What's New

New Play About the Life of Karla Faye Tucker to Open in New York

Posted: September 30, 2005
Karla, a new play by singer and songwriter Steve Earle will open at the 45 Bleecker St. Theatre on October 20 in New York City.  The play tells the life story of Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.  She was executed by lethal injection in 1998 while George W.

NEW RESOURCE: Congressional Quarterly Reviews Death Penalty Developments

Posted: September 29, 2005
The entire current edition of Congressional Quarterly's CQ Researcher  is devoted to a comprehensive look at the death penalty in the U.S.  This special CQ report, authored by Kenneth Jost and entitled "Death Penalty Controversies," explores the history of the U.S. death penalty and changing public opinion about its use. It also looks at the current status of state moratorium developments, the continuing decline in U.S.

Supreme Court Agrees to Consider Third Death Penalty Case Involving Issues of Innocence

Posted: September 28, 2005

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed yesterday to review the case of a death row inmate from South Carolina who was denied the opportunity at trial to present evidence of the possible guilt of another person.  In Holmes v. South Carolina, No. 04-1327, the Court will consider whether the state's rules regarding such evidence deprived Holmes of his due process rights to present a complete defense.  In 2004, the South Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that the state's evidence against Holmes was so strong that he should not be allowed to present evidence that another person had been seen near the scene of the crime and had confessed to the murder that Holmes was charged with.  One judge dissented, saying that Holmes should have been allowed to put on evidence of third-party guilt because Holmes had sufficiently challenged the state's evidence against him.  See the South Carolina decision in State v. Holmes.

In its coming term starting on October 3, the U.S. Supreme Court will also hear House v. Bell, concerning the standard of evidence needed for a new claim of innocence, and Oregon v. Guzek, concerning the right to put on evidence of innocence during the penalty phase of a capital trial.


Judicial Conference of the United States Opposes Bill Cutting Death Penalty Appeals

Posted: September 28, 2005
The Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy making body of the nation's federal judges, wrote a strong letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee opposing parts of the Streamlined Procedures Act (S.1088) that would curtail death penalty appeals.  The bill is scheduled to be marked up by the Committee on Thursday, September 29.  The judges said the bill could "create unreasonable obstacles to resolution" of death penalty cases, and that it could "undermine the traditional role of the federal courts to hear and decide the merits of claims arising under the Con

NEW RESOURCE: Craig Haney's New Book Explores Years of Death Penatly Research

Posted: September 27, 2005

Craig Haney, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has just published a new book, Death By Design: Capital Punishment as a Social Psychological System (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2005). Haney explores a number of areas that skew death penalty sentencing in America:

  • Jury selection--By systematically screening out opponents of capital punishment, the process produces unrepresentative juries and juries that include a high concentration of people who are more inclined to convict defendants.


Research Links Historical Lynchings to Modern Murder Rates and Capital Punishment

Posted: September 26, 2005

Recent research has revealed a close correlation between the U.S. states that historically carried out the most lynchings and the states that today have the highest homicide rates and most death sentences.  In a study led by sociologist Steven Messner of the State University of New York at Albany, county data from 10 southern states where historically reliable information on vigilante lynchings between 1882 and 1930 is available were examined (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee).


INTERNATIONAL RESOURCE: "Amicus Journal" Highlights Death Penalty Developments

Posted: September 23, 2005

The Amicus Journal discusses death penalty issues from around the world.  The latest edition contains articles on the "teamwork" approach used by capital defense attorneys in Virginia, Africa's progress in abandoning the death penalty, and a feature on the experience of being a lawyer on the front lines of capital litigation in the U.S. The publication also examines the recent U.S. Supreme Court cases of Medellin  v. Dretke and Miller-El v. Dretke.  (13 Amicus Journal (2005), published in London by the Andrew Lee Jones Fund). See Resources. 


Study Finds Race of Victim, Geography Are Key Factors In California Death Sentencing

Posted: September 22, 2005

According to a new study to be published in the Santa Clara Law Review, a defandant in California is more likely to be sentenced to death for killing a white person than for murdering a person of any other race, despite there being more black and Hispanic murder victims in the state. The research also shows that geography plays a key role in whether the death penalty will be sought in a particular case.


NEW RESOURCE: Foreign Nationals on U.S. Death Rows

Posted: September 21, 2005

The latest edition of the Consular Rights in America newsletter is now available.  The newsletter discusses legal and political developments concerning citizens of other countries who are in prison or on death row in the U.S.  Issue 29 contains excerpts from the Texas Lawyer of recent arguments before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in the case of Jose Medellin, a Mexican citizen on death row in Texas.  This case has already been the subject of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the International Court of Justice, and of a presidential decision.  The newsletter also discusses the decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals regarding Osbaldo Torres, a former death row inmate also from Mexico.  The newsletter is published by Mark Warren of Human Rights Research. 


INNOCENCE: It Happens in China, Too

Posted: September 21, 2005

Qin Yanhong was convicted of rape and murder in China in 1999.  A panel of judges sentenced him to death.  His conviction was the result of a confession that followed days of torture and interrorgation by police, despite the fact that such tactics are forbidden under Chinese law.  The senior detective on the case expressed absolute confidence in the conviction and even offered to accept the punishment if it was proven wrong.  In 2001, another man walked into a nearby police station and confessed to a spate of killings and described the murder that Mr. Qin had been accused of in perfect detail.  Even then, officials tried to cover up the new revelations and keep Mr. Qin on death row until a reporter heard about the confession by the serial killer.  Qin was finally freed in 2002.  In 2005 alone, there have been about 12 similar reversals of convictions, including a number for murder.