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Posted on Feb 15, 2003

Whats New

DPIC-What’s New

Last updated January 24, 2003


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Another Innocent Inmate Freed From Florida’s Death Row
Florida death row inmate Rudolph Holton was released on January 24, 2003, making him the 103rd person exonerated and freed from death row nationwide since 1973. Holton’s conviction for murder was overturned in 2001 and prosecutors announced today that the state was dropping all charges against Holten, who had spent 16 years on death row. Crucial evidence had been withheld from the defense that pointed to another perpetrator. For more information on Holton’s release, see DPIC’s Press Release. See also, Innocence.

Connecticut Commission Releases Results of State Death Penalty Study
The Connecticut Commission on the Death Penalty submitted its report, “Study of the Imposition of the Death Penalty in Connecticut,” to the state General Assembly on January 8, 2003. The Commission was created in 2001 by the General Assembly to study the state’s capital punishment system and report back with findings and recommendations. The report found racial and geographic disparities in the imposition of Connecticut’s death penalty, and called for further study. Among the report’s findings are:

  • 86% of the crimes resulting in a death sentence involved a white victim
  • 89% of the 166 capital prosecutions since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1973 came from just six judicial districts, and 40% came from Hartford alone.

The Commission’s report provided legislative recommendations for improving the state’s capital punishment system, including:

  • an increase in hourly rates for public defenders in death penalty cases;
  • reinstating proportionality review of each death sentence to ensure that it is not excessive or disproportionate to the sentence imposed in similar cases;
  • video or audio taping of police interrogations and conducting “blind” lineups;
  • mandating pre-trial determinations by capital trial judges to decide the reliability and admissibility of jailhouse informant testimony;
  • preservation of biological evidence; and
  • making DNA testing available to defendants.

(State of Connecticut Commission on the Death Penalty, Study Pursuant to Public Act No. 01-151 of the Imposition of the Death Penalty in Connecticut, January 8, 2003) Read the report. See also, Legislative Changes and Studies on the Death Penalty.

NEW RESOURCE: Death Penalty Symposium Examines Religion and the Death Penalty
The New York Central Synagogue’s day-long symposium, “The Death Penalty, Religion, and the Law: Is Our Legal System’s Implementation of Capital Punishment Consistent with Judaism or Christianity?”, is now available on the Web. The resource contains expert discussion about religious texts and the death penalty, and it highlights related topics such as innocence, executing those with mental retardation or mental illness, the juvenile death penalty, and death penalty moratoriums. Read the presentations. See also, Studies, Books and Law Reviews.

Georgians Oppose Juvenile Death Penalty
A recent University of Georgia poll found that 60% of Georgians favor trying to rehabilitate young criminals rather than executing them. Only 23% of respondents said courts should be allowed to give children the death penalty. In addition, 81% of those polled believe that judges should be granted greater flexibility when dealing with convicted children than the mandatory sentencing rules used for adults. Currently, Georgia law requires juveniles ages 13 to 18-years-old to be tried in adult court and face adult penalties when they are accused of seven violent crimes, such as murder and rape. (The Augusta Chronicle, January 17, 2003) See Public Opinion and Juvenile Death Penalty.

NEW VOICES: Scott Turow Questions Death Penalty in Government Hands
Scott Turow, former federal prosecutor and author who served on Illinois’s blue-ribbon Commission on Capital Punishment, reflected on Governor George Ryan’s decision to pardon four men and commute the remaining death sentences in the state (see below):

What happened in Illinois is a cautionary lesson. Inaction by legislatures forces more and more of the responsibility for creating remedies into the hands of government executives or the courts. The solutions they arrive at are often unpopular, and the principles that guide them prove subject to constant change because of the irreconcilable tension between individualized decision-making and the constitutional demand that we impose this ultimate sanction on a consistent and reasoned basis.

At the end of the day, perhaps the best argument against capital punishment may be that it is an issue beyond the limited capacity of government to get things right. (New York Times, January 17, 2003)

See New Voices. Read the entire article.

