In an effort to prevent wrongful convictions and ensure accurate eyewitness identification, the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission has recommended new procedures for state law enforcement agencies. The commission was formed by state Supreme Court Justice Beverly Lake and is comprised of judges, police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and others.
An August 2003 Charlotte Observer/NBC-6 poll revealed that nearly half of those surveyed in North and South Carolina say the states should pause executions until the death penalty system is deemed fair. Of the 908 respondents, 48% voiced support for a moratorium on executions and 41% were opposed. While men were about equally split on the question, 50% of women favored a moratorium and 35% opposed it. Among African American respondents, 67% favored a moratorium, while 42% of white respondents said that they would support halting executions.
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has issued a temporary reprieve for death row inmate Philip Workman, who was scheduled for execution on September 24th. Noting that there is an ongoing federal criminal investigation that may shed light on Workman's case, Bredesen stated, "So long as there are outstanding issues that may be related to this case, the only proper thing to do is to wait until those questions have been answered.
An International coalition of non-governmental organizations will sponsor a World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th, 2003. The coalition will host local events throughout the world to draw attention to their concerns about capital punishment. Among the events scheduled are debates, concerts, and lectures. The coalition will also host an Internet event urging repeal of the death penalty in all countries that maintain the practice, including the United States.
As the October 1st deadline for Florida inmates to request DNA testing of evidence that could prove their innocence looms, Broward County prosecutors have announced that they will allow inmates access to the crucial testing after the deadline passes. Two of Florida's highest-profile DNA exonerations, Frank Lee Smith, who died of cancer on death row 11 months before he was exonerated by DNA evidence, and Jerry Frank Townsend were both Broward County cases.
"The Wrong Men: America's Epidemic of Wrongful Death Row Convictions" by Stanley Cohen is slated for release in October 2003. This book tells the story of how more than 100 innocent people found themselves on death row in the United States. Through an examination of eyewitness error, jailhouse snitches, racism, junk science, prosecutorial misconduct, and incompetent counsel, Cohen provides a behind-the-scenes look at the problems leading to wrongful convictions. He also captures the stories of those individuals whose dogged determination helped exonerate the innocent. Among the cases
The most recent comprehensive report summarizing legislative, judicial, public policy, and other developments that have occurred since the American Bar Association's adoption of its death penalty moratorium resolution in February 1997 is now available. "Building Momentum: The American Bar Association Call for a Moratorium on Executions Takes Hold" covers activity from August 2001 to June 2003. It is the fourth edition of the ABA's moratorium activity update series.
Excerpts from the Recent 9th Circuit's opinion in Summerlin v. Stewart regarding the role of juries in death penalty casesPosted: September 9, 2003
The following are excerpts from Summerlin v. Stewart, No. 98-99002 (9th Cir. Sept. 2, 2003):
(page numbers refer to the on-line version; subheads are not part of the decision)
A four-month series of "Funky Winkerbean," a comic strip syndicated by King Features, will focus on capital punishment. The storyline, titled "The Danny Madison Casebook," examines the problems and emotions of the death penalty as seen through the eyes of a public defender. The comic strip is by cartoonist Tom Batiuk, and it will appear in 400 newspapers nationally. It may also be viewed at http://kingfeatures.com/features/comics/fwinker/about.htm.
According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, none of the analysts who worked in the Houston Police Department's discredited DNA lab (which presented evidence in death penalty cases) were qualified by education and training to do their jobs. The Chronicle's examination of personnel records found that not one of the lab's employees met national standards and only one of the employees had completed all required college courses mandated by the DNA Advisory Board Quality Assurance Standards. Texas law requires all crime labs to meet these standards by 2004.