News and Updates

Too young for life without parole

It's time for the United States to take a new look at imposing this too-harsh sentence on children who commit major crimes.

Credit: Los Angeles Times
Juvenile inmates are handcuffed to each other after returning from court to Clifton Tatum Juvenile Hall in Ventura.
By: Katherine Ellison
Los Angeles Times
Thursday, March 15, 2012

In 1646, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony passed the Stubborn Child Law, decreeing that teenage boys who disobeyed their parents could be put to death.

What a difference 3 1/2 centuries make. In our enlightened age, mothers and fathers study manuals for techniques to make children more compliant. And many of us are well acquainted with the critical mass of neuroscience establishing that adolescence constitutes a time of diminished responsibility, when the brain's frontal lobes — the seat of judgment and impulse control — are still developing.

EXECUTION RECORD: Arizona On Pace To Match Busiest Year For Death Penalties

Credit: Getty Images
By: Amanda Lee Myers
Huffington Post
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

PHOENIX -- With two executions already carried out so far this year and two more up for consideration next week, Arizona is on pace to match its busiest year for executions since establishing the death penalty in 1910 and be among the busiest death-penalty states in the nation, The Associated Press has determined.

Bill abolishing death penalty to get cursory glance

By: Samantha Foster
The Capital-Journal
Sunday, March 11, 2012

A House bill that would abolish the death penalty in Kansas and add the crime of aggravated murder with a sentencing of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole will receive an informational hearing Thursday, but it is doubtful any action will be taken.

Appeal of Death Row Case Is More Than a Matter of Guilt or Innocence

Rob Will
By: Brandi Grissom
The New York Times
Saturday, March 10, 2012

No one saw Rob Will shoot and kill Harris County Deputy Sheriff Barrett Hill in the still-black morning hours in a Houston bayou on Dec. 4, 2000. No physical evidence linked him to the murder.

Mr. Will, now on death row, said that he is innocent, but that he has been represented by ineffective lawyers. He has a new lawyer who faces the daunting challenge of representing Mr. Will at this late stage in his appeals.

Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System

Credit: Edward Keating/The New York Times
More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury.
By: Michelle Alexander
The New York Times
Saturday, March 10, 2012

AFTER years as a civil rights lawyer, I rarely find myself speechless. But some questions a woman I know posed during a phone conversation one recent evening gave me pause: “What would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial? Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?” 

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Report cites failings in applying death penalty in Missouri

The Columbia Missourian
Thursday, March 8, 2012

When Gov. Jay Nixon spared the life of killer Richard Clay last January, he, perhaps unwittingly, highlighted a key shortcoming in how the death penalty is applied in Missouri.

Mr. Nixon decided that Mr. Clay shouldn't die for the 1994 murder-for-hire of Randy Martindale in Missouri's Bootheel, but he didn't say why.

Texas execution: How much is a death worth?

George Rivas, top right, was executed last week in the Texas death chamber in Huntsville; Keith Thurmond is to be executed on Wednesday night
By: Daniel Nasaw
BBC News Magazine
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The cost of lethal injection drugs used in the US to kill criminals on death row has risen dramatically over the past year. The increase comes as their manufacturers move to prevent them being used in executions.

The state of Texas is scheduled to spend $1,286.86 (£811) to kill Keith Thurmond on Wednesday night.

Abolishing death penalty was right choice for state

By: Charles W. Hoffman
Chicago Sun-Times
Sunday, March 4, 2012

One year ago this Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois.

The rightness of that decision is more clear than ever. Violent crime rates have not climbed. The public is no less safe. And the pursuit of justice has been served, not undermined.

Death-row innocents trapped in a living hell

Death Row inmate ... Larry Swearingen.
Great Lakes Advocate
Sunday, March 4, 2012

In his 12 years on death row, Larry Swearingen's execution date has been set three times. Three times he has known when he would be strapped to a stretcher and put down with drugs: sodium thiobarbital to anaesthetise him, pancuronium bromide to paralyse his muscles and potassium chloride to stop his heart.

In January 2009, he had written his goodbyes and was on his way to the chamber when the stay of execution came through. ''The way I had to look at it was, 'I'm just gonna lay down and go to sleep,''' he says. ''I wasn't gonna grovel. I wasn't gonna sit there and cry. I can't be remorseful for a crime that I didn't commit.''

When Innocence Isn’t Enough

Credit: Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press
Edward Lee Elmore was in prison for 30 years, convicted of a crime that the evidence strongly suggests he did not commit.
By: Raymond Bonner
The New York Times
Friday, March 2, 2012

EDWARD LEE ELMORE turned 53 in January. For more than half his life, the soft-spoken African-American who doesn’t understand the concept of north, south, east and west, or of summer, fall, winter and spring, was in a South Carolina prison, most of it on death row.

On Friday, Mr. Elmore walked out of the courthouse in Greenwood, S.C., a free man, as part of an agreement with the state whereby he denied any involvement in the crime but pleaded guilty in exchange for his freedom. This was his 11,000th day in jail.