What's New

2002 Crime Statistics Released

Posted: November 12, 2003
FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, October 28, 2003
The Northeast has had the fewest executions and has the lowest murder rate in the country.  The South, with by far the most executions, consistently has the highest murder rate in the United States.



Doctor Recants Testimony As North Carolina Man's Execution Date Approaches

Posted: November 11, 2003
Psychiatrist Cynthia Smith, who served as a key witness in the 1990 death penalty case against John Daniels of North Carolina, has recanted her testimony because state prosecutors withheld important information from her. "My testimony was erroneous with gross errors. Not only did the prosecution fail to give me all the relevant information, I did not look for the information either," White said in an affidavit about the testimony she gave in her first and only capital case. She added, "John Daniels used

NEW RESOURCE: Bureau of Justice Statistics Releases 2002 Report

Posted: November 11, 2003
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released its yearly report on capital punishment on November 4, 2003. The figures reported were for the year 2002. (See also DPIC's Year End Report 2002). The BJS reported that death sentences in the U.S. have declined for four straight years, dropping by almost 50% since 1998. DPIC will release a report with 2003 figures in mid-December 2003. Read Capital Punishment, 2002.

NEW VOICES: Washington Judge States Death Penalty "No Longer Has Validity"

Posted: November 10, 2003

In a Seattle Times op-ed reflecting on the plea agreement for serial killer Gary Ridgway resulting in a life without parole sentence (read more), Washington State Superior Court Judge David A. Nichols stated that the "death penalty as a response to any criminal behavior no longer has validity and should be repealed, because it is impossible to administer with justice and fairness." He further noted:


Pardons Could Result From Destruction of Houston Lab DNA Evidence

Posted: November 6, 2003
Evidence from a capital murder case and seven other cases tested for DNA by the Houston Police Department's crime lab have been destroyed. The District Attorney's office said that it may have to ask for pardons in these cases if the defendants were convicted largely on the weight of DNA evidence. "We're going to have to alert the judges and the defense attorneys and evaluate each case to see what we have got to support the conviction without the DNA. If DNA played a large role, I may be writing the governor about

Texas Report Finds Noncompliance With State Defense Laws

Posted: November 6, 2003
A review of death penalty defense policies in Texas has uncovered widespread noncompliance with state laws that require each region to adopt qualification standards for capital defense attorneys. Only two of the nine judicial regions in Texas have adopted the standards. A report on the findings has been published by the Equal Justice Center, a Texas organization that advocates for greater fairness in the justice system, and the Texas Defender Service, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of

House Overwhelmingly Passes DNA Bill That Includes The Innocence Protection Act

Posted: November 6, 2003
By a vote of 357-67, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation designating $25 million in funding over five years for DNA testing that could help prove the innocence of some death row inmates. The bill also provides funding for states to improve the quality of legal representation for those facing capital charges. The bipartisan-supported bill, entitled The Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003 (H.R. 3214), includes a comprehensive package of programs that provides over $1 billion over the next five years to assist

North Carolina Newspaper Series Reveals Prosecutorial Misconduct in Death Penalty Cases

Posted: November 5, 2003

A Charlotte (North Carolina) News & Observer investigative series about the death penalty found that prosecutorial misconduct led to a number of North Carolina capital convictions being overturned, and that more cases are currently under review due to questions of improper behavior by the state. The series noted that prosecutors who have withheld evidence often receive no significant punishment. Among the cases highlighted in the report were the following:


ARBITRARINESS: Serial Killer Receives Life Sentence While 3,500 Others Face Execution

Posted: November 5, 2003
In a plea agreement reached with Washington state prosecutors, Gary Ridgway, a Seattle-area man who admitted to 48 murders since 1982, will serve a sentence of life in prison without parole. Prosecutors spared Ridgway from execution in exchange for his cooperation in leading police to the remains of still-missing victims. (Associated Press, November 5, 2003)

Race Plays Powerful Role in Washington State Death Penalty Cases

Posted: November 4, 2003
Race plays a significant role in who receives the death penalty in Washington. Research compiled by the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center, revealed that death notices have never been filed in a case with a white defendant and a black victim, while such notices have been filed in 42% of murder cases with a black defendant and a white victim. Of the 10 individuals currently on death row in Washington, nine cases involved a white victim and none involved a black victim. In