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Fall 2004 Newsletter

Death Penalty Project

Kirk Bloodsworth Speaks at Lunchtime Speaker Series
27 September 2004

In March 1985, Kirk Bloodsworth was wrongfully convicted for the brutal killing and sexual assault of a nine-year-old girl. After serving eight years in prison, two of those on death row, Bloodsworth was released in June 1993, following DNA tests that excluded him from the crime. A new book, authored by attorney and novelist Tim Junkin, describes Bloodsworth’s experience and raises provocative questions about the U.S. legal system and the death penalty. Bloodsworth and Junkin will discuss Bloodsworth’s story, the importance of DNA testing, and the capital punishment system. This presentation is a brown bag lunch. Beverages will be provided. One CLE credit granted. A summary of Bloodsworth and Junkin's remarks may be found here.

Two New Interns for the Death Penalty Project
Fall 2004

Minnesota Advocates welcomes two new interns for the Death Penalty Project:
Heidi Andres is a second-year student at Hamline University School of Law. Heidi completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota with a degree in French and International Relations. Heidi just returned from studying abroad in Ireland where she studied human rights law and international litigation. Heidi is most interested in a career in litigation and has a strong interest in international and criminal law.
Kai Shideman, a second-year student at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, is an active member of Amnesty International. She graduated from Emerson College in Boston, in May 2002, with an English major and a minor in advertising/marketing. After graduation, Kai worked at Houghton Mifflin Company, a publishing company in Boston.

Briggs Team Obtains Reversal of Death Penalty

A Briggs and Morgan litigation team, headed by Jeff Keyes, have successfully challenged the death penalty of a Texas man who has been on death row for 17 years.

NCADP Honors Local Capital Defense Attorney
2 September 2004

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will be honoring local attorney Sandra Babcock for her work against capital punishment. Babcock, who recently represented the Mexican government before the International Court of Justice in Mexico v. United States of America, will receive the Outstanding Legal Service Award at NCADP's 2004 National Conference.

Jazz for Justice Benefit for Innocence Project of Minnesota

The Fourth Annual Innocence Ball: Jazz for Justice, featuring guest speakers Janet Reno and Penny Beernsten, will take place on Saturday, November 13, 2004, 6:30pm to midnight.

For more information, please visit the Innocence Project of Minnesota's website.

Trial of Richard Oslund Begins
13 October 2004

The trial of Richard Ashton Oslund, 29, formerly of Rosemount, Minnesota, began yesterday in District Court.  Oslund, who has previous felony convictions for drug related offenses and first-degree burglary, has been charged with federal robbery affecting interstate commerce, murder with a firearm during a robbery affecting interstate commerce, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.  The charges stem from the November 1998 robbery of a Brink's truck parked outside of a busy Bloomington Target store and the fatal shooting of Guard William Ray Strelow. 

Despite the fact that Minnesota removed the death penalty from state sentencing laws in 1911, it was still possible for Oslund to be sentenced to death, if convicted, under federal sentencing guidelines, because of the interstate nature of the crime.  Authorities considered the death penalty for Oslund but ultimately Attorney General John Ashcroft rejected the possibility.  There was no comment made as to why the death penalty was declined in this case.  Oslund faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. 

Compiled from: The Star Tribune, A Onetime 'Likable Kid' Goes on Trial, by Jim Adams, and Thisweek Online,  Rosemount Man Will Not Face Death Penalty for Murder Charge, by Brett Andersen.

The Exonerated to be Performed at Carleton College
22-30 October 2004

By Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, directed by David Wiles. Winner of the 2003 Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards, the play tells the true stories of six wrongfully convicted survivors of death row in their own words. Call 507-646-4471 x 4471 for reservations.

Note: Arena Theater is not handicap accessible.

This event takes place each day from October 22nd, 2004 to October 30th, 2004.

Date: Friday, October 22nd, 2004
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: Arena Theater
Sponsored by: Players
Contact: Walter Wojciechowski, 507-646-4471 x 4473

This event occurs on:

  • October 22nd, 2004
  • October 23rd, 2004
  • October 29, 2004
  • October 30, 2004

For more information, please click here.

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The Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003

Supreme Court to Reconsider Constitutionality of Juvenile Executions in October
26 July 2004

In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Stanford v. Kentucky that executing offenders who were 16 or 17 years old at the time of their crimes did not violate the Eighth Amendment. However, in the years that followed Stanford, a national consensus emerged against executing certain categories of offenders. Noting this shift in public opinion, in 2002 the Court decided in Atkins v. Virginia that imposing the death penalty on mentally retarded offenders constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. After Atkins, some lower courts began overturning the death sentences of juvenile offenders, reasoning that a national consensus against such executions has also emerged since 1989. The Supreme Court has now decided to reconsider the constitutionality of juvenile executions in the case of Roper v. Simmons. The Court has scheduled arguments to begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 October 2004.

Compiled from: Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002); Death Penalty Information Center; Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989).

Panel of Scientists Finds Houston Crime Lab Official's Testimony to be False
5 August 2004

A panel of six independent forensic scientists will file a report in Texas state court today, stating that a Houston crime lab official’s testimony in a 1987 rape case was either scientifically unsound, or an outright lie.

James Bolding, who was the head of the lab’s serology unit in 1987, gave testimony that helped convict George Rodriguez of raping a fourteen year-old girl.

At the time of the crime, the victim stated that two men had kidnapped and raped her. One man, Manual Beltran, confessed, and named Isidro Yanez as the second perpetrator. Initially unable to locate Yanez, police investigated Rodriguez, who occasionally associated with Beltran. During Rodriguez’ subsequent trial, Bolding testified that Yanez’ blood type categorically excluded him as the rapist, leading jurors to convict Rodriguez. According to the expert panel, Bolding’s statement conflicted with the basic principles of serology, and was “either the result of perjury, or gross incompetence.” [Cited from:].

The court sentenced twenty-six year-old Rodriguez, who was innocent, to sixty years in prison. Now forty-seven, Rodriguez has finally been cleared by court-ordered DNA tests. These tests revealed that Yanez was, in fact, the second rapist.

Beyond Rodriguez’ release, attorneys are now seeking an independent forensic audit of thousands of cases the lab has investigated over the last twenty-five years. According to the expert panel, “a serious danger exists that [lab officials] may have offered similarly false testimony” in some of these cases. The former director of the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office estimates that 5,000 to 10,000 cases at a minimum will need to be reexamined.

The city is already investigating 360 cases involving the lab’s DNA unit, which was shut down after a 2002 state audit. Auditors discovered that poorly trained DNA technicians were misinterpreting data, keeping poor records, and in some cases using up all available evidence, which made double-checking their work impossible. So far, this investigation has led to the exoneration of one man, and has revealed serious problems in at least forty other cases.

Now faced with reexamining thousands of additional cases in which innocent people may have been convicted upon false information from the lab, Harris County is in the midst of a serious crime lab scandal. According to Rodriguez’ attorney, Harris County is one of the worst places for such a scandal, because the jurisdiction has executed more people than any other county in the United States. Since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 73 people have been executed for crimes in Harris County.

Compiled from: Ralph Blumenthal & Adam Liptak, New Doubt Cast on Crime Testing in Houston Cases,; Steve McVicker & Andrew Tilghman, More Crime Lab Troubles Possible,

Alabama Executes 74 Year-Old Man
6 August 2004

At 6:30 p.m. on 5 August 2004, Alabama executed James Hubbard, a 74 year-old man who had been on death row for over twenty-six years. According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Hubbard is the oldest U.S. inmate to be put to death since before World War II.

At the time of his execution, the elderly man was in very poor health, suffering from ulcers, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and other infirmities. Moreover, Hubbard was recently diagnosed with dementia - a condition which could have caused confusion, and interfered with Hubbard’s ability to understand his legal options prior to execution.

According to the Alabama Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty, “simple decency” demanded mercy in this case. Defense attorneys argued Hubbard’s advanced age and mental incompetence made the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment in his case, and joined advocacy groups in urging Alabama’s Governor Riley to grant clemency. In a letter to the Governor, attorneys stated: “Rather than put him, his family and the state of Alabama through the ordeal and spectacle of an execution, we humbly and respectfully suggest... to let Mr. Hubbard, who has already served the equivalent of a life sentence, simply die in prison.” (cited from:

Not persuaded by these arguments and appeals, both the courts and the Governor refused to stop Hubbard’s execution. In arguing that the elderly man should be executed, Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw asserted: “[E]ven if [Hubbard] suffered from dementia, that doesn’t necessarily make him incompetent.” [Cited from:].

In a final attempt to stop Hubbard’s execution, on 4 August 2004 the defense appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 against a stay. Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, and Breyer would have granted the elderly man a stay of execution.

Compiled from: Prison Talk Online, Alabama - Protest James Hubbard's Execution; No stay for 74-year old man, Associated Press, CNN, 4 August 2004; Too Old to be Executed?, Samira Jafari, Sun Herald, 31 July 2004; Alabama Executes 74-Year-Old for 1977 Murder, Oldest Inmate Put to Death in Decades, Samira Jafar, 5 August 2004.

115th Death Row Inmate Released on Innocence
10 August 2004

On 9 August 2004, Louisiana death row inmate Ryan Matthews was cleared of all charges against him for a crime he did not commit. Matthews was arrested at the age of seventeen years for the murder of a grocery clerk on , Matthews was arrested for the murder of a grocery story clerk on 7 April 1997. He was convicted and sentenced to death two years later. DNA tests on the mask, shirt and glove worn by the gunman excluded Matthews from the crime. Matthews, who spent nearly five years on death row, is Louisiana's seventh exonerated death row inmate, as well as its third black juvenile to be exonerated from death row.

Compiled from: 115 and Counting: Ryan Matthews is Latest Death Row Inmate to Be Freed Due to Actual Innocence, Press Release, National Coalition to Abolition the Death Penalty, 10 August 2004; Cases of Innocence - 1973 to Present, Death Penalty Information Center (last updated 28 May 2004).

Across New York, a Death Penalty Stuck in Limbo
21 August 2004

On 24 June 2004, New York ruled that the state’s law on capital punishment was unconstitutional. The deadlock instruction in New York’s death penalty law states that if a jury cannot unanimously agree to either a capital punishment or life without parole, then the court will need to apply the statutory sentence to the defendant. This sentence is “life imprisonment with parole eligibility after serving a minimum of 20-25 years.” The court decided that giving the jurors these instructions created a coercive situation. The idea that if all jurors failed to agree on one of the two choices, then the defendant could be released in twenty to twenty-five years, or face even a lesser sentence, possibly influenced many jurors to choose capital punishment.

The judges concluded that this deadlock instruction violated New York’s due process clause. Since the June ruling, New York’s capital cases have been suspended because “under the present statute, the death penalty may not be imposed.” There are differing views on the future of the suspended cases. Some New York prosecutors feel that depending on how the legislature acts, it could be possible to still demand the death penalty. While other prosecutors and defense attorneys feel that since the New York Court of Appeals decided that the law was defective, then capital punishment is not an option for those cases.

Compiled from: William Glaberson, Across New York, a Death Penalty Stuck in Limbo, New York Times, also available at National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP); New York’s Death Penalty Declared Unconstitutional DPIC Summary: People v. Stephen LaValle, available at Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

NCADP Launches Seven-State Tour of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
24 August 2004

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty next week will embark on a seven-state tour of historically black colleges and universities aimed at promoting student involvement in civil and human rights issues as well as voter registration and turnout.

The tour, which will run from Labor Day Weekend through Thanksgiving, will visit HBCUs during classic football games and homecoming events and will provide a fun and educational mix of hip-hop culture, student activism and education. The tour will visit North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana and Washington, D.C.

“The tour comes at a time when the issue of race and the death penalty is moving to the forefront of the debate over capital punishment in the United States,” said Jotaka Eadddy, NCADP’s lead organizer. “Human rights and the death penalty are issues that spark the interest of today’s generation of black college students. These students will help influence determine the outcome of the November elections in the short term and the death penalty over the longer haul. It is time for our voices to be heard and it is time for our votes to be counted.”

Eaddy added that the issue of the death penalty has gained prominence in recent years. Courts and legislators have narrowed the circumstances when the death penalty may be applied and the U.S. Supreme Court this fall will examine the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty, which disproportionately affects people of color. In addition, 115 people have been freed from death row after new evidence of innocence emerged.

The tour will include music, parties and educational panels featuring experts on the death penalty, human rights and civil rights. Tour dates include:

  • Sept. 2-4, North Carolina Central, Raleigh, North Carolina, “Aggie-Eagle Classic.”
  • Sept. 17-19, Atlanta University Center, Atlanta, Georgia, “March on AUC.”
  • Sept. 30-Oct. 2, Paul Quinn College, Dallas, Texas, “State Fair Classic.”
  • Oct. 14-16, Hampton University, “Battle of the Bay Classic.”
  • Oct. 21-23, Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Homecoming.
  • Oct. 28-30, Howard University, Washington, D.C., Homecoming
  • Nov. 4-6, Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee, Homecoming.
  • Nov. 25-27, Grambling University, New Orleans, “Bayou Classic.”

NCADP has joined with BE Magazine in organizing the tour. BE Magazine is distributed to 50,000 students at historically black colleges and universities, and is written and produced by HBCU students.

Founded in 1976, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is the only fully-staffed national organization devoted specifically to abolishing the death penalty and is comprised of more than 100 local, state and national affiliates.

Press Release: National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
Contact: David Elliot
202-543-9577 ext. 16
[email protected]

Life Sentences Given in Four States
26 August 2004

Death sentences have declined across the country. The following four cases are recent illustrations of this trend:

  • In Cook County, Illinois, a judge sentenced Ronald Hinton to life without parole, citing abuse in the defendant’s background and his remorse for the crimes. Hinton admitted to three murders. (Chicago Tribune, August 25, 2004).
  • In Butler County, Ohio, a three-judge panel sentenced Tom West to life without parole for a shooting spree at a trucking company in which two people were killed and three others wounded. Costs of the trial, the agreement of the victims’ families, and the defendant’s mental illness were cited as reasons for the plea agreement. (Cincinnati Enquirer, August 24, 2004).
  • In Crown Point, Indiana, Stephen Richards pleaded guilty and will be sentenced to life without parole for the shotgun slaying of two people over a sack of coins. Victims’ family members agreed to the plea arrangement. (, August 24, 2004 (Munster Times)).
  • In San Mateo, California, prosecutors announced that they would not seek the death penalty against Seti Scanlan despite Scanlan’s begging the jury to sentence him to death. Prosecutors cited costs and the uncertainty of getting a death verdict. A victims’ family member was quoted as agreeing with the decision. (See above, San Jose Mercury News, August 24, 2004).

Cited from: Life Sentences Given in Four States, Death Penalty Information Center, posted 26 August 2004, last visited 31 August 2004.

Discovery of Lost Evidence is Latest Embarrassment for Nation's Leading Death Penalty Jurisdiction
30 August 2004

The discovery of 280 unopened and mislabeled boxes of evidence found in the Houston Crime Lab's property room could impact as many as 8,000 cases, including many cases where defendants have sought evidence to prove their innocence. Investigators began sorting through the boxes this month, finding an array of evidence that ranged from a fetus and human body parts to clothes and a bag of Cheetos. Although the boxes were located nearly a year ago, the cataloging of their contents has just begun and could take up to a year to complete. Some of the evidence may be linked to the 379 cases in which prisoners convicted in Harris County have requested the retesting of DNA evidence to establish their innocence. If new evidence in these cases is found, prosecutors will have to go back to court and admit that some of the evidence previously determined to be lost or destroyed is available after all. District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal is now seeking a full-scale independent investigation of the lab, an action he had previously resisted. Houston Mayor Bill White noted, "It's hard to get away from the fact that sloppiness in anything of this matter is inexcusable." Barry Scheck of the New York City-based Innocence Project added, "This is in a league by itself...(it's) unparalleled in the Houston police lab's legacy of fraud, incompetence, and confusion." The Crime Lab's toxicology division, which tested DNA, blood and hair evidence, was shut down in January 2003 for poor work habits and inaccurate findings determined by an unskilled staff. The investigation of that department has led to at least one exoneration on the basis of DNA evidence retesting. (New York Times and Houston Chronicle, August 27, 2004). The discovery of this lost evidence is the latest development in an on-going investigation of the Houston Crime Lab and Police Department in Harris County, Texas, the nation's leading jurisdiction in executions.

Cited from: Discovery of Lost Evidence Is the Latest Embarrassment for Nation's Leading Death Penalty Jurisdiction, Death Penalty Information Center, posted 30 August 2004, last visited 31 August 2004.

Judge Stays Workman Execution, Doubts About Case Remain
3 September 2004

A federal judge in Memphis has blocked the execution of Philip Workman, a Tennessee man who has been on death row for more than 20 years despite evidence that he did not shoot the victim who was killed. Workman's execution, scheduled for September 22, was delayed pending the results of a federal review of another Tennessee case that could affect Workman's latest appeals. (New Channel 5 News in Tennessee, September 2, 2004).

Workman was convicted in 1981 of the murder of police officer Ronald Oliver during the course of a Memphis robbery. Workman has never denied his participation in the robbery, but has maintained that he did not fire the shot that fatally wounded Oliver. Since Workman's trial, the state's key witness in the case has recanted his testimony, saying he had lied on the stand. In addition, ballistics evidence has cast doubt on the assertion that Workman's gun was the weapon used to murder Oliver. Based on this evidence, five of the jurors who sentenced Workman to die have since signed affidavits stating they would not have sentenced Workman to death had they heard all of the evidence that emerged following his conviction. When the Tennessee Supreme Court rejected Workman's most recent appeal, Justice Adolpho Birch issued a strong dissent that noted: "(T)he gravity of this case and the strength of my conviction concerning this case drive my response...under any analysis, the new-discovered proof that an 'eyewitness' no longer claimed to have seen Workman shoot the officer, and that the wound causing death was inconsistent with the type of wound which would have been caused by a bullet matching Workman's gun, mandates a conclusion that the evidence may have resulted in a different judgment." Workman's execution date was the fifth date he has faced during his years on death row. A reprieve was granted for his last scheduled execution because the medical examiner in Workman's case had been indicted for faking that he had been abducted by supporters of Workman. Among those endorsing clemency for Workman are Oliver's daughter and the former prosecutor of Shelby County, where Workman was tried and convicted. The former prosecutor has also donated his services as lead counsel for Workman's clemency bid. (See DPIC Press Release, September 15, 2003).

Cited from: Judge Stays Workman Execution, Doubts Remain About Case available at Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 3 September 2004.

Broken System: Error Found in New Jersey Death Cases
7 September 2004

Of the 63 death sentences handed down since New Jersey reinstated capital punishment in 1982, 47 have been overturned, including that of Robert Marshall, whose death sentence was reversed on April 8th by a federal court. Marshall had been on New Jersey's death row longer than any other inmate prior to the vacating of his sentence. New Jersey has not carried out an execution since bringing back the death penalty. It currently has 11 inmates on death row, and no executions are scheduled at this time. (Asbury Park Press, September 7, 2004) See Death Row; also see DPIC's Summary of Prof. Liebman's Report on the national "Broken System".

Cited from: Broken System: Error Found in Three-Quarters of New Jersey Death Cases, Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 7 September 2004 

Alabama Senator Blocks Funds for Lab and Murder Defense
11 September 2004

Sen. Jeff Sessions almost single-handedly stopped progress on a bill this week that would have funneled millions of dollars to state crime labs so they could process rape kits and DNA evidence more quickly.

The bill also proposed spending $25 million over 5 years to help states pay the costs of DNA testing for death row inmates who see the tests as a chance for exoneration. Another $100 million in federal grants under the measure would have gone to states that have made sure death-penalty defendants have access to competent legal representation.

Sessions opposed paying the money to what he described as "left-wing advocacy groups."

"This bill would take $100 million in federal taxpayer funds and give it to anti-death penalty groups for the defense of murderers and terrorists," he said.

Sessions, R-Mobile, also criticized the bill's focus on DNA testing.

"Only 5 % of scientific analyses are for DNA," he said. "Some states have no DNA backlog. This is a political bill that should be killed as dead as a door nail."

The Alabama senator, with Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, raised objections that effectively halted work on the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. With just a few weeks left in this session of Congress, there's little chance the bill will be approved, even though a similar bill has passed the House.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a sponsor of the bill, said there are enough votes to pass it in the Senate, assuming its opponents allow it to move through the Judiciary Committee.

"Delaying this bill for yet another year may not seem like a long time to some on Capitol Hill," Leahy said. "But ask the innocent person sitting on death row what even another day of waiting is like."

Cited from: Ana Radelat, Alabama Senator Blocks Funds for Labs and Murder Defense, Montgomery Advertiser, available at National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), 11 September 2004.

New Voices: Lead Prosecutor Questions Value of Death Penalty
11 September 2004

Thomas F. Kelaher, the new president of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey, said that it is time to start rethinking the use of the death penalty in the state. Although Kelaher is a supporter of the death penalty, he noted: "If the death penalty hasn't been used in 20 years, society should ask if it should be continued. It was supposed to act as a deterrent. If it hasn't been used in 20 years, you really can't say it's a deterrent." Kelaher expressed concern about the recent number of high-profile cases in which defendants have been sentenced to death around the country only to be freed after DNA tests proved their innocence. He was also troubled by the high costs of capital punishment. (Asbury Park Press, Sept. 11, 2004). See New Voices; see also DPIC's report On the Front Line: Law Enforcement Views on the Death Penalty.

Cited from: NEW VOICES: Lead Prosecutor Questions the Value of Death Penalty, Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 11 September 2004.

Fewer Death Penalty Sentences Being Imposed in U.S.
15 September 2004

The last four years juries have been sentencing fewer death sentences each year than in the 1990's. In the last decade, the average capital punishment sentence was 290 people per year. The average capital punishment sentence, for the past four years, has been 174 people per year. The main reasons are the litigation and expense of capital trials, and prosecutors being more selective of the cases that will go to juries. Another reason is the exonerated, but there are conflicting opinions on whether the innocent is a substantial influence. The differing views state different numbers of people who have been exonerated. All sides acknowledge that the death penalty should only be used for "the worst of the worst." Since 1980 until recently, capital punishment was definitely overused.

Compiled from: Adam Liptak, Fewer Death Sentences Being Imposed in the U.S., New York Times and National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), 15 September 2004.

On Death Row: A Battle Over the Fatal Cocktail
16 September 2004  

The debate over lethal injection is that it has become cruel and unusual punishment, under the Eighth Amendment. There are three drugs that need to be injected. The first drug that has to be injected in the beginning is sodium thiopental. This causes the person to be unconsious, while the two other drugs paralyze the person, and then stop the heart. The problem is that some lethal injections are being botched up at the initial stage with the sodium thiopental. This problem causes the person to be conscious while the other two drugs are injected. So, the person is awake when being suffocated to death, but cannot speak or move because of the paralyzing drug. The paralyzing agent is pancuronium bromide, which only affects the muscles but not the brain or nerves. Many reasons for the errors are "mixing the drug, which is stored as a powder; problems with intravenous tubes; and the possibility that 'the drug maybe diluted or diverted by personnel intending to use it for purposes of substance abuse." The alarming part is that the person looks tranquil and serene when the injection is taking place, however in reality the person is suffering an extreme amount of pain.

Compiled from: Adam Liptak, On Death Row, A Battle Over the Fatal Cocktail, The New York Times and National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), 16 September 2004.

Dawdling Over DNA
21 September 2004

Kirk Bloodsworth, the first death row inmate exonerated by DNA evidence, was among those in attendance last week when the Senate Judiciary Committee was supposed to act on a worthy measure that would ensure fairer access to post-conviction DNA testing and encourage states to improve the abysmal caliber of legal representation in capital cases.

Kellie Greene, the victim of a vicious 1994 assault who had to wait three years before the biological evidence was analyzed, was there, too, to spotlight other key provisions that would expand the funds available to clear up the nationwide backlog of more than 300,000 biological samples waiting for analyses.

Unfortunately, too few senators showed up to make a quorum, postponing the showdown on the long-stalled bill until the committee meets today.

The legislation combines President Bush's proposal to reduce the backlog of unprocessed biological evidence with watered-down but still valuable aspects of a bill by Senator Patrick Leahy to combat wrongful convictions in death penalty and other cases. It has broad bipartisan support, which was evident last year when the House approved it, 357 to 67. The measure also has ample Senate backing.

The danger is that it will die in the Judiciary Committee because of opposition from the Justice Department to provisions upgrading legal representation and expanding DNA testing, and because of delaying tactics by three Republican senators, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and John Cornyn of Texas.

Today's proceeding is crucial. The Judiciary Committee's chairman, Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, is one of the bill's main sponsors. Whether the logjam is broken, and justice advances, now rests largely in his hands.

Cited from: New York Times, available at National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), 21 September 2004.

