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North Carolina Lawyers’ Group Recommends Overhaul of Death Penalty

Posted: May 6, 2004
After a review of North Carolina’s death penalty, the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers has issued a series of 11 recommendations that aim to address issues of fairness and accuracy in the state’s capital punishment statutes. In addition to recommendations addressing hidden evidence, mistaken eyewitness identifications, discrimination, and unreliable confessions, the group urged North Carolina lawmakers to enact a moratorium on executions while they consider implementing reforms to make the system more

Alabama's Death Penalty Problems Continue

Posted: May 5, 2004
Questions about the accuracy and fairness of Alabama’s death penalty continue to surface as illustrated by a series of recent federal court rulings granting two new trials and one new sentencing hearing. All of the rulings were based on inadequate representation provided to the defendants. "Counsel simply provided no defense to the death penalty," Chief U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon of Birmingham wrote March 31 in giving one of the inmates a new trial. The man has been on death row 22 years.

NEW VOICES: Massachusetts District Attorneys Criticize Governor’s Death Penalty Plan

Posted: May 4, 2004
District attorneys from several Massachusetts counties, including Suffolk, Norfolk, Middlesex, Essex and Barnstable, had strong reservations about Governor Mitt Romney’s attempt to establish a nearly "foolproof" death penalty system in the state. Some noted that nothing can eliminate the possibility of human error in such cases. The district attorneys said that the state’s medical examiner’s office and crime labs are currently overwhelmed with work, and that the labs do not have the capacity to add the additional responsibility of carrying out Romney’s


Posted: April 30, 2004
Three scheduled executions in May--Osvaldo Torres in Oklahoma, Kelsey Patterson in Texas, and Sammy Perkins in North Carolina--raise troubling questions about the application of the death penalty.

Torres is a Mexican foreign national whose execution is scheduled for May 18, just weeks after the International Court of Justice ruled that the United States should review the cases of 51 Mexican foreign nationals on death row in the U.S., including Torres’s case. At issue is whether the U.S. violated the rights of Mexican foreign

Florida Supreme Court Asked to Clarify Impact of Ring Decision

Posted: April 30, 2004
A District Court panel in Florida has endorsed a special verdict form that asks jurors to specify what elements of a crime warrant a death penalty. The District Court certified its decision as a matter of great public importance and asked the Florida Supreme Court to review the rulings, noting “this ruling could affect many cases that may ultimately be

Another Federal Death Penalty Case Results in Life Sentence

Posted: April 29, 2004
After less than five hours of deliberation, jurors in a federal death penalty case in Maryland returned life sentences for two men convicted earlier of federal drug conspiracy charges and firearms violations. The federal case against Michael Taylor and Keon Moses was the first time since 1998 that U.S. prosecutors in Baltimore had sought a death sentence. The life sentences for Taylor and Keon continue a national trend identified last year by the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project. In an August 2003 report, the Project

NEW RESOURCE: North Carolina Web Site Contains Valuable Information on Moratorium Issue

Posted: April 28, 2004
North Carolina may become the first state to enact a moratorium on executions through the legislative process. A moratorium measure has already passed their Senate and is awaiting action in the House. A new Web site launched by the North Carolina Coalition for a Moratorium, www.ncmoratorium.org, contains a vast amount of information related to this important issue. Among the topics examined are the quality of counsel, innocence, costs, access to DNA testing, deterrence, race,

State Legislators Advance Bills to Ban Juvenile Death Penalty

Posted: April 27, 2004
Just weeks after legislators in Wyoming and South Dakota passed legislation to ban the execution of juvenile offenders, lawmakers in Florida are on a similar course that may send a bill that eliminates the death penalty for those under the age of 18 to Governor Jeb Bush for signature into law. Members of the Florida Senate passed the juvenile death penalty ban by a vote of 26-12, and the House is expected to take up the measure later this week. Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, who

POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Texas Man May Soon Be Freed From Death Row

Posted: April 26, 2004
More than two decades after Max Soffar was sentenced to die for a Houston-area triple murder, an appellate court has ruled that his court-appointed attorney inadequately represented him during his 1980 trial and that he deserves to be retried within 120 days or freed from Texas’s death row. Although no evidence linking Soffar to the crime was ever found and his accounts of the murders, contained in what are believed to be false confessions, varied vastly from several eyewitnesses, Soffar’s defense attorney

NEW RESOURCE: The Problem of False Confessions in a Post-DNA World

Posted: April 23, 2004
“The Problem of False Confessions in a Post-DNA World,” a recent study published in the North Carolina Law Review, found that juvenile offenders were involved in 33% of the cases where the defendant confessed to a crime that he or she did not commit. Ninety-two percent of the cases involved false confessions from individuals under the age of 40, and more than half were under the age of 25. According to the study’s authors, law professors Richard Leo of the University of California at Irvine and Steve Drizin, of