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CMFE's letter to President Bush urging an immediate moratorium on all federal executions Citizens for a Moratorium On Federal Executions
Citizens for a Moratorium On Federal Executions, a Washington-based group of prominent death penalty opponents, sent President Bush a letter on June 4, 2001 urging him to impose an immediate moratorium on all federal executions.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Dear President Bush:

As you know from our previous correspondence to you and to President Clinton, Citizens for a Moratorium on Federal Executions (CMFE) is a growing coalition of individuals with differing views on the authority of government to impose the death penalty. Some who have signed letters to you and to President Clinton agree that capital punishment is appropriate in principle, provided that it can be carried out fairly, equitably and reliably. However, all of us agree that current information about the administration of the federal death penalty calls for an immediate executive moratorium on federal executions.

Citizens for a Moratorium on Federal Executions originally came together to urge President Clinton to declare a moratorium when Juan Raul Garza was scheduled to be the first individual executed by the federal government system since 1963. Results of the Department of Justice survey of the administration of the federal death penalty released in September of last year revealed disturbing evidence of geographic and racial disparities. The outcome of the DOJ review and concerns expressed by the former Attorney General and the former Deputy Attorney General were focal points of the CMFE's letters to President Clinton in November and January. In those letters, we urged that "no federal execution should be carried out at a time when the nation questions the reliability and fairness of capital punishment and no person should be executed until it is certain that the process does not discriminate. The very reason for a moratorium is to allow a period for careful study about the administration of the federal death penalty. Whatever one's views on the appropriateness of the death penalty, it is unconscionable to carry it out while questions remain about the fairness of its application."

On December 7, 2000, President Clinton announced that he had granted a reprieve to Mr. Garza because of his conclusion that "the examination of possible racial and regional bias should be completed before the United States goes forward with an execution in a case that may implicate the very questions raised by the Justice Department's continuing study." The President called upon the Department of Justice to conclude a further examination of the federal death penalty system by the end of April of this year in advance of June 19, the execution date now scheduled for Juan Raul Garza. Then-Deputy Attorney General Holder followed up by expanding the internal Department of Justice inquiry to include gathering internal data that had been missing from the September 2000 survey.

Ultimately, Attorney General Reno, Deputy Attorney General Holder, and Acting Director of the National Institute of Justice Julie Samuels concluded that April of this year was not a realistic deadline for completion of a thorough examination of the system. The Department determined that a credible evaluation of the federal death penalty could not be conducted without studies by independent experts. It recognized that a reliable study required that data be collected and analyzed that had not been maintained by the United States Attorneys in the 94 federal districts. The Department authorized the National Institute of Justice to commence this process. In January, representatives of the NIJ met with experts to begin discussions essential to designing and carrying out independent studies.

Your Administration's early statements and actions indicated its concurrence with this course of action. Responding to questions during the confirmation process, the nation's new Attorney General, John Ashcroft, stated that evidence of racial disparities in the application of the federal death penalty "troubles me deeply." Acknowledging that he was "unsure" why more than half the federal capital prosecutions were initiated in less than one-third of the states, the Attorney General agreed that he was also "troubled" by this evidence. He expressed his approval of a "thorough study of the system," and also stated, "Nor should race play any role in determining whether someone is subject to capital punishment." While declaring that he "personally" did not believe a moratorium on federal executions was warranted, the Attorney General answered with an unequivocal "yes" when asked: "Do you agree with President Clinton that there is a need for 'continuing study' of 'possible racial and regional bias' because '[i]n this area there is no room for error?'"

Unfortunately, the Attorney General's more recent actions and statements cast doubt on your Administration's commitment to the principles he set forth at his confirmation hearing. There has been no indication that the Department intends to continue the necessary independent investigation of racial and geographic bias in the death penalty, which was to have been administered by the National Institute of Justice. Moreover, Attorney General Ashcroft's statements to members of Congress, including his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee in early May, suggest that even the internal inquiry that the Department of Justice embarked upon will consist of little more than a re-analysis of the same data already examined and found to demonstrate "troubling" racial and geographic disparities. While Attorney General Ashcroft and Department of Justice press advisories indicated that the supplemental study would be made public before May 16, it was not. This sequence of events is far from the "thorough study of the system" that the Attorney General promised.

Finally, revelations just days before May 16 that the FBI had failed to provide defense counsel for Timothy McVeigh with thousands of documents to which they were entitled have further shaken confidence in the reliability and fairness of the administration of the federal death penalty. In announcing a delay in Mr. McVeigh's execution, the Attorney General declared that "if any questions or doubts remain about this case, it would cast a permanent cloud over justice, diminishing its value and questioning its integrity." In expressing your support for the Attorney General's decision, Mr. President, you stated that '[t]oday is an example of the system being fair." You emphasized that the Attorney General's action was appropriate because "we live in a country that protects certain rights."

Mr. President, the doubts and questions that were raised about the fairness and reliability of the federal death penalty system remain. In your own words, they call into question precisely whether the "system [is] fair" and whether "we live in a country that protects certain rights." We await action by this Administration which will assure the American public that if we are to have a federal death penalty, reliability, fairness and equality will be guaranteed. Those assurances cannot be given today because, as Attorney General Ashcroft has recognized, there is need for a "thorough study." We again urge you to declare an immediate moratorium on all federal executions.

Sincerely,

Barbara Arnwine
Executive Director, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton
Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Detroit

Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
Former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal

Wade Henderson
Executive Director, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)

Dr. Mary Frances Berry
Chair, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Reverend Jesse Jackson
Civic and Political Leader; President and Founder, Rainbow Coalition/PUSH

Harry Belafonte
Artist/Activist

Fred Korematsu
Japanese American Civil Rights Leader

Julian Bond
Chairman of the Board, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Dean Anthony Kronman
Dean, Yale Law School

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo
Human Rights Activist; Founder and Former Executive Director, RFK Center for Human Rights

Reverend James Lawson, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus, Holman United Methodist Church, Los Angeles

Norman Lear
Director and Founding Member, People for the American Way; Chairman, ACT III Communications

Michael S. Rosier
President-Elect, National Bar Association

Robert S. Litt
Former Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice

Dr. Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich
Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer, Black Leadership Forum, Inc.

Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
Co-Founder and President Emeritus, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

Stanley Sheinbaum
Economist; Founding Publisher, New Perspectives Quarterly

Cardinal Roger Mahony
Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Sidney Sheinberg
Former President and Chief Operating Officer, MCA, Inc./Universal Pictures

Karen K. Narasaki
President, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium

Senator Paul Simon
U. S. Senate, 1984-1997;U.S. House of Representatives, 1974-1984

Mario G. Obledo
President, National Coalition of Hispanic Organizations

Tavis Smiley
Commentator, Author, Civil Rights Leader

Angela E. Oh
Member, Advisory Board One America:The President's Initiative on Race

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
Editor in Chief, The American Spectator

George M. Ong
National President, Organization of Chinese Americans

John Van de Kamp
California Attorney General, 1983-1991

Sister Helen Prejean
Author, Dead Man Walking; Chair, The Moratorium Campaign

Reverend C.T. Vivian
Founder and Board Chair, Center for Democratic Renewal (formerly the National Anti-Klan
Network); President, Black Action Strategies and Information Center (B.A.S.I.C.)

Hugh B. Price
President, National Urban League

Bud Welch
Board Member, Murder Victims' Families For Reconciliation

Arturo S. Rodriguez
President, United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO

John W. Whitehead
Founder and President, The Rutherford Institute

cc: John D. Ashcroft, Attorney General
Alberto Gonzalez, White House Counsel

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Judge Rakoff's preliminary ruling in the Quinones case Rakoff.html UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. ALAN QUINONES

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7320

April 25, 2002, Decided
April 25, 2002, Filed



Judge Rakoff

The Federal Death Penalty Act, 18 U.S.C. 3591-3598, serves deterrent and retributive functions, or so Congress could reasonably have concluded when it passed the Act in 1994. But despite the important goals, and undoubted popularity, of this federal act and similar state statutes, legislatures and courts have always been queasy about the possibility that an innocent person, mistakenly convicted and sentenced to death under such a statute, might be executed before he could vindicate his innocence-an event difficult to square with basic constitutional guarantees, let alone simple justice. As Justice O'Connor, concurring along with Justice Kennedy in Herrera v. Collins,506 U.S. 390 (1993), stated: "I cannot disagree with the fundamental legal principle that executing the innocent is inconsistent with the Constitution. Regardless of the verbal formula employed-'contrary to contemporary standards of decency,' 'shocking to the conscience,' or offensive to a 'principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental'-the execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a constitutionally intolerable event." Id. at 870 (citations omitted).

To the majority in Herrera, however, as to most judges and legislators at the time (1993), the possibility that an innocent person might be executed pursuant to a death penalty statute seemed remote. Thus, Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for the Court in Herrera, discounted as potentially unreliable a study that had concluded that 23 innocent persons were executed in the United States between 1900 and 1987. See Herrera, 506 U.S. at 868, n.15. While recognizing that no system of justice is infallible, the majority in Herrera implicitly assumed that the high standard of proof and numerous procedural protections required in criminal cases, coupled with judicial review, post-conviction remedies, and, when all else failed, the possibility of executive clemency, rendered it highly unlikely that an executed person would subsequently be discovered to be innocent.

That assumption no longer seems tenable. In just the few years since Herrera, evidence has emerged that clearly indicates that, despite all the aforementioned safeguards, innocent people-mostly of color-are convicted of capital crimes they never committed, their convictions affirmed, and their collateral remedies denied, with a frequency far greater than previously supposed. Most striking are the results obtained through the use of post-conviction testing with deoxyribonucleic acid ("DNA"). Although DNA testing is of remarkably high reliability, [FN1] its value as a forensic tool in criminal investigations was not demonstrated until 1985 [FN2] and its use in re- evaluating prior convictions was only beginning at the time Herrera was decided in 1993. [FN3] Yet in just the few years since then, DNA testing has established the factual innocence of no fewer than 12 inmates on death row, some of whom came within days of being executed and all of whom have now been released. [FN4] This alone strongly suggests that more than a few people have been executed in recent decades whose innocence, otherwise unapparent to either the executive or judicial branches, would have been conclusively established by DNA testing if it had been available in their cases.

