CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Mexico Repeals Death Penalty

As the New York Times reported yesterday, New Mexico became the second State in eighteen months to repeal the death penalty.  Thirty-five States now authorize the death penalty while fifteen States and the District of Columbia do not [Mike Mannheimer].

March 18, 2009 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Death Row Inmate Offers Help to Victim's Family

From "COLUMBIA, S.C. - Monica Caison figured it was worth a shot, so she fired off a letter, a single paragraph, to the man on death row for kidnapping and killing Alice Donovan during a two-week, 2,300-mile crime spree.

“You say you want to do the right thing,” wrote Caison, the founder of a group that searches for missing people. “I’m here and I’m listening.”

She received Chadrick Fulks’ reply two months later: a map, color photos of the area where he says he left Donovan’s body six years ago, and instructions to look where searchers had not ventured before." Full Story from [Michele Berry]

January 30, 2009 in Capital Punishment, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tennessee Law Review Death Penalty Colloquium

The Tennessee Law Review is preparing to host an exciting colloquium entitled "The Past, Present, and Future ofthe Death Penalty." The Colloquium will take place next month, February 6-7, at the University of Tennessee College of Law.

The lineup includes nationally known experts, such as Dwight Aarons,David Baldus, Hugo Adam Bedau, Steve Bright, Deborah Denno, Lyn Entzeroth, the Honorable Gilbert S. Merritt, and Penny White.

The event's full schedule is available at

At the website, registration is open as well. The Colloquium is freeto the public, though we're asking everyone to register so we can estimate how many attendees to expect. For attorneys seeking CLE
credit, the Colloquium has been approved for 6 hours of general credit, with registration at $150.

Additionally, the Tennessee Law Review will publish articles from many of the Colloquium speakers in a special Spring 2009 Symposium Issue onthe Death Penalty. Copies may be preordered by mailing a check payable to the Tennessee Law Review for $13 ($10 cost, $3 postage) to Micki Fox, Business Manager, Tennessee Law Review, 1505 W. Cumberland Ave., Knoxville, TN, 37996.

For additional information about the Colloquium or special issue, your readers are welcome to contact CLE Coordinator Micki Fox at 865-974-4464 or [email protected] or me at [email protected], and we'll respond right away. [Kathryn T. Parham] [Mark Godsey]

January 18, 2009 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is Texas Changing Its Mind About the Death Penalty?

Texas has executed prisoners with a regularity and in record numbers that has earned the state worldwide attention. But, while Texas still led the U.S. in executions in 2008, juries in the state appear to have began to turn away from the ultimate punishment even for the most heinous crimes.

Ten men and one woman were sentenced to death in Texas in 2008, according to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. It was the lowest annual figure since the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty. Texas handed out more than 20 death sentences in each of 2003 and 2004. In 2005, the number fell to 14, and it has not risen above that annual figure since. "The need for revenge, for vengeance is being curbed, the appetite is no longer there," contends Robert Hirschorn, a nationally known Texas attorney and jury consultant who has helped pick juries for many prominent clients, including, most recently, millionaire real estate mogul Robert Durst, who was found not guilty of killing and dismembering his neighbor. 

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December 23, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lethal Injection and the Problem of Constitutional Remedies

Many states' lethal injection procedures contain serious flaws that create a significant risk of excruciating pain, but, more often that not, courts uphold those procedures against Eighth Amendment challenges. This Article argues that remedial concerns significantly shape - and misdirect - courts' approaches to lethal injection. Many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court in Baze v. Rees, fear that any lethal injection remedy would unduly burden the state and interfere with executions. Accordingly, they sharply limit the underlying Eighth Amendment right.

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December 18, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Judges stay Dec. 3 execution of Wash. inmate

Federal and state judges have indefinitely delayed the scheduled Dec. 3 execution of Darold Stenson for the 1993 shooting deaths of his wife and a business partner in Clallam County.

The separate stays were issued Tuesday by judges in federal court in Yakima and in Clallam County Superior Court.

