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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Death Penalty News

Washington: The Washington State Supreme Court recently came within one vote of effectively abolishing the state's death penalty when it ruled in the case of death row inmate Dayva Cross. Cross is on death row for the murder of his wife and her two teenage daughters. Attorneys for Cross had argued that their client should not be executed because killers who had committed worse crimes had been spared the death penalty.  Part of the dissenting opinion read: "When Gary Ridgway, the worst mass murderer in this state's history, escapes the death penalty, serious flaws become apparent. The Ridgway case does not 'stand alone,' as characterized by the majority, but instead is symptomatic of a system where all mass murderers have, to date, escaped the death penalty. . . . The death penalty is like lightning, randomly striking some defendants and not others." More. . .

North Carolina: Former Union County prosecutor Scott Brewer, who is already under investigation for allegedly obstructing justice in the 1996 death penalty trial of John Gregory Hoffman, has been accused of withholding important evidence in a second capital trial. Attorneys representing Darrell Strickland have asked the North Carolina State Bar to discipline Brewer for improperly withholding three statements made by the victims' wife, Gail Brown, the only eyewitness to the crime for which their client was sentenced to die. More. . .

American Bar Association: The ABA's Criminial Justice Section has released a new report on preventing wrongful convictions. The report, "Achieving Justice: Freeing the Innocent, Convicting the Guilty," includes commentary and resolutions that addresses topics such as false confessions, eyewitness identification procedures, use of forensic evidence, jailhouse informants, and compensation for the wrongfully convicted. More. . .

Death Sentences in 2005: The Capital Case Data Project of the American Judicature Society announced their count of 125 new death sentences in 2005, one less than in 2004. In addition, AJS counted 14 death sentences imposed through new sentence proceedings after appellate reversals. Those sentenced to death included 63 white defendants, 57 black defendants, and 15 Hispanics. The largest number of death sentences were imposed in California (19) and Florida (16). Texas had 14 death sentences, down considerably from 24 in 2004. The Bureau of Justice Statistics will release their data on death sentences in 2005 later this year. More. . .

[Mark Godsey]

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