“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. …

High court rejects appeal from Troy Davis

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, clearing the way for the state to resume planning for Davis' execution.

The justices on Monday refused to order the federal appeals court in Atlanta to examine Davis' case and they declined to do so themselves.

In 2009, the high court ordered a federal judge to examine evidence Davis said would show he was innocent of the 1989 killing for which he has been sentenced to death.

But the judge decided last year that Davis had failed to clear his name.

At the moment, executions are on hold in Georgia after federal agents seized the state's supply of a key lethal injection drug.

Source: Associated Press, March 28, 2011

Appeal denied in high-profile US death row case

The US Supreme Court Monday rejected an appeal to death row inmate Troy Davis who is seeking a new trial after 7 of the 9 witnesses against him recanted their murder trial testimony.

The Supreme Court rejected a request for an appeal hearing submitted by lawyers on behalf of Davis, a 42-year-old convicted of murdering a police officer in the southern state of Georgia in August 1989.

The decision clears the way for the execution of Davis, who has been on death row in Georgia since 1991 but has always maintained his innocence.

Davis's conviction rested on the testimony of the 9 witnesses, with no direct physical evidence such as a murder weapon, DNA or fingerprints linking him to the crime.

After a series of failed earlier appeals, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in August 2009 allowing Davis to present what he claimed was exculpatory evidence that was not reasonably available during his trial.

But after the rare hearing in August 2010, the judge decided there was not enough evidence to prove Davis's innocence.

With its racial overtones -- Davis is black, the officer Mark Allen MacPhail was white -- and the prisoner's continued claims of innocence, the case has triggered an international outcry.

Critics have included the European Union, whose member states oppose the death penalty, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Pope Benedict XVI.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 28, 2011
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