Entries tagged with “Prosecutors and Attorneys

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Sep 20, 2007

Alabama District Attorneys Association Criticizes Attorney General for Politicizing Death Penalty Case

In a let­ter cit­ing polit­i­cal manip­u­la­tion of the death penal­ty by the state’s chief pros­e­cu­tor, 41 mem­bers of Alabama’s District Attorneys Association called on Attorney General Troy King to apol­o­gize to Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens (pic­tured). King has said that Owens shirked” his duties when he expressed con­cerns in a court hear­ing about the fair­ness of an inmate’s death sen­tence. If he can­not rec­og­nize the error of his need­less attack on the dis­trict attor­ney, per­haps he should con­sid­er his fit­ness for the posi­tion he now holds,” the association…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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New Voices

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Sep 18, 2007

Alabama Prosecutor Punished for Testifying That a Death Sentence Was Unfair

Alabama Attorney General Troy King (pic­tured) recent­ly stripped a cap­i­tal mur­der case from vet­er­an Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens because Owens expressed con­cerns in a court hear­ing about the fair­ness of an inmate’s death sen­tence. Owens tes­ti­fied that it would be dis­pro­por­tion­ate to exe­cute LaSamuel Gamble for killing two peo­ple more than a decade ago in light of the fact that his co-defen­dant, and the crime’s trig­ger­man, Marcus Presley, had his death sen­tence reduced under the U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing that out­lawed the death penal­ty for juve­nile offend­ers. Earlier…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Costs

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Race

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New Voices

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Nov 09, 2017

Anti-Death Penalty District Attorney Elected in Philadelphia, the Nation’s 3rd Largest Death Penalty County

Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniathe nation’s third largest death-penal­ty coun­ty—has elect­ed as its new dis­trict attor­ney a can­di­date who ran on a plat­form of end­ing mass incar­cer­a­tion and eschew­ing use of the death penal­ty. Democrat Lawrence Krasner (pic­tured), a long­time civ­il rights lawyer and oppo­nent of the death penal­ty, who once joked that he’d spent a career becom­ing com­plete­ly une­lec­table,” received 75% of the vote in eas­i­ly defeat­ing his Republican oppo­nent Beth Grossman. As a civ­il rights and crim­i­nal defense attor­ney, Krasner had rep­re­sent­ed polit­i­cal pro­test­ers and Black Lives Matter activists, and had…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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May 31, 2019

Citing Conflict With Florida Death-Penalty Ruling, Aramis Ayala Will Not Seek Re-Election As State Attorney

Aramis Ayala (pic­tured), the first African American elect­ed as a state attor­ney in Florida, will not seek re-elec­tion as Orange-Osceola County State Attorney. Citing con­flicts with the Florida Supreme Court’s pro­nounce­ments on cap­i­tal pros­e­cu­tions, Ayala announced in a Facebook video on May 28, 2019 that she would not pur­sue a sec­ond term as state attor­ney. It’s time for me to move for­ward and to con­tin­ue the pur­suit of jus­tice in a dif­fer­ent capac­i­ty,” she said.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Costs

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New Voices

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Sep 05, 2006

Costs and Geography Contribute to Death Penalty’s Arbitrariness

The death penal­ty is rarely sought in the city of Baltimore, but in adjoin­ing Baltimore County almost every eli­gi­ble case becomes a cap­i­tal case. Presently, there are 7 active death-penal­ty cas­es in Baltimore County, more than the city of Baltimore has had over­all in the past 2 decades. In addi­tion to the dif­fer­ent philoso­phies of the respec­tive State’s Attorneys, the costs of the death penal­ty are a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor. Prosecutors esti­mate that a death penal­ty case costs tax­pay­ers $500,000, just for the tri­al and penal­ty phas­es. Donald Giblin, one of…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Jan 10, 2017

Denver’s Newly Elected District Attorney Says She Will Not Seek the Death Penalty

Newly-elect­ed Denver, Colorado District Attorney Beth McCann (pic­tured), sworn into office on January 10, 2017, has said that her admin­is­tra­tion will not seek the death penal­ty. Asked by 9News, Denver’s NBC affil­i­ate, whether Denver was done with the death penal­ty,” McCann said: We are under my admin­is­tra­tion. I don’t think that the state should be in the busi­ness of killing people.”

Policy Issues

Costs

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New Voices

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Sep 14, 2007

Expensive Death Penalty Prosecutions in Florida May Mean Others Don’t Go to Trial

Florida State Attorney Harry Shorstein recent­ly said that cuts to his bud­get could force his staff to make tough deci­sions with regard to crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions. Shorstein said a pre­dict­ed bud­get cut for the 20 state attor­ney offices in Florida would be cat­a­stroph­ic,” pro­ject­ing that his staff alone would lose 16 mem­bers and may have to aban­don expen­sive death penal­ty cas­es. There will be cas­es that can’t be tried. Will it mean we can’t get to the tri­als? Will it take longer? Will it, will it clog the crim­i­nal jus­tice system?…

Policy Issues

Victims' Families

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New Voices

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Aug 01, 2007

Fewer Death Sentences as Victims’ Concerns Are Considered

When weigh­ing whether to seek the death penal­ty, Tulsa County First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond says that he tries to deter­mine how future juries will assess the evi­dence, as well as how a death penal­ty case will impact vic­tims’ fam­i­ly mem­bers. He observes, Life with­out parole with­out appeals might be a bet­ter sit­u­a­tion for a lot of vic­tims’ fam­i­lies. There are some pos­i­tive things about that.… A lot of peo­ple, at first blush when a loved one is killed, want the death penal­ty. (But) going through…