In the U.S. Supreme Court: Sattazahn v. Pennsylvania
On January 14, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s bar against double jeopardy does not apply when a defendant is sentenced to death in a second trial after the first jury’s deadlock resulted in the defendant receiving a life sentence. Earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that after a jury determined that there was sufficient evidence to establish legal entitlement to a life sentence, and the defendant was then sentenced to life, it was unconstitutional to seek the death penalty on retrial. In upholding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court distinguished David A. Sattazahn’s case from the earlier case by noting that the jury deadlocked in determining Sattazahn’s sentence, and because of the deadlock, the trial judge was bound by Pennsylvania law to sentence him to life in prison. Because neither the jury’s deadlock nor the judge’s entry of a life sentence constituted an “acquittal” of the capital sentence, the U.S. Supreme Court held (5-4), that jeopardy did not attach and that it was constitutional for Sattazahn to be sentenced to death at his second trial.
The dissent stated that this ruling interfered with a defendant’s right to appeal. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “The court’s holding confronts defendants with a perilous choice. A defendant in Sattazahn’s position must relinquish either her right to file a potentially meritorious appeal, or her state-granted entitlement to avoid the death penalty.” (New York Times, January 15, 2003 and Sattazahn v. Pennsylvania, No. 01-7574). Read the opinion. See also, U.S. Supreme Court.

International Community Praises Governor Ryan’s Actions
Legal scholars and lawmakers from around the world have voiced their support for Illinois Governor George Ryan’s recent decision to clear the state’s death row. (See below) Walter Schwimmer, secretary general of the Council of Europe, said, “On making this decision, he proves a shared commitment and belief with the Council of Europe, that the death penalty has no place in a civilized society. I sincerely hope that this is a step forward in the abolition of the death penalty in the whole of the United States.” Ryan also received high praise and congratulations from Mexican president Vincente Fox and Kenyan justice minister Kiraitu Murungi. Kenya, where more than 1,000 people have been sentenced to death even though there have been no executions since 1984, is now working to abolish the death penalty. “We think the fundamental human right to life should be respected, and no human being should have the authority to take the life of another. Capital punishment is a barbaric punishment,” said Murungi. (New York Times, January 14, 2002) See International Death Penalty.

NEW VOICES: Texas Baptist Commission Calls for Moratorium
The Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission has joined the call for a moratorium on the death penalty. Declaring the state’s capital punishment system “broken” and “unfair,” the organization issued a capital punishment report examining the death penalty from biblical, historical and social justice perspectives. The report, which includes concerns about racial and socio-economic bias in how the death penalty is applied in Texas, concludes: “In the final analysis, biblical teaching does not support capital punishment as it is practiced in contemporary society.” Moreover, the report stated, “The practice of capital punishment in our nation and state is an affront to biblical justice, both in terms of its impact on the marginalized in society and in terms of simple fairness.” (Business Wire, January 13, 2002) For more information about the report, contact Becky Bridges or Kenneth Camp at the Baptist General Convention of Texas Communications Center (214-828-5229). See also, Additional Death Penalty and Religion Web Sites and New Voices.

$California Governor Seeks $220 Million Death Row Facility
As California lawmakers seek to overcome one of the largest budget deficits in the state’s history, Governor Gray Davis has proposed building a $220 million state of the art death row complex at San Quentin prison. More than 600 death row inmates are currently housed in facilities throughout the state. The new facility would hold up to 1,000 death row inmates, leaving room for a significant growth in death row population. California averages more than 20 new death sentences per year, and it has carried out 10 executions since it reinstated capital punishment in 1977. (The New York Times, January 14, 2003) According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, the death penalty costs California $90 million annually beyond the ordinary costs of the justice system, which indicates that the state has spent more than $1 billion on the death penalty in the course of achieving these 10 executions. (Sacramento Bee, March 18, 1988). See Costs.

NEW VOICES: President of Illinois Prosecutors’ Association Calls Death Penalty “Cruel Hoax”
John Piland, the chief prosecutor in Champaign County and president of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association, recently called the state’s death penalty a “cruel hoax.” Piland said that if a relative of his was killed, he would ask the prosecutor not to seek the death penalty. ” In Illinois we can say that we have [the death penalty], but in fact I’m not sure it’s fair to victims’ families to suggest to them that it truly exists,” Piland said. (New York Times, January 14, 2003). See New Voices.