Autopsies of Executed Inmates by State Medical Examiners Reveal Probability of Botched Procedures
21 September 2004

Advocates against the death penalty have been challenging lethal injection for awhile. The issue regarding lethal injection is the botched up procedure. Recently, an autopsy was conducted on Edward L. Harper, the last man to be executed in Kentucky. The findings proved that there were mistakes made during the lethal injection and extreme pain was endured. Other states have conducted autopsies and found that eight men suffered through a painful death due to these procedural errors.

Compiled from: New York Times and Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 21 September 2004.

Supreme Tipping Point
22 September 2004

With the election coming up, the Supreme Court is a hot topic. After a ten year record of the same justices, a change is bound to happen in the nearer future. The question of which justices will be leaving and who will the replacements will be is as controverisal as the issues the Court will be deciding on. Some of the big issues are affirmative action, abortion, school vouchers, federalism, and capital punishment. It is inevitable that some of the justices will be departing in the next four years. Chief Justice Rehnquist, 80, is being treated for thyroid cancer and Justice Stevens is 84 years old.  Depending on who will be elected as the president will decide the fate of the Court.

Compiled from: Legal Times and National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) 22 September 2004.

More Blacks Deprived of Vote Because of Felony Convictions
23 September 2004

A new report by The Sentencing Project, "The Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement in Atlanta, Georgia," examines the racial effects of depriving citizens of voting rights because of criminal convictions. The report reveals sharp disparities in voting eligibility by race and neighborhood. Among the report's key findings are the following:

  • One out of every seven African American males in Atlanta is disenfranchised as a result of a felony conviction;
  • One-third of the black male disenfranchisement rate in Georgia is a result of drug offense convictions;
  • Black males in Atlanta are registered to vote at an 11% lower rate than other demographic groups, but more than two-thirds of this differential is a result of high rate of disenfranchisement.

The report also contains a series of recommendations for change in criminal justice policy and disenfranchisement practices that would close the racial gap in voter registration and result in greater electoral participation. ("The Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement in Atlanta, Georgia," The Sentencing Project, September 2004; Washington Post, Sept. 23, 2004) In many cases, disenfranchisement can also affect jury composition in capital cases.

Cited from: Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 23 September 2004.

Address to the American Correctional Association on Death Penalty
24 September 2004

The American Correctional Association has recently published the proceedings of their 2003 Annual Conference in Nashville containing a presentation by DPIC Executive Director Richard Dieter on the death penalty. The text of the speech is available on DPIC's site, click here. The full publication is available from the ACA, and also contains remarks on the death penalty by Prof. John McAdams of Marquette. (The State of Corrections: 2003 Proceedings, ACA Annual Conferences, American Correctional Association (2004)).

Cited from: Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 24 September 2004.

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Mandatory Death Sentences in Trinidad and Barbados Upheld
8 July 2004

Eight months after the Privy Council found that this country's death penalty was not a mandatory sentence, the Council reversed itself yesterday, saying that it was up to Parliament to make such a change.

The judgment, on the appeal of convicted murder Charles Matthew, means that anyone found guilty of murder after yesterday will automatically be sentenced to hang. However, the 86 prisoners currently awaiting execution have been granted a reprieve.

Since they had been given the hope of being re-sentenced following the first judgment-on the appeal of convicted murderer Balkisoon Roodal-it would be a "cruel punishment" to now affirm the death sentences, so their sentences were all commuted to life imprisonment, the Council ruled.

The judgment was greeted with pleasure by Attorney General John Jeremie who said in a statement to the media that "the (Privy Council found that it) has no licence to read its own moral values into the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution".

"I consider the law in relation to the application of the death penalty to be finally and conclusively determined by (yesterday's) decision," he continued.

But Douglas Mendes SC, who was part of the team that represented Matthew, said the ruling was "a bit perplexing" and that it was "not something that anybody should be happy about".

"This decision retards the development of constitutional rights in this country. The result is that we are stuck with archaic laws," he told the media yesterday during an interview at his Duke Street, Port of Spain, office.

There was also strong dissent from within the ranks of the Council itself as four of the unprecedented nine judges who heard the appeal voiced their disagreement in a minority judgment.

"We consider the decision of the majority to be unsound in law and productive of grave injustice to a small but important class of people in Trinidad and Tobago. It is in our opinion clear that the interpretation... which commends itself to the majority does not ensure the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, degrades the dignity of the human person and does not respect the rule of law," the minority judgment stated.

"Times have changed. Human rights values set higher standards today. The common endeavour, to rid the world of man's inhumanity is no longer acceptable. To condemn every person convicted of murder to death regardless of the circumstances is a form of inhumane punishment," it continued.

Matthew, 61, of Arima, was sentenced to death in 1999 for killing his former lover, Louise Gittens, out of jealousy.

His appeal was heard together with three other appeals from Jamaica and Barbados. All the appeals had challenged the mandatory nature of the penalty in each country, and a tri-nation team had been assembled to argue the appeals in March this year.

One Caribbean judge, Justice Edward Zacca of Jamaica, presided over the appeals alongside the other eight English Law Lords.

The Council also ruled that the mandatory death sentence in Barbados was to remain, but said the penalty was unconstitutional in Jamaica.

In Roodal's appeal, the Council had first established that the death penalty was inconsistent with the Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to life and protection from inhumane punishment.

The Council then decided that the language of a "savings" clause, which had stated that the penalty was not to be held to be unconstitutional, was not strong enough to protect the penalty from being altered. The mandatory sentence was then quashed, and the Council had ordered that the penalty was to be imposed on the discretion of trial judges after hearing mitigating circumstances from a convicted murderer.

In Matthew's appeal, the Council found that the clause did, in fact, protect the penalty from being affected.

"As the Constitution itself makes express provision for the exercise of the power of commutation by the President and preserves the mandatory death penalty, their Lordships do not think that there is some other principle by which these laws can be invalidated.

"It follows that the decision as to whether to abolish the mandatory death penalty must be, as the constitution intended it to be, a matter for the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago," the majority decision stated.

Mendes said that if the State was concerned about the freedom of its citizens and the preservation of their rights "then next week we should expect a Bill to rectify these laws (which are inconsistent with the Constitution)," he said.

Published in Trinidad & Tobago Express, 8 July 2004, Copyright 2004.

References to Death Penalty Removed from Turkish Laws
13 July 2004

The Turkish Parliament ratified a draft law that replaces expressions including "death sentence" with language reflecting the country's recent abolition of the death penalty.  All expressions in Turkish penal code and other laws refering to executions and death sentences were replaced with the phrase "heavy life imprisonment."  More information is available at Turkish Press.

India has First Execution in 13 Years
14 August 2004

Dhananjoy Chatterjee, convicted of a rape and murder of a 14-year old girl. Hetal Parekh, was hanged to death. This is the first execution in India for 13 years. He was hanged outside of the Alipore Central Jail and his body was left hanging for 30 minutes, which was the execution procedure. APJ president rejected Chatterjee's family's third clemency appeal the night before Chatterjee's execution. The police had created a circle surrounding the jail as a prevention measure for any procession or demonstrations. The road outside of the jail was barricaded at both ends.

Compiled from: India: First Execution in 13 Years, Press Trust of India and National Coalition Against the Death Penalty (NCADP), 14 August 2004.

Death Penalty Debate Intensifies in India
19 August 2004

NEW DELHI - Debate on the death penalty in India has thickened after the country's Supreme Court repealed the death sentence on a rapist-murderer, days after another man was hanged to death for the same crime.

Less than a week after Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed for the rape and murder of 14-year-old Hetal Parekh, the court modified the sentence of Rahul, accused of violating and then slitting the throat of a four-year-old girl in Pune, from death to life imprisonment.

"One expects consistency from the highest court in the land," said Anand Chakravarti, professor of sociology at Delhi University. "The confusion of judgment in apparently identical cases affects the credibility of the courts."

Chatterjee was executed in Kolkata after more than a decade-long legal battle in several courts and after he was refused the presidential pardon twice.

Even after the pardon appeal was refused for the second time, his lawyers went to the Supreme Court pleading that the accused had already spent 13 years on death row. A life sentence in India is for 14 years. The Supreme Court refused to modify the judgment.

"The judiciary would probably have been lynched if they modified Dhananjoy's sentence," said Supreme Court lawyer Meenakshi Rani.

"There was a huge public pressure and mass hysteria against Dhananjoy Chatterjee. Also the fact that his appeals for presidential pardon had been rejected meant that his case for repeal of judgment was weak."

Rahul's lawyers argued that his case was not "the rarest of rare cases" where the death penalty is given, that he was drunk during the crime and was only 24 years old at the time (1999) and had no previous criminal record.

Many say these issues ring true about Chatterjee too. "The definition of rarest of rare seems to be a little vague," said Mrinmoyee Ghosh, a former telecommunications executive.

"Why is Dhananjoy's crime rarest of rare and Rahul's not? Rahul actually killed a much younger girl. And as far as I know, even he (Dhananjoy) didn't have any previous criminal record."

Activists against the death sentence argue that irrespective of the crime, no one should be executed.

"In the modern world, the death sentence is a grisly reminder of the barbarian within us," said Priyanka Sinha, one of those who held candle vigils outside Chatterjee's jail in Kolkata.

"It in no way is a deterrent for crime. We've had it for so long - has crime stopped? No. It has just surged."

Cited from: Death Penalty Debate Shrills in India, Kerala Online, available at National Coalition Against the Death Penalty (NCADP), 19 August 2004.

World: International Experts Urge an End to Child Executions
3 September 2004

AI Index: POL 30/033/2004
Amnesty International and medical experts from seven countries have sent an open letter to the heads of government in China, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Philippines, Iran, Sudan and the USA urging them to stop using the death penalty against children.

The letter has been signed by 17 medical experts with outstanding credentials in the field of child and adolescent psychology, psychiatry and social development.

"Although adolescents generally know the difference between right and wrong, they can suffer from diminished capacities to reason logically, to control their impulses, to think through the future consequences of their actions, and to resist the negative influences and persuasion of others," says the letter. "They should face punishment for criminal actions, but the sanctions which can be imposed on mentally competent adolescent offenders should not be the same as those faced by adults found guilty of the same offences."

Endorsing the call of the experts to abolish juvenile executions, Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said, "Child offenders should not be punished as if they were adults. Governments must amend their laws and practices to confirm with international human rights standards and end the death penalty for offenders under the age of 18."

Background Information

International standards prohibit the execution of child offenders -- people who were under 18 years old at the time of the crime. These standards include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the American Convention on Human Rights and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. This prohibition is now so widely accepted as to constitute a principle of customary international law. The relevant standards are respected by the overwhelming majority of the 80 countries which still retain and use the death penalty.

For more information on Amnesty International’s campaign "Stop Child Executions!", see:
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Child Executions on the Way Out
15 September 2004

AI Index: POL 30/035/2004 (Public)


The US Supreme Court has the opportunity to consign the execution of child offenders to history and bring the USA into line with the vast majority of countries that have already done so, said Amnesty International today as it published a new report on the issue.


The US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on 13 October. Its decision on the constitutionality of the death penalty against 16 and 17-year-old offenders is expected in the first half of 2005.

"Such executions violate international law. The international consensus against putting people to death for crimes committed when they were children reflects the widespread recognition of the capacity of young people for growth and change," said Amnesty International.

Since 2003, six people were executed in China, Iran and the USA, for crimes committed when they were children. Other convicted child offenders remain under sentence of death in Pakistan, the Philippines and Sudan.

"The life of a child should never be written off, whatever he or she has done. The guiding principle must be to maximize the child offender’s potential for eventual successful reintegration into society. Execution is the ultimate denial of this principle." said Amnesty International.

Scott Allen Hain was executed in the USA on 3 April 2003 for a crime committed when he was only 17. Since then several executions of child offenders have been stayed pending the outcome of the Supreme Court deliberations.

The USA is the only country which openly acknowledges executing child offenders and claims for itself the right to do so under international law.

In China, although by law no one should be executed for a crime committed when they were under 18, children have continued to be executed because the courts apparently do not take sufficient care to determine their age.

Gao Pan, was executed on 8 March 2004 for a crime committed on 9 August 2001, possibly before he was 18 years old. Conflicting information on official documents and the use of different calendar systems had lead to confusion over his true age.

In an attempt to prove that Gao was 18 years old at the time of the crime, the state prosecutor provided a household registration document signed by Gao’s grandfather, which on further examination was reportedly proven false.

Hebei Province High People's Court rejected 32 items of evidence provided by Gao's lawyer supporting the claim that he was not yet 18 years old at the time of the crime. The court also rejected a request made by Gao's family to carry out a medical check which might have helped to clarify his age.

In Iran 16-year-old Ateqeh Rajabi, was publicly hanged on 15 August 2004 on a street in the city centre of Neka, northern Iranian province of Mazandaran for "acts incompatible with chastity".

