Updated: Jun 11, 2024

Capital Case Round Up

The latest developments in capital cases around the U.S. This page includes brief updates about grants of relief, resentencings, and other important case developments.

CASE UPDATE: U.S. Supreme Court Stays Glossip Execution

May 05, 2023

(ORDER LIST: 598 U.S.) FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2023 ORDER IN PENDING CASE 22A941 GLOSSIP, RICHARD E. V. OKLAHOMA The appli­ca­tion for stay of exe­cu­tion of sen­tence of death pre­sent­ed to Justice Kavanaugh and by him referred to the Court is grant­ed pend­ing the dis­po­si­tion of the peti­tions for writs of cer­tio­rari, Nos. 22 – 6500 and 22 – 7466. Should both peti­tions for writs of cer­tio­rari be denied, this stay shall ter­mi­nate auto­mat­i­cal­ly. In the event either peti­tion for a writ of cer­tio­rari is grant­ed, the stay shall ter­mi­nate upon the issuance of the man­date of this Court.

–Order of the U.S. Supreme Court

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Case Update: Oklahoma Board Denies Clemency for Richard Glossip

Apr 26, 2023

On April 26, the Oklahoma Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to rec­om­mend clemen­cy for death-row pris­on­er Richard Glossip (pic­tured), who is sched­uled to be exe­cut­ed on May 18, 2023. The board’s 2 – 2 vote con­sti­tut­ed a denial of clemen­cy since the gov­er­nor can­not grant clemen­cy with­out the board’s recommendation.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond sent a let­ter to the board urg­ing them to grant clemen­cy for Glossip. I am not aware of an Oklahoma Attorney General ever sup­port­ing a clemen­cy appli­ca­tion for a death row inmate,” Drummond wrote. In every pre­vi­ous case that has come before this board, the state has main­tained full con­fi­dence in the integri­ty of the con­vic­tion. That is sim­ply not the case in this mat­ter due to the mate­r­i­al evi­dence that was not dis­closed to the jury.” He said exe­cut­ing Glossip would be a grave injustice.”

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Case Update: Oklahoma Court Upholds Richard Glossip’s Conviction

Apr 21, 2023

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled against Richard Glossip (pic­tured) on April 20, 2023, despite a motion from the state’s Attorney General ask­ing the court to vacate Glossip’s con­vic­tion and remand the case to a low­er court. Glossip is sched­uled for exe­cu­tion on May 18 but has con­sis­tent­ly main­tained his inno­cence. In a state­ment react­ing to the rul­ing, Glossip’s attor­ney, Don Knight, said, Since the State now agrees that the only wit­ness to allege that Mr. Glossip was involved in this crime can­not be believed, it is uncon­scionable for the court to attempt to force the State to move for­ward with his exe­cu­tion.” Knight plans to appeal the rul­ing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Federal Court Overturns Death Sentence of Alabama Death-Row Prisoner Whose Abandonment by Counsel Led to Supreme Court Ruling

Feb 14, 2022

A fed­er­al dis­trict court has over­turned the death sen­tence of an Alabama death-row pris­on­er whose aban­don­ment by his state post-con­vic­tion coun­sel led to a U.S. Supreme Court deci­sion on the right of access to fed­er­al habeas cor­pus review. On January 27, 2022, Judge Karon O. Bowdre of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama over­turned Cory Maples’ death sen­tence, hold­ing that his tri­al coun­sel had pro­vid­ed prej­u­di­cial­ly defi­cient rep­re­sen­ta­tion dur­ing the penal­ty phase of his cap­i­tal tri­al in 1997

