Studies News and Developments: 2001 - 1998

The latest edition of the Angolite, published by the inmates at the Louisiana state penitentiary, contains articles about the death penalty, including the cover story on a new movie, "Monsters Ball," which was filmed at Angola earlier this year and will star Sean "Puffy" Combs, Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, and Heath Ledger. (The Angolite, June/July/August 2001)

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has released two new publications: "In a Time of Broken Bones: A Call for Dialogue on Hate Violence and the Limitations of Hate Crimes" and "After September 11: Standing on the Brink of a 'Brave New World.'" For ordering information or free downloads of these publications, visit AFSC's Web site.

Virginia Commission Finds Death Penalty Applied Inconsistently
A study released by the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission found that the death penalty in Virginia is applied more often in rural and suburban jurisdictions than in urban ones, even when the underlying crimes are similar. The study, which examined 160 of the 215 capital punishment eligible cases from 1995-1999, found that the death penalty was sought 45% of the time in suburban districts, 34% of the time in rural districts, and only 16% of the time in urban areas. "Can the disparate outcomes which flow from the proper exercise of prosecutorial discretion be accepted in a system where the ultimate sanction is execution?" asked the Commission.
In addition, the study suggested that the Virginia Supreme Court was too narrow in deciding whether a death sentence was excessive or disproportionate. The Court has never found a case of excessive sentencing in the 119 cases that have come before it since 1977. (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/11/01) Read the study.

"No return to execution - The US death penalty as a barrier to extradition" - This report by Amnesty International examines the practice of foreign governments which refuse to extradite suspects to the U.S. without first obtaining assurances that the death penalty will not be sought or imposed. (Amnesty International, AMR 51/171/2001)

Illinois Group Urges Capital Punishment Reforms
The Illinois Death Penalty Education Project (IDPEP) has proposed 12 reform measures designed to create a more fair and equitable capital punishment system in Illinois. The Project, a non-partisan organization that promotes informed public dialogue about the death penalty, is urging the Illinois General Assembly to adopt the suggested measures. "These reforms address the most egregious problems in the administration of the state's death penalty laws," said Edwin Colfax, executive director of the IDPEP. The proposed reforms, developed by the Project in cooperation with the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University and the MacArthur Justice Center, include:

  • Excluding the death penalty and establishing life without parole as the maximum penalty when the sentencing jury is not unanimous, when a conviction depends on the testimony of a single eyewitness, when testimony against a defendant is given in exchange for special treatment, or when any juror harbors residual doubt about the guilt of the defendant
  • Requiring videotaping of interrogations of suspects
  • Permitting expert testimony concerning the fallibility of eyewitness testimony in capital cases
  • Requiring police to develop protocols for photo and live lineup identification procedures.

Retired U.S. District Court Judge George N. Leighton, a member of IDPEP's advisory board, said, "Most Illinoisans don't understand the very real risk that we will execute an innocent person. When they know the truth, they overwhelmingly support common-sense reforms like these." (Illinois Death Penalty Education Project Press Release, 11/18/01)

CQ Researcher on "Rethinking the Death Penalty"
The latest issue of Congressional Quarterly's CQ Researcher written by Kenneth Jost contains valuable information and analysis on the current death penalty debate, including reviews of recent studies of flaws in the system, public opinion, the innocence issue, the question of executing the mentally retarded, and an exchange of views regarding a moratorium on executions. (K. Jost, "Rethinking the Death Penalty," 11 CQ Researcher 945-968 (Nov. 16, 2001)).

Indiana Death Penalty Commission Prepares to Release Study - The Indiana Criminal Law Study Commission met recently to review the final draft of a year-long study on the state's death penalty. The draft report indicates that race of the victim plays a role in death penalty sentencing. The report included a cost analysis that indicates it costs the state 35-37% more to have the death penalty than it would if life without parole were the most severe punishment available. Governor Frank O'Bannon asked the Commission to review the state's death penalty system after innocent inmates were discovered and freed from death rows in other states. The final report is due to be released in December. (Indianapolis Star, 11/9/01)

"The Budgetary Repercussions of Capital Convictions" - released by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge in July, 2001. This paper exploits the large and unexpected negative shock to county budgets imposed by the presence of capital crime trials. For more information, visit http://www.nber.org/papers/w8382.