The problem, however, goes well beyond the issue of the availability of DNA testing. Indeed, the success of DNA testing in uncovering the innocence of death row defendants has itself helped spark reinvestigation of numerous other capital cases as to which DNA testing is unavailable or irrelevant but as to which other techniques can be applied. Partly as a result, in just the past decade, at least 20 additional defendants who had been duly convicted of capital crimes and were facing execution have been exonerated and released. [FN5] Again, the inference is unmistakable that numerous innocent people have been executed whose innocence might otherwise have been similarly established, whether by newly-developed scientific techniques, newly-discovered evidence, or simply renewed attention to their cases.

Moreover, even the frequency of these recent exonerations resulting from DNA testing and from fresh attention to neglected cases hardly captures either the magnitude of the problem or how little it was recognized until recently. It was not until the year 2000, for example, that Professor James S. Liebman and his colleagues at Columbia Law School released the results of the first comprehensive study ever undertaken of modern American capital appeals (4,578 appeals between 1973 and 1995). That study, though based only on those errors judicially identified on appeal, concluded that "the overall rate of prejudicial error in the American capital punishment system" is a remarkable 68 percent. James S. Liebman, et al., A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases (2000) at ii. No system so "persistently and systematically fraught with error," id., can warrant the kind of reliance that would justify removing the possibility of future exoneration by imposing death.

Just as there is typically no statute of limitations for first-degree murder- for the obvious reason that it would be intolerable to let a cold-blooded murderer escape justice through the mere passage of time-so too one may ask whether it is tolerable to put a time limit on when someone wrongly convicted of murder must prove his innocence or face extinction. In constitutional terms, the issue is whether-now that we know the fallibility of our system in capital cases-capital punishment is unconstitutional because it creates an undue risk that a meaningful number of innocent persons, by being put to death before the emergence of the techniques or evidence that will establish their innocence, are thereby effectively deprived of the opportunity to prove their innocence- and thus deprived of the process that is reasonably due them in these circumstances under the Fifth Amendment. [FN6]

In the instant case, the Government has announced its unalterable intention to seek the death penalty with respect to defendants Alan Quinones and Diego Rodriguez, the only two of the eight defendants originally named in this narcotics/murder case who have not pled guilty to the underlying charges. Trial of those charges, and, if the defendants are convicted, of the Government's request for imposition of the death penalty, is scheduled to begin September 2, 2002. Meanwhile, the two deatheligible defendants have moved to have the death penalty aspects dismissed from the case, on the ground, inter alia, that the federal death penalty statute is, for the aforementioned reasons, unconstitutional. [FN7] The Government does not contest the defendants' standing to make this motion at this time, and, indeed, it could not, for as presumptively innocent persons whose death the Government has committed to seek immediately upon their conviction of the capital offenses here alleged, the defendants are already directly affected by the death-penalty potential in every aspect of their defense.

On the merits, the Government concedes that "research has not uncovered a case addressing the precise point" here raised, i.e., "whether the death penalty violate[s] due process, and is therefore unconstitutional, because, by its very nature, it cuts off a defendant's ability to establish his actual innocence." Govt. letter brief dated March 29, 2002 at 1. [FN8] The Government asserts, however, that the thrust of defendants' argument is contrary to the positions taken by the Supreme Court in Herrera, supra, where the Court affirmed the denial of petitioner's second petition for habeas relief in which he alleged that his pending execution in the face of new evidence of his alleged innocence would violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

This Court is not persuaded that Herrera provides the guidance necessary to resolve the instant issue. Unlike the presumptively innocent federal defendants bringing the present motion, Herrera involved a state-convicted defendant seeking a second habeas review whose proof of "actual innocence" was tenuous on its face-a factor that weighed heavily in the view of two of the justices (O'Connor and Kennedy) who made up the five-justice majority. See Herrera, 506 U.S. at 419 (O'Connor, joined by Kennedy, concurring)("Dispositive to this case, however, is an equally fundamental fact: Petitioner is not innocent, in any sense of the word.").

Moreover, while Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for the Court, at one point states that "our habeas jurisprudence makes clear that a claim of 'actual innocence' is not itself a constitutional claim," id.at 404, this is plainly dictum, for elsewhere he states that "[w]e may assume, for the sake of argument, in deciding this case, that in a capital case a truly persuasive demonstration of 'actual innocence' made after trial would render the execution of a defendant unconstitutional ...," id.at 417. As with the concurring justices, however, the Chief Justice found that Herrera's own "showing of innocence falls far short of that which would have to be made in order to trigger the sort of constitutional claim which we have assumed, arguendo, to exist." Id.at 418-19.

Ironically, it was only a year or so after Herrera was decided that the new availability of DNA testing began to supply the kind of "truly persuasive demonstration" of actual innocence to which Chief Justice Rehnquist had hypothetical alluded. Thus, not only did Herrera not reach the issue here presented, but also it was premised on a series of factual assumptions about the unlikelihood that proof of actual innocence would emerge long after conviction that no longer seem sustainable. More generally, as already discussed, it implicitly premised a degree of unlikelihood of wrongful capital convictions that no longer seems tenable. [FN9]

The issue-not addressed by Herrera or, so far as appears, anywhere else- boils down to this. We now know, in a way almost unthinkable even a decade ago, that our system of criminal justice, for all its protections, is sufficiently fallible that innocent people are convicted of capital crimes with some frequency. Fortunately, as DNA testing illustrates, scientific developments and other innovative measures (including some not yet even known) may enable us not only to prevent future mistakes but also to rectify past ones by releasing wrongfully-convicted persons-but only if such persons are still alive to be released. If, instead, we sanction execution, with full recognition that the probable result will be the state-sponsored death of a meaningful number of innocent people, have we not thereby deprived these people of the process that is their due? Unless we accept-as seemingly a majority of the Supreme Court in Herrera was unwilling to accept-that considerations of deterrence and retribution can constitutionally justify the knowing execution of innocent persons, the answer must be that the federal death penalty statute is unconstitutional.

Consequently, if the Court were compelled to decide the issue today, it would, for the foregoing reasons, grant the defendants' motion to dismiss all death penalty aspects of this case on the ground that the federal death penalty statute is unconstitutional. But prudence dictates that in a matter of such importance, the Court should give the Government-which only now has the benefit of the Court's views on this issue-one last opportunity to be heard before a final determination is reached. Accordingly, the Government, if it chooses, may submit an additional brief on the aforementioned issue by no later than May 15, to which defendants may respond by no later than May 31, following which the Court will render a final determination. Alternatively, if the Government prefers to treat this as a final order granting defendants' motion and proceed directly to appeal (assuming such is available), it should so notify the Court, in writing, by no later than May 1, so that a final order may be entered.

SO ORDERED.
JED S. RAKOFF, U.S.D.J.

Dated: New York, New York
April 25, 2002


FN1. See, e.g., National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, The Future of Forensic DNA Testing (2000) at 6.

FN2. See id. at 1, 13.

FN3. See Development in the Law-Confronting the New Challenges of Scientific Evidence,108 Harv. L.Rev. 1557, 1573-78 (1995); see also the proposed bipartisan Innocence Protection Act of 2001, S.486, 107th Congress, 101(a)(3)(2001); H.R. 912, 107th Congress, 101(a)(3)(2001)(Findings).

FN4. Defendants' statistics and summaries of such releases, derived from data kept and continuously updated by the Death Penalty Information Center at its website, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innoccases, have not been disputed by the Government on this motion. See also Ex. A to Defendants' letter brief dated April 11, 2002, Press Release from the Death Penalty Information Center dated April 9, 2002. Cf. S.486, at 101(a)(5)(more than 80 defendants, including 10 who had been sentenced to death, exonerated by DNA testing between 1994 and 2001). See generally National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial (1996).

FN5. Defendants claim that the figures are even higher, but a review of the underlying data on the website of the Death Penalty Information Center, supra, shows that the defendants' figures include cases in which the basis of the exoneration is not clearly discernible. On any fair analysis of the website data, however, at least 20 of the 51 death-sentenced defendants who have been released from prison since 1991 were released on grounds indicating factual innocence derived from evidence other than DNA testing.

FN6. "No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law...." While this language-drafted when capital punishment for such offenses as burglary, arson, counterfeiting and theft, was common, see Stuart Banner, The Death Penalty: An American History (2002) at 5-clearly implies that some capital punishment is compatible with due process, due process is, virtually by definition, an evolving concept that takes account of current conditions and new discoveries, as well as heightened moral awareness. In Herrera, the concurring and dissenting justices (a majority of the Court), in describing the execution of the innocent as a constitutionally intolerable event, used terms like "shock the conscience," suggesting that they view it as a denial of substantive due process.

FN7. Defendants also assert numerous other grounds, such as under the Sixth and Eighth Amendments, for holding the death penalty statute unconstitutional and/or for not applying it to the remaining defendants in this case. This Opinion And Order does not reach any of these other grounds.

FN8. This additional letter briefing was requested by the Court after the Government, in its original brief, similarly failed to unearth any prior precedent directly addressing the aforementioned issue.

FN9. As the Government notes, Chief Justice Rehnquist's opinion for the Court, while acknowledging the fallibility of any fact-finding system, takes solace not only in the putative unlikelihood of frequent mistakes but also in the availability of executive clemency when all legal remedies are exhausted. In the Chief Justice's view, "Clemency ... is the historic remedy for preventing miscarriages of justice where judicial process has been exhausted." Herrera, 506 at 411-12. But subsequent studies show that there has been a precipitous decline in the number of clemencies granted in recent years. As summarized by Professor Banner: "The most noticeable [change in recent years] was the sudden decline of clemency. For centuries governors commuted death sentences in significant numbers. That pattern continued for the first two-thirds of the twentieth century ... [but] dropped close to zero under the new sentencing schemes [enacted after 1972]." Banner, supra, at 291. This is hardly surprising in an age when "law and order" is a political issue, for the executive branch, far more than the judiciary, is inherently sensitive to political pressure. In any event, clemency has no real relevance to the issue now before this Court, for it would be unusual for an executive to stay an execution simply because proof of innocence might thereafter develop; yet it is this very real possibility, as demonstrated by the emergence of DNA testing, that creates the constitutional problem here addressed.


Return to Federal Death Penalty
Return to Innocence

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit: United States v. Quinones

 UPDATE: Quinones and his co-defendant were sentenced to life imprisonment. (New York Times, Jan. 2, 2005)

On December 10, 2002, relying on earlier Supreme Court precedents, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a decision by the District Court in United States v. Quinones that held the federal death penalty to be unconstitutional because it posed a substantial risk of executing innocent defendants. Despite the developments in DNA testing and the many exonerations that have resulted from this science, the Circuit Court relied on cases decided prior to the DNA-era to allow this capital prosecution to go forward. In concluding, the Court said: "In sum, if the well-settled law on this issue is to change, that is a change that only the Supreme Court is authorized to make." (United States v. Quinones, 313 F.3d 49(2d Cir. 2002)). In addition to the possibility of the Supreme Court addressing this issue, it is likely to arise in legislatures, in governors' clemency decisons, and in the public forum. The Supreme Court denied certiorari, 124 S. Ct. 807 (2003). 

