The most recent volume of Criminology & Public Policy examines the topic of race and policing. Contributors to this special volume offer timely insights in this controversial area, with most agreeing that more can be done to address the long-standing tension between street officers and communities of color.
Because of the high costs of pursuing death penalty cases, Georgia's public defender system has run out of funds. Most of state's 72 capital cases have been brought to a standstill. The judge in one recent high-profile case has put off jury selection until September 10 because of the funding crisis.
The high-profile case involves Brian Nichols, who has been charged with the 2005 courthouse shooting that left a judge, and three other victims dead. Because the death penalty is being sought for Nichols, the case has cost the state's public defender system $1.4 million to date, an expense that has led the office to request $9.5 million in additional funding from the legislature to keep its operations running through the end of June 2007. (Nichols has agreed to plead guilty and accept life without parole if the death penalty option is dropped.) Mike Mears, director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, which manages the public defender system, said the Nichols case "is testing the will of the state of Georgia with regard to whether or not the death penalty is worth the amount it costs."
The latest edition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's "Death Row, USA" reports that the number of people on death row in the United States rose slightly to 3,350 as of January 1, 2007, an increase of 6 inmates from October 1, 2006, but a decline of 23 inmates from a year ago. The slight increase appears to be partly the result of the relatively few executions in the last quarter of 2006. California (660), Florida (397), and Texas (393) continued to have the largest death row populations.
A measure to repeal Nebraska's death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life without parole fell one vote short of moving to the second of three stages in consideration by the unicameral legislature. It was the first time the full legislature had debated the death penalty in nearly two decades. The measure's defeat followed two days of debate about capital punishment, including whether decisions to impose the death penalty reflect social, economic or racial bias. In addition, some legislators criticized the state's death penalty as arbitrary in nature.
UPDATE: Henderson's execution date of April 18 was stayed in order to consider new defense motions in the case. A new execution date of June 13 was tentatively set.
Upcoming Texas Execution Raises Questions of Appropriate Sentence
Cathy Henderson (pictured with Sr. Helen Prejean) is scheduled to be executed in Texas on April 18 for the 1994 murder of Brandon Baugh, an infant she was babysitting. Henderson would be the 12th woman put to death in the U.S. since capital punishment was reinstated. (See DPIC's updated page on Women and the Death Penalty). Since her arrest, Henderson has maintained that the child's death was accidental. Henderson said that she is sorry for Brandon's death and that she feels regret every day for the pain she caused his family. Watch an interview of Henderson with the Kansas City Star (Windows Media Player).
Cathy Henderson (pictured with Sr. Helen Prejean) is scheduled to be executed in Texas on April 18 for the 1994 murder of Brandon Baugh, an infant she was babysitting. Henderson would be the 12th woman put to death in the U.S. since capital punishment was reinstated. Since her arrest, Henderson has maintained that the child's death was accidental. She said that she dropped the baby, fracturing his skull, and then panicked after realizing she could not revive him. She then buried the boy's body and fled to Missouri, where authorities captured her nearly two weeks later.
Legislation to establish a commission to examine Kentucky's death penalty and report its findings to the General Assembly has gained support from former law enforcement officials and victims' family members. The bill, proposed by Rep. Tom Burch, would require the task force to review whether capital punishment deters crime, is applied fairly, and is still acceptable to the public. It would mark the first time in four decades that the state has examined its death penalty laws.
Corrections officials, prosecutors and police chiefs recently gathered in Annapolis, Maryland, to voice support for a legislative measure that would repeal the state's death penalty. "It is a human system, and because it is fallible and because it is human, it makes mistakes. Executions make those mistakes irreversible," said Matthew Campbell, a former deputy state's attorney for Montgomery and Howard counties. Gary J.
Dr. Philip B. Woodhall, M.D., who practiced emergency medicine in North Carolina for many years, recently wrote about the proposed role of doctors in carrying out lethal injections. He stated that medicine and executions do not mix. "[D]octors are given extraordinary rights and privileges," he wrote, and "these powers are dedicated to the preservation of human life, not to the service of death." Woodhall urged North Carolina's Department of Corrections to abandon efforts to include doctors in any aspect of executions. He further commented:
Maricopa County, Arizona, has more pending death penalty cases than Los Angeles County, which has more than twice as many residents, and more than the so-called "death penalty capital" of Harris County, Texas. There are more than 130 cases in trial or awaiting trial, and its four indigent defense agencies say that they have run out of attorneys to handle the cases. Strained by the record number of cases, Judge James Keppel gave prosecutors, defense attorneys, and county officials five days to create a plan to provide defense attorneys for at least a dozen clients facing capital charges.
Peter Ozanne, the assistant county manager who oversees the public defender system, stated that if the citizens decide they really want this many death cases "there will be more resources needed in the future." Ozanne said the solution to Maricopa County's death penalty problems could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox added, "We realize we are probably going to have to allocate more money. We are trying to make sure, that as these cases move forward, we are treating both sides fairly."