Indiana Newspapers Investigate State Death Penalty
Seven Indiana newspapers spent a year examining the fairness of the state's capital punishment system. Among the findings is that the decision to seek the death penalty is often arbitrary, depending on the personal views of the prosecutor and whether or not a county can afford a death penalty trial. Additional findings cited in the series include:

  • Two Indiana counties, Marion (Indianapolis) and Lake, have produced almost as many death sentences as all other counties combined. (South Bend Tribune, 10/21/01)
  • Since the death penalty was reinstated, at least 8 people who were facing the death penalty at trial were acquitted by the jury. In 2 other cases, defendants who did get the death penalty were just days away from being executed, but received a stay, and were later exonerated at re-trial. (Evansville Courier-Press, 10/23/01)
  • In one case (John Stephenson), taxpayers spent $760,000 for the defense at trial. In another case (Perry Miller), the costs of the defense were $12,000. Miller's case was recently overturned because of ineffective representation. (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 10/24/01)

Currently, a study commission, formed by Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon, is reviewing the state's capital punishment laws and trial procedures.

"The Truth About False Confessions and Advocacy Scholarship" - This article by Richard A. Leo and Richard J. Ofshe follows up on a previous article by the same authors which offered an estimate of how much influence a confession, whether true or false, exerts on the key decision makers in the criminal justice process. The current article serves as a response to Paul Cassell's criticism of the earlier article by the authors regarding their study of 60 wrongful conviction cases in which false confessions played a role. (37 Criminal Law Bulletin 293 (2001)) See also, law review articles.

Newsletter: The Spangenberg Report, September, 2001 - focuses on the latest legislative developments affecting indigent defense representation, with a particular emphasis on capital punishment changes. The issue also provides analysis of recent cases and information on studies from other organizations. For information, contact The Spangenberg Group, a research and consulting firm, at [email protected]

"Toward Greater Awareness: The American Bar Association Call for a Moratorium on Executions Gains Ground" - This new report issued by the American Bar Association's Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities summarizes the legislative, judicial, and public policy developments that have occurred from January 2000 to July 2001. This report is the third summary and assessment of moratorium related activity prepared by the section since the ABA's adoption of its death penalty moratorium resolution in February 1997. Read the 1997 resolution.

"Capital Punishment in New York State: Statistics from Eight Years of Representation" - this report by the New York Capital Defender Office provides statistics showing how the death penalty has been implemented in New York since its reinstatement in 1995. Among other statistics regarding race and geography, the report notes that although upstate counties experience approximately 19% of all homicides, they nonetheless account for 61% of all capital prosecutions. The report also states that 35% of all death notices were filed in 3 of the state's 62 counties. (NOTE: The above link is to the most recent version of the report, covering 1995-2003.)

"Dying Twice: Conditions on New York's Death Row" - released by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, it reports on the conditions of New York's death row at the Clinton Correctional facility.

"And then One Night: The Making of Dead Man Walking" - a new Web site for a PBS program on the death penalty and the recent San Francisco Opera production of "Dead Man Walking." The site offers a behind-the-scenes look at the launching of this provocative original opera and allows visitors to explore their own views on capital punishment. (KQED Public Broadcasting 9/17/01)

"Wrongfully Convicted: Learning from the mistakes that send innocent people to prison" - This Web site provides a database of wrongfully incarcerated people who have been arrested and/or convicted of a crime and later proven innocent. The database contains almost 300 people who were innocent, yet convicted of a crime - many of whom were sentenced to death. It contains case summaries and explanations of the errors that led to conviction. The site also explores DNA's implications in the justice system, and provides links for further study. [Please note that the criteria used for this database differs from that used in DPIC's "Innocence List."] (9/01)

