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Discovery of Lost Evidence Is the Latest Embarrassment for Nation's Leading Death Penalty Jurisdiction

Posted: August 27, 2004
The discovery of 280 unopened and mislabeled boxes of evidence found in the Houston Crime Lab's property room could impact as many as 8,000 cases, including many cases where defendants have sought evidence to prove their innocence. Investigators began sorting through the boxes this month, finding an array of evidence that ranged from a fetus and human body parts to clothes and a bag of Cheetos. Although the boxes were located nearly a year ago, the cataloging of their contents has just begun and could take up to a year to complete. Some of the evidence may be linked

Brutalization Effect: Children Die Imitating Recent Execution in India

Posted: August 26, 2004
In the two weeks since India's first hanging in 13 years, two children have died and a third young boy was nearly killed as a result of imitating the highly publicized execution. A 14-year-old boy died after he tied one end of a rope around his neck and swung the other end on a ceiling fan in his home to re-enact the execution. The boy's father said that his son was very curious about the nation's first execution and had closely followed the days leading up to it by watching news accounts. The second child to die, a 12-year-old

Life Sentences Given in Four States

Posted: August 25, 2004
Death sentences have declined across the country. The following four cases are recent illustrations of this trend:

  • In Cook County, Illinois, a judge sentenced Ronald Hinton to life without parole, citing abuse in the defendant’s background and his remorse for the crimes. Hinton admitted to three murders. (Chicago Tribune, August 25, 2004).
  • In Butler County, Ohio, a three-judge panel sentenced Tom West to life without parole for a shooting spree at a trucking company in which

Prosecutors Offer a Variety of Reasons for Foregoing Death Penalty

Posted: August 24, 2004
The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office reflected on a number of factors in deciding to forego seeking a death sentence for Seti Christopher Scanlan, whose first trial ended in a mistrial after he took the stand and begged jurors to sentence him to death. Prosecutors are now seeking a sentence of life in prison for Scanlan after concluding that "it was not reasonably likely that we would get a jury that would deliver the death penalty." The case has already cost taxpayers more than half a million dollars and that number would have doubled if

NEW RESOURCE: Scientific American Looks at Crime Rates

Posted: August 23, 2004
In his Scientific American magazine article entitled, "The Case of the Unsolved Crime Decline," criminologist Richard Rosenfeld examines why U.S. crime rates dropped more than 40% in the 1990's and what lessons current policy-makers can learn from this decline. Rosenfeld provides an overview and evaluation of previous research showing a link in the crime rate decline and factors such as changes in demographics, law-enforcement practices, economic conditions, incarceration rates,

Broad Spectrum of Citizens Seeks Clemency in Upcoming Texas Execution

Posted: August 20, 2004
A broad spectrum of the public is seeking clemency for Texas death row inmate James Allridge, who is scheduled to be executed on Thursday, August 26th. Among those pointing to Allridge's rehabilitation as the basis for mercy are four of the original jurors in his trial, two former death row prison guards, a retired prison system administrator, a Fort Worth city councilman, one of Allridge's former employers, and murder victims' family members. The supporters state that since Aldridge arrived on

NEW RESOURCE: Law Review Examines Race and the Death Penalty

Posted: August 19, 2004
The Summer 2004 DePaul Law Review contains presentations and articles from the University's two-day "Race to Execution" Symposium, an event that featured remarks and presentations from some of the nation's most renowned death penalty experts. This law review examines the role that race has historically had and continues to play in our nation's death penalty debate. Among the articles are presentations examining the racial bias in capital sentencing, how implicit racial attitudes of

NEW RESOURCE: Law, Psychology, and Death Penalty Litigation

Posted: August 18, 2004
Professor James R. Eisenberg's new book, "Law, Psychology, and Death Penalty Litigation," provides a thorough introduction to the role that forensic psychology plays in capital trials. Using a step-by-step approach that covers the historical and current legal context of capital punishment, Eisenberg describes the various tasks that might confront the forensic psychologist in a death penalty trial, including issues of competency to be executed, mental retardation, risk assessment, and related ethical dilemmas. Eisenberg, an award-winning Professor of Psychology

Editorial Urges New York Legislators to Abandon Death Penalty

Posted: August 17, 2004
A recent Albany Times Union editorial called on state legislators to abandon attempts to reinstate New York's death penalty, which the state's highest court found unconstitutional because the statute's jury instructions could be coercive. The June 24th New York Court of Appeals ruling in People v. Stephen LaValle spurred proposed legislation to remedy the statute. Some legal critics who have examined the new bill say that it may also be unconstitutional. The editorial echoed this sentiment, noting:


Ryan Matthews is Latest Exonoree

Posted: August 13, 2004

On Monday, August 9, 2004, Ryan Matthews became the latest death row inmate to be freed, and the 14th exonerated with the help of DNA evidence. Matthews was sentenced to die in 1999 and spent nearly five years on death row before being cleared of a murder that occurred just two weeks after his 17th birthday.

Matthews' appellate attorneys had physical evidence from his trial