Entries tagged with “Future dangerousness

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Race

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Representation

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Dec 31, 2000

A State of Denial: Texas Justice and the Death Penalty

The nation is embroiled in a debate over the death penal­ty. Each day brings fresh accounts of racial bias, incom­pe­tent coun­sel, and mis­con­duct com­mit­ted by police offi­cers or pros­e­cu­tors in cap­i­tal cas­es. The pub­lic increas­ing­ly ques­tions whether the ulti­mate penal­ty can be admin­is­tered fair­ly — free from the taint of racism; free from the dis­grace of coun­sel sleep­ing through a clien­t’s tri­al; free from the risk of exe­cut­ing an inno­cent per­son. Support for the death penal­ty is falling, and across the coun­try, momen­tum gath­ers for a mora­to­ri­um. Even death penalty…

Facts & Research

Recent Legislative Activity

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May 28, 2019

Amended Bill to Limit Oregon’s Death Penalty Easily Passes State Senate

An amend­ed bill to nar­row the cir­cum­stances in which the death penal­ty may be imposed in Oregon has eas­i­ly passed the state sen­ate. On May 21, 2019, by a vote of 18 – 9, the Oregon Senate passed SB 1013, which would lim­it the state’s use of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment to three aggra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances and elim­i­nate spec­u­la­tion about a defendant’s future dan­ger­ous­ness from a jury’s cap­i­tal sen­tenc­ing delib­er­a­tions. The bill would allow pros­e­cu­tors to pur­sue the death penal­ty for only three crimes: acts of ter­ror­ism in which at least two peo­ple are killed,…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Dec 26, 2019

Billy Joe Wardlow Faces Execution in Texas Based on False Evidence of Future Dangerousness

Billy Joe Wardlow (pic­tured) was 18 years old, when he killed 82-year-old Carl Cole dur­ing a botched attempt to steal Cole’s car so that Wardlow and his girl­friend could pur­sue their fan­ta­sy of run­ning away from their abu­sive homes in Carson, Texas to start a new life in Montana. Wardlow, who had no pri­or his­to­ry of vio­lence, has regret­ted his action ever since. In the cov­er sto­ry for the Winter 2020 issue of the mag­a­zine The American Scholar, Wardlow told vet­er­an jour­nal­ist and legal com­men­ta­tor Lincoln Caplan, it was really,…

Aug 20, 2004

Broad Spectrum of Citizens Seeks Clemency in Upcoming Texas Execution

A broad spec­trum of the pub­lic is seek­ing clemen­cy for Texas death row inmate James Allridge, who is sched­uled to be exe­cut­ed on Thursday, August 26th. Among those point­ing to Allridge’s reha­bil­i­ta­tion as the basis for mer­cy are four of the orig­i­nal jurors in his tri­al, two for­mer death row prison guards, a retired prison sys­tem admin­is­tra­tor, a Fort Worth city coun­cil­man, one of Allridge’s for­mer employ­ers, and mur­der vic­tims’ fam­i­ly mem­bers. The sup­port­ers state that since Aldridge arrived on death row in 1987, his remorse for the mur­der of…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Mental Illness

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Representation

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Native Americans

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May 03, 2021

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of April 262021

NEWS (4/​29/​21) — Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has vacat­ed the con­vic­tions and death sen­tences of two more death-row pris­on­ers who, the court found, had com­mit­ted their offens­es against Native Americans on trib­al lands. Applying the U.S. Supreme Court’s land­mark trib­al sov­er­eign­ty rul­ing in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the court found that the mur­ders for which Benjamin Robert Cole Sr. and James Chandler Ryder had been con­vict­ed occurred in Indian coun­try” with­in the his­tor­i­cal bound­aries of the Cherokee Nation reser­va­tion and that the vic­tims were enrolled mem­bers of the Cherokee tribe.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Intellectual Disability

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Representation

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Sentencing Alternatives

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Jun 07, 2021

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of May 312021

NEWS (6/​4/​21) — Arizona: The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2016 deci­sion in Lynch v. Arizona, which struck down the state’s uncon­sti­tu­tion­al refusal to instruct cap­i­tal-sen­tenc­ing juries that defen­dants who are sen­tenced to life are not eli­gi­ble for parole, does not pro­vide grounds for a death-row pris­on­er to seek new state-court review of that issue.

