“River of Fire”: In New Memoir, Sister Helen Prejean Reflects on Decades of Fighting Executions

The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to resume the death penalty after a more than 15-year moratorium. This week Attorney General William Barr proposed fast-tracking executions in mass murder cases, and last month ordered the execution of five death row prisoners beginning in December. The federal government has executed just three people since 1963 — the last being in 2003. The death penalty is widely condemned by national governments, international bodies and human rights groups across the world. Experts say capital punishment does not help deter homicides and that errors and racism in the criminal justice system extend to those sentenced to death. We speak with Sister Helen Prejean, a well-known anti-death-penalty activist who began her prison ministry over 30 years ago. She is the author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty,” which was turned into an Academy Award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. …

DNA Clears NY Man Wrongly Convicted of 1988 Murder

A New York truck driver who spent nearly 19 years behind bars for a 1988 slaying he didn't commit walked free Wednesday after DNA testing exonerated him and instead pointed to another prison inmate.

The exonerated inmate, Frank Sterling, 46, was convicted of murder in 1992 based on a confession that he later recanted.

State Judge Thomas Van Strydonck vacated the conviction after Monroe County prosecutors agreed with lawyers for the Innocence Project that DNA evidence obtained from the victim's clothing excluded him as the killer and pointed instead to Mark Christie, who was convicted of strangling a 4-year-old girl in 1994. Prosecutors who interviewed Christie earlier this month said he confessed to killing Viola Manville. He had been questioned about Manville's killing in 1988 but denied involvement and was discounted as a suspect.

Manville, a 74-year-old grandmother, was attacked as she walked along a rural trail near her home in Hilton, a Rochester suburb, and was bludgeoned to death on Nov. 29, 1988.

Sterling was serving 25 years to life. He confessed to the killing during an all-night interrogation in July 1991, but later claimed he had slipped into a hypnotic state and parroted details police gave him about the crime.

He unsuccessfully sought a new trial in 1997 after 4 former friends of Christie testified the teen bragged about clubbing Manville with a BB gun on his walk to high school.

Christie, who is 36, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for strangling a neighbor, Kali Ann Poulton, and hiding the body for 2 years before he finally blurted out the truth to his new bride. The girl vanished while riding a tricycle outside her home in a suburban Rochester townhouse complex in 1994.

The former security guard had taken part in a neighborhood search for Kali that spring night after disposing of the body.

Her disappearance touched of a nationwide search until summer 2006, when Christie told his wife he had strangled the girl with a pair of socks and submerged her body in a huge water tank at a factory where he worked. His wife called the police, and Christie led them to the body.

Source: Associated Press, April 28, 2010

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