Entries tagged with “Juries

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Intellectual Disability

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Race

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Sep 13, 2022

Alabama Court Upholds Fifth Non-Unanimous Death Sentence Imposed on Intellectually Impaired Man Over the Course of Six Penalty Trials for the Same Crime

An Alabama appeals court has upheld a fifth non-unan­i­mous death sen­tence imposed on a death-row pris­on­er who has faced six cap­i­tal sen­tenc­ing tri­als for the same offense and was once found to be inel­i­gi­ble for the death penal­ty because of intel­lec­tu­al disability.

Policy Issues

Race

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Native Americans

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Federal Death Penalty

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May 04, 2020

Appeals Court Questions Federal Use of Death Penalty Against Navajo Prisoner, But Turns Down Appeal

In a fed­er­al cap­i­tal case with impli­ca­tions relat­ing to trib­al sov­er­eign­ty, a fed­er­al appeals court has denied a Native-American prisoner’s appeal seek­ing to inves­ti­gate racial bias in his case, while ques­tion­ing the fed­er­al government’s pur­suit of the death penal­ty against him.

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…

Facts & Research

Sentencing Data

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Sep 14, 2022

BOOKS: Geometrical Justice: The Death Penalty in America”

The out­come of a cap­i­tal pros­e­cu­tion can be pre­dict­ed based upon the rel­a­tive social sta­tus of the vic­tim, the defen­dant, and the jurors, apply­ing a soci­ol­o­gy con­cept known as the geo­met­ri­cal the­o­ry of law, accord­ing to the authors of a new book, Geometrical Justice: The Death Penalty in America.

Policy Issues

Intellectual Disability

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Race

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Recent Legislative Activity

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Sep 04, 2020

California Legislature Passes Racial Justice Package Affecting Death-Penalty Practices

In the clos­ing days of its 2020 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, the California leg­is­la­ture passed a trio of racial jus­tice reform bills expect­ed to reduce the influ­ence of racial, eth­nic, and socioe­co­nom­ic bias in the admin­is­tra­tion of the death penal­ty in the state with the country’s largest death row.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Jun 07, 2021

California Supreme Court Hears Case That Could Undo Hundreds of State Death Sentences

The California Supreme Court heard oral argu­ment on June 2, 2021 in a cap­i­tal case whose out­come could affect the fate of hun­dreds of pris­on­ers on the state’s death row. Supported by friend-of-the-court briefs by California Governor Gavin Newsom and an alliance of pro­gres­sive California dis­trict attor­neys, lawyers for death row pris­on­er Don’te McDaniel argued to the court that California’s cap­i­tal sen­tenc­ing scheme is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al because it fails to require that cap­i­tal sen­tenc­ing juries reach a unan­i­mous deter­mi­na­tion of each of the aggra­vat­ing fac­tors in a case that jus­ti­fy imposing…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Aug 25, 2020

California Supreme Court Overturns Scott Peterson’s Death Sentence

Ruling in one of the most sen­sa­tion­al­ized tri­als of the ear­ly 2000s, the California Supreme Court has over­turned the death sen­tence imposed on Scott Peterson for the mur­ders of his preg­nant wife, Laci, and their unborn son in December 2002. The court upheld Peterson’s con­vic­tions for the two murders.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Sentencing Alternatives

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Sentencing Data

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Jul 19, 2019

California Supreme Court to Consider Petition to Halt Capital Prosecutions

Calling Governor Gavin Newsoms mora­to­ri­um on exe­cu­tions a par­a­digm shift” in the death-penal­ty land­scape, a defen­dant fac­ing the death penal­ty in Los Angeles has peti­tioned the California Supreme Court to halt cap­i­tal pros­e­cu­tions in the state. On July 1, 2019, lawyers for Cleamon Johnson—whose death penal­ty tri­al is sched­uled to begin in January 2020 — have filed a pre­tri­al peti­tion for review, argu­ing that cap­i­tal juries can­not be expect­ed to pro­vide a fair and rea­soned penal­ty-phase deter­mi­na­tion free from spec­u­la­tion” about whether a death sen­tence would ever be car­ried out.

Policy Issues

Race

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Representation

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Federal Death Penalty

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Aug 17, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of August 102020

NEWS (8/​14/​20) — Alabama: The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has affirmed a low­er court rul­ing grant­i­ng a new tri­al to death-row pris­on­er Steven Petric based upon his lawyer’s inef­fec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion at tri­al. Petric had been con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death in 2009 for a rape and mur­der in sub­ur­ban Birmingham two decades earlier.

Policy Issues

Intellectual Disability

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Mental Illness

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Representation

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Aug 24, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of August 172020

NEWS (8/​19/​20) — California: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit released habeas cor­pus appeal deci­sions in two cap­i­tal cas­es involv­ing California death-row pris­on­er Martin Kipp, over­turn­ing his con­vic­tion in a case pros­e­cut­ed in Orange County and uphold­ing his con­vic­tion and death sen­tence in a Los Angeles County case.

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

Representation

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United States Supreme Court

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Lethal Injection

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Federal Death Penalty

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Jun 19, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of June 152020

NEWS (6/​19/​20) — California: In one of the few cap­i­tal tri­als to move for­ward dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, a San Jose jury acquit­ted Manuel Anthony Lopez of charges that he had raped and mur­dered his girlfriend’s two-year-old son. Lopez, who had been jailed four years await­ing tri­al, had con­sis­tent­ly pro­fessed his inno­cence, and news reports said his lead defense coun­sel, Santa Clara County deputy pub­lic defend­er Michael Ogul, believed so strong­ly in Lopez’s inno­cence that he post­poned his retire­ment two years to be able to see the case to its…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Intellectual Disability

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Mental Illness

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Race

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Upcoming Executions

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Jul 01, 2020

Capital Case Roundup — Death Penalty Court Decisions the Week of June 292020

NEWS (7/​2/​20) — Florida: The Florida Supreme Court denied relief to death-row pris­on­er Leroy Pooler, apply­ing two recent deci­sions that retroac­tive­ly rescind­ed case prece­dent that could have over­turned his death sentence. 

Policy Issues

Prosecutorial Accountability

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Race

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Nov 19, 2019

Civil Rights Groups File Class Action Lawsuit Against Mississippi Prosecutor Over Systemic Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection

Two civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tions have filed a class action law­suit against Mississippi pros­e­cu­tor Doug Evans (pic­tured) seek­ing an end to what they describe as a pol­i­cy, cus­tom, and usage of racial­ly dis­crim­i­na­to­ry jury selec­tion.” The law­suit, filed by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the MacArthur Justice Center on November 18, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi on behalf of black prospec­tive jurors in Mississippi’s Fifth Circuit Court District, asks the fed­er­al court to issue an injunc­tion against Evans to bar his office from…

Policy Issues

Prosecutorial Accountability

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Race

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Aug 21, 2020

Commentary: Tennessee’s Commitment to Racial Justice Tested as Attorney General Continues to Push for Execution in Case Rife with Racial Bias

Declaring that “[r]acism still exists and has no place in soci­ety,” the Tennessee Supreme Court on June 25, 2020 direct­ed its Access to Justice Commission (AJC) to cre­ate a new ini­tia­tive to iden­ti­fy and elim­i­nate bar­ri­ers to racial and eth­nic fair­ness and jus­tice.” The court’s pro­nounce­ment, at the height of the racial jus­tice protests that swept the nation fol­low­ing the mur­der of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police offi­cer, was meant to sig­nal its con­cern about racial bias in the legal system.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Race

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Sep 08, 2020

Curtis Flowers Exonerated in Mississippi After Attorney General Drops All Charges

After six tri­als marred by pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al mis­con­duct and racial prej­u­dice, draw­ing a scathing rebuke from the U.S. Supreme Court, for­mer Mississippi death-row pris­on­er Curtis Flowers (pic­tured with the ankle mon­i­tor that had kept him under house arrest) has been exonerated.

Policy Issues

Federal Death Penalty

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Dec 13, 2019

Federal Appeals Court Hears Argument in Boston Marathon Bombing Case

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (pic­tured) sought to over­turn his con­vic­tion and fed­er­al death sen­tence on Thursday, argu­ing in a fed­er­al appeals court that he could not get a fair tri­al in a city still trau­ma­tized by the attack. During the two-hour argu­ment before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston on December 12, 2019, they also claimed Tsarnaev was denied an impar­tial jury when the tri­al court pro­hib­it­ed him from ask­ing jurors about their expo­sure to pre­tri­al pub­lic­i­ty that may have affect­ed their…

Facts & Research

Recent Legislative Activity

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Feb 06, 2023

Florida Governor Pushes To Remove Safeguards in Death Penalty Cases

At the urg­ing of Governor Ron DeSantis, bills have been intro­duced in the Florida House and Senate that would allow death sen­tences even when the jury can­not come to a unan­i­mous ver­dict on the prop­er penal­ty. The pro­posed leg­is­la­tion would also per­mit a pre­sid­ing judge to over­ride a jury’s rec­om­men­da­tion of life and impose a death sen­tence. Death sen­tences would be allowed if at least eight jurors agreed, cre­at­ing the low­est thresh­old in the nation for the impo­si­tion of a death sen­tence. Only Alabama cur­rent­ly allows death sen­tences when the…

Facts & Research

Recent Legislative Activity

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Apr 18, 2023

Florida Legislature Rescinds Unanimous-Jury Requirement in Death Sentencing

Florida is poised to become the state with the nation’s low­est thresh­old for juries to rec­om­mend death sen­tences, after the state leg­is­la­ture passed a bill allow­ing a judge to impose death if at least eight out of twelve jurors agree. Most states, includ­ing Florida, have required a unan­i­mous jury ver­dict to rec­om­mend death. Governor Ron DeSantis (pic­tured) is expect­ed to sign the bill, fol­low­ing the House’s approval on April 13, 2023. Alabama requires at least 10 jurors to approve a death sen­tence. It is like­ly that the Florida leg­is­la­tion will…

Policy Issues

Sentencing Alternatives

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Jan 31, 2020

Florida Prisoner Sentenced to Life After Third Non-Unanimous Death Penalty Verdict

After near­ly two decades of cap­i­tal tri­als and death-penal­ty rever­sals, for­mer Florida death-row pris­on­er David Snelgrove has been resen­tenced to life in prison with­out parole. His three sen­tenc­ing tri­als pro­vid­ed a barom­e­ter of the impact of the United States Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court deci­sions in Hurst v. Florida and Hurst v. State, and the lengths to which pros­e­cu­tors were will­ing to go in attempts to keep uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly sen­tenced pris­on­ers on death row.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Sentencing Alternatives

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Jan 24, 2020

Florida Supreme Court Retracts Jury Unanimity Requirement, Reinstates Non-Unanimous Death Sentence

In a dra­mat­ic rever­sal made pos­si­ble by changes in court per­son­nel, the Florida Supreme Court has repu­di­at­ed its pri­or deci­sions requir­ing that cap­i­tal sen­tenc­ing juries unan­i­mous­ly agree to the death penal­ty before a tri­al judge may sen­tence a defen­dant to death. Our court … got it wrong,” the jus­tices said, when it ruled in 2016 that death sen­tences imposed after non-unan­i­mous jury rec­om­men­da­tions for death vio­lat­ed the state and fed­er­al constitutions.

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Intellectual Disability

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Prosecutorial Accountability

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Race

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Mar 16, 2020

Georgia Supreme Court Votes 9 – 0 for New Trial for Former Death-Row Prisoner Johnny Gates

More than forty years after he was con­vict­ed and sen­tenced to death by an all-white Columbus, Georgia jury for the rape and mur­der of a 19-year-old white woman, Johnny Lee Gates (pic­tured) will be get­ting a new tri­al. On March 13, 2020, the Georgia Supreme Court unan­i­mous­ly held that DNA con­tained on phys­i­cal evi­dence that police and pros­e­cu­tors had with­held for decades raised sig­nif­i­cant doubt” as to Gates’ guilt.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Upcoming Executions

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Nov 18, 2019

Juror Admits Bias in Tennessee Case With Pending Execution Date

A Tennessee death-row pris­on­er who is fac­ing exe­cu­tion in ear­ly December is seek­ing to reverse his 1992 con­vic­tion and death sen­tence in light of new infor­ma­tion that a juror who served on his case failed to dis­close that she was biased against him.

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

Oct 03, 2019

Jurors Report Experiencing Continuing Trauma After Serving in South Carolina Death-Penalty Trial

Jurors in South Carolina report that they are expe­ri­enc­ing pro­found psy­cho­log­i­cal effects from their expo­sure to graph­i­cal­ly vio­lent images, tes­ti­mo­ny, and argu­ment dur­ing the death-penal­ty tri­al of Tim Jones, Jr. (pic­tured). Three months after the June 13, 2019 con­clu­sion of the penal­ty phase of a tri­al in which jurors sen­tenced Jones to death for killing his five young chil­dren, nine of the 18 Lexington County jurors and alter­nates from the case agreed to speak with the local news­pa­per, The State, about the case. The evi­dence, the news­pa­per said, has left…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Race

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Clemency

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Oct 03, 2015

Missouri Commutes Death Sentence of Kimber Edwards

On October 2, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon com­mut­ed the death sen­tence of Kimber Edwards to life with­out parole. Edwards had faced exe­cu­tion on October 6 for the alleged mur­der-for-hire killing of his ex-wife.

Policy Issues

Race

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Jun 30, 2020

New Podcast: Henderson Hill and North Carolina’s Historic Racial Justice Act Rulings

In the June 2020 episode of Discussions with DPIC, Henderson Hill (pic­tured), Senior Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project, speaks with Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham about North Carolinas Racial Justice Act. Hill, who has spent decades as a pub­lic defend­er, cap­i­tal defense attor­ney, and civ­il rights advo­cate, is cur­rent­ly rep­re­sent­ing North Carolina death-row pris­on­ers in the Racial Justice Act lit­i­ga­tion chal­leng­ing their death sentences.

Policy Issues

Mental Illness

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Sentencing Alternatives

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Oct 13, 2022

Non-Unanimous Florida Jury Sentences Nikolas Cruz to Life Without Parole for Parkland School Shootings

A non-unan­i­mous Florida jury has returned a ver­dict of life with­out parole for Nikolas Cruz, the teen offend­er con­vict­ed of killing 17 peo­ple in the February 14, 2018 shoot­ing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (pic­tured) in Parkland, Florida. The October 13, 2022 ver­dict, in which three jurors vot­ed to spare Cruz’s life, con­clud­ed a six-month sen­tenc­ing tri­al. Florida law, like that of near­ly every death-penal­ty state, requires a unan­i­mous jury ver­dict before a death sen­tence may be imposed.

Policy Issues

Prosecutorial Accountability

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Race

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Mar 28, 2024

OP-ED: Black Woman Denied Opportunity to Serve as a Juror in Georgia Capital Trial Cites Concerns About Racial Bias

In a March 26, 2024, op-ed pub­lished in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Patricia McTier, a Georgia nurse, recounts her expe­ri­ence being removed from a jury pool in 1998 for what she calls a ques­tion­able rea­son” relat­ed to her race. Born and raised in Appling County, Georgia, Ms. McTier grew up in the Jim Crow era and writes that she enter[ed] adult­hood dur­ing a time of great social change,” where she grew to cher­ish our American sys­tem of jus­tice and the Constitution that endows all of us with equal rights.” In September…

Policy Issues

Prosecutorial Accountability

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Race

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Feb 20, 2024

Op-Ed: Law Professor Stephen Bright Encourages SCOTUS to Review Egregious Racial Discrimination” in Georgia Death Row Prisoner’s Case

