Updated: May 08, 2023

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.

Nevada Supreme Court Finds Samuel Howard Actually Innocent of Death Penalty

Sep 16, 2021

NEWS (9/​16/​21) – Nevada: The Supreme Court of Nevada has over­turned Samuel Howards death sen­tence, find­ing him actu­al­ly inno­cent” of the death penal­ty. Reversing the tri­al court’s dis­missal of Howard’s post­con­vic­tion chal­lenge to his death sen­tence, the appeals court ruled that a recent deci­sion by New York state courts that over­turned a con­vic­tion pros­e­cu­tors relied upon as an aggra­vat­ing cir­cum­stance in Howard’s case inval­i­dat­ed that aggra­vat­ing circumstance. 

The Nevada Supreme Court had pre­vi­ous­ly inval­i­dat­ed anoth­er aggra­vat­ing cir­cum­stance in Howard’s case. With no aggra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances to make Howard eli­gi­ble for the death penal­ty, the court declared him inno­cent of the death penalty.

California Court Rejects Challenge to Execution Moratorium

Sep 01, 2021

A California tri­al court has dis­missed a law­suit filed by con­ser­v­a­tive media com­men­ta­tor John V. Lacy that had chal­lenged the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of the March 2019 exec­u­tive order by Governor Gavin Newsom (pic­tured) declar­ing a mora­to­ri­um on exe­cu­tions in the state. 

In orders issued on August 31, 2021, the Sacramento Superior Court denied Lacy’s motion to strike down Newsom’s mora­to­ri­um for alleged­ly exceed­ing his author­i­ty under the California con­sti­tu­tion and grant­ed Newsom’s motion to dis­miss Lacy’s suit. The court found that Lacy had failed to show that he sus­tained or is imme­di­ate­ly in dan­ger of sus­tain­ing some direct injury” from the exe­cu­tion mora­to­ri­um or that the mora­to­ri­um dec­la­ra­tion had vio­lat­ed a min­is­te­r­i­al duty” that Newsom and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation were required to be per­formed in a pre­scribed man­ner.” Accordingly, the court said, Lacy lacked stand­ing to sue. 

Lacy, a for­mer co-chair of the annu­al Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) con­fer­ence in Washington, D.C. and a co-host of the radio pro­gram Live in Taxifornia, has described sup­port­ers of the mora­to­ri­um as the pro­gres­sive pro-crim­i­nal crowd” and assert­ed that the media prais­es cop killers and pro­motes defund­ing the police.” He claimed that his repeat­ed votes for ini­tia­tive mea­sures that would con­tin­ue cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in the state and against mea­sures that would reduce or elim­i­nate it” con­ferred upon him per­son­al stand­ing to chal­lenge the mora­to­ri­um. Newsom argued that Lacy had alleged noth­ing more than per­son­al dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the Governor’s actions” and had no legal basis to sue.

The California con­sti­tu­tion grants the gov­er­nor the pow­ers of reprieve, par­don, and com­mu­ta­tion. Newsom’s order declared an exec­u­tive mora­to­ri­um on the death penal­ty … in the form of a reprieve for all peo­ple sen­tenced to death in California.” Having deter­mined that Lacy lacked stand­ing to sue, the court decline[d] to rule on the under­ly­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al argu­ment that would be addressed if [Lacy] had standing.”

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