FEATURED POST

Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

Image
In our Explainer series, Fair Punishment Project lawyers help unpackage some of the most complicated issues in the criminal justice system. We break down the problems behind the headlines - like bail, civil asset forfeiture, or the Brady doctrine - so that everyone can understand them. Wherever possible, we try to utilize the stories of those affected by the criminal justice system to show how these laws and principles should work, and how they often fail. We will update our Explainers monthly to keep them current. Read our updated explainer here.
To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Supreme Court to Rule on Judge’s Role in Death-Penalty Case

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court
Justices weigh whether judge who had helped prosecute the case should have recused himself

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court appeared ready on Monday to raise ethical standards for state courts, with some justices clearly troubled that an elected Pennsylvania justice who voted to uphold a death sentence previously had helped prosecute the case as a district attorney.

“At what point do we give meaning to the constitutional command that you can’t be prosecutor and judge?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “The judge here actually signed his name to his review of the facts and his decision to seek the death penalty.”

Monday’s case came from Philadelphia, where Terrance Williams, then 18 years old, and an accomplice were convicted of the 1984 murder of Amos Norwood, 56. The victim was taken to a cemetery, robbed and beaten to death with a tire iron and a socket wrench. The corpse, later set afire, was identified through dental records.

Ronald Castille, as Philadelphia’s elected district attorney, authorized trial prosecutors to seek the death penalty, one of 45 obtained during his tenure. He cited that record in 1993 during his successful campaign for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and eventually served as chief justice.

In 2012, a state court found prosecutors had withheld evidence that could have influenced jurors to spare Mr. Williams the death penalty and ordered a new sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where then Chief Justice Castille denied a defense motion to recuse himself and joined a unanimous decision reinstating the death sentence.

In a concurrence, the chief justice called the Williams claim “frivolous,” branded the lower-court decision as “lawless” and castigated the federal public defender’s office, which had taken up the case, for “an obstructionist anti-death penalty agenda” designed to “unsettle and undermine Pennsylvania law.” He left the court two weeks later, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

On Monday, several justices at the U.S. Supreme Court probed for a legal standard that could clarify how much prior involvement in a case should trigger a justice’s recusal. Justice Samuel Alito, for instance, asked about whether the situation violated the Constitution. “It’s really not enough to just say what happened here was bad,” he said.


Source: The Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin, Feb. 29, 2016

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Most Viewed (Last 30 Days)

Harris County leads Texas in life without parole sentences as death penalty recedes

Idaho County commissioners take stand against death penalty

Indonesian death penalty laws to be softened to allow reformed prisoners to avoid execution

USA: Executions, Death Sentences Up Slightly in 2017

Texas executes Anthony Allen Shore

Death penalty cases of 2017 featured botched executions, claims of innocence, 'flawed' evidence

Virginia Governor commutes death sentence of killer found mentally incompetent to be executed

California: Death penalty sought against Redwood City man accused of sexually assaulting, killing infant

Texas man with scheduled execution uses letters from fellow death row inmates to argue for reprieve

New book features Kansas man who executed Nazi war criminals