Policy Issues

Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Feb 11, 2019

Death-Row Prisoners Ask Supreme Court to Review Georgia, Oklahoma Verdicts Involving Racist Jurors

Georgia death-row pris­on­er Keith Tharpe (pic­tured, left) and Oklahoma death-row pris­on­er Julius Jones (pic­tured, right) are ask­ing the U.S. Supreme Court to grant them new tri­als after evi­dence showed that white jurors who described the defen­dants with racist slurs par­tic­i­pat­ed in decid­ing their cas­es. The involve­ment of the racist jurors, the pris­on­ers say, vio­lat­ed their Sixth Amendment rights to impar­tial juries. A juror in Tharpe’s tri­al gave a sworn affi­davit years after vot­ing to con­vict Tharpe, in which he won­dered if black peo­ple even have souls,” and said, there are…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Clemency

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New Voices

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Aug 19, 2016

Diverse Range of Voices Call for Sparing Jeff Wood, Who Never Killed Anyone, from Execution in Texas

As his August 24 exe­cu­tion date approach­es, Jeffrey Woods case has gar­nered mount­ing atten­tion from groups and indi­vid­u­als call­ing on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott to com­mute Wood’s sen­tence. These diverse voic­es include a con­ser­v­a­tive Texas state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, a group of evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers, and the edi­to­r­i­al boards of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and sev­er­al Texas news­pa­pers, among others.

Policy Issues

Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Jun 09, 2017

Duane Buck’s Lawyer Discusses How Future Dangerousness Taints Texas Death Penalty System

Thirty years ago, film­mak­er Errol Morris, who direct­ed the doc­u­men­tary The Thin Blue Line,” helped to exon­er­ate Texas death-row pris­on­er Dale Adams, false­ly accused of mur­der­ing a police offi­cer. During the course of mak­ing the film, Morris met the noto­ri­ous Texas pros­e­cu­tion psy­chi­a­trist, Dr. James Grigson, who rou­tine­ly tes­ti­fied that cap­i­tal defen­dants — includ­ing the inno­cent Mr. Adams — posed a risk of future dangerousness.

Jun 17, 2004

EDITORIALS: Dallas Morning News Says Texas’ Statute is Wrong and Should Not Stand”

A recent Dallas Morning News edi­to­r­i­al decried the use of expert wit­ness­es who claim to have the abil­i­ty to pre­dict future dan­ger­ous­ness, a deter­mi­na­tion that jurors in Texas heav­i­ly rely on in sen­tenc­ing peo­ple to death. The edi­to­r­i­al states: In Texas, we exe­cute crim­i­nals not for what they did, but for what they might do. Convicted mur­der­er David Harris has a date with the exe­cu­tion­er June 30 for hav­ing killed a man in a Beaumont gun­fight. But that’s not enough to get Mr. Harris, or any Texas mur­der­er, a death…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Sentencing Data

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Oct 21, 2010

Expert Who Predicted Future Dangerousness” in Texas Death Cases Ruled Unreliable

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recent­ly held that the method­ol­o­gy used by Dr. Richard Coons to pre­dict the future dan­ger­ous­ness” of cap­i­tal defen­dants was unre­li­able. Whether a con­vict­ed defen­dant would be a future dan­ger to soci­ety is a cru­cial ques­tion for juries in Texas in choos­ing between a life or death sen­tence. Dr. Coons has tes­ti­fied in over 150 death penal­ty tri­als across the state. He admit­ted in a recent hear­ing that he had devel­oped his own method­ol­o­gy for assess­ing future dan­ger­ous­ness, one in which he con­sid­ers the defendant’s…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

