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PUBLIC OPINION: Gallup Poll Reports Lowest Death Penalty Support in 27 Years

Posted: October 31, 2005
An October 2005 Gallup Poll found that only 64% of Americans favored the death penalty for those convicted of murder.  The last time the poll found a lower support was in 1978 when 62% favored the death penalty.  The high point for public endorsement of the death penalty came in 1994 when 80% supported capital punishment.  This most recent poll result is consistent with Gallup Polls taken in October 2004 and 2003, both registering a 64% support of the death penalty.  (See Gallup Poll Document, posted Oct.
 

North Carolina Death Penalty Study Commission Announced

Posted: October 31, 2005
North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black has appointed 20 House members to a study commission that will examine how the death penalty is carried out in the state. The commission will also recommend possible capital punishment-related policy reforms for their colleagues to consider during their session next spring. The commission will be chaired by Representatives Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill and Beverly Earle of Charlotte.
 

DOCUMENTARY: "After Innocence" Tells the Stories of the Wrongfully Convicted Following Their Release

Posted: October 28, 2005

A new documentary, "After Innocence," by Jessica Sanders and Marc Simon, is opening in cities around the country.  This award-winning film (Sundance and other film festivals) tells the stories of wrongfully convicted defendants who were exonerated through DNA evidence, and about what happens to them after their release as they attempt to rebuild their lives.  The film opens in Washington, D.C. at the Landmark's E St. Cinema, 555 11th St. NW, on Friday, Nov. 4.   A discussion will follow the film and bulk discounts are available. 

 

EDITORIAL: L.A. Times Calls for End to Death Penalty

Posted: October 27, 2005
In an editorial on October 27, the Los Angeles Times called for an end to the death penalty in California.  The Times stated that the punishment should end not because of the merits of individual death row inmates, such as Stanley Williams, scheduled for execution on December 13, but because of "who we are" as a civilized society:

EDITORIAL Shut down death rowOctober 27, 2005

STANLEY "TOOKIE" WILLIAMS is a charismatic symbol of what's wrong with the death penalty — and of what's wrong with the debate about the death
 

Patriot Act Reauthorization Could Impact Federal Death Penalty

Posted: October 26, 2005

Several provisions contained within the U.S. House of Representatives version of legislation to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law aim to dramatically transform the federal death penalty system by allowing smaller juries to decide on executions and giving prosecutors the ability to try again if the jury deadlocks on sentencing. The legislative changes, sponsored by Texas Congressman John Carter, would also triple the number of terrorism-related crimes eligible for the death penalty.

Carter's amendment, called the Terrorist Death Penalty Enhancement Act,  would add 41 crimes to the 20 terrorism-related offenses currently eligible for capital punishment. It would also make it easier for prosecutors to seek a capital conviction in cases where the defendant did not have the intent to kill. In addition, the provisions would allow a trial with fewer than 12 jurors if the court finds "good cause," with or without the agreement of the defense team. Lastly, it would give prosecutors the chance to retry cases if a jury is deadlocked over a death sentence. Currently in federal death penalty cases, a hung jury at sentencing automatically results in a life sentence, a system that is used in all but 5 of the 38 U.S. states that have capital punishment.

 

NEW RESOURCE: The Death Penalty: Constitutional Issues, Commentaries and Case Briefs

Posted: October 21, 2005
The Death Penalty: Constitutional Issues, Commentaries and Case Briefs is a new textbook that brings together many of the legal issues of the death penalty and presents them in an easy-to-digest form. The book provides a brief retrospective analysis of capital punishment over the past two centuries, and then details the current status of the U.S. death penalty. With a chapter that focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court cases Furman v. Georgia and Gregg v.
 

ACLU Report Finds Flaws in Alabama's Death Penalty

Posted: October 21, 2005

According to a new report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), structural and procedural flaws in Alabama’s criminal justice system stack the deck against fair trials and appropriate sentencing for those facing the death penalty. The report, Broken Justice: The Death Penalty in Alabama, details unfair and discriminatory practices in the state’s administration of the death penalty.

 

DETERRENCE: U.S. Murder Rate Declined in 2004, Even As Death Penalty Use Dropped

Posted: October 20, 2005

Even as the use of the death penalty continued to decline in the United States, the number of murders and the national murder rate dropped in 2004. According to the recently released FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2004, the nation's murder rate fell by 3.3%, declining to 5.5 murders per 100,000 people in 2004. By region, the Northeast, which accounts for less than 1% of all U.S. executions, continued to have the nation's lowest murder rate, 4.2. The Midwest had a murder rate of 4.7, and the murder rate in the West was 5.7. The South, which has carried out more than 80% of all U.S.

 

LEGAL UPDATES: Mental Retardation, Representation, Lethal Injections

Posted: October 19, 2005

Various courts issued rulings this week regarding issues important to capital punishment law:

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an unsigned opinion holding that it was improper for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to require Arizona to have a jury determine a defendant's mental retardation status. The Court noted that Arizona's legislature had not yet addressed whether this issue should be decided by a judge or a jury. The case is Schriro v. Smith, No. 04-1475 (October 17, 2005). (See Washington Post, Oct. 18, 2005). See Mental Retardation.

 

Arizona Man Freed From Death Row

Posted: October 18, 2005

Clarence David Hill (pictured) has been freed after spending nearly 16 years on Arizona's death row. Hill, who is terminally ill, recently had his 1st-degree murder conviction and death sentence overturned. Though he maintains his innocence in the 1989 murder of his landlord, Hill chose to avoid the prospect of a new trial by accepting an agreement that allowed him to plead guilty to 2nd-degree murder and be sentenced to time already served. Hill's attorney noted that his client only took the plea agreement so that he could be with his family.

 

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