Policy Issues

Race

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New Voices

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Mar 23, 2017

Florida Black Caucus, Victim’s Parents Urge Governor to Rescind Order Removing Prosecutor For Not Seeking Death Penalty

The Florida Legislative Black Caucus has joined more than 100 lawyers and legal experts and the par­ents of mur­der vic­tim Sade Dixon in urg­ing Governor Rick Scott to rescind his order remov­ing Orange-Osceola County State Attorney Aramis Ayala (pic­tured) from a high-pro­file dou­ble mur­der case in which she decid­ed to not seek the death penal­ty. The oth­er vic­tim in the case, Lt. Debra Clayton, was an Orlando police offi­cer. Governor Scott did not speak with Dixon’s fam­i­ly before issu­ing an order remov­ing Ayala and appoint­ing a Special Prosecutor to the…

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

Mental Illness

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Recent Legislative Activity

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New Voices

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Feb 17, 2017

Former Tennessee Attorney General Supports Mental Illness Exemption

In an op-ed in the Memphis news­pa­per, The Commercial Appeal, for­mer Tennessee Attorney General W.J. Michael Cody (pic­tured) has expressed his sup­port for a bill that would exempt peo­ple with seri­ous men­tal ill­ness from the death penal­ty. Cody, who lat­er served as a mem­ber of the American Bar Association’s Tennessee Death Penalty Assessment Team, said that as soci­ety’s under­stand­ing of men­tal ill­ness improves every day,” it is sur­pris­ing that peo­ple with severe men­tal ill­ness­es, like schiz­o­phre­nia, can still be sub­ject to the death penal­ty in Tennessee.”

Policy Issues

Innocence

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New Voices

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Apr 18, 2007

Freed Death Row Inmates and Former Prosecutor Join Call for Halt to Pennsylvania Executions

(Pictured left to right, Harold Wilson, Barry Scheck, and Sam Millsap) During a press con­fer­ence near the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, 16 for­mer death row inmates whose con­vic­tions were over­turned joined not­ed attor­ney Barry Scheck (pic­tured) and for­mer Texas pros­e­cu­tor Sam Millsap (pic­tured) in call­ing for a mora­to­ri­um on exe­cu­tions in Pennsylvania. Harold C. Wilson (pic­tured), the most recent of six death row exonerees in the state, not­ed that he spent 16 years on death row for a mur­der he did not com­mit. If it had been up to the…

Facts & Research

Sentencing Data

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New Voices

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Jun 11, 2018

Georgia Supreme Court Hears First Death-Penalty Appeal in Two Years Amidst Sharp Decline in Death Sentences

In the midst of a sharp decline in death sen­tences in the state, the Georgia Supreme Court on June 4 heard a direct appeal in a cap­i­tal case for the first time in two years. In March 2018, Georgia reached the four-year mark since it had last imposed a death sen­tence, a dra­mat­ic change for a state that once hand­ed down 15 death sen­tences in a sin­gle year. The decline in Georgia’s death penal­ty exem­pli­fies broad­er nation­al death-penal­ty trends. In 1987, when Georgia hand­ed down those 15 death sen­tences, 288

Facts & Research

Public Opinion

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New Voices

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Aug 08, 2018

In First Post-Ferguson Election for St. Louis County Prosecutor, Death-Penalty Opponent Unseats Long-Time Incumbent

In an elec­tion viewed as a ref­er­en­dum on racial jus­tice and crim­i­nal jus­tice reform, death-penal­ty oppo­nent Wesley Bell (pic­tured, left) sound­ly defeat­ed sev­en-term incum­bent, Robert McCulloch (pic­tured, right) for the Democratic nom­i­na­tion for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney. With no Republican oppo­si­tion in the gen­er­al elec­tion, Bell, a Ferguson, Missouri, city coun­cil mem­ber, is expect­ed to become the coun­ty’s first African-American chief prosecutor.

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

Mental Illness

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Clemency

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New Voices

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May 25, 2006

MENTAL ILLNESS: Rutherford Institute Calls Attention to Upcoming Virginia Execution

John W. Whitehead, founder and pres­i­dent of the Rutherford Institute, called for clemen­cy for Percy Lavar Walton, a Virginia inmate sched­uled to be exe­cut­ed on June 8. Walton is a psy­chot­ic schiz­o­phrenic who has suf­fered with severe men­tal ill­ness since ado­les­cence. He is on death row for three mur­ders he com­mit­ted when he was 18 years old. Whitehead writes: Dubbed Crazy Horse” by prison offi­cials, Walton … is scarce­ly con­scious of the fate that awaits him. While oth­ers on death row bide their time in count­ing down to…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Jul 19, 2017

New Generation of Prosecutors May Signal Shift in Death Penalty Policies

A new gen­er­a­tion of pros­e­cu­tors, elect­ed across the coun­try on a plat­form of crim­i­nal jus­tice reform, are tak­ing a dif­fer­ent approach to crim­i­nal jus­tice poli­cies than their pre­de­ces­sors, includ­ing a reduc­tion in the use of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. A Christian Science Monitor pro­file of these pros­e­cu­tors — focus­ing on Mark Gonzalez (pic­tured), the Nueces County, Texas, dis­trict attor­ney — says “[f]rom Texas to Florida to Illinois, many of these young pros­e­cu­tors are eschew­ing the death penal­ty, talk­ing reha­bil­i­ta­tion as much as pun­ish­ment, and often refus­ing to charge peo­ple for minor offenses.”

Policy Issues

Intellectual Disability

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Mental Illness

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Public Opinion

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Feb 03, 2022

New Poll: Voters Overwhelmingly Oppose Las Vegas DA Seeking the Death Penalty Against Vulnerable and Impaired Persons

Likely vot­ers in Clark County, Nevada over­whelm­ing­ly oppose the use of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment against broad cat­e­gories of vul­ner­a­ble and impaired per­sons whom coun­ty pros­e­cu­tors have been try­ing to exe­cute, a new poll released by Vegas Watch on January 27, 2022 shows.

