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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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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 -…

Florida: Judge denies Tommy Ziegler's DNA request

A judge on Monday denied a new request by Tommy Zeigler to analyze bloodstains on his crime scene clothing, the longtime death row inmate's latest attempt to exonerate himself in the 1975 Christmas Eve killings of his wife, in-laws and customer at his Winter Garden furniture store.

In the 30-page ruling, Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge Reginald Whitehead held that Zeigler's petition for DNA testing was too similar to others that he's made previously and that the potential discoveries would not be great enough to rule him out as the perpetrator.

"Having carefully listened to the testimony presented at the evidentiary hearing and argument from the parties, the Court finds the authenticity of the DNA is questionable because it may be contaminated based on a lack of protective equipment when it was handled and/or improper storage," the judge wrote.

Eunice Zeigler, her parents Perry and Virginia Edwards and store customer Charles Mays were killed in the Christmas Eve attack. Zeigler was also shot in the stomach and maintains they were held up in a store robbery by Mays and others. Prosecutors have argued that Zeigler concocted the plan, luring Mays to the scene as a scapegoat, to pocket a life insurance policy on his wife.

In a March hearing, attorneys for Zeigler argued that more sensitive and technologically advanced DNA tests could show he did not shoot, beat and bludgeon the victims to death.

The technique, called "Touch DNA" testing, would settle it because it could detect if Zeigler's DNA transferred onto the victims from contact during a physical struggle.

Prosecutors with the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office opposed the petition, citing two previous opinions from the Florida Supreme Court, which found such evidence wouldn't be enough to exonerate Zeigler. The last round of DNA testing was done in 2001. It proved that Perry Edward's blood was not present on Zeigler's shirt and pants, as prosecutors argued in the original trial, but was found on May's clothing.

A judge in 2003 ruled that evidence was not compelling enough to prove Zeigler's innocence because there were multiple sources of blood at the crime scene.

In denying the most recent request, Whitehead questioned why Zeigler did not test all the blood stains he wanted to during the 2001 probe.

Attorneys for Zeigler asserted that the desired technology to do so was not available then. They also said they would privately finance the testing.

"We're obviously disappointed that [the judge] didn't see the merit and the application," said one of Zeigler's attorneys, John Houston Pope of New York. "We'll read what he has to say carefully, and see what the next steps are."

Source: Orlando Sentinel, July 20, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

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