DPIC has moved. As of June 30, 2017, our new office address is 1701 K Street, N.W., Suite 205, Washington, D.C. 20006. Our web and email addresses and phone contact information remain the same.
NEW RESOURCES—DPIC Tracks Florida Death Row as Prisoners Challenge Death Sentences in Cases With Non-Unanimous Jury Votes for Death.
DPIC has created three new resources to follow developments on Florida's death row following the Florida Supreme Court's decision in Hust v. State declaring death sentences imposed after non-unanimous jury recommendations for death a violation of the Florida constitution and the Sixth Amendment.
The first page provides background on the legal and legislative issues. The second is a table of the approximately 120 Florida Death-Penalty Appeals Decided in Light of Hurst. The third is a table tracking the appeal and resentencing status of Florida Prisoners Sentenced to Death After Non-Unanimous Jury Recommendations, Whose Convictions Became Final After Ring, whose death sentences must be overturned under the state court's current approach to enforcing Hurst.
NEWS (7/18): A Florida trial court vacated the death sentence imposed in Sarasota on Joseph Smith, marking the 100th death sentence overturned in the state as a result of the Florida Supreme Court's ruling in Hurst v. State that non-unanimous death sentences violated the Florida constitution and the Sixth Amendment. Two jurors voted for life in Smith's case.
NEWS (7/14): Prosecutors reached a deal with Cosmo DiNardo, suspected of murdering four missing teenage boys in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to drop the death penalty in exchange for information leading to the recovery of the bodies and implicating an accomplice in the murders.
NEWS (7/13): The Florida Supreme Court has overturned the death sentence imposed on Kevin Jeffries, Jr., bringing to 99 the number of prisoners whose death sentences have been overturned in light of Hurst v. State. Two jurors in Jeffries' case had voted to spare his life.
NEWS (7/12): Scharlette Holdman, a pioneer in the field of death penalty mitigation investigation who for more than three decades trained both investigators and lawyers, has died.
NEWS (7/12): An Arkansas trial court in Pulaski County has heard argument in the lawsuit brought by the pharmaceutical distributor McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. challenging the state of Arkansas's use in executions of drugs sold to the state by McKesson. The distributor says Arkansas intentionally failed to disclose that it intended to use the drugs for non-medical purposes, knowing that McKesson would not supply the drugs in those circumstances.
NEWS (7/11): The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has granted en banc rehearing of a decision by a three-judge panel that had granted a new trial to Mississippi death-row prisoner Lisa Jo Chamberlain. The ruling vacates the panel's 2-1 April 27, 2017 decision, which held that Mississippi prosecutors had unconstitutionally exercised jury strikes to remove black jurors from the case. Reargument is scheduled for September.
NEWS (7/10): A federal judge in Scranton, Pennsylvania has imposed a life sentence on Jesse Con-Ui after his sentencing jury was unable to reach a unanimous sentencing verdict. The jury had earlier convicted Con-Ui of killing a federal corrections officer.
NEWS (7/6): After Governor Terry McAuliffe declined to grant clemency, Virginia executed William Morva (pictured). It was the 14th execution in the U.S. in 2017 and the second in Virginia. Govermnor McAuliffe also declined to issue a temporary reprieve after Morva's lawyers alerted him to reports of problems in the Commonwealth's execution of Ricky Gray. An independent autopsy suggested that Gray had suffered an acute pulmonary edema and had blood in his lungs while he was still breathing.
NEWS (7/6-7): The Florida Supreme Court has overturned three more death sentences based upon its decision in Hurst v. State declaring that death sentences imposed after non-unanimous jury recommendations for death violated the Sixth Amendment and the Florida state constitution. On July 6, the court granted a new penalty hearing to Robert Earl Peterson, whose jury split 7-5 on recommending a death sentence, and to Robert Bailey, whose jury voted 11-1 for death. On July 7, the court issued an order reversing a trial court's denial of a new death sentencing hearing to Labrant Dennis. The order did not specify the jury vote in his case.
NEWS (7/5): The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reversed the death sentence imposed on Tracy Petrocelli in Nevada in 1982. The court ruled that the prosecution violated Petrocelli's right to counsel and constitutional privilege against self-incrimination when it had a psychiatrist evaluate Petrocelli to determine his competency to stand trial without providing Miranda warnings or seeking permission from counsel for the evaluation and presented testimony from the doctor—based upon the unconstitutional evaluation—that Petrocelli was incurably dangerous.