Policy Issues

Race

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Feb 28, 2024

New Report from Texas Defender Service Examines Ongoing Racial Disparities in Harris County Death Penalty Practices and Recommends Reforms

A new report from the Texas Defender Service (TDS) titled Arbitrary and Capricious: Examining Racial Disparities in Harris County’s Pursuit of Death Sentences” was pub­lished on February 22, 2024 and is the lat­est in series of TDS reports on use of the death penal­ty in Texas. The report focus­es on Harris County’s out­lier death penal­ty prac­tices, both with­in the state and nation­al­ly. While more than half of the 254 coun­ties in Texas have nev­er imposed a death sen­tence, Harris County is respon­si­ble for most of the state’s cur­rent death row…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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May 14, 2008

NEW VOICES: American Bar Association President Calls for Death Penalty Moratorium

William Neukom, the President of the American Bar Association, recent­ly wrote about the death penal­ty in con­junc­tion with a vis­it to Duke University Law School in North Carolina, where he addressed the grad­u­at­ing class. In an op-ed, Mr. Neukom not­ed that the ABA had close­ly stud­ied the death penal­ty sys­tems of eight states and found repeat­ed fail­ures to meet min­i­mum stan­dards advo­cat­ed by the ABA. He renewed the call of the ABA for a halt to exe­cu­tions until these prob­lems are addressed, call­ing on North Carolina leg­is­la­tors in par­tic­u­lar to…

Sep 12, 2003

NEW VOICES: Broward County Prosecutors to Continue DNA Testing After Florida Deadline

As the October 1st dead­line for Florida inmates to request DNA test­ing of evi­dence that could prove their inno­cence looms, Broward County pros­e­cu­tors have announced that they will allow inmates access to the cru­cial test­ing after the dead­line pass­es. Two of Florida’s high­est-pro­file DNA exon­er­a­tions, Frank Lee Smith, who died of can­cer on death row 11 months before he was exon­er­at­ed by DNA evi­dence, and Jerry Frank Townsend were both Broward County cas­es. Carolyn McCann, head of the Broward State Attorney’s appeals unit, stat­ed, Since that’s hap­pened, you can’t look…

Facts & Research

Recent Legislative Activity

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New Voices

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Jan 13, 2006

NEW VOICES: California Moratorium Bill Gains Broad Support From Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

A group of 40 law enforce­ment offi­cers, cur­rent and for­mer pros­e­cu­tors, and judges at the state and fed­er­al lev­el have urged California law­mak­ers to enact a tem­po­rary halt to exe­cu­tions in the state while a com­mis­sion exam­ines the accu­ra­cy and fair­ness of the death penal­ty. In a let­ter to mem­bers of the California Assembly, the bi-par­ti­san group of death penal­ty sup­port­ers and oppo­nents wrote, “[G]iven that DNA test­ing and oth­er new evi­dence has proven that more than 121 peo­ple who sat on death rows around the coun­try were actu­al­ly innocent…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Recent Legislative Activity

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New Voices

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Jan 10, 2006

NEW VOICES: California Prosecutors Urge Death Penalty Moratorium

As California law­mak­ers con­sid­er leg­is­la­tion that would put exe­cu­tions on hold for two years while a 13-mem­ber com­mis­sion reviews the prob­lem of wrong­ful con­vic­tions in the state, a group of cur­rent and for­mer pros­e­cu­tors have sent mem­bers of the state Assembly a let­ter urg­ing pas­sage of the mea­sure. The exe­cu­tion of an inno­cent per­son is unac­cept­able, and it is imper­a­tive that California takes every pre­cau­tion that it nev­er hap­pens. This is not just a mat­ter of jus­tice for these indi­vid­u­als. It is a mat­ter of pub­lic safe­ty…. If an innocent…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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New Voices

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Sep 17, 2008

NEW VOICES: Dallas D.A. To Re-Examine Death Penalty Convictions and Possibly Halt Executions

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins announced that he will be reex­am­in­ing near­ly 40 death penal­ty con­vic­tions in his coun­ty. No exe­cu­tions will occur in the coun­ty until he has reviewed the cas­es in detail. Watkins said he will start with the old­est cas­es as they are most like­ly to be sched­uled first. I’m not say­ing I’m putting a mora­to­ri­um on the death penal­ty,” said Watkins. It’s say­ing that maybe we should with­draw those dates and look at those cas­es from a new per­spec­tive to make sure that those individuals…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Costs

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Sentencing Alternatives

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Victims' Families

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New Voices

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Jul 31, 2007

NEW VOICES: Former Alabama Prosecutor Questions Value of Capital Punishment

Billy Hill spent sev­en years as a dis­trict attor­ney in Shelby, Coosa, and Clay coun­ties in Alabama, and has recon­sid­ered his stance on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. Mr. Hill says that he would wel­come a mora­to­ri­um on exe­cu­tions in Alabama while a study com­mis­sion exam­ines the state’s death penal­ty to eval­u­ate whether it is a wise and humane use of our resources.” Wrongful con­vic­tions, the arbi­trary nature of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, poor rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and the long-term suf­fer­ing of vic­tims’ fam­i­ly mem­bers are among Hill’s main con­cerns about cur­rent death penal­ty laws. He believes…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Jul 07, 2008

