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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

NEW VOICES: Bill Cosby Addresses Capital Punishment During "Larry King Live" Appearance

Posted: December 11, 2003
During a recent appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live," comedian Bill Cosby addressed capital punishment and his experience as the father of a murdered child. Cosby noted:
"And when they said, 'Do you want, you know, the death penalty?' My wife was the first one. She said no. No, it's not for us to deal with the obvious. And my thought was, 'Hey man. They could poison, they could strap 1,000 of these people in the chair."
Larry King: "Isn't going to bring him back."

Four Executions in Texas and Georgia Stayed, Clemency Recommended for Foreign National in Oklahoma

Posted: December 11, 2003
Four stays were granted for executions that were scheduled to take place this week in Texas and Georgia, and Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board unanimously recommended clemency for a foreign national facing execution in January 2004. In Texas, courts ordered three stays of execution. Two of the cases involved challenges to the

PUBLIC OPINION: Polling Reveals Only a Minority of Americans Supports Execution of Juvenile Offenders

Posted: December 9, 2003
A series of public opinion polls reveals that only about a third of Americans support the death penalty as applied to those who are under the age of 18 at the time of their crime. Recent survey results include the following:
  • A fall 2001 National Opinion Research Center poll found that while 62% of respondents favored the death penalty in general, only 34% supported the execution of juvenile offenders. In a series of follow-up questions that further probed respondents about their positions, it was determined

    NEW VOICES: Author of Law Establishing Lethal Injection Reflects on Politicization of Death Penalty

    Posted: December 9, 2003
    Twenty-six years ago, Bill Wiseman drafted the first lethal-injection law in U.S. history, forever changing the way most death penalty states administer executions. He now says that guilt compelled him to draft the legislation after voting to reinstate the death penalty in Oklahoma despite the fact that he had always been an opponent of capital punishment. At the time, Wiseman was a first-term lawmaker in Oklahoma's assembly, and he knew opposing the state's 1976 measure to bring back capital punishment would be political suicide. Wiseman

    NEW VOICES: Former Supporter Will Oppose Any Measure to Restore Minnesota Death Penalty

    Posted: December 9, 2003
    Minnesota Senator Tom Neuville, the leading Republican committee member on the state's Senate Judiciary Committee, says he will oppose Governor Tim Pawlenty's efforts to reinstate death penalty. Neuville's basic opposition is moral: "If we solve violence by becoming violent ourselves, we become diminished." Neuville, a former death penalty supporter whose reexamination of his pro-life beliefs led him to change his mind on the issue, feels that many of his colleagues share his concerns. "Life is a gift from God. It isn't up to us to take

    PA Man Cleared by DNA Evidence--2003 Is Record-Tying Year for Exonerations

    Posted: December 9, 2003
    On December 9, 2003, Nicholas James Yarris of Pennsylvania became the 10th person to be exonerated from death row in 2003, equalling the most exonerations in a single year since the death penalty was reinstated. He is the nation's 112th death row exoneree. Yarris's conviction was initially overturned when three DNA tests of the forensic trial evidence excluded him. His exoneration became final when Delaware County prosecutors announced that they were dropping all charges against him. In July, attorneys for Yarris announced

    Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Banks v. Dretke

    Posted: December 5, 2003

    The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Banks v. Dretke on Monday, December 8, 2003. The Court will review the lower court's denial of relief despite evidence that Banks was poorly represented at his 1980 trial, that prosecutors withheld key information, and that testimony from two prosecution witnesses was unreliable. For more information about this case, please see DPIC's Banks v. Dretke page.


    Protess Wins Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship

    Posted: December 5, 2003
    David Protess, a professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in Chicago, has been awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Protess and his investigative journalism students exposed miscarriages of justice in a number of high-profile cases in Illinois, including the case of Anthony Porter, who was only 48 hours away from his execution until students found evidence of his innocence. Porter's case has often been cited by former Illinois Governor George