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South Dakota Legislators Vote to Ban Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: February 25, 2004
Legislation banning capital punishment for crimes committed by those younger than 18 has passed both the South Dakota House and Senate. The bill will now go to Governor Mike Rounds for signature into law. Republican Representative Hal Wick of Sioux Falls supported the bipartisan measure, stating, "I do have concerns about heinous crimes, but I don't think it's our place to destroy or forget the sanctity of life. Violent responses by the state beget more violence. The state must lead by example. Instead

NEW VOICES: Connecticut Lags Behind in Death Penalty Reforms

Posted: February 24, 2004
The Chair of Connecticut's Judiciary Committee has called for enactment of death penalty reforms to protect against wrongful convictions. Of the six reforms recommended after a 13-month special commission on Connecticut's death penalty, only one has been enacted. Members of the commission noted, "Experiences in other states throughout the country suggest that Connecticut cannot be complacent and 'best practices' should be the watchword." Among the recommendations are video taping of interrogations, a blind and sequential

Supreme Court Overturns Texas Death Sentence

Posted: February 24, 2004
In a 7-2 decision in Banks v. Dretke, the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Delma Banks Jr., concluding that he was denied a fair trial because prosecutors in Texas failed to disclose key information. Last year, Banks was just minutes from his scheduled execution in Texas when the Supreme Court intervened. Today's decision remands the case back to a lower court so that new evidence may be considered. Read DPIC's

NEW VOICES: Kansas Supreme Court Justice Reflects: "Do I Have It Right?"

Posted: February 23, 2004

In a report filed by the Kansas Judicial Council Death Penalty Advisory Committee, retired Kansas Supreme Court Justice Fred N. Six noted that capital punishment cases pose immense burdens on judges. He stated:


New Jersey Court Halts Executions, Orders Review of Lethal Injection

Posted: February 20, 2004
The Appellate Division of New Jersey's Superior Court ruled today that the state's Department of Corrections (DOC) must examine its lethal injection execution procedures before it carries out any death sentences, thereby halting executions in the state until such a review takes place. The ruling notes, "[B]ecause of the patent gravity of the life and death issues implicated by the regulations, we have concluded that rather than simply striking down those regulations, DOC should have the opportunity to give them further consideration, by

NEW RESOURCES: Capital Punishment Law and Practice Examined in Two New Books

Posted: February 19, 2004
Two new books on the death penalty offer readers an examination of capital punishment law and America's use of this punishment. In "Understanding Capital Punishment Law," a new book published as part of the LexisNexis Understanding series, law professors Linda Carter and Ellen Kreitzberg offer students in capital punishment courses an overview of this complex area of law. The book includes a thorough review of constitutional law and current issues related to capital punishment in the U.S. (Matthew Bender & Company, Inc. 2004)

Vietnamese National Scheduled for Execution Despite Board's Unanimous Recommendation for Clemency

Posted: February 18, 2004
Hung Thanh Le, a Vietnamese foreign national, is scheduled for execution on February 26th in Oklahoma. Governor Brad Henry has so far rejected a unanimous recommendation from the Oklahoma Board of Pardon and Paroles to reduce Le's death sentence to life in prison. Le's appeal notes that he was not informed of his right to contact the Vietnamese consulate when he was arrested and may have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the Vietnam war. Leaders of the Vietnamese-American Community

Alan Gell of North Carolina Is Nation's 113th Death Row Exoneree

Posted: February 18, 2004
Alan Gell of North Carolina became the nation's 113th exonerated death row inmate today, February 18, 2004. Gell, who has maintained his innocence since his 1998 conviction, was acquitted of all charges by a jury that deliberated for only two and a half hours at his retrial. In December 2002, a North Carolina judge vacated Gell's murder conviction and ordered a new trial after ruling that prosecutors withheld important evidence that might have helped exonerate Gell at his first trial. Among

NEW RESOURCES: Death Penalty Study Examines Sentencing Rates, Executions, Race Statistics

Posted: February 16, 2004
The authors of a new study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (J. Blume, T. Eisenberg, & M. Wells, "Explaining Death Row's Population and Racial Composition," Vol. I, Issue 1, March 2004, at 165) concluded that Texas' reputation as the leading death penalty state in the U.S. is attributable more to its high number of executions and the large number

Recent Developments in the Federal Death Penalty

Posted: February 16, 2004
  • Federal prosecutors dropped charges against Darrell Rice shortly before he was to face capital charges for two murders in Shenandoah National Park. New forensic evidence cast doubt on the case against Rice, despite the fact that Attorney General John Ashcroft had made a public announcement of Rice's indictment employing a new law in 2002. (Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2004).
  • A federal judge threw out a jury's (July 2003) verdict of guilt in the capital case of Jay Lentz, accused of murdering his wife.