The most recent edition of "The Angolite", the Prison News Magazine published at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, features a series of articles on the death penalty, including: "The Execution Train" and "Breaking the Death Grip" by Lane Nelson, and "The Ultimate Nightmare" by Prof. Norval Morris. (The Angolite, March/April/May 2001)

Nebraska Legislative Study Finds Wealth Influences Death Penalty Decisions - "The Disposition of Nebraska Capital and Non-Capital Homicide Cases,"- a study commissioned by the Nebraska legislature that found that death sentences are almost 5 times more likely when the victim in the underlying murder was well-to-do (high socio-economic status) than when the victim is poorer, even when similar crimes are compared. This result raises the prospect that the lives of the wealthy are counted as more valuable in the criminal justice system than the lives of the poor. The study also found that some of the cases could be classified as comparatively excessive, and the data suggests that death sentences are not limited to the most culpable offenders. In addition, the study found evidence of geographical disparities in seeking the death penalty. Prosecutors in urban counties were more likely to seek the death penalty than those in rural counties. This disparity was masked due to a reverse trend by Nebraska judges in handing down death sentences, with the urban judges handing down less death sentences. The study did not find racial bias in the application of Nebraska's death penalty, nor did it find that death sentences were disproportionate to the crimes committed. The study looked at over 700 homicide cases that resulted in a conviction between 1973 and 1999, though only 177 "death-eligible" homicides were closely examined. (Executive Summary: The Disposition of Nebraska Capital and Non-Capital Homicide Cases (1973-1999); A Legal and Empirical Analysis).

"A Time for Action - Protecting the Consular Rights of Foreign Nationals Facing the Death Penalty" - This new report by Amnesty International documents violations of consular rights in the U.S.'s administration of the death penalty. "The U.S. government would not allow one of its citizens to face trial and execution in a foreign country without knowledge of his or her rights and access to U.S. consular officials and translators," said Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. The report also describes the worldwide concern over violations of consular rights in U.S. death penalty cases. (Amnesty International Press Release, 7/21/01).

New Jersey Supreme Court Report Finds Race of Victim Bias in Death Penalty Cases - A report recently released by the New Jersey Supreme Court found that the state's death penalty is more likely to be sought against defendants who kill white victims. "There is unsettling statistical evidence indicating that cases involving killers of white victims are more likely to progress to a penalty phase than cases involving killers of African-American victims," the report states. Appellate Division Judge David S. Baime, who conducted the study, said that the findings that more capital cases are considered in white, suburban neighborhoods should be examined by the attorney general's office. (Asbury Park Press, 8/13/01) Read the report.

The ABA's Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities released, "Death without Justice:A Guide for Examining the Administration of the Death Penalty in the United States" which provides protocols for state commissions, legislatures and others considering the fairness of the death penalty. Although the ABA does not have a policy on the death penalty in general, it opposes the execution of juvenile offenders and those with mental retardation. In 1997, the ABA's policymaking body issued a resolution supporting a moratorium on all executions. (Reuters, 8/3/01) Read the 1997 resolution.

Arizona Death Penalty Commission Releases Recommendations - A commission appointed last year by Attorney General Janet Napolitano to study how capital punishment is administered in Arizona released an interim report of their findings. The commission, which includes prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, victim advocates, and others, reviewed 230 cases involving the death penalty and offered several suggestions for improving the state's capital punishment system, including:

  • Create a statewide public defender's office to represent defendants in death penalty cases.
  • Commute death sentences to the maximum prison sentence possible when a defendant is found mentally incompetent after a death warrant is issued.
  • Prohibit the execution of juvenile offenders and the mentally retarded.

The ban on executing the mentally retarded was signed into law earlier this year, and Napolitano said she backed most of the other recommendations, saying, "If the state wants to continue to have the death penalty, they better fund some of these things." (Associated Press, 8/4/01) Read the report.