NEW VOICES: Texas Legislation Challenges Fairness of State’s Death Penalty
Last term, Houston Representative Harold V. Dutton Jr. sponsored legislation to impose a moratorium on executions to provide lawmakers with time to address the questions of fairness and innocence that taint the state’s capital punishment laws. This year, Dutton has introduced a bill that would abolish Texas’s death penalty. In a recent Dallas Morning News commentary, Dutton noted:

I listened to my constituents. In town hall meetings and in one-on-one conversations, my constituents were troubled by Texas’ application of the death penalty. “We need to find out what is broken in our system,” they would tell me.

Last session, other legislators also introduced moratorium proposals. At committee hearings, there was overwhelming support for a moratorium and the need for a study commission.

If we can’t answer the first and simplest question correctly, “Is this person guilty?,” how can we expect to answer the infinitely more difficult question correctly: “Is the death penalty the only appropriate punishment for this individual?” (Dallas Morning News, January 13, 2003)

See, New Voices and Innocence.

Editorials Commend Illinois’s Governor, Call for Reconsideration of Death Penalty
Recent editorials appearing in The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post praised Illinois Governor George Ryan’s courage in addressing his state’s flawed system of capital punishment (see below). The papers called for states around the nation to follow Ryan’s lead and reconsider death penalty policies that have resulted in wrongful convictions and unfairness in death sentencing.

The New York Times noted:

We can only join in his (Governor Ryan’s) hope that this sweeping, and almost shocking, gesture leads the rest of the country to reconsider whether America wants to continue to be in the business of state-sanctioned death.

The satisfaction of retribution that the death penalty supplies can never outweigh the danger of unfair or erroneous application as long as it exists. Virtually every country on the planet has rejected capital punishment as barbaric. Perhaps Governor Ryan, in the tortured end to his political career, can help lead the nation to a similar conclusion. (New York Times, January 13, 2003)

The Washington Post urged Maryland Governor-elect Robert Ehrlich to follow Ryan’s example and to take a less “cavalier” attitude regarding his state’s troubling death penalty record:

On this issue, he (Governor Ryan) leaves Illinois a better place - and a model for the nation as to how a state can begin facing the problem of the death penalty.
That model, alas, seems to hold little interest for Maryland Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. It’s early, but Mr. Ehrlich thus far has demonstrated a breathtaking lack of concern for the evident problems with capital punishment in Maryland. Even before the release of a University of Maryland study of geographical and racial disparities in capital punishment’s application, he pledged to lift the current moratorium on executions no matter what the study showed.

Such a cavalier attitude is inappropriate for a man who will wield power over life and death. If the new governor continues to ignore the study results, he will be saying that it doesn’t trouble him that Maryland prosecutors effectively value white lives more highly than black lives. Pretending this unfairness doesn’t exist won’t make it disappear. Mr. Ehrlich may be too busy planning his inauguration, but he should take time out to learn from the outgoing governor a few states west. (Washington Post, January 12, 2003)

USA Today said Ryan’s decision gives lawmakers an opportunity to fix Illinois’s flawed, biased and costly death penalty system:

Ryan’s act of conscience provides only a brief window. State prosecutors will still seek the death penalty. Some will win it But in this moment of clear air, the ill wisdom of the death penalty - the harm it inflicts on justice, society and survivors - is illuminated. This is especially so in contrast with the practical alternative: life without the parole, which offers the same certainty of criminal punishment and benefit to public safety at a fraction of the cost, care, risk and delay.

The practical solution is Ryan’s. End the death penalty. Get on with life. (USA Today, January 13, 2003)


See Innocence and Clemency.