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Dec 08, 2016

Experts Say Texas’ Future Dangerousness Concept Is Based on Junk Science

Since 1973, juries in Texas have had to deter­mine whether a defen­dant presents a future dan­ger to soci­ety before impos­ing a death sen­tence. But while they have found that each of the 244 men and women cur­rent­ly on the state’s death row pos­es a con­tin­u­ing threat to soci­ety,” experts argue that juries can­not accu­rate­ly pre­dict a defen­dan­t’s future.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

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Aug 27, 2015

Federal Court Rejects Duane Buck Racial Bias Appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reject­ed an appeal in the case of Texas death row inmate Duane Buck, who argued that his tri­al was taint­ed by inef­fec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion and racial bias when Buck’s own men­tal health expert tes­ti­fied that he could be a future dan­ger to soci­ety because he is black.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Aug 31, 2009

INNOCENCE: Trial by Fire: Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?”

In a thor­ough and pen­e­trat­ing arti­cle pub­lished in The New Yorker on August 31, David Grann offers fur­ther evi­dence that Texas prob­a­bly exe­cut­ed an inno­cent man in 2004. Grann care­ful­ly exam­ines all the evi­dence that was used in the two-day tri­al in 1992 to con­vict Cameron Todd Willingham of mur­der by arson of his three young chil­dren. It is now well estab­lished through a series of inves­ti­ga­tions by oth­er fire experts that the foren­sic evi­dence of arson pre­sent­ed at tri­al had no sci­en­tif­ic basis and should not have led to…

Facts & Research

Crimes Punishable by Death

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Sep 14, 2016

Jeffrey Wood and the Texas Law of Parties

Today, DPIC launch­es a new pod­cast series, Discussions With DPIC,” which will fea­ture month­ly, unscript­ed con­ver­sa­tions with death penal­ty experts on a wide vari­ety of top­ics. The inau­gur­al episode fea­tures a con­ver­sa­tion between Texas Defender Services staff attor­ney Kate Black and DPIC host Anne Holsinger, who dis­cuss the case of Jeffrey Wood and Texas’ unusu­al legal doc­trine known as the law of par­ties.” Wood’s case gar­nered nation­al media atten­tion because he was sen­tenced to death despite hav­ing nei­ther killed any­one nor even intend­ed that a killing take place. His execution,…

Policy Issues

Juveniles

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Race

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Clemency

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Upcoming Executions

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Federal Death Penalty

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Dec 08, 2020

Jurors and Appellate Prosecutor Say Teen Offender Brandon Bernard Should Not be Executed

As the December 10, 2020 exe­cu­tion date of fed­er­al death-row pris­on­er Brandon Bernard (pic­tured with his fam­i­ly) approached, jurors and a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor in his case came for­ward say­ing that the teen offender’s life should be spared. Bernard, who was 18 years old at the time of the offense, became the youngest offend­er exe­cut­ed by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in at least 68 years.

Policy Issues

Intellectual Disability

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Mental Illness

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Sentencing Data

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Executions Overview

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Oct 08, 2018

Law Review: Junk Mental Health Science and the Texas Death Penalty

Junk sci­ence is enabling and per­pet­u­at­ing grave mis­car­riages of jus­tice” in Texas death-penal­ty cas­es. So con­cludes Professor James Acker in his arti­cle, Snake Oil With A Bite: The Lethal Veneer of Science and Texas’s Death Penalty, pub­lished in the lat­est issue of the Albany Law Review. Acker’s arti­cle high­lights the height­ened risks of injus­tice from pseu­do-sci­ence and junk sci­ence in cap­i­tal cas­es in Texas, one of the few states that con­di­tions death eli­gi­bil­i­ty upon a find­ing of the defendant’s future dan­ger­ous­ness. Acker writes that, at vir­tu­al­ly every … stage of…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Mar 09, 2017

LAW REVIEWS: Predictions of Future Dangerousness Contribute to Arbitrary Sentencing Decisions

In a new arti­cle for the Lewis & Clark Law Review, author Carla Edmondson argues that the future dan­ger­ous­ness inquiry that is implic­it in cap­i­tal setenc­ing deter­mi­na­tions is a fun­da­men­tal­ly flawed ques­tion that leads to arbi­trary and capri­cious death sen­tences” and because of the per­sis­tent influ­ence of future dan­ger­ous­ness … ren­ders the death penal­ty incom­pat­i­ble with the pro­hi­bi­tions of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments on cru­el and unusu­al punishment.”

