Category Archives: United States

Prosecutors Are Using Jailhouse Snitches to Send Innocent People to Death Row

“The problem is the desperation to get out, and the willingness of the district attorney to use us.”

For the last 2 decades, Curtis Flowers has been on death row in Mississippi for a 1996 quadruple murder. He has consistently maintained his innocence and appealed his case 6 different times on issues ranging from racial bias in jury selection to prosecutorial misconduct. But each time, District Attorney Doug Evans succeeded in keeping Flowers behind bars, largely because of his reliance on jailhouse informants who have insisted that Flowers confessed to the killings. But now, during the 11-episode American Public Media podcast In the Dark that chronicled the case, Evans’ star witness confessed that he made it all up.
Read more: Mother Jones

The Stepchild of Lynching

Alabama’s Lynching Memorial and the Legacy of Racial Terror in the South
by Liliana Segura

A week before the crowds arrived in Montgomery for the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a monument to victims of lynching in the United States, Alabama prepared to kill 83-year-old Walter Moody.
Continue reading: The Intercept

When the courts get it wrong

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

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