[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ILL., LA., N.C., TENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 5 17:32:15 CST 2007
The unreformed death penalty
Taking a human life, deliberately and by premeditation, is one of the
gravest choices entrusted to government. The federal government and 37
states allow courts to sentence criminals to death for the most heinous
crimes. Given the many mistakes and injustices that have been uncovered in
the application of the death penalty in recent years, you would expect
those governments to take extreme care to avoid errors that can,
literally, be fatal. But a new study issued by the American Bar
Association finds that many of the hard lessons have not been learned or
It's by no means clear that capital punishment can ever be administered in
such a way as to virtually eliminate the chance that innocent people will
be executed. That's why the Chicago Tribune has called for the abolition
of the death penalty. When governments repeatedly demonstrate their
inability to exercise a power wisely, they should not be trusted with it.
If supporters want to keep the death penalty as an option, they have not
only a moral duty but a political need to improve its administration. But
it is clear that in states that insist on imposing the ultimate penalty,
far more must be done to prevent miscarriages of justice.
The ABA has not taken a position on whether to keep capital punishment,
but it has urged a moratorium on its use until states have taken measures
to ensure "fairness and due process." This week, it released the findings
of a three-year research project focusing on a sample of eight states. It
concluded that several of those states have a long way to go.
One common source of wrongful convictions is bad evidence - such as false
confessions and faulty eyewitness identifications. Those can often be
avoided by simple steps such as videotaping interrogations and using
well-tested identification procedures. Yet the ABA found that these
safeguards are the exception rather than the rule.
Not only that, but states still haven't adopted clear policies "on
evaluating cases that rely on eyewitness identification, confessions, or
the testimony of jailhouse snitches, informants and other witnesses who
receive a benefit." So if cops foul up, there is no assurance that
prosecutors will notice.
Wrongful convictions have often been discovered only through DNA analysis.
The ABA was disturbed that many states don't put this technology to use to
prevent such convictions in the first place. It found they provide
insufficient funding for crime labs, don't require those labs to use
up-to-date methods, and fail to offer indigent defendants the legal
representation they need to establish their innocence.
More chilling still is this revelation: "States generally are failing to
require the preservation of physical and/or biological evidence through
the entire legal process and after release from prison or execution,
thereby increasing the possibility that crucial evidence that could prove
innocence will be destroyed."
Illinois has a moratorium on executions. The U.S. Supreme Court has
effectively imposed a national moratorium until it decides whether the
most common method of lethal injection used in the states violates the
constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
No system of capital punishment will be mistake-proof - ample reason to
deny government its use. But the abolition of capital punishment will
require a long and arduous campaign to move public opinion.
In the interim, in light of all that we know about the fallibility of
capital punishment, the burden should be on death-penalty states to prove
they can administer it far better than they have in the past. It's a
burden many of them still cannot meet.
(source: Editorial, Chicago Tribune, Nov. 1)
LOUISIANA----death sentence overturned
Death Penalty Overturned In Minister's Killing
A man sentenced to death for killing a retired minister in the
northwestern Louisiana town of Blanchard will get a second trial.
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that Robert Glen Coleman's rights were
violated because prosecutors in Shreveport dismissed a black juror on
Coleman was sentenced to death in the 2003 slaying of Julian Brandon, a
70-year-old retired Baptist minister. Brandon's wife was wounded in the
attack at their home.
The case will be returned to Shreveport for a new trial.
(source: Associated Press)
N.C. organizations tackle the death penalty
While the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to decide on the legality of lethal
injection as a method of capital punishment, North Carolina groups are
pressing for a statewide moratorium on executions.
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty recently organized a tour of 18
death row exonerees who toured North Carolina speaking about their
experiences. The Carrboro-based organization works through religious
groups to support a ban on executions across the U.S.
The tour ended Sunday after a man released from death row in Alabama spoke
to the N.C. Society for Ethical Culture in Carrboro at the Carrboro Arts
"I spent 7 years, 8 months and 21 days locked up," said Gary Drinkard, who
was convicted in 1995 of a homicide but was acquitted in a 2nd trial in
Drinkard said the justice system is flawed because it is inherently
political. He also said prosecutors and district attorneys want to be
promoted, which can lead to miscarriages of justice.
"They will make Jesus Christ look like he's got horns, folks," he said.
"When it comes to capital punishment, they want to kill somebody."
Drinkard has become active in trying to abolish the death penalty.
"A lot of ex-death row inmates say they don't have a lot of animosity.
Well, I have a lot," he said, though he added that he understands the
rationale behind the death penalty in cases that involve violence toward
women or children.
Jan Broughton, president of NCSEC, said her group has been involved with
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty in the past and passed a
resolution in favor of a moratorium on executions.
"We will support it through letters to our legislators," she said.
Jeremy Collins, of the N.C. Coalition for a Moratorium, of which PFADP is
a member organization, said, "North Carolina is a death penalty active
But he also said his group is one of the more successful coalitions,
especially for a Southern state. He said he hopes the next step in N.C.
death penalty policy will be that the state Board of Appeals will grant
the N.C. Medical Board's appeal to prevent doctors from participating in
"The General Assembly would have to find a new way to execute people," he
said. "I hope the Assembly would not have the political will to do so."
Nationally, he said, he is extremely hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court will
side with opponents of lethal injection and rule that it is a cruel and
The Supreme Court most likely will not hear the case until May or June of
In the meantime, Collins said to expect several N.C. death row
exonerations in the near future.
"There are several cases in North Carolina that our coalition is working
very diligently on," he said.
(source: Daily Tar Heel)
State says Reid execution should go forward----Serial killer scheduled to
die Jan. 3
State lawyers asked the Tennessee Supreme Court today to deny a request
for a stay of execution for serial killer Paul Dennis Reid.
Reid, 49, is scheduled to die by to die by lethal injection on Jan. 3.
He's given up his appeals in the past, but his sister has taken the legal
fight up on his behalf after he was declared incompetent to waive his
right to challenge his sentence.
Last month, Reid's sister asked for a stay of execution, arguing that her
brother still ha plenty of legal avenues open and that he deserved to be
able to challenge the state's lethal injection protocol.
Most legal experts believe that all lethal injection executions will be
held off across the nation until the United States Supreme Court rules on
the death method.
The nations highest court agreed to decide whether the lethal injection
method used in Tennessee and other states violates a prisoners right to be
free of cruel and unusual punishment.
Reid was handed 7 death sentencesa record in Tennesseefor killing people
during a series of robberies at area restaurants in 1997.
(source: The Tennessean)
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