The Disposition of Nebraska Capital and Non-Capital Homicide Cases (1973-1999); A Legal and Empirical Analysis. A study commissioned by the Nebraska legislature and released today (Aug. 1) found that death sentences are almost 4 times more likely when the victim in the underlying murder was well-to-do than when the victim is poorer, even when similar crimes are compared. This result raises the prospect that the lives of the wealthy are counted as more valuable in the criminal justice system than the lives of the poor. The study also found evidence of geographical disparities in seeking the death penalty. Prosecutors in rural counties were less likely to seek the death penalty than those in urban counties. This tendency was neutralized by a reverse trend by Nebraska judges in handing down death sentences. The study did not find racial bias in the application of Nebraska's death penalty, nor did it find that death sentences were disproportionate to the crimes committed. The study examined over 700 homicide cases that resulted in a conviction between 1973 and 1999. (Executive Summary: The Disposition of Nebraska Capital and Non-Capital Homicide Cases (1973-1999); A Legal and Empirical Analysis).

Mandatory Justice: Eighteen Reforms to the Death Penalty - The Constitution Project's Death Penalty Initiative, a bipartisan committee of death penalty supporters and opponents, released this report calling for reforms in the death penalty system. The report details specific recommendations that relate to various aspects of capital punishment. The recommendations include the need for adequate compensation, standards and training for defense attorneys; a halt to executing juveniles and the mentally retarded; the elimination of a judge's ability to sentence a defendant to death after a jury recommendation of life imprisonment; and a requirement that prosecutors open their files to defense counsel in capital cases. "Regardless of one's position on the death penalty, we all want to make sure the process is fair and that the right person is being punished," said committee member William Sessions, former federal judge and FBI director. "These recommendations are essential to that goal." Among those included on this blue ribbon committee are Beth Wilkinson, prosecutor in the Oklahoma City bombing trial; former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald Kogan; and Charles Baird, a former judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. (The Constitution Project, Press Release, 6/27/01).

In its most recent newsletter, EJI Legal Quarterly, the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama reported a number of developments in the state's death penalty debate:

  • Death row inmates Tommy Arthur and Chris Barbour were granted stays of execution by federal courts after the state Supreme Court ordered execution dates this fall for both men. Their dates were set despite the fact that they missed filing deadlines due to absence of counsel. Nearly 30 other death row inmates remain without counsel while their filing deadlines approach.
  • After six years on Alabama's death row, Gary Wayne Drinkard was released in May when a jury acquitted him of all charges in the killing of junkyard dealer Dalton Pace. Drinkard was awarded a new trial after the state Supreme Court found that evidence presented during the first trial was unfairly prejudicial. He is the third man to walk off of the state's death row in the last eight years having been found completely innocent of the charges against him.
  • Important legislative reforms concerning indigent appellate defense, judicial override, lethal injection and the wrongfully incarcerated were introduced during the 2001 Alabama legislative session. Of these measure, state lawmakers passed legislation that will provide compensation for wrongly convicted inmates.
  • The State Supreme Court expressed concern over the summary rejection of jury life verdicts in capital cases. In its March decision Ex parte Taylor, the court declared for the first time that a sentencing judge who overrides a jury sentencing decision "must state specific reasons for giving the jury's recommendation the consideration he gave it." (___ So. 2d ___, (Ala. Mar. 9, 2001))

(EJI Legal Quarterly, Spring 2001) See also, innocence and recent legislative changes.

Barry Scheck's Lecture Series, "Wrongful Convictions: Causes and Remedies." Produced in cooperation with the Innocence Network, this on-line CLE and resource program offers trial practice training by America's leading experts on topics such as DNA testing, mistaken eyewitness identification, and false confessions. The series features thirteen lectures documenting the myriad problems that have led to wrongful convictions of innocent people. The lectures were videotaped and are available in their entirety, supplemented with power point presentations and text. Each program is available on-line, on CD-ROM or on DVD. Although there is a cost to purchase the materials, up to 50% of the proceeds from the sale of the lectures will go to the non-profit Innocence Network.