Bowdre found that Maples’ tri­al lawyers con­duct­ed an unrea­son­ably lim­it­ed mit­i­ga­tion inves­ti­ga­tion, only briefly speak­ing to Maples’ father, step­moth­er, and a men­tal health expert who was not pro­vid­ed vital infor­ma­tion about Maples. Counsel failed to inter­view any oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers, failed to obtain edu­ca­tion­al records, failed to inves­ti­gate evi­dence of Maples’ sui­ci­dal­i­ty and depres­sion, and as a result failed to pro­vide the jury with crit­i­cal mit­i­gat­ing evi­dence about Maples’ chron­i­cal­ly abu­sive and trau­mat­ic back­ground and the resul­tant men­tal health issues. The court found that, had coun­sel per­formed a rea­son­able inves­ti­ga­tion, there was a rea­son­able prob­a­bil­i­ty that at least one more mem­ber of his jury, which made a non-unan­i­mous 10 – 2 rec­om­men­da­tion for death at tri­al, would have been swayed to vote for life.”

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Capital Case Roundup — Florida Supreme Court Grants New Trials in Two Death Penalty Cases

Jan 24, 2022

On January 13, 2022, the Florida Supreme Court grant­ed new tri­als to two Florida death-row pris­on­ers. The court over­turned Joe Simpsons 2007 con­vic­tion and death sen­tence because of pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al mis­con­duct. It also over­turned Peter Avsenews 2018 con­vic­tion and death sen­tence because of the improp­er pre­sen­ta­tion of remote­ly-record­ed testimony. 

Simpson was sen­tenced to death in 2007 for the mur­ders of Archie Howard Crook, Sr. and his preg­nant girl­friend, Kimberli Kimbler in 1999. In a 5 – 1 deci­sion, the Florida Supreme Court over­turned Simpson’s con­vic­tion and sen­tence because pros­e­cu­tors uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly with­held from the defense evi­dence that one of the state’s lead wit­ness­es, Crook’s son Little Archie,” was a con­fi­den­tial infor­mant for the state. 

Another state wit­ness, George Durrance, told police that Simpson con­fessed to the killings to him. The pros­e­cu­tion also did not inform the defense that Crook’s son had been an infor­mant against Durrance in an unre­lat­ed case. The Florida Supreme Court held that this should have been dis­closed to Simpson.

In rul­ing that the sup­pres­sion of this evi­dence was prej­u­di­cial, the major­i­ty wrote that the rela­tion­ship between Simpson, Little Archie, and Durrance was of crit­i­cal impor­tance in this case, and the infor­ma­tion Little Archie pro­vid­ed to law enforce­ment per­tain­ing to Durrance casts a dif­fer­ent light on this rela­tion­ship.” The major­i­ty deter­mined that Little Archie’s tes­ti­mo­ny and cred­i­bil­i­ty were of sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quence when we con­sid­er the lack of evi­dence link­ing Simpson to the scene of the crime.” 

Chief Judge Charles Canady dis­sent­ed, argu­ing that the evi­dence with­held by the pros­e­cu­tion was imma­te­r­i­al to Simpson’s case, writ­ing: The fact that Little Archie had been a source to law enforce­ment in unre­lat­ed mat­ters is of lit­tle, if any, relevance.” 

Avsenew was sen­tenced to death in 2018 for the mur­ders of Steven Adams and Kevin Powell in 2010. At tri­al, because of her health prob­lems, pros­e­cu­tors pre­sent­ed tes­ti­mo­ny from Avsenew’s moth­er via a video record­ing. The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure per­mit the use of pre-record­ed video tes­ti­mo­ny in cer­tain lim­it­ed cir­cum­stances in which a wit­ness is unavail­able to attend tri­al. The rules man­date that, when this occurs, the court must keep the defen­dant in the pres­ence of the wit­ness.” The tes­ti­mo­ny in the case estab­lished that Ms. Avsenew could not see her son as she was testifying. 

The court unan­i­mous­ly reversed Avsenew’s con­vic­tion. In assess­ing the prej­u­di­cial effect of the rules vio­la­tion, the jus­tices wrote: Without ques­tion, the impact of Ms. Avsenew’s incrim­i­nat­ing tes­ti­mo­ny on the jury would have been even greater because she is Avsenew’s mother.” 

The Florida Supreme Court remand­ed the two cas­es to coun­ty tri­al courts to con­duct new trials. 

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