Read United States v. Quinones (2d Cir.)

Arguments in United States v. Quinones were heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Monday, October 21, 2002. The court was to determine whether a federal trial court was correct in ruling that the federal death penalty was unconstitutional. The trial court had cited the high risk of executing innocent defendants in not allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty.

Read Defendant's Appellate Brief
Read Judge Rakoff's July 1, 2002 opinion in U.S. v. Quinones (Dist. Ct.)
Read Judge Rakoff's April 25, 2002 preliminary ruling (Dist. Ct.)

Summary of Defendant's Brief  

Repeated Mistakes Render Death Penalty Unconstitutional

In a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, defendant Alan Quinones argues that the recent revelations of numerous wrongful convictions in capital cases present an unacceptable risk in applying the death penalty. He maintains that the decision of the lower court holding the federal death penalty unconstitutional should be affirmed: "[T]he District Court correctly held that to continue to execute, knowing as we now do that in the process we will kill a substantial number of innocent citizens, is just as constitutionally intolerable as to knowingly execute an innocent person."

The brief makes three main points:

1. The protections necessary for the constitutional implementation of the death penalty must be evaluated in terms of the current standards of decency and recent knowledge about the inaccuracies in this system. It is not enough to look back to the Supreme Court's upholding of the constitutionality of capital punishment in 1976. What constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" and the legal safeguards necessary to protect fundamental rights evolve with time and are informed by such events as repeated exonerations from death row and the advent of DNA testing.

2. Prior reviews by courts of the constitutionality of the death penalty did not have the benefit of recent developments that have shown a continuous stream of innocent people sentenced to death, some coming close to execution. The most dramatic revelations have come in the form of exonerations following DNA testing which was not available at the time of trial. These exonerations question the reliability of the entire system to select only the guilty for the death penalty. There are a number of reasons why the courts may have made such fundamental errors, including the quality of representation, the use of suspect evidence, and the failure to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense. In the final analysis, the present system falls so far short of reliability as to be unacceptable. The risks of error may be even higher in capital cases than in non-capital prosecutions, and the federal death penalty system is in no way immune from these dangers.

Many federal death penalty prosecutions involve investigations of on-going criminal enterprises and require "cooperating accomplices" to make their case. Unlike the law in many states, federal law allows a conviction on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice. Federal cases also provide less sharing of information between the prosecution and the defense than most states. Finally, a number of federal investigative agencies have been cited for error, incompetence, and misconduct.

3. To allow this trial and other similar trials to go forward is to accept the execution of an intolerable number of innocent people. The time is ripe for the courts to address this new reality. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in its recent decision forbidding the execution of the mentally retarded: "we cannot ignore the fact that in recent years a disturbing number of inmates on death row have been exonerated." Until the Supreme Court makes a definitive ruling in this matter, lower courts must act on the knowledge that the risk of fatal error is far greater than previously believed, and that we do not know how to cure the problem.

 

Factual Background

Alan Quinones and Diego Rodriguez were charged under federal law with a drug-related murder in the Bronx in 1999. Despite the contrary recommendation of the U.S. Attorney for this district, the Attorney General opted to seek the death penalty against both defendants. Following a pre-trial motion from the defendants, the presiding judge, Jed S. Rakoff, issued a preliminary ruling on April 25, 2002 stating that he was inclined to rule that the death penalty could not be sought because the federal statute was unconstitutional. Judge Rakoff gave the prosecution additional time to respond to his preliminary ruling that recent revelations about wrongful convictions in capital cases meant that the existing death penalty lacked sufficient due process protections. On July 1, the judge issued his final ruling, holding that it is "fully foreseeable that in enforcing the death penalty, a meaningful number of innocent people will be executed who otherwise would eventually be able to prove their innocence."

The government has appealed this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the parties have submitted briefs in support of their positions. The case will be heard on Monday, October 21 in Manhattan.

Government's Position

The government has argued in its brief that the constitutionality of the death penalty is well-established, and, to the extent that the risk of executing an innocent person plays any role in evaluating the necessary due process protections, that risk has already been taken into account. Moreover, the government states the federal death penalty has even more protections than the comparable state laws and that problems found in the latter system, including examples of wrongful convictions, should not be attributed to the federal system.

 

The Basis for Judge Rakoff's Ruling Judge Rakoff's ruling that the death penalty is unconstitutional received wide national coverage and support. In his decision Judge Rakoff noted:

[T]he Court found that the best available evidence indicates that, on the one hand, innocent people are sentenced to death with materially greater frequency than was previously supposed and that, on the other hand, convincing proof of their innocence often does not emerge until long after their convictions. It is therefore fully foreseeable that in enforcing the death penalty, a meaningful number of innocent people will be executed who otherwise would eventually be able to prove their innocence. (U.S. v. Quinones, 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis 7320).

To draw his conclusions, Rakoff used information compiled by a number of national researchers and experts, including the Death Penalty Information Center's innocence data. In his decision, he noted that DPIC's innocence list is based on "reasonably strict and objective standards in listing and describing the data and summaries that appear on its website." (U.S. v. Quinones, 2002 U.S. Dist. Lexis 7320).

Federal Death Penalty and Innocence and the Death Penalty

 


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Statement of Senator Feingold on the Federal Death Penalty Study Feingold - STATEMENT ON THE FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY SYSTEM STATEMENT ON THE FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY SYSTEM
June 7, 2001

Mr. FEINGOLD. Madame, President, I rise today to speak with grave concern about a report released by the Justice Department yesterday on our federal government's administration of the death penalty. In that report and in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, Attorney General John Ashcroft said that he now concludes that "there is no evidence of racial bias in the administration of the federal death penalty." Madame President, I am seriously, seriously concerned about and, frankly, disappointed by the Attorney General's statements. The report he released yesterday is not the in-depth analysis of the federal death penalty ordered by his predecessor, Attorney General Reno, and President Clinton.

This is a very urgent matter because the federal government, in a matter of days, is about to resume executions for the first time in decades, including that of Juan Raul Garza. He is scheduled to be executed by the United States of America on June 19th. Mr. Garza's case has not received the level of intense scrutiny or legal representation that his more notorious death row colleague, Timothy McVeigh, has received. But Mr. Garza's case, and his possible execution, should cause the Attorney General and President Bush and our nation even deeper soul-searching than that which has begun with respect to the scheduled execution of Mr. McVeigh.

A survey on the federal death penalty system was released by the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2000. That report showed racial and regional disparities in the federal government's administration of the death penalty. In other words, who lives and who dies in the federal system appears to relate to the color of the defendant's skin or the region of the country where the defendant is prosecuted. Attorney General Reno, Deputy Attorney General Holder and President Clinton all said they were "troubled" or "disturbed" by the results of that report.

In fact, Attorney General Reno was so troubled by the report that she immediately ordered the collection of additional data from U.S. Attorney offices and, most importantly, the National Institute of Justice to conduct an in-depth examination in cooperation with outside experts.

Madame President, I would like to take a moment to read what Attorney General Reno said that day in September:

"There are important limitations on the scope of our survey. The survey only captures data currently available beginning when a U.S. attorney submits a capital eligible case to the review committee and to me for further review. This survey, therefore, does not address a number of important issues that arise before the U.S. attorney submits a case: Why did the defendant commit the murder? Why did the defendant get arrested and prosecuted by federal authorities rather than by state authorities? Why did the U.S. attorney submit the case for review rather than enter a plea bargain? . . . More information is needed to better understand the many factors that effect how homicide cases make their way into the federal system, and once in the federal system, why they follow different paths. An even broader analysis must therefore be undertaken to determine if bias does, in fact, play any role in the federal death penalty system.

I've asked the National Institute of Justice to solicit research proposals from outside experts, to study the reasons why, under existing standards, homicide cases are directed to the state or federal systems, and charged either as capital cases or non-capital cases, as well as the factors accounting for the present geographic pattern of submissions by the U.S. Attorney's Offices. The department will also welcome related research proposals that outside experts may suggest."

Madame President, in December, President Clinton, citing this ongoing review by the Justice Department, then took the important step of delaying the execution of Mr. Garza until June 19th of this year to allow the Justice Department time to complete its review. President Clinton also ordered the Justice Department to report to the President by April of this year on the results of its further review. President Clinton anticipated that this would have been sufficient time for the President to review the results of the review before deciding whether to proceed with Mr. Garza's execution on June 19th.

Madame President, then, on January 10 of this year, before the new administration took office, the NIJ began its in-depth analysis by convening a meeting of outside experts, defense counsel and prosecutors to discuss the questions that should form the basis for the research proposals.

Later in January, during his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Ashcroft promised to continue and not terminate the NIJ study.

At that hearing, I asked him if he would support the effort of the National Institute of Justice already under way to undertake the study of racial and regional disparities in the federal death penalty system that President Clinton had deemed necessary.

Attorney General Ashcroft said, unequivocally and emphatically, "yes."

I then asked him whether he would continue and support all efforts initiated by Attorney General Reno's Justice Department to undertake a thorough review and analysis of the federal death penalty system.

Attorney General Ashcroft said, ". . . the studies that are under way, I'm grateful for them. When the material from those studies comes, I will examine them carefully and eagerly to see if there are ways for us to improve the administration of justice."

I then followed up with yet a third question on this subject: "So those studies will not be terminated?"

Attorney General Ashcroft responded: "I have no intention of terminating those studies."

In response to written questions I provided to him following his live testimony, I asked the Attorney General a number of related questions about the need to eliminate racial or regional bias from our system of justice. He replied that he believed the Department of Justice should undertake "all reasonable and appropriate research necessary to understand the nature of the problem."

Madame President, it is therefore clear that Attorney General Ashcroft said he would continue and not terminate the NIJ study initiated by the Reno administration. And I was pleased to hear him make that commitment.

But, Madame President, since the new administration took office, no steps have been taken to move forward with the NIJ study. Rather, the Attorney General now believes apparently it would take much too long to conduct this in-depth analysis of disparities and that it would provide indefinite answers. To say that the NIJ research should not be undertaken because it may take more than a year and provide inconclusive answers is just baffling. I am absolutely confounded by the Attorney General's unwillingness to take such a simple step to ensure fairness and to promote public confidence in the federal system.

