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Editorial Questions Maryland's Commitment to Addressing Racial Disparities

Posted: December 23, 2003
A recent Baltimore Sun editorial criticized state leaders for failing to respond to a series of studies showing that race plays a disturbing role in capital punishment in Maryland. The paper noted that a study conducted by University of Maryland Professor Raymond Paternoster agreed with four other reviews that all revealed similar findings regarding race and the death penalty in Maryland. The paper stated:
Of the 1,311 death penalty-eligible cases that the University of Maryland researcher reviewed, he found the same troubling news: Defendants

NEW VOICES: Prosecutor Now Says Killings by Andrea Yates Were Preventable

Posted: December 23, 2003
Harris County District Attorney Joseph S. Owmby, who helped prosecute Andrea Yates for capital murder, recently told a gathering of 200 Houston area mental health and law enforcement professionals that had Yates received more hospital treatment for her postpartum depression, she probably wouldn't have murdered her children. Owmby noted that Yates lost her last chance for recovery when she was released from a hospital in League City while she was still dangerously delusional. He said that what happened two weeks

ABC Poll Shows Public Opposed to Death Penalty for Malvo

Posted: December 22, 2003
A new poll conducted by ABC News revealed that only 37% of the public supports the death penalty for Lee Boyd Malvo, who was recently convicted of murder in Virginia. Malvo was 17 at the time of a series of shootings in the Washington, DC area. 52% of respondents preferred a sentence of life without parole for Malvo. Even stronger opposition to the death penalty for juveniles in general was revealed in the same poll: only 21% were in favor of the death penalty for juveniles, versus the 62% who preferred the sentence of life without parole. The poll was conducted Dec. 10-14 (ABC News, Dec.

Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation Releases Juvenile Report

Posted: December 18, 2003
On December 17, 2003, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation released a report regarding the perspectives of family members on the juvenile death penalty: "I Don't Want Another Kid to Die." The report opens a window into murder victims' families struggles with the death penalty in general, and more specifically, how the issue changes when the defendant is a juvenile. Read their Press Release. Read the Report (in PDF format).

COSTS: Former Death Row Inmate Awarded $2.2 Million Wrongful Conviction Settlement

Posted: December 17, 2003
The Chicago City Council finance committee quickly approved a $2.2 million wrongful conviction settlement for former death row inmate Ronald Jones. "I think it is a good deal for the city," said Chicago Alderman William Beavers, indicating that he and other aldermen breathed a sigh of relief that the city will get off so cheaply in its settlement with Jones, who was coerced into a confession to a 1985 rape and murder that he did not commit. Jones spent 14 years on Illinois's death row before

DNA Test Casts Doubt on Death Sentence of Indiana Man

Posted: December 16, 2003
After 16 years on death row, Darnell Williams was 3 days from execution when then Governor Frank O'Bannon issued a reprieve to allow the genetic testing of droplets of blood found on Williams' shorts after the shooting. Recently released test results support Williams' claim that he wasn't present when a Gary, Indiana couple was fatally shot 17 years ago. Thomas Vanes, the prosecutor at Williams' 1986 trial, now says that Williams should not be executed. He said, "I agree now that this is not a death penalty case." (Indianapolis Star, December 13, 2003). See

Pentagon List Gives Names of 169 Military Members Who Were Executed

Posted: December 16, 2003
A list containing the names of 169 members of the U.S. military who were executed between 1942 and 1961 was recently discovered at the Pentagon. The list also contains a few dozen additional cases where persons were sentenced to death, but not executed, and the names of 7 German prisoners of war who were executed. The 1961 execution of Pvt. John Bennett, who was hung after convictions for rape and attempted murder, was the military's last execution. The ledger also includes the name of Pvt. Eddie

New Jersey Legislators Vote to Study Death Penalty

Posted: December 16, 2003
Members of New Jersey's legislature have passed by a wide margin a bipartisan bill calling for the creation of a study commission to examine the cost, fairness and effects of capital prosecutions in that state. The bill had the support of key state legislators, including Republican Senator Robert Martin. Martin said that he believed it might be time for New Jersey to consider a complete ban on capital punishment, noting that the state's review process "is so cumbersome and expensive" that New Jersey might be better off "with a punishment

Costly Death Penalty Takes Toll on State Budgets

Posted: December 16, 2003
A report in the Polk County (Florida) Lakeland Ledger examined the financial impact of costly capital trials on states that are struggling to make ends meet. The report noted that death penalty cases negatively impact county governments because the hundreds of thousands of dollars that is spent annually on capital cases takes away funding from crucial indigent care programs and other important services. As an example, the paper notes, "Take the case of Tavares Wright. The legal bill stands at $200,000 and a 3rd murder trial for the Lakeland man is pending after the

North Carolina Man Is Sixth in State to be Spared Under New Law on Mental Retardation

Posted: December 11, 2003
Anthony Maurice Bone will become the sixth North Carolina death row inmate to have his sentence commuted to life in prison due to a 2001 state law banning the execution of individuals with mental retardation. The state defines as mentally retarded anyone with an IQ of 70 or below who also has significant impairment in at least two of ten life activities, such as communicating and taking care of themselves. The law requires that defendants show signs of retardation before they turn 18. The U.S. Supreme Court banned