A new report about volunteers and the death penalty by Amnesty International, "The Illusion of Control," found that since the death penalty was reinstated, 89 of the 707 executions (12.5%) carried out in the U.S. have been of those who dropped their appeals and volunteered to be executed. Amnesty states that the number of volunteers is increasing and about 2/3 of these "consensual" executions have been in the past 6 years, including 5 so far this year. Of the volunteers, more than 90% were white, although whites account for about 55% of all executions. The report cites several instances of volunteers who had histories of mental illness. (USA Today, 4/24/01) Read the full report and Amnesty International's Press Release.

"Mistaken and Perjured Eyewitness Identification Testimony in U.S. Capital Cases: An Analysis of Wrongful Convictions since restoration of the death penalty following Furman v. Georgia." This report from the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law analyzes the problem of eyewitness identifications as they relate to wrongful conviction cases. Among the report's findings:

  • Of the 86 legally exonerated persons, eyewitness testimony played a role in 53.5% of the wrongful convictions.
  • Eyewitness testimony was the only evidence against 38.4% of the defendants.
  • Only one eyewitness testified in 69.6% of the cases.

(Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University School of Law, May 2, 2001)

"Race and the Death Penalty in North Carolina An Empirical Analysis: 1993-1997" This study, the most comprehensive ever conducted on the death penalty in North Carolina, was released by researchers from the University of North Carolina. The study, based on data collected from court records of 502 murder cases from 1993 to 1997, found that race plays a significant role in who gets the death penalty. Prof. Jack Boger and Dr. Isaac Unah of the University of North Carolina found that defendants whose victims are white are 3.5 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those with non-white victims. "The odds are supposed to be zero that race plays a role," said Dr. Unah. "No matter how the data was analyzed, the race of the victim always emerged as an important factor in who received the death penalty." The study's findings will be presented to the North Carolina General Assembly which is currently considering moratorium bills in both the House and Senate. (Associated Press, 4/16/01 and Common Sense Foundation Press Release, 4/16/01) Read DPIC's Press Advisory.

"A Call for a Moratorium on Executions," by the Criminal Justice Section of the New York State Bar Association. The report was written to support a resolution asking the full State Bar to join the Section's call for a moratorium.

Newsletter: The Spangenberg Report, Feb. 2001 - offers the latest developments in standards and resources for indigent defense representation. For information, contact The Spangenberg Group at [email protected]

Service: Capital Punishment Investigations & Educational Services (CPIES) - This new non-profit agency is an association of experienced defense investigators, social workers, and others dedicated to raising the standard of investigations for death penalty cases. The agency's services will include investigation and consultation, education and training, and client family services in Texas. For more information, contact CPIES at 214-366-4830

The most comprehensive study ever done on the death penalty in Texas was released on October 16 by the Texas Defender Service. "A State of Denial: Texas Justice and the Death Penalty" found critical inadequacies in the state's death penalty system, citing such problems as 84 instances of police and prosecutorial misconduct, racial disparities in prosecution and sentencing, questionable psychiatric testimony, and the use of jail house snitches. The report found numerous examples of inadequate defense attorneys, some of whom slept or used drugs and alcohol throughout the trial, and it profiles cases in which an innocent person may have been executed.
One of the study's central findings is that the appeals process in Texas is too cursory. The study found that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals routinely denies remedy for inmates whose court-appointed lawyers performed inadequately. In addition, the report found that in 79% of the post-conviction cases studied, the judge never held a hearing on the inmate's constitutional claims and instead relied only on the documents submitted. "The big problem in Texas," said Jim Marcus, one the study's authors, "is that there is not really a stage in the system where we can be confident that these problems will be exposed and addressed." (New York Times, 10/16/00 and Texas Defender Service, "A State of Denial: Texas Justice and the Death Penalty, "Executive Summary). Read the Executive Summary.

