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Latest Edition of "Death Row USA"

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has released its latest edition of "Death Row USA." The total number of inmates on death row again declined from the previous report, marking a sharp reversal from the years of death row increases between 1973 and 2000. A total of 3,517 inmates remain on death row. The only jurisdictions recording death row population increases were Alabama, Arizona, California, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, and the Federal Government. See Death

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Yarris Conviction and Death Sentence to be Vacated

Delaware County prosecutors and defense attorneys for Nicholas James Yarris have jointly asked the court to vacate his 1982 capital conviction after DNA testing showed that Yarris was not the source of evidence found on the body of the victim. While prosecutors have the option of retrying Yarris, defense attorneys note that they are "not aware of any evidence in Nick's case" that is strong enough to warrant a new trial.

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Louisiana Jury Imposes Death Sentence in Rape Case

Jurors sentenced a man accused of raping his step-daughter in Louisiana to death based on a state law that was adopted in 1995. The law states that the death penalty can be sought for aggravated rape if the victim is under the age of 12. The other penalty available to the jurors was a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. (Associated Press, August 27, 2003) Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, no one in the United States has been executed except for a crime involving murder.

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Gradual Decline in Support for the Death Penalty in Europe

Opposition to the death penalty appears to grow the longer a country has been without the punishment. A Gallup International poll in 2000 found that 60% of western Europeans opposed the death penalty, while 60% of eastern Europeans (where abolition is still being debated) support the death penalty. In France, a TNS Sofres poll revealed that two decades after abolition of the death penalty, 49% of respondents opposed reintroduction of the policy compared with 44% who wanted to reinstate capital punishment.

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"How Many Innocent People Must We Execute?"

Following U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf's opinion in the federal capital prosecution of Gary Lee Sampson expressing his reservations about the risks of executing the innocent (click here for article), the Buffalo News raised similar concerns in a recent editorial:

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Missouri Supreme Court Throws Out Juvenile Death Sentence Based on Evolving Standards of Decency

In a 4-3 decision to vacate the death sentence of juvenile offender Christopher Simmons, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the juvenile death penalty violates the nation's evolving standards of decency and is therefore unconstitutional. Noting that "a national consensus has developed against the execution of juvenile offenders," the Court's opinion cited evidence such as the growing number of states that have banned the practice. The Court resentenced Simmons to life in prison without parole.

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INNOCENCE: Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Two Illinois Men Freed by DNA Testing

Cook County prosecutors have dropped all charges against Michael Evans and Paul Terry, two men who had been convicted of raping and murdering a 9-year-old girl in 1976. Following DNA testing that cleared the Illinois men, the state freed Evans and Terry 26 years after they were sentenced to serve 200 to 400 years in prison for the crime. (In many states, the defendants could have been sentenced to death and executed before their exoneration.) The men were 17 at the time of the crime, and no physical evidence linked them to the murder.

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NEW RESOURCE: Law Review Examines History of Colorado's Death Penalty

In "Capital Punishment in Colorado: 1859-1972," University of Colorado professor and death penalty expert Michael Radelet reviews the history of capital punishment in Colorado. In the article, Radelet reviews each of the state's executions during that time period and uses the data to show general patterns regarding the average time between conviction and execution, types of crimes and number of victims, and the logistics of carrying out the executions. 74 University of Colorado Law Review 885 (2003). See Resources.

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