Now, Attorney General Ashcroft did say yesterday that he would order the National Institute of Justice to study the effectiveness of federal, state and local law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of murder in American and how death penalty cases are brought into the federal system. Now, while this review may provide some additional insight into the functioning of our criminal justice system, it clearly is not the NIJ review of racial and geographic disparities ordered by Attorney General Reno.

The supplemental report released yesterday lacks credibility: It is a case of "we looked at ourselves and there's no evidence of bias." Instead of completing a thorough analysis of the racial and regional disparities with outside experts, as outlined by Attorney General Reno, Attorney General Ashcroft collected the additional data -- also ordered separately by Attorney General Reno -- threw in some statements that there is no evidence of bias and then simply released it as a supplemental report. This report does not dig behind the raw data in the way that an in-depth research and analysis could do.

To her credit, Attorney General Reno recognized the need for input from outside experts. That is why she ordered the National Institute of Justice to undertake the review of racial and regional disparities. While I commended Attorney General Reno for her action in ordering further studies, I thought she should have gone one step further and establish an independent, blue ribbon commission to review the federal system. That's what Governor George Ryan did in Illinois, and the independent panel there has been doing some good work. I've introduced a bill that applies Governor Ryan's example to the federal government, the National Death Penalty Moratorium Act. We should demand the highest standards of fairness and credibility in our nation's administration of the ultimate punishment.

Madame President, Attorney General Ashcroft's actions are wholly unsatisfactory and inconsistent with the promises he made to the Senate and the nation during his confirmation hearing.

I was pleased to hear Attorney General Ashcroft say, as recently as, Friday, May 11:

"Our system of justice requires basic fairness, evenhandedness and dispassionate evaluation of the evidence and the facts. These fundamental requirements are essential to protecting the constitutional rights of every citizen and to sustaining public confidence in the administration of justice. . . . It is my responsibility to promote the sanctity of the rule of law and justice. It is my responsibility and duty to protect the integrity of our system of justice."
Madame President, the basic fairness, evenhandedness and dispassionate evaluation of the evidence and facts, about which he spoke, of course, extend to the troubling racial and regional disparities in the federal system, as documented by the Department of Justice September 2000 report.

Madame President, as my colleagues are aware, I oppose the death penalty. I have never made any bones about that. But this is not about opposition to the death penalty. This is about bias-free justice in America. I am certain that not one of my colleagues here in the Senate, not a single one, no matter how strong a proponent of the death penalty, would defend racial discrimination in the administration of that ultimate punishment. The most fundamental guarantee of our Constitution is equal justice under law, equal protection of the laws.

To be true to that central precept of our national identify Mr. President, we have to take extremely seriously allegations that the death penalty is being administered in a discriminatory fashion.

So, I urge the Attorney General, in the strongest possible terms, to reconsider his actions and direct the National Institute of Justice to continue its study, with outside experts, of the racial and regional disparities in the federal death penalty system. I also urge him to provide the NIJ whatever resources may be needed to complete this study. This is the only course consistent with the promises he made during his confirmation hearing.

Furthermore, with Mr. Garza's execution still scheduled to take place and the NIJ study at a standstill, I urge the Attorney General to postpone Mr. Garza's execution until these questions of fairness are fully answered. The case of Mr. Garza -- a Hispanic convicted in federal court in Texas -- implicates the very issues at the center of the unfairness reflected in the DOJ report. It would be wholly illogical and unjust to go forward with plans for the execution of Mr. Garza and subsequent executions until the NIJ's study is completed and fully reviewed. It would be a great travesty of justice, as well as a great diminution in the public's trust in the federal criminal justice system, if the federal government executed Mr. Garza and the NIJ later completed its study, which corroborated racial or regional bias in the administration of the federal death penalty.

Madame President, I think the integrity of our system of justice demands no less.

Thank you, Madame President. I yield the floor.


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DPIC Summary of "The Federal Death Penalty Sytem: A Statistical Survey"
THE FEDERAL DEATH PENALTY SYSTEM:
A STATISTICAL SURVEY
(1988-2000)

A Summary of the Report on the Federal Death Penalty
by the Death Penalty Information Center

 

Study Summary Additional Sources

Introduction
This study was conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice at the request of President Clinton and was released on September 12, 2000. The purpose of the study was to describe the Department of Justice's decision-making process in seeking the death penalty, and to present statistical information focusing on the racial, ethnic and geographical distribution of defendants and their victims at particular stages of the process.

The federal death penalty was reinstated in November 1988 with the introduction of the Drug Kingpin Act. Prior to 1995, U.S. Attorneys notified the Attorney General only when they affirmatively wished to seek the death penalty against a defendant in a federal case. From 1988 to the end of 1994, U.S. Attorneys sought approval from the Attorney General to seek the death penalty in 52 cases and received approval in 47 cases. There is no record for this period of how many cases of capital-eligible offenses the U.S. Attorneys considered overall.

In 1995, following the adoption of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act including the Federal Death Penalty Act, the Department of Justice adopted a protocol that required U.S. Attorneys to submit for review all cases in which a defendant is charged with a capital-eligible offense, regardless of whether the U.S. Attorney actually recommends seeking the death penalty in that case. The submissions are considered by a Review Committee of senior Justice Department attorneys, which makes a recommendation to the Attorney General. From January 27, 1995 to July 20, 2000, U.S. Attorneys submitted 682 cases for review and the Attorney General ultimately authorized seeking the death penalty in 159 of these cases.

As a result of the differences in procedure, the data in the report are categorized as "pre-protocol" (1988-1994) or "post-protocol" (1995-2000). The post-protocol data provides a fuller picture of the decision making process.

The report presents some troubling statistics.

Racial Disparities in Seeking the Death Penalty

From 1995-2000, 80% of all the federal cases submitted by U.S. Attorneys involved defendants from minorities b TOTAL White Black Hispanic Other
Number of cases submitted 682 134 324 195 29
Percent 100% 20% 48% 29% 4%

 

 

 

Even after review by the Attorney General, 72% of the cases approved for death penalty prosecution involved minority defendants.

 

 

Race of Victim Disparities

Of the 677 homicide defendants submitted for review from 1995 to 2000, 500 (74%) were charged with intraracial homicides (i.e., each defendant was of the same race/ethnicity as all victims)and 177 (26%) were charged with interracial homicides (i.e., each defendant was of a different race/ethnicity as at least one victim.)
 

U.S. Attorneys Recommended Seeking the Death Penalty
U.S. Attorneys were almost twice as likely to recommend seeking the death penalty for a Black defendant when the victim was non-Black as when the victim was Black. In comparison, U.S. Attorneys were slightly less likely to recommend seeking the death penalty for a White defendant when the victim was non-White rather than White.
White Defendant 38% of cases involving White victims 35% of cases involving non-White victims
Black
Defendant
20% of cases involving Black victims 36% of cases involving non-Black victims

 

Racial Disparities in Plea Agreements

These statistics show the racial breakdown of the cases in which defendants entered into an agreement resulting in a guilty plea and a lesser sentence after the Attorney General authorized seeking the death penalty.

From 1995-2000, the Attorney General authorized the seeking of the death penalty for 159 defendants. Of these, 51 defendants (32%) entered into plea agreements. The rates for individual racial/ethnic groups were as follows:


  • 48% for White defendants

(21 out of 44 authorized)
  • 25% for Black defendants

(18 out of 71 authorized)
  • 28% for Hispanic defendants

(9 out of 32 authorized)
  • 25% for Other defendants

(3 out of 12 authorized)

 

In the post-protocol period, a White defendant was almost twice as likely to be given a plea agreement resulting in a withdrawal of intent to seek the death penalty than Black or Other defendants, and considerably more likely than a Hispanic defendant to do so.

Race of Federal Death Row Inmates

As of July 2000, 19 defendants were under a federal sentence of death - 79% were members of minorities.

b Total White Black Hispanic Other
Number 19 4 13 1 1
Percent 100% 21% 68% 5% 5%

 

Geographic Disparities in Seeking the Death Penalty

The survey also reported large disparities in the geographical distribution of federal death penalty recommendations.

From 1995-2000, 42% (287 out of 682) of the federal cases submitted to the Attorney General for review came from just 5 of the 94 federal districts.

Including the 21 districts that have never submitted a case for review by the Attorney General, from 1995-2000, 40 of the 94 federal districts never recommended seeking the death penalty for any defendant.

Conclusion

Defendants from minorities are over represented at every stage of the federal process. The vast majority of federal cases involve minority defendants. 72% of capital cases are pursued against minority defendants. Minority defendants in federal capital cases are less likely to be given a plea bargain. Minorities make up 79% of federal death row.

The federal death penalty is applied less often when the victim was a member of a minority. U.S. Attorneys are more likely to recommend the death penalty when the victim of a murder was white.

The federal death penalty is geographically arbitrary, with a very small number of federal districts prosecuting the majority of federal cases.

Read the entire report, "The Federal Death Penalty System: A Statistical Survey (1988-2000)"
 


 


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Federal Death Row Prisoners old
Updated Sept. 2, 2010

List of Death Row Prisoners

Black = 27   Latino = 8   Native American = 1   White = 24 
Males = 58  Females = 2 
Total = 60

