News and Updates

Racial Bias in Death Penalty Cases: A North Carolina Test

A judge gives life to an extraordinary new law designed to remedy the state's long history of prejudice in capital trials.

The execution chamber at Central prison in Raleigh, N.C
By: Andrew Cohen
The Atlantic
Monday, April 23, 2012

If we still want to have a sound and sober national conversation about race and justice, if we still are eager to use a single case as a totem for what we perceive to be wrong or unjust about the criminal justice system, perhaps we all would be better served by paying attention to what's happening in North Carolina to a man named Marcus Robinson than we are by paying attention to what's happening in Florida to a man named George Zimmerman.

Life, death and race

How color-blind is justice, especially in capital cases?

By: James R. Acker
Times Union
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, on April 22, 1987, the Supreme Court decided McCleskey vs.

North Carolina judge vacates death penalty under racial justice law

Convicted murderer Marcus Reymond Robinson has his sentence changed to life without parole in a blistering ruling that accuses state prosecutors of systematic discrimination.

Credit: Shawn Rocco/Raleigh News & Observer
Shirley Burns, center, hugs her friendy after Cumberland County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks found that racial bias played a role in the trial and death row sentencing of Burns' son inmate Marcus Robinson.
By: David Zucchino
The Chicago Tribune
Saturday, April 21, 2012

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — In a landmark ruling, a North Carolina judge on Friday vacated the death penalty of a black man convicted of murder, saying prosecutors across the state had engaged in deliberate and systematic racial discrimination when striking black potential jurors in death penalty cases.

The ruling was the first under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act, passed in 2009, which allows judges to reduce death sentences to life in prison without parole when defendants can prove racial bias in jury selection. Prosecutors had fought the act, the nation's only such law, calling it a back-door attempt to overturn the death penalty.

Wrongful Convictions, Wrongful Bias

By: Cassandra Stubbs
American Civil Liberties Union
Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 22 marks the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in McCleskey v.

Amnesty International: Decades of Solitary Confinement at Louisiana’s Angola Prison Amounts to Torture

By: Everette Thompson, Robert King, and Melinda Tuhus
Between the Lines
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interviews with Everette Thompson, southeast regional director of Amnesty USA, and Robert King, one of the Angola 3, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Lethal Injection As the Death Penalty's Last Stand

By: David A. Love
Huffington Post
Monday, April 16, 2012

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the death penalty in America? All of it might come down to a basic issue of supply.

So, what do you do if you are a hangman who runs out of rope? To put it in more conventional terms, suppose you are a state that executes people by lethal injection, but you're running out of the lethal chemicals used to put people down like animals.

Commentary: Time for Texas to end the death penalty

By: Bob Ray Sanders
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Monday, April 16, 2012

Two events -- one in the Connecticut Senate chamber, the other in a Dallas courtroom -- helped once again to focus attention on two of the nation's most glaring flaws: wrongful convictions and capital punishment.

Fight against death penalty gains momentum in states

Connecticut will be the fifth in five years to do away with it. The high cost to taxpayers is increasingly a factor.

Credit: Mark Mirko, Hartford Courant / April 4, 2012
Victoria Coward, whose son was murdered in 2007, supports the Connecticut Legislature's decision to end capital punishment. Her son's killer is serving a 30-year sentence under a plea deal she agreed to.
By: Dalina Castellanos
Los Angeles Times
Saturday, April 14, 2012

The fight against the death penalty is gaining momentum, opponents of the practice say, with Connecticut's decision this month to abolish capital punishment making it the fifth state in five years to so do.

"For this to be happening in succession, and coupled with the decline in death penalty convictions, it creates a momentum that other states will at least consider to be a part of," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the independent Death Penalty Information Center.

Death Penalty Repeal Changes The Legal Landscape

By: Alaine Griffin
The Hartford Courant
Friday, April 13, 2012

When lawyers for death row inmate Todd Rizzo urged the state Supreme Court to throw out his death sentence in 2010, they pointed to what had happened at the state Capitol a year earlier to make their argument that the punishment should be tossed on constitutional grounds.

In 2009, the General Assembly voted to repeal the death penalty. But then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed the bill.

Connecticut lawmakers vote to repeal death penalty

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said he will sign a bill banning the death penalty that has passed the House and Senate.
By: CNN Wire Staff
Thursday, April 12, 2012

(CNN) -- Connecticut's governor says he will sign a bill abolishing the death penalty, making it the 17th state to abandon capital punishment.

On Wednesday night, lawmakers in Connecticut's House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 86-63. The state Senate approved it last week.