From DPIC images

Executions in 2008

Since the U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding Kentucky's lethal injection process on April 16, there have been 9 executions:

William Lynd
Earl Berry
Kevin Green
Curtis Osborne
David Hill
Karl Chamberlain
Terry Short

Upcoming Georgia Execution Involves Racially Biased and Unprepared Defense Lawyer

On June 4, Georgia has scheduled the execution of Curtis Osborne. (UPDATE: Osborne was executed on June 4.) Osborne's own defense lawyer at trial was racially biased against him and failed to do the most basic investigation that might have saved his client's life. The attorney repeatedly referred to Osborne with a racial epithet, saying, "that little n____r deserves the chair."

At the time of the murder that sent Osborne to death row, he was suffering from mental problems and his family had a history of mental illness going back for 3 generations. However, Osborne's attorney failed to raise this issue.

Law enforcement officials and religious leaders who have come to know Curtis Osborne have noted his complete remorse for the crime and the dramatic changes in his life while on death row. His story is recounted in a video prepared by his current defense attorneys. (Posted May 28, 2008).

View the video with Windows Media Player. View the video in QuickTime.

Excerpts from Baze v. Rees

Excerpts from the Supreme Court Opinion in Baze v. Rees
April 16, 2008

sup ctOpinion of the Chief Justice announcing the judgment of the Court

"Some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution—no matter how humane—if only from the prospect of error in following the required procedure. It is clear, then, that the Constitution does not demand the avoidance of all risk of pain in carrying out executions."

Concurring Opinion of Justice Alito

"The issue presented in this case—the constitutionality of a method of execution—should be kept separate from the controversial issue of the death penalty itself. If the Court wishes to reexamine the latter issue, it should do so directly, as JUSTICE STEVENS now suggests."

Concurring Opinion of Justice Stevens

"The risk of executing innocent defendants can be entirely eliminated by treating any penalty more severe than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as constitutionally excessive."

NEW VOICES: Law Enforcement Officers and Judges Address California Death Penalty

"California's Death Penalty is Broken"

On March 28, 2008 two letters were sent to the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice--one from members of the law enforcement community and the other from judges, raising concerns about the state's death penalty.

Thirty law enforcement officers, including current and former prosecutors, police chiefs and other officers, signed a letter stating that “California’s death penalty is broken.” The letter cites multiple reasons why the state’s death penalty system is not working, such as the excessive costs of capital cases, the risk of wrongful convictions, and the stress placed on victims’ families. The signers noted,

By pursuing life without parole sentences instead of death, resources now spent on the death penalty prosecutions and appeals could be used to investigate unsolved homicides, modernize crime labs, and expand effective violence prevention programs.

Maryland Cost Study

Study Reveals Maryland's Death Penalty is Costing Taxpayers $186 Million
A study released on March 6, 2008 found that Maryland taxpayers are paying $186 million dollars for a system that has resulted in five executions since 1978 when the state reenacted the death penalty.  That would be equivalent to $37.2 per execution.  The study, prepared by the Urban Institute, estimates that the average cost to Maryland taxpayers for reaching a single death sentence is $3 million - $1.9 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty case. The study examined 162 capital cases that were prosecuted between 1978 and 1999 and found that seeking the death penalty in those cases cost $186 million more than what those cases would have cost had the death penalty not been sought. At every phase of a case, according to the study, capital murder cases cost more than non-capital murder cases.

Nebraska and Mississippi

Nebraska Supreme Court Rules Electrocution Unconstitutional
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on February 8, 2008, that electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment under the state's constitution, outlawing the electric chair in the only state that still used it as its sole means of execution.

In the landmark ruling, the court said the state legislature may vote to have a death penalty, just not one that offends rights under the state constitution. The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts "intense pain and agonizing suffering," it said.

"Condemned prisoners must not be tortured to death, regardless of their crimes," Judge William Connolly wrote in the 6-1 opinion. (N. Jenkins, "Court: Nebraska Electric Chair Not Legal" Associated Press, February 8, 2008).

Read the Nebraska Supreme Court Decision, see also Methods of Execution and Botched Executions.

Kennedy Brewer is 127th Death Row Inmate Exonerated
Kennedy Brewer, who spent 12 years on Mississippi’s death row for the 1992 murder and rape of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, has been exonerated of the charges, and another man, Justin Johnson, has been arrested for the same crime. A 2001 investigation by the Innocence Project found that the semen on the victim’s body did not match Brewer’s DNA, but did match Johnson’s. Johnson was a suspect early in the case, and his blood was collected and preserved in the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory for more than 10 years. (H. Mohr, “Man charged in child slaying for which another sentenced to death,” Associated Press, February 7, 2008).

2007: DPIC's Year End Report

U.S. Supreme Court stayed the Alabama execution scheduled for night of Jan. 31.

Watch the Independent Film Channel's piece on the U.S. Supreme Court case regarding lethal injection, Baze v. Rees. The video also includes a discussion of death penalty trends with DPIC's Richard Dieter and an interview with former Texas death row chaplain Carroll Pickett.

2007: DPIC's Year End Report

New Jersey Abolishes the Death Penalty

New Jersey Abolishes
the Death Penalty
On December 17, 2007, Governor Jon Corzine signed a bill that abolishes the death penalty in New Jersey and replaces it with a sentence of life without parole. On Sunday, December 16th, Corzine commuted the sentences of the eight men on death row to life without the parole sentences. ("NJ Bans Death Penalty" Associated Press, December 17, 2007). The New Jersey Assembly approved this bill to replace the state's death penalty