Name

Race
State
Year of Sentence
Crime Facts
Agofsky, Shannon White TX 2004 Murder of an inmate at Beaumont Federal Penitentiary in Texas.
Allen, Billy Jerome Black MO 1998 Fatally shot a bank guard during a robbery in St. Louis. (Co-defendant with Norris Holder)
Barnette, Marcivicci Aquilia Black NC 1998 Killed his ex-girlfriend and another man in a car jacking.
Barrett, Kenneth Eugene White OK 2005 Murdered a state police officer during a drug crime.
Basham, Brandon White SC 2004 Kidnapped and murdered a 44-year-old woman during his co-defendant's escape from prison. (Co-defendant with Chadrick Fulks)
Battle, Anthony Black GA 1997 Sentenced to death for the murder of a prison guard.
Bernard, Brandon Black TX 2000 Convicted at the age of 18 for carjacking and murdering a couple visting Texas. (Co-defendant with Christopher Vialva)
Bolden, Robert Black MO 2006 Killed a bank security guard during an attempted robbery in St. Louis
Bourgeois, Alfred Black TX 2004 Murdered his daughter at the Corpus Christi (TX) Naval Air Station.
Brown, Meier Jason Black GA 2003 Convicted of murdering a 48-year-old postal worker.
Caro, Carlos Latino WV 2007 Killed his cellmate; Both were reportedly members of a gang called the Texas Syndicate.
Corly, Odell (Naish Ra'id) Black IN 2004 Murdered two bank employees during a robbery attempt.
Davis. Len Black LA 2005 Ordered the murder of a young woman who witnessed his beating of a witness in an unrelated incident.
Duncan. Joseph White ID 2008 Pleaded guilty to ten federal charges, including the kidnapping and murders of a young boy and girl in 2005.
Ebron, Joseph Black TX 2009 Murdered a fellow inmate at a federal prison in Beaumont, TX.
Fell, Donald White VT 2005 Convicted of carjacking and kidnapping resulting in death.
Fields, Edward White OK 2005 Former prison guard convicted of murdering two white campers while wearing a homemade sniper suit; may be mentally ill.
Fields, Sherman Lamont Black TX 2004 Shot and killed his girlfriend after he escaped from a detention center where he was being held on a federal weapons charge.
Fulks, Chadrick White SC 2004 Kidnapped and killed a woman after escaping from a Kentucky jail. (Co-defendant with Branden Basham)
Gabrion, Marvin White MI 2002 Sentenced to death for a 1997 murder in Michigan's Manistee National Forest.
Garcia, Edgar Latino TX 2010 Murdered a fellow inmate; also stabbed and wounded two corrections officers. (Co-defendant with Mark Snarr)
Hager, Thomas Black VA 2007 Convicted of a drug-related murder.
Hall, Orlando Black TX 2007 Abducted, raped, beat, and murdered a 16-year-old female in Ft. Worth. (Co-defendant with Bruce Webster)
[Hammer, David Paul] White PA 1998 Killed a federal prison inmate at the federal penitentiary in Allenwood, PA where he was serving a 1200+ year Oklahoma state sentence.
Higgs, Dustin Black MD 2000 Murdered three women after arguing with one of them in his apartment.
Holder, Norris Black MO 1998 Shot and killed a bank guard during a robbery in St. Louis. (Co-defendant with Billie Jerome Allen)
Honken, Dustin White IA 2004 Sentenced to death for the muder of two girls, ages 10 and 6 who were witnesses to the murder of their mother; Honken received a life sentence for the mother's murder. (Co-defendant with Angela Johnson)
Jackson, David Lee Black TX 2006 Killed a fellow inmate at the federal prison in Beaumont, TX.
Jackson, Richard Allen White NC 2001 Convicted of use of a firearm on federal property (Bend Creek Recreation Area) during a felony resulting in the death of the victim.
Johnson, Angela White (Female) IA 2005 Aided in four of the five murders by a drug kingpin. (Co-defendant with Dustin Honken)
Johnson, Corey Black VA 1993 Sentenced to death for his participation in a series of drug-related murders. (Co-defendant with Richard Tipton & James H. Roane, Jr.)
Johnson, Darryl A. Black IL 1997 Ordered the murder of two informants in Illinois in connection with the Gangster Disciples drug conspiracy cases.
Kadamovas, Jurijus White CA 2007 Convicted of murders in a kidnapping-for-ransom scheme targeting Russian immigrants. (Co-defendant with Iouri Mikhel)
[Lawrence, Daryl] Black OH 2006 Murdered a police officer during an attempted bank robbery in Columbus.
LeCroy, Jr., William White GA 2001 Sentenced to death for the carjacking and murder of a North Georgia woman.
Lee, Danny White AR 2002 Carried out the triple murder of a gun dealer and his family.
Lighty, Kenneth Black MD 2005 Kidnapped and murdered an alleged PCP dealer and son of a Washington, D.C. police lieutenant.
Mikhel, Iouri White CA 2007 Took part in murders in a kidnapping-for-ransom scheme targeting Russian immigrants. (Co-defendant with Jurijus Kadamovas)
Mikos, Ronald White IL 2005 A Chicago podiatrist who shot and killed a former patient to prevent her from testifying in a federal probe of a Medicare fraud scheme.
Mitchell, Lezmond Native American AZ 2003 Killed a woman and her nine-year-old son after getting a ride from them; stole the car and used it in an armed robbery.
Montgomery, Lisa White (Female) MO 2007 Kidnapped and killed a woman and stole her unborn baby, claiming the baby was hers.
Nelson, Keith D. White MO 2002 Convicted of kidnapping a girl from her home in Kansas and murdering her.
Ortiz, Arboleda Latino MO 2000 Participated in the murder of a drug dealer. (Co-defendant with German Sinistera)
Paul, Jeffrey Williams White AR 1997 Robbed and murdered a retired National Park employee on federal land.
Purkey, Wesley White MO 1998 Sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a Kansas City teen.
Roane, Jr., James H. Black VA 1993 Richmond gang member who participated in a series of drug-related murders. (Co-defendant with Corey Johnson & Richard Tipton)
Robinson, Julius Black TX 2002 Killed two men in drug-related incidents in Ft. Worth
Rodriguez, Jr., Alfonso Latino ND 2006 Convicted of the kidnapping and murder of a college student.
Runyon, David White VA 2009 Shot and killed a Naval officer in a murder-for-hire plot in Newport News.
Sampson, Gary White MA 2003 Pled guilty to the carjacking and murder of two Massachusetts men during a weeklong crime spree.
Sanchez, Jr., Ricardo Latino FL 2009 Murdered two children on the Florida Turnpike in 2006; Also received life sentences for murdering the children's parents. (Co-defendant with Daniel Troya)
Sinisterra, German Latino MO 2000 Found guilty of being the triggerman in the murder of a drug dealer. (Co-defendant with Arboleda Ortiz)
Snarr, Mark White TX 2010 Killed a fellow inmate and stabbed and wounded two corrections officers at the U.S. Penitentiary in Beaumont. (Co-defendant with Edgar Garcia)
Taylor, Rejon Black TN 2008 Convicted of carjacking, kidnapping, and murdering a businessman from Atlanta, GA.
Tipton, Richard Black VA 1993 Richmond gang member convicted for his role in a series of drug-related murders. (Co-defendant with Corey Johnson & James H. Roane, Jr.)
Troya, Daniel Latino FL 2009 Killed two children, as well as their parents on the Florida Turnpike in 2006 allegedly because of a drug debt. (Co-defendant with Ricardo Sanchez, Jr.)
Umana, Alejandro Latino NC 2010 MS-13 gang member who killed two brothers in a Greensboro restaurant.
Vialva, Christopher Black TX 2000 Took part in the murder of a couple visiting Texas; Was 19-years-old at the time of his arrest. (Co-defendant with Brandon Bernard)
Webster, Bruce Black TX 1996 Charged with the abduction, sexual assault, and beating death of a 16-year-old female. (Co-defendant with Orlando Hall)
[Wilson, Ronell] Black NY 2007 Convicted of killing two undercover police detectives in Staten Island.
Note: Names in [ ] are defendants whose court ordered conviction or sentence reversal is not yet final. This list may include inmates who have received a verdict of death from the jury, but in which the judge has not yet issued the formal sentence. In the federal system, the judge is obliged to follow a unanimous jury recommendation. (Source: Federal Capital Habeas Project)        

 Note: names in [ ] are defendants whose court ordered conviction or sentence reversal is not yet final. This list may include inmates who have received a verdict of death from the jury, but in which the judge has not yet issued the formal sentence. In the federal system, the judge is obliged to follow a unanimous jury recommendation. (Source: Federal Capital Habeas Project)



Synopsis of Cases (in chronological order)

Inmates Sentenced Under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988:

Richard Tipton, Corey Johnson, James H. Roane, Jr. - Members of an inner-city gang in Richmond, VA. These three black defendants were sentenced to death in February 1993 for their participation in a series of drug-related murders.
UPDATE: Execution dates
were set for the three co-defendants in May 2006, but the executions were stayed because of a challenge to the lethal injection process.

Sentenced Since the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994:
(names in brackets had death sentences reversed, but are awaiting final disposition)

Orlando Hall, Bruce Webster - Black; charged in Fort Worth, Texas with the abduction, sexual assault and beating murder of a 16-year-old black female. Hall was sentenced to death in November 1995. In a separate trial, Webster was sentenced to death in June 1996.
UPDATE: Webster has been scheduled for execution on April 16, 2007. UPDATE: Execution was stayed. Webster had joined the lethal injection challenge filed by other inmates.

Len Davis - Davis, a black New Orleans police officer who was under investigation in a drug conspiracy case, was sentenced to death on two convictions in April 1996 for ordering the murder of a young black woman who witnessed his beating of a witness in an unrelated incident. A co-defendant, Paul Hardy, also black, was the triggerman in the killing. Hardy was also sentenced to death on two convictions in May 1996. The Fifth Circuit reversed the sentences for both defendants and one of the two capital convictions for each defendant. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for both defendants. UPDATE: A federal jury again recommended a sentence of death for Len Davis on August 9, 2005. A judge will formally impose the sentence at a later date. (Associated Press, Aug. 10, 2005). Hardy is not under a sentence of death.

Anthony Battle - Black inmate incarcerated in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia; history of psychiatric problems; sentenced to death in March 1997 for the murder of a prison guard. An appeal before the Eleventh Circuit is pending.

Jeffrey Paul - White; sentenced to death in June 1997 for the robbery-murder of a retired National Parks employee on federal land in Arkansas. An appeal before the Eighth Circuit is pending.

Darryl Alamont Johnson - Black; convicted of ordering the murder of two informants in Illinois in connection with the Gangster Disciples drug conspiracy cases. Sentenced to death on November 17, 1997. His co-defendant was sentenced to life in prison.

Aquilia Barnette - Black; convicted of murdering a man in North Carolina in a carjacking and a woman in Virginia, who was his former girlfriend. Sentenced to death by a jury on 2/10/98. The Fourth Circuit reversed his death sentence on 5/4/00. Barnette was re-sentenced to death in 2002. On Oct. 3, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the judgment against Barnette and remanded the case back to the Fourth Circuit in light of the Court's 2005 ruling in Miller-El v. Dretke.

Billie Jerome Allen and Norris Holder- Both black; convicted of the fatal shooting of a bank guard during a robbery in St. Louis, Missouri. Allen was sentenced to death by a jury on Mar. 10, 1998. In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated Allen's death sentence and remanded the case back to the Eighth Circuit for reconsideration in light of the Court's ruling in Ring v. Arizona. Because his federal indictment did not include the aggravating factors necessary to support his death sentence, the 8th Circuit said Allen's sentence should be reduced to life in prison. (February 5, 2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch). However, in September 2004, the 8th Circuit conducted a rehearing en banc of the earlier decision and reinstated Allen's death sentence. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 3, 2005). Holder was sentenced to death by a jury on April 3, 1998.