Ateqeh Rajabi was sentenced to death three month earlier. During her trial she was not allowed legal representation and the judge severely criticized her dress, harshly reprimanding her. It is alleged that Ateqeh Rajabi was mentally ill both at the time of her crime and during her trial proceedings.

Although Ateqeh Rajabi’s national identity card stated that she was 16 years old, the Mazandaran Judiciary announced at her execution that her age was 22.

For a copy of the report: "Stop Child Executions! Ending the death penalty for child offenders", please see:

For more information on Amnesty International’s campaign against child executions, please see:

China Executes Bank Staff for Fraud
14 September 2004

BEIJING (Reuters) - China executed four people, including employees of two of its Big Four state-owned banks, for fraud totaling $15 million, the state Xinhua news agency said Tuesday.

The executions occurred in the midst a high-profile government campaign against financial crime. They followed a string of arrests in white-collar crime as China prepares to sell shares publicly in its big banks.

The latest cases involved China Construction Bank, due to raise up to $10 billion in an IPO next year; and Bank of China, which is moving towards an IPO worth up to $4 billion.

One of those executed was Wang Liming, a former accounting officer at China Construction Bank in the central province of Henan, who worked with others to steal 20 million yuan ($2.4 million) from the bank using fraudulent papers, Xinhua said in a report on its Web site: ( An accomplice, Miao Ping, was also executed.

Another Construction Bank employee, Wang Xiang, was executed for taking 20 million yuan from the bank in an unrelated case.

Liang Shihan, an official at the Bank of China's branch in the southern city of Zhuhai, was executed for helping cheat his bank out of $10.3 million, Xinhua said.

Xinhua did not say how the four were killed. China, which executes more criminals than the rest of the world combined, usually puts inmates to death with a gunshot to the back of the head but has recently experimented with lethal injections.

The debt-laden state-owned banks have been involved in other fraud scandals as Beijing tries to clean them up ahead of 2007, when the sector begins to privatize and opens fully to foreign rivals as part of pledges made to the World Trade Organization.

In February, China arrested Liu Jinbao, former chief of the Bank of China's Hong Kong branch, for corruption. Last December, Wang Xuebing, former head of the Construction Bank, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for taking bribes.

The government injected a combined $45 billion into the Construction Bank and Bank of China last year as part of a pilot scheme to reform the sector and prepare for the IPOs.

The precise number of people executed for all crimes in China is a state secret. Reports range from 5,000 to 10,000 a year, many for murder, but they have also been killed for corruption and crimes as minor as bottom-pinching.

Legal experts have proposed what they call a "kill fewer, kill carefully" policy for nonviolent crimes.

Cited from: China Executes Bank Staff for Fraud, available at National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), 14 September 2004.

Maoists Condemn China's Death Sentence on Comrades
24 September 2004

China sentenced two Nepalese men for possessing large quantities of Chinese firearms and explosives. The two men, who are Maoists, were caught at the Khasa Bazar near the Tibet-Nepal border. The Nepalese government and human rights organizations have been pressuring the Chinese government for a re-trial and a stay of executions. There are questions regarding if the men had interpreters and understood the charges. The wives of the two men and their campaign for their husband's innocence triggered China to issue a re-trial.

Compiled from: Indo-Asian News Service and National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), 24 September 2004.

China: School Trips to Watch Death Sentences
1 October 2004

AI Index: ASA 17/049/2004 (Public)
In a bizarre holiday celebration several hundred schoolchildren were taken to watch six men being sentenced to death at a public sentencing rally, according to a Chinese internet report.

"The Chinese government regularly 'celebrates' national holidays by executing large numbers of criminals," said Ingrid Massage, Asia director at Amnesty International. "This year, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls in the same week as China's National Day on Friday 1 October and there has been a surge of executions."

The schoolchildren were part of an audience of 2,500 people. Held in a gymnasium in Changsha, capital of central Hunan province, the sentencing rally was timed to coincide with the Mid-Autumn Festival on 27 September. The six men were then taken to an execution ground and shot, according to the report on the 'Tom' web portal.

Pictured wearing their school uniforms, the children are described as elementary and middle school students, between the ages of six and seventeen. They heard the details of the convicts' crimes read out in public -- including murder, assault and kidnapping -- and then witnessed the criminals being sentenced to death.

Taking children out of school to attend sentencing rallies appears to contravene the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by China in 1992. This states that education should be directed at the "development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms".

The six men in Hunan are among at least 100 people executed in recent days in China.

Both in law and practice, China’s criminal justice system does not currently offer fair trials under international legal standards. This is particularly alarming in criminal cases where the death penalty is passed. Confessions may be extorted through torture, access to lawyers is limited and the appeal system is fractured and decentralised. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and is calling on China to halt all executions immediately with a view to abolishing the death penalty in law.

To see the 'Tom' report (in Chinese), go to:
Further information on human rights in China:
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China: Move to Reduce Executions?
14 October 2004

The Supreme People's Court will in future review all death sentences passed in China, according to the Court's vice-president, Huang Songyou, quoted in the official Chinese media. Amnesty International welcomes this announcement as it could mean a fall in the huge number of people executed.

"This is a step in the right direction," said Amnesty International. "We hope that extra scrutiny by better qualified judges will bring about a significant reduction in the numbers of people executed in China."

"We will be watching closely to see if the reform translates into any concrete improvement," continued the organization. "Of course it will be hard even to tell if there has been a drop, as China refuses to publish full national statistics on the death penalty."

A senior Chinese legislator estimated earlier this year that China executes "nearly 10,000" people a year.

Amnesty International warned that this measure must be seen as the beginning of a process towards full abolition of the death penalty. There are still a host of failings in the Chinese legal system which jeopardize the lives of people suspected of capital crimes. There is no presumption of innocence; political pressure to pass heavy sentences intrudes into the judicial process; 'confessions' extracted under torture can be used as evidence in court; and lawyers need not be present at the initial police interrogation.

"Under such circumstances, the Chinese criminal justice system is in no position to offer fair trials to those facing the death penalty," said Amnesty International.

Extra scrutiny by the Supreme People's Court would not necessarily guarantee a fair trial. For example in December last year the Court retried a high-profile case where a gangster's death sentence had been overturned on appeal by a provincial court. It ruled that Liu Yong's death sentence was still valid despite evidence of his confession being extorted through torture, and ordered an immediate execution.

The present system of reviewing most death sentences in China allows for judges in a provincial high court to approve a death sentence that they themselves have passed. The move to re-centralise the system back to the Supreme People's Court in Beijing is expected to be enacted during the current legislative session, which ends in 2008, the year that Beijing hosts the Summer Olympics.

"Such reforms will help to protect the rights of detainees," said Amnesty International. "But they must not be seen as a substitute for full abolition of the death penalty in China, starting with a halt to all executions."

China applies the death sentence for the "most serious" crimes, which under Chinese law include corruption and many other non-violent crimes, despite an international standard which states the death penalty should be "a quite exceptional measure". Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases on the grounds that it is the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment and violates the right to life.

Take action! Protect Uighur refugees from forcible return, visit

China in the AI Report 2004:

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It violates the right to life. Visit Amnesty International's dedicated Death Penalty pages at
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Japan Executes Man who Killed Eight School Children
15 October 2004

On September 14th, 2004 Japan executed forty year old Mamoru Takuma for the 2001 stabbing rampage at a school in western Japan that claimed the lives of 8 school children and injured 15 others.  Mamoru was hanged less than a year after his death sentence was finalized, a sentence that was carried out with unusual speed.  Human rights activists have expressed concern that the rights of the convicted are not being sufficiently protected - usually there is a gap of at least four years between sentencing and execution.

Japan's secretive system of capital punishment has long been criticized by human rights activists and international organizations.  Under the capital punishment system currently in place, inmates are arbitrarily selected from death row and they, their families, and their legal representatives are only notified of their pending executions on the day it is to take place. 

As a result of increasing international pressures, there was a recent symposium on capital punishment held October 8th, 2004 in Miyazaki, Japan.  The symposium was part of the annual human rights meeting of the Japan Federation of  Bar Associations, which is Japan's largest association of lawyers.  The Association criticized the secrecy and the due process defects inherent in the Japanese system and drafted a resolution calling for the Japanese government to abolish the out-dated system, or at least to introduce a four-year moratorium until the system can be revamped. 

The Japanese government has largely been unwilling to change its stance on the death penalty or even to provide a proper forum to address concerns relating to the system.  This policy could be on the way out as The Council of Europe is considering temporarily revoking Japan's observer status unless it suspends executions.  More importantly, Tokyo is now seeking a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, which will be difficult to attain if Japan continues to ignore the United Nation's concerns over its death penalty system.

Compiled from:  Khaleej Times Online, Japan Executes Man Who Killed 8 Schoolchildren 14 September 2004, Go Asia Pacific,  Japan Executes Man Who Killed Eight School Children, 14 September 2004, and Japan Economic Newswire, Japan Does Not Need Death Penalty in 21st Century, 8 October 2004.

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New Resource from the Bureau of Justice
6 September 2004

The Bureau of Justice Statistics' Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2002 contains its latest catalog of data on crime, the administration of justice, and public attitudes toward criminal justice issues such as the death penalty. For example, a growing number of Americans support the sentence of life without parole over the death penalty. In 1985, a Gallup Poll found that 34% of those polled favored life in prison without parole. This latest edition of the Sourcebook shows that by 2001 the number of respondents favoring life without parole had climbed to 44% (and higher since then). The support for life without parole is even stronger among black respondents (73%), respondents holding college post-graduate degrees (62%), and those who identify themselves as Democrats (60%). The Sourcebook also revealed an increase in the number of Hispanic inmates on death row in the United States. With an increase recorded each year between 1996 and 2001, the population has grown from 8.8% to 11.2%. The Sourcebook is updated as new data becomes available and may be found online at (Bureau of Justice Statistics Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 2002-(published 2003; contains some 2003 data; cost $9)). See Life Without Parole, Race, and Resources.

Cited from: New Resource: Bureau of Justice Statistics Sourcebook, Death Penalty Information Center, 6 September 2004.

BJS Report Finds Murder Rate Unchanged
20 September 2004

In the latest National Crime Victimization Survey, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that the U.S. murder rate for 2003 was about 5.6 per 100,000 persons, unchanged from 2001 and 2002. Of the victims of murder, approximately 49% were white and 49% were black. (DPIC note: While the report found that the race of victims is evenly split nationally, victims in death penalty cases are mostly white (about 81%)). In murder cases, 76% of the offenders were known to the victim, and 24% of offenders were strangers. Firearms were used in 71% of murders and homicides were mostly intraracial (victim and offender of same race). The most cited circumstance leading to murder was an argument (28%). Read the full report. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Criminal Victimization, 2003, (September 2004)). Even though the 2001-2003 murder rate remained steady, death sentences continued their five-year decline in 2003.

Cited from: Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) 20 September 2004.

Report Analyzes Washington Death Penalty System

22 September 2004

A new report from the Washington Death Penalty Assistance Center reviews the efficiency of Washington State’s death penalty system. The report includes an overview of Washington’s statute and an explanation of the differences between capital and non-capital cases, demonstrating why capital cases require significantly greater resources. The authors report that:

  • Of death penalty cases that completed the appeals process, 81% were overturned after errors were found. When those cases were tried a second time, not one of the inmates received a death sentence.
  • For cases between 1999 and 2003, on average a death penalty trial cost twice ($432,000) as much as a non-death penalty murder trial ($153,000).
  • From the arrest of the defendant through sentence, death penalty cases take longer (20 months) than non-death penalty cases (15 months). Appellate review for non-death penalty cases lasts an average of two years; death penalty reviews last seven.
  • Since the death penalty was reinstated in Washington, four cases resulted in executions; three of those four inmates gave up part of their appeal. Only one case resulted in an execution after all review was exhausted, which took 11 years.

The reversals resulted from a variety of errors, including errors by trial judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers. The reversals were not attributable to one identifiable factor, and the authors concluded that they are due to systemic problems with capital punishment. They note that Washington State has spent millions of dollars, numerous years, and a significant amount of resources on this flawed system.

Mark A. Larranaga and Donna Mustard, Washington’s Death Penalty System: A Review of the Costs, Length, and Results of Capital Cases in Washington State (2004)

Cited from: Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 22 September 2004.

Amnesty International Releases New Report on Death Penalty in Belarus and Uzbekistan
4 October 2004

The report, "Belarus and Uzbekistan: the last executioners. The trend towards abolition in the former Soviet space" notes that both countries are the only remaining states from the former Soviet Union that still carry out the death penalty. Not only are both criminal justice systems seriously flawed, but neither the prisoners nor their relatives are told of the execution dates. Furthermore, the inmate's body is not turned over to the relatives, and relatives are not told of the burial's location.