NEW VOICES: Former District Attorney Changes Mind On Death Penalty

A for­mer California deputy dis­trict attor­ney recent­ly explained how he had changed his views on the death penal­ty after once argu­ing for it at tri­al. From that expe­ri­ence, he con­clud­ed he won’t do it again.” As the pros­e­cu­tor in a heinous mur­der case, Darryl Stallworth found him­self feel­ing more hes­i­tant about the use of the death penal­ty as the tri­al pro­gressed. Stallworth stat­ed, I was no longer cer­tain what would be accom­plished by exe­cut­ing [the defen­dant].” Although he argued for the death penal­ty, the jury returned a sen­tence of life…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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New Voices

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Sep 12, 2016

NEW VOICES: Former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro Says Death Penalty Unfixable, Not Worth It Any More”

In a recent com­men­tary in the Columbus Dispatch, for­mer Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro (pic­tured) crit­i­cized the state’s death penal­ty as a bro­ken sys­tem that cur­rent­ly serves only the inter­est of Ohio pros­e­cu­tors” and said that keep­ing the death penal­ty is just not worth it any more.” As a state leg­is­la­tor, Petro helped write Ohio’s cur­rent death-penal­ty law and he over­saw eigh­teen exe­cu­tions as Attorney General from 2003 – 2007. He says, at the time “[w]e thought maybe it would be a deter­rent. Maybe the death penal­ty would pro­vide cost sav­ings to…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Feb 13, 2006

NEW VOICES: Former Prosecutor Says Death Penalty Not Worth The Costs

Steven P. Grossman, a for­mer New York City pros­e­cu­tor and a pro­fes­sor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, recent­ly wrote in The Baltimore Sun that the death penal­ty is not worth the soci­etal effort it requires and the wounds it caus­es.” The case of Maryland death row inmate Vernon Evans,who received a stay jsut pri­or to his sched­uled exe­cu­tion this month, prompt­ed Grossman to exam­ine cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment as it relates to vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and whether exe­cu­tions deter future vio­lent crimes. He noted:The aver­age cap­i­tal case in this country…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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New Voices

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Oct 19, 2016

NEW VOICES: Former Reagan Attorney General and Former Manhattan Prosecutor Speak Out In Possible Innocence Case

Edwin Meese III (pic­tured), who served as U.S. Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan, and Robert Morgenthau, the long-time dis­trict attor­ney of Manhattan who served as a U.S. attor­ney under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, believe that Alabama death row pris­on­er William Kuenzel is inno­cent and are urg­ing the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case. Meese and Morgenthau belong to dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal par­ties and take oppos­ing views on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, but both believe that Kuenzel was wrong­ful­ly con­vict­ed and con­demned for the 1987 mur­der of a convenience…

Jul 23, 2003

NEW VOICES: Former San Francisco Prosecutor Denounces Death Penalty

After years of sup­port­ing cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, for­mer San Francisco pros­e­cu­tor Bill Fazio recent­ly changed his posi­tion on the death penal­ty. Fazio, who now serves as a defense attor­ney, stat­ed, Life with­out parole is a viable alter­na­tive.” He not­ed that he began to recon­sid­er his stance on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment after the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed his sole death penal­ty con­vic­tion. Fazio not­ed, It was an error by the tri­al judge, and it made me real­ize that after 21 years there was still no clo­sure in the case. If Coleman had…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Feb 19, 2007

NEW VOICES: Former State Prosecutor Questions Value of Capital Punishment

Former Connecticut state pros­e­cu­tor and legal ana­lyst Susan Filan recent­ly stat­ed that the death penal­ty is not an appro­pri­ate sen­tence, par­tic­u­lar­ly when the crime appears to be a heinous vio­la­tion of the sanc­ti­ty of life . In her com­men­tary post­ed on MSNBC​.com, Filan wrote:

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Oct 22, 2007

NEW VOICES: Former Tennessee Attorney General and Federal Judge Cite Crisis in State’s Death Penalty

A for­mer Tennessee Attorney General, W.J. Cody, and a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge, Gilbert Merritt, both mem­bers of the American Bar Association’s Tennessee Death Penalty Assessment Team, called on pol­i­cy­mak­ers to thor­ough­ly review the state’s cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment laws and imple­ment sig­nif­i­cant changes that address con­cerns such as wrong­ful con­vic­tions, meet­ing the needs of vic­tims’ fam­i­ly mem­bers, and ensur­ing that the state com­plies with min­i­mum stan­dards required for fair­ness in cap­i­tal tri­als. According to Cody, who also served as a U.S. Attorney, and Judge Merritt of the Sixth Circuit, who…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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New Voices

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Oct 13, 2008

NEW VOICES: Former Texas Prosecutor Now Opposes Death Penalty as New Study is Released on Wrongful Convictions

A for­mer Dallas County pros­e­cu­tor has aban­doned his long­stand­ing sup­port of the death penal­ty and is now opposed to cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment based on recent exon­er­a­tions in Texas and else­where. James Fry, who pros­e­cut­ed Charles Chatman – a man recent­ly exon­er­at­ed from prison in Dallas County – said he was shak­en to the core” by the high num­ber of exon­er­a­tions through­out the nation and by evi­dence of flawed eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny. Formerly a staunch sup­port­er of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, Fry point­ed to the risk of mis­takes: I don’t think the sys­tem can prove who is guilty and…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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New Voices

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Federal Death Penalty

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Sep 26, 2008

NEW VOICES: Former U.S. Attorney Cites Improper Pressure in Use of Federal Death Penalty

Former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton expressed relief that the Justice Department is no longer seek­ing to exe­cute a defen­dant in the case that was cause for his ter­mi­na­tion. Charlton told the Associated Press that he did not think the gov­ern­ment had suf­fi­cient evi­dence to pur­sue the death penal­ty in the pros­e­cu­tion of Jose Rios Rico. Charlton’s boss, for­mer Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, want­ed him to pur­sue it any­way and tes­ti­fied to a Senate pan­el that he fired Charlton over his poor judg­ment” in the case. The present admin­is­tra­tion has reached…

