaking Caribbean: A Legacy of Colonial Times"
- A new report released on April 23 by Amnesty International notes
that the judicial systems of the English-speaking Caribbean that
the death penalty fall short of international standards governing the
of capital punishment. "Inadequate provision for defence lawyers, both
at the trial and on appeal, the imposition of death sentences on those
suffering from mental health problems and the use of coerced
are all commonplace violations of international standards in the
Caribbean," said Piers Bannister, the organization's researcher on the
region. "Even the most ardent supporter of the death penalty should be
concerned at the quality of the judicial system employed to inflict the
ultimate punishment." (Amnesty International Press
International Reports on World Executions; U.S. Leads in Juvenile
- A new report released by Amnesty International states that 3,048
people were executed in 31 countries in 2001. According to the report,
China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States accounted for 90% of
death sentences carried out last year. China alone was responsible for
80% of the executions. Amnesty International said that it was
by the reduction in number of executions of juvenile offenders last
In 2001, there were only three such executions, taking place in only
countries- the United States, Iran, and Pakistan. Since 1990, the
States has executed 15 juvenile offenders, more than any other country.
(Associated Press, 4/9/02)
International Report Shows Decline in Use of Death Penalty
new report by Amnesty International, "Facts
and Figures on the Death Penalty," states that over half of the
countries in the world no longer use capital punishment. The report
(Chicago Tribune, 4/15/02)
111 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice
Over 30 countries and territories have abolished the death penalty for
all crimes since 1990, including countries in Africa, the Americas,
Recent crime figures from abolitionist countries show that abolition
not have harmful effects. In Canada, or example, the homicide rate fell
43% from a high of 3.09 in 1975, a year before the abolition of the
penalty, to 1.76 in 1999.
Execution of Wanda Jean"
On Sunday March 17 at 10PM/9C, HBO premiered "The
Execution of Wanda Jean." This documentary examines the months and
days leading up to the execution of Wanda Jean Allen, the first woman
be put to death in Oklahoma since the death penalty was reinstated.
Through interviews with Wanda Jean, her family, her clemency team, and
her victim's family, this documentary explores the roles that poverty,
mental health, race and sexuality played in the case of Allen, who was
executed in Oklahoma on January 11, 2001. For more information,
HBO's Web page on the film.
of Major Death Penalty Study Examines Causes of Error in Capital Cases
A new report released on Feb. 11 by Columbia University,
Broken System, Part II: Why There is So Much Error in Capital Cases,
What Can be Done About It," explains the factors that lead to
in death penalty cases. The study uses a variety of statistical
to identify factors explaining why some states and counties have more
error than others. The principal finding of the study is that the
high rate of mistakes in death penalty cases is related to aggressive
of the punishment. Instead of using the death penalty for the "worst
of the worst" cases, other influences related to race and political
lead to an error-prone expansion of capital punishment. "What our
study shows is that aggressive death sentencing is a magnet for serious
error," said Professor James Liebman, the leading researcher for the
The report is a follow-up to a June 2000 study, "A Broken System,
Rates in Capital Cases 1973-1995," which revealed that 68% of all
judgments were reversed by the courts due to serious error. (Columbia
University Press Release, 2/11/02 and New York Times, 2/11/02).
The entire study is available on line at http://www.law2.columbia.edu/brokensystem2/
See Questions and Answers about
study. For more information about the initial study, see
Call for Reckoning: Religion and the Death Penalty" - In January,
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life convened a conference at the
of Chicago entitled, "A Call for Reckoning: Religion and the Death
which brought together prominent theologians, legal scholars,
legislators, and members of the judiciary, including U.S. Supreme Court
Antonin Scalia. Conference organizers compiled a series of
resources for conference participants that can be used as a discussion
guide in classrooms, workshops and congregational settings. The Conference
Reader is now available from the Pew Forum.
International Report Condemns 25 Years of Executions in the U.S. - On
January 17, Amnesty International released a new report, "Arbitrary,
and Cruel: An aide-mŽmoire to 25 Years of Judicial Killing," a report
marking the 25th anniversary of the resumption of executions in the
The report focuses on some of the over 750 executions in the U.S. since
1976, citing specific cases to illustrate instances where the condemned
was a juvenile, suffered from mental retardation, or was a foreign
denied consular rights. Also highlighted are cases where the defendant
was executed despite doubts of his or her guilt, or received inadequate
representation. Since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S.,
more than 60 countries have abandoned the use of the death penalty.
(Amnesty International, Press
Release, 1/17/02) Read
the entire report.
Denied -- The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted" - A special
of Justice: Denied, highlighting the best of the magazine's two
years of publication, is now available on-line. The magazine, which
is devoted to helping people who have been wrongly convicted, offers
about these individuals, including stories on the attorneys who work on
their cases, personal histories, and photographs. The Web site also
offers an archive of previous issues. Read the Special
Edition of Justice: Denied.
Innocence Project Web Site - The new comprehensive Web site
the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is now
The site contains case profiles (99 inmates have been freed through DNA
testing), other innocence projects, DNA legislation and news, and much