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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

27 Former Judges and Prosecutors File Amicus Brief with U.S. Supreme Court on Behalf of Troy Davis

On May 20, twenty-seven former judges and prosecutors from across the political spectrum filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis.

Signers of the amicus brief include Larry Thompson (Deputy Attorney General of the United States, 2001-2003), former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA; U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, 1986-1990); William S. Sessions (Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1987-1993), and John Gibbons (former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit).

Their brief urges the Court to order an evidentiary hearing in District Court, arguing that “Mr. Davis’ petition for an original writ meets this Court’s exceptional circumstances test because Mr. Davis can make an extraordinary showing through new, never reviewed evidence that strongly points to his innocence, and thus his execution would violate the Constitution.”

Davis’ attorneys filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Court, pursuant to its original jurisdiction, asking for the same hearing. Davis has a significant amount of new evidence pointing to his innocence that has never been fully reviewed in court. He was sentenced to death primarily on eyewitness testimony, but 7 of the 9 eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony and some evidence points to one of the two remaining witnesses as the person who committed the murder.

Source: Death Penalty Information Center, May 21, 2009

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