Saturday, December 20, 2008

End of Year Reports

Death Penalty Sentences Have Dropped Considerably in the Current Decade
Posted: December 19, 2008

Compared to the 1990’s, there has been a marked decline in death sentences in the U.S. since 2000. Every region of the country and every state that averaged one or more death sentences per year have seen a decline in the annual number of death sentences. The chart below compares the annual number of death sentences in each state in the 1990s with the 2000s. North Carolina, California, Florida, and Texas experienced the greatest declines in sentencing. This issue and others are addressed in the Death Penalty Information Center’s Year End Report, released December 11, 2008.

From Karl Keys

In the news, the end of the year round-ups have commenced. The good news? Texas. Yes, Texas. This year Teas has averaged a new death sentence every 40 days or so, the slowest rate in decades (three decades). While the future might be brighter, Texas was again an outlier in terms of executions, accounting for half of all people put to death nationwide in 2008. TCADP has the details in Texas Death Penalty Developments in 2008.

In other news, DPIC notes "a new study published in the Houston Law Review, "Racial Disparities in the Capital of Capital Punishment," explores the relationship of race to death sentencing in Harris County (Houston), Texas. In the study, Prof. Scott Phillips of the University of Denver explores patterns involving the race of both victims and defendants, while controlling for other variables." In a high profile military prosecution, SSgt Alberto Martinez was acquitted over the alleged "fragging" of two officers. South Carolina carried out the final execution of 2008, on Friday evening, that of Joseph Gardner; the 37th execution of 2008; the 1,136th since 1977.

Finally, one of my favorite public defenders and bloggers, Randall Hodgkinson @ the Kansas Defenders pithily summed up the state of indigent defense better than anyone I know: As a matter of constitutional law and legal ethics, quality representation for the poor is not negotiable. If the state doesn't want to pay for indigent defense, it needs to prosecute fewer people (or at least fewer poor people).

For The End of the Year 2008 Report from Death Penalty Focus/DPIC RELEASE CLICK

Please add your own reports/URLS/response to Comments below.

1 comment:

Connie L. Nash said...

NEW VOICES: One Year Later, New Jersey Prosecutors Find No Problem with Abolition of Death Penalty
Posted: December 23, 2008

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 in prosecuting murder cases."

Louisiana Must Pay $14 Million to Man Exonerated From Death Row
Posted: December 23, 2008

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a $14 million award to John Thompson, a former death row inmate in Louisiana who was exonerated after withheld evidence was revealed. Thompson spent 18 years in prison, including 14 years in the solitary confinement of death row in Angola Prison. He came within one month of being executed in 1999 when his attorneys discovered blood evidence that should have been turned over to the defense years ago. The new evidence cleared Thompson of an armed robbery conviction, which in turn had influenced his trial for an unrelated murder. At his re-trial on the capital murder charge, Thompson was acquitted in thirty-five minutes by a jury in 2003. Thompson sued the District Attorney's Office of Orleans Parish in 2003 and won a jury verdict in 2007. The jury also awarded $1 million for attorneys' fees.

NEW VOICES: Police Chief Says Death Penalty Hurting Public Safety
Posted: December 22, 2008

Ray Samuels, a police officer for 33 years and Chief of Police in Newark, California, for 5 years, recently expressed concern that state budget cuts will prevent important crime-fighting measures from being passed, while an expensive death penalty continues to drain the state's finances.

In an op-ed in the Contra Costa Times, Samuels wrote:
Local jurisdictions are likely to lose a significant amount of state funding this year because of the severe financial crisis. This funding helps cities and counties provide essential services in the areas of public safety, emergency services, and health and children's services. Without it, our communities will no doubt suffer dire consequences.

At the same time, we continue to waste hundreds of millions on the state's dysfunctional death penalty. If we replaced the death penalty with a sentence of permanent imprisonment, the state would save more than $125 million each year. We haven't had an execution in California for three years. Are we any less safe as a result? I don't think so.

FOR more on each of these added items, check out deathpenaltyinfo dot org