Minnesota Senator Tom Neuville, the leading Republican committee member on the state's Senate Judiciary Committee, says he will oppose Governor Tim Pawlenty's efforts to reinstate death penalty. Neuville's basic opposition is moral: "If we solve violence by becoming violent ourselves, we become diminished." Neuville, a former death penalty supporter whose reexamination of his pro-life beliefs led him to change his mind on the issue, feels that many of his colleagues share his concerns. "Life is a gift from God. It isn't up to us to take
On December 9, 2003, Nicholas James Yarris of Pennsylvania became the 10th person to be exonerated from death row in 2003, equalling the most exonerations in a single year since the death penalty was reinstated. He is the nation's 112th death row exoneree. Yarris's conviction was initially overturned when three DNA tests of the forensic trial evidence excluded him. His exoneration became final when Delaware County prosecutors announced that they were dropping all charges against him. In July, attorneys for Yarris announced
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Banks v. Dretke on Monday, December 8, 2003. The Court will review the lower court's denial of relief despite evidence that Banks was poorly represented at his 1980 trial, that prosecutors withheld key information, and that testimony from two prosecution witnesses was unreliable. For more information about this case, please see DPIC's Banks v. Dretke page.
David Protess, a professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in Chicago, has been awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Protess and his investigative journalism students exposed miscarriages of justice in a number of high-profile cases in Illinois, including the case of Anthony Porter, who was only 48 hours away from his execution until students found evidence of his innocence. Porter's case has often been cited by former Illinois Governor George
"Legacy of Violence: Lynch Mobs and Executions in Minnesota," a book by John D. Bessler, examines the history of illegal and state-sanctioned executions in Minnesota, one of twelve states that currently does not have the death penalty. The book is timely in that the current governor, Tim Pawlenty, has proposed reinstating the death penalty, which was abolished in 1911. The book includes detailed personal accounts from those who were involved in the events, as well as a history of Minnesota's anti-execution and anti-lynching movements, a review of historical wrongful
Stephen Bright, Executive Director of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR), has been named Newsmaker of the Year by the Fulton County Daily Report for his "unrelenting efforts over the years to expose Georgia's shortfalls in indigent defense." Bright has worked in Georgia for more than 25 years. During that time, he has represented countless indigent defendants, many of whom have been on Georgia's death row, and he has led the Southern Center's fight to provide legal representation
A gathering of Nobel Laureates in Rome concluded with a common statement calling for abolition of the death penalty and specifically decrying the death penalty for juvenile offenders. The statement noted "the death penalty is a particularly cruel and unusual punishment that should be abolished. It is especially unconscionable when imposed on children." Among those in attendance at the summit were Mikhail Gorbachev, former Israel Prime Minister
A Rome summit gathering of Nobel Laureates concluded with a common statement calling for abolition of the death penalty and specifically decrying the juvenile death penalty. The statement noted "the death penalty is a particularly cruel and unusual punishment that should be abolished. It is especially unconscionable when imposed on children." Among those in attendance at the summit were Mikhail Gorbechev, former Israel Prime Minister Simon Peres, the Dalai Lama, and Costa Rican President Oscar arias Sanchez.
According to the latest Gallup Poll in October 2003, support for the death penalty has dropped to 64%, its lowest level since 1978. The 32% of Americans opposed to the death penalty represented the most opposition since 1972. (2003 poll: CNN.com, November 25, 2003; Fox News, November 26, 2003) This finding is particularly noteworthy given the extensive media coverage leading to the trials of John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo in Virginia. Two other polls this year also recorded a drop in death penalty support to 64%: ABC News poll and
The Supreme Court agreed to clarify the impact of its 2002 Ring v. Arizona ruling that held that jurors, rather than a judge, must be allowed to determine whether a defendant is eligible for a death sentence. The Justices will decide whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit was correct when it overturned Warren Summerlin's death sentence, holding that Ring should apply retroactively to inmates who had exhausted their direct appeal. While the Supreme Court's Ring ruling invalidated the death sentencing laws of Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska