Entries tagged with “Junk Science

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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

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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United States Supreme Court

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Aug 03, 2022

Amicus Groups Ask Supreme Court to Overturn Texas Appeals Court Refusal to Grant New Trial to Death-Row Prisoner Convicted Based on DNA Testimony Prosecutor and Trial Court Agree Was False

Three groups of fair jus­tice advo­cates have filed friend-of-the-court briefs ask­ing the U.S. Supreme Court to review and over­turn a Texas appeals court rul­ing that denied a new tri­al to a death-row pris­on­er who pros­e­cu­tors and the tri­al court agree was con­vict­ed based on false DNA tes­ti­mo­ny by a dis­graced police crime lab.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Feb 24, 2006

Another Innocent Inmate to be Freed From Death Row

The Florida Supreme Court unan­i­mous­ly over­turned the con­vic­tion of death row inmate John Robert Ballard (pic­tured) and ordered his acquit­tal in the 1999 mur­ders of two of his acquain­tances. The Court con­clud­ed that the evi­dence against Ballard was so weak that the tri­al judge should have dis­missed the case imme­di­ate­ly. The pri­ma­ry evi­dence pre­sent­ed against Ballard was a hair and a fin­ger­print, both of which he could have left dur­ing his many vis­its to the vic­tims’ apart­ment. Bloody fin­ger­prints and a 100 oth­er hair sam­ples were found asso­ci­at­ed with the…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Feb 01, 2007

Another Prisoner Freed After DNA Evidence Leads to Exoneration

After spend­ing 15 years in a New York prison for mur­der, Roy Brown has been exon­er­at­ed through DNA evi­dence and is free. Brown is the eighth per­son in New York to be exon­er­at­ed due to DNA evi­dence in the past 13 months, more than in any oth­er state dur­ing the same peri­od. While in prison, Brown con­duct­ed his own inves­ti­ga­tion of his wrong­ful con­vic­tion and found doc­u­ments incrim­i­nat­ing anoth­er man in the mur­der of Sabina Kulakowski. The doc­u­ments point­ed to Barry Bench, a vol­un­teer fire­fight­er whose broth­er had lived…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Clemency

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Nov 12, 2010

Another Texas Execution Thrown in Doubt by New DNA Tests

Recent DNA tests raise seri­ous doubts about the con­vic­tion of a man exe­cut­ed in Texas in 2000. The tests revealed that a strand of hair found at the scene of a liquor-store shoot­ing did not belong to Claude Jones, as was orig­i­nal­ly implied by the pros­e­cu­tion. Instead, the hair belonged to the vic­tim. Jones was exe­cut­ed for the mur­der of the store’s own­er. The strand of hair was the only piece of phys­i­cal evi­dence that placed Jones at the scene of the crime, and this rev­e­la­tion rais­es the ques­tion of…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Upcoming Executions

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May 15, 2020

As Blood Spatter Evidence Causes Jurors to Question His Guilt, Missouri Prepares to Execute Walter Barton

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has vacat­ed a stay of exe­cu­tion for Missouri death-row pris­on­er Walter Barton (pic­tured) who is sched­uled to be exe­cut­ed on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. The court’s unsigned opin­ion, issued on Sunday, May 17, lift­ed a stay of exe­cu­tion that had been issued May 15 by a fed­er­al dis­trict court judge. The dis­trict court said a stay was nec­es­sary to afford it time to address a peti­tion Barton had filed that chal­lenged his con­vic­tion and death sen­tence based upon new foren­sic evidence…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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Oct 22, 2021

Attorneys Present Closing Arguments in Rodney Reed Innocence Hearing

A Bastrop, Texas tri­al court heard clos­ing argu­ments October 18, 2021 on whether Texas death-row pris­on­er Rodney Reed should be grant­ed a new tri­al in the April 1996 mur­der of Stacey Stites. The argu­ment con­clud­ed the adver­sar­i­al por­tion of an extra­or­di­nary evi­den­tiary hear­ing ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) to review Reed’s claims that pros­e­cu­tors secured his con­vic­tions for rape and mur­der by sup­press­ing excul­pa­to­ry evi­dence and pre­sent­ing false testimony.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Apr 19, 2005

Attorneys Seek DNA Testing In Case of Executed Texas Man

Attorney Barry Scheck plans to ask Texas Governor Rick Perry to order DNA test­ing in the case of Claude Jones, who main­tained his inno­cence until his exe­cu­tion in December 2000. Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, says Jones’ con­vic­tion was large­ly based on dubi­ous evi­dence. The state’s case against him includ­ed tes­ti­mo­ny from an accom­plice link­ing Jones to the crime and the report of a state foren­sic sci­en­tist who exam­ined a one-inch length of hair found at the crime scene. The sci­en­tist said that it was sim­i­lar to Jones’ hair…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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May 11, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Oklahoma Man Freed Today from Death Row — 124th Death Penalty Exoneration

Curtis Edward McCarty, who had been sen­tenced to die three times and has spent 21 years on Oklahomas death row for a crime he did not com­mit, has been released after District Court Judge Twyla Mason Gray ordered that the charges against him be dis­missed. Gray ruled that the case against McCarty was taint­ed by the ques­tion­able tes­ti­mo­ny of for­mer police chemist Joyce Gilchrist, who gave improp­er expert tes­ti­mo­ny about semen and hair evi­dence dur­ing McCarty’s tri­al. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said his office will not appeal…

Policy Issues

Intellectual Disability

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Representation

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Lethal Injection

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Mar 01, 2021

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of February 222021

NEWS (2/​25/​21) — Alabama: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has denied habeas relief for Alabama death-row pris­on­er Charles Clark, who the tri­al court had sen­tenced to death based upon a non-unan­i­mous jury sen­tenc­ing vote. Clark had argued that the tri­al court improp­er­ly ordered that he be shack­led dur­ing the tri­al, with­out an ade­quate jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and with­out plac­ing the rea­sons for shack­ling him on the record. His tri­al coun­sel had waived the claim by fail­ing to object and Clark argued that this fail­ure con­sti­tut­ed inef­fec­tive assis­tance of…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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Representation

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Religion

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United States Supreme Court

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Women

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Feb 15, 2021

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of February 82021

NEWS (2/​11/​21) — Alabama: In a splin­tered vote with three con­ser­v­a­tive jus­tices not­ing their dis­sents, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Alabama Attorney General’s appli­ca­tion to vacate a fed­er­al appeals court injunc­tion that had halt­ed that night’s sched­uled exe­cu­tion of Willie B. Smith III unless the state per­mit­ted his pas­tor to be present in the death cham­ber to pro­vide reli­gious com­fort dur­ing his exe­cu­tion. In a sec­ond night-of-exe­cu­tion order, the Court lift­ed a stay of exe­cu­tion based on Smith’s claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act that Alabama had failed…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Race

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Sentencing Data

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Executions Overview

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Jun 06, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of June 12020

NEWS (6/​5/​20) — North Carolina: The North Carolina Supreme Court has struck down the state leg­is­la­ture’s attempt­ed retroac­tive repeal of the state’s Racial Justice Act, restor­ing the rights of approx­i­mate­ly 130 death-row pris­on­ers to seek redress of death sen­tences that they had claimed were sub­stan­tial­ly affect­ed by racial bias.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Intellectual Disability

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Secrecy

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May 07, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of May 42020

NEWS (5/​7/​20) — Florida: The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the death sen­tence imposed on Leonardo Franqui, deny­ing post-con­vic­tion chal­lenges to his death sen­tence based upon claims that he is inel­i­gi­ble for the death penal­ty because of intel­lec­tu­al dis­abil­i­ty and that his death sen­tence was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly imposed after some mem­bers of his jury vot­ed for life.

Policy Issues

Representation

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Oct 26, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of October 192020

NEWS (10/​22/​20) — Florida: The Florida Supreme Court has upheld the con­vic­tion and death sen­tence for Daniel Craven, Jr. for a 2015 prison mur­der. The court denied Craven’s claims that he was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly denied the right to rep­re­sent him­self and that the tri­al court had vio­lat­ed his right to a fair jury by impan­el­ing an African-American juror whom defense coun­sel had attempt­ed to peremp­to­ri­ly strike. It also reject­ed sev­er­al chal­lenges Craven posed to the aggra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances pre­sent­ed in the case.

Oct 19, 2004

Chicago Tribune Investigates Forensic Science and Wrongful Convictions

A five-part Chicago Tribune inves­ti­ga­tion of foren­sics in the court­room has revealed that flawed test­ing analy­sis, ques­tion­able sci­ence once con­sid­ered reli­able, and shod­dy crime lab prac­tices can often lead to wrong­ful con­vic­tions. Developments in DNA tech­nol­o­gy have helped shed new light on these prob­lems by reveal­ing the shaky sci­en­tif­ic foun­da­tions of tech­niques like fin­ger­print­ing, firearm iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, arson inves­ti­ga­tion, and bite-mark com­par­i­son. A review of 200 DNA and death row exon­er­a­tions nation­wide in the last 20 years found that more than a quar­ter (55 cas­es with 66 defen­dants) involved orig­i­nal forensic…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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Jan 12, 2021

Convicted by False Forensic Evidence, Eddie Lee Howard, Jr. Exonerated From Mississippi Death Row After 26 Years

Eddie Lee Howard, Jr., con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death based on the false foren­sic tes­ti­mo­ny of a since dis­graced pros­e­cu­tion expert wit­ness, has been exon­er­at­ed after near­ly 26 years on Mississippis death row. He is the 174th for­mer death-row pris­on­er exon­er­at­ed in the U.S. since 1973 and the sixth in Mississippi.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Aug 02, 2005

Convictions Overturned In Pennsylvania and New Jersery through DNA Testing

Thomas Doswell of Pennsylvania and Larry Peterson of New Jersey recent­ly had their con­vic­tions over­turned as a direct result of DNA test­ing. Each defen­dant had serverd 18 years in prison. In Peterson’s case, the pros­e­cu­tion had sought the death penal­ty but the jury could not agree and he was sen­tenced to life. His case marked the first time a New Jersey court has over­turned a con­vic­tion because of DNA evi­dence. Both rever­sals stemmed from the work of attor­neys at the Innocence Project of the Benjamin Cardoza School of Law…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Sep 28, 2021

Death-Row Exonerees in Ohio, Oklahoma Receive Million Dollar Payments for Their Wrongful Convictions

Two men exon­er­at­ed from death row, one in Ohio and one in Oklahoma, have received mil­lion ‑dol­lar pay­outs for their wrong­ful con­vic­tions and death sen­tences. Both were tried and con­vict­ed in coun­ties with long his­to­ries of pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al mis­con­duct and high rates of wrong­ful cap­i­tal con­vic­tions. The com­pen­sa­tion comes more than a decade after each was released from incarceration.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Aug 09, 2016

Defense Lawyers, Former Prosecutors, and Constitutional Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs in Buck v. Davis

Five groups, rep­re­sent­ing defense lawyers, for­mer pros­e­cu­tors, and orga­ni­za­tions devot­ed to pro­tect­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al lib­er­ties have filed ami­cus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in sup­port of Texas death row pris­on­er Duane Buck. Buck was sen­tenced to death when a psy­chi­a­trist pre­sent­ed by his own lawyer said he posed a greater poten­tial dan­ger to soci­ety because he is Black, and the case attained wide­spread noto­ri­ety after the new Texas attor­ney gen­er­al failed to hon­or a com­mit­ment by his pre­de­ces­sor not to oppose a new sen­tenc­ing hearing.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Jun 16, 2010

DNA Evidence Could Show If Texas Executed an Innocent Man

Texas Judge Paul C. Murphy recent­ly ordered pros­e­cu­tors to hand over key evi­dence from a 1989 mur­der case to the Innocence Project and the Texas Observer for DNA test­ing. In 2007, the Innocence Project and the Observer filed suit to obtain a one-inch strand of hair that alleged­ly impli­cat­ed Claude Howard Jones (pic­tured) in the killing of a liquor store own­er in San Jacinto County. Other than vague eye­wit­ness accounts and ques­tion­able tes­ti­mo­ny from Jones’s two friends who were also at the scene of the crime (one of whom later…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Apr 29, 2005

DNA Evidence May Lead to Exoneration in Former Capital Case

Results from DNA test­ing may soon lead to the exon­er­a­tion of Larry Peterson in New Jersey. He would become the first per­son in the state to be cleared of a homi­cide through DNA evi­dence. Peterson was con­vict­ed of a rape and mur­der that occurred in 1987. For the past 10 years, Peterson tried to have DNA evi­dence from his case test­ed. At his orig­i­nal tri­al in which he faced the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a death sen­tence, the pros­e­cu­tion main­tained that hairs from the crime scene belonged to Peterson. He was convicted…

Oct 21, 2004

DPIC SUMMARY: Chicago Tribune Series, Forensics Under the Microscope”

A CHICAGO TRIBUNE INVESTIGATIVE SERIESChicago Tribune vet­er­an project reporters Flynn McRoberts, Steve Mills and Maurice Possley, togeth­er with researcher Judith Marriott, scru­ti­nized crim­i­nal cas­es includ­ing sci­en­tif­ic” or foren­sic evi­dence, con­duct­ing hun­dreds of inter­views across the coun­try and exam­in­ing thou­sands of court doc­u­ments. From October 17, 2004 to October 21, 2004 the Tribune pub­lished a five-part inves­tiga­tive series which details the use of foren­sic evi­dence in crim­i­nal tri­als and con­cludes that foren­sic science’s false aura of infal­li­bil­i­ty dis­torts the adver­sar­i­al sys­tem of American jus­tice.Part I: Forensics Under the Microscope: Unproven techniques…

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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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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Innocence

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Apr 20, 2015

FBI Acknowledges Flawed Forensic Testimony Affected At Least 32 Death Penalty Cases

(Click on image to enlarge). The Federal Bureau of Investigation has for­mal­ly acknowl­edged that exam­in­ers from the FBI Laboratory’s micro­scop­ic hair com­par­i­son unit for decades pro­vid­ed flawed foren­sic tes­ti­mo­ny pur­port­ed­ly match­ing crime scene hair evi­dence to the hair of defen­dants charged with those crimes. As part of an ongo­ing review of inac­cu­rate foren­sic evi­dence, the FBI admit­ted that, in the 268 tri­als exam­ined so far, its foren­sic experts sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly over­stat­ed the cer­tain­ty of match­es between crime scene hair evi­dence and defen­dants’ hair. That flawed tes­ti­mo­ny favored pros­e­cu­tors more than 95%…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Jul 18, 2013

FBI To Examine 27 Death Penalty Cases For Potentially Inaccurate Testimony

A Federal Bureau of Investigation review of more than 21,000 cas­es has revealed 27 death penal­ty cas­es in which the FBI’s foren­sic experts may have exag­ger­at­ed the sci­en­tif­ic con­clu­sions that could be drawn from their tes­ti­mo­ny, mis­tak­en­ly link­ing defen­dants to crimes they may not have com­mit­ted. It is pos­si­ble that some of these cas­es involve inmates who have already been exe­cut­ed. Under par­tic­u­lar scruti­ny is tes­ti­mo­ny regard­ing hair evi­dence. Although FBI lab­o­ra­to­ry reports have long stat­ed that pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tions could not be made through hair asso­ci­a­tion, sev­er­al agents tes­ti­fied that…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Women

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Jul 31, 2019

Federal Appeals Court Overturns Mother’s Conviction in Texas Child Murder Case That May Have Been an Accidental Death

Citing tri­al court inter­fer­ence in her right to present a defense, a fed­er­al appeals court has over­turned the con­vic­tion of a Texas moth­er who was sen­tenced to death on charges that she had mur­dered her two-year-old daugh­ter. In an unpub­lished, unsigned opin­ion issued on July 29, 2019, a unan­i­mous three-judge pan­el of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said that tri­al court rul­ings that blocked Melissa Elizabeth Lucio (pic­tured) from call­ing an expert wit­ness to chal­lenge the reli­a­bil­i­ty of state­ments she gave to police vio­lat­ed Lucio’s right…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Apr 30, 2019

Federal Court Overturns Ohio Shaken-Baby Conviction and Death Sentence Based on Withheld Evidence

A fed­er­al dis­trict court has over­turned the con­vic­tion of Genesis Hill (pic­tured), who was sen­tenced to death in Ohio in 1991 for the death of his six-month-old daugh­ter, Domika, based upon a ques­tion­able shak­en-baby diag­no­sis. On April 24, 2019, Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio found that Ohio pros­e­cu­tors had uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly with­held excul­pa­to­ry evi­dence that called into ques­tion the cred­i­bil­i­ty of a key wit­ness and the tes­ti­mo­ny of the state’s foren­sic expert at tri­al. That evi­dence and sev­er­al new…

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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Nov 17, 2015

Forensic Pseudoscience and the Death Penalty

In light of the FBI’s acknowl­edge­ment in April that flawed foren­sic tes­ti­mo­ny by its expert hair-com­par­i­son ana­lysts had taint­ed at least 268 cas­es, includ­ing 32 death penal­ty cas­es, foren­sic sci­ence is com­ing under increased scruti­ny. A com­men­tary in the Boston Review argues that mount­ing hor­ror sto­ries,” includ­ing instances of crime-lab cor­rup­tion and dys­func­tion, have cre­at­ed a moment of cri­sis in foren­sic sci­ence.” Referencing scores of indi­vid­ual cas­es in which foren­sic sci­ence fail­ures have led to wrong­ful con­vic­tions” and high­light­ing the wrong­ful exe­cu­tion of Cameron Todd Willingham in Texas based upon…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Apr 18, 2022

Forensics Experts and Shaken-Baby Exonerees File Briefs Supporting Texas Death-Row Prisoner Robert Roberson’s Innocence Claim

Forensics experts and three exonerees wrong­ful­ly con­vict­ed of mur­der based upon junk-sci­ence diag­noses of Shaken Baby Syndrome are urg­ing the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) to over­turn the con­vic­tion of death-row pris­on­er Robert Roberson (pic­tured with his daugh­ter, Nikki). In sep­a­rate friend-of-the-court briefs filed on April 8, 2022, the two groups argue that Shaken Baby Syndrome is an invalid med­ical diag­no­sis that should nev­er be used as the basis of a mur­der con­vic­tion and that Roberson is inno­cent of killing his daughter.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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New Voices

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Aug 15, 2018

Fox Commentator: Oklahoma Frontier Justice” Has Produced Wretched Record” of Wrongful Capital Convictions

Calling Oklahoma the noto­ri­ous home of Hang Em High’ exe­cu­tions,” con­ser­v­a­tive com­men­ta­tor and Fox News con­trib­u­tor Michelle Malkin (pic­tured) has urged the state to adopt sytemic reforms to address its wretched record on wrong­ful convictions.”

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Nov 05, 2015

History of Misconduct Chronicled in Oklahoma County With 41 Executions

Oklahoma County has exe­cut­ed 41 pris­on­ers since 1976, the third high­est in the coun­try, and is among the 2% of American coun­ties respon­si­ble for 56% of the men and women cur­rent­ly on the nation’s death rows. A ThinkProgress report chron­i­cles the decades-long pat­tern of mis­con­duct com­mit­ted under its long-time District Attorney Cowboy Bob” Macy (pic­tured).

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Dec 05, 2007

INNOCENCE: Another Inmate is Exonerated, After 16 Years on Death Row

On December 5, a Tennessee jury acquit­ted Michael Lee McCormick of the 1985 mur­der of Donna Jean Nichols, a crime for which McCormick spent 16 years on death row. In his first tri­al, the pros­e­cu­tion intro­duced hair evi­dence from Nichols’ car that the FBI said matched McCormick. DNA test­ing lat­er found that the hair did not match McCormick and this evi­dence was not per­mit­ted in the new tri­al. McCormick’s attor­ney, Karla Gothard said after the tri­al, We have been liv­ing with this case for years, and we are immense­ly relieved.…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Sep 11, 2023

John Grisham on Robert Roberson: Texas may exe­cute an inno­cent man”

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, nov­el­ist John Grisham recounts the flawed sci­ence that led to the con­vic­tion of Robert Roberson (pic­tured, with his daugh­ter Nikki) and the inad­e­quate legal process that has main­tained that con­vic­tion. Mr. Roberson was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death for the 2002 death of his 2‑year-old daugh­ter Nikki. His con­vic­tion relied on a the­o­ry of shak­en baby syn­drome” that has since been dis­cred­it­ed. After a hear­ing ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, a Texas judge rub­ber­stamped a brief sub­mit­ted by Anderson…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Sep 10, 2007

Judge Blocks Texas From Destroying Evidence in Case of Possible Wrongful Execution

A Texas judge blocked the destruc­tion of DNA evi­dence that could prove the inno­cence of a man who was exe­cut­ed in 2000. A joint motion filed by a coali­tion of con­cerned groups sought DNA test­ing on a hair tak­en from the crime scene in the case of Claude Jones. In addi­tion, the groups asked the court to impose a restrain­ing order to pre­vent Texas from destroy­ing the evi­dence while the court con­sid­ers their request for DNA test­ing. Judge Elizabeth Coker grant­ed the restrain­ing order request and set a hear­ing for…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Mar 14, 2011

Judge Dismisses Capital Murder Charges After Finding State Report Intentionally Misleading”

On March 10, a North Carolina supe­ri­or court judge released his opin­ion throw­ing out mur­der charges against Derrick Michael Allen, who was accused in the 1998 death and sex­u­al assault of a 2‑year-old girl. Judge Orlando Hudson dis­missed the case after find­ing that a State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) report was pre­pared in an inac­cu­rate, incom­plete and inten­tion­al­ly mis­lead­ing man­ner.” Judge Hudson also found that an SBI agent (now sus­pend­ed) and a for­mer assis­tant dis­trict attor­ney work­ing on the case decid­ed to stop fur­ther test­ing of items for DNA testing…

Oct 22, 2003

Judge Throws Out Last Piece of Evidence Against Tennessee Man

Michael Lee McCormick has been on Tennessee’s death row for 17 years, but a recent court deci­sion throw­ing out the remain­ing evi­dence against him could result in his free­dom. Judge Doug Meyer ruled that tapes con­tain­ing con­ver­sa­tions between McCormick and an under­cov­er police offi­cer who had befriend­ed him were inad­mis­si­ble due to police mis­con­duct.” Meyer not­ed that McCormick, who is an alco­holic, had con­tin­u­al­ly denied his involve­ment in the crime until the author­i­ties made him depen­dent upon them for his alco­hol. Under all these cir­cum­stances, it is clear that the…

Policy Issues

Innocence

,

Oct 03, 2019

Junk Science and Wrongful Convictions: James Rytting Discusses the Case of Larry Swearingen

James Rytting, an attor­ney who rep­re­sent­ed Texas pris­on­er Larry Swearingen, describes the junk sci­ence used to con­vict his client. Swearingen was exe­cut­ed on August 21, 2019, after mul­ti­ple courts declined to con­sid­er new evi­dence that revealed flaws in the foren­sic evi­dence pre­sent­ed at tri­al. Rytting also explains how Swearingen’s case high­lights flaws that con­tribute to wrong­ful con­vic­tions through­out the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem: unsci­en­tif­ic analy­sis of foren­sic evi­dence, lack of sci­en­tif­ic train­ing for lawyers and judges, and an appel­late sys­tem that val­ues final­i­ty over fairness.

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

,

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

Innocence

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Representation

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Sep 06, 2016

Mississippi Attorney General Tries to Remove Defense Lawyers Who Challenged Suspect Bitemark Evidence

Attorneys for Mississippi death row pris­on­er Eddie Lee Howard (pic­tured) are seek­ing to prove his inno­cence and chal­leng­ing the ques­tion­able expert bite mark tes­ti­mo­ny that per­suad­ed jurors to con­vict him and sen­tence him to death in 1992. As part of the attack on that evi­dence, Howard’s lawyers recent­ly deposed Michael West, the dis­cred­it­ed foren­sic odon­tol­o­gist who tes­ti­fied against Howard and many oth­er defen­dants in the 1990s, pri­mar­i­ly in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Jan 10, 2013

Mississippi Inmate Faces Execution Despite Questionable Evidence from Overworked Medical Examiner

Jeffrey Havard (pic­tured) is fac­ing exe­cu­tion in Mississippi despite the fact that key evi­dence against him came from a med­ical exam­in­er who has been harsh­ly crit­i­cized by experts in his field. Havard was con­vict­ed of mur­der­ing his girlfriend’s 6‑month-old daugh­ter, based pri­mar­i­ly on the tes­ti­mo­ny of Steven Hayne, a state pathol­o­gist. Dr. Hayne tes­ti­fied he found symp­toms of shak­en baby syn­drome” and sex­u­al abuse on the infant. Recent inves­ti­ga­tions into Hayne’s cre­den­tials indi­cate he had nev­er been cer­ti­fied in foren­sic pathol­o­gy by the American Board of Pathology. He took the…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Dec 07, 2023

Mississippi Supreme Court Delays Decision on Willie Manning Execution Date, Allows Time for Appeal

On November 30, 2023, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered that the state’s request to set an exe­cu­tion date for death row pris­on­er Willie Manning be held until the court rules on a recent peti­tion seek­ing to bring new evi­dence of Mr. Manning’s inno­cence. Mr. Manning’s attor­neys had filed a peti­tion at the court on September 29, ask­ing for an oppor­tu­ni­ty to present recan­ta­tions from jail­house infor­mants who tes­ti­fied against Mr. Manning, as well as new expert analy­sis debunk­ing the unsci­en­tif­ic foren­sic evi­dence that was used against him at tri­al. The…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Jul 15, 2022

Mississippi Supreme Court Denies Additional DNA Testing to Death-Row Prisoner

The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied addi­tion­al DNA test­ing to death-row pris­on­er Willie Manning (pic­tured). Manning, who was sen­tenced to death in Oktibbeha County in 1994 and in 1996 for two sep­a­rate crimes, has main­tained his inno­cence of both crimes. He was exon­er­at­ed of the 1996 con­vic­tion in 2015 after police and pros­e­cu­tors unlaw­ful­ly with­held excul­pa­to­ry evi­dence from the defense.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Sep 01, 2020

Mississippi Supreme Court Grants New Trial to Eddie Howard, Sentenced to Death by Junk Bite-Mark Evidence

The Mississippi Supreme Court has grant­ed a new tri­al to death-row pris­on­er Eddie Lee Howard, Jr. (pic­tured), find­ing that the com­bi­na­tion of sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly invalid bite-mark evi­dence used to con­vict him and new DNA evi­dence enti­tled him to a new tri­al in the 1992 mur­der and alleged rape of an 84-year-old white woman.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Feb 18, 2013

MULTIMEDIA: One For Ten” Introduces Documentaries on Death Row Exonerees

One For Ten is a new col­lec­tion of doc­u­men­tary films telling the sto­ries of inno­cent peo­ple who were on death row in the U.S. The first film of the series is on Ray Krone, one of the 142 peo­ple who have been exon­er­at­ed and freed from death row since 1973. Krone was released from Arizonas death row in 2002 after DNA test­ing showed he did not com­mit the mur­der for which he was sen­tenced to death 10 years ear­li­er. Krone was con­vict­ed based large­ly on cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence and bite-mark evidence,…

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

Innocence

,

Oct 10, 2019

New Podcast: Texas Lawyer James Rytting on Junk Science and the Execution of Larry Swearingen

In the lat­est episode of Discussions with DPIC, Texas cap­i­tal defense lawyer James Rytting (pic­tured) dis­cuss­es the case of his client, Larry Swearingen, and the junk sci­ence that led to the exe­cu­tion of a man legit­i­mate sci­ence strong­ly sug­gests was inno­cent. Rytting describes the false foren­sic analy­sis pre­sent­ed under the guise of sci­ence in Swearingen’s case, the appel­late process that makes it almost impos­si­ble” to obtain review of new evi­dence, and the per­sis­tent prob­lem of wrong­ful convictions.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Jul 23, 2007

NEW RESOURCES: Destroyed DNA Evidence Blocks Possible Exonerations

A recent four-part series in the Denver Post about evi­dence in crim­i­nal cas­es detailed how police depart­ments across the U.S. store and dis­pose of cru­cial bio­log­i­cal evi­dence. The Post exam­ined 10 states in which author­i­ties destroyed bio­log­i­cal evi­dence in near­ly 6,000 rape and mur­der cas­es dur­ing the past decade. The inves­ti­ga­tion also revealed that over the past 30 years, destruc­tion of DNA evi­dence in 28 states has under­mined efforts by at least 141 pris­on­ers to prove their inno­cence. Of the 30 police depart­ments nation­wide sur­veyed by the paper, 70%…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Aug 18, 2011

NEW RESOURCES: The Causes of Wrongful Convictions

The Innocence Project has launched a new mul­ti­me­dia resource illus­trat­ing the main caus­es of wrong­ful con­vic­tions and the reforms nec­es­sary to pre­vent such mis­takes. This inter­ac­tive tool, Getting it Right,” fea­tures videos, case stud­ies and research on such top­ics as false con­fes­sions, eye­wit­ness iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, infor­mant tes­ti­mo­ny, and fail­ures by the defense and pros­e­cu­tion. Three death penal­ty cas­es are high­light­ed: Ron Williamson, Earl Washington, Jr., and Ray Krone, who col­lec­tive­ly spent 44 years in prison or on death row before the dis­cov­ery of their inno­cence and even­tu­al exon­er­a­tion. Washington’s lawyer had…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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New Voices

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Sep 24, 2014

NEW VOICES: Former FBI Director Says People Were Executed Based Partly on Faulty Agency Testimony

William Sessions, for­mer head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recent­ly point­ed to cas­es of defen­dants who were exe­cut­ed based in part on faulty hair and fiber analy­sis in call­ing for changes in the use of foren­sic evi­dence. In an op-ed in the Washington Times, Sessions told the sto­ry of Benjamin Boyle, who was exe­cut­ed in Texas in 1997. His con­vic­tion was based on test­ing con­duct­ed by an FBI crime lab that an offi­cial review lat­er deter­mined to be unre­li­able and sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly unsup­port­able.” Neither state offi­cials nor Boyle’s attor­neys were…

Policy Issues

Intellectual Disability

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Upcoming Executions

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Federal Death Penalty

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Aug 02, 2020

NEWS BRIEF — Federal Government, Texas Set New Execution Dates

As July 2020 came to a close, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment issued two more notices of exe­cu­tion and a coun­ty judge in Texas report­ed­ly issued a new death war­rant for a death-row pris­on­er whose pre­vi­ous­ly sched­uled exe­cu­tion had been stayed.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Clemency

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Dec 03, 2010

OP-ED: Capital Punishment and Human Fallibility”

A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Barry Scheck, co-direc­tor of the Innocence Project, high­lighs flaws in Texas’s death penal­ty sys­tem that led to the exe­cu­tion of Claude Jones (pic­tured). Then-gov­er­nor George Bush reject­ed Jones’s appli­ca­tion for a reprieve. Bush was not informed that the reprieve would allow time for DNA tests to be per­formed on a strand of hair that was found at the crime scene. This hair had been attrib­uted to Jones at his tri­al and was the only piece of evi­dence tying him to the…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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New Voices

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Jun 11, 2013

OP-ED: DNA: A Test for Justice”

In a recent op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, for­mer FBI Director William Sessions (pic­tured) under­scored the impor­tance of reli­able FBI foren­sic analy­sis in con­vict­ing the guilty and exon­er­at­ing the inno­cent. Sessions pro­vid­ed the exam­ple of Willie Jerome Manning, who received a last-minute stay of exe­cu­tion in Mississippi in order to allow time to con­duct test­ing on DNA evi­dence that could exon­er­ate him. Manning was con­vict­ed in 1994 based on FBI tes­ti­mo­ny that has since been inval­i­dat­ed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Sessions also urged state pros­e­cu­tors and judges to…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Aug 10, 2020

Orleans Parish D.A. Will Not Run for Re-Election, Tenure Tainted By Office Misconduct in Death-Penalty Cases

After 12 years as Orleans Parish, Louisiana District Attorney, Leon Cannizzaro (pic­tured) has announced that he will not seek re-elec­tion and will be retir­ing as D.A. at the end of this term. Cannizzaro’s tenure in office was marked by his aggres­sive defense of pri­or offi­cial mis­con­duct in cap­i­tal cas­es, mis­con­duct by his office while he was District Attorney, and rev­e­la­tions that Orleans Parish pros­e­cu­tors had rou­tine­ly issued fake sub­poe­nas and threat­ened impris­on­ment to coerce vic­tims and wit­ness­es to coop­er­ate with law enforcement.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Sep 02, 2016

OUTLIER COUNTIES: Maricopa, Arizona — Outrageously Exploited Power,” Crippled” Defense, and Five Exonerations

Maricopa County, Arizona imposed 28 death sen­tences between 2010 and 2015 and, as described in a BuzzFeed news analy­sis of a new report on out­lier death penal­ty prac­tices, stands out for its stark exam­ples of the prob­lems found across the coun­ties that most often sen­tence peo­ple to death.”

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Sep 16, 2014

POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Mississippi Inmate Challenges Bite-Mark Evidence

A new appeal filed on behalf of Mississippi death row inmate Eddie Howard, Jr. pre­sent­ed DNA evi­dence that calls into ques­tion bite-mark evi­dence used to con­vict him in 1992. At Howard’s tri­al, Dr. Michael West, a Mississippi den­tist who had tes­ti­fied as a foren­sic expert in numer­ous cas­es, said Howard’s teeth matched bite marks found on the mur­der vic­tim. The vic­tim had been buried for three days and exhumed before West exam­ined her. He said he found three bite marks that matched Howard to a rea­son­able med­ical cer­tain­ty,” but presented…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Feb 08, 2017

Problems in Florida, Arizona Crime Labs Renew Questions About Reliability of Forensic Testimony

More than 2,600 Florida cas­es — includ­ing at least one cap­i­tal case — may have been taint­ed by erro­neous fin­ger­print analy­sis by a long-term employ­ee of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, accord­ing to let­ters sent to defense coun­sel by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office. The rev­e­la­tions were anoth­er in a series of events rais­ing ques­tions about the reli­a­bil­i­ty of foren­sic evi­dence that is being used in cap­i­tal pros­e­cu­tions across the United States. In ear­ly February 2017, the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office con­tact­ed defense attor­neys in cas­es that involved Marco Palacio, a 17-year employ­ee of…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Crimes Punishable by Death

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Sep 24, 2018

Questionable Ruling Grants Jeffrey Havard New Sentencing but Not New Trial in Controversial Shaken Baby” Case

Sixteen years after a noto­ri­ous and now-dis­cred­it­ed foren­sic wit­ness told a Mississippi jury that Jeffrey Havard had sex­u­al­ly abused and shak­en his girl­friend’s six-month-old daugh­ter to death, Havard’s death sen­tence — but not his con­vic­tion — has been over­turned. On September 14, 2018, Adams County Circuit Judge Forrest Johnson ruled that state pathol­o­gist Steven Hayne’s recan­ta­tion of his diag­no­sis that infant Chloe Britt had been a vic­tim of Shaken Baby Syndrome was not suf­fi­cient to under­mine this court’s con­fi­dence in the con­vic­tion,” but that there is a cau­tious dis­tur­bance in con­fi­dence of the sentence…

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

Innocence

,

Sep 30, 2021

Sherwood Brown Exonerated in Mississippi, 186th Death-Row Exoneration Since 1973

Sherwood Brown has been exon­er­at­ed of the charges that sent him to death row in Mississippi in 1995 for a triple mur­der he did not com­mit. On August 24, 2021, DeSoto County Circuit Court Judge Jimmy McClure grant­ed a pros­e­cu­tion motion to dis­miss charges against Brown (pic­tured after his release), who was released lat­er that day after hav­ing spent 26 years on the state’s death row or fac­ing the prospects of a cap­i­tal retrial.

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

Innocence

,

Apr 03, 2009

STUDIES: Researchers Find Root of Wrongful Convictions in Forensic Science Testimony

A ground­break­ing study by Brandon Garrett and Peter Neufeld pub­lished in the Virginia Law Review explores erro­neous sci­en­tif­ic tes­ti­mo­ny by pros­e­cu­tion experts in the tri­als of defen­dants who were lat­er exon­er­at­ed through DNA test­ing. The research, Invalid Forensic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions,” explored sero­log­i­cal analy­sis and micro­scop­ic hair com­par­i­son, bite mark evi­dence, shoe prints, soil, fiber, fin­ger­print com­par­isons, and DNA test­ing. In 60% of the tri­als, the prosecution’s foren­sic ana­lysts pro­vid­ed invalid tes­ti­mo­ny with con­clu­sions that mis­stat­ed empir­i­cal data or was com­plete­ly unsup­port­ed by empir­i­cal data. Flawed expert testimony…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

,

Aug 12, 2013

STUDIES: Texas To Re-Examine Previous Convictions for Forensic Errors

The Texas Forensic Science Commission announced it will study pri­or crim­i­nal con­vic­tions to deter­mine whether mis­takes were made using dis­cred­it­ed foren­sic tes­ti­mo­ny. The Commission will employ DNA test­ing to review cas­es in which micro­scop­ic hair fibers were used to con­vict peo­ple of rape, mur­der, rob­bery, and oth­er crimes. It has recent­ly been estab­lished that it is impos­si­ble to match a hair under a micro­scope to a spe­cif­ic per­son. Forensic experts can make an asso­ci­a­tion” between a sam­ple of hair evi­dence and a hair from a sus­pect. The state’s review is…

Policy Issues

Innocence

,

Oct 25, 2016

Supported by New DNA Evidence, Man Sentenced to Death in Virginia in 1970 Files Innocence Claim

Sherman Brown (pic­tured), a man who was sen­tenced to death in Virginia in 1970 for the mur­der of a 4‑year-old boy, has filed a writ of actu­al inno­cence with the Virginia Supreme Court say­ing that DNA test­ing on recent­ly dis­cov­ered evi­dence clears him of the crime. Brown’s peti­tion states: Recent DNA test­ing demon­strates by clear and con­vinc­ing evi­dence what I have main­tained for over 45 years: that I am inno­cent of this crime. The evi­dence against me at tri­al was deeply flawed.”

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

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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United States Supreme Court

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Jan 13, 2023

Supreme Court Reverses Texas Court Decision Based on Prosecutor’s Admission About Flawed Forensic Evidence

The U.S. Supreme Court has reversed the denial of relief to a Texas death-row pris­on­er whose request for new tri­al is sup­port­ed by local pros­e­cu­tors. In a two-sen­tence deci­sion, the Court grant­ed cer­tio­rari to Areli Escobar, vacat­ed the judg­ment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA), and sent the case back for recon­sid­er­a­tion. The Court’s sum­ma­ry rever­sal relied on Travis County pros­e­cu­tors’ admis­sion that Escobar’s con­vic­tion is based on flawed and mis­lead­ing foren­sic evidence.”

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Race

,

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

Innocence

,

Jun 03, 2019

Ten Years After Landmark Study, Junk Science Still Pervasive in Death-Penalty Cases

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a land­mark report titled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, in which it raised sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions about the valid­i­ty of every foren­sic sci­ence dis­ci­pline except DNA analy­sis. The report con­clud­ed, no foren­sic method has been rig­or­ous­ly shown to have the capac­i­ty to con­sis­tent­ly, and with a high degree of cer­tain­ty, demon­strate a con­nec­tion between evi­dence and a spe­cif­ic indi­vid­ual or source.” In a report for The Intercept, jour­nal­ists Liliana Segura and Jordan Smith assess the mea­ger progress…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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May 13, 2020

Texas Appeals Court Declines to Apply Junk-Science Law to Review Death Sentence Based Upon Hypnotically Assisted Identification Testimony

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) has upheld the rul­ing of a Dallas tri­al court that denied a new tri­al to death-row pris­on­er Charles Flores (pic­tured), whose con­vic­tion and death sen­tence were the prod­uct of hyp­not­i­cal­ly assist­ed tes­ti­mo­ny. The TCCA said its deci­sion was “[b]ased upon the tri­al court’s find­ings and con­clu­sions,” which the appeals court acknowl­edged had sim­ply adopt­ed the State’s pro­posed find­ings of fact and con­clu­sions of law.”

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Representation

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Jun 17, 2016

Texas Court Stays Execution of Man Convicted by Now Debunked Shaken Baby” Testimony

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has grant­ed a stay of exe­cu­tion to Robert Roberson (pic­tured), who had been sched­uled to be exe­cut­ed on June 21 for the 2003 death of his two-and-a-half-year-old daugh­ter, Nikki Curtis. The court’s June 16 stay order halts Roberson’s exe­cu­tion under a recent Texas law per­mit­ting court chal­lenges based on new sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence of inno­cence. Prosecution experts had tes­ti­fied at Roberson’s tri­al that his daugh­ter died of Shaken Baby Syndrome, assert­ing that the child exhib­it­ed symp­toms that she must have been shak­en or beat­en. Roberson…

Policy Issues

Victims' Families

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Executions Overview

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Apr 10, 2017

Texas Court Stays Execution of Paul Storey Based on False Argument About Wishes of Victim’s Family