The Federal Death Penalty System: A Statistical Survey (1988-200) A review of the federal death penalty by the Justice Department, released on September 12, 2000, found numerous racial and geographic disparities. The report revealed that 80% of the cases submitted by federal prosecutors for death penalty review in the past five years have involved racial minorities as defendants. In more than half of those cases, the defendant was African-American. Attorney General Janet Reno said she was "sorely troubled" by the results of the report and has ordered United States attorneys to help explain the racial and ethnic disparities.
The report also found that 40% of the 682 cases sent to the Justice Department for approval to seek the death penalty were filed by only five jurisdictions.
"I can't help but be both personally and professionally disturbed by the numbers that we discuss today," said Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. "[N]o one reading this report can help but be disturbed, troubled, by this disparity." Reno is expected to announce more studies of the administration of the federal death penalty. (New York Times, 9/12-13/00) See also, DPIC's summary of the report findings

A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases This comprehensive new study of the death penalty found that serious mistakes were made in 2/3 of all capital cases. The Columbia Law School study, "A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases," examined every capital conviction between 1973 and 1995 and found that the most common errors were incompetent defense attorneys and prosecutorial misconduct.Among the report's central findings:

  • 82% of those whose capital judgments were overturned due to serious error were given a sentence less than death on retrial, and 7% were found to be not guilty of the capital crime.
  • More than 90% of the states that administer death sentences have overall error rates of 52% or higher. 85% have error rates of 60% or higher.
  • 5% of the 5,760 inmates sentenced to death nationwide between 1973 and 1995 were executed within the study period.

Professor James S. Liebman, who conducted the study, stated, "American capital sentences are persistently and systematically fraught with serious error. Indeed, capital trials produce so many mistakes that it takes three judicial inspections to catch them, leaving grave doubt whether we do catch them all." (Press Release, 6/12/00) See also, DPIC's summary of the report findings with links to frequently asked questions about the study and the author's latest article on the subject.

"Reasonable Doubts: Is the U.S. Executing Innocent People?" (October 26, 2000). This preliminary report of the Grassroots Investigation Project of Equal Justice USA highlights the cases of 16 individuals who were executed despite evidence of their innocence. The report focuses on the inadequacies in the justice system that led to their executions, including ineffective counsel, police and prosecutorial misconduct, racial bias, and failure of the courts to intervene in cases with compelling evidence of innocence.

"Sentenced to Death: A Report on Washington Supreme Court Rulings in Capital Cases" (August 2000). After the released of the Columbia University study earlier this year, the ACLU of Washington analyzed court rulings in the 25 Washington cases in which the death penalty has been imposed under the current death penalty statute. The study concluded that fundamental errors in capital cases were ignored routinely by the Washington Supreme Court and only received relief because of federal review.

"Muting Gideon's Trumpet: The Crisis in Indigent Criminal Defense in Texas: A report received by the State Bar of Texas from the Committee on Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal Matters" (September 22, 2000). This report by the State's Bar Committee offers a collective assessment of the status of indigent defense in Texas and concludes that the system is in need of serious reform. The Committee found that indigent criminal representation , including death penalty cases, is politicized and ineffective, and provides a different standard of justice when compared to those who can afford their own attorneys.

"The Death Penalty in Texas: Due Process and Equal Justice...or Rush to Execution?" The Seventh Annual Report on the State of Human Rights in Texas, by the Texas Civil Rights Project, presents an overview of the capital punishment system in Texas, and calls for a moratorium on executions while the system is reviewed.

"Presidential Candidates Views on the Death Penalty," by Richard C. Dieter, was recently published in the Cranbrook Peace Foundation's Newsletter. The article examines the events of the past few years and how they have forced candidates to define and refine their views on capital punishment.

Friends Committee on National Legislation's "Death Penalty Information Packet" provides an introductory look at death penalty issues. The packet examines the history of the abolition movement, death penalty legislation and other legal issues, arguments for and against the death penalty, and religious perspectives on the death penalty. (The publication is available in PDF format at http://www.fcnl.org).