Policy Issues

Juveniles

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United States Supreme Court

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Jun 23, 2020

Neuroscience Experts: Brain Science Shows Texas’ Use of Future Dangerousness to Sentence Those Under 21 to Death is Unreliable, Unconstitutional

Three pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions and eight prac­ti­tion­ers in the fields of neu­ro­science and neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy have joined a Texas death-row pris­on­er in chal­leng­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of the state’s use of future dan­ger­ous­ness” find­ings to impose the death penal­ty on defen­dants who were younger than age 21 at the time of their offense. Their brief, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on June 19, 2020, argues based on “[t]he great weight of sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence” that pre­dic­tions of whether an offend­er under age 21 will be a future dan­ger to soci­ety are inher­ent­ly unreliable”…

Policy Issues

Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Jun 28, 2017

New Podcast: Duane Buck’s Appeal Lawyer Tells Story of His Case, Discusses Future Dangerousness and Racial Bias

In DPIC’s lat­est pod­cast, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Litigation Director Christina Swarns (pic­tured, cen­ter, out­side the U.S. Supreme Court fol­low­ing the argu­ment in Buck v. Davis) dis­cuss­es the issues of race, future dan­ger­ous­ness, and inef­fec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion pre­sent­ed in the land­mark case. She calls the case — in which a Texas tri­al lawyer who rep­re­sent­ed 21 clients sent to death row pre­sent­ed an expert wit­ness who tes­ti­fied that his own client was more like­ly to com­mit future acts of vio­lence because he is black — aston­ish­ing” and a com­plete fail­ure, lit­er­al­ly, of all…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Crimes Punishable by Death

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Sep 14, 2016

New Podcast: Jeffery Wood and the Texas Law of Parties, With Expert Guest Kate Black

Today, DPIC launch­es a new pod­cast series, Discussions With DPIC,” which will fea­ture month­ly, unscript­ed con­ver­sa­tions with death penal­ty experts on a wide vari­ety of top­ics. The inau­gur­al episode fea­tures a con­ver­sa­tion between Texas Defender Services staff attor­ney Kate Black (pic­tured) and DPIC host Anne Holsinger, who dis­cuss the case of Jeffery Wood and Texas’ unusu­al legal doc­trine known as the law of parties.”

Mar 31, 2004

New Study from Texas Defender Service

NEW STUDY BY TEXAS DEFENDER SERVICE Read Deadly Speculation — Misleading Texas Capital Juries with False Predictions of Future Dangerousness (PDF), a new report from the Texas Defender Service about the unre­li­a­bil­i­ty of future dan­ger­ous­ness pre­dic­tions in Texas death penal­ty cas­es. Such spec­u­la­tive tes­ti­mo­ny is the key fac­tor in who receives the death penal­ty in Texas. Among those pre­dict­ed to be a future dan­ger was Randall Dale Adams, who was lat­er found inno­cent and freed from death row.

