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World Court Rules that U.S. Violated Rights of Mexican Foreign Nationals on Death Row

Posted: March 31, 2004
The International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Mexico and found that the United States violated the rights of almost all of the Mexican foreign nationals on death row in the U.S. The World Court, which is the highest legal organ of the United Nations and is based in The Hague, has ordered that the Mexican cases be reviewed by U.S. courts. The defendants were not informed of their right to talk to consular officials after being arrested, as provided by the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights. “The remedy to make good these violations should

New Study Points to Unreliability of Future Dangerousness Predictions in Texas

Posted: March 31, 2004
A new study conducted by the Texas Defender Service and Professor John Edens of Sam Houston State University found that state predictions of the future dangerousness of capital defendants were grossly inaccurate. The review examined the cases of 155 inmates in which prosecution expert witnesses had predicted the inmate would be a future danger to society and in which the state asked for the death penalty. However, only 8 (5%) of these inmates later engaged in any seriously assaultive behavior resulting in an injury requiring treatment of more than first-aid.

Federal Court Blocks Texas Death Sentence Over Racially Charged Testimony

Posted: March 30, 2004
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has blocked a Texas District Attorney’s final attempt to restore the death sentence of Victor Hugo Saldano, who was removed from Texas’s death row in 2000 because of the use of racially charged testimony at his trial. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that former Texas Attorney General John Cornyn was right to dismiss Saldano’s death sentence because it was based on state testimony encouraging racial bias. During the penalty phase of Saldano’s 1996 trial, psychologist Walter Quijano told

VICTIMS' VOICES: Victims’ Family Members Agree, Information Outweighs Death Penalty

Posted: March 30, 2004
Victims’ family members in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who may have lost a loved one because of the actions of Charles Cullen, a nurse charged with multiple killings, have voiced support for sparing Cullen the death penalty in exchange for his agreeing to provide information on victims. New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey and seven prosecutors in New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania consulted with the victims’ families in deciding whether to seek the death penalty. “It means more for me to have the information than to have him put to death,”

DNA Lab Audit Reveals Problems Throughout Texas System

Posted: March 30, 2004
According to a 2003 internal audit of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) crime labs, procedural flaws, security lapses and shoddy documentation problems continue to undermine the quality of DNA laboratory testing results throughout the state. These same problems previously shut down criminal laboratories in Houston and McAllen, and the new findings could throw thousands of criminal cases into doubt. According to public records obtained by the Houston Chronicle, an audit of labs

New Evidence May Exonerate Man on Illinois’s Death Row

Posted: March 29, 2004
The Illinois Attorney General’s office will not appeal a federal judge’s ruling finding that it was “reasonably probable” that Gordon Steidl would have been acquitted had the jury heard all of the evidence in his capital murder case. The court granted Steidl a new trial to prove his long-proclaimed innocence. Steidl was given the death penalty for the 1986 murders of a newlywed couple, but his sentence was reduced to life in prison without parole in 1999

International Court of Justice to Rule on March 31 Regarding Foreign Nationals on US Death Rows

Posted: March 25, 2004
On March 31, 2004, the International Court of Justice will issue a ruling in a case brought by Mexico against the United States involving 52 Mexicans on death row in various U.S. states. The Court is the highest legal organ of the United Nations and is based in The Hague. Mexico has argued that the defendants are entitled to retrials because they were not informed of their right to talk to consular officials after being arrested, as provided by the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights. Last year, the Court ordered the U.S. to stay the

Minnesota Committee Votes Down Death Penalty

Posted: March 25, 2004
Following two hours of testimony including representatives of crime victims and death row exonerees, the Minnesota Senate Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee voted 8-2 against reinstating the death penalty, continuing nearly a century without the sentence on the state's books. The Committee's vote likely blocks passage of the death penalty bill this year. Don Streufert, whose daughter was raped and murdered in 1991, was among those who testified against the bill. He noted, “No penalty or punishment can replace our daughter. We find no

Seriously Mentally Ill Man Facing Execution in Texas

Posted: March 24, 2004
On May 18th, Texas plans to execute Kelsey Patterson, a mentally ill man who was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia more than a decade before he murdered two women in 1992. After the murder, Patterson wandered around dressed only in his socks. Although a jury found Patterson competent to stand trial, he repeatedly interrupted the proceedings to offer a rambling narrative about implanted devices and other aspects of a conspiracy against him. According to a new report from Amnesty International, Patterson's delusions did not allow him

Study of Potential Death-Qualified Jurors Reveals Bias

Posted: March 22, 2004
In the latest edition of the journal Deviant Behavior, sociologist Robert Young of the University of Texas has reported that death penalty supporters, such as those who are qualified to sit on juries in capital cases, were about a third more likely to have prejudiced views of blacks. Young’s evaluation of polling data also revealed that death penalty supporters are more likely to convict the defendant. When polled, they were nearly twice as likely to say it was worse to let the guilty go free