U.S. District Judge Lonny Suko issued his order in a conference call with lawyers. State Attorney General Rob McKenna said his office was asking an appeals court to vacate Suko's order and allow the execution to proceed as scheduled.

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November 26, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Repeal of death penalty urged

state commission reviewing capital punishment recommended last night an end to executions in Maryland, prompting hope among death penalty opponents that the General Assembly could soon abolish the 30-year practice.

The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted 13-7 to make the recommendation. It found that the death penalty carries the "real possibility" of executing innocent people and may be biased against blacks.

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November 14, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Case Raising Victim Impact Evidence Issue Falls One Vote Short of Cert.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in a case raising the issue of how far prosecutors can go in capital prosecutions in introducing victim impact evidence.  At issue was a video presentation introduced by the prosecutors at trial, incorporating photographs and video footage of the victim from birth to the age of 19 (when she was murdered), and narrated by her mother.  Both Justice Stevens and Justice Breyer issued dissents from the denial of cert., and Justice Souter also indicated his dissent from the disposition, leaving the petitioner one vote shy of the four needed for the Court to review the case.  The video itself was attached to the dissents and can be accessed here in both Real Player and Windows Media Player formats [Mike Mannheimer]

November 12, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Davis backers come in all stripes

In his Oct. 21 op-ed about the Troy Davis death penalty case, Spencer Lawton, the district attorney who prosecuted the case in 1991, asserts that: “The only information the public has had in the 17 years since Troy Davis’ conviction has been generated by people ideologically opposed to the death penalty, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused.” That is simply not true.

And the fact that it is not true matters, just as the fact that Davis, whose execution has been stayed by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, may be innocent matters.

Neither Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr nor former FBI Director William Sessions can be characterized as ideologically opposed to the death penalty. That shoe does not fit. Nor does it fit the many citizens of Georgia who simply want to hold the Board of Pardons and Paroles to its word: “[We] will not allow an execution to proceed … unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.”

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October 28, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The European Legislature is Protesting the Scheduled Execution of Troy Davis

From The European parliament is strongly protesting plans to execute a man in the United States who has been sentenced to death for killing a police officer.

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed in Georgia on Oct. 27, despite calls from his supporters to reconsider because seven of nine key witnesses against him have recanted their testimony.

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October 22, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why Abolition of the Death Penalty was Important

I wrote the introduction to today's topic, "Why abolishing the Death Penalty in New Jersey was Important" weeks ago, before the market crash and fear of a depression engulfed our country. It's understandable that everyone is focused on keeping their homes, their jobs and preserving their retirement savings. Not Troy Davis however. Troy Davis is waiting on death row in Georgia to be executed for a crime he likely did not commit. If he is executed and if he is innocent, he won't be the first innocent person put to death in the United States. And until the death penalty is repealed in 36 more states and by the federal government, he likely won't be the last.

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October 16, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Killer Cooey is executed

LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- Richard Wade Cooey III was executed this morning, forever silencing his personal argument that lethal injection is a cruel and flawed process that can cause an agonizing death.

Cooey, 41, was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m., only a few minutes after being injected with a lethal flow of three drugs at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.

"You (expletive) haven't paid any attention to anything I've said in the last 22 years, why would you pay any attention to anything I said now?" Cooey said with his final words

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October 14, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Supreme Court Rejects Obesity Appeal

ArtcooeyThe U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from an Ohio prisoner who argued he is too obese to be executed. Richard Cooey is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday.

The court denied his request for a stay without comment Monday. Cooey is 5-foot-7 and weighs 267 pounds.

State officials said prison staff examined Cooey's veins and found no problems that would interfere with the execution.

Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]

October 13, 2008 in Capital Punishment, Criminal Law, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Assessing Capital Punishment Trends In The U.S.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal and said it needed more time to consider the fate of Troy Anthony Davis.

Davis was granted a stay of execution just hours before he was scheduled to be put to death.