[David Paul Hammer] - White; convicted after killing of federal prison inmate at the federal penitentiary at Allenwood, PA where Hammer was serving a 1200+ year Oklahoma state sentence. Sentenced to death on July 24, 1998. The third Circuit allowed him to waive his appeal and an execution date of Nov. 15, 2000 was set. Hammer then filed a clemency petition and a request to appeal. The judge stayed his execution date, giving him until Jan. 31, 2001 to file an appeal. Hammer's death sentence was overturned by a federal District Court judge because the prosecution had withheld statements that might have led to a differenct sentence. (Associated Press, Dec. 27, 2005).

German Sinistera and Arboleda Ortiz - Hispanic; in May, 2000, a federal jury in Kansas City, Missouri, recommended a death sentence for Sinistera of Houston, Texas, for his role as triggerman in the murder of a drug dealer. Sinistera is a citizen of Colombia. He was convicted along with two co-defendants, Arboleda Ortiz and Plutarco Tello, who are also Colombian nationals. The jury also recommended a death sentence for Ortiz, but not for Tello. The judge sentenced them to death.

Christopher Andre' Vialva and Brandon Am Bernard - Black* defendants; a federal jury in Waco, TX, convicted the two in June, 2000, of carjacking and the murder of an Iowa couple visiting central Texas. Both defendants were sentenced to death. Vialva was 19-years-old at the time of his arrest, and Bernard was 18. Four younger teen-agers have also pled guilty to federal charges relating to the crime.

*Mr. Vialva's mother points out that her son is bi-racial, since she is white and Vialva's father is from the West Indies.

Dustin John Higgs - Black; Higgs was convicted in October 2000 of ordering the 1996 murder of three Maryland women after arguing with one of them in his apartment. The triggerman, Willis Mark Haynes, was convicted in May 2000 and sentenced to life plus 45 years in prison. Higgs's case is the third death penalty prosecution in Maryland since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, but marks the first time a jury has imposed the death penalty. Under federal law, the judge is obligated to follow the jury's sentencing determination. (Washington Post, 10/27/00)

Richard Allen Jackson - White; Jackson was convicted in federal court on May 7, 2001 for use of a firearm on federal property (Bend Creek Recreation Area) during a felony resulting in the death of the victim. He was subsequently sentenced to death. Jackson had earlier been convicted in North Carolina state court for offenses arising from the same actions. He was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Karen Lynn Styles in 1994. That conviction was overturned and Jackson later pleaded guilty to second degree murder.

Keith Nelson - White; Nelson was convicted of kidnapping a girl from her Kansas home and murdering her in Missouri. On November 28, 2001 a jury recommended the death penalty for Nelson, and on March 11, 2002, a federal judge imposed the death penalty.

Marvin Gabrion - White; On March 16, 2002, Marvin Gabrion was sentenced to death for a 1997 murder in Michigan's Manistee National Forest. Although Michigan does not have the death penalty, Gabrion was sentenced under the federal system because the victim was killed on federal property. Gabrion's case marks the first federal death sentence imposed on a defendant in a state that does not have the death penalty since the federal death penalty was reinstated.

Julius Robinson - Black; Robinson was sentenced to death on March 18, 2002, for the killings of Juan Reyes in May 1999 and Rudolph Resendez in June 1999 in Fort Worth, Texas. Both men were killed drug related incidents. Robinson was formally sentenced by the trial judge on June 5, 2002.

Daniel Lee - White; convicted in Arkansas in May, 1999 of a triple murder of a gun dealer and his family. Lee was convicted along with Chevie Kehoe in a plot to set up a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest. Kehoe was considered by prosecutors to be the mastermind of the plot, but he was given a life sentence by the same jury. The jury in Lee's case recommended a sentence of death. Lee was formally sentenced to death on May 13, 2002.

Lezmond Mitchell - Native American. Mitchell and his co-defendants (including a juvenile) allegedly got a ride from a woman and her 9 year old granddaughter in Arizona. They killed both victims and stole the car supposedly for use in an armed robbery. Each victim was stabbed at a separate location. The Attorney General required a capital prosecution against Mitchell under a carjacking theory -- although the tribe has not "opted in" to the federal death penalty. Attorney General Ashcroft required a capital prosecution. Mitchell was found guilty on May 20, and sentenced to death on September 15, 2003.

Meier Jason Brown - Black. A U.S. District judge affirmed the recommendation of a jury for a death sentence against Meier Brown on November 8, 2003. Brown was convicted of the November 2002 murder of a 48-year-old white female-- a Fleming, Georgia postal worker-- during a robbery. Brown had agreed to plead guilty in return for a sentence of life without parole in light of Brown's confession, but federal prosecutors sought the death sentence. (Savannah Morning News, November 8, 2003)

Wesley Purkey - White. A jury recommended that Purkey be sentneced to death for the 1998 kidnapping, rape, and murder of a Kansas City, Missouri, teen. While serving life in prison for another 1998 murder in Kansas, Purkey confessed to the Kansas City crime in hopes of being transferred to federal prison. Prosecutors instead chose to seek the death penalty for Purkey under the 1994 federal statute. The judge is required to follow the jury's recommendation. (Kansas City Star, November 19, 2003)

Gary Sampson - White. Sampson pled guilty to the carjacking and murder of two Massachusetts men during a weeklong crime spree. A jury sentenced Sampson to death on December 23, 2003. Sampson is only the second federal case tried in Massachusetts since the federal government reinstated the federal death penalty in 1988. (Las Vegas Sun, December 23, 2003) Judge Mark L. Wolf sentenced Sampson to death, but ordered that the execution be carried out in New Hampshire, which has not carried out an execution since 1939. (Boston Globe, January 30, 2004)

William LeCroy, Jr. - White. A jury sentenced LeCroy to death in the 2001 carjacking and murder of a North Georgia woman. Attorneys for LeCroy argued that the murder took place inside the victim's house, and thus did not fall under the 1994 federal death penalty statute. The judge is required to follow the jury recommendation. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 11, 2004)

Alfred Bourgeois - Black. On March 24, 2004 a jury recommended a death sentence for Alfred Bourgeois for the 2002 murder of his daughter at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station in Texas, based in part on the testimony of a prisoner housed with Bourgeois. The judge is required to follow the jury's sentencing recommendation. (Department of Justice Press Release, March 24, 2004) 

Sherman Lamont Fields - Black. A jury sentenced Fields to death for the shooting death of his girlfriend in 2001. Fields was also sentenced to lengthy prison terms for other charges. An U. S. District Judge formalized the sentence in April 2004, and ordered Fields transferred to Terre Haute, IN. The murder took place during Fields' escape from a detention center in Texas while Fields was being held on a federal weapons charge. (Associated Press, April 8, 2004)

Chadrick Fulks and Branden Basham - Both White. A jury recommended the death sentence for the 2002 kidnapping and murder of a 44-year-old-white South Carolina woman following Fulks' escape from a Kentucky jail. Fulks' codefendant, Branden Basham, was tried in September 2004 for crimes committed during the escape. Fulks is the first federal death conviction in South Carolina. The judge is required to uphold the recommendation and confirm the death sentence. (The State (Columbia, SC), July 1, 2004). On November 2, 2004, a jury recommended a death sentence for Basham for the murder. The judge is required to follow the recommendation of the jury and impose a death sentence. (Associated Press, November 2, 2004).

Shannon Agofsky - White. Agofsky was given a death sentence on July 17, 2004 for the murder of a fellow inmate at the Beaumont Federal Penitentiary in Texas in 2001. The jury was shown a video of the attack that prison officials said was gang-related. Agofsky was originally in prison for a murder that occurred when he was 18. (Associated Press, July 18, 2004).

Dustin Honken and Angela Johnson (female) - Both white. On October 27, 2004 a federal jury voted to sentence Honken to death for the murder of two girls in Iowa in 1993. Honken was also given three life sentences: one for the murder of the girls' mother, and two more for the murders of two other adults who were to have testified against Honken in a federal drug case. The children, white girls age 10 and 6, were witnesses to the murder of their mother. The judge is required to uphold the jury's recommendation and impose the death sentence. (Des Moines Register, October 28, 2004). This is the third federal death sentence handed down in a state that does not have the death penalty in its own law. The other two were in Michigan and Massachusetts. On June 21, 2005, a federal jury in Iowa recommended a death sentence for co-defendant Angela Johnson for her role in aiding drug kingpin Honken in 4 of the 5 murders. The judge is obligated to follow the jury's sentencing recommendation. If the sentence is carried out, she would be the first woman executed by the U.S. government since Bonnie Brown in December 1953.

Naish Ra'id (formerly Odell Corley) - Black. On October 29, 2004, a jury recommended a death sentence for Ra'id for the murder of two white bank employees during a robbery attempt at a Porter, Indiana bank in 2002. Ra'id's sentence will be the first one in the history of the Northern District of Indiana federal court system. The judge is required to impose the sentence against Ra'id, who was alleged to be the triggerman in the robbery. Two co-defendants pleaded guilty and were given lesser sentences. (Indiana Herald - Argus, October 29, 2004).

Ronald Mikos - White. On May 23, 2005 a jury recommended a death sentence for this 56-year-old Chicago podiatrist who was convicted of fatally shooting Joyce Brannon, a white former patient, to prevent her from testifying in a federal probe of a Medicare fraud scheme in January 2002. (Chicago Tribune, May 23, 2005). In the federal system, a jury's recommendation for either life without parole or death is binding on the judge.

Donald Fell - White. On July 14, 2005, a jury in Vermont recommended a death sentence for Fell, 25, for a carjacking in Vermont and subsequent murder of a woman in New York in 2000. He was convicted of carjacking and kidnapping resulting in death. The woman and her car were seized by Fell and a codefendant as they were fleeing Vermont where Fell's mother and a friend were also killed hours earlier. The co-defendant hanged himself in prison in 2003. Prosecutors had originally arranged a plea bargain for Fell in which he would have been sentenced to life without parole, but the deal was rejected by Attorney General John Ashcroft. This was the first capital trial in Vermont in nearly 50 years. (N.Y. Times, July 15, 2005).

Edward Fields - White. On July 22, 2005, a jury in the eastern district of Oklahoma recommended a death sentence for Fields, 38, a former prison guard. Fields pleaded guilty to the murder of two white campers in the Ouachita National Forest while wearing his homemade sniper suit. There was some evidence that Fields was mentally ill. A federal judge sentenced him to death on Nov. 8, 2005. (Muskogee Phoenix, July 26, 2005; Associated Press, July 15, 2005).