In a February 14, 2024 op-ed pub­lished in the Washington Post, the long­time defense lawyer, for­mer direc­tor of the Southern Center for Human Rights, and law pro­fes­sor Stephen Bright high­lights the con­tin­ued ille­gal exclu­sion of Black jurors in vio­la­tion of Batson v. Kennedy (1986). The op-ed titled, Struck from a jury for being Black? It still hap­pens all too often,” uses the case of Georgia death-sen­tenced pris­on­er Warren King, whose peti­tion the U.S. Supreme Court is expect­ed to review on February 23, as the lat­est exam­ple of the per­sis­tent prac­tice. The…

Policy Issues

Race

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New Voices

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Dec 02, 2016

OUTLIER COUNTIES: Dallas County, Texas Imposing Fewer Death Sentences After Years of Discrimination

With 55 exe­cu­tions since the 1970s, Dallas County, Texas, ranks sec­ond among all U.S. coun­ties — behind only Harris County (Houston), Texas — in the num­ber of pris­on­ers it has put to death. It is also among the 2% of coun­ties that account for more than half of all pris­on­ers on death row across the coun­try, and pro­duced sev­en new death sen­tences and one resen­tence between 2010 and 2015, more than 99.5% of all U.S. coun­ties dur­ing that period.

Policy Issues

Race

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United States Supreme Court

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Apr 28, 2022

Supreme Court Refuses to Review Case in Which Texas Judge Seated Juror Who Believed Non-White Races’ More Violent

Five years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas death sen­tence when an expert wit­ness had tes­ti­fied that a Black defen­dant posed an increased risk of com­mit­ting future acts of vio­lence because of his race, the Court has refused to review anoth­er Texas cap­i­tal case in which the tri­al court per­mit­ted a juror to serve who expressed the very same view.

Policy Issues

Mental Illness

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Race

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Nov 29, 2022

Texas Schedules Execution of Mentally Ill Prisoner Who Ate His Eye, After SCOTUS Refuses to Review Evidence of Racial Bias

Texas is plan­ning to exe­cute a seri­ous­ly men­tal­ly ill pris­on­er who has gouged out both of his eyes because of his para­noid schiz­o­phre­nia. On November 7, 2022, the District Court of Grayson County, Texas set an April 5, 2023 exe­cu­tion date for Andre Thomas (pic­tured, left when arrest­ed; cen­ter, after goug­ing out his right eye pri­or to tri­al; right, after goug­ing out and eat­ing his left eye while on death row). Thomas has been described by his attor­neys as one of the most men­tal­ly ill pris­on­ers in Texas history.”

Policy Issues

United States Supreme Court

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Mar 11, 2020

Timothy Hurst, Whose Case Struck Down Florida’s Death-Penalty Statute, Is Resentenced to Life

Former Florida death-row pris­on­er Timothy Hurst (pic­tured), whose case led the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Florida’s death-penal­ty statute in 2016 and spurred the elim­i­na­tion of non-unan­i­mous jury ver­dicts for death in Florida and Delaware, has been resen­tenced to life with­out parole. Hurst was offi­cial­ly removed from Florida’s death row after his cap­i­tal resen­tenc­ing jury did not reach a unan­i­mous sen­tenc­ing rec­om­men­da­tion on March 52020.

Policy Issues

Mental Illness

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Race

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Oct 18, 2022

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case of Texas Prisoner Whose Jurors Expressed Racist Views

With three jus­tices dis­sent­ing, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case of Texas death-row pris­on­er Andre Thomas, who was sen­tenced to death by jurors who admit­ted to racial bias. In a case involv­ing an inter­ra­cial mur­der and mar­riage, jurors who opposed inter­ra­cial rela­tion­ships were allowed to serve with­out objec­tion by defense coun­sel. These beliefs were ref­er­enced by the pros­e­cu­tion dur­ing clos­ing argu­ment at the sen­tenc­ing phase, where jurors were tasked to weigh Thomas’ long his­to­ry of severe men­tal ill­ness in decid­ing whether to sen­tence him to death.