Mar 31, 2004

New Study Points to Unreliability of Future Dangerousness Predictions in Texas

A new study con­duct­ed by the Texas Defender Service and Professor John Edens of Sam Houston State University found that state pre­dic­tions of the future dan­ger­ous­ness of cap­i­tal defen­dants were gross­ly inac­cu­rate. The review exam­ined the cas­es of 155 inmates in which pros­e­cu­tion expert wit­ness­es had pre­dict­ed the inmate would be a future dan­ger to soci­ety and in which the state asked for the death penal­ty. However, only 8 (5%) of these inmates lat­er engaged in any seri­ous­ly assaultive behav­ior result­ing in an injury requir­ing treat­ment of more than first-aid.…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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New Voices

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Dec 28, 2011

NEW VOICES: Texas Judge Rules State Death Penalty Unconstitutional

On December 19, Dallas District Court Judge Teresa Hawthorne held that Texass death penal­ty was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al because it could lead to death sen­tences that were arbi­trar­i­ly sought and obtained. In rul­ing in favor of a defense motion, Judge Hawthorne acknowl­edged that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and oth­er courts have upheld the statute, but judges still have the oblig­a­tion to review the law based on its cur­rent prac­tice. The judge found parts of Texas’s statute regard­ing find­ings of future dan­ger­ous­ness and the def­i­n­i­tion of mit­i­gat­ing evi­dence to be vague…

Executions

Time on Death Row

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Apr 22, 2022

One Execution, One Reprieve: Scheduled Executions of Oldest Death-Row Prisoners in Texas and Tennessee Illustrate Aging of Death Row

In a coin­ci­dence that brought atten­tion to the aging of death row across the United States, the old­est death-row pris­on­ers in Tennessee and Texas faced exe­cu­tion in their respec­tive states on April 21, 2022. After the U.S. Supreme Court denied stays of exe­cu­tion for both pris­on­ers, their cas­es took dif­fer­ent paths.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Sep 02, 2011

Only Texas Inmate Not Resentenced After Admittedly Racially Biased Testimony Faces Execution

Texas inmate Duane Buck (pic­tured) is one of sev­en death row inmates whose death sen­tences were taint­ed by improp­er racial tes­ti­mo­ny pre­sent­ed at their tri­als. In 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn (now Senator) con­fessed the state’s error to the U.S. Supreme Court, not­ing that sev­en cas­es had been taint­ed by improp­er pros­e­cu­tion tes­ti­mo­ny. It is inap­pro­pri­ate to allow race to be con­sid­ered as a fac­tor in our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” Cornyn said. The peo­ple of Texas want and deserve a sys­tem that affords the same fair­ness to every­one.” Six…

Policy Issues

Race

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Mar 14, 2013

RACE: New Study Shows Racial Bias in Seeking the Death Penalty in Harris County

A new study regard­ing the use of the death penal­ty in Harris County, Texas, was released in con­junc­tion with the fil­ing of an appeal by Harris County death row inmate, Duane Buck. The research was con­duct­ed by Professor Raymond Paternoster of the University of Maryland, who exam­ined over 500 mur­der cas­es in the coun­ty. The study found that, in cas­es with cir­cum­stances sim­i­lar to Buck’s and dur­ing the time in which he was tried, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office sought the death penal­ty 3.5 times more often when the…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Mental Illness

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Apr 02, 2020

STUDIES — Junk Psychological Science Continues to Infect Death-Penalty Determinations

Courts are fail­ing bad­ly in keep­ing junk psy­cho­log­i­cal sci­ence out of the court­room in crim­i­nal cas­es, per­mit­ting the admis­sion of psy­cho­log­i­cal tests that have nev­er been reviewed for reli­a­bil­i­ty and oth­ers that have been found unre­li­able, a recent study reports. Among the prob­lem­at­ic tests, anoth­er group of psy­chol­o­gists write, is a psy­chopa­thy check­list” com­mon­ly used by pros­e­cu­tors to argue that a defen­dant pos­es a future dan­ger to soci­ety and should be sen­tenced to death.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Intellectual Disability

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Mental Illness

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Sep 18, 2013

STUDIES: ABA Criticizes Texas Death Penalty in Latest Report

On September 18, the American Bar Associations Death Penalty Due Process Review Project released its lat­est report, focus­ing on the fair­ness and accu­ra­cy of Texass death penal­ty sys­tem. The report found: In many areas, Texas appears out of step with bet­ter prac­tices imple­ment­ed in oth­er cap­i­tal juris­dic­tions, fails to rely upon sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly reli­able meth­ods and process­es in the admin­is­tra­tion of the death penal­ty, and pro­vides the pub­lic with inad­e­quate infor­ma­tion to under­stand and eval­u­ate cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in the state.” (Exec. Sum.) The assess­ment made sev­er­al rec­om­men­da­tions to help pre­vent wrongful…

