News and Updates

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.
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.

Editorial: Exonerations point at urgency of reform

Dallas Morning News
Friday, May 4, 2012

DNA technology has cast its magic again, clearing the names this week of two more innocent Dallas men who were railroaded in a rape case based on mistaken eyewitness testimony.

Let them hear it again, right here: Raymond Jackson and James Williams are innocent. Repeating that sweet truth is the least we can do for them.

It's time to abolish the death penalty

Credit: File Photo, San Antonio Express-News / EN
There is no evidence that the death penalty deters murders. Here, a warden in 2000 is shown with the gurney in Texas' death chamber in Huntsville.
By: Fred Williams
San Antonio Express-News
Thursday, May 3, 2012

Last week, Connecticut joined with 16 other states and with the rest of the civilized world when it abolished the death penalty. But the very next day, Texas chose to remain in darkness when it executed Beunka Adams, making him the fifth victim this year of the state's anachronistic practice of killing people. If not for a last-minute stay, on Wednesday Texas would have put another human being to death.

Put To Death For Being Black: New Hope Against Judicial System Bias

North Carolina's Racial Justice Act finally acknowledges that there is a huge bias in who gets the death penalty

Credit: Shawn Rocco / Raleigh News & Observer / Landov
Death row inmate Marcus Robinson smiles toward his family after Cumberland County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Greg Weeks found that racial bias played a role in his trial and sentencing on Friday, April 20, 2012, in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
By: Touré
Thursday, May 3, 2012

The wind of revolution is beginning to blow through the halls of justice. It’s a small breeze now and the impact of what many consider one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century still weighs heavily, but in North Carolina something called the Racial Justice Act is suggesting that a change is gonna come.

Oklahoma says running out of death penalty drug

By: Steve Olafson
Chicago Tribune
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahoma, which executes more prisoners per capita than any other state, said on Wednesday it has only one remaining dose of pentobarbital, a key drug used to kill condemned prisoners.

One reason the state is running out is because of a ban on the sale of drugs for such purposes by the European Union, which opposes the death penalty.

Death row Canadian Ronald Smith weeps as parole hearing continues

Credit: Jason van Rassel , Postmedia News
Convicted double murderer Ronald Smith is facing a Montana parole board Wednesday at the Montana State Prison near Deer Lodge.
By: Jason van Rassel
Postmedia News
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Top Criminal Court to Hear Hank Skinner's DNA Plea

Credit: photo illustration by: Caleb Bryant Miller / Todd Wiseman
By: Brandi Grissom
The Texas Tribune
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Death row inmate Hank Skinner’s decade-long fight for DNA testing, which he hopes will prove his innocence in a grisly West Texas triple murder, will take center stage this morning in the state’s highest criminal court.

Towards Exempting the Severely Mentally Ill from the Death Penalty

JURIST Guest Columnist Olga Vlasova, Brooklyn Law School Class of 2013, is the Sparer Public Interest Law Fellow. She argues for prohibiting the death penalty for severely mentally ill offenders...
By: Olga Vlasova
Monday, April 30, 2012

According to Mental Health America, about 10 percent of all death row inmates suffer from a serious mental illness. Although a severely mentally ill inmate on death row may have his execution delayed due to incompetency, once the individual has regained competence, he can be executed. The Supreme Court has never ruled that the US Constitution prohibits sentencing severely mentally ill offenders to death.