Six Prison Stories

by Laura Dimon

After 14 years on Florida’s death row, Frank Lee Smith died of cancer in January 2000, before he was exonerated of rape and murder. The DNA results not only cleared Smith of the crime, but also identified the true perpetrator, Eddie Lee Mosley.

According to the Innocence Project, 311 people in U.S. history, 18 of whom were sentenced to the death penalty, have been freed after DNA evidence proved them innocent. The average DNA exoneree has served 13.6 years behind bars.      Continue reading

Request to Remove Death Penalty Option Denied

A judge denied a motion to take the death penalty off the table as a possibility for a Lexington County father accused of killing his five children. Lawyers for 32-year-old Timothy Ray Jones Jr. appeared in court Friday on his behalf. Jones is accused of killing the children at their home in Lexington County, then dumping their bodies in a rural area of Alabama. — Continue reading at WLTX

Mental Illness and the Death Penalty

by Sarah Swig for NCADP.org

“Today, at 6pm, the State of Florida is scheduled to kill my brother, Thomas Provenzano, despite clear evidence that he is mentally ill…. By no means do I suggest my brother go free. By all means justice should be done. But I have to wonder: Where is the justice in killing a sick human being?” — Sister of death row inmate, June 2000

Continue reading

Former FBI Director Says People Were Executed Based Partly on Faulty Agency Testimony

William Sessions, former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recently pointed to cases of defendants who were executed based in part on faulty hair and fiber analysis in calling for changes in the use of forensic evidence. In an op-ed in the Washington Times, Sessions told the story of Benjamin Boyle, who was executed in Texas in 1997. His conviction was based on testing conducted by an FBI crime lab that an official review later determined to be unreliable and “scientifically unsupportable.” Neither state officials nor Boyle’s attorneys were notified of the task force’s findings before his execution.

Read the remainder of this note at the Death Penalty Information Center, or read William Sessions’ article here.

Former solicitors: Retrial of accused cop killer will be costly, but worth it

SCADP note: This story is somewhat confusing, as Luzenski Allen Cottrell is already included on the SC Department of Correction’s most recent list of death row inmates. The story was published by Carolinalive.com.

A new trial began Monday for a man charged with killing a Myrtle Beach police officer in 2002. Luzenski Allen Cottrell will be tried before a new jury in the 2002 shooting death of Officer Joe McGarry. Continue reading

Judge Kopf: I would uphold the death penalty for an innocent man rather than play games with the law

By Debra Cassens Weiss | Sept. 16, 2014 | ABA Journal

A blogging federal judge has taken on a controversial question: Should federal court judges allow the execution of a factually innocent defendant?

Writing at Hercules and the Umpire, U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf says he accepted the risk of condemning an innocent to die when he became a federal judge in 1992. “I will have to live with my knowing choice if such a horror comes to pass,” the Nebraska judge writes. “I will have no one to blame but myself.”

Click to read the complete article in the ABA Journal.

First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Wants to Kill the Death Penalty

In a forthcoming documentary, Kirk Bloodsworth fights to keep innocent people from being sentenced to death. (Click here to watch the trailer.)

When he was 22, Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to death for the murder of a 9-year-old girl. The case against him relied solely on one person’s eyewitness testimony; no physical evidence linked him to the scene. After he spent eight years in prison, Bloodsworth was exonerated in 1993 through “genetic fingerprinting.” It was the first time DNA evidence led to a reversal of a death row conviction. Read the article on takepart.com.

Justice Scalia Says Executing the Innocent Doesn’t Violate the Constitution

. . . “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent,” [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia wrote in a 2009 dissent of the Court’s order for a federal trial court in Georgia to consider the case of death row inmate Troy Davis.

Click here to read the article at Business Insider.