Systemic Problems Lead Illinois Governor to Commute All Death Sentences
Gov. George Ryan has granted clemency to all of the remaining 156 death row inmates in Illinois as a direct result of the flawed process that led to these sentences. He also granted clemency to 11 inmates who were awaiting sentencing or resentencing. In light of this historic action, the state must now decide if it wants to begin the death penalty process all over again. The governor’s decision is in keeping with the traditional use of this executive power to remedy great injustices. Ryan’s announcement, made during a speech at Northwestern University Law School, comes one day after he erased the convictions of four death row inmates. Today’s clemencies will not result in the release of the inmates since many still face life in prison. (See below) Read Governor Ryan’s Remarks. See DPIC’s Press Release. See also, Clemency.

Illinois Governor Pardons Four Death Row Inmates
Illinois Governor George Ryan today granted four pardons to death row inmates whose convictions he said are part of the state’s failed justice system and “shameful scorecard” of wrongful convictions. Pardoned today were Aaron Patterson, Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange, and Stanley Howard. Action on these four cases affects the underlying convictions and should be distinguished from commutations of death sentences, which may still occur for a larger number of inmates. The pardons were the result of lengthy investigations revealing egregious abuse of the defendants’ rights, including torture during interrogation. The decision was announced during Ryan’s speech at the DePaul University College of Law. It is likely that Ryan will announce decisions on death sentences resulting from his on-going review of clemency petitions filed on behalf of every death row inmate in the state in a speech scheduled for Saturday. See DPIC’s Press Release. See also, Innocence.

Mexico Challenges U.S. Death Sentences of Its Citizens, Seeks Commutations
Mexico has filed a complaint against the United States in the International Court of Justice charging that American officials have violated the rights of all 54 Mexicans on death row in the U.S. and asking that their sentences be commuted to life in prison. Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo, the Foreign Ministry attorney who filed the case with the U.N. court in The Hague, claims that U.S. authorities frequently provide Mexican nationals facing capital charges with public defenders who “speak little or no Spanish and have no experience in death penalty cases.” Robledo asserts that the U.S. has violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which guarantees access to consular assistance when foreign nationals are accused of a crime, and as a result Mexican missions are denied the opportunity to provide Spanish-speaking lawyers who have more experience with capital cases. (Washington Post, January 10, 2003) See Foreign Nationals and International Death Penalty.

NEW VOICES: Virginia Governor Seeks End to 21-Day Rule, Compliance on Execution of the Mentally Retarded
In his second State of the Commonwealth address delivered before Virginia’s legislature on January 8, Gov. Mark Warner called on the state’s lawmakers to end Virginia’s 21-day rule that bars the introduction of new evidence more than three weeks after sentencing. He also urged the state to pass legislation to implement the Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia that bans the execution of the mentally retarded. Warner stated:

Our state continues to cling to the outdated “21-day rule” that can actually prevent evidence of innocence from coming to light. No other state has such a restrictive rule … . I believe the rule should be changed.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that executing persons who are mentally retarded is unconstitutional. Once again, I urge you to send me legislation to comply with the court’s decision and prohibit the execution of mentally retarded persons in Virginia. (Washington Post, January 9, 2003).

See Innocence and Mental Retardation. See also, New Voices.

Washington Post Urges Maryland to Continue Moratorium
In an editorial responding to Maryland’s death penalty study that revealed racial and geographic bias in how the state applies capital punishment, the Washington Post urged Governor-elect Robert Ehrlich to reconsider plans to abandon the state’s moratorium on executions:

Maryland Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. promised to lift his state’s moratorium on executions regardless of what scholars at the University of Maryland found concerning the influence of race and geography on the imposition of the death penalty. He should have waited, and maybe now he will reconsider. For the report, requested by Gov. Parris N. Glendening — who froze executions while the study was underway — makes clear that capital punishment is applied in a fashion that sends a deeply corrosive message: Maryland cares more — a great deal more — about the deaths of white people, particularly when killed by black people, than it does about the deaths of blacks. If Mr. Ehrlich carries out his promise, he will be saying, in effect, that this doesn’t bother him.