Policy Issues

Sentencing Alternatives

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Victims' Families

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New Voices

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Mar 10, 2016

NEW VOICES: Former Utah Prosecutor Urges Death Penalty Repeal

Creighton Horton spent 30 years as a pros­e­cu­tor with the Salt Lake District Attorney’s Office and Utah Attorney General’s Office before retir­ing in 2009. In a recent op-ed, he said his expe­ri­ence han­dling cap­i­tal cas­es led him to believe Utah should abol­ish the death penalty.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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New Voices

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May 23, 2006

NEW VOICES: Illinois Execution in 1995 Now Seen in a New Light

Girvies Davis was exe­cut­ed in Illinois in 1995 after a con­vic­tion based large­ly on his own con­fes­sion. Davis’ appel­late attor­ney was David A. Schwartz, who now serves as senior vice-pres­i­dent and base­ball legal coun­sel at CSMG Sports. Schwartz writes in the Chicago Tribune that Davis con­fessed” to many crimes, most of which he indis­putably did not com­mit. Davis said that the only rea­son he con­fessed to the mur­der that sent him to death row was that the police threat­ened to kill him if he did not sign the con­fes­sion. Schwartz,…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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Innocence

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Race

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Clemency

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New Voices

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Aug 10, 2006

NEW VOICES: Kenneth Starr and Other Officials Join Discussion of Death Penalty

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, togeth­er with the Federalist Society and the Constitution Project, recent­ly spon­sored a pan­el in Washington, D.C., exam­in­ing the appli­ca­tion, moral­i­ty and con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of the death penal­ty in the United States. The pan­el was mod­er­at­ed by Virginia Sloan of the Constitution Project and fea­tured Samuel Millsap, Jr., for­mer Texas District Attorney, William Otis, Counselor to the Head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Kenneth Starr (pic­tured), for­mer Special Prosecutor and now Dean of the Pepperdine Law School, and Bryan Stevenson, Director of the…

Apr 14, 2004

NEW VOICES: Law Enforcement Officials Support Bill to End Juvenile Death Penalty

A bipar­ti­san mea­sure to elim­i­nate the juve­nile death penal­ty in Florida has passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee and is now on its way to the full Senate for con­sid­er­a­tion. The mea­sure was intro­duced by Republican Senator Victor Crist, a death penal­ty sup­port­er who notes that young peo­ple are dif­fer­ent because they don’t have the same under­stand­ing of con­se­quences as an adult. .The bill also has sup­port from the state’s top law enforce­ment offi­cers, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnel. You need…

Sep 13, 2004

NEW VOICES: Lead Prosecutor Questions Value of Death Penalty

Thomas F. Kelaher, the new pres­i­dent of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey, said that it is time to start rethink­ing the use of the death penal­ty in the state. Although Kelaher is a sup­port­er of the death penal­ty, he not­ed: If the death penal­ty has­n’t been used in 20 years, soci­ety should ask if it should be con­tin­ued. It was sup­posed to act as a deter­rent. If it has­n’t been used in 20 years, you real­ly can’t say it’s a deter­rent.” Kelaher expressed con­cern about the recent number…

Policy Issues

Sentencing Alternatives

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Victims' Families

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New Voices

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Nov 14, 2006

NEW VOICES: Life Without Parole Offers Prosecutors, Jurors, and Victims an Acceptable Alternative to the Death Penalty

Prosecutors in Utah have stat­ed that the sen­tenc­ing option of life with­out parole has been very help­ful in giv­ing jurors and fam­i­ly mem­bers of vic­tims a viable alter­na­tive to the death penal­ty. Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom not­ed that life with­out parole is often a bet­ter option to present to jurors: It’s a tool for juries as well as pros­e­cu­tors and defense attor­neys, too,” Yocom said. It’s an alter­na­tive to avoid ask­ing a jury of 12 peo­ple to make that deci­sion,” to impose the death penalty.

Dec 16, 2004

NEW VOICES: Manhattan’s DA Says Death Penalty Exacts a ter­ri­ble price”

As New York law­mak­ers con­duct­ed the first in a series of hear­ings on the state’s death penal­ty, Robert M. Morgenthau, Manhattan’s long-serv­ing District Attorney, rec­om­mend­ed that New York aban­don the prac­tice: It’s the deed that teach­es, not the name we give it,” Morgenthau said, quot­ing George Bernard Shaw. He went on to note, The penal­ty exacts a ter­ri­ble price in dol­lars, lives, and human decen­cy. Rather than tamp­ing down the flames of vio­lence, it fuels them.…I urge all of our law­mak­ers, in the strongest pos­si­ble terms, not to rein­state the…

Aug 10, 2004

NEW VOICES: Massachusetts DA Asks that the Death Penalty Be Avoided

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley has sent a let­ter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft request­ing that the Justice Department not seek the death penal­ty for a Dorchester drug deal­er charged with mur­der­ing a rival. Ashcroft has indi­cat­ed that the 25-year-old defen­dant, Brima Wurie, could be a can­di­date for the fed­er­al death penal­ty. Conley believes a fed­er­al death penal­ty case against Wurie would alien­ate com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers whose assis­tance has been a valu­able part of efforts to elim­i­nate vio­lence in Boston. The dis­trict attor­ney feels much of the success…

May 04, 2004

NEW VOICES: Massachusetts District Attorneys Criticize Governor’s Death Penalty Plan

