News and Updates

High Court Won't Hear Death Row Inmate's Evidence of Innocence

By: Bob Drummond
San Francisco Chronicle
Monday, February 27, 2012

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to consider stopping the execution of Larry Ray Swearingen, a Texas death row inmate who says newly uncovered evidence proves his innocence.

Swearingen's lawyers had asked the high court to decide for the first time whether executing an innocent person constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution.

Lower federal courts declined to intervene in Swearingen's case in part because, as the law now stands, even uncontested scientific proof of innocence isn't a valid reason for a federal judge to stop an execution.

Another Death Row Debacle: The Case Against Thomas Arthur

In Alabama, a death row prisoner could be exonerated by a DNA test. Why are the courts preventing this from happening -- especially when another man has already confessed to the crime?

Credit: AP
Thomas Arthur
By: Andrew Cohen
The Atlantic
Monday, February 27, 2012

Another month, another man on death row, another excruciating case that illustrates just some of the ways in which America's death penalty regime is unconstitutionally broken. This time, the venue is Alabama. This time, the murder that generated the sentence took place 30 years ago. And this time, there is an execution date of March 29, 2012, for Thomas Arthur, a man who has always maintained his innocence. He also has the unwelcome distinction of being one of the few prisoners in the DNA-testing era to be this close to capital punishment after someone else confessed under oath to the crime.

Death penalty repeal bill to resurface in legislature

By: JC Reindl
The Day
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hartford - A bill that would repeal the death penalty is moving forward in the legislature.

The General Assembly's Judiciary Committee voted 23 to 15 Wednesday to raise the repeal bill for this year's short session.

Bradley Manning, Solitary Confinement and Occupy 4 Prisoners

By: Bill Quigley
Common Dreams
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Today US Army Private Bradley Manning is to be formally charged with numerous crimes at Fort Meade, Maryland.   Manning, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Icelandic Parliament, is charged with releasing hundreds of thousands of documents exposing secrets of the US government to the whistleblower website Wikileaks. These documents exposed lies, corruption and crimes by the US and other countries.  The Bradley Manning defense team points out accurately that much of what was published by Wikileaks was either not actually secret or should not have been secret.

Dallas DA seeks death penalty review

Credit: LM Otero/Associated Press
Craig Watkins wants to ensure penalty is done fairly.
By: Nomaan Merchant
Austin American-Statesman
Thursday, February 23, 2012

DALLAS — The district attorney leading an aggressive push to free wrongly imprisoned inmates, in a county where more than two dozen wrongful convictions have been overturned, is calling for a review of the capital punishment system in the nation's busiest death penalty state.

Craig Watkins' tenure as Dallas County's top prosecutor has earned him a national reputation. Now, as Watkins publicly acknowledges that his great-grandfather was executed in Texas almost 80 years ago, he called on state lawmakers to review death penalty procedures to ensure the punishment is fairly administered.

"I think it's a legitimate question to have, to ask: 'Have we executed someone that didn't commit the crime?'" Watkins said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Triggerman bill killed by Senate panel

By: Larry O'Dell
Wavy-TV 10
Thursday, February 23, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) - For the fifth year in a row, the Virginia General Assembly has rejected legislation to expand the state's death penalty law.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 8-6, with one abstention, on Wednesday to kill a proposal to allow the death penalty for accomplices who share a murderer's intent to kill. The bill would have revised Virginia's "triggerman rule," which in most cases allows capital punishment only for the person who does the actual killing.

Oscar Grant's cousin shot by Oakland police

By: Henry K. Lee
San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, February 23, 2012

A man shot and wounded by Oakland police over the weekend is a cousin of Oscar Grant, the BART passenger killed by a police officer in 2009, and was unarmed when he was shot in the back, his attorney said Wednesday.

Tony Jones, 24, was shot once in the back by an Oakland officer on the 2000 block of 62nd Avenue in East Oakland about 11:45 p.m. Sunday after he ran from a van that police had stopped, according to police and Jones' attorney, Waukeen McCoy. Jones is being treated at Highland Hospital in Oakland.

Police have said Jones was armed with a gun, but McCoy said that was not true. Jones ran because he saw a police car behind him and "thought they were coming up too close to him," McCoy said.

Occupy movement stages day of protests at US prisons

Joined by the three hikers detained in Iran, activists point to overcrowding and inhumane conditions in US prison system

Credit: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters
US hikers Sarah Shourd, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer took part in demonstrations outside San Quentin prison in California.
By: Ryan Devereaux
The Guardian
Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Occupy demonstrators participated in a nationwide day of action to protest against the US prison system on Monday, with demonstrations carried out at over a dozen sites across the country, including prisons in California, Chicago, Denver and New York.

18 years on Death Row: The Consequences of the Death Penalty

By: Julie Fancher
Dallas South News
Monday, February 20, 2012

Every week for 18 years, Anthony Graves was allowed to make one phone call from prison. And each call would be to his mother.

Is Ohio's death penalty under its own death watch? Questions, criticism mount about Ohio executions

Credit: Associated Press file
This November 2005 file photo shows the death chamber at the Lucasville prison.
By: Reginald Fields
Sunday, February 19, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio's capital punishment system could be under its own death watch as scrutiny over how the state executes prisoners has led to calls for significant changes -- if not an outright repeal -- of the death penalty.

Despite the issues plaguing the state's execution process, Ohio officials say they are certain they are getting this call on life-or-death right.