Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

Rodney Reed’s death sentence was suspended. But researchers say other current cases raise similar doubt about the guilt of the accused.
The number of executions in the United States remains close to nearly a three-decade low. And yet the decline has not prevented what those who closely track the death penalty see as a disturbing trend: a significant number of cases in which prisoners are being put to death, or whose execution dates are near, despite questions about their guilt.
Rodney Reed, who came within days of execution in Texas before an appeals court suspended his death sentence on Friday, has been the most high-profile recent example, receiving support from Texas lawmakers of both parties and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, who urged a new examination of the evidence.
Mr. Reed has long maintained that he did not commit the 1996 murder for which he was convicted. And in recent months, new witnesses came forward pointing toward another possible suspect: the dead…

Missouri executes Paul Goodwin

Paul Goodwin
Paul Goodwin
A Missouri inmate has been executed for fatally beating a 63-year-old woman with a hammer in 1998, a record 10th lethal injection of 2014 for the state. It now matches Texas for the highest number of executions in the US this year.

Paul Goodwin, 48, sexually assaulted Joan Crotts in St Louis County, pushed her down a flight of stairs and beat her on the head with a hammer. Goodwin was a former neighbour who felt Crotts played a role in getting him kicked out of a boarding house.

Goodwin’s execution began at 1:17am, delayed more than an hour after it was scheduled because supreme court appeals continued into the early morning. He was pronounced dead at 1:25 am He declined to make a final statement.

Efforts to spare Goodwin’s life centred on his low IQ and claims that executing him would violate a supreme court ruling prohibiting the death penalty for the mentally disabled. His lawyer, Jennifer Herndon, said Goodwin had an IQ of 73, and some tests suggested it was even lower.

Goodwin’s sister, Mary Mifflin, wrote in a statement that the death penalty “is not a just punishment for his crime – an act that occurred out of passion, not premeditation, by a man with the mental capabilities of a child, not an adult”.

But Goodwin’s fate was sealed when Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon, denied a clemency request and the supreme court turned down legal appeals – one on the mental competency question and one concerning Missouri’s use of an execution drug purchased from an unidentified compounding pharmacy.

Six people attended the execution on Goodwin’s behalf, including his mother and two sisters. Ten of Crotts’s relatives attended, all wearing purple, her favorite colour.

Her son Robert Becker recalled his mother as, “a pleasantly ornery Germany woman”. That stubbornness was evident in her final hours, he said, when she stayed alive long enough to provide information to police that helped lead to the killer.

Another son, Kent Becker, said the execution “cannot erase the memory of having to clean up your mother’s murder scene”.

Missouri’s 10th execution of 2014 surpasses the state’s previous high of nine in 1999. Neither Missouri nor Texas has another execution scheduled this year. Texas, Missouri and Florida combined carried out 28 of the 34 executions in the US this year.

Goodwin received special education as a child but still failed several grades, Mifflin wrote. He relied on relatives or his girlfriend to help with buying groceries or paying bills, she said. When his girlfriend died, Goodwin turned to alcohol, which was a factor in his attack on Crotts, Mifflin wrote.

Crotts’s daughter, Debbie Decker, told the St Louis Post-Dispatch that Goodwin deserved no mercy. “I’ve been sitting back waiting for this to happen,” Decker said of the execution. “I’m hoping all these bad memories will go away.”

Missouri has scheduled one execution each month since November 2013. Two were halted by court action, but 12 were carried out over the past 14 months.

Source: The Guardian, December 10, 2014

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