Category Archives: United States

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

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

Overturned S.C. Sentence Tracks with Decline of Death Penalty

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

Rodricus Crawford Becomes 158th Death-Row Exoneree

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

Jury Clears the Prosecutor Who Sent Cameron Todd Willingham to Death Row

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

The steady decline of America’s death rows

When the state of Arkansas announced plans to carry out eight executions in an 11-day period in April, it drew intense international scrutiny that flared until well after the final lethal injection in the series at the end of the month. In part, this attention was fueled by the explanation, offered by state officials, that the timetable was necessary because the supply of 1 of the state’s lethal drugs was about to expire and authorities had to carry out death penalties for eight men convicted of murder before then.
Continue reading: Washington Post