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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Texas: Former death row inmate seeks $2 million in state compensation

Alfred Brown was released from the Harris County Jail, Texas, Texas on June 8, 2015 (Photo: Houston Chronicle)
Alfred Brown was released from the Harris County Jail, Texas,
Texas on June 8, 2015 (Photo: Houston Chronicle)
Former death row inmate Alfred Dewayne Brown filed a request Monday for almost $2 million dollars in state compensation saying he spent more than 12 years behind bars because he was wrongfully convicted.

State senator Rodney Ellis and lawyers for Brown said the 33-year-old is eligible for a lump sum of $973,589 plus an annuity in that amount to be paid annually for the rest of his life.

Brown was freed from prison last year, and his case has been dismissed but no official has said he is "actually innocent."

However under the Tim Cole Act, a state law providing compensation for the wrongfully convicted, Brown fits the definition of "exonerated," according to his lawyers.

"No 'magic words' are required anymore," said Neal Manne, one of Brown's attorneys. "The magic is in the fact that you're released."

In a red and white plaid button down shirt and jeans, Brown said little Monday except that he is working in construction and enjoying spending days with his family.

"I'm good," he said. "Just staying around family."

Brown spent 12 years and 62 days in jail, including a decade on death row after being convicted of capital murder in the fatal shooting of officer Charles Clark and clerk, Alfredia Jones during the robbery of a check-cashing store in 2003.

The dismissal still rankles Houston police officers who have said, through their union officials, they continue to believe Brown was part of a gang of 3 men involved in the check cashing store robbery turned double murder. Clerk Alfredia Jones was killed in the shooting.

Brown was released from jail June 8 after a police detective came forward with telephone records in the case that could have aided Brown's defense. The records might have bolstered Brown's alibi that he spent the day at his girlfriend's home. The state's highest court reversed the conviction and sent the case back to Houston.

Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson decided last year that there was not enough credible evidence in the case for a re-trial and dismissed the charges, freeing Brown.

That course of events is enough to show that he is presumed innocent, his lawyers said. The state comptroller will be in charge of distributing the money and other benefits, including free healthcare and free college tuition.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Feb. 22, 2016

Related content:
  • Louisiana: Justice still elusive for exonerated death row inmate Glenn Ford, April 1, 2015. The only thing Glenn Ford has received from the state of Louisiana after spending 30 years on death row as an innocent man is a $20 debit card. After being exonerated of murder last year, he walked out of Angola prison with $20.24; the 24 cents was the money left in his prison account. Mr. Glenn died of cancer shortly after his release from death row. Since his release, Ford had been fighting the state for compensation. Restitution for wrongful imprisonment is not a given in Louisiana; Ford is eligible for a maximum of $330,000. Prisoners who are wrongly incarcerated in Louisiana not only have to petition for compensation from the state, they have to prove they are innocent of the crime for which they were convicted...
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