District attor­neys from sev­er­al Massachusetts coun­ties, includ­ing Suffolk, Norfolk, Middlesex, Essex and Barnstable, had strong reser­va­tions about Governor Mitt Romney’s attempt to estab­lish a near­ly fool­proof” death penal­ty sys­tem in the state. Some not­ed that noth­ing can elim­i­nate the pos­si­bil­i­ty of human error in such cas­es. The dis­trict attor­neys said that the state’s med­ical examiner’s office and crime labs are cur­rent­ly over­whelmed with work, and that the labs do not have the capac­i­ty to add the addi­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty of car­ry­ing out Romney’s plan. Let’s fix what’s wrong first,” said Barnstable…

Policy Issues

Costs

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Deterrence

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Recent Legislative Activity

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New Voices

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Jan 01, 2011

NEW VOICES: Montana Assistant Attorney General Calls for Death Penalty Repeal

Montana Assistant Attorney General John Connor has voiced sup­port for a leg­isla­tive mea­sure that would abol­ish cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in his state. Stating his belief that the death penal­ty does not deter crime and is expen­sive, Connor told the Montana House Judiciary Committee, It seems to me to be the ulti­mate incon­gruity to say we respect life so much that we’re going to ded­i­cate all our mon­ey, all our resources, our legal exper­tise and our entire sys­tem to try and take your life.… Frankly, I just don’t…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Federal Death Penalty

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Feb 04, 2008

NEW VOICES: Moussaoui Judge: Seeking Death Penalty Hindered Gathering of Terrorist Intelligence

In a recent speech at the American University school of law, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, who presided over the tri­al of 9/​11 con­spir­a­tor Zacarias Moussaoui, said that the government’s deci­sion to seek the death penal­ty against Moussaoui appeared to be polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed. Judge Brinkema also stat­ed that because Moussaoui’s case involved the death penal­ty, it unnec­es­sar­i­ly exposed clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion and inter­fered with the gath­er­ing of oth­er infor­ma­tion that could have been use­ful in inves­ti­gat­ing ter­ror­ist net­works. Moussaoui plead­ed guilty to con­spir­ing with al-Qaeda in 2005, and at the sentencing…

Policy Issues

Deterrence

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New Voices

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Mar 16, 2006

NEW VOICES: New Jersey Attorney General Says Death Penalty Not Necessary, Not Working

New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber (pic­tured) recent­ly voiced her sup­port for extend­ing the state’s mora­to­ri­um on exe­cu­tions, not­ing that she does not believe the death penal­ty is a nec­es­sary tool” for pros­e­cu­tors and believes cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment does not deter crime. I don’t think it’s a deter­rent. And I under­stand revenge. I think some peo­ple deserve it. But I don’t think it’s a nec­es­sary tool.… I don’t have a philo­soph­i­cal or reli­gious oppo­si­tion to the death penal­ty, I have a prac­ti­cal oppo­si­tion to the death penal­ty,” Farber…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Jan 04, 2007

NEW VOICES: New Jersey Commission Represented a Broad Spectrum of Officials and Citizens

The report from the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission that called for an end to the state’s death penal­ty was pre­pared by a group of indi­vid­u­als rep­re­sent­ing a wide vari­ety of view­points and expe­ri­ence. The mem­bers of the Commission were:Governor Jon S. Corzine appointed:

Facts & Research

Recent Legislative Activity

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New Voices

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Dec 23, 2008

NEW VOICES: One Year Later, New Jersey Prosecutors Find No Problem with Abolition of Death Penalty

In December 2007, New Jersey became the first state to leg­isla­tive­ly abol­ish the death penal­ty in 40 years. In com­ment­ing on the absence of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment for one year, a num­ber of state pros­e­cu­tors found no prob­lems with the new sys­tem. We have not viewed it as an imped­i­ment in the dis­po­si­tion of mur­der cas­es,” said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio, who served on a state study com­mis­sion that reviewed the death penal­ty. As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, we have real­ly seen no dif­fer­ence in the way we con­duct our business…

Sep 22, 2003

NEW VOICES: Prosecutor Criticizes Federal Government’s Decision to Seek Death Penalty

After U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft autho­rized a fed­er­al death penal­ty pros­e­cu­tion against two Massachusetts men accused of a gang mur­der, the local Suffolk County District Attorney, Daniel F. Conley, object­ed to using cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment to end urban vio­lence, stat­ing, I do not believe the death penal­ty is a deter­rent or appro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment for inner-city homi­cide. The death penal­ty runs counter to the strate­gies for pre­vent­ing and pros­e­cut­ing urban crime — which include sen­si­tiv­i­ty to the neigh­bor­hoods we serve — that have proven suc­cess­ful in Boston over the last decade.”…

Aug 07, 2003

NEW VOICES: Prosecutor Urges DNA Testing to Ensure Accuracy

In an op-ed that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on the day Indiana death row inmate Darnell Williams received a stay of exe­cu­tion to allow test­ing of cru­cial DNA evi­dence that could save his life, the pros­e­cu­tor from the case, Thomas Vanes, expressed sec­ond thoughts about seek­ing the death penal­ty. He wrote:

Jun 11, 2004

NEW VOICES: Prosecutor Withdraws from Death Penalty Case

A Kentucky pros­e­cu­tor raised reli­gious objec­tions to the death penal­ty in ask­ing to step aside in the case of two men charged with mur­der. J. Stewart Schneider, the com­mon­wealth’s attor­ney in Boyd County in north­east­ern Kentucky, said Thursday he filed his motion to with­draw from the case after reflec­tions at a reli­gious retreat. Schneider also is a min­is­ter with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I spent that week­end in prayer,” he said. The more I thought about it, the more con­vinced I became that for me to make the…

Jul 25, 2003

NEW VOICES: Prosecutor, Juror Call for DNA Testing in Case of Man They Sent to Death Row