Kenneth Lighty - Black. On Nov. 10, 2005, a federal jury in Maryland recommended a death sentence for Lighty for the kidnapping and murder of Eric Hayes (black), an alleged PCP dealer and son of a D.C. police lieutentant, in 2001. The kidnapping occurred in Washington, DC and the murder was committed in Maryland. Lighty was convicted on October 21. A co-defendant, James Flood was also found guilty but faces a mandatory life sentence. In April, a 3rd defendant, Lorenzo Wilson, was convicted of conspiracy to kidnap and faces a life sentence.

Kenneth Barrett - White. On Nov. 18, 2005, a federal jury in Muskogee, Oklahoma, recommended a death sentence for Barrett for the murder of a white police officer, David Eales, on Sept. 24, 1999. The death sentence was for intentionally killing a state law enforcement officer during a drug crime and during the officer's performance of his official duties. Another officer was wounded. Barrett had already been convicted of first-degree manslaughter in state court for the murder of Eales, and he was given a 20-year sentence, followed by 10 years for the wounding. (Muskogee Phoenix, Nov. 21, 2005).

Robert Bolden - Black. On May 23, 2006, a federal jury in St. Louis, Missouri, recommended a death sentence for Bolden for the murder of a white bank security guard, Nathan Ley, during an attempted robbery in St. Louis in 2002. Two accomplices pleaded guilty to attempted bank robbery. The formal sentencing will take place on August 25. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 23, 2006).

[Daryl Lawrence] - Black. Convicted on Feb. 28, 2006 of the murder of a police officer, Bryan Hurst, during an attempted bank robbery in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 6, 2005. Lawrence was also convicted of other bank robberies in Ohio. A jury recommended a sentence of death on Mar. 10, 2006. (Press Release, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern Dist. of OH, Mar. 10, 2006). His death sentence was overturned by the trial judge, and the decision is being appealed (E-mail from Diane Menashe, Counsel for Daryl Lawrence, on July 3, 2007).

Alfonso Rodriguez, Jr. - Hispanic. Convicted on August 30, 2006, of the murder of a college student, Dru Sjodin. Sjodin was kidnapped from North Dakota and her body was found in Minnesota. A jury in North Dakota recommended a death sentence on September 22. The judge formally sentenced Rodriguez to death on Feb. 8, 2007. North Dakota does not have a state death penalty and has not had an execution since 1905. The judge chose South Dakota as the place of execution. South Dakota utilizes lethal injection for executions, though none has been carried out. South Dakota's execution process is being reviewed by the legislature. The U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Rodriguez, Drew Wrigley, commented about the state's distaste for the death penalty: "It's just not part of the culture up here really at all. We live in the safest state in the the union." (Associated Press, Sept. 22, 2006; N.Y. Times, Feb. 9, 2007).

David Lee Jackson - Black. Case: E.D. TX CR No. 1:05-CR-51 B Jackson was convicted and sentenced to die in the Eastern District of Texas for the 1999 killing of an inmate at the federal prison in Beaumont, Texas. A jury recommended that he receive a death sentence on Nov. 13, 2006. He was formally sentenced on Dec. 15, 2006. Jackson had been incarcerated for a weapons violation. His co-defendant, Arzell Gully, was in prison for drug trafficking. Both were sent to the high security federal prison in Florence, Colorado, after the homicide. Gully did not face the death penalty. Jackson and Gully are black men, as was the victim. (Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel).

[Ronell Wilson ]- Black. This is the first federal death sentence handed down in New York since 1954. Wilson, 24, was convicted of killing two undercover police detectives in Staten Island in 2003. The jury recommended a sentence of death on January 30, 2007. The judge will issue the formal sentence at a later date. (Associated Press, February 1, 2007). If the judge decides that NY does not have the death penalty, then the judge will choose another state with the death penalty to determine the manner and place of execution. UPDATE: Wilson was formally sentenced to death in U.S. District Court on Mar. 29, 2007. UPDATE: In June 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned Wilson's death sentence because the prosecutor had made arguments in the sentencing phase of the trial that interfered with Wilson's rights to remain silent and have a trial.


Jurijus Kadamovas and Iouri Mikhel - White. In Los Angeles, a federal jury recommended the death penalty on Feb. 13, 2007 for two men convicted of murders in a kidnapping-for-ransom scheme targeting Russian immigrants. Prosecutors said the two men kidnapped affluent Russian immigrants from Los Angeles in late 2001 and early 2002 and attempted to extort money from their families and friends. Three co-conspirators pleaded guilty and testified at the trial for the government. The judge has scheduled formal sentencing on March 12. (Associated Press, Feb. 13, 2007). UPDATE: The judge pronounced the death sentence for Kadamovas on March 12 and was scheduled to pronounce the death sentence for Mikhel on the same day. (CBS News, Mar. 12, 2007).

Carlos Caro - Latino. A jury in the Western District of Virginia recommended a death sentence for Caro on Feb. 13, 2007 for the murder of his cellmate, Robert Sandoval. Caro was serving a 30-year sentence for drug offenses. Both Caro and Sandoval were reportedly members of a prison gang called the Texas Syndicate. The murder occurred in 2003. A judge will still have to pronounce the formal sentence at a later date. (Roanoke Times, Feb. 14, 2007). UPDATE: Caro was formally sentenced to death in District Court on March 30, 2007.

Lisa Montgomery - White/Female. On Oct. 26, 2007, a jury in Kansas City, Missouri recommended a death sentence for Montgomery following her conviction for kidnapping and killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, also white, and stealing her unborn baby. Montgomery took the baby with her to Kansas and claimed the baby was her child. (Kansas City Star, Oct. 26, 2007). Formal sentencing will occur later, but the judge is required to follow the jury's recommendation. Montgomery will be the third woman on the federal death row. UPDATE: Montgomery is to be formally sentenced to death on April 4, 2008 in U.S. District Court. (Topeka Capital-Journal, Apr. 3, 2008).

Thomas Hager - Black. On Nov. 1, 2007, a jury in Alexandria, Virginia recommended a death sentence for Hager, 34, after deliberating for 2 days. Hager was convicted of the drug-related murder of Barbara White committed in 1993. Prosecutors said that Hager killed White because she had learned of the safe house where he was staying. Two associates of Hager who were also responsible for White's murder received life sentences and testified against him. The defendant grew up in a poor area of Southeast Washington, DC, and both of his parents were drug addicts who neglected and abused their children. (Associated Press (Va. Daily Press), Nov. 1, 2007). The judge immediately imposed the death sentence on Hager.

Joseph Duncan - White. On Aug. 27, 2008, a jury in Idaho returned a unanimous verdict for a death sentence for Duncan after deliberating for 3 hours. Duncan had pleaded guilty to ten federal charges, including the murder and kidnapping of a young boy and the kidnapping of a young girl in May 2005. He insisted on defending himself, and offered no mitigating evidence and no closing argument in the sentencing trial. (KNDO/KNDU Web site, NBC affiliates; also AP, Aug. 27, 2008). The judge is required to follow the jury's verdict.

Rejon Taylor - Black. On Oct. 21, 2008, a jury in Chattanooga, Tennessee recommended a death sentence for Taylor after convicting him of murder, kidnapping and carjacking. The victim was Guy Luck, a white businessman who lived in Atlanta, Georgia. He was brought across state lines and murdered in Tennessee. Taylor's attorney said he was very confident that the verdict would be overturned on appeal. The judge indicated that formal sentencing would take place in about a month. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, Oct. 22, 2008).

 Daniel Troya and Ricardo Sanchez, Jr. - Both Latino. On Mar. 31, 2009, a jury in West Palm Beach, Florida, recommended a death sentence for Troya and Sanchez for the murder of two children on the Florida Turnpike in 2006.  The defendants also were convicted of murdering the children's parents and received life sentences for that crime. All the victims were Hispanic. The father of the children was allegedly killed because of a drug debt.  The reputed kingpin of the drug operation did not receive a death sentence. The judge is required to follow the jury's recommendation in imposing the formal sentence. (South Florida Sun Sentinel, April 1, 2009). On May 13, 2009 both Troya and Sanchez were formally sentenced to death.

Joseph Ebron - Black. On May 11, 2009, a jury convicted Ebron of the 2005 murder of Keith Davis, also black, in a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas.  The District Court judge followed the jury's recommendation and condemned Ebron to death on May 18.  Both defendant and victim were said to be members of a Washington, D.C. gang.  Ebron is 30 years old and has been incarcerated for most of his life since he was 15.  (Beaumont Enterprise, May 19, 2009).

David Runyon - White. On August 27, 2009, a jury in Norfolk, Virginia, unanimously recommended a death sentence for Runyon for the murder of Cory Allen Voss, a white Naval officer, in Newport News in 2007.  Runyon, a former soldier, was convicted of shooting Voss in a murder-for-hire plot organized by Voss's wife, Catherina Voss, and her boyfriend, Michael Draven.  The federal government did not seek the death penalty against the other two defendants. Catherina Voss pled guilty and received a life sentence.  Draven was found guilty and faces a life sentence. Catherina hired Runyon to kill her husband in the hope of being the beneficiary of a $500,000 life insurance policy.  U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith will formally sentence Runyon in December. She is obligated to follow the jury's recommendation. (Daily Press, Aug. 27, 2009).

Alejandro Umana -Latino. On April 28, 2010, a jury in Charlotte, NC, unanimously recommended a death sentence for Umana, who was reputed to be a member of the gang MS-13.  He was found guilty of killing 2 brothers in a Greensboro restaurant in 2007.  Both victims were Latino. Umana was one of 26 suspected MS-13 gang members indicted in Charlotte in 2008.  Chief U.S. District Judge Bob Conrad is required to follow the jurors' recommendation and impose the death penalty.  (Charlotte Observer, Apri 29, 2010). Umana was formally sentenced to death on July 27, 2010.

Mark Snarr (White) and Edgar Garcia (Latino) - On May 24, 2010, a jury in Beaumont, Texas, recommended death sentences for these two federal prison inmates for the murder of a fellow inmate, Gabriel Rhone.  They also stabbed and wounded 2 corrections officers.  They were convicted on May 7, 2010, of the murder that occurred in the U.S. Penitentiary in Beaumont.  Both inmates were serving lengthy sentences for drug trafficking. (AOL News, May 24, 2010).  According to the FBI, the presiding  judge sentenced the defendants to death on the same day.

