News & Developments


Innocence

May 22, 2024

Family of Youngest Person Executed in Pennsylvania History Sues County for His Wrongful Conviction and Execution 93 Years Ago

Susie Williams Carter was just a baby when her 16-year-old broth­er, Alexander McClay Williams, was con­vict­ed of mur­der and exe­cut­ed in Pennsylvania in 1931. Over 90 years lat­er, Ms. Carter, now 94, con­tin­ues her family’s deter­mi­na­tion to clear her brother’s name. In June 2022, a Delaware County, Pennsylvania judge agreed that law enforce­ment had dis­re­gard­ed evi­dence and coerced Mr. Williams into sign­ing mul­ti­ple false con­fes­sions. All charges against Mr. Williams were posthu­mous­ly dis­missed and then-Governor Tom Wolf apol­o­gized to his fam­i­ly, call­ing Mr. Williams’ exe­cu­tion an egre­gious mis­car­riage of justice.”…

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Innocence

May 21, 2024

Alabama District Attorney Files Amicus Brief in Support of New Trial for Toforest Johnson

On May 20, 2024, Jefferson County, Alabama District Attorney Danny Carr asked a cir­cuit judge to grant a new tri­al to Toforest Johnson (cen­ter), an Alabama death row pris­on­er whose con­vic­tion DA Carr believes is fun­da­men­tal­ly unre­li­able.” This extra­or­di­nary request is the lat­est in a series of appeals for Mr. Johnson, who was sen­tenced to death in 1998 for the 1995 mur­der of Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff William Hardy but has always main­tained his inno­cence. A thor­ough review and inves­ti­ga­tion of the entire case leaves no con­fi­dence in the integrity…

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Crimes Punishable by Death

May 17, 2024

Tennessee Authorizes Death Penalty for Child Sexual Assault in Direct Challenge to Supreme Court Precedent

On May 9, Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee signed a bill autho­riz­ing the death penal­ty for aggra­vat­ed rape of a child, fol­low­ing Florida’s pas­sage of a sim­i­lar law last year. Both laws con­tra­dict long­stand­ing Supreme Court prece­dent hold­ing the death penal­ty uncon­sti­tu­tion­al for non-homi­cide crimes. Tennessee’s law takes effect on July 1. The state has had a death penal­ty mora­to­ri­um in place since May 2022 after Governor Lee learned that state offi­cials had failed to test exe­cu­tion drugs for bac­te­r­i­al con­t­a­m­i­na­tion; he ordered a sub­se­quent inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion which found that…

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Race

May 16, 2024

New DPIC Report Traces Ohio’s History of Racial Violence to the Modern Use of Capital Punishment in the State

On Tuesday, the Death Penalty Information Center released a new report that con­nects Ohio’s racial his­to­ry to the mod­ern use of the death penal­ty in the state. Broken Promises: How a History of Racial Violence and Bias Shaped Ohio’s Death Penalty doc­u­ments how racial dis­crim­i­na­tion is the through­line that runs from the state’s found­ing to its appli­ca­tion of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment today. 

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History of the Death Penalty

May 15, 2024

I Just Wanted…to Stay Alive”: Who was William Henry Furman, the Prisoner at the Center of a Historic Legal Decision?

Furman v. Georgia was one of the most mon­u­men­tal cas­es in American legal his­to­ry: the 1972 deci­sion over­turned every state death penal­ty statute in the coun­try and spared the lives of near­ly six hun­dred peo­ple sen­tenced to die. But the lead peti­tion­er, William Henry Furman, was lit­tle aware of his impact. Poor, Black, men­tal­ly ill, and phys­i­cal­ly and intel­lec­tu­al­ly dis­abled, he was sen­tenced to death for the killing of a home­own­er dur­ing a botched rob­bery, which he main­tains was acci­den­tal. If…petitioner Furman or his crime illus­trates the extreme,’ then nearly…

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Mental Illness

May 13, 2024

Oklahoma Judge Finds Wade Lay Mentally Incompetent to Be Executed

Oklahoma pris­on­er Wade Lay (pic­tured) will not be exe­cut­ed on June 6, 2024 as sched­uled because a Pittsburg County judge has found him men­tal­ly incom­pe­tent to be exe­cut­ed. The avail­able evi­dence demon­strates, by a pre­pon­der­ance or greater weight of the evi­dence, that Mr. Lay is cur­rent­ly incom­pe­tent to be exe­cut­ed accord­ing to the gov­ern­ing legal stan­dards,” Judge Tim Mills wrote. Defense and state experts who exam­ined Mr. Lay found that, due to his schiz­o­phre­nia, delu­sions, and para­noia, he lacks a ratio­nal under­stand­ing of the rea­son for his exe­cu­tion, and the…

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May 10, 2024

Oklahoma Court Modifies Execution Scheduling Process, Granting Attorney General’s Request to Extend the Interval Between Executions But Choosing to Set Execution Dates Individually

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on May 7 to extend the inter­val between exe­cu­tions to occur approx­i­mate­ly 90-days apart, spec­i­fy­ing that exe­cu­tions should be sched­uled for Thursdays, and that the Department of Corrections must be pro­vid­ed notice at least 35 days in advance. The Court also denied the Attorney General’s motion to set exe­cu­tion dates for groups of pris­on­ers, as has been done in the past, instead choos­ing to sched­ule exe­cu­tions individually. 

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Race

May 09, 2024

Articles of Interest: Los Angeles Times Editorial Board Says Systemic Racism in California Death Penalty Is Just One of Many Reasons for Abolition

In a May 7, 2024 edi­to­r­i­al, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board cites the deeply engrained racial dis­par­i­ties in the California death penal­ty sys­tem and how those facts led them to con­clude that even if the state could per­form pain­less and anx­i­ety-free exe­cu­tions and racial bias­es were elim­i­nat­ed, the death penal­ty would still be wrong.” Black defen­dants were 4.6 to 8.7 times more like­ly to be sen­tenced to death than oth­er defen­dants fac­ing sim­i­lar charges” the Board notes, and Latinos were 3.2 to 6.2 times more like­ly to be sentenced…

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Women

May 08, 2024

New Cardozo Law Review Article Examines the Events in the Lives of Women on U.S. Death Row

A new arti­cle, Gender Matters: Women on Death Row in the United States,” explores the cas­es of 48 women who were sen­tenced to death in the United States between 1990 and 2023. We believe that women’s cap­i­tal sen­tences are best explained by exam­in­ing the events of their lives with­in a larg­er social con­text, and by ana­lyz­ing how those expe­ri­ences — and the women them­selves — were treat­ed with­in the legal sys­tem,” said the authors, who include Sandra Babcock (pic­tured left), a Clinical Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, Nathalie Greenfield (mid­dle), an Adjunct…

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