DPIC Releases New Report on Innocence
15 September 2004

The Death Penalty Information Center has issued a new report, "Innocence and the Crisis in the American Death Penalty," cataloging 116 cases of former death row inmates who have been exonerated in 25 states since 1973. The report also notes that as the number of innocent people freed from death row has risen and become more public in recent years, there has been a dramatic drop in death sentences around the country. The number of death sentences, which have been steadily dropping since 1998, are now about 50% less than they were in the late 1990s. DPIC uses the objective standards of the justice system in determining whether a case should be included in its innocence list. Will be available September 20, 2004. See "From DPIC" on the Center's home page; see also Innocence.

Cited from: DPIC Releasing New Report on Innocence, Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 15 September 2004.

New Resource: Law Review Features Wrongful Conviction Symposium
2 September 2004

The Summer 2004 Drake Law Review includes articles based on a recent Symposium on Wrongful Convictions featuring some of the nation's leading experts on innocence and the death penalty. The articles provide a detailed overview of the issue of innocence and examine wrongful convictions from a number of persectives, including the role of criminal case review in correcting miscarriages of justice, the need to record police interrogations, the impact of innocence on victims' family members, and compensating those who were wrongly imprisoned. In addition, the symposium highlighted the work of the death penalty commissions in Illinois and North Carolina. Among those featured are Hugo Bedau, Michael Radelet, Thomas Sullivan, and Steven Drizin. (Drake Law Review, Summer 2004) See Innocence and Law Reviews.

Cited from: NEW RESOURCE: Law Review Features Wrongful Conviction Symposium available at Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 2 September 2004.

Law Review Addresses "Who Deserves Death?"

Film Planned on McVeigh's Father and Bud Welch
14 September 2004

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Bud Welch, who lost a daughter in the Oklahoma City bombing, went from wanting to kill bomber Timothy McVeigh to becoming a leading opponent of the death penalty. And along the way, he came to know and have sympathy for McVeigh's father, Bill McVeigh.

The journey of these two men after the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history forms the basis for "Bud & Bill," a film being produced by Robert Greenwald, known for the political documentaries "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" and "Uncovered: The War in Iraq."

Julie Welch, 23, was working in the Social Security Administration office in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on the morning of April 19, 1995, when McVeigh pulled up in a bomb-laden Ryder truck and touched off an explosion that destroyed the building, killing 168 people.

For nearly a year, Welch wanted McVeigh to die for the crime. But he shed this wish for revenge, realizing it would not bring his daughter back, and began traveling the nation to speak out against the death penalty.

In his travels, he met McVeigh's father, a retired auto worker in Pendleton, N.Y.

"This is about my journey and Bill's journey," Welch said. "It's about what I went through in losing a daughter and what Bill went through in losing a son. Tim is as much dead as Julie and Tim was his son.

"You have to understand the feelings of family members who have been executed. They love them just the same in spite of what they've done."

The two men met about three years before McVeigh was executed by injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. They met again more than a year after the execution and have kept in contact by telephone.

"Me and Bud are friends," Bill McVeigh said in a telephone interview from his home. "He is on a crusade to stop the death penalty and he calls me from places you wouldn't believe."

He did not witness his son's death and holds no hard feelings toward the government. He said he is "more or less" opposed to the death penalty.

"I'm not positive on that," he said. "I'm a Catholic and they oppose it."

The idea for the film grew out of Welch's prominence as a death penalty opponent, said Alys Shanti, who is producing the film along with Greenwald.

"Robert and I are active opponents of the death penalty in the state of California and Bud Welch is such an integral figure to the movement that we started to read about him and in the process found a beautiful and compelling story," Shanti said.

She said the movie should be produced within the next year, and the release date will be several months after that. It is being developed as a low-budget feature for theatrical release.

While Welch has been outspoken in his opposition to the death penalty, many others who lost family members in the bombing favored McVeigh's execution and wanted McVeigh's co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, sent to the death chamber as well.

A federal jury in Denver sentenced Nichols to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the bombing. Oklahoma prosecutors tried him in state court earlier this year in hopes of winning a death sentence.

The lengthy prosecution, with an estimated cost of $10 million, resulted in Nichols being convicted of 161 counts of murder, but he was spared the death penalty when the jury deadlocked in the sentencing phase of the trial.

Cited from: Film Planned on McVeigh's Father and Bud Welch, available at National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), 14 September 2004.

NCADP Launches New Blog
6 August 2004

The National Coalition Against the Death Penalty (NCADP) has launched a new blog, "Abolish the Death Penalty." 

The purpose of Abolish the Death Penalty is to "tell the personal stories of crime victims and their loved ones, people on death row and their loved ones and those activists who are working toward abolition. [Visitors] may, from time to time, see news articles or press releases here, but that is not the primary mission of Abolish the Death Penalty. [NCADP's] mission is to put a human face on the debate over capital punishment."

NCADP affiliates may post to the blog by sending submissions to [email protected].

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Printed from and with the permission of Capital Defense Weekly.

3rd Circuit

  • Hackett v. Price, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 18146; 2004 WL 1903260 (3rd Cir 8/26/2004) Relief denied as "there is no reasonable likelihood the jury in Hackett's case applied the challenged instruction and verdict form in a way that prevented the consideration of constitutionally relevant evidence...Because the jury found no mitigating circumstance, it did not proceed to determine whether any mitigating circumstance outweighed the aggravating circumstances it unanimously found, as did the juries in Zettlemoyer, Frey, and Banks."

4th Circuit

  • Richmond v. Polk, --- F.3d ----, 2004 WL 1616359 (4th Cir. 7/20/2004) Relief denied on claims including whether:  (1) a statute requiring accompanying affidavits in support of post-conviction motion was adequate and independent state ground for procedural default on ineffective assistance claims; (2) petitioner showed cause to excuse procedural default; (3) petitioner showed that he was actually prejudiced as result of default; (4) state court's rejection of Morgan claim regarding voir dire; (5) state court unreasonably applied Simmons rule regarding instruction on parole ineligibility; and (6) petitioner was not entitled to habeas relief due to his inability to show that Simmons error was not harmless under Brecht standard.
  • Reid v. Johnson, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 15855 (4th Cir 8/2/2004) (unpublished) Remand & stay ordered in light of Nelson v. Campbell, 158 L. Ed. 2d 924, 124 S. Ct. 2117 (2004).
  • Longworth v. Ozmint, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 15540 (4th Cir 7/28/2004) Relief denied on claims including: (1) that the State presented "knowingly false" testimony of a deputy sheriff, (2) that one of Longworth's attorneys had an actual conflict of interest, (3) that the State failed to disclose to Longworth exculpatory evidence of a deputy sheriff who believed that before trial Longworth had expressed remorse, (4) that Longworth was, for numerous reasons, deprived of the effective assistance of counsel.
  • United States v. Roane, Johnson & Tipton, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 16366 (4th Cir 8/9/2004) Relief denied as: "(1) counsel was not ineffective in failing to object to allegedly discriminatory use of peremptory challenges against female prospective jurors; (2) claimed ineffectiveness of counsel in failing to request certain instructions was not prejudicial; (3) alleged presentation of perjured testimony by prosecution did not provide basis for relief; (4) prosecution did not violate its duties under Brady; (5) counsel was not ineffective in presenting mitigating evidence at sentencing; (6) defendant was not mentally retarded, and thus ineligible for execution; and  (7) counsel did not perform deficiently in making investigation into defendant's potential alibi defense."
  • United States v. Sampson, 2004 WL 1906872 (D. Ma. 8/26/2004) District court releases an opinion including: "(1) a clarification of the procedural protections concerning jury selection afforded the defendant in a capital case under 18 U.S.C. § 3432; (2) evidentiary rulings applying the standard set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3593(c); (3) a discussion of the court's power to strike an aggravating factor because the government failed to introduce sufficient evidence to prove the factor beyond a reasonable doubt; (4) explanations of rulings and jury instructions relating to aggravating factors; (5) explanations of rulings and jury instructions relating to mitigating factors; (6) explanations of general FDPA jury instructions; and (7) explanations of rulings relating to the provisions of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12.2 that address issues relating to a capital defendant's mental condition."
  • United States v. Moussaoui, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 19770, 2004 WL 2029733 (4th Cir. 9/13/2004) (dissent) District court erred in striking the ability of the United States to seek death for alleged discovery abuses. The panel additionally holds that enemy combatant witnesses in military custody located physically outside the boundaries of the United States are still within the reach of the compulsory process clause; the court below's ordering production of enemy combatant witnesses does note violate separation of powers principles; and government's exercise of its prerogative to protect national security interests by refusing to produce the witnesses warranted use of written summaries of the witness' statements.
  • Kandies v. Polk, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 20113, 2004 WL 2137345 (4th Cir. 9/24/2004) Failure of defense counsel to retain a mitigation specialist held permissible and did not breach counsel's obligation to thoroughly investigate client's life history, even though the client had a his history of being sexually abused as a child. Failure of counsel, in the absence of a mitigation specialist, to inquire of his client concerning his history of being sexually abused did not violate Strickland. State court's holdings regarding Batson challenge were not objectively unreasonable.

5th Circuit

  • In Re Hearn, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 13839 (5th Cir 7/6/2004) Motion granted to "appoint counsel to prepare his application for authority to file a successive federal habeas corpus petition, and to stay his execution pending the disposition of such petition," on claims relating to mental retardation. Intriguing language in concurrence by Judge Higginbotham.
  • Harris v. Johnson, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 13624 (5th Cir 6/30/2004) (dissent) TRO vacated on challenges relating to lethal injection.
  • Morris v. Dretke, --- F.3d ----, 2004 WL 1627254, 5th Cir (Tex.), Jul 21, 2004 COA granted permitting further litigation on issue on mental retardation.
  • Billiot v.Epps, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 15213 (5th Cir 7/22/2004)  Where the district court retained jurisdiction to determine a Ford v. Wainwright claim, there is no authority under  "28 U.S.C. § 2253(a) (authorizing appeals from "final" orders in habeas corpus proceedings) to permit an appeal from an interlocutory order certified under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b)."
  • United States v. Davis, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 16075 (5th Cir 8/4/2004) Finding error for not charging in the way of indictment all the FDPA aggravating factors, but holding, on the facts of the instant case, such error harmless.
  • Kelly v. Dretke, 2004 WL 1777082 (5th Cir. 8/10/2004) Remand ordered as the district court improperly granted summary judgment on claims relating to whether the state knowingly used coerced/perjured testimony.
  • Matchett v. Dretke, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 16377, 2004 WL 1771412 (5th Cir. 8/9/2004) Relief denied as claims procedurally defaulted as ineffective assistance of state habeas counsel is not "cause" for procedural default, even with respect to constitutional claims that could only be raised for first time in state post-conviction proceedings.
  • Plata v. Dretke, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 16755 (5th Cir 8/16/2004) Relief denied on claims including: "(1) whether he is entitled to habeas relief based on the State's failure to advise him of his right to consular assistance under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and (2) whether the trial court's refusal to allow evidence of his parole eligibility during sentencing violated his constitutional rights to due process, effective representation by counsel, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment."
  • Roberts v. Dretke, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 17010  (5th Cir 8/16/2004) Relief denied on: (1) state court's conclusion that petitioner was not entitled to a competency hearing; (2) ineffective assistance claim for failure to further investigate petitioner's medical history; (3) trial strategy of counsel; (4) failure of his trial counsel to further investigate his medical history so as to provide basis for evidentiary hearing as to his competence to stand trial and to direct trial strategy; and (5) denial of an evidentiary hearing in the district court on his competence to stand trial.
  • Banks v. Dretke, 2004 WL 1895061 (5th Cir 8/25/2004) The Fifth Circuit reluctantly remands for an evidentiary hearing in light of the Supreme Court's remand on prosecutorial misconduct.
  • Cameron v. Dretke, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 18357 (5th Cir 8/31/2004) Relief denied due to "overwhelming" evidence on claims including "that trial counsel was ineffective for numerous reasons; that trial counsel was rendered ineffective due to a conflict of interest; and that he was deprived of the favorable testimony of Jonathan Moore."
  • Martinez v. Dretke, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 19509 (5th Cir 9/17/2004) (unpublished) Remand ordered on "whether counsel's investigation of Martinez's temporal lobe epilepsy was unreasonably deficient and, if so, whether counsel's failure to investigate this condition and produce evidence relating to it amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel."