Policy Issues

Race

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Representation

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United States Supreme Court

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Feb 22, 2017

Supreme Court Grants Relief to Duane Buck in Texas Racial Bias Death Penalty Case

Saying that the law pun­ish­es peo­ple for what they do, not who they are,” the Supreme Court on February 22, 2017, grant­ed relief to Duane Buck (pic­tured, right), a Texas death-row pris­on­er who was sen­tenced to death after his own lawyer pre­sent­ed tes­ti­mo­ny from a psy­chol­o­gist who told the jury Buck was more like­ly to com­mit future acts of vio­lence because he is black. Writing for the six-Justice major­i­ty, Chief Justice Roberts (pic­tured, left) said that “[d]ispensing pun­ish­ment on the basis of an immutable char­ac­ter­is­tic flat­ly con­tra­venes this guid­ing principle.”

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Mar 19, 2019

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Georgia Death-Penalty Case Involving Racist Juror

For the sec­ond time in just over one month, the United States Supreme Court has cleared the way for the exe­cu­tion of an African-American pris­on­er in the face of strong evi­dence of racial or reli­gious bias. On March 18, 2019, the Court unan­i­mous­ly declined to hear an appeal from Georgia death-row pris­on­er Keith Tharpe (pic­tured), who argued his death sen­tence was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly taint­ed by the par­tic­i­pa­tion of racist white juror who called him a ni***er” and ques­tioned if black peo­ple even have souls.” That juror, Barney Gattie, signed an affidavit…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

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Apr 15, 2016

Supreme Court to Consider Hearing Texas Capital Case Where Expert Said Defendant Posed Greater Danger Because He Was Black

UPDATE: The Supreme Court dock­et indi­cates that its con­fer­enc­ing of Mr. Buck’s case, orig­i­nal­ly set for April 22, has been resched­uled. The Court is now sched­uled to con­sid­er­ing the case on April 29. PREVIOUSLY: On April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court is sched­uled to con­fer on whether to review the case of Duane Buck (pic­tured), who was sen­tenced to death in Harris County, Texas after a psy­chol­o­gist tes­ti­fied that he posed an increased risk of future dan­ger­ous­ness because he is black. In the case, the defense pre­sent­ed psy­chol­o­gist, Walter Quijano,…

Policy Issues

Intellectual Disability

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Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Jun 06, 2016

Supreme Court To Hear Texas Death Penalty Cases Dealing with Racial Bias, Intellectual Disability

On June 6, the U.S. Supreme Court grant­ed writs of cer­tio­rari in two Texas death penal­ty cas­es, and will review the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of those death sen­tences dur­ing its next term. The two cas­es are Buck v. Stephens, in which Duane Buck was sen­tenced to death after a psy­chol­o­gist tes­ti­fied at his penal­ty tri­al that the fact that Buck is African-American increas­es the like­li­hood that he presents a future dan­ger to soci­ety; and Moore v. Texas, a chal­lenge to Texas’ unsci­en­tif­ic test for deter­min­ing whether a defen­dant is intel­lec­tu­al­ly dis­abled and…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

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Nov 20, 2013

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Denies New Hearing for Duane Buck

In a 6 – 3 deci­sion on November 20, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied a request from death row inmate Duane Buck for a new sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, despite the fact that racial­ly prej­u­di­cial state­ments had been made dur­ing his tri­al. While the jury was being asked to con­sid­er if Buck would be a future dan­ger to soci­ety, a psy­chol­o­gist tes­ti­fied that African Americans com­mit a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of crim­i­nal offens­es. Buck’s case was one of sev­en iden­ti­fied in 2000 by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn in which tes­ti­mo­ny link­ing race…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Clemency