Doubts about the appro­pri­ate­ness of a death sen­tence have prompt­ed for­mer pros­e­cu­tor Thomas Vanes to call for new DNA test­ing in the case of Darnell Williams, a man he sent to death row as a Lake County, Indiana state’s attor­ney. Williams is sched­uled to be exe­cut­ed on Friday, August 1. Vanes and John Gnajek, a mem­ber of the jury that sent Williams to death row, have filed a suit in fed­er­al court ask­ing for a stay of Williams’ exe­cu­tion until new DNA test­ing is com­plet­ed on blood evi­dence that played…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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Victims' Families

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New Voices

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Dec 29, 2007

NEW VOICES: Prosecutors Ambivalent About the Death Penalty

In a recent front-page arti­cle in the New York Times, Joshua Marquis, the dis­trict attor­ney in Clatsop County, Oregon, and a vice pres­i­dent of the National District Attorneys Association, indi­cat­ed that most pros­e­cu­tors with expe­ri­ence in death penal­ty cas­es are ambiva­lent about it: Any sane pros­e­cu­tor who is involved in cap­i­tal lit­i­ga­tion will real­ly be ambiva­lent about it,” said Marquis, who has long sup­port­ed the death penal­ty. According to the Times, he said the fam­i­lies of mur­der vic­tims suf­fered need­less anguish dur­ing what could be decades of lit­i­ga­tion and multiple…

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Recent Legislative Activity

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New Voices

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Mar 15, 2019

NEW VOICES: Prosecutors in Colorado and Nevada Call for Death-Penalty Repeal

Two pros­e­cu­tors with dif­fer­ent philo­soph­i­cal per­spec­tives on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment have called on their respec­tive states to abol­ish cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. Boulder County, Colorado, District Attorney Michael Dougherty (pic­tured, left), who oppos­es cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment in prin­ci­ple, and for­mer Washoe County, Nevada, homi­cide pros­e­cu­tor Thomas E. Viloria (pic­tured, right), who has suc­cess­ful­ly obtained four death ver­dicts, have added their voic­es to sup­port efforts to repeal the death penal­ty in their states. Though approach­ing the issue with dif­fer­ent ide­olo­gies, both pros­e­cu­tors agreed that the death penal­ty should be elim­i­nat­ed because of its high cost,…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Federal Death Penalty

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Apr 12, 2006

NEW VOICES: Senior Counsel to 9/​11 Commission Questions Death Penalty for Moussaoui

In a recent New York Times op-ed, John Farmer, senior coun­sel to the 9/​11 com­mis­sion and a for­mer New Jersery attor­ney gen­er­al, states that seek­ing the death penal­ty for Zacarias Moussaoui detracts from U.S. efforts to seek jus­tice against senior Al Qaeda offi­cials who plot­ted and car­ried out the 9/​11 attacks. Farmer claims Moussauoi, who was in jail as ter­ror­ists plot­ted and car­ried out the events of 9/​11, was not the 20th hijack­er” and is a poor stand in” for more senior lev­el Al Qaeda lead­ers who are also in…

Jul 29, 2004

NEW VOICES: Texas DA Sees Beginning of the End of the Death Penalty”

In Texas, Jefferson County District Attorney Tom Maness recent­ly not­ed that the time-con­sum­ing and cost­ly nature of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment may lead to its demise. I think this is the begin­ning of the end of the death penal­ty,” said Maness after a Criminal District Court Judge rec­om­mend­ed that the Court of Criminal Appeals com­mute the death sen­tence of Walter Bell to life in prison. On three occas­sions, Jefferson County spent count­less hours of work and hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to pros­e­cute Bell, who is men­tal­ly retard­ed, a diag­no­sis that makes…

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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New Voices

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Jul 14, 2006

NEW VOICES: The Death Penalty 30 Years after Gregg v. Georgia

Stuart Streichler served as a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit short­ly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s rul­ing in Gregg v. Georgia. He observed many cap­i­tal cas­es and now con­cludes: A fun­da­men­tal idea of American law is that all defen­dants should receive fair tri­als all of the time. The per­sis­tent fail­ure to come close to that in death penal­ty cas­es under­mines the integri­ty of the legal sys­tem.” Streichler’s op-ed appreared recent­ly in the Miami Herald:

Aug 06, 2003

NEW VOICES: Time Magazine Spotlights Texas District Attorney

A recent arti­cle in Time looks at the career of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. The arti­cle traces Earle’s evolv­ing opin­ion on the death penal­ty since he was first elect­ed D.A. in Texas in 1976, the year the U.S. Supreme Court rein­stat­ed the death penal­ty. Among oth­er con­cerns, ques­tions of inno­cence have caused Earle to grow increas­ing­ly skep­ti­cal about the death penal­ty. The arti­cle notes:

Facts & Research

Recent Legislative Activity

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New Voices

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Jan 08, 2007

NEW VOICES: Victims’ Advocates, Prosecutors Caution Against Expansion of Texas Death Penalty

Victims’ advo­cates and pros­e­cu­tors are urg­ing Texas leg­is­la­tors to exclude the death penal­ty from new leg­is­la­tion designed to tough­en penal­ties for repeat child moles­ters. Those opposed to the mea­sure fear that threat­en­ing death sen­tences for sex offend­ers could lead to few­er report­ed cas­es of sex crimes and might even give incen­tive to offend­ers to kill their vic­tims to pre­vent the child from tes­ti­fy­ing in court. Annette Burrhus-Clay, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, not­ed that nine­ty per­cent of child-sex vic­tims know their offend­ers. We’re def­i­nite­ly not concerned…

Facts & Research

New Voices

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Nov 14, 2019

On Election Night, Reform Prosecutors Win in Virginia, California, and Pennsylvania

