New Voices

National Conference of Chief Justices Criticizes Bill to Cut Death Penalty Appeals

The Conference of Chief Justices overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging Congress to not pass the proposed Streamlined Procedures Act, which is aimed at curtailing death penalty appeals. The resolution was passed by the Chief Justices from state courts around the country at their annual meeting in Charlestown, South Carolina. Only the chief justice of Texas' Supreme Court voted against the resolution, stating that he did not have enough time to review the document.

NEW VOICES: Justice Stevens Harshly Critical of the Death Penalty

Speaking at the American Bar Association's Thurgood Marshall Awards Dinner in Illinois, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said that the death penalty has "serious flaws."  He recalled the late Justice Marshall in remarking how much the country has learned about the risks in death cases: "Since his retirement, with the benefit of DNA evidence, we have learned that a substantial number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously," Stevens said during the ceremony.  He added that Supreme Court cases have revealed that "a significant number of defendants in capital cases have not bee

Attempt to Strip the Federal Courts' Review Power in Death Penalty Cases Meets Conservative Opposition

The following article by Henry Weinstein appeared in the Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2005:

(DPIC Note: The Senate Judiciary Committee put off markup of the Streamlined Procedures Act, probably until September.  Also, see Letter from former Attorneys General and prosecutors opposing this legislation.)

Bid to Speed Death Penalty Appeals Under Fire
Conservatives and former prosecutors are among foes of a bill, before a

NEW VOICES: Victim's Family Opposes Federal Death Sentence

The parents and three children of Louisiana murder victim Kim Groves have asked the federal government to forgo seeking the death penalty for co-defendants Paul Hardy and Len Davis.  In a letter to prosecutors, the Groves family urged U.S attorneys to halt proceedings that  might lead to death sentences in rehearings for both defendants.

"Executing these two men will not bring Kim Groves back to life. It will not ease the deep sorrow and loss that her family has and will continue to experience as a result of her death...Perversely, it appears that he (Davis) has enjoyed the attention and notoriety which his vulnerability to the death penalty has provided. The family believes the death penalty would in fact be the lesser of the punishments and that the finality and duration of a life sentence would be much more difficult and severe to Mr. Davis, in particular, than death," the letter stated.

The letter, which was also addressed to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was entered into the court record last week.   The presiding judge ruled that if prosecutors have family members testifying about the facts of the crime, the letter may be used on Davis' behalf. 

NEW VOICES: Former Texas Death Row Chaplain - In His Own Words

The Reverend Carroll Pickett, former chaplain on death row in Texas:

Ninety-five times, I personally walked a man who was sentenced to die to the death chamber in Texas. From the very first person executed by lethal injection, through 16 years of walking those eight steps from the holding cell in the death house to the impeccably clean gurney in the death chamber, I led a man - some were older, some convicted in their teens, some mentally ill, some very hardened by life and, I fully know, some who were innocent.

NEW VOICES: "Hanging Judge" Calls for End to the Death Penalty

Retired Orange County, California Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin, who was once known as "the hanging judge," recently called for an end to the death penalty. In a column he published in the Orange County Register, McCartin revealed that a number of recent death penalty cases and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court have led him to now oppose capital punishment because it is expensive and can never be applied in a fair and balanced way. He wrote:

NEW VOICES: Former North Carolina Judge: "We Should Pause and be Certain"

Former North Carolina Judge Tom Ross is urging state lawmakers to enact legislation that would impose a two-year moratorium on executions, a step he says is necessary in order to prevent an innocent person from being executed in the state. During his career, Ross served as a Superior Court Judge for 18 years, as the chair of the North Carolina Sentencing Commission, and as director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. He is currently the executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. In a "Point of View" column in The News & Observer, Ross stated:

Death Row Inmates Present Scholarship to Future Police Officer

Death row inmates from around the country will present a $5,000 college scholarship to Zach Osborne, the brother of a 4-year-old murder victim, who plans to attend East Carolina University to pursue a career in law enforcement. The scholarship is an annual award given by those on death row who participate in the publication of "Compassion," a newsletter that provides a forum for communication between convicted offenders and murder victims' families. Each year, a murder victim's family member is chosen to receive the funds based on the results of an essay competition. In his essay, Osborne wrote, "Natalie's death has haunted my family since the day she was found. . . . Through realizing this dream (of becoming a law enforcement officer), I would play a key role in preventing situations like this from ever happening again." Dennis Skillicorn, who is on Missouri's death row and serves as current editor of "Compassion," stated that the scholarship "gives every one of us - regardless of our living conditions - an opportunity to restore some of what we've torn down." Osborne will receive his scholarship during a 10 a.m. press conference hosted by the Greensboro Police Department on June 7.