Death Penalty News and Developments for the Week of September 23 — September 292019

NEWS—September 26: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has declined to address the state constitutional challenge to the Commonwealth’s death penalty brought by two death-row prisoners. In a one-page per curiam order, the court denied the King’s Bench petitions filed by Russell Cox and Kevin Marinelli, which had asked the court to exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction to hear their challenge. The court ruled that “[d]iscrete review of properly presented claims will proceed in the individual cases, subject to the jurisdictional limits of the post-conviction courts.”

NEWS—September 26: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the conviction and death sentence imposed on Donnie Harris in the 2012 murder of his girlfriend by setting her on fire. The court also denied Harris’ claim that the destruction of physical evidence from the fire scene, the failure to record or transcribe the court hearing in which trial counsel agreed to the use of photographic evidence in lieu of the physical evidence, and incomplete transcripts of jury selection violated his right to meaningful appellate review based upon a complete record of the case.

NEWS—September 26, 2019: In response to a demand letter from a coalition of national and local civil rights organizations reporting “dangerous and injurious” conditions on Oklahoma’s death row, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has agreed to move all “qualifying death row inmates” out of the underground solitary confinement unit in which they are currently imprisoned. ODOC says it will relocate the prisoners to another unit at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester within 30 days. ODOC did not indicate what constitutes a “qualifying” death-row prisoner.