The two stories in the links below are very recent, and they are not uncommon. The criminal justice system is not perfect; mistakes happen, and innocent people are convicted of murder. Luckily, David Robinson and John Bunn were not sentenced to death. They “only” lost 17 or 18 years of their lives. Once someone is executed, efforts to prove his innocence usually stop. Remember Cameron Todd Willingham? Troy Davis? How many more innocent people have to die before the death penalty is abolished?
CBS News: Missouri man David Robinson free after years in prison for murder he didn’t commit
New York Daily News: Exonerated: John Bunn, wrongfully jailed at 14 in the 1991 murder of a correction officer
The Legislature is considering a bill to repeal Louisiana’s death penalty. As someone who was nearly executed for a crime I didn’t commit, I hope our legislators recognize that as long as we have a death penalty we risk executing innocent people.
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
By Cassandra Stubbs, Director, ACLU Capital Punishment Project November 14, 2017
The Guantanamo military commissions, the scheme created by the government to try 9/11 and other detainees, have devolved into an unacceptable and alarming assault on defense lawyers attempting to provide fair representation to their clients.
Continue reading: ACLU
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
Frank Thompson oversaw the only two executions Oregon has completed in the last half decade. Now he works to abolish the death penalty. WNYC.org
William Henry Bell was convicted of the murder of Dennis Hepler in 1989. The jury handed down a death sentence. Now, after almost 30 years, Bell has left his cell on death row after a decades-long effort to vacate Bell’s execution ended with the attorney general exhausting the state’s appeals process.
The vacated sentence underscores the continuing decline of the death penalty in the U.S.
Continue reading: Free Times
Caddo Parish, Louisiana prosecutors formally dropped charges against Rodricus Crawford (pictured) on April 17, exonerating him in a controversial death penalty case that had attracted national attention amid evidence of race discrimination, prosecutorial excess, and actual innocence. He is the 158th person exonerated from death row in the United States since 1973. Crawford was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to death on charges he had murdered his one-year-old son. Crawford’s appellate counsel, Cecilia Kappel, argued that the testimony underlying his conviction—the opinion of a local doctor who claimed the infant had been suffocated—was contradicted by autopsy results that showed pervasive bronchopneumonia in the baby’s lungs and sepsis in his blood. After the trial, Kappel presented additional evidence from experts in the fields of pediatric pathology, pediatric neuropathology, and pediatric infectious disease that the child had died of natural causes.
Continue reading: Death Penalty Information Center
After a trial of more than two weeks, a Texas jury on Wednesday found that former state prosecutor John Jackson had not committed misconduct in the 1992 death penalty trial of Cameron Todd Willingham.
By an 11-to-1 vote, a Navarro County jury rejected claims by the State Bar of Texas that Jackson made false statements, concealed evidence favorable to Willingham’s defense and obstructed justice.
The state bar had accused Jackson of failing to disclose to Willingham’s defense lawyers that jailhouse snitch Johnny Webb had been promised favorable treatment on an aggravated robbery conviction in return for testimony at Willingham’s trial.
Continue reading: The Marshall Project