6th Circuit

  • King v. Bell, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 15902 (6th Cir 8/3/2004) Equitable tolling applicable here as the government sought a delay in producing transcripts relating to voir dire.
  • Williams v. Bagley, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 16656; 2004 WL 1800647 (6th Cir  8/13/2004) (dissent) Relief denied most notably on jury selection.  Judge Merritt's dissent stops just short of begging the Court for certiorari in this matter.
  • Workman v. Summers, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 19104 (6th Cir 8/31/2004) (unpublished) Relief denied on "§1983 complaint, alleging that: 1) the defendants fabricated and presented false evidence during his state clemency proceedings; 2) the Tennessee Attorney General improperly advised the TBPP concerning his clemency request while simultaneously preparing the case against commuting Workman's sentence; 3) Workman was entitled to heightened protections under the Eighth Amendment because he presented evidence of his innocence; and 4) the defendants conspired to deprive him of a fair clemency hearing in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)." (The federal district court has subsequently granted a Rule 60(b) stay.
  • Workman v. Bell, 2004 WL ------ (W.D.TN 9/13/2004) Stay granted pending outcome of Sixth Circuit's en banc determination of the scope of Rule 60(b) in habeas proceedings.
  • Hicks v. Collins, 2004 WL 2049966 (6th Cir 9/15/2004)  (dissent) Relief denied most notably on highly inflammatory prosecutorial statements in the penalty phase urging the jury to act as the community conscience. Relief also denied as (1) petitioner procedurally defaulted ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims; (2) defense counsel did not render ineffective assistance in connection with use of state psychologist's testimony or was otherwise ineffective; (3) prosecutor did not violate Brady by withholding inculpatory statements; (4) prosecutor did not improperly use victim impact statements; and (5) prosecutor's improper review of all statutory mitigating factors did not prejudice petitioner. On the only positive note from the decision representation by trial counsel on appeal precluded applicability of state rule requiring ineffective trial counsel claims to be raised on direct appeal thereby bypassing procedural bar to habeas claims concerning trial counsel's conduct.

7th Circuit

  • Conner v. McBride, --- F.3d ----, 2004 WL 1609325 (7th Cir 7/20/2004) Relief denied on claims relating to whether (1) petitioner's confession was voluntary; (2) ex parte jury communication occurred during deliberations; and (3) counsel's failure to adequately investigate & present mitigation evidence.
  • Matheney v. Anderson, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 15591 (7th Cir 7/29/2004) (dissent) Relief denied on return from remand for an evidentiary hearing, on issues relating to: "(1) whether Matheney was competent to stand trial in 1990; (2) whether Matheney's attorneys at his trial were ineffective because they did not demand a competency hearing prior to the trial; and (3) whether the state trial court was obligated to hold a competency hearing sua sponte."
  • Johnson v.McBride, 2004 WL 1858368  (7th Cir 8/20/2004) Relief denied on (1) Brady claim as it was not a newly discovered claim, & therefore the AEDPA's one-year limitations period for petition began to run when judgment became final, as well as (2) entitlement to equitable tolling of limitations period.

8th Circuit

  • Clemons v. Luebbers, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 18985 (8th Cir 9/9/2004) (dissent) Lower court's grant of relief reversed due to procedural default on Petitioner's claim to the right to a fair jury under Witherspoon v. Illinois, (holding that a death sentence was unconstitutional under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments when a veniremember was excluded for cause after simply voicing general conscientious or religious objections to the death penalty).

9th Circuit

  • Sanders v. Woodford, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 14091 (9th Cir 7/8/2004) "The California Supreme Court neither independently reweighed aggravating and mitigating sentencing factors after it had invalidated two of the aggravating factors, nor did it conduct an appropriate harmless-error analysis."
  • Dennis, by Butko, v. Budge, et al, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 15892 (9th Cir 7/30/2004) Next-friend petition denied as "Butko lacks standing, we also lack jurisdiction to stay the execution."
  • Sherman v. McDaniel, 2004 WL 1949647 (D.Nev. 8/30/2004) Leave granted to conduct limited discovery.

10th Circuit

  • Smith v. Mullin, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 15635 (10th Cir 7/29/2004) Despite a strong case by the state--that resulted in the finding of four aggravating circumstances--relief granted as to death sentence due to ineffective assistance of counsel.
  • Sallahdin (f/k/a Pennington) v. Mullin, 2004 WL 1879989 (10th Cir. 8/24/2004) (dissent) District court's grant of relief reversed as to whether trial counsel reasonably chose not to present testimony about the impact long term steroid use had on Petitioner.
  • Cannon v. Mullin, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 19224 (10th Cir 9/13/2004) (dissent) Remand ordered on whether "(1) his trial counsel failed to notify the court of improper contacts between prosecution witnesses and jurors during trial recesses, and (2) his trial counsel prevented him from testifying in his own defense at trial." The issues before the district court will be procedural bar, Mr. Cannon's diligence in pursuing the factual development of his juror-contact claim in state court, the merits of Mr. Cannon's contentions, and whether any violation of Mr. Cannon's constitutional rights was harmless."

11th Circuit

  • Jackson v. Crosby, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 14204 (11th Cir 7/9/2004) Since the Petitioner filed his Rule 59 motion out of time the time for filing his appeal was not tolled. Note the panel's decision appears to be ripe for the Supreme Court to address several procedural issues especially in light of a stunning concurrence by Judge Black that calls into serious question of whether death is indeed different in the Eleventh Circuit.
  • Kelley v. Secretary For Dept. Of Corrections,--- F.3d ----, 2004 WL 1637062 (11th Cir. 7/23/2004)  Grant of relief reversed where the  district court had concluded that the state had withheld key evidence & that counsel, Bill Kunstler, had delivered ineffective assistance of counsel.
  • Peoples v. Campbell,--- F.3d ----, 2004 WL 1621648 (11th Cir. 7/21/2004) Relief denied on claims that (1) evidence was obtained as the result of an illegal arrest and should have been suppressed; (2) evidence was impermissibly obtained as the result of a non-Mirandaized statement; (3) the finding of procedurally defaulted on claim that the State failed to prove the death of the putative victim; (4) the finding of procedurally defaulted on IAC of trial and appellate counsel; (5) the finding of procedurally defaulted on claim that the performance of his pre-indictment attorney, was ineffective; and (6)  with respect to the non defaulted part of Peoples's claim that Robbins rendered ineffective assistance, the district court correctly held that at the time Robbins represented Peoples, his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel with respect to the murder charges had not yet attached.
  • Sibley v. Culliver,--- F.3d ----, 2004 WL 1620831 (11th Cir. 7/21/2004) Relief denied on "three issues. First, he contends that he was entitled to statutory tolling of AEDPA's statute of limitations under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). Second, he maintains that, because he is raising a claim of actual innocence, it would be unconstitutional to apply AEDPA's statute of limitations to him. Finally, he claims that his death sentence should be vacated based on the Supreme Court's decision in Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 122 S. Ct. 2428, 153 L. Ed. 2d 556 (2002)."
  • Hubbard v. Campbell, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 16008 (11th Cir 8/4/2004) (dissent) Stay denied as the district court lacked jurisdiction to entertain a stay under a putatively amended habeas petition under sec. 2244(b)(3) on issues relating to competency to be executed; Nelson v. Campbell held inapposite.
  • Rutherford v. Crosby, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 20113, 2004 WL 2093447 (11th Cir. 9/21/2004) Petitioner loses even though the trial prosecutor failed to inform the defense of testimony of two witnesses as the prosecutor had no intent to provoke the defense into moving for a mistrial. Trial counsel's performance was not ineffective in the penalty phase.


  • Hyde v. Alabama, 2004 Ala. Crim. App. LEXIS 133 (Ala. Crim. App. 7/23/2004) The court below exceeded the scope of the remand order by directing Hyde to supplement and amend his Rule 32 petition.
  • Morrow v. Alabama, 2004 Ala. Crim. App. LEXIS 155 (Ala.Crim.App. 8/27/2004) Remand ordered for mental retardation evaluation. "[T]he trial court shall also (1) consider the jury's recommendation of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as a mitigating circumstance as required by Ex parte Carroll, reweigh the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and, if necessary, resentence Morrow; (2) amend its sentencing order to reflect its consideration of the jury's recommendation as a mitigating circumstance and to reflect the specific reasons it gave the jury's recommendation the consideration it did in light of the Alabama Supreme Court's opinions in Ex parte Carroll and Ex parte Taylor; and (3) amend its sentencing order to identify the specific nonstatutory mitigating circumstances it found to exist."
  • Taylor v. Alabama, 2004 Ala. Crim. App. LEXIS 174, 2004 WL 1909278 (Ala.Crim.App. 8/27/2004) Relief denied holding that: (1) the privilege against self-incrimination does not apply in postconviction;          (2) appellant was not denied a full and fair hearing by alleged misconduct of prosecutor; and (3) failure to request funds for experts to assist in developing a mental health defense, counsel's jury selection, counsel's concession of guilt and sentencing phase performance was not ineffective.
  • Daniel v. Alabama, 2004 Ala. Crim. App. LEXIS 157; 2004 WL 1909286 (Ala.Crim.App. 8/27/2004) Relief denied on claims relating to failure to find mitigating evidence & proportionality.
  • Woods v. Alabama, 2004 Ala. Crime. App. LEIS 164; 2004 WL1909291 (Ala.Crim.App. 8/27/2004) (dissent) Relief denied, most notably, holding that a finding of no plain error on direct appeal precludes a finding of prejudice under Strickland, that there is a seemingly heightened pleading standard used in this matter, and that trial court did not abuse its discretion when it failed to permit amendment.
  • Minor v. Alabama, 2004 Ala. Crim. App. LEXIS 156; 2004 WL 1909380 (Ala.Crim.App. 8/27/2004) Relief denied as (1) statements given to police on the day the infant victim died were voluntarily; (2) admission of evidence of expert testimony as to the decedent's "hematocrit level"; (3) failure to remove juror or declare mistrial after juror's allegation of harassment by defendant's brother; (4) prosecutor's comment that jury should not let defendant "get away with killing" infant victim; and (5) use of HAC aggravator.


Arizona v. Armstrong, 2004 Ariz. LEXIS 91 (Az 7/16/2004) Remand for new sentencing in light of Ring v. Arizona

Arizona v. Armstong, 2004 Ariz. LEXIS 90 (Az 7/16/2004) Guilt phase relief denied on prosecutorial misconduct claims including delayed disclosure of witnesses, bad faith, alleged discovery violations, personal attacks on defense counsel, & ex parte contacts with the trial court.

Arizona v. Moody, --- P.3d --- , 2004 WL 1772151 (Az 8/9/2004) Sentence vacated in light of Ring.

Arizona v. Murdaugh, 2004 WL 2066227, 2004 Ariz. LEXIS 97 (Ariz.  9/16/2004) Ring error held harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Other claims denied included whether (1) delay of several years constituted cruel and unusual punishment; (2) competency to enter a guilty plea; (3) the use of the especially heinous and depraved aggravator; (4) sufficiency of whether the defendant needlessly mutilated victim's body, senselessly murdered victim, & that the murder victim was helpless; and (6) defendant's ability to appreciate wrongfulness of his conduct was impaired by methamphetamine use.


