What's New

Investigation Finds Executed Man May Have Been Innocent

Posted: July 12, 2005

A year-long investigation by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has uncovered evidence that Larry Griffin may have been innocent of the crime for which he was executed by the state of Missouri on June 21, 1995. Griffin maintained his innocence until his death, and investigators say his case is the strongest demonstration yet of an execution of an innocent man. The report notes that a man injured in the same drive-by shooting that claimed the life of Quintin Moss says Griffin was not involved in the crime, and the first police officer on the scene has given a new account that undermines the trial testimony of the only witness who identified Griffin as the murderer. Based on its findings, the NAACP has supplied the prosecution with the names of three men it suspects committed the crime, and all three of the suspects are currently in jail for other murders.  Prosecutor Jennifer Joyce said she has reopened the investigation and will conduct a comprehensive review of the case over the next few months. "There is no real doubt that we have an innocent person. If we could go to trial on this case, if there was a forum where we could take this to trial, we would win hands down," stated University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, who supervised the investigation into Griffin's case.


Supreme Court Grants Last Minute Stay of Execution

Posted: July 11, 2005

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a last minute stay for Robin Lovitt, who was scheduled for execution at 9 PM on Monday (July 11) in Virginia.  The Court did not give a reason for the stay, but Lovitt stated that he would have been able to show his innocence if state officials had not destroyed DNA evidence from his case after his trial.  (See item below posted July 8).  (Associated Press, July 11, 2005).  See also Innocence.


Proposed Legislation Would Starkly Limit Federal Review of Death Penalty Appeals

Posted: July 10, 2005

A bill proposed by Rep. Daniel Lungren of California and Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona would strip the federal courts of much of their power to decide whether death row inmates have been given a fair trial and could result in the execution of innocent defendants. The bill is entitled the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005. The Washington Post editorialized about the measure:

Stop This Bill
Sunday, July 10, 2005; Page B06

CONGRESS HAS a novel response to the rash of prisoners over the past few years who have been exonerated of capital crimes after being tried and convicted: Keep similar cases out of court. Both chambers of the national legislature are quietly moving a particularly ugly piece of legislation designed to gut the legal means by which prisoners prove their innocence.

Habeas corpus is the age-old legal process by which federal courts review the legality of detentions. In the modern era, it has been the pivotal vehicle through which those on death row or serving long sentences in prison can challenge their state-court convictions. Congress in 1996 rolled back habeas review considerably; federal courts have similarly shown greater deference -- often too much deference -- to flawed state proceedings. But the so-called Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005 takes the evisceration of habeas review, particularly in capital cases, to a whole new level. It should not become law.



Posted: July 10, 2005
The office of the Death Penalty Information Center has moved.  Our new address (effective 7/11/05) is:

1101 Vermont Ave. NW, Suite 701
Washington, DC 20005

Our phone number has also changed.  Our new number is:

Our Web site and e-mail addresses remain the same.  Please update your files.  Thanks.

Doubts Raised About Guilt in Upcoming Virginia Execution

Posted: July 8, 2005

Robin Lovitt is scheduled for execution on July 11 in Virginia despite doubts about his guilt and the state's weak and circumstantial case against him.  Lovitt's attorneys maintain that DNA testing of evidence in his case would prove that he is not guilty of the 1998 murder of Clayton Dicks, but the tests are not possible because a court clerk mistakenly destroyed the evidence. Columnist Margaret Edds of the The Virginian-Pilot recently wrote about the upcoming execution and the doubts that remain:

The scheduled execution of Robin Lovitt on July 11 spurs the latest dust-up in the state’s intensifying scrutiny of capital punishment.

At issue is whether it’s proper to execute a man, one who proclaims his innocence, even though a clerk mistakenly destroyed evidence in the case.


Executions by Lethal Injection Being Challenged around the Country

Posted: July 6, 2005

A number of states are grappling with the question of whether the lethal injection drug Pavulon, also known as pancuronium bromide, paralyzes a condemned inmate's muscles in a way that masks horrific pain felt during an execution, a side-effect that experts say could violate of the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Tennessee Supreme Court heard arguments about this issue in a death row case in June 2005 and a similar case is expected to reach the Kentucky Supreme Court soon. In May 2005, a Missouri inmate was given a last minute stay so that the U.S. Supreme Court could review his death penalty procedure case. His claim was denied 5-4, and he was later executed.


Concerns About Innocence, Adequate Counsel Shaped Justice O' Connor's Views On Death Penalty

Posted: July 5, 2005

Retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's evolving skepticism about capital punishment has played a significant role in a number of key decisions regarding the death penalty throughout her 24 years on the U.S. Supreme Court. During public appearances in recent years, she has often mentioned her concerns about innocence and the need to protect a capital defendant's constitutional right to adequate representation. In a 2001 speech she stated, "Serious questions are being raised about whether the death penalty is being fairly administered in this country. If statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed."


Supreme Court Allows Death Sentence Despite Lower Court’s Admitted Mistake

Posted: June 30, 2005

By a vote of 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a lower court's grant of relief to Tennessee death row inmate Gregory Thompson.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had announced that its initial denial of Thompson’s appeal was mistaken. After first denying Thompson’s habeas corpus petition, the Sixth Circuit discovered previously unconsidered evidence that Thompson was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the offense.


Governor Announces Appointments to New Texas Criminal Justice Advisory Council

Posted: June 30, 2005
Texas Governor Rick Perry has announced the appointment of the members of the state's new Criminal Justice Advisory Council, including three judges, two prominent state legislators, a defense attorney, a prosecutor, and 13 additional ex-officio members. The commission will study potential flaws and recommend changes to the state's justice system. This is the first group in many years to have broad-ranging authority to look at the Texas criminal justice system from arrest to final appeal.