Mr. Ehrlich has said that the study won’t affect his decision, because he means to review death sentences rigorously on a case-by-case basis. But that misses the point. These data demonstrate that a given case can be rock solid and still be no more worthy of death than one in which capital punishment was never even sought. It is possible, in other words, for the state to be both rigorous and discriminatory. Is this really the Maryland that Mr. Ehrlich wants? (Washington Post, January 8, 2003)

Read the complete editorial. See the University of Maryland Study.

Maryland Study Finds that Race and Geography Play Key Roles in Death Penalty
According to the findings of a Governor-commissioned death penalty study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland, the state’s death penalty system is tainted with racial bias, and geography plays a significant role in who faces a capital conviction. The study, one of the nation’s most comprehensive official reviews on race and the death penalty, concluded that defendants are much more likely to be sentenced to death if they have killed a white person. See DPIC’s Press Release. For more information about the study, see the Executive Summary and Complete Study (Released on January 7, 2003).


NEW RESOURCE: The Leviathan’s Choice: Capital Punishment in the Twenty-First Century
“The Leviathan’s Choice: Capital Punishment in the Twenty-First Century” is a collection of essays that explores capital punishment from philosophical, theological, social science, and legal viewpoints. The book features arguments both for and against capital punishment and was edited by J. Michael Martinez, William Richardson, and D. Brandon Hornsby. (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002). See also Studies, Books, and Law Reviews.


Mexican Embassy Raises Questions of Innocence, Fairness in Fierro Case
In 1980, Mexican national Cesar Roberto Fierro was sent to death row in Texas for the murder of an El Paso cab driver. Since then, a steady stream of revelations - including a confession induced through threats to his family, a lack of physical evidence, and other allegations of police misconduct - has led Mexican Embassy officials to request a closer examination of his case and his possible innocence. See DPIC’s Web page about this case. See also, Innocence.

NEW RESOURCE: Death Penalty “In a Nutshell”
The “In a Nutshell” series of law reference books has added a death penalty edition by capital punishment expert and professor Victor Streib. The book provides a brief history of the death penalty debate in the United States and reviews the constitutional issues that are most often addressed in death penalty cases. In addition to the different stages and unique aspects of a capital trial, Streib uses the resource to explain trial and post-trial procedures, as well as issues such as competent counsel, race and gender bias, innocence, and international death penalty law. (West Group, 2002). See also Studies, Books, and Law Reviews.


Editorials Fuel Questions of Fairness, Support Moratoriums

Two recent editorials addressed the questions of accuracy and fairness that continue to shape the nation’s death penalty debate. The Baltimore Sun urged Governor-elect Robert Ehrlich to abandon his plan to lift Maryland’s moratorium on executions when he takes office:

Governor Glendening called a halt to executions this spring, saying he wanted to wait until the (Maryland) race study was completed before another inmate was killed. But he could have called the moratorium based on any number of apparent problems with Maryland’s capital law. That’s why Gov.-elect Robert Ehrlich Jr. ought to hold off on his pledge to summarily lift the moratorium when he takes over next month. There are too many lingering questions, too many possibilities for error, to resume executions.

The truth is that the system has committed glaring errors in recent years, and it could be only a matter of time before an error results in an unjust execution. That would needlessly stain Mr. Ehrlich’s record.
He has been a thoughtful, not reckless, advocate of the death penalty. He ought to build on that record by insisting that Maryland’s capital punishment system be fixed before it is allowed to start up again. (Baltimore Sun, December 26, 2002)

The Kansas City Star supported Senator Ed Quick’s proposed bill to abolish Missouri’s death penalty in order to protect against the execution of an innocent person:

To avoid the possibility of Missouri executing innocent people, the next session of the General Assembly should abolish the death penalty.
Under Senate Bill 0169, prefiled by Sen. Ed Quick, people convicted of first- degree murder would be punished with life in prison without parole, except by an act of the governor. This would be a wise way to avoid the possibility of the state executing innocence people.

Quick’s bill should lead to a careful study and debate of all aspects of the death penalty. While it’s pending, Gov. Bob Holden would do well to follow the Illinois lead and declare a moratorium on capital punishment. (Kansas City Star, December 26, 2002)

See also Innocence and Recent Legislative Activity.