Reversal of death sentence final or clemency granted:

John McCullah - White; sentenced to death for a drug-related kidnap/murder of a Muskogee, Oklahoma auto dealership employee. The 10th Circuit granted McCullah a new penalty hearing in 1996, and in February, 2000, McCullah was resentenced to life in prison.

David Ronald Chandler- White, marijuana grower in Alabama; sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder for hire of a white male under the drug kingpin statute. Most of the government's witnesses, including the triggerman in the killing, have now recanted their testimony. The Eleventh Circuit overturned his death sentence in October, 1999 because of ineffectiveness of counsel. In December, 1999, the Court voted to rehear the case en banc, and by a 6-5 vote re-affirmed his death sentence. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was filed. Sentence commuted to life by President Clinton on January 20, 2001.

Boutaem Chanthadara - Asian; sentenced to death in October 1996 for the armed robbery/murder of the female proprietor of a Chinese restaurant in Wichita, Kansas. In November, 2000, the 10th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned Chanthadara's death sentence and remanded his case for a new sentencing hearing. At resentencing, Chanthadara was sentenced to life in April 2002.

Paul Hardy - black, was the triggerman in a killing in New Orleans along with a co-defendant Len Davis. Hardy and Davis were sentenced to death on two convictions in May 1996. The Fifth Circuit reversed the sentences for both defendants and one of the two capital convictions for each defendant. The court ordered a new sentencing hearing for both defendants.  Hardy is no longer under a sentence of death. Davis was resentenced to death.

Richard Thomas Stitt -Black; convicted of ordering the murder of three people in Norfolk Virginia. He was sentenced to death by a jury in November 1998 after a joint trial with three of the non-capital codefendants, who did not face the death penalty but rather life in prison. Stitt's death sentence was overturned by a federal District Court judge in April 2005 because of ineffectiveness of counsel. In March 2006, the District Court was unanimously upheld by the 4th Circuit, finding that Stitt's attorney did not render effective assistance because of a conflict of interest. (Associated Press, Mar. 25, 2006). UPDATE: The federal District Court ruled that Stitt's sentence should be reduced to life plus 65 years. The prosecution had requested a new sentencing jury. The government may appeal this ruling. (Virginian Pilot, June 17, 2007). UPDATE: The 4th Circuit overturned the District Court's sentence and allowed the government to conduct a new sentencing hearing.  Attorney General Eric Holder approved the seeking of the death penalty at the new sentencing trial.  (Virginian Pilot, Oct. 27, 2009).

Jury Verdict for Death but No Formal Sentence

George Lecco and Valerie Friend (female) - Both White. On May 29, 2007, a jury in Charleston, West Virginia, recommended death sentences for both defendants for the murder of Carla Collins in order to protect their drug ring. Prosecutors maintained that Lecco arranged to have Collins killed and that Friend did the shooting in 2005. These were the first federal death vericts in West Virginia since the federal law was reinstated in 1988. (Charleston Daily Mail, May 29, 2007).  UPDATE: Prior to formal sentencing by the judge, Lecco and Friend's convictions were overturned by a federal District Court in May 2009 because a juror at the trial, William Griffith, did not reveal that he was under investigation for allegedly possessing child pornography by the same U.S. Attorney’s Office that was prosecuting Lecco and Friend. (Williamson Daily News, May 7, 2009).  A new trial date of Oct. 27, 2009 was set for Friend and the prosecution said it intended to seek the death penalty. UPDATE: Valerie Friend pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2009 to a number of charges, including the murdeer of Collins. In exchange for her plea and cooperation against her co-defendant, she will be sentenced to life in prison. (Assoc. Press, Oct. 1, 2009). UPDATE: On May 3, 2010, a federal jury chose not to sentence Lecco to death after finding him guilty.  He will be sentenced to life without parole. (Charleston Gazette, May 3, 2010).

John Wayne Johnson - Black. On May 27, 2009, a jury in New Orleans, Louisiana, unanimously recommended a death sentence for Johnson for the murder of an off-duty sheriff's deputy working as a guard during a bank robbery.  There were two other accomplices in the 2004 robbery in which officer Sidney Zaffuto was killed.  Johnson admitted he shot Zaffuto, but said it was unintentional.  The jury found him guilty on May 19.  Johnson's attorneys planned to appeal on several grounds, including an assertion that the federal death penalty is being employed unconstitutionally in New Orleans because all 42 defendants indicted on capital offenses were either black or Hispanic. (Times-Picayune, May 27, 2009). UPDATE: The District Court judge delayed formal sentencing until Feb. 3, 2010 to allow more time for a challenge to the trial. UPDATE: Prior to formal sentencing, the District Court vacated Johnson's death verdict and remanded the case for a new penalty hearing because of admission of improper victim-impact evidence; a discovery violation related to this victim-impact evidence; introduction of an unadjudicated murder which the jury found was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and; improper government argument in the penalty phase which (a) compared worth of defendant and victim, (b) compared conditions of a life sentence to the permanency of the victim's death, and (c) pressured the jury into believing that a life sentence would be a capitulation. (Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel, May 18, 2010).

Sentence to death and executed

Timothy McVeigh - White; sentenced to death in June 1997 for the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. The United States Supreme Court denied review on March 8, 1999. McVeigh was scheduled for execution on May 16, 2001 but was granted a 30 day stay by Attorney General John Ashcroft after it was discovered that the FBI did not disclose over 3,000 pages of document to McVeigh's defense team. McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. McVeigh's co-defendant, Terry Nichols, was found guilty in a separate trial by the federal government and given a life sentence. Nichols was later tried by the state of Oklahoma for the murder of the 161 non-federal employees in Oklahoma City, found guilty, and again sentenced to life in prison.

Juan Raul Garza - Hispanic; marijuana distributor. Garza was sentenced to death in August 1993 in Texas for the murders of three other drug traffickers. Garza was denied review by the U.S. Supreme Court in late 1999 and was facing an execution date of August 5, 2000. The date was postponed until the Justice Department finished drafting guidelines for federal death row inmates seeking presidential clemency, which were issued in early August. Garza was offered the opportunity to apply for clemency under the new guidelines and a new execution date of Dec. 12, 2000 was set. In December, 2000, President Clinton again delayed Garza's execution for at least six months to allow further study of the fairness of the federal death penalty. Garza was executed on June 19, 2001.

Louis Jones - Black; sentenced to death in November 1995 in Texas for the kidnap/murder of a young white female soldier. The United States Supreme Court granted review of the case and heard arguments on February 22, 1999. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction on June 21, 1999. Jones, a decorated Gulf War veteran who had no prior criminal record, claimed that his exposure to nerve gas in Iraq and post-traumatic stress from his combat tours contributed to his murder of Pvt. Tracie Joy McBride in Texas. President Bush refused Jones' clemency request. Jones was executed on March 18, 2003.


See also, list of federal prisoners executed since 1927.

 


 


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Federal Laws Providing for the Death Penalty
8 U.S.C. 1342 Murder related to the smuggling of aliens.
18 U.S.C. 32-34 Destruction of aircraft, motor vehicles, or related facilities resulting in death.
18 U.S.C. 36 Murder committed during a drug-related drive-by shooting.
18 U.S.C. 37 Murder committed at an airport serving international civil aviation.
18 U.S.C. 115(b)(3)
[by cross-reference
to 18 U.S.C. 1111]
Retaliatory murder of a member of the immediate family of law enforcement officials.
18 U.S.C. 241,
242, 245, 247
Civil rights offenses resulting in death.
18 U.S.C. 351
[by cross-reference
to 18 U.S.C. 1111]
Murder of a member of Congress, an important executive official, or a Supreme Court Justice.
18 U.S.C. 794 Espionage.
18 U.S.C. 844(d), (f), (i) Death resulting from offenses involving transportation of explosives, destruction of government property, or destruction of property related to foreign or interstate commerce.
18 U.S.C. 924(i) Murder committed by the use of a firearm during a crime of violence or a drug-trafficking crime.
18 U.S.C. 930 Murder committed in a Federal Government facility.
18 U.S.C. 1091 Genocide.
18 U.S.C. 1111 First-degree murder.
18 U.S.C. 1114 Murder of a Federal judge or law enforcement official.
18 U.S.C. 1116 Murder of a foreign official.
18 U.S.C. 1118 Murder by a Federal prisoner.
18 U.S.C. 1119 Murder of a U.S. national in a foreign country.
18 U.S.C. 1120 Murder by an escaped Federal prisoner already sentenced to life imprisonment.
18 U.S.C. 1121 Murder of a State or local law enforcement official or other person aiding in a Federal investigation; murder of a State correctional officer.
18 U.S.C. 1201 Murder during a kidnapping.
18 U.S.C. 1203 Murder during a hostage taking.
18 U.S.C. 1503 Murder of a court officer or juror.
18 U.S.C. 1512 Murder with the intent of preventing testimony by a witness, victim, or informant.
18 U.S.C. 1513 Retaliatory murder of a witness, victim, or informant.
18 U.S.C. 1716 Mailing of injurious articles with intent to kill or resulting in death.
18 U.S.C. 1751
[by cross-reference
to 18 U.S.C. 1111]
Assassination or kidnapping resulting in the death of the President or Vice President.
18 U.S.C. 1958 Murder for hire.
18 U.S.C. 1959 Murder involved in a racketeering offense.
18 U.S.C. 1992 Willful wrecking of a train resulting in death.
18 U.S.C. 2113 Bank-robbery-related murder or kidnapping.
18 U.S.C. 2119 Murder related to a carjacking.
18 U.S.C. 2245 Murder related to rape or child molestation.
18 U.S.C. 2251 Murder related to sexual exploitation of children.
18 U.S.C. 2280 Murder committed during an offense against maritime navigation.
18 U.S.C. 2281 Murder committed during an offense against a maritime fixed platform.
18 U.S.C. 2332 Terrorist murder of a U.S. national in another country.
18 U.S.C. 2332a Murder by the use of a weapon of mass destruction.
18 U.S.C. 2340 Murder involving torture.
18 U.S.C. 2381 Treason.
21 U.S.C. 848(e) Murder related to a continuing criminal enterprise or related murder of a Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer.
49 U.S.C. 1472-1473 Death resulting from aircraft hijacking.


Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics: Capital Punishment 2012.

Although not listed by BJS, the following offenses are also punishable by death under the federal statute, though it is not clear that the death penalty would be constitutional for these offenses under Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008) since they do not require a murder:

-Trafficking in large quantities of drugs (18 U.S.C. 3591(b))
-Attempting, authorizing or advising the killing of any officer, juror,or witness in cases involving a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, regardless of whether such killing actually occurs. (18 U.S.C. 3591(b)(2)).


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