CrimProf Blog

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

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Should murder accomplices face execution?

14568_felonymurder_2 An execution last month in Mississippi and another scheduled for this month in Texas have reignited a debate over whether the death penalty should be given to those who participate in killings — but do not personally carry them out.

Dale Bishop was executed July 23 in Mississippi for his role in the 1998 murder of an acquaintance who was beaten to death with a claw hammer along a rural road near Tupelo. But Bishop did not strike the fatal blows. According to uncontested trial testimony, Bishop held and kicked the victim while another man, Jessie Johnson, fatally attacked him with the hammer. Johnson is serving a life sentence without parole.

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

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Inmate 'too fat for execution'

COLUMBUS - A death row inmate scheduled for execution in October says he's so fat that Ohio executioners would have trouble finding his veins and that his weight could diminish the effectiveness of one of the lethal injection drugs.

Lawyers for Richard Cooey argue in a federal lawsuit that Cooey had poor veins when he faced execution five years ago and that the problem has been worsened by weight gain.

They cite a document filed by a prison nurse in 2003 that said Cooey had sparse veins and that executioners would need extra time.

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August 7, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Texas Executes José Medellín

In a case that has drawn international attention, Texas executed José E. Medellín on Tuesday night in defiance of an international court ruling and despite pleas from the Bush administration for a new hearing.

The execution came just before 10 p.m. Central time, shortly after the United States Supreme Court denied a last request for a reprieve. Protesters for and against the death penalty clamored in the rain outside the Huntsville Unit, about 70 miles north of Houston, where Mr. Medellín was executed by lethal injection.

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August 5, 2008 in Capital Punishment, Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, International | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Medellin capital case is strictly Texas' business

State law must not yield to international wishes

Jose Ernesto Medellin is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas next Tuesday, a date that is, in the estimation of many, not a moment too soon. According to his own confession, and the testimony of others, Medellin and several others brutally gang-raped, beat, then strangled (first with a belt, then with the girls' own shoelaces) 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Peña as the two were walking home on the evening of June 24, 1993. Medellin, et al., further brutalized the girls' bodies after their death "to make sure they were really dead," later bragging to friends.

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August 3, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 1, 2008

No end in sight to death penalty wrangling

More than 30 years after it was reinstated by the nation’s highest court, the death penalty in the

United States

still faces serious legal and political challenges, even as a persistent majority of the American public believes convicted murderers should be executed.


United States

is among a handful of industrialized countries to sanction capital punishment, and it has executed more than 15,000 people since colonial days. More than 1,100 prisoners have been put to death since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for executions to resume following a decade-long national hiatus.

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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Showdown over a Texas execution

Aexecution_p1 The state plans to execute a Mexican national on Aug. 5, despite objections of the World Court.The state plans to execute a Mexican national on Aug. 5, despite objections of the World Court.

The United States is fast approaching a showdown over its commitment to the rule of international law as Texas prepares to carry out the scheduled Aug. 5 execution of convicted killer and rapist Jose Medellin.

On July 14, the International Court of Justice at The Hague ordered the US government to "take all measures necessary" to prevent the execution of Mr. Medellin and four other Mexican nationals awaiting execution dates on death row in Texas.

But Medellin is in the custody of Texas authorities, not the federal government, and the Texas governor says he intends to push forward with the execution next Tuesday.

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July 31, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Mnsanquentin30__0422432627 The cost of new housing for San Quentin State Prison's growing number of Death Row inmates will exceed estimates by nearly $40 million, and the compound could run out of space soon after it is completed, according to a state auditor's report released Tuesday.

The auditor's new $395.5 million price tag for the project, which is expected to be completed by 2011, is new bad news for a state facing billions of dollars in budget shortfalls. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democrat-controlled Legislature are still trying to hammer out a spending plan for the fiscal year that began nearly a month ago.

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July 30, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

U.S. Supports Rehearing in Kennedy Death Penalty Ruling

The US Justice Department has appealed to nation's highest court to re-hear a major death penalty case involving sentencing for child rapists, saying the ruling was made without all the facts.

The Supreme Court last month ruled 5-4 against the death sentence for child rapists, but did so without considering a 2007 executive order that makes child rape a crime punishable by death according to military law, the Justice Department said in a rare motion filed this week.

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July 30, 2008 in Capital Punishment, Criminal Law, DOJ News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Beheading as a More Humane Form of Execution?

BBC News: Three Indonesian militants facing execution for the 2002 Bali bombings want to be beheaded rather than killed by firing squad, their lawyer has said.

The three - Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra - are expected to include the request in an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Their lawyer, Muhammad Mahendradatta, said beheading was a more humane form of punishment than firing squad.

Their execution was postponed last month to allow for a final appeal.

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July 30, 2008 in Capital Punishment, Criminal Law, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Execution by Military Is Approved by President

29execute_190 WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday approved the first execution by the military since 1961, upholding the death penalty of an Army private convicted of a series of rapes and murders more than two decades ago.

