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Maryland Death Penalty Numbers Decline, Reflecting U.S. Trends

Posted: February 6, 2004
Mirroring a nationwide decline in both executions and death row population, Maryland's death row has fallen by 50% in recent years and the state has not carried out an execution since 1998. An in-depth review of Maryland's death row by The Washington Post found that the state's death row has dropped from a population of 18 to 9, largely due to reversals in cases and the impact of court rulings elsewhere. Victims' families, emotionally frayed by the years of appeals, are also telling prosecutors not to seek death in instances where inmates win resentencing, and many juries are choosing

New Jersey Supreme Court Changes Death Penalty Process

Posted: February 5, 2004
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors who plan to seek the death penalty must submit that request to a grand jury for approval. Prior to the 4-2 ruling by the Court, prosecutors could decide to seek the death penalty as late as the middle of the trial. The Court's decision was made in the case of Scott Fortin, and will probably affect other cases currently being prosecuted. The remaining 13 inmates on death row may not be affected unless the ruling is held to be retroactive. The Court's decision

Mentally Ill Man's Execution Stayed in Texas

Posted: February 5, 2004
Three stays of execution were issued on February 4th in cases in Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania. The United States Supreme Court briefly stayed an execution in Florida to examine the appeal from Johnny Robinson. However, the Court voted 5-4 to allow the execution to take place. In Pennsylvania, the March 11 execution of Kenneth Miller was stayed by a Philadelphia court. In Texas, a 60-day stay was granted to Scott Panetti who was to be executed February 5.

NEW RESOURCES: "Still Surviving" is First Hand Account of Death Row by Juvenile Offender

Posted: January 30, 2004

In his book "Still Surviving," Nanon Williams (pictured right), who was 17 at the time of the crime that placed him on death row, provides a first hand account of living under a sentence of death in Texas. The book details Williams's journey from teenage boy to adulthood while living in the shadow of the nation's busiest execution chamber. His text introduces readers to the experiences of solitary confinement and having friends executed, as well as to maintaining


New Hampshire House Leader Says Federal Order Could Result in State Death Penalty Repeal

Posted: January 30, 2004
Just hours after a judge ordered that a death sentence handed down in federal court in Massachusetts be carried out in New Hampshire, the N.H. House Democratic Leader, Peter Burling, said the state should renew its consideration of legislation to repeal the death penalty. "I think the issue is so profoundly divisive and so completely founded on people's core values that there be some response," said Burling. "I think most of us believed we'd never see an execution in New Hampshire. It's easy to become complacent." New Hampshire has not

Governor's Death Penalty Proposal Meets Opposition

Posted: January 30, 2004
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed a constitutional amendment to reinstate the death penalty after nearly a century without it. The idea has been met with some firm resistance from state lawmakers, including criticism from Representative Keith Ellison, who noted, "The death penalty serves no legitimate purpose. It's applied unfairly, falling disproportionately on the poor, people of color and, in too many cases, on the innocent. It's also a budget buster, sapping resources from education, health care, and public safety." (Star Tribune,

California Death Sentences Decline Sharply

Posted: January 30, 2004
In 2003, California juries sent 16 individuals to death row, the lowest number since 1985 and a dramatic decline from 1999's total of 42 new death sentences. Some believe the decline is evidence of prosecutors being more selective in seeking death convictions, as well as the public's skepticism about the capital punishment system. Robert Pugsley, a professor at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, noted, "I think that (incidences of wrongfully convicted death row inmates) has given increased vigor to the argument

New Resource: Illinois Coalition Report Examines State of Death Penalty in 2003

Posted: January 29, 2004
The Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty has issued a new report, "Questioning a Broken System: Capital Punishment in Illinois in 2003," an in-depth review of capital punishment in Illinois following actions by the former governor and the legislature to address systemic flaws in the state's death penalty system. The report notes that prosecutors continue to aggressively seek the death penalty, but public skepticism is growing over the use of capital punishment. For example, 80% of jurors who considered imposing a death sentence in 2003 rejected

Court Finds Racial Bias in Pennsylvania Jury Selection

Posted: January 28, 2004
Arnold Holloway, a Pennsylvania death row inmate who was convicted 18 years ago, was granted a new trial after a federal appeals court found that prosecutors improperly excluded blacks from the jury. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said that an assistant district attorney in Holloway's case used 11 of his 12 peremptory strikes during jury selection to eliminate blacks. "The pattern here was certainly strong enough to suggest an intention of keeping blacks off the jury," said Circuit Judge Robert Cowen. Philadelphia prosecutors'

Georgia Parole Board Grants 2004's First Clemency

Posted: January 27, 2004
Just one day before Georgia was scheduled to execute Willie James Hall, the state's parole board commuted his sentence to life in prison without parole. During the hearing on Hall's request for clemency, 6 of the jurors from his original trial testified that they would have given Hall life without parole if that sentence had been an option at his trial. In addition, the parole board noted that Hall had excellent behavior in prison and no criminal record before the murder. In 2001, a federal judge in Atlanta threw out Hall's death sentence