Death Sentences, Executions Second Lowest in a Quarter Century
- Full text of the report.
- DPIC's Press Release.
- INFOGRAPHIC: "The Death Penalty in the U.S.".
- AUDIO: Clips.
- GRAPHICS: Individual Downloads as PNG or SVG files.
- 2017 Death Sentences by Name, Race, and County
NEW DISCUSSIONS WITH DPIC PODCAST: Missouri Attorney Discusses Winning Life Sentence in Federal Prison-Killing Case
Lawyer Thomas Carver joins Robin Konrad, DPIC’s Director of Research and Special Projects, to discuss the case of his client, Ulysses Jones, a terminally ill federal prisoner who was charged with capital murder in Springfield, Missouri. Carver explains what happened in his client’s case, how he and his team avoided a death sentence for their client, and what this case says about broader death-penalty issues in Missouri and the federal court system.
NEWS (1/19): Tennessee has set execution dates for three death-row prisoners, scheduling James Hawkins to be executed on May 9, Billy Ray Irick to be executed on August 9, and Sedrick Clayton to be executed on November 28. The warrants for Hawkins and Clayton are legally premature, meaning that the executions were scheduled before the men have completed the normal stages of appeals to which they are entitled under state and federal law. Such warrants are routinely stayed if the prisoners pursue those appeals.
NEWS (1/19): Florida Governor Rick Scott has issued a death warrant scheduling the execution of Eric Branch for February 22.
NEWS (1/18): Texas has executed Anthony Shore. It was the first execution of 2018 and the 127th of a condemned prisoner from Harris County since the 1970s.
NEWS (1/18): A Texas trial court has scheduled the execution of Erick Davila for April 25.
NEWS (1/18): The Florida Supreme Court has denied two petitions filed by Kenneth Quince challenging the death sentence imposed in his case. The court denied Quince's challenge to his death sentence brought under Hurst v. Florida, which affirmed a capital defendant's right to a jury determination of all facts necessary to impose the death penalty, saying that Hurst was inapplicable to Quince's case because he waived his right to a jury trial and because his direct appeal was already final before Hurst was decided. In a separate opinion, the court denied Quince's challenge to his death sentence under Hall v. Florida, which had argued that Florida's courts had failed to apply prevailing clinical standards in assessing his intellectual functioning.
NEWS (1/16): The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has stayed the February 23 execution of Raghunandan Yandamuri. Yandamuri had been subject to a legally premature notice of execution under Pennsylvania's automatic death warrant statute, and the stay permits him to pursue state and federal appeals that are routinely available to any state prisoner.
NEWS (1/12): The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has overturned the death sentence imposed on Arizona death-row prisoner Robert Allen Poyson. The court ruled that that Arizona had applied "an unconstitutional causal nexus test to his mitigating evidence"—meaning that the court had required him to show that his mitigating evidence had a link to the crime before the jury could consider it grounds to spare his life.
NEWS (1/11): Greene County, Missouri Circuit Judge Thomas Mountjoy sentenced Craig Wood to death after an an out-of-county jury empaneled in the rape-murder of a ten-year-old girl did not reach a unanimous sentencing verdict. Missouri and Indiana require judges to make the determination of life or death if the capital sentencing jury does not reach a unanimous verdict. No Missouri jury has imposed a death sentence since 2013.
NEWS (1/11): A Broward County, Florida, jury has unanimously recommended that Peter Avsenew be sentenced to death. The trial court permitted Avsenew to fire his lawyers and represent himself in the penalty-phase of his trial. He then made no opening statement, did not contest any of the prosecution's aggravating circumstances, presented no mitigating evidence, and told the jury he had "no regrets" about committing the killing. Five of the 39 defendants sentenced to death in 2017 also had represented themselves at trial and/or in their sentencing-phase hearings.
NEWS (1/11): The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has overturned the death sentence imposed on Indiana death-row prisoner Frederick Baer. The court ruled that Baer's lawyer had been ineffective for failing to object to a defective jury instruction that prejudicially limited the jury's consideration of his mitigating evidence and for "deficiently fail[ing] to challenge" what it described as a "pattern of prosecutorial misbehavior" that affected the jury's penalty-phase verdict.
NEWS (1/11): The Florida Supreme Court has reversed two more death sentences imposed by trial judges after capital-sentencies juries had reached non-unanimous sentencing recommendations. The court granted new penalty-phase hearings to Dontae Morris, sentenced to death in Hillsborough County in 2010, and Vahtiece Alfonzo Kirkman, sentenced to death in 2016 in Brevard County. Two jurors in each of the cases had voted for life. In Hurst v. State, the Florida court ruled that the Florida constitution required that a jury return a unanimous verdict for death before the trial judge could impose a death sentence.
NEWS (1/11): The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied Ernest Wholaver's post-conviction challenge to his conviction and death sentence. Wholaver was sentenced to death in Dauphin County in 2003.
NEWS (1/8): The U.S. Supreme Court has granted the petition for writ of certiorari of Georgia death-row prisoner Keith Tharpe, whose execution was stayed on September 26, 2017. The Court remanded Tharpe's case to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for consideration of his claim that he was denied a fair trial because one of his jurors admitted that he believed there are two "there are two types of black people: 1. Black folks and 2. N[**]gers," and Tharpe was not in "the 'good' black folks category" and that he "wondered if black people even have souls." Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch dissented from the decision.
NEWS (1/8): The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take action in two Alabama death penalty cases. The Court denied certiorari in the case of Walter Leroy Moody, declining to review the constitutionality of Alabama's practice permitting the trial judge to impose death based upon a jury's non-unanimous sentencing recommendation. It also denied reconsideration of its prior decision reversing a ruling that Vernon Madison was incompetent to be executed. Madison's execution is scheduled for January 25.
The Court has relisted the case of Hidalgo v. Arizona, which presents a challenge to the constitutionality of Arizona's death-penalty statute.
NEWS (1/8): Pennsylvania has issued a notice of execution, scheduling the execution of Raghunandan Yandamuri for February 23. As with more than 300 other death warrants mandated by Pennsylvania's automatic death warrant law, it has scheduled the execution before the defendant has had an opportunity to pursue the normal course of appeals and is expected to be stayed by the courts.
NEWS (1/5): The order staying all executions in Louisiana, entered in the Louisiana death-row prisoners' challenge to the state's lethal-injection protocol, has been extended indefinitely following the death of the federal district court judge who had been presiding over the case.
NEWS (1/4): After more than a decade of litigation over his intellectual disability, former Pennsylvania death-row prisoner Jose DeJesus has been re-sentenced to three consecutive terms of life without possibility of parole. The plea deal with the Philadelphia District Attorney's office settles three different cases in which DeJesus had been sentenced to death.
NEWS (1/3): Twenty-one years after having been sentenced to death, Pennsylvania death-row prisoner Shawnfatee Bridges has been resentenced to a term of 23-80 years after reaching a plea deal to two counts of third-degree murder. Bridges, whom Berks County prosecutors concede was not the shooter, had won a new trial after the prior district attorney withheld multiple police records that undermined the credibility of a key prosecution witness.
NEW RESOURCES: DPIC has added to our website the proceedings of Life After the Death Penalty: Implications for Retentionist States, an August 2017 panel presentation co-sponsored by the Committees on Capital Punishment of the American Bar Association Section of Civil Rights & Social Justice and the Death Penalty Committee of the New York City Bar Association.
DPIC 2017 Year End Report
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.