As commander in chief, the president has the final authority to approve capital punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and he did so on Monday morning in the case of Pvt. Ronald A. Gray, convicted by court-martial for two killings and an attempted murder at Fort Bragg, N.C., the White House said in a statement.

Although the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty in the military in 1996, no one has been executed since President Ronald Reagan reinstated capital punishment in 1984 for military crimes.

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July 29, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Prisoners' time spent on death row doubles

A_deathrowgraf_2 The time prisoners spend on death row has nearly doubled during the past two decades. Legal experts predict it will rise further as states review execution procedures and prisoners pursue lengthy appeals. Waits rose from seven years in 1986 to 12 years in 2006, the latest Justice Department statistics show. In all five states with the most prisoners on death row — California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Alabama — offenders spend more time in prison than they did four years ago, a USA TODAY survey of state records through 2007 found.

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July 25, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Spying uncovered Documents show state police monitored peace and anti-death penalty groups

Undercover Maryland State Police officers repeatedly spied on peace activists and anti-death penalty groups in recent years and entered the names of some in a law-enforcement database of people thought to be terrorists or drug traffickers, newly released documents show.

The files, made public yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, depict a pattern of infiltration of the activists' organizations in 2005 and 2006. The activists contend that the authorities were trying to determine whether they posed a security threat to the United States. But none of the 43 pages of summaries and computer logs - some with agents' names and whole paragraphs blacked out - mention criminal or even potentially criminal acts, the legal standard for initiating such surveillance.

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July 20, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

As California looks to expand death row, a flap over where to build it

If Methodist pastor Liza Klein had her way, no one would be executed in the US again. But for the moment, she has another goal: keeping California's death row in her own backyard.

Despite the estimated $400 million price tag for its expansion, Ms. Klein and other death-penalty opponents want the death row to stay at San Quentin State Prison because its location next to San Francisco provides easier access to lawyers, family members, and activists.

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

Reaching out from death row

SAN FRANCISCO -- -- From the forbidding, steely confines of San Quentin Prison's death row, scores of California's most notorious convicts have been reaching out to the free world via the Internet.

Scott Peterson's Web page features smiling photos of himself with his wife Laci, whom he was found guilty of murdering and dumping into San Francisco Bay while she was pregnant with their unborn son. It also links viewers to his family's support site, where Peterson has a recent blog posting on his "wrongful conviction."

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In Court Ruling on Executions, a Factual Flaw

WASHINGTON — When the Supreme Court ruled last week that the death penalty for raping a child was unconstitutional, the majority noted that a child rapist could face the ultimate penalty in only six states — not in any of the 30 other states that have the death penalty, and not under the jurisdiction of the federal government either. This inventory of jurisdictions was a central part of the court’s analysis, the foundation for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s conclusion in his majority opinion that capital punishment for child rape was contrary to the “evolving standards of decency” by which the court judges how the death penalty is applied. It turns out that Justice Kennedy’s confident assertion about the absence of federal law was wrong.

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July 2, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Florida reinstituted the death penalty: State executes child killer

A4s_execute070208_29260c STARKE — Florida reinstituted the death penalty Tuesday with the execution of a child killer. Unlike a botched execution in 2006 that halted the state's death penalty for more than a year, the execution of Mark Dean Schwab appeared seamless and peaceful. Schwab, 39, made no final statement and stopped moving only two or three minutes after chemicals began flowing into his veins.

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July 2, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Panel finds California death penalty flawed, urges overhaul

Capital punishment in California is too flawed to be effective and is crippled by an appeals backlog that delays punishment for crimes, a state Senate- appointed panel has concluded.

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice issued an in-depth report on the death penalty Monday, the first official review of the practice since it was reinstated in 1978.

The state's death-penalty system must undergo a multimillion-dollar upgrade – an investment that voters must weigh in on – to lessen the nation's longest time between conviction and execution, the panel said.

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

Sunday, June 29, 2008

SCOTUS Issues Landmark Opinion

upholding death penalty as "totally badass."  Hilarious video from the Onion here.

June 29, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Politicians Respond to Kennedy

Angry politicians vowed to keep writing laws that condemn child rapists to death, despite a Supreme Court decision saying such punishment is unconstitutional.

"Anybody in the country who cares about children should be outraged that we have a Supreme Court that would issue a decision like this," said Alabama Attorney General Troy King, a Republican. The justices, he said, are "creating a situation where the country is a less safe place to grow up."

The court's 5-4 decision Wednesday derailed the efforts of nearly a dozen states supporting the right to kill those convicted of raping a child and said execution was confined to attacks that take a life and to other crimes including treason and espionage.

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June 26, 2008 in Capital Punishment, Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Supreme Court Rejects Death Penalty for Child Rape

The Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, on Wednesday that sentencing someone to death for raping a child is unconstitutional, assuming that the victim is not killed.

“The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

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June 25, 2008 in Capital Punishment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)