For analysis, Farai Chideya discusses the Constitution and the death penalty with Carl Tobias, professor of law at the University of Richmond. [Mark Godsey]

Listen to  Assessing Capital Punishment Trends In The U.S.

October 13, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 6, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Rehearing in Kennedy v. Louisiana Opinion

On October 1, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Louisiana's request for a rehearing of the Court's ruling striking down the death penalty for non-homicidal offenses against individuals. Louisiana contended that a recent adjustment to military law that continued to allow the death penalty for child rape should have been taken into account by the Court, resulting in a different opinion. The Court slightly modified both the majority and dissenting opinions to include reference to the military code. The Court issued a statement, leaving intact its decision not only reversing Patrick Kennedy's death sentence for child rape, but also holding that the death penalty would be disproportionate for any crime against an individual in which the victim is not killed.  The statement said, in part:

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October 6, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

International Law Experts Question Supreme Court Decision in Medellin Case

Notable international law experts cited in a recent article in the Washington Lawyer criticized the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision on whether an international treaty was binding on Texas in the case of death row inmate Jose Medellin. Carolyn Lamm, an attorney at White & Case specializing in international dispute resolution, stated that "[T]he failure to compel our state court organs to comply with the decision of the ICJ [International Court of Justice] is regrettable, and the dissenting opinion that the language was self-executing is correct.” In August 2008, Texas executed Medellin despite the judgment of the ICJ that his rights and those of 50 other foreign nationals on death row were violated under the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations due to a failure to inform the inmates of their right to contact their country’s consulate for assistance upon arrest.

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October 6, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Execution halted amid rumors of affair between judge, D.A.

McKINNEY, Texas (AP) -- A death row inmate whose lawyers argued a secret romantic relationship between the judge and prosecutor tainted his trial has won a reprieve -- but not because of the alleged affair.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals postponed Charles Dean Hood's execution, scheduled for Wednesday, because it wanted to reconsider whether the jury instructions were flawed.

At the same time, the court dismissed claims Hood's attorneys filed that he was denied a fair trial because of what would be a legally unethical relationship between retired Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Tom O'Connell.

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September 10, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Executing Justice in the Texas Courts

By Lawrence J. Fox

Word count: 668

They did not execute Charles Hood on June 17.  On that night, the State of Texas did the right thing for the wrong reason.  The execution was postponed not to cure a grave injustice, simply because the State of Texas ran out of time.  But the aroma of injustice remains just as strong as it did on that date.  Mr. Hood now faces execution on September 10, and if allowed to go forward, that execution will place a black mark on the ethics of the judiciary and the rule of law, one that can never be erased.

How could this be?  Because until a lawyer in the office that prosecuted Charles Hood came forward just days before the original execution date, there was no proof of what had been long rumored and this lawyer now confirmed: Thomas O'Connell, the chief prosecutor of Mr. Hood was – at that time – engaged in a personal relationship with Verla Sue Holland, the judge who presided at the trial.

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September 9, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Petition Preview: Enya, the Death Penalty, and Video Victim Impact Evidence

Nearly two decades ago, in Payne v. Tennessee (1991), the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment did not bar the introduction of “victim impact evidence” at the penalty phase of capital trials. The Court held that just as the Constitution gave defendants the right to present evidence designed to avoid imposition of the death penalty, it did not forbid testimony designed to show the victim was a unique human being whose loss left an impact on the survivors and society at large.

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September 1, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Execution delayed to test inmate's competency

Mental HUNTSVILLE — A federal judge on Thursday delayed the execution of a condemned Texas inmate so he can be tested to determine whether he's mentally competent to understand why he would be put to death.

Jeffery Wood was set to be executed Thursday for taking part in a 1996 robbery of a Hill Country store in which a clerk was fatally shot.

But U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio granted a request by Wood's attorneys to delay his execution so they could hire a mental health expert to pursue their arguments that he is incompetent to be executed. Texas courts had previously refused similar appeals.

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August 24, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)