NEWS (7/3): The Idaho Supreme Court has granted a third trial to Mark Lankford, initially convicted and sentenced to death in 1984. Lankford won a new trial in because of the ineffectiveness of his trial counsel. He was retried, convicted and sentenced to life in 2009. The court voted 3-2 to grant a third trial because prosecutors failed to disclose favorable treatment received by prosecution witnesses and failed to correct false testimony by one witness denying that he had received any favors for his testimony.
NEWS (7/1): The Penalty, a new documentary film about the death penalty in the U.S. had its world premiere at London's East End Film Festival. The film follows three major death penalty events in the US: the botched execution of Dennis McGuire in Ohio, the aftermath of the exoneration of Damon Thibodeaux in Louisiana, and the experience of the family of Shelby Farah as Duval County prosecutors decide whether to pursue the death penalty.
NEWS (6/29): Forty-five years ago, on June 29, 1972, the United States Supreme Court decided Furman v. Georgia, striking down the death penalty as then administered across the U.S. Four years later, on July 2, 1976, the Court decided Gregg v. Georgia and four other capital cases, holding that the death penalty itself did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment and upholding several death-penalty statutes enacted in the wake of Furman. The Court overturned mandatory death penalty statutes in North Carolina and Louisiana, holding that the Eighth Amendment requires an individualized determination of the moral culpability of each defendant.
NEWS (6/29): The Florida Supreme Court has overturned four more death penalty cases under its decision in Hurst v. State, which declared that death sentences imposed after non-unanimous jury recommendations for death violated the Sixth Amendment and the Florida state constitution.
The court overturned three sentences in which the jury had recommended death by votes of 10-2, Michael Bargo, Jr., John Sexton, and Ronnie Williams. It also overturned the two death sentences imposed on Tiffany Ann Cole, whose jury split 9-3 on death on both counts of murder against her.
NEWS (6/28): The Florida Supreme Court heard argument in the case of Ayala v. Scott, in which Orange/Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayalis (pictured) is challenging Governor Rick Scott's authority to remove her as prosecutor in 23 murder cases after she announced that, as a matter of policy, her office would not pursue the death penalty in homicide prosecutions.
NEWS (6/26): The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated the judgment of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals dismissing death-row prisoner ToForest Johnson's claim that Alabama prosecutors had unconstitutionally failed to disclose exculpatory evidence that would impeached a prosecution witness in his case. Prosecutors had asked the case to be remanded, conceding that the state courts had applied an erroneous legal standard in the case.
NEWS (6/22-23): The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty held its 15th International Conference June 22 through 24 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. In addition to closed meetings for members of the NGO's General Assembly, the agenda of the international conference included informational sessions open to the public on June 23.
NEW DISCUSSIONS WITH DPIC PODCAST — The Duane Buck Case: Race, Future Dangerousness, and the Death Penalty
Christina Swarns, litigation director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, speaks with DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham about the case of Texas death-row prisoner Duane Buck and the impact of racial bias on determinations of future dangerousness in death penalty cases.
NEW RESOURCES — DPIC Analysis of the Causes of Wrongful Capital Convictions.
An examination of data from the more than 30 death-row exonerations in the past decade shows that most common causes of wrongful convictions in death penalty cases are official misconduct and perjury/false accusation. For more information and analysis, see our updated webpage on the Causes of Wrongful Convictions in Death Penalty Cases.
DPIC 2016 Year End Report
ANOTHER RECORD DECLINE IN DEATH PENALTY USE
- Full text of the report.*
- VIDEO: "The Death Penalty in the U.S. " (A 2 minute video summary of the Year End Report).
- INFOGRAPHIC: "The Death Penalty in the U.S.".
- DPIC's Press Release.
- 2016 Death Sentences by Name, Race, and County
* DPIC initially reported that 30 new death sentences had been imposed in 2016. Further research revealed that a 31st death sentence, imposed on Vahtiece Kirkman in Florida, was a new death sentence rather than a capital resentencing, and should have been counted.
DPIC Podcast Series: We have begun a new set of podcasts on the death penalty in each state, each with interesting historical facts. The following are now available: Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. Check out our podcasts now! Also listen to DPIC's podcasts on death penalty issues.