Darnell Williams, who was scheduled to be exectued in Indiana on July 9, was granted a commutation of his death sentence to life without parole by Governor Joe Kernan. It was the first commutation in a death penalty case in that state in 48 years. The governor cited the fact that a co-defendant in the case, Gregory Rouster, had received a life sentence, and hence it would be unfair to execute Williams. (CNN.com (AP story), July 2, 2004). See Clemency.
The July 2004 edition of The American Prospect features a special section on capital punishment with articles by some of the nation's most respected experts on the topic. "Reasonable Doubts: A Special Report on the Death Penalty" examines the growing movement to reform or abolish capital punishment in America. Among the topics examined are public opinion, innocence, race, and the death penalty for juveniles. The series also provides a closer look at the death penalty in states such as Illinois and Texas, and offers an overview
Following a fifth round of DNA tests, a Louisiana death row inmate has been released on bond while awaiting a new trial. Earlier this year, Ryan Matthews' conviction and death sentence were overturned. The recent round of DNA tests on a ski mask, which prosecutors claimed was worn by Matthews during the crime, excluded Matthews but matched the genetic markers of another inmate. To date, no physical evidence linking Matthews to the crime has been found. Following
The U.S. Justice Department indicated that it may no longer feel bound by extradition orders from other countries against the seeking of the death penalty in the U.S., a significant policy shift that experts feel could hinder international relations. In a preliminary case memo by federal District Court Judge Jack Weinstein, it was noted that a federal prosecutor had stated that officials in Washington believe a Dominican judge's order to not seek the death penalty for an extradited man is "not binding." Weinstein's memo stated that he
Eight former North Carolina Supreme Court justices are urging the leadership of the North Carolina House of Representatives to allow a vote on legislation that would impose a two-year moratorium on executions in the state while capital punishment is studied. Among the 8 former justices are Democrats and Republicans, some who support the death penalty and others who oppose it. "This legislation is about fundamental fairness, an issue that should not be controversial. The recent exonerations of Alan Gell and Darryl Hunt give clear evidence of the
The Texas Democratic Party has adopted an historic party platform that contains a number of death penalty reform recommendations, including a call for legislators to enact a moratorium on executions, to ban the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally ill, and to consider adopting a life without paroles sentence in Texas. More than 1,700 attendees at the Democratic Party’s state convention signed a resolution calling for the moratorium, surpassing the 30% signature threshold required to bring a measure before the full voting
Although Virginia jurors in the trial of Lee Boyd Malvo maintained their camaraderie during the six weeks of trial and deliberations on whether he was guilty of capital murder in one of a series of sniper shootings, the group became sharply divided when weighing the question of whether to sentence the teen to death. The jury foreman and a second member of the jury revealed that a core group of four jurors did not believe Malvo’s role in the murders warranted the death penalty. They stated that the debate
New York’s highest court has ruled that a provision of the state’s capital punishment statute violates the state constitution, a decision that appears to invalidate the sentences of all four men on New York’s death row. In New York, if a jury deadlocks, the judge imposes a sentence of 20-25 years to life, giving the possibility of parole. In its 4-3 ruling, the Court of Appeals said that these sentencing rules might unconstitutionally coerce jurors into voting for a death sentence rather than risk a deadlock by holding out
In an exclusive two-part series titled “Snitch Work,” Philadelphia’s City Paper explores the possible innocence of Pennsylvania death row inmate Walter Ogrod. Investigative writer Tom Lowenstein describes Ogrod’s first trial, which resulted in a mistrial when 11 of the 12 jurors voted for acquittal. In Ogrod’s second trial in 1996, the state employed a notorious jailhouse snitch, John Hall, to strengthen their case against Ogrod, who continued to maintain his innocence. Lowenstein’s “Snitch
In an editorial written following the execution of Steven Oken in Maryland on June 17th, The Washington Post criticized the
state’s flawed death penalty system and questioned what purpose capital
punishment serves. The editorial stated:
Steven Howard Oken went to his death this week in Maryland -- the 1st execution in the state in 6 years, the 1st as well since Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) lifted his processor's moratorium on executions.
Mr. Oken was as good a candidate for capital punishment as the criminal