New Voices

Connecticut Legislative Hearings Exhibit Strong Opposition to the Death Penalty

A retired prison warden, victims' family members, and a former death row inmate were among the nearly 75 speakers at a state Judiciary Committee hearing in Hartford, almost all of whom proposed ending Connecticut's death penalty. Many of the witnesses noted that the death penalty brings no relief to victims' family members, fails to deter murder, risks innocent lives, and is applied in an arbitrary way.

"I'm here to tell you that I never met an inmate for whom I had no hope," said Mary Morgan Wolff, a former state deputy warden who worked 37 years for the state Department of Corrections.

Laurence Adams, a former death row inmate from Massachusetts, told the committee that he was freed in 2004 by long-forgotten evidence proving his innocence. "I'm here today because Massachusetts abolished the death penalty," he noted as he described his 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and the likelihood that he would have been executed long before his recent exoneration if the state had not ended capital punishment.

NEW VOICES: Federal Judge Calls for More Resources for Texas Death Penalty Trials

Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit called on Texas to pay more than 'lip service' to providing individuals facing the death penalty with a truly fair and constitutional trial. He stated that more resources must be placed on training attorneys and judges at the trial level in order to protect against executing the innocent. Higginbotham, writing along with attorney Mark Curriden of Vinson & Elkins, noted that during the past three years, the U.S. Supreme Court has reviewed seven capital cases from Texas and reversed all seven. Moreover, "the Supreme Court and lower courts have overturned 165 Texas death penalty convictions or sentences since capital punishment was reinstated three decades ago."

"The cases include instances in which defense attorneys slept through trial, came to court intoxicated, or did very little work on their clients' behalf. There are cases in which prosecutors withheld evidence or allowed witnesses to fabricate testimony. And there are cases in which judges misinterpreted the law, mishandled jury selection, or issued flawed jury instructions."

They highlighted the training programs of the Center for American and International Law, a nonprofit corporation that promotes continuing legal education. The Center will conduct programs for defense attorneys, judges and prosecutors in 2005.

Georgia's Death Row Faces a Crisis Without Adequate Legal Representation

Seven people on Georgia's death row are without legal representation as they face their final rounds of appeal. Georgia does not guarantee publicly funded lawyers for death row inmates beyond the first round of appeal. According to many legal experts, including retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Clark, the failure to provide legal counsel increases the likelihood of a wrongful execution. "It's a very important check in the system that's missing. There can be slips in the process along the way. When you've got a

NEW VOICES: Understanding Mental Illness and the Death Penalty

In a recent Hartford Courant opinion piece, psychiatrist Robert C. Goodwin spoke about the mental illness afflicting Michael Ross, who is scheduled for execution in Connecticut on January 26. Dr. Goodwin was a psychiatric consultant to the state of Connecticut from 1983-2001 and took part in Michael Ross' evaluation and treatment over the years, appearing as an expert witness in Ross' second trial. Dr. Goodwin believes the execution should be stopped:

Although demonstrably sane, Ross suffers from a clear-cut, well-documented case of the most severe sort of paraphilia (sexual deviation). This is not just my view. It is the considered opinion of almost every psychiatrist and mental health professional who has examined him, including at least one who customarily testifies for the prosecution. In Ross' case, the condition resulted in intense, constant and virtually irresistible violent fantasies toward women.

RELIGIOUS VIEWS: Connecticut Archbishop Asks Parishoners to Protest the Death Penalty

As Connecticut prepares to carry out its first execution in over 40 years, Catholic Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford called on local parishes to sign a Church petition that calls for an end to capital punishment. "The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life only by taking life," Mansell wrote in a letter that will be read during Masses on January 8 and 9. Other bishops in Connecticut are taking similar actions prior to the scheduled execution of Michael Ross on January 26.

The U.S. Conference of

NEW VOICES: Federal Judge Discusses His Concerns About the Death Penalty

In an interview with The New York Times, Judge Jed S. Rakoff (pictured) discussed his reasons for finding the federal death penalty to be unconstitutional. Judge Rakoff ruled in April 2002 that the death penalty failed to secure due process because of the demonstrated risk of executing an innocent person. He noted that his conclusions on capital punishment were based in part on his extensive review of cases included on the Death Penalty Information Center's innocence list.

New Voices

Individuals from across the political spectrum have voiced concerns about the death penalty, questioning whether capital punishment can be applied fairly, whether the risks of executing innocent people are too great, and whether the money spent on the death penalty could be used more effectively. These new voices represent a variety of perspectives, from judges and prosecutors to legislators and murder victims' families. These quotes are only a small selection of recent statements from notable figures. For other recent statements, see:


U.S. Death Penalty: Victims Seize the High Ground

U.S. Death Penalty: victims seize the high ground UNESCO COURIER

October, 2000

U.S. death penalty: victims seize the high ground

On the eve of the U.S. presidential elections, the death penalty - repudiated by almost all democratic nations - is notable only for its absence from debate. Abolitionists are changing their tactics to 'win over' a majority

UNESCO Courier Journalsist

Though the legal battle was arduous, Gary Gilmore eventually got what he had longed for on January 17, 1977. Tied by nylon rope to an office