News & Developments

Human Rights

Dec 08, 2023

Discussions with DPIC: Classifying Capital Punishment as Torture with John Bessler

In this month’s episode of Discussions with DPIC, Managing Director Anne Holsinger speaks with John Bessler (pic­tured), Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Professor Bessler is the author of sev­er­al books on the death penal­ty, includ­ing his 2023 book The Death Penalty’s Denial of Fundamental Human Rights: International Law, State Practice, and the Emerging Abolitionist Norm. In his most recent book, Professor Bessler argues that the death penal­ty should be clas­si­fied as tor­ture, which would pro­hib­it its use under inter­na­tion­al law and treaties. The reality…

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Dec 07, 2023

Mississippi Supreme Court Delays Decision on Willie Manning Execution Date, Allows Time for Appeal

On November 30, 2023, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered that the state’s request to set an exe­cu­tion date for death row pris­on­er Willie Manning be held until the court rules on a recent peti­tion seek­ing to bring new evi­dence of Mr. Manning’s inno­cence. Mr. Manning’s attor­neys had filed a peti­tion at the court on September 29, ask­ing for an oppor­tu­ni­ty to present recan­ta­tions from jail­house infor­mants who tes­ti­fied against Mr. Manning, as well as new expert analy­sis debunk­ing the unsci­en­tif­ic foren­sic evi­dence that was used against him at tri­al. The…

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Human Rights

Dec 06, 2023

Worldwide Wednesday International Roundup: China, Israel, Iran, Malaysia, Philippines, Qatar, Somalia, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe

On November 7, Chinese media report­ed that for­mer pri­ma­ry school prin­ci­pal Zhang Longji was exe­cut­ed via lethal injec­tion for rap­ing five girls, age 8 – 12, and sex­u­al­ly molest­ing 17 girls, age 8 – 14. Sun Deshun, for­mer pres­i­dent of China CITIC Bank Corporation Limited, who was con­vict­ed of accept­ing $1 bil­lion yuan ($137 mil­lion) in bribes, was giv­en a sus­pend­ed death sen­tence by the Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan on November 10. If no new crimes are com­mit­ted dur­ing the two-year pro­ba­tion, then Mr. Sun’s sen­tence could be com­mut­ed to life with­out parole. According to…

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United States Supreme Court

Dec 05, 2023

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s Conflicted Death Penalty Jurisprudence

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court, died at the age of 93 on December 1, 2023. In her 25-year tenure on the Court, Justice O’Connor authored opin­ions in sev­er­al land­mark death penal­ty cas­es, includ­ing deci­sions that upheld the use of the death penal­ty for vul­ner­a­ble groups and peo­ple with dimin­ished cul­pa­bil­i­ty. However, she demon­strat­ed an ear­ly inter­est in improv­ing cap­i­tal defense stan­dards, and in her lat­er years on the Court expressed con­cerns that the coun­try had exe­cut­ed inno­cent peo­ple. Her legislative…

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Dec 04, 2023

Oklahoma Executes Phillip Hancock After Governor Rejects Clemency Recommendation: Phil’s Execution Is Simply Not Justice,” says Oklahoma Legislator

Oklahoma exe­cut­ed Phillip Hancock (pic­tured) on November 30, 2023, fol­low­ing Governor Kevin Stitt’s rejec­tion of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board’s rec­om­men­da­tion that his sen­tence be f com­mut­ed to life with­out parole. The governor’s inde­ci­sion left Mr. Hancock wait­ing anx­ious­ly right up to the time of his sched­uled exe­cu­tion when the governor’s office told the prison war­den to pro­ceed. Mr. Hancock is the 123rd per­son exe­cut­ed in Oklahoma since the rein­state­ment of the death penal­ty in 1976. His exe­cu­tion is also the fourth exe­cu­tion in Oklahoma this year and the…