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has issued an order stay­ing the sched­uled April 12 exe­cu­tion of Paul Storey. The unpub­lished April 7 order sends Storey’s case back to the tri­al court to con­sid­er whether the pros­e­cu­tion know­ing­ly pre­sent­ed false evi­dence about the vic­tim’s fam­i­ly’s views on the death penalty.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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May 27, 2008

Texas Death Row Inmate May Be Exonerated As Prosecution Recommends Overturning Conviction

Based on state­ments from the District Attorney’s office, it appears that Texas wrong­ly con­vict­ed Michael Blair and sen­tenced him to death in 1994 for the sex­u­al assault and mur­der of 7‑year-old Ashley Estell. The case led to the pas­sage of Ashley’s Laws” to increase pun­ish­ments for such offens­es. Collin County District Attorney John Roach announced that new DNA tests show no phys­i­cal evi­dence link­ing Blair to the crime. The only foren­sic evi­dence that point­ed to Blair for the kid­nap-mur­der was hair evi­dence; new DNA evi­dence has shown that the hair…

Executions

Aug 15, 2022

Texas Executes Man Whose Conviction Relied on Discredited Forensics

Texas on August 17, 2022 exe­cut­ed Kosoul Chanthakoummane (pic­tured), whose con­vic­tion pros­e­cu­tors obtained with dis­cred­it­ed foren­sic tes­ti­mo­ny. He was the sec­ond defen­dant of col­or in less than a month to be put to death over the objec­tion of the victim’s family.

Policy Issues

Representation

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Religion

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Upcoming Executions

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Oct 12, 2021

Texas Federal Court Stays Execution of Stephen Barbee on Religious Freedom Issue, Defense Seeks Review of False Forensic Testimony

A fed­er­al court in Texas has stayed the October 12, 2021 exe­cu­tion of Texas death-row pris­on­er Stephen Barbee on his claims that the state’s refusal to allow his spir­i­tu­al advi­sor to admin­is­ter last rites, touch him, or pray out loud in the exe­cu­tion cham­ber vio­lates his con­sti­tu­tion­al and fed­er­al statu­to­ry rights to free exer­cise of reli­gion. Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued the stay on October 7, 2021, cit­ing the U.S. Supreme Court’s deci­sion to hear argu­ment on the same…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Lethal Injection

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Jan 15, 2016

Texas Prepares to Execute Richard Masterson While Autopsy Data Suggests Death Was Not Murder At All

As Texas read­ies itself to exe­cute Richard Masterson (pic­tured), his lawyers have filed new plead­ings ques­tion­ing whether any mur­der occurred at all and are seek­ing a stay of exe­cu­tion based on what they say is evi­dence of State fraud, mis­con­duct, and his actu­al inno­cence.” Masterson’s fil­ings chal­lenge the foren­sic tes­ti­mo­ny pre­sent­ed by the pros­e­cu­tion in the case, the accu­ra­cy of instruc­tions giv­en to jurors, and the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of Texas’ lethal injec­tion secre­cy law.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Intellectual Disability

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Executions Overview

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Jan 11, 2019

Texas Prisoner Seeks Stay of Execution on Claims of Junk Science, Arbitrary Sentencing

[UPDATE: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay of exe­cu­tion to Blaine Milam on January 14, 2019] As Texas pre­pares to exe­cute Blaine Milam (pic­tured) on January 15, 2019, Milam’s lawyers say his con­vic­tion and sen­tence rest on dis­cred­it­ed bite-mark tes­ti­mo­ny and have asked for the exe­cu­tion to be halted.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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May 18, 2023

Texas Prisoner Seeks Supreme Court Review of Conviction Based on Debunked Scientific Evidence

On May 11, attor­neys for Robert Roberson, a death-sen­tenced pris­on­er in Texas, filed a peti­tion for cer­tio­rari to the Supreme Court ask­ing it to reverse the deci­sion of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA). Mr. Roberson’s con­vic­tion for the mur­der of his daugh­ter Nikki was based on the so-called Shaken Baby Syndrome” which has now been debunked by new sci­en­tif­ic and med­ical evi­dence. The TCCA dis­re­gard­ed this and oth­er evi­dence that showed his daughter’s death was attrib­ut­able to nat­ur­al and acci­den­tal causes. 

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

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Oct 10, 2017

Texas Set to Execute Robert Pruett for Prison Murder Despite Corruption and Lack of Physical Evidence

Though no phys­i­cal evi­dence links him to the crime, Texas is set to exe­cute Robert Pruett (pic­tured) on October 12 for the 1999 stab­bing death of a state cor­rec­tion­al offi­cer who was at the cen­ter of a prison cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tion. Results of a DNA test of the mur­der weapon in 2015 found DNA that matched nei­ther Pruett nor the vic­tim, Officer Daniel Nagle.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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United States Supreme Court

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Nov 11, 2022

U.S. Supreme Court Asks for Record of Texas Case Where Relief Denied Despite Agreement of Prosecutor and Trial Judge that Death-Row Prisoner Should Get New Trial

The United States Supreme Court has request­ed the pro­duc­tion of the appel­late record of a death penal­ty case in which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) refused to grant a new tri­al to a death-row pris­on­er despite the agree­ment of coun­ty pros­e­cu­tors that the use of faulty foren­sic evi­dence from a dis­cred­it­ed crime lab to con­vict Areli Escobar (pic­tured) denied him a fair trial.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Foreign Nationals

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Apr 18, 2018

Vicente Benavides, Sentenced to Death by False Forensics, to Be Freed After 26 Years on Death Row

Mexican nation­al Vicente Figueroa Benavides (pic­tured), wrong­ly con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death in Kern County, California for sup­pos­ed­ly rap­ing, sodom­iz­ing, and mur­der­ing his girlfriend’s 21-month-old daugh­ter, will soon be freed after near­ly 26 years on death row. He will be the 162nd per­son and fifth for­eign nation­al exon­er­at­ed from a U.S. death row since 1973.

May 13, 2001

When the Evidence Lies

Joyce Gilchrist helped send dozens to death row. The foren­sic sci­en­tist’s errors are putting cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment under the micro­scope By BELINDA LUSCOMBETime MagazinePosted Sunday, May 132001