Legal Scholars Send Letter to Ryan
More than 425 law professors from across the nation have signed an open letter to Illinois Governor George Ryan encouraging him to consider granting each of the clemency requests currently under his review. Earlier this year, following the completion of the Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment’s examination of the state’s death penalty, clemency petitions were filed on behalf of more than 150 death row inmates. The Commission’s review examined flaws within the state’s death penalty system and resulted in a lengthy list of reform recommendations that aim to ensure improved fairness and accuracy. In today’s letter to Governor Ryan, the law professors noted, “The clemency power traditionally has been used not only to correct injustices in individual cases, but also as a response to problems in the systemic application of the law. It can promote healing after issues of great divisiveness have been resolved.” Ryan is expected to act on the petitions before leaving office in January. (Chicago Tribune, December 30, 2002). See also Clemency and Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment.

False Confessions Investigation
A recent investigation by The Miami Herald found that 38 false or questionable confessions have been discredited in just one Florida county since 1990. The confessions were either thrown out by Broward County courts, rejected by juries, or abandoned by police or prosecutors. The Herald’s study found examples of illegal interrogation, coercive questioning, and flawed fact-checking. At least six confessed “killers” who were charged with murder were later determined to be innocent. Among the false confessions listed was that of Frank Lee Smith who spent 14 years on Florida’s death row. DNA evidence eventually cleared him of the charges, but he died of cancer six months before his exoneration. (Miami Herald, Dec. 22, 2002). See also Innocence.

NEW RESOURCE: Capital Punishment 2001
Earlier in December, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual report on the death penalty with statistics from the previous year. The report contained a number of interesting findings:

  • The number of people sentenced to death in 2001 was 155, the smallest number since 1979, and an almost 50% drop from the average number of death sentences in 1994-99.
  • Between 1973 and 2001, Texas sentenced the most people to death (889), followed by Florida (863) and California (779).
  • The number of people under sentence of death declined in 2001, the first decrease in 25 years.
  • The time between sentencing and execution for those executed in 2001 was 11 years and 10 months, slightly longer than for those executed in 2000. Overall, the average time between sentencing and execution for those executed between 1977 and 2001 was 10 years and 3 months.

(BJS, Capital Punishment 2001 (published 2002)). See also DPIC’s 2002 Year End Report for statistics on 2002.

NEW RESOURCE: Law Review Examines the Policy and Politics of the Death Penalty
The Spring 2002 Oregon Law Review titled “The Law and Politics of the Death Penalty: Abolition, Moratorium, or Reform?” features articles written to complement an Oregon symposium on the death penalty. The resource contains articles by capital punishment experts from around the country, and highlights issues such as the future of capital punishment in the U.S., the power of clemency, and international policies regarding the death penalty. It also examines the issues of race, gender, and geographic disparities concerning the death penalty. (81 Oregon Law Review 1 (2002)). See Studies, Books and Law Reviews.

NEW VOICES: New York DA Calls Death Penalty “A Hollow Victory”
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown recently called the death penalty a hollow victory because it offers victims’ families “a false hope of closure.” Brown said that the use of the death penalty is regrettable because the long and expensive appeals process causes victims’ family members to relive the crime that took their loved one. He noted that families “hang on” to a false belief that a capital conviction will ease their pain. (Queens Chronicle, December 20, 2002) See New Voices.

Innocence I: Judge Overturns Central Park Jogger Convictions
New York State Supreme Court Justice Charles Tejada vacated the convictions of five men who were wrongfully convicted of the 1989 Central Park jogger attack after the Manhattan District Attorney recommended dropping charges. (See below) The men, ages 14-16 at the time of the crime, spent years in jail for the crime before DNA evidence in the case confirmed that the rape was committed by another man. (Associated Press, December 19, 2002) See, Innocence.

