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Posted: August 9, 2004
Jefferson Parish prosecutors today dismissed all charges against former Louisiana death row inmate Ryan Matthews. He became the nation’s 115th death row inmate to be freed according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). Matthews was sentenced to die in 1999 and spent nearly five years on death row before DNA evidence helped clear him of a murder that occurred just two weeks after his 17th birthday. (The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether death sentences for 16- or 17-year-olds are constitutional in October.)

ABC's "In the Jury Room" Debuts With Death Penalty Case

Posted: August 9, 2004

ABC-TV begins a new six-part documentary series "In the Jury Room" on Tuesday, August 10 (10 PM Eastern time), with a first-hand look at a death penalty deliberation. Narrated by senior legal correspondent Cynthia McFadden (pictured), the debut captures the deliberations of twelve jurors selected to decide the capital murder case against Ohio defendant Mark Ducic. The program allows the audience to see jurors struggling through the clashes that often accompany death penalty deliberations. "It's fascinating stuff, particularly when the focus latches onto a lone


NEW VOICES: Time to Review the Costs of the Death Penalty

Posted: August 9, 2004
A recent San Jose Mercury News editorial recommended including the death penalty in the California Performance Review prepared for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce public spending. The paper stated that the abandonment of capital punishment would save valuable taxpayer dollars in the state and praised local efforts to support a temporary halt to executions while capital punishment is reviewed. The editorial noted:

Termination of the death penalty would

POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Federal Judge Throws Out Texas Capital Conviction

Posted: August 6, 2004
A federal judge has thrown out Ernest Ray Willis' capital conviction after finding "strong reason to be concerned that Willis may be actually innocent" and that West Texas authorities needlessly drugged him and concealed evidence at his trial. The decision casts doubt on Willis' 1987 conviction for the arson-murder of two women in Pecos County, a crime that another death row inmate, David Long, later confessed he had committed. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson said that anti-psychotic medication used incorrectly by prison

North Carolina Governor Signs Open Discovery Bill Into Law

Posted: August 5, 2004
North Carolina Governor Mike Easley signed a bill into law that requires prosecutors to share their files in all felony cases. The bill was approved in the wake of allegations that prosecutors withheld evidence in the capital murder trial of Alan Gell, who was later exonerated and freed from death row. The new open discovery statute requires district attorneys to open their investigative files in felony cases to defense lawyers who request such access prior to trial. The law requires DAs to provide such things as police investigator notes,

Experts on Adolescence Call for End to Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: August 3, 2004
An op-ed appearing in the Arizona Republic and authored by Dr. Mark Wellek, past president of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, and Carol Kamin, current president of the Arizona Chapter of the Children's Action Alliance, echoed growing national concerns about the culpability of juvenile offenders who face capital charges despite scientific evidence that they may be less culpable than adult offenders. Wellek and Kamin noted:

"American society has many gray areas.

Prosecutor Forgoes Costly Death Penalty Trial

Posted: July 30, 2004
In Alameda County, California, prosecutors announced that they will not seek the death penalty against Richard Dean Wilson because it is unlikely that a jury would return a death sentence. State authories say the decision to seek a life sentence for Wilson avoids a costly death penalty case and saves taxpayer dollars from financing a lengthy trial with an uncertain outcome. Wilson pleaded no contest to the murder of Angela Marie Bledsoe. Prosecutor Jim Anderson noted, "This was the best penalty phase mitigation I have ever seen. We

Judge Accused of Assisting Prosecution in Capital Cases

Posted: July 30, 2004
The California Supreme Court is asking the state's attorney general's office to explain why Fred Freeman's death sentence should not be reversed on allegations that a now-deceased Superior Court Judge colluded with prosecutors to ensure a capital conviction by eliminating potential Jewish jurors. The Supreme Court issued the show cause order after Freeman's attorneys filed a claim stating that Freeman was denied a fair trial because Judge Stanley Golde allegedly told prosecutors to keep Jews off the jury because they

NEW VOICES: Texas DA Sees "Beginning of the End of the Death Penalty"

Posted: July 29, 2004

In Texas, Jefferson County District Attorney Tom Maness recently noted that the time-consuming and costly nature of capital punishment may lead to its demise. "I think this is the beginning of the end of the death penalty," said Maness after a Criminal District Court Judge recommended that the Court of Criminal Appeals commute the death sentence of Walter Bell to life in prison. On three occassions, Jefferson County spent countless hours of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars to prosecute Bell, who is mentally retarded, a


NEW RESOURCE: Study Identifies Flaws in Recent Deterrence Research

Posted: July 28, 2004
A new study conducted by Professor Richard Berk of the UCLA Department of Statistics has identified significant statistical problems with the data analysis used to support recent studies claiming to show that executions deter crime in the United States. In "New Claims about Executions and General Deterrence: Deja Vu All Over Again?," Professor Berk addresses the problem of "influence," which occurs when a very small and atypical fraction of the available data dominates the statistical results of a study. He found that this statistical problem