News and Updates

Questions Left for Mississippi Over Doctor’s Autopsies

Dr. Steven T. Hayne performed as many as 1,700 autopsies annually from the late 1980s to the late 2000s.
By: Campbell Robertson
The New York Times
Monday, January 7, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. — For a long time, if a body turned up in Mississippi it had a four-in-five chance of ending up in front of Dr. Steven T. Hayne.

Between the late 1980s and the late 2000s, Dr. Hayne had the field of forensic pathology in Mississippi almost to himself, performing thousands of autopsies and delivering his findings around the state as an expert witness in civil and criminal cases. For most of that time, Dr. Hayne performed about 1,700 autopsies annually, more than four for every day of the year and nearly seven times the maximum caseload recommended by the National Association of Medical Examiners.


America’s Retreat From the Death Penalty

By: Editorial Board
The New York Times
Tuesday, January 1, 2013

When the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, it said there were two social purposes for imposing capital punishment for the most egregious crimes: deterrence and retribution. In recent months, these justifications for a cruel and uncivilized punishment have been seriously undermined by a growing group of judges, prosecutors, scholars and others involved in criminal justice, conservatives and liberals alike.

Victims of a racist witch hunt

The Central Park Five attend the New York City opening of the documentary about their case
By: Lee Wengraf
Socialist Worker
Monday, December 17, 2012

Twenty-four years ago this April, the so-called Central Park Jogger case thrust five young men into the national spotlight amid the racist media hysteria that was fueling a law-and-order policing agenda then and in the years after.

On April 19, 1989, a 28-year-old white woman named Trisha Meili was raped in New York City's Central Park. The police unleashed a manhunt, sweeping up 30 young men and interrogating a number of whom were allegedly in the park that night. Fanning the flames was a media frenzy about "wilding" by "wolf packs" of Black and Latino youth.

Within several days, five African American and Latino teenagers had been arrested in the case--Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Kharey Wise.

Christmas Behind Prison Walls

By: Mark Clements
Monday, December 17, 2012

I spent 28 years behind prison walls before finally being freed in 2009. I can tell you from that experience that the holidays can be the most depressing time of the year for those that are confined behind prison walls. For a prisoner there is no holiday celebration, nor a welcoming in of the new year.  Some prisons are even known for locking the inmates in their cells on that day because they do not have adequate staff to work the prison. In most prisons Christmas Day is the same as every other day.  Prisoners are caged inside their cells and are only allowed to talk to their loved ones for 30 minutes (and the costs of those calls are outrageously high). While locked up in a cage, you can’t help thinking about everyone else having fun with family and friends.

Judge commutes three death sentences, citing racial bias

A North Carolina judge ruled on evidence that prosecutors worked to get blacks eliminated from the pool of jurors

By: Associated Press
Friday, December 14, 2012

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A North Carolina judge on Thursday commuted the death sentences of three convicted killers, including two who killed law enforcement officers, to life in prison without the possibility of parole after ruling that race played an unjust role in jury selection at their trials.

Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Weeks based his ruling on evidence presented over four weeks of hearings that he says showed prosecutors in each case made a concerted effort to reduce the number of black jurors.

The three who had their sentences commuted were among the most notorious killers on North Carolina’s death row.

Family members of the victims and more than 60 uniformed police officers packed the courtroom. Before Weeks could finish issuing his ruling, the brother of a murdered state trooper stood up and yelled an expletive at the judge.

Remembering Prisoners Over the Holidays

By: Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Monday, December 10, 2012

For most people, the holiday season is filled with family, friends, good food, and cheer. But for those in prison, the holidays can be an especially painful time to be separated from loved ones. As you are filling out your holiday cards this season, please remember the men and women who will spend the holidays behind bars. Receiving a holiday card filled with greetings and words of encouragement from you could really mean a lot to someone who has to spend the holidays away from his or her family.  

Despite Evidence From Discredited Medical Examiner, Mississippi's Jeffrey Havard Nears Execution

By: Radley Balko
The Huffington Post
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Last year, NPR looked at two dozen cases in which adults had been convicted of killing infants or young children, then later exonerated or given commutations. The investigation found a number of common themes in those cases. One of them was that prosecutors often relied on the subjective opinions of a medical examiner. Another was the understandable sorrow and anger a community feels when a child dies, which can nudge law enforcement officials and forensic specialists to see crimes in what may have only been accidental deaths.

Marching Against the Death Penalty in Texas

By: Liliana Segura
The Nation
Friday, November 16, 2012

On a Tuesday last March, the state of Mississippi executed Larry Matthew Puckett, a 35-year-old man convicted of sexually assaulting and killing his boss’s wife, 28-year-old Rhonda Hatten Griffis, in 1995. Matt, as his family called him, was an Eagle Scout at the time; he had just graduated from high school and was days away from leaving for basic training with the Navy before he was arrested. From the beginning he insisted on his innocence, claiming that his former employer had killed his wife in a rage upon discovering her and Matt together in her mobile home. Although his story contained inconsistencies, there were red flags. Griffis was beaten to death with a club, yet her blood was nowhere to be found on Puckett’s clothes, just on her husband’s. Nor was Puckett’s semen found on her body.

Defeat of Proposition 34: California's death penalty battle will continue

Credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg
Reporters tour the new lethal injection facility at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010.
By: Howard Mintz
San Jose Mercury News
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

California's first ballot-box attempt in more than three decades to repeal the death penalty may have failed on Tuesday, but it is likely to inflame the debate over the hot-button issue as the state tries once again to kick-start its indisputably clumsy capital punishment system.

Execution changes occur without public scrutiny, input

By: Mike Ward
Austin American Statesman
Thursday, October 18, 2012

On July 9, when Texas switched from three drugs to just one to execute its most heinous criminals, Rick Thaler, the state’s No. 3 corrections official, signed off on the change without fanfare after consulting with prison officials in other states.