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DPIC Reports

Dec 01, 2023

DPIC Year End Report 2023: High-Profile Innocence Cases Contribute to Public Perception that the Death Penalty is Unfairly Administered

Against a back­drop of high-pro­file inno­cence cas­es and the U.S. Supreme Court’s seem­ing indif­fer­ence to them, the 2023 Gallup poll found that more Americans now believe that the death penal­ty is admin­is­tered unfair­ly than fair­ly. Use of the death penal­ty remained geo­graph­i­cal­ly iso­lat­ed, with only five states car­ry­ing out exe­cu­tions and only sev­en impos­ing death sen­tences. For the ninth con­sec­u­tive year, few­er than 30 peo­ple were exe­cut­ed and few­er than 50 were sen­tenced to death. These find­ings head­line DPIC’s 2023 Year End Report, released on December 1.

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Nov 30, 2023

DPIC to Release New Report on How the History of Racial Violence and Discrimination Have Shaped the Death Penalty in Missouri

Tomorrow, the Death Penalty Information Center will release a report that doc­u­ments how racial bias and vio­lence affect­ed the past use of the death penal­ty in Missouri and how that his­to­ry con­tin­ues to influ­ence the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in the state. Compromised Justice: How A Legacy of Racial Violence Informs Missouri’s Death Penalty Today, sched­uled for release on December 1, 2023, notes that his­tor­i­cal­ly and into the present day, Missouri’s death penal­ty has been applied dis­crim­i­na­to­ri­ly based on race. 

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Nov 29, 2023

Former U.S. Judge Andy Lester Calls for Moratorium of Oklahoma’s Fundamentally Flawed” Capital Punishment System Until Significant Reforms are Implemented

Commission mem­bers unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mend that the cur­rent mora­to­ri­um on the death penal­ty be extend­ed,” said a near­ly 300-page report pub­lished by the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission in 2017. More than six years lat­er, almost none of the 45 rec­om­men­da­tions have been imple­ment­ed. Former U.S. Magistrate Judge Andy Lester, one of three co-chairs of the Commission, reit­er­at­ed the call for a mora­to­ri­um in a November 27, 2023 let­ter to the edi­tors of non​doc​.com. Whether you sup­port cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment or oppose it, one thing is clear. Oklahoma’s sys­tem is so fun­da­men­tal­ly flawed…

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Nov 28, 2023

Discussions with DPIC: Gender and the Death Penalty with Sandra Babcock

In this month’s episode of Discussions with DPIC, Managing Director Anne Holsinger speaks with Sandra Babcock (pic­tured), Clinical Professor at Cornell Law School, Faculty Director, and founder of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide. Ms. Babcock’s clin­ic cur­rent­ly rep­re­sents death sen­tenced women in the United States, Malawi, and Tanzania and is focused on pro­vid­ing defense teams in reten­tion­ist coun­tries with train­ing and con­sul­ta­tion in order to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble legal rep­re­sen­ta­tion for indi­vid­u­als fac­ing sen­tences of death. The Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide also produces…

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Sentencing Alternatives

Nov 27, 2023

Florida Judge Imposes Life Sentence for Joshua McClellan, Overriding Non-Unanimous Jury Recommendation for Death

On November 20, Florida Circuit Judge Heidi Davis sen­tenced Joshua McClellan to life in prison after a non-unan­i­mous jury returned a rec­om­men­da­tion of death in September by a 10 – 2 vote. Judge Davis not­ed the mit­i­ga­tion evi­dence pre­sent­ed by Mr. McClellan’s defense, includ­ing men­tal health eval­u­a­tions and tes­ti­mo­ny regard­ing his trau­mat­ic upbring­ing, as an expla­na­tion for her deci­sion. Mr. McClellan was one of the first defen­dants to receive a non-unan­i­mous death rec­om­men­da­tion under a new law signed ear­li­er this year by Governor and pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ron DeSantis, allow­ing death sen­tences when…

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