  • California v. Stewart, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 6285 (Cal 7/15/2004) "[T]he trial court erred in excusing five prospective jurors for cause based solely upon their checked responses and written answers on a jury questionnaire."
  • California v. Brown, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 6275 (Cal 7/12/2004) Relief denied on claims including: (1) reasonable doubt instructions; (2) duty to deliberate instructions; (3) the use of victim impact evidence (ex post facto & constitutionality of California scheme); (4) penalty instructions on about being guided by guilt phase instructions; & (5) validity of California's death penalty scheme under theta federal constitution & international law.
  • California v. Griffin, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 6291 (Cal 7/19/2004) Relief denied most notably on whether trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on penetration as an element of rape and sodomy in connection with defendant's lingering doubt claim, error, if any, in this regard was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • In re Lucas, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 6772 (Cal 7/26/2004) Counsel held ineffective for a shoddy penalty phase investigation.
  • California v. Cole, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 7573 (CA 8/16/2004) Relief denied holding (1) defendant's complaints against appointed counsel did not require his removal; (2) relevant evidence of suffering of victim was not unduly shocking or inflammatory; (3) prosecutor's argument mentioning the Inquisition and persecution of early Christians was not misconduct; (4) intent to inflict extreme pain may be inferred from circumstances; (5) evidence supported finding defendant committed premeditated and deliberate murder; and (6) defendant was not denied right to be present at certain trial proceedings.
  • California v. Marlow & Coffman, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 7590 (CA 8/19/2004) Relief denied on numerous claims including (1) denial of severance motion; (2) denial of motion for change of venue; (3) restriction on voir dire; (4) alleged juror bias and ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to exercise challenges; (5) allegedly improper excusal of prospective juror; (6) motion to disqualify trial judge; (7) state action allegedly interfering with Coffman's presentation of a defense; (8) introduction of allegedly coerced statements; (9) admission of evidence that Marlow requested an attorney during police questioning; (10) alleged Massiah error; (11) improper rebuttal; (12) Marlow's invocation of the fifth amendment (13) admission of jailhouse correspondence; (14) Marlow's testimony regarding Coffman's participation; (15) impeachment; (16) ineffective assistance of counsel (Coffman); (17) sufficiency of evidence; (18) asserted prosecutorial misconduct  in guilt phase argument; (19) asserted instructional error; (20) adequacy of notice of aggravating evidence and asserted Boyd error as to Coffman; (21) asserted prosecutorial misconduct in suggesting through inadmissible evidence that Marlow fit the definition of a sexual sadist serial killer; (22) nonnoticed aggravation and improper propensity evidence; (23) other bad acts evidence; (24) asserted prosecutorial misconduct penalty phase; & (25) penalty phase instructional errors.
  • California v. Marlow, 2004 WL 1850294; 2004 Cal. LEXIS 7591 (Ca 8/19/2004) Relief denied holding: (1) successive prosecutions for murders committed in two counties did not violate double jeopardy; (2) defendant did not make an unequivocal request for self-representation; and (3) testimony by defendant in other murder trial was admissible as other crimes evidence.
  • California v. Haley, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 7807, 2004 WL 1900376 (CA 8/26/2004) Trial court's failure to instruct jury on intent to kill was reversible error. Trial court's error in failing to instruct jury that it must find defendant specifically intended to commit general intent crimes of rape and sodomy was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • In re Seaton, 2004 Cal. LEXIS 7671, 2004 WL 1872864 (Cal. 8/23/2004) (dissent) In the course of creating new byzantine rules of state procedural default, relief denied holding: racial statistics did not show defendant singled out for death penalty; district attorney not required to have guidelines for seeking death penalty; and seeking death penalty based on good faith but mistaken belief that defendant has a prior conviction did not violate defendant's rights.


  • Sochor v. Florida, 2004 Fla. LEXIS 985 (FL 7/8/2004) "[T]hat trial counsel's performance was patently deficient [the majority concludes, however,]  counsel's deficient performance did not prejudice the defendant's entitlement to have his plea for life presented to the jury by a competent lawyer. Among the factors that the majority overlooks is the fact that the death recommendation here, in spite of the incompetency of counsel, was not unanimous, and the fact that this Court itself later set aside the serious aggravator of CCP used to justify the sentence of death. In addition, the majority fails to acknowledge the quantitative as well as qualitative differences between the evidence presented by incompetent counsel at the penalty phase and the mitigation we now know existed but was not discovered or used. The majority has also mistakenly relied on the irrelevant guilt phase evidence of insanity and competency that was actually harmful to the defendant, to substitute for the mental health mitigation that was neither investigated nor presented at the penalty phase of Sochor's trial."
  • Pearce v. Florida, 2004 Fla. LEXIS 975; 29 Fla. L. Weekly S 323 (FL 7/1/2004) Relief denied on claims trial counsel erred: "(1) by refusing to allow defense counsel to impeach State witness Brittingham with a previous videotaped statement; (2) in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on first-degree murder on the element of premeditation; (3) in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on felony murder; (4) in finding the aggravating circumstance that the murder occurred during the course of a kidnapping; and (5) in finding the cold, calculated, and premeditated (CCP) aggravating circumstance."
  • Dilbeck v. Crosby, 2004 Fla. LEXIS 1366; 2004 WL 1899964 (FL 8/26/2004) Remand to the circuit court to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850(d).
  • Pietri v. Crosby, 2004 Fla. LEXIS 1368; 2004 WL 1899973 (FL 8/26/2004) Relief denied as: (1) failure to present a voluntary intoxication defense was not IAC; (2) evidence of defendant's alleged "metabolic intoxication" at time of murder was inadmissible evidence of diminished capacity; (3) prospective juror was not required to be excused for cause based on voir dire statement about automatically voting for death penalty; (4) counsel made reasonable efforts to secure a mental health expert for mitigation purposes; (5) failure to present additional lay witnesses at penalty phase was not ineffective assistance of counsel;  (6) letter written to victim's family by a private attorney who was unconnected to case was not a public record; (7) trial court did not err in adopting State's post-evidentiary hearing memorandum as part of its order denying postconviction motion;  (8) counsel rendered effective assistance in handling issues concerning document that was allegedly stolen from counsel's investigator; and  (9) dismissal of indictment was not warranted as a sanction for State's alleged intrusion into attorney-client relationship via a police department's obtaining of the allegedly stolen document.
  • Florida v. Demeniuk, 2004 WL 1906101 (Fl App 8/27/2004) Frye hearing ordered on defense assertion of SSRI-induced homicidal behavior.
  • In re Amendments To Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.853(d)(1)(A) (Postconviction DNA Testing), 2004 WL 2047658, 2004 Fla. LEXIS 1521 (Fla. 9/15/2004) DNA testing time limits for those already incarcerated extended until October 1, 2005.
  • Hernandez-Alberto v. Florida, 2004 WL 2109981 (Fla. 9/23/2004) Relief denied holding, in most relevant part, defendant competent to stand trial; trial court did not err in permitting appellant to go pro se & then not granting him after permitting him to proceed pro se; & failure to permit a PET scan of the defendant permissible.


McManus v. Indiana, 2004 Ind. LEXIS 780 (Ind 8/31/2004) Relief denied on claims relating to the constitutionality of the Indiana scheme post-Apprendi, fitness to stand trial; statements by the prosecution's mental health expert regarding moral culpability in the penalty phase, as well as claims relating to appellant's mental status during the trial --"(1) that the trial court erred by denying his motion for mistrial because the change in his anti-depressant and the subsequent administration of various drugs rendered him incompetent, (2) that the State was obligated to disclose exculpatory evidence about the medications, and (3) that the trial court erred in refusing to admit a news article discussing jurors' impressions of his demeanor during trial."


  • Hoskins v. Maricle, 2004 Ky. LEXIS 19 (Ky 8/26/2004) (dissent) Writ of prohibition in a potential capital case denied where state trial court set aside a plea agreement on the grounds it was too lenient.
  • Thompson v. Kentucky, 2004 Ky. LEXIS 195; 2004 WL 1906848 (KY 8/26/2004) Relief denied on a litany of claims including those relating to competency, evidentiary issues (refusal to allow certain testimony, crime scene photos, admission of certain testimony from a prior trial, blood splatter, as well as statements & items seized from appellant), failure to permit retraction of guilty plea, validity of the guilty plea, use of heinousness as an aggravator; Appellant's prior capital conviction being improperly used as an aggravator; failing to direct a verdict for failure to prove all elements of the aggravators; jury sentencing over defense objection, prosecutorial misconduct, mostly unpreserved jury instructions, juror life/death qualifications, double jeopardy, failure of the sentencing courts to use non-statutory mitigators and proportionality review.


  • Evans v. Maryland, 2004 WL 1635610 (Md. 7/23/2004) Relief denied on claims that modifications made to Maryland's death penalty scheme and applied at trial in this matter violated the ex post facto clause and newly discovered evidence suggesting Evans wasn't the triggerman.


  • Doss v. Mississippi, 2004 Miss. LEXIS 847 (Miss. 7/15/2004) (dissent) Evidentiary hearing granted "on the merits of his claim of ineffectiveness of counsel during the mitigation or penalty phase of his trial and his claim of mental retardation, pursuant to Atkins."
  • Berry v. Mississippi, 2004 Miss. LEXIS 802 (Miss 7/1/2004) Relief denied on resentencing on whether: (1) trial & appellate counsel were ineffective; (2) the state withheld exculpatory evidence; (3) the verdict at resentencing was in proper form; (4) it was error for the sentencing court not to allow Berry to the attack the validity of his confession; (5) the jury's ability to consider mitigating evidence was limited by jury instructions; & (6) the state's closing argument.
  • Mitchell v. Mississippi, 2004 WL 1853049 (Miss 8/19/2004) Relief denied on claims including (1) ineffective assistance of counsel (failure to develop & use mental health evidence, failure to move for directed verdict in the penalty phase; venue; jury questionnaires; & speedy trial); (2) insufficiency of the evidence supporting aggravators; (3) elements of aggravating capital offense were not charged in the indictment; (4) whether there was an impermissible "seizure" of Mitchell under the Fourth Amendment; (5) whether Mitchell made a permissible prima facie showing of mental retardation; (6) failure of the trial court to instruct on manslaughter; and (7) speedy trial issues.
  • Willey v. Mississippi, 2004 Miss. LEXIS 1096; 2004 WL 1900818 (Miss. 8/26/2004) Denying relief on Atkins & setting radical new requirements from MR.
  • Gray v.  Mississippi,  2004 WL 2065362, 2004 Miss. LEXIS 1166(Miss. 9/16/2004) Relief denied as (1) the leave to file petition for postconviction relief was not sufficiently plead; (2) the petition was facially insufficient to warrant hearing on issue as to whether he was mentally retarded; and (3) defense counsel did not render ineffective assistance.
  • Brown v. Mississippi, 2004 WL 1945528; 2004 Miss. LEXIS 1104 (Miss 9/2/2004) Relief denied on issues including (1) sufficiency; (2) jury selection; (3) failure to give a sua sponte limiting instruction once other-crimes evidence had been admitted; (4) police testimony that certain interviewees were frightened; (5) witness's perjury with respect to his place of employment did not warrant new trial; and (6) use of "pecuniary gain" to elevate murder to capital murder and as an aggravator.


  • Missouri v. Strong, 2004 Mo. LEXIS 103; 2004 WL 1879000 (Mo. 8/24/2004) Relief denied as: (1) no requirement exists to require statutory aggravating circumstances in the indictment or information; (2) the prosecutor's peremptory strike of African-American juror did not violate Batson; (3) photographs and videotape that depicted the crime scene and the bodies of the victims was admissible during the guilt phase of murder trial; (4) evidence was sufficient to support finding that defendant deliberated on the murders of victims; and (5) evidence supported the jury's finding of aggravating sentencing circumstances.


  • Nika v. Nevada, 2004 WL 2071759, 2004 Nev. LEXIS 87 (Nev. 9/16/2004) Post-conviction trial court's dismissal order did not contain factual findings or legal conclusions, was deficient & rushed as to some claims.

North Carolina

  • North Carolina v. Tirado, --- S.E.2d---, 2004 WL 1801791 (NC 8/13/2004) & North Carolina v. Queen, --- S.E.2d --- , 2004 WL 1801791 (NC 8/13/2004) Tirado granted relief under the unique facts here as the delay in polling the jury rquired the verdict to be set aside ("it unlikely that any juror who was wavering when the verdict was returned on 7 April would have expressed any doubts when polled on 11 April"). Queen affirmed.
  • North Carolina v. Boggess, --- S.E.2d ----, 2004 WL 1801762 (NC 8/13/2004) Conviction vacated where the trial judge permitted counsel to question juror Gladstone but did not allow defendant thereafter to exercise a peremptory challenges. Court also addresses concerns about improper LWOP instruction and the conduct of counsel.


