News and Updates

Rodney Reed: Another Innocent Man on Texas Death Row?

By: Jordan Smith
The Nation
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

At first glance, Texas’s capital case against Rodney Reed looks fairly persuasive. 

Nineteen-year-old Stacey Stites was found dead in a wooded area just off a county road in Bastrop, Texas, in 1996. She was half-naked, with Reed’s DNA inside her. The DNA was the “Cinderella’s slipper,” special prosecutor Lisa Tanner told the jury at trial: it matched Reed’s; therefore, Reed was the murderer. 

But what if it weren’t that simple?


State Backs DNA Testing for Hank Skinner


By: by Brandi Grissom
The Texas Tribune
Friday, June 1, 2012

Reversing its decade-long objection to testing that death row inmate Hank Skinner says could prove his innocence, the Texas Attorney General's office today filed an advisory with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seeking to test DNA in the case. 

"Upon further consideration, the State believes that the interest of justice would best be served by DNA testing the evidence requested by Skinner and by testing additional items identified by the state," lawyers for the state wrote in the advisory.

Skinner, now 50, was convicted in 1995 of the strangulation and beating death of his girlfriend Twila Busby and the stabbing deaths of her two adult sons on New Year’s Eve 1993 in Pampa. Skinner maintains he is innocent and was unconscious on the couch at the time of the killings, intoxicated from a mixture of vodka and codeine.


Recent Exonerations Reducing Death Penalties

CBS DFW
Monday, May 28, 2012

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Death penalties have become a rarity from juries in some parts of Texas in the wake of a string of prison inmates — including some on death row — who have been exonerated by DNA and other new evidence.

The last death sentence returned by a Bexar County jury in San Antonio came in 2009, when only one defendant was condemned in that county, the San Antonio Express-News reported. In the 11 years ending in 2006, Bexar County juries meted out at least 24 death sentences.

“We don’t go get the death penalty just because we can. It’s a very serious decision-making process,” First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg told the Express-News.


National Registry Of Exonerations: More Than 2,000 People Freed After Wrongful Convictions

By: Michael McLaughlin
Huffington Post
Monday, May 21, 2012

 

Some tales of wrongful conviction are well known, like the case of amateur boxer Dewey Bozella.

Bozella was found guilty in 1983 for the murder of an elderly woman. New York police and prosecutors pressed second-degree murder charges propped up by the testimony of witnesses who eventually recanted their testimony. It wasn't until 2007 that Bozella's attorneys discovered major discrepancies and evidence pointing to another suspect, leading to Bozella's release in 2009.

But many stories involving tainted evidence, malingering law enforcement and mistaken eyewitness identification never become common knowledge. The cases outlined on the new National Registry of Exonerations are likely just a fraction of the wrongful imprisonment cases in the United States, researchers told The Huffington Post.


The Death Penalty is the Tip of America's Human Rights Iceberg


By: David A Love, Executive Director, Witness to Innocence
Huffington Post
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

There's a buzz about the death penalty in America these days. And nearly all of the conversation focuses not on how to maintain the practice, but rather on abolition.

Connecticut just decided to repeal the death penalty, following the lead of Illinois, New Mexico and New Jersey in recent years. Meanwhile, California voters will vote on a ballot measure that would eliminate one-quarter of the nation's death row.


Yes, America, We Have Executed an Innocent Man


Credit: (Corpus Christi Police Department)
Carlos De Luna
By: Andrew Cohen
The Atlantic
Monday, May 14, 2012

Carlos DeLuna was put to death in December 1989 for a murder in Corpus Christi. But he didn't commit the crime. Today, his case reminds us of the glaring flaws of capital punishment.

THE JUDGE


Countless Mothers To Spend Day In Prison

By: Diane Dimond
Albuquerque Journal Online
Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hi everyone,

As we honor our mothers this year, it's important to remember the mothers and children who will spend this Sunday apart because of the criminal justice system. Our thoughts are with the mothers who are in prison and those mothers on the outside who have sons and daughters locked up.


Jury Foreman in McKinney Case: "Justice Was Perverted"

By: David Protess, President of the Chicago Innocence Project
Huffington Post
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It is a saga of murder and injustice that spans three decades, and even now a surprising new chapter is being written.

Anthony McKinney, a black teenager, was convicted of the 1978 shotgun slaying of white security guard Donald Lundahl in South Suburban Harvey. Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but McKinney had no history of violence and the judge sentenced him to life without parole.


Exonerees, supporters rally for Ben Spencer, who has served 25 years in prison


Credit: Rex C. Curry/Special Contributor
Exoneree Richard Miles held the microphone for Lucille Spencer Greene to talk about her imprisoned son, Benjamin Spencer, during a rally in front of the Frank Crowley Courts Building on Saturday.
By: MATTHEW HAAG
Dallas Morning News
Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ben Spencer has sat in an East Texas jail cell waiting for the call.

For more than 25 years, Spencer has been serving a life sentence for the fatal robbery of a clothing-firm executive found beaten to death in West Dallas. Hope emerged for Spencer four years ago when a Dallas County judge ruled that he was innocent and deserves a new trial.


Texas Lawman to High Court: DNA Testing "Frivolous" in Death Penalty Case

By: David Protess
Huffington Post
Friday, May 4, 2012

Texas law enforcement officials have come up with some mighty creative legal arguments over the years to justify executing Hank Skinner without first testing evidence that could prove his innocence -- or confirm his guilt.

At times, they claimed the tests would be costly to the taxpayers. Then Skinner's legal team agreed to pay for the tests.