"United States of America: Worlds Apart. Violations of the Rights of Foreign Nationals on Death Row." This new report by Amnesty International details the cases of 10 European citizens, from countries such as France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, who are currently on death row in the U.S. "In a clear breach of international law, none of these people were informed upon arrest of their right to consular assistance," Amnesty International said. "In many of these cases, timely consular intervention could have meant the difference between life and death." (Amnesty International, Press Release, 7/18/00) See also, foreign nationals.

"United States of America: Failing the Future: Death Penalty Developments, March 1998 - March 2000" The latest in a series of "U.S. Death Penalty Developments" reports by Amnesty International, this edition examines international reactions to U.S. violations of human rights treaties, and highlights such death penalty issues as politicization, racism, clemency, innocence, and recent moratorium efforts. (Amnesty International, AI Index: AMR 51/03/00, April 2000)

"Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American Criminal Justice System" This report by Ronald H. Weich and Carlos T. Angulo was issued by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund on May 3, 2000. It examines the unequal treatment of minorities as compared to their similarly situated white counterparts within the criminal justice system. The report addresses racial profiling, prosecutorial discretion (including death penalty cases), and the disproportionately harsh treatment of minorities in the juvenile justice system. The report also offers policy recommendations to eradicate racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

"Unequal, Unfair, and Irreversible: The Death Penalty in Virginia" - This new report, published by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, examines four key aspects of the administration of capital punishment in Virginia: race, prosecutorial discretion in the charging of capital crimes, quality of legal representation for the accused, and appellate review of trials resulting in the death penalty. The report's principal findings are:

  • race is a controlling factor in the way the death penalty is administered in Virginia
  • trial attorneys appointed to represent those on Virginia's death row are six times more likely to be the subject of bar disciplinary proceedings than are other lawyers
  • the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has granted relief in only one of 131 capital cases between 1978-1997.

The report is available from the ACLU of Virginia by calling (804) 644-8080.

The National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence, created at the request of Attorney General Janet Reno, issued Postconviction DNA Testing: Recommendations for Handling Requests. The report can be obtained by visiting http://www.exedeprovider.com/, or by calling 1-800-851-3450

A new videotape entitled "Wrongly Convicted - How the Innocent are Sent to Death Row - A Definitive Symposium," is now available from the Michigan Committee Against Capital Punishment. The video features the stories of three men condemned but innocent and later released: Joseph "Shabaka" Brown of Maryland, Buzz Fay of Ohio and Gary Gauger of Illinois, together with internationally recognized experts Dr. Michael L. Radelet of the University of Florida and Prof. Samuel Gross of the University of Michigan Law School. The video records the symposium co-sponsored by the Michigan Coalition Against the Death penalty and the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice. It is available from the Michigan Committee Against Capital Punishment, 1735 Abington Place, Lansing, MI 48910 (telephone 517-484-4165), for a contribution of $20 to help cover costs. (Running time 2 hours 6 minutes.)

 

Hands off Cain has released "Towards Abolition, The Law and Politics of the Death Penalty, 1998 Report" covering the status of the death penalty throughout the world. The report provides information about each country including the country's legal and governmental system, position on various international agreements on human rights, significant political developments in 1998 and figures on the number death sentences, death row inmates and executions in each country retaining the death penalty.

Report on Alabama's Indigent Defense System - This report, released in April by Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, provides detailed information on the crisis of the state's indigent capital defense system. The report discusses the inadequate funding and compensation allotted to attorneys appointed in capital cases, particularly when contrasted with that provided to the prosecution. The report also provides possible solutions to alleviate the crisis. This report may be obtained for $5.00 by calling EJI at (334) 269-1803.

"The Costs of Processing Murder Cases in North Carolina" - This report is the most comprehensive study in the country on the costs of the death penalty. The report found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the costs of a non-death penalty murder case with a sentence of imprisonment for life (Duke University, May 1993.) On a national basis, these figures translate to an extra cost of over $1 billion dollars spent since 1976 on the death penalty.