News and Updates

Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System

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

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

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

The Columbia Missourian
Thursday, March 8, 2012

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

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

Texas execution: How much is a death worth?

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

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

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

Abolishing death penalty was right choice for state

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

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

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

Death-row innocents trapped in a living hell

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

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

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

When Innocence Isn’t Enough

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

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

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

State Senate Committee Hears Proposal to End the Death Penalty

By: Kenny Colston
89.3 WFPL News
Thursday, March 1, 2012

For the first time in Kentucky, a legislative committee is considering a move to abolish the death penalty. The bill received a hearing in a Senate committee today.

Senate Bill 63 would abolish capital punishment in the commonwealth, a move few other states have accomplished by statute.

The bill has the support of the American Bar Association based on a report the group released last summer detailing numerous problems with Kentucky’s capital punishment system.

End death penalty measure likely to be on November ballot

Credit: John Green
Volunteers carry boxes of signed petitions to the Department of Elections at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, March 1, 2012.
By: Howard Mintz
San Jose Mercury News
Thursday, March 1, 2012

California's voters in November will have their first opportunity in more than three decades to consider whether to scrap the death penalty and clear the largest death row in the nation's history.

Reviving one of the state's most contentious political issues, backers of a proposed ballot initiative to abolish the death penalty announced Thursday that they had more than enough signatures to put the explosive question on the November ballot. They gathered more than 800,000 signatures, 300,000 more than required, and only technical glitches would prevent a campaign that will reopen the debate over whether California should execute its most heinous murderers.

State considers voting against death penalty

Maryland has only used execution five times since 1977

By: Jim Bach
Diamondback Online
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

For several years, state lawmakers have proposed repealing the death penalty — an issue that will once again be brought up this session but has yet to make it to a full body vote in the state's General Assembly.

Bill seeks to repeal capital punishment in Missouri

The bill would also order re-sentencing of current death row inmates.

By: Jeremy Truitt
The Maneater
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A new House bill being brought forth by Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-District 58, seeks to repeal the death penalty in Missouri as well as allow re-sentencing for all inmates currently on death row in the state.