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Nov 27, 2018

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Upholds Death Sentence Based on False Psychiatric Testimony

For the sec­ond time in less than six months, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) has upheld a death sen­tence that the tri­al court, lawyers for the pros­e­cu­tion and defense, and men­tal health experts all agree should not be car­ried out. On November 21, 2018, in an unpub­lished and unsigned opin­ion that mis­spelled death-row pris­on­er Jeffery Woods name, the court reject­ed a rec­om­men­da­tion by the Kerr County District Court to over­turn Wood’s death sen­tence and grant him a new sen­tenc­ing tri­al. The tri­al court had found that Wood’s death…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Clemency

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Dec 08, 2017

Texas District Attorney Asks State to Spare Life of Man She Prosecuted Under Controversial Law of Parties”

The Texas pros­e­cu­tor who sought and obtained the death penal­ty almost 20 years ago against Jeffery Wood (pic­tured), a man who nev­er killed any­one, has now asked that his sen­tence be reduced to life in prison. In a let­ter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole, sent in August and obtained December 7 by the Texas Tribune, Kerr County District Attorney Lucy Wilke asked the board to rec­om­mend that Governor Greg Abbott grant Wood clemen­cy and com­mute his sen­tence to life in prison. In 1998, Wilke — then an assis­tant district…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Feb 28, 2019

Texas Plans to Execute Prisoner Whose Death Sentence Was Influenced by False and Unreliable Testimony

Texas is sched­uled to exe­cute Billie Wayne Coble (pic­tured) on February 28, 2019, despite court find­ings that two expert wit­ness­es who tes­ti­fied for the pros­e­cu­tion gave prob­lem­at­ic” and fab­ri­cat­ed” tes­ti­mo­ny at his tri­al. Coble was sen­tenced to death in 1990 and resen­tenced in 2008 after his orig­i­nal sen­tence was over­turned as a result of con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly defi­cient jury instruc­tions. At his resen­tenc­ing, the issue of future dan­ger­ous­ness pre­sent­ed a seri­ous prob­lem for pros­e­cu­tors. Under Texas law, a cap­i­tal jury is required to find that a defen­dant presents a con­tin­u­ing threat to…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

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Sentencing Data

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Feb 11, 2016

Texas Prisoner Seeks Supreme Court Review of Death Sentence Tainted By Racial Bias

Duane Buck, who was sen­tenced to death after a defense expert wit­ness tes­ti­fied that Buck could pose a future dan­ger to soci­ety because he is black, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to grant him a new sen­tenc­ing hear­ing because of his lawyer’s inef­fec­tive­ness. Buck is one of six defen­dants whose Texas cap­i­tal tri­als were iden­ti­fied by a Texas Attorney General’s report as hav­ing been taint­ed by race-based tes­ti­mo­ny by psy­chol­o­gist, Dr. Walter Quijano. The oth­er five were grant­ed new sen­tenc­ing hear­ings after the Texas Attorney General agreed that the…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Aug 04, 2016

Texas Prisoner Who Did Not Kill Anyone Challenges Execution, Use of False Psychiatrist Testimony to Condemn Him to Die

Lawyers for Jeffery Wood (pic­tured), a Texas death row pris­on­er who is sched­uled to be exe­cut­ed August 24 despite undis­put­ed evi­dence that he has nev­er killed any­one, have filed a new peti­tion in state court chal­leng­ing his death sen­tence on mul­ti­ple grounds. They argue that Wood can­not be sub­ject to the death penal­ty because he nei­ther killed nor intend­ed for any­one to be killed and was not even aware the rob­bery in which a code­fen­dant killed a store clerk was going to occur. They also chal­lenge his death sen­tence on…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Jun 16, 2004

