NEW RESOURCES: New DPIC Podcast Addresses Readers' Questions

The latest edition of the Death Penalty Information Center's series of podcasts, DPIC on the Issues, is now available for listening. This podcast, Readers’ Choice: Part One, is the first of two episodes that addresses questions submitted by readers of DPIC’s weekly e-newsletter. Generally, this series of podcasts offers brief, informative discussions of key death penalty issues. Other recent episodes include discussions on Victims, Representation, and Innocence. Click here to download DPIC's latest podcast. You can also subscribe through iTunes to receive automatic updates when new episodes are posted and receive access to all previous episodes. Other audio and video resources, along with all of DPIC's podcasts, can be found on our Multimedia page.

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MULTIMEDIA: PBS Frontline to Air Documentary on Norfolk Four

Frontline’s documentary, The Confessions, investigates the conviction of four Navy sailors for the rape and murder of a woman in Norfolk, Virginia in 1997. The documentary highlights some of the high-pressure police interrogation techniques, including the threat of the death penalty, sleep deprivation, and intimidation, that led each of the “Norfolk Four” defendants to confess, despite a lack of evidence linking them to the crime. The case raises significant questions about the actions of state officials, who relied primarily on the sailors’ contradictory confessions for their convictions, and disregarded DNA evidence that pointed to a lone assailant. The four sailors are now out of prison (one has served his sentence and the other three were granted conditional pardons by former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine), and the person who probably committed the murder has since confessed to the crime while serving prison time for another rape. The Confession is scheduled to air on Tuesday, November 9.

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MULTIMEDIA: Frontline to Examine Possible Innocence of Man Executed in Texas On October 19, PBS's FRONTLINE will air Death by Fire, a documentary closely examining the evidence used to convict Cameron Todd Willingham of the arson deaths of his three children. The documentary will focus on a critical finding that was revealed just weeks before Willingham's execution -- that fire investigators apparently relied on outdated arson science to determine that Willingham had set the fire that killed his children. Gerald Hurst, a forensic arson expert, reviewed the evidence based on modern arson science and concluded it was a classic accidental fire.  Death by Fire also features writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who corresponded with Willingham in prison and first began to question his guilt.  Willingham's case is also being examined by the Texas Forensic Science Commission and a special Court of Inquiry that may determine that Texas executed an innocent man.

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RESOURCES: New DPIC Podcast Explores Victims' Families and the Death Penalty

The latest edition of the Death Penalty Information Center's series of podcasts, DPIC on the Issues, is now available for download. This podcast, Victims and the Death Penalty, explores the issues faced by murder victims' families when capital punishment is being considered. Generally, this series of podcasts offers brief, informative discussions of key death penalty issues.  Other recent episodes include discussions on Representation and Race. Click here to download the latest episode of the podcast on Victims. You can also subscribe through iTunes to receive automatic updates when new episodes are posted and receive access to all eight episodes. Other audio and video resources can be found on our Multimedia page.

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MULTIMEDIA: "Slow Death of the Death Penalty" on CBS News Sunday Morning


On June 13, CBS News' program Sunday Morning featured a report entitled, The Slow Death of the Death Penalty, which addressed various issues regarding the use of the death penalty today. The report highlighted the cases of Ronnie Lee Gardner, who was scheduled to be executed in Utah this week, and Gaile Owens, whose scheduled execution in September would make her the first woman to be executed in Tennessee since 1820. The video featured interviews from many death penalty experts, including Kelly Henry, a federal public defender representing Gaile Owens. Henry said mitigating circumstances of sexual and emotional abuse were not presented during Owens's trial and could have changed the outcome of the case.  She said that Owens's trial counsel provided woefully inadequate representation. The report illustrated the arbitrariness of the death penalty by pointing to another woman in Tennessee who was also responsible for her husband's death and who received only a light sentence.  Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, who was also featured in the report, said, "If we had a death penalty that only picked the worst of the worst that it would make some sense, but what we have is often the death penalty for those who had the worst lawyer."

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MULTIMEDIA: NPR Documentary Features Historical Coverage from Mississippi Execution

  On Friday, May 7, NPR's Radio Diaries will feature a half-hour documentary entitled, "Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair." The documentary focuses on the life of Willie McGee who was executed in Mississippi during the Jim Crow era after being convicted by an all-white jury of raping a white woman. During that time in Mississippi, the state used a portable electric chair, which the state transported from county to county. According to NPR, it was not just the portable electric chair that made McGee's execution unusual, but the unprecedented live radio coverage that accompanied it. The documentary includes excerpts of the live coverage from McGee's execution, broadcast from outside the courthouse where the execution took place.

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Oklahoma City Bombing Victim's Father Says Executions are Not Part of the Healing Process


Bud Welch, father of Julie Welch who was killed in the Oklahoma City Bombing, recently appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, just a few days before the 15th anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma.  Welch, who is the president of Murder Victims' Familes for Human Rights, has been a long-time opponent of the death penalty and has said that executions are more often "staged political events" instead of a part of the healing process for victims.  When asked how he came to oppose the death pealty for Timothy McVeigh, Welch told Maddow, "I reached that point probably about a year after the bombing - close to a year.  All my life, I had always opposed the death penalty.  I just thought it was something that society should not be doing.  And after Julie‘s death, I was so full of revenge and hate that I had to get retribution in some way.  So I was for the death penalty probably for the first year.  And after recognizing that killing Tim McVeigh was not part of my healing process, then I was able to move forward."   Read the full transcript of the interview here.

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NEW RESOURCES: Slide Presentation of Police Chiefs' Views on the Death Penalty

The results of a poll of police chiefs recently featured in DPIC's report "Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis" is now available in the form of a slide presentation on the Web, suitable for use in workshops or discussion groups. The poll, commissioned by DPIC and conducted by R.T. Strategies of Washington, DC, surveyed a national sample of 500 randomly selected U.S. police chiefs on questions regarding the death penalty and reducing violent crime. Although the police chiefs did not oppose the death penalty philosophically, they found it to be an ineffective crime fighting tool.  Among those surveyed, only 1% of the chiefs listed greater use of the death penalty as the best way to reduce violence. The poll also showed police chiefs ranking the death penalty as the least efficient use of taxpayers' money among programs to fight crime.  Most of the police chiefs did not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.

Access the slide presentation here; read DPIC's "Smart on Crime" report.

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Death Penalty to be Put on Trial in London

Amicus, an organization based in the United Kingdom that assists in the legal representation of those awaiting capital trials in the United States, will be hosting a mock trial at the Emmanuel Centre (pictured) in Westminster, London on Tuesday, March 2, beginning at 6:30 PM.  The question is whether the death penalty in the U.S. perverts the course of justice.  The trial will be presided over by Lord Woolf, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, and Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, QC, and will feature prominent death penalty experts including Prof. Paul Cassell (former federal prosecutor and former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia), Prof. Robert Blecker (NY Law School) and Kent Scheidegger (Criminal Justice Legal Fdn.) defending the death penalty, and Prof. Julian Killingley (Birmingham City Univ.), Rev. Cathy Harrington (Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation), and Nick Trenticosta (Center for Equal Justice) prosecuting the death penalty.  The program hopes to raise awareness of issues surrounding the application of the death penalty in the United States.  Click here for more details about his event.

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