A recent article in Time looks at the career of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. The article traces Earle's evolving opinion on the death penalty since he was first elected D.A. in Texas in 1976, the year the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty. Among other concerns, questions of innocence have caused Earle to grow increasingly skeptical about the death penalty. The article notes:
Baltimore County Judge Dana M. Levitz recently sentenced a man convicted of murder to two life terms without parole, in part because of its possible effects on the victims' families. Levitz said, "The devastating effect that this unending litigation has on the innocent families of the victims is incalculable. By imposing a death sentence, I ensure that the victim's families will be subjected to many more years of appeals." Family members also noted that the decision gave them the peace of mind they have been searching for.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, reiterated his opposition to capital punishment. Bloomberg noted, "The death penalty I've always had a problem with, because too many times in the past you've seen innocent people incarcerated and, tragically, every once in a while they've been executed. And until you can show me that the process never would ever convict somebody that later on we find out was innocent of a crime, murder is murder no matter who does it, and I think we as a society can afford to incarcerate people." (New York Times, July 31, 2003).
A new report by Amnesty International, "The Exclusion of Child Offenders from the Death Penalty Under General International Law," examines the evidence supporting the conclusion that the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders is prohibited under customary international law. The practice is already prohibited by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, notes that the U.S.
In addition to articles about juvenile justice and murder victims' family members, the latest edition of The Angolite - a prison news magazine published by Angola Prison in Louisiana - features a section on filmmaking within prison walls. Angola Prison has hosted dozens of film crews over the years, and has been the shooting site for award-winning films such as "Dead Man Walking," "Monster's Ball," and "The Farm." (The Angolite, November/December 2002) See Resources.
Jason McCartney, a survivor of the 2002 terrorist bombing of a Bali nightclub and a former Australian football player, said a lifetime sentence in an Indonesian jail would be a harsh enough punishment for the men who plotted the attack. "At first, I probably thought with my initial anger that (the death penalty) is the way to go," said McCartney. "It's varied a bit. Sometimes I wonder if that's an easy way out for them, the death penalty...It's a hard one." McCartney, who sustained serious injuries in the attack, now serves as an advocate for Bali survivors and victims.
Attorneys in Missouri and Pennsylvania will reveal two separate exonerations from their death rows. In Pennsylvania, attorneys for Nicholas James Yarris will announce in a press conference today (July 28, 2003) that three separate DNA tests exclude Yarris from the rape and murder for which he was convicted. Yarris, 41, has spent 21 years on Pennsylvania's death row, and has always maintained his innocence.
Joseph Amrine, who has spent the past 17 years on Missouri's death row, had all charges dropped and will walk away a free man today. Witness testimony against Amrine was particulalry suspect, coming from jailhouse informants and prison guards not directly involved in the incident for which Amrine was tried. While Joseph Amrine is now free, Yarris will have to wait for the prosecutor's office to officially drop charges. The state does not dispute the DNA results.
The Georgia General Assembly has passed legislation (HB 777) to create a state-wide public defender system, including an Office of the Georgia Capital Defender to focus solely on death penalty cases. The new office will assume responsibility for the defense of all death penalty trial and direct appeal cases in Georgia. Additional attorneys and investigators will be added to the public defender system to assume responsibility for the additional cases.
Doubts about the appropriateness of a death sentence have prompted former prosecutor Thomas Vanes to call for new DNA testing in the case of Darnell Williams, a man he sent to death row as a Lake County, Indiana state's attorney. Williams is scheduled to be executed on Friday, August 1. Vanes and John Gnajek, a member of the jury that sent Williams to death row, have filed a suit in federal court asking for a stay of Williams' execution until new DNA testing is completed on blood evidence that played a crucial role in the case.
Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II has assured British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the U.S. will not seek the death penalty against two British citizens facing trial on terrorism charges before military tribunals. The two men, Feroz Abbasi and Moazzam Begg, are among the 680 prisoners from 42 countries being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in connection with the campaign against terrorism. Prior to Blair's recent visit to Washington, during which he raised the issue with President Bush, the Prime Minister had pushed for the U.S. to extradite the two men to Britain. If that option were not available, he requested assurance of fair trials free of the prospect of a death sentence, which Britain bans. The agreement has raised questions of fairness among those international leaders representing other citizens who are expected to face military tribunals in the future. "We believe that whatever is being done has to be done on a non-discriminatory basis. That's the rule of law. There should be a uniform set of procedures followed," said Asad Hayauddin, a press attache at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.