Reform pros­e­cu­tors made fur­ther inroads into the admin­is­tra­tion of American law enforce­ment, sweep­ing coun­ty elec­tions in Northern Virginia and gain­ing con­trol of prosecutor’s offices in Pennsylvania and California. Progressive pros­e­cu­tors rode a blue wave of sub­ur­ban votes on November 5, 2019 that solid­i­fied Democratic con­trol of every state leg­isla­tive and pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al seat in the Northern Virginia coun­ties bor­der­ing the nation’s cap­i­tal and wrest­ed con­trol of coun­ty gov­ern­ment from one of Philadelphia’s most his­tor­i­cal­ly Republican sub­urbs. But the insur­gency was ide­o­log­i­cal, not par­ti­san, as for­mer pub­lic defend­er Chesa Boudin (pic­tured) unseated…

Policy Issues

Innocence

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New Voices

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Nov 15, 2016

OUTLIER COUNTIES: Alabama’s Leading Death Sentencing County Elects Prosecutors Who Oppose Capital Punishment

Jefferson County, Alabama is among both the 2% of coun­ties that account for more than half of all exe­cu­tions in the U.S. and are respon­si­ble for more than half of all pris­on­ers on death row across the coun­try. It led the state in new death sen­tences from 2010 – 2015, putting more peo­ple on death row than 99.5% of U.S. coun­ties. All five of the defen­dants sen­tenced to death in those cas­es were Black.

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

Costs

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New Voices

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Jan 05, 2016

Prosecutor Says Change Needed if Wyoming Wants to Keep the Death Penalty

Natrona County, Wyoming District Attorney Mike Blonigen (pic­tured) recent­ly called for a recon­sid­er­a­tion of the state’s death penal­ty after a fed­er­al judge over­turned the death sen­tence of Dale Wayne Eaton, a decade after Blonigen obtained it in 2004. At the time U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson reversed Eaton’s sen­tence in 2014, Eaton was the only per­son on Wyoming’s death row.

Facts & Research

Sentencing Data

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New Voices

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Dec 13, 2018

Report on Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor” Calls for Prosecutors to Work to End Death Penalty

A group of jus­tice-reform orga­ni­za­tions has issued a new report, 21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor, that calls on pros­e­cu­tors to work to end the death penal­ty” as part of its rec­om­mend­ed reforms in pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al prac­tices. The report, pre­pared joint­ly by the orga­ni­za­tions Fair and Just Prosecution, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Justice Collaborative, sets forth a series of prin­ci­ples that the groups say are designed to improve the over­all fair­ness and effi­ca­cy of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.” The report sets forth 21 prin­ci­ples of pros­e­cu­tion for…

Facts & Research

Clemency

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New Voices

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Jun 14, 2018

Retired Warden, Former Judge and Prosecutor Urge Ohio to Grant Clemency to Raymond Tibbetts

The Ohio Parole Board held a hear­ing on June 14, 2018 to con­sid­er clemen­cy for death-row pris­on­er Raymond Tibbetts, whose February 13 exe­cu­tion was halt­ed by Governor John Kasich to con­sid­er a juror’s request that Tibbets be spared. Ross Geiger, one of the twelve jurors who sen­tenced Tibbetts to death in 1997, wrote to Governor Kasich on January 30 express­ing deep con­cerns” about a very flawed” tri­al and say­ing he would not have rec­om­mend­ed the death penal­ty” had the jury been pro­vid­ed com­plete infor­ma­tion about Tibbetts’ upbring­ing. Tibbetts’ clemen­cy application…

Facts & Research

United States Supreme Court

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New Voices

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Executions Overview

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Nov 01, 2007

Texas Prosecutors Ask for Delay in Executions Until Supreme Court Issues Lethal Injection Ruling

As the U.S. Supreme Court pre­pares to con­sid­er the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of Kentucky’s lethal injec­tion pro­ce­dures, pros­e­cu­tors in three Texas coun­ties have decid­ed to await the Justices’ rul­ing rather than ask judges to set exe­cu­tion dates and press for­ward through the courts. It seems the com­mon-sense thing to do at this point,” said Roe Wilson, who han­dles death penal­ty appeals for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Houston. Harris County sends more inmates to death row than any oth­er coun­ty in Texas. Wilson said she plans to ask a judge…

Facts & Research

Recent Legislative Activity

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New Voices

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Feb 04, 2020

Twenty-One Virginia Prosecutors Sign Letter Urging Repeal of Death Penalty

Calling the death penal­ty a failed gov­ern­ment pro­gram,” 21 cur­rent and for­mer Virginia pros­e­cu­tors have signed on to a let­ter to the commonwealth’s General Assembly urg­ing the leg­is­la­ture to abol­ish cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. The let­ter was signed by for­mer Attorneys General Mark L. Earley, Sr., a Republican who presided over 36 exe­cu­tions dur­ing 13 years in office, and Democrat William G. Broaddus, nine cur­rent or for­mer Commonwealth’s Attorneys elect­ed across the state, and 12 oth­er for­mer homi­cide prosecutors.

Policy Issues

Arbitrariness

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New Voices

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Dec 01, 2008

Washington State’s Death Penalty Part of a Broken System

The state of Washington has car­ried out 4 exe­cu­tions in 45 years, the last one being in 2001 when James Elledge waived his appeals and was exe­cut­ed. Some pros­e­cu­tors, leg­is­la­tors, and defense attor­neys are ques­tion­ing the val­ue of keep­ing the sys­tem. Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge (pic­tured) sup­ports the death penal­ty but has decid­ed against seek­ing it in a recent case because he felt the appeals process would sim­ply nev­er end. In terms of jus­tice, the worst thing that could have hap­pened in that case is the death penal­ty,” explained…