Convicted Killer to Receive New Sentencing Hearing

John Edward Weik, 47, of Moncks Corner, was given a death sentence for murder and a life sentence for burglary after killing his ex-girlfriend in Knightsville in 1998.

But Wednesday’s ruling indicates Weik’s attorneys didn’t do enough to present jurors with mitigating circumstances that could have convinced them to forgo the death penalty. One of his attorneys, in fact, is now suspended from practicing law.

Read more: The Berkeley Independent

States Spend Less on Legal Defense for the Poor

By Joe Palazzolo

State spending on legal defense for the poor slumped in recent years, as court budgets felt the pinch from the financial crisis, according to a new study by the Justice Department’s research arm.

The $2.2 billion spent on indigent defense in fiscal 2012, the most recent year studied, was the lowest in five years, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found. From 2011 to 2012, state spending declined by $45 million, or about 2%                                                                       Read more: the Wall Street Journal Law blog

California Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional

by Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle

A federal judge declared California’s death penalty unconstitutional Wednesday, saying delays of 25 years or more in deciding appeals and carrying out occasional executions have created an arbitrary and irrational system that serves no legitimate purpose.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of Santa Ana was limited to a single case and had no immediate impact on executions statewide, which have been halted by federal courts since 2006 because of multiple problems in lethal injection procedures.                  Read this article at

Related articles:

San Franciscans could make death penalty ruling stick, by Steven T. Jones, San Francisco Bay Guardian Politics blog, July 17.

Life in Prison, With the Remote Possibility of Death, by Justin Wolfers | @JustinWolfers | JULY 18, 2014 | New York Times Upshot blog

Is Oregon’s death penalty as ‘cruel and unusual’ as California’s? Oregon politics today
By Bryan Denson | | July 18, 2014 | The Oregonian


Sister Helen Prejean on the Movement to End the Death Penalty

In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean began a correspondence with 2 death row inmates in her home state of Louisiana. She eventually became the spiritual adviser to Patrick Sonnier and accompanied him to his execution in 1984. Prejean chronicled her experiences in Dead Man Walking, the best-selling book which has been adapted to a film (for which Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her portrayal of Prejean), play, and opera.

It’s been 30 years since Sonnier was executed, and Prejean is now well known as one of the leading advocates for ending the death penalty. For a recent interview with her, please go to US

CNN to Air More ‘Death Row Stories’

CNN’s original series “Death Row Stories” is set to return to the news channel on Sunday, July 13, with three new episodes debuting on successive Sundays.

Executive produced by Jigsaw Production’s Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side,” “The Armstrong Lie”) and Sundance Production’s Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn, the CNN series focuses on inmates facing the death penalty and the legal process of defending them and attempting to ensure that justice prevails.

The new episodes, each narrated by Susan Sarandon, explore three cases from the 1980s and 1990s, two involving double murders and one involving a mass murder in a Chuck E. Cheese in Colorado. Several of the defendants or prosecutors involved in the case are interviewed for the first time, and in the Colorado-centered episode, Gov. John Hickenlooper as well as former Gov. Bill Ritter, Jr. and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo are all interviewed.

The series’s first five installments premiered in March and will be re-aired after the three new episodes. The March airings garnered CNN the top spot in the cable news demographic, according to Nielsen, and at the time, Gibney, Redford and Sarandon penned an opinion piece in Salon calling on Americans to reflect on the “systemic problems” of the American justice system.

CNN will air the three new “Death Row Stories” episodes at 10:00 pm and 1:00 am Eastern. They will also be available as a simulcast through CNN’s iPad app, as well as on CNN’s website and other mobile applications.


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