Monthly Archives: June 2014


Abraham Bonowitz took this photograph at the 21st annual Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty, which is currently (June 29 – July 2, 2014) taking place on the sidewalk in front of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Several of us are there, and we will post more photos when we return. Pictured here are, from left: Phyllis Prentice, death row exoneree Shujaa Graham, Kathy Spillman and death row exoneree Harold Wilson.

Racism and the Execution Chamber

The national death-row population is roughly 42 % black – nearly 3 times the proportion in the general population.

After a 7-week freeze following Clayton Lockett’s botched execution in Oklahoma, 3 states executed 3 death-row inmates in less than 24 hours last week. Georgia, Missouri, and Florida had tangled with defense lawyers for months over the secrecy surrounding their lethal-injection cocktails and where they were obtained, a key issue in Lockett’s death. Florida also addressed concerns about its inmate’s mental capacity; his lawyers claimed he had an IQ of 78. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected all appeals, however, and the 3 inmates – Marcus Wellons, John Winfield, and John Henry, respectively – were successively executed without apparent mishap.

In addition to their fates, Wellons, Winfield, and Henry have something else in common. They are among the disproportionate number of black Americans to have been executed since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Read more: The Atlantic

Fla., Ga., Mo. Push Ahead on Executions

With Florida holding the nation’s third execution in less than 24 hours on Wednesday, some death penalty states – particularly in the South – appear unfazed by the recent furor over how lethal injections are carried out.

A botched execution seven weeks ago in Oklahoma amplified a national debate about the secretive ways many states obtain lethal injection drugs from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies. Before Tuesday, nine executions were stayed or delayed – albeit some for reasons not related to the drug question.

Read more: TribLive

Seeking Justice for George Stinney

A Boy’s Execution, 70 Years Later

georgestinneyBy JESSE WEGMAN
June 15, 2014

On the first page of the official sentencing report for George Stinney Jr., the outline of a boy is visible in a short string of numbers. Age: 14. Height: 5-1. Weight: 95. His complexion is listed as Black, his religion as Baptist, his occupation as None. Next to Build one word is typed: Small.

On March 24, 1944, George was arrested and charged with the murder of two young white girls, Betty June Binnicker and Mary Emma Thames, who were found beaten to death in a ditch in rural Clarendon County, S.C.

One month later he was tried and found guilty. He was executed on June 16, 1944 — the youngest person to be put to death in the 20th century.  — Read more: The New York Times

Backup copy: Continue reading

Facts About the Gruesome Execution of Clayton Lockett

Oklahoma Execution Team Failed to Place IV in Clayton Lockett’s Vein, According to Preliminary Findings of Independent Autopsy

The Oklahoma execution team failed to set a properly functioning IV in Clayton Lockett’s femoral vein, according to preliminary findings released today of an independent autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph I. Cohen, M.D. The autopsy was performed in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 14, 2014, following the botched execution of Mr. Lockett in Oklahoma City on April 29, 2014.      Read more

ABA Report: The State of Criminal Justice 2014

The American Bar Association has released a new publication, The State of Criminal Justice 2014, examining major issues, trends and significant changes in America’s criminal justice system. The chapter devoted to capital punishment was written by Ronald Tabak, an attorney at Skadden Arps. Tabak presents evidence of the declining use of the death penalty in death sentences and executions, particularly noting the growing geographic isolation of the death penalty. He also highlights numerous studies and cases regarding innocence and racial bias. He concludes, “[I]t is vital that the legal profession and the public be better informed about what is really going on in the capital punishment system…. Ultimately, our society must decide whether to continue with a system that cannot survive any serious cost/benefit analysis.”

(source: Death Penalty Information Center)

Memorial Unveiled for 14-Year-Old Executed in South Carolina

A memorial will be unveiled this weekend in honor of a 14-year-old black youth executed by the state of South Carolina 70 years ago.

Supporters and family of George Stinney Jr., who say he was wrongly convicted of killing two white girls in the segregated South, will gather Saturday afternoon along U.S. 521 in the Clarendon County community of Alcolu to unveil the memorial.

Read more: Charleston Post and Courier

The Story of Kirk Bloodsworth

Former death row inmate becomes Exhibit A for how eyes can lie—-Kirk Bloodsworth, the 1st American death row inmate to be exonerated by DNA evidence, fights to reform eyewitness IDs

“Give him the gas and kill his ass!”

That was the 1st thing Kirk Bloodsworth heard amid the eruption in the courtroom after the verdict came back that found him guilty on all counts.

“I can hear ’em snickering and laughing,” Bloodsworth remembered. “And everybody thought they had the right man – police department, prosecutor’s office, most of the people … thought they had the man.”

They had reason to think so. Multiple eyewitnesses had spotted Bloodsworth at the scene of the crime – at least they believed they had.   Read more

The U.S. Supreme Court Narrows States’ Discretion to Execute the Intellectually Disabled

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Hall v. Florida. In this case, the Court invalidated Florida’s approach to identifying criminal convicts who are intellectually disabled and therefore constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty. Under Florida statutory law, as interpreted by Florida courts, a person whose intelligence quotient (I.Q.) falls above 70 (as determined by I.Q. testing) is eligible for capital punishment, without regard to other evidence of intellectual disability. The Supreme Court held this approach unconstitutional . . .

Read more: Justia

Obama’s Death Penalty Review Risks Backlash From the States

By Benjamin Goad – 06/08/14 10:31 AM EDT
The generations-old debate over capital punishment has shifted to Washington, where President Obama’s Justice Department has launched a national review of the death penalty.

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder’s inquiry, initiated last month following a mishandled execution in Oklahoma, is still in its early stages. The effort includes a look at state death penalty protocols, though its scope and ultimate implications are not yet clear.

Read more: The Hill