Michael Lee McCormick has been on Tennessee's death row for 17 years, but a recent court decision throwing out the remaining evidence against him could result in his freedom. Judge Doug Meyer ruled that tapes containing conversations between McCormick and an undercover police officer who had befriended him were inadmissible due to "police misconduct." Meyer noted that McCormick, who is an alcoholic, had continually denied his involvement in the crime "until the authorities made him dependent upon them for his alcohol.
A Tennessee jury took only 2 hours to convict and another hour to sentence Richard Taylor to death. Taylor suffers from mental illness and defended himself. The trial took place 19 years after Taylor's original 1984 death sentence, which was set aside because he had inadequate representation and his complex mental-health history had not been fully investigated.
Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi was allowed to plead guilty to 10 murders, drug trafficking, racketeering and extortion, as federal prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against him in exchange for his cooperation with ongoing crime investigations. Under the terms of the agreement, Flemmi - who has also admitted to murders in Florida and Oklahoma - will serve a life without parole sentence in a secure unit reserved for cooperating inmates. Among the murders committed by Flemmi were the murder of his girlfriend and the daughter of another girlfriend.
Kenyan government officials are working to abolish the nation's death penalty and replace the punishment with life in prison. The recommendation is currently under review by Kenya's constitutional review conference, a body comprised of members of parliament, professional bodies and religious and civic leaders. Kenya has not had an execution since 1987, but 2,618 people remain on the nation's death row.
"Life on Death Row" is a first-person account of living under a death sentence in Arizona. Written by Arizona death row inmate Robert W. Murray, the book explores how inmates cope with execution warrants, lethal injection, prison politics, and day-to-day life in a supermax prison facility. Find more information about this book. (www.1stbooks.com) ( Albert Publishing Co. in association with 1st Books Library, 2003) See Resources.
On October 3, 2003, the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously reversed Phillip Tomlin's death sentence and ordered him resentenced to life in prison without parole, marking the Court's first ruling to create a standard of review for judicial override in the state. Tomlin had been on death row for more than 25 years despite the fact that four juries have recommended that he receive a life sentence for his alleged role in a Mobile, Alabama, revenge killing. In each of those cases, the trial judge overrode the jury
In "Kiss of Death: America's Love Affair with the Death Penalty," attorney John Bessler presents arguments against capital punishment based on his work as a pro bono attorney for death row inmates in Texas. Woven into Bessler's personal account is an examination of U.S. capital punishment practices in contrast to the absence of the death penalty in other nations. The book also addresses the toll executions take on those who participate in the process. (Northeastern University Press, 2003) See Resources.
The October 2003 edition of the Foreign Service Journal contains a series of articles examining world opinion on the death penalty and its effect on U.S. policies. The articles, including one by DPIC Executive Director Richard Dieter, feature information on international treaties, the experiences of former U.S. foreign diplomats, and the effect of the international movement away from the death penalty on the U.S.'s position as a leader in human rights. Among the other contributing writers are Harold Hongju
In a decision vacating the death penalty for Nebraska death row inmate Charles Jess Palmer, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bataillon declared that electrocution is unconstitutional. Bataillon wrote, "In light of evidence and evolving standards of decency, the court would find that a death penalty sentence imposed on a defendant in a state that provides electrocution as its only method of execution is an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Nebraska is the only state that maintains electrocution
The most recent edition of The Angolite, a bimonthly magazine produced by inmates at Louisiana's Angola State Penitentiary, focuses on the Texas death penalty. The publication's feature article, "If Not For Texas," is an overview of capital punishment in Texas compared to other states and to national death penalty developments. The high number of executions in Texas, inadequate representation, innocence, juveniles, race, victims' families, the mentally retarded, and women on death row are among the topics discussed.