Texas Relies on Junk Science” in Choosing Who Will Be Sentenced to Death

Texas plans to exe­cute David Harris on June 30th on the basis of a pre­dic­tion in 1986 that he would be a future dan­ger even if sen­tenced to life in prison. Dr. Edward Gripon tes­ti­fied that Harris posed a sub­stan­tial risk of com­mit­ting fur­ther vio­lent acts, even though Gripon had nev­er met or exam­ined Harris. During his near­ly two decades on death row, Harris has had only minor infrac­tions, such as hav­ing too many postage stamps or hang­ing a clothes­line in his cell.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Upcoming Executions

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Dec 10, 2019

Texas Set to Execute Travis Runnels Based on Expert” Testimony of Prosecution Investigator Whose False Testimony Has Put 15 on Death Row

Texas is prepar­ing to exe­cute Travis Runnels (pic­tured) on December 11, 2019 based on the expert” tes­ti­mo­ny of a pros­e­cu­tion inves­ti­ga­tor whose false depic­tion of prison con­di­tions has helped to put fif­teen defen­dants on the state’s death row. If Runnels is exe­cut­ed, he will be the third per­son put to death in Texas this year after for­mer Texas Special Prosecution Unit crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tor, A.P. Merillat pro­vid­ed false tes­ti­mo­ny at their trials.

Policy Issues

Race

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Jun 28, 2017

The Duane Buck Case

Christina Swarns, lit­i­ga­tion direc­tor of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, speaks with DPIC Executive Director Robert Dunham about the case of Texas death-row pris­on­er Duane Buck and the impact of racial bias on deter­mi­na­tions of future dan­ger­ous­ness in death penal­ty cas­es. Ms. Swarns rep­re­sent­ed Mr. Buck in the U.S. Supreme Court in over­turn­ing his death sen­tence after his own lawyer pre­sent­ed an expert wit­ness who gave racial­ly biased tes­ti­mo­ny that Mr. Buck posed an increased risk of future dan­ger­ous­ness to soci­ety because he is black. Ms. Swarns discusses…

Policy Issues

Mental Illness

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Representation

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Upcoming Executions

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Women

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Federal Death Penalty

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Oct 19, 2020

U.S. Government Sets Two More Execution Dates, Seeking to Put to Death the First Woman and the Youngest Offender in More Than Six Decades

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment intends to con­tin­ue its unprece­dent­ed exe­cu­tion spree into December, sched­ul­ing the exe­cu­tions of the first woman and the youngest offend­er put to death by fed­er­al author­i­ties in near­ly sev­en decades. In a Friday evening announce­ment, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on October 16, 2020 that it had set the exe­cu­tion of Lisa Montgomery (pic­tured) for December 8 and Brandon Bernard for December 10.

Policy Issues

Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Nov 08, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Racially Biased Testimony to Stand in Texas Case; Restores Capital Conviction in Ohio

On November 7, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant review to Texas inmate Duane Buck. Buck sought a new sen­tenc­ing tri­al because of tes­ti­mo­ny sug­gest­ing he posed a greater dan­ger to soci­ety because he is black. During his tri­al, psy­chol­o­gist Dr. Walter Quijano told the court that Buck’s race increased the like­li­hood of his future dan­ger­ous­ness. Three of the Justices on the Court (Alito, Scalia and Breyer), which had grant­ed Buck a stay just before his sched­uled exe­cu­tion on September 15, said his case was dif­fer­ent from oth­er similar…

Policy Issues

Prosecutorial Accountability

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Sentencing Data

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United States Supreme Court

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Jun 02, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Arizona Death Sentence After Jury Not Told of Defendant’s Ineligibility for Parole

The U.S. Supreme Court has over­turned a death sen­tence imposed on Shawn Patrick Lynch by an Arizona jury that had not been told he would have been inel­i­gi­ble for parole if jurors sen­tenced to him to life impris­on­ment. In a 6 – 2 deci­sion on May 31, the Court agreed to review Lynch’s case, vacat­ed the judg­ment of the Arizona Supreme Court, and sum­mar­i­ly reversed Lynch’s death sentence.