Innocence II: FBI Says State’s Top Scientist Misidentified Evidence in Wrongful Conviction Case
A recently released FBI report disclosed that Arnold Melnikoff, a forensic scientist who served as the director of Montana’s state crime laboratory for nearly two decades, misidentified critical hair evidence in the state’s (non-death penalty) case against Jimmy Ray Bromgard. The report was issued after DNA testing cleared Bromgard, who had spent 15 years in jail for the crime. “This conceivably will be the biggest crime lab scandal in the country,” said Peter Neufeld of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardoza School of Law in New York City. “He was the top guy in the state.” For the past 13 years, Melnikoff has also worked as a forensic scientist for the Washington State Police. Authorities in both Washington and Montana are reviewing cases in which he provided forensic analysis. (New York Times, December 19, 2002) See, Innocence.

Innocence III: Ryan Pardons Three Wrongfully Convicted Men
During a speech before the University of Illinois College of Law, Illinois Governor George Ryan announced the pardon of three men who had been wrongfully convicted of murder and were later exonerated. Ryan granted the pardons to two of the state’s 13 death row exonerees, Rolando Cruz and Gary Gauger, and to Steven Linscott. Cruz and Gauger were among the cases of innocence that prompted Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions in the state. Ryan is currently considering clemency requests filed on behalf of more than 150 death row inmates in the state, and he is expected to act on the requests before leaving office in January. (Associated Press, December 19, 2002). See, Innocence and Clemency.

DPIC’s 2002 Year End Report Traces Year of Change in Capital Punishment
The Death Penalty Information Center has released its 2002 Year End Report. According to the report, the year 2002 saw further isolation in the use of the death penalty, the exoneration of the nation’s 100th death row inmate, key Supreme Court decisions restricting capital punishment, and a second state’s implementation of a moratorium on executions. In addition, the report notes that continued concerns about the fairness and accuracy of the capital punishment system have led governors, courts, and other officials to institute concrete reforms in 2002. See 2002 Year End Report and DPIC’s Press Release.

  • A mother visits her son on Texas’s Death Row (see books )
  • c. Ken Light

Other information:

Toward Greater Awareness: The American Bar Association Call for a Moratorium on Executions Gains Ground ” - A new report by the ABA’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities summarizes the legislative, judicial, and public policy developments that have occurred from January 2000 to July 2001.

“Death without Justice: A Guide for Examining the Administration of the Death Penalty in the United States” - a report by the ABA’s Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities that provides protocols for state commissions, legislatures and others considering the fairness of the death penalty.

“Mandatory Justice: Eighteen Reforms to the Death Penalty” - a report by the Constitution Project’s Death Penalty Initiative, a bipartisan committee of death penalty supporters and opponents, detailing specific recommendations that relate to various aspects of capital punishment.

“The Federal Death Penalty System: A Statistical Survey 1988-2000” by the Justice Department, released on September 12, 2000, found numerous racial and geographic disparities.

DPIC’s Summary of the Justice Department study , “The Federal Death Penalty System: A Statistical Survey 1988-2000,” finding numerous racial and geographic disparities.

The Federal Death Penalty System: Supplementary Data, Analysis and Revised Protocols for Capital Case Review ” A follow-up by the Justice Department, released in June 2001.

A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases ” - The Columbia Law School study by Professor James S. Liebman that found serious mistakes were made in 2/3 of all capital cases (June, 2000). DPIC’s Summary of the Columbia University study , “A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases,” with links to frequently asked questions about the study and Professor Liebman’s latest article on the subject. “A Broken System, Part II: Why There is So Much Error in Capital Cases, and What Can be Done About It ” - This follow up to the June 2000 report explains the factors that lead to errors in death penalty cases (February 2002). Questions and Answers regarding “A Broken System, Part II”


PollingReport.com. An Internet collection of recent death penalty poll results

DPIC Inside links New: Recent changes or proposed changes to state and federal death penalty law
New: “Press Room.”
New: Educational Curriculum on the Death Penalty .
“Death Row USA” - NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund’s list of all death row inmates
DPIC’s Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards
Recent Articles on the Death Penalty
New Voices
Recent Poll Findings
DPIC’s Summary of “Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution and Other Dispatches from the Wrongly Convicted,” by DNA experts Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld and columnist Jim Dwyer.
DPIC’s 2002 Year End Report