  • Ohio v. Fitzpatrick, 2004 Ohio LEXIS 1556; 2004 Ohio 3167 (Ohio 7/7/2004) Relief denied on claims including:  that the plea colloquy did not contain sufficient information about what rights Appellant was giving up by entering the plea, validity of guilty plea, inflammatory penalty phase photos, failure of the three judge sentencing panel to explain their decision, constitutionality of the child murder aggravating circumstance.
  • Ohio v. Hoffner, 2004 Ohio LEXIS 1584 (Ohio 7/14/2004) Relief denied chiefly on claims relating to Miranda & ineffective assistance of counsel as his trial attorneys used words such as "horrific" and "a terrible tragedy" in describing the crime, made only a brief opening statement & no closing argument in the guilt stage, & told jurors that giving Hoffner the lightest available sentence (life imprisonment with eligibility for parole after 20 years) would be "an insult" to the victim's family.
  • Ohio v. Lamar, 102 Ohio St.3d 467, --- N.E.2d ----, 2004-Ohio-3976, 2004 WL 1699006 (Ohio 8/11/2004) "[C]laim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel and defendant's alleged lack of legal experience did not provide good cause for missing the 90-day deadline to reopen appeal."
  • Ohio v. Ahmed, 2004 Ohio LEXIS 1945; 2004 WL 1801191 (Ohio 8/25/2004) Relief denied holding: (1) the trial court was not required to sua sponte order a competency evaluation for defendant; (2) trial court error in admitting testimony from the victim's sister that defendant had repeatedly raped the victim did not constitute plain error; (3) trial court error in allowing the alternate jurors to sit in on jury deliberations during the guilt and penalty phases of capital murder trial did not constitute plain error; and (4) defense counsel's conduct in questioning some, but not all, of the prospective jurors on racial and religious prejudice, was reasonable trial strategy.
  • Ohio v. Williams, 103 Ohio St.3d 112, 814 N.E.2d 818, 2004-Ohio-4747 (Ohio 9/22/2004) Statute permitting a trial court to impanel a new jury to reconsider imposing a death sentence after a death sentence was vacated will not apply retroactively. Dickerson v. Mitchell, --- F.Supp.2d ----, 2004 WL 2098719 (N.D.Ohio 9/202004) Habeas relief denied finding, in relevant part: (1) Ohio's death penalty practice is not so racially imbalanced as to violate McCleskey I; (2) Ohio's scheme does not violate the Fifth Amendment right  to plead "not guilty" and the Sixth Amendment right to demand a jury trial; (3) jury waiver was knowing, voluntary, and intelligent; (4) no right to be informed that he could withdraw his prior jury trial waiver; (5) counsel's recommendation to waive jury following an ex parte conversation with the trial judge was not ineffective; and (6) counsel was not ineffective in the penalty phase.
  • Ohio v. Gumm, 103 Ohio St.3d 162, 814 N.E.2d 861, 2004 Ohio 4755 (Ohio 9/22/2004) Motion to reopen appeal to permit claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel to be raised denied as the motion was filed out of time. Note that this appears to be a minority appellate counsel on direct appeal remained on the case following the original appeal and that other most interpretations of the governing Rules & Canons of professional responsibility that do not permit counsel to raise IAC on themselves.


  • Grant v. Oklahoma, 2004 Okla. Crim. App. LEXIS 28 (Okla Crim App 7/16/2004) (dissent) On remand from the United States Supreme Court in light of Wiggins, relief denied on issues relating to whether "(1) his trial counsel failed to adequately investigate and present substantial mitigating evidence about his childhood and family history; and (2) the trial court erroneously refused to excuse a particular juror, resulting in the prejudicial denial of one of Grant's statutory peremptory challenges."
  • Johnson v. Oklahoma, 2004 Okla. Crim. App. LEXIS 30 (Okla Crim App 7/19/2004)"[T]he trial judge and prosecutor impermissibly injected the possibility of commutation into the trial for the jury's consideration." Relief also granted on failure to adequately "life" qualify jury.
  • Lott v. Oklahoma, 2004 Okla. Crim. App. LEXIS 31; 2004 OK CR 27 (Okla Crim App 9/9/2004) Relief denied on claims including speedy trial, failure to sever the two murder charges and try him separately for each capital offense.
  • Miller v. Oklahoma, 2004 WL 2073286, 2004 OK CR 29, 2004 Okla. Crim. App. LEXIS 32 (Okla.Crim.App., 9/17/2004) Remand ordered in light of Confrontation Clause problems with conviction as nontestifying codefendant's confession, in which he incriminated himself as well as defendant, was not sufficiently reliable to be admissible without allowing defendant to cross-examine codefendant.


  • Pennsylvania v. Edmiston, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1328 (PA 6/22/2004) Relief denied on "layered" ineffective assistance of counsel claims: " (1) the claim that trial counsel were ineffective in failing to conduct a reasonable investigation into appellant's background, including mental health issues, and for failing to present such evidence as additional mitigation evidence; (2) the claim that appellant was denied due process when the trial court improperly remarked on his credibility at the penalty phase and trial and subsequent counsel were ineffective in failing to object; (3) the claim that appellant was denied his rights to direct appeal "and a variety of related . . . rights" when the trial court failed to produce and trial counsel failed to request transcripts of the voir dire proceedings; (4) the claim that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the sentencing jury that, if sentenced to life imprisonment, appellant would be ineligible for parole; (5) the claim that the prosecutor repeatedly misstated the law during his penalty phase summation when discussing appellant's intoxication evidence and counsel were ineffective for failing to object; and (6) the claim that the prosecutor improperly questioned appellant at the penalty phase concerning his prior arrest, trial and acquittal of sexual assault and molestation charges involving his adopted daughter."
  • Pennsylvania v. Harris, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1399 (PA 6/23/2004) Relief denied on Confrontation Clause claim (trial court not permitting cross using mental health records) on procedurally defaulted.  Relief also denied on claims trial counsel erred in"(1) committing further errors relating to the testimony of Ronald Caison; (2) failing to object to the prosecution's use of inadmissible "habit" evidence; and (3) entering into an erroneous stipulation before the jury. Appellant also asserts at the end of his brief that direct appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the above claims."
  • Pennsylvania v. Lopez, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1626 (Pa 7/22/2004) Relief denied on claims including that  (1) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and present certain "catch-all" mitigating evidence; (3) appellate counsel was ineffective; (3) he was improperly precluded from arguing, during the penalty phase, that the jury should consider his co-conspirators' sentences as a mitigating factor; he claims the fact his co-conspirators, who allegedly planned and carried out the murder, received life sentences, should mitigate against a death sentence in his case; and (4) trial counsel was ineffective for not introducing, as mitigating evidence, the fact appellant had no significant history of prior criminal convictions,
  • Pennsylvania v. Speight, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1627 (Pa 7/22/2004)  Relief denied on claims including: (1) failure to challenge decision forcing defendant to wear a stun belt throughout trial; (2) failure to challenge expert's testimony that the period of struggle during strangulation was very terrifying; and (3) failure to investigate & present mitigating evidence, including no significant history of prior criminal convictions.
  • Pennsylvania v. Williams, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1625 (Pa 7/22/2004) Relief denied on claims relating to: (1) sufficiency; (2) victim impact being unduly excessive; (3) victim impact was unduly emotional; (4) mental retardation & (5) sufficiency of the prior conviction for murder aggravator.
  • Pennsylvania v. Duffey, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1898 (PA 8/18/2004) Remand ordered on the  "assertion that trial counsel should have objected to the references to Appellant's post-arrest silence."
  • Pennsylvania v. Bryant, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1899; 2004 WL 1846143 (PA 8/18/2004) Relief denied on claims relating to (1) denial alibi instruction; (2) defense counsel assertedly weak closing; (3) failure to consult with and present an expert in blood splatters; (4) failing to call certain witnesses; (5) failing to object to progression instruction; (6) defendant did not establish requisite good cause for discovery of certain materials; (7) asserted Brady violation for the Commonwealth allegedly failing to disclose photographs and exhibits; and (8) denial of a first petition without first holding hearing.
  • Pennsylvania v Santiago, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1895; 2004 WL 1836201 (PA 8/17/2004) Relief denied on claims including (1) whether judge who presided over his murder trial and PCRA hearing was biased against him; (2) failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing on all issues presented in defendant's PCRA petition; (3) counsel's not raising competency at trial or on direct appeal; (4) retrospective evaluation of defendant's competency in lieu of new trial; (5) whether retrospective competency hearing sufficiently established that defendant was competent to stand trial; and (6) whether trial or appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance.
  • Pennsylvania v. Sepulveda, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 1923 (PA 8/19/2004) 2004 WL 1857103 (Pa. 8/17/2004) Relief denied holding (1) specific intent to kill inferred as defendant shot victims in vital part of body; and (2) confession was admissible as it fell within public safety exception to Miranda and despite making it more than six hours after arrest it was voluntary.
  • Pennsylvania v. Malloy, 2004 WL 1946291, 2004 Pa. LEXIS 2047 (Pa 9/1/2004) Counsel's failure to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence warrants resentencing.
  • Pennsylvania v. D'Amato, 2004 WL 1950256; 2004 Pa. LEXIS 2054 (PA 9/2/2004) Remand ordered for a hearing on recanting witness.

South Carolina

  • Hall v. Catoe, --- S.E.2d ---, 2004 WL 1773859 (S.C. 8/9/2004) "Hall's counsel was ineffective for not objecting to the solicitor's closing argument, which included an instruction to the jury to compare the worth of Hall's life with the lives of his victims."
  • Van Dohlen v. South Carolina, 2004 S.C. LEXIS 203 (SC 8/30/2004) Relief granted on trial counsel's ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to present evidence of major mental illness.
  • South Carolina v. Hill, 2004 WL 2032222, 2004 S.C. LEXIS 223 (S.C. 9/13/2004) Relief denied on claims including whether (1) defendant's loss of memory due to his self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head rendered him incompetent to stand trial; (2) statement that he killed third victim "because she was black" was involuntary; and (3) jury selection issues.


  • Pike v. Tennessee, 2004 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 635 (Tenn Crim App 7/15/2004) A "petitioner, under a capital sentence, may waive post-conviction review; that the hearing was in compliance with due process standards; and that the evidence supported the findings that the petitioner was competent to withdraw her post-conviction petition and that her decision to do so was voluntarily and knowingly made."
  • Hines v. Tennessee, 2004 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 630 (Tenn. Crim. App. 7/14/2004) Relief denied on claims including whether: (1) trial counsel during the guilt phase were ineffective in failing to interview and effectively cross-examine Ken Jones, to object to Sheriff Weakley's participating in the voir dire of prospective jurors, to discover impeachment evidence, and ineffective as well because of their lack of experience and resources (2) trial counsel at resentencing were ineffective in failing to investigate his background, failing to present effective mitigation proof; failing to challenge the heinous, atrocious, and cruel aggravating circumstance; & failing to give a closing argument; & (3) the state sentencing scheme is constitutional.
  • Tennessee v. Davis, 2004 WL 1888299 (Tenn. 8/24/2004) (dissent) Relief denied holding: "(1) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdicts; (2) the trial court did not err in refusing to disqualify the District Attorney General; (3) the trial court did not err in refusing to allow defense counsel to withdraw; (4) the death sentences were not invalid on the ground that the aggravating circumstances were not set out in the indictment; (5) the trial court did not err in allowing the prosecution to establish the "prior violent felony" aggravating circumstance by relying on an offense committed as a juvenile; (6) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding of three aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt and its determination that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the evidence of mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt; and (7) the death sentences were not arbitrary or disproportionate."
  • Tennessee v. Berry, 2004 Tenn. LEXIS 659; 2004 WL 1873683 (Tenn. 8/23/2004) (dissent) Relief denied on claims relating to: "whether the indictment was sufficient, whether the failure of the Rules of Evidence to apply to capital sentencing hearings violated the rights to due process and confrontation, whether the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict, whether the defendant was denied his right to a speedy trial, and whether the death sentence was comparatively proportionate."
  • Swiift v. Campbell, 2004 Tenn. App. LEXIS 561 (Tenn App 8/25/2004) Where federal habeas litigation is ongoing a litigant may not use the state open records act to obtain copies of the attorney general's files.
  • Tennessee v. Leach, 2004 Tenn. LEXIS 741 (Tenn 9/8/2004) Relief denied on claims including: "1) whether the evidence is insufficient to support convictions for premeditated murder and felony murder; 2) whether the trial court erred in prohibiting Leach from presenting a witness to discredit the testimony of Joseph Walker; 3) whether the trial court committed reversible error in instructing the jury to consider evidence of Leach's attack on Dorianne Brown to "complete the story"; 4) whether the death penalty is precluded in this case under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000), because aggravating circumstances were not set out in the indictment; and 5) whether the sentences of death are disproportionate or invalid under the mandatory review of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206(c)(1)."


  • Ex parte Harris, 2004 Tex. Crim. App. LEXIS 1120 (Tex. Crim. App. 6/30/2004) (dissent) Motion to permit stay of execution  and to file a successive state habeas petition denied.
  • Escamilla v. Texas, 2004 Tex. Crim. App. ---- (Tex. Crim. App. 6/30/2004) Relief denied on claims including: sufficiency, death / life qualification of the jury panel, failing to suppress a custodial videotape interview that was given to a television reporter about two days after his arrest; defendant's statements to police and medical personnel, admission of autopsy photographs & admission of evidence of extraneous offense.
  • Cantu v. Texas, 2004 Tex. Crim. App. ---- (Tex. Crim. App. 6/30/2004) Relief denied in near summary form on direct appeal on claims that include sufficiency of evidence to support the findings as to guilt and the penalty phase special questions; that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence; suppression of evidence & the constitutionality of the Texas death penalty scheme

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National News

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International News

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Japan Executes Man who Killed Eight School Children

Resources and Reports

New Resource from the Bureau of Justice

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Report Analyzes Washington Death Penalty System

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Caselaw Summaries

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