A recent public opinion poll of Australians found that 69% of respondents believe the penalty for murder should be imprisonment, while only 25% of those polled stated it should be the death penalty. The poll, conducted by Roy Morgan International just one week after an Australian citizen was executed by Singapore for possessing less than a half a kilogram of heroin, revealed that public support for capital punishment is continuing to decline in Australia. In November 2005, the same poll found that 66% of respondents favored imprisonment and 27% favored the death penalty. Australia carried out its last execution in 1967 and abolished capital punishment in 1985.
The Washington Post editorialized about the death penalty in 2005, commenting on many of the points made in DPIC's Year End Report:
[T]he overall tendency is unmistakable: At least for now, with crime and murder rates low and the threat of wrongful convictions on people's minds, the death penalty does not have the same attraction that it once had.
Richard Pompelio (pictured) established the New Jersey Crime Victims Law Center (VLC) in 1992 after his 17-year-old son Tony was murdered. VLC provides pro bono legal assistance to victims of violent crime. He recently wrote in the New Jersey Lawyer's The Law & More column about the disservice that the death penalty represents to victims and their families:
Rob Warden, Executive Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, has written a book about one of the first accounts of a death penalty exoneration in the U.S. Wilkie Collins, a British author, had written a novel entitled "The Dead Alive" about the convictions and death sentences of Jesse and Stephen Boorn for a murder committed in 1819. They were later exonerated. Warden's book is entitled "Wilkie Collins's The Dead Alive: The Novel, the Case, and Wrongful Convictions" and he provides examples of other mistakes in capital cases. Scott Turow wrote the Foreward for this new book.
Professor Ray Paternoster of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland was the senior author of a 2003 state-commissioned review of the role that race and geography play in Maryland's death penalty practice. He recently wrote about the study's findings in the Baltimore Sun:
A new book by Professor Austin Sarat (pictured) focuses on clemency's role in the U.S. criminal justice system: "Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop an Execution." According to U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, "This thoughtful book should be read by every citizen who cares about the issue, and by every governor and president entrusted with the power to punish or pardon." In "Mercy on Trial," Sarat reviews the complexities of clemency and examines issues such as rehabilitation. (Princeton University Press, 2005).
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is expanding its Capital Punishment Project to include litigation in addition to its already established public education efforts. The expanded program will be led by John Holdridge, who has been named the Capital Punishment Project's new director. "John Holdridge is one of the nation's premier death penalty litigators. He has fought the death penalty in courtrooms around the country for more than a decade and now brings that expertise and commitment to the ACLU," noted ACLU Executive Director Anthony D.
Though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit assumes that Texas death row inmate Marvin Lee Wilson is mentally retarded, it ruled that he cannot raise the issue in federal court because his defense attorney missed a filing deadline. The U.S. Supreme Court has banned the execution of those with mental retardation, but the Fifth Circuit stated that "however harsh the result may be" their hands are tied by deadlines established in the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.
In a recent op-ed, former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening criticized the "troubling" racial and geographic disparities that plague the state's death penalty. Glendening, who served as Governor from 1995 to 2003, commissioned a study of Maryland's death penalty during his time in office and implemented a moratorium on executions during his second term to allow time for action to be taken to prevent these on-going problems. He wrote:
Members of the New Jersey Senate have overwhelmingly passed a bill that would suspend executions in the state and create a new death penalty study commission to examine New Jersey’s death penalty. The bill, S-709, passed by a vote of 30-6 and now moves to the New Jersey Assembly for consideration in January. Should the bill become law, New Jersey would become the first state in the country to legislatively impose a moratorium on the death penalty. The bill would require the formation of a death penalty commission composed of 13 members.