ABA launches clemency information clearinghouse for death penalty cases

In 2015, ABA attorneys noticed a major gap in resources for lawyers who defend capital cases: clemency information. Defendants who have exhausted their direct appeals and habeas petition rights often ask governors for mercy – but there wasn’t a lot of information available about how to do that effectively.

“In every state that we studied, there were insignificant resources for and attention paid to clemency, leaving it … too hollow to be comfortable for our profession,” says Misty Thomas, chief counsel for the Death Penalty Due Process Project. Thomas notes that the ABA has no position on the death penalty – but “if we’re going to have the death penalty, every single stage should be robust and meaningful.”

Continue reading: ABA Journal

John Grisham: Eight reasons for America’s shameful number of wrongful convictions

It is too easy to convict an innocent person.

The rate of wrongful convictions in the United States is estimated to be somewhere between 2% to 10%. That may sound low, but when applied to a prison population of 2.3 million, the numbers become staggering. Can there really be 46,000 to 230,000 innocent people locked away? Those of us who are involved in exoneration work firmly believe so.

Read more: LA Times

Death penalty process will become secret if South Carolina’s governor gets his way

If South Carolina doesn’t pass a law to keep the drugs it uses for lethal injections a secret, the state won’t be able to carry out its first execution in six years on Dec. 1. Or at least that’s what South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster spent the week telling state lawmakers. . . .

There’s just one problem: The scheduled execution of Bobby Stone, 52, on Dec. 1 was never going to happen because a federal court hasn’t reviewed his case yet. McMaster and Sterling created a false sense of urgency to publicly call for a law that would make much of the death penalty procedure in South Carolina a secret. Stone’s execution was stayed — as expected — on Tuesday.
Continue reading: Vice

Most American Indian tribes opt out of federal death penalty

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — In a heinous case on the Navajo Nation, an 11-year-old girl was lured into a van, sexually assaulted and killed. The man who has admitted responsibility is not facing the death penalty — and the tribe isn’t seeking it.

American Indian tribes for decades have been able to tell federal prosecutors if they want a death sentence considered for certain crimes on their land. Nearly all have rejected that option.

Tribes and legal experts say the decision goes back to culture and tradition, past treatment of American Indians and fairness in the justice system.  Continue reading: Minneapolis Star Tribune