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USA | States Continue to Oppose DNA Testing in Death Penalty Appeals, Attorneys Ask Why Don’t They Want to Learn the Truth?

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The last 3 men scheduled for execution in Georgia said they did not commit the killing and that DNA testing that was not available at the time of trial could prove it. In 2 of the cases, victim family members supported the request for testing. Prosecutors opposed the requests, and the courts refused to allow the testing. 2 of the 3 men were executed, with doubts still swirling as to their guilt.
Shawn Nolan, a federal defender who represented Georgia prisoner Ray “Jeff” Cromartie, summed up the sentiments of the prisoners, families, and defense attorneys in these cases. “I’d like to know what the state is so scared of,” he said. “Why are they afraid of the truth? This is sad and so disturbing.”
“We have the capability of testing a wide range of forensic evidence that we couldn’t test in the past,” said Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham. “It is a powerful tool to get to the truth and to get important answers as to whether the criminal legal system has b…

USA: Mapping the Modern Death Sentence

Map death penalty USA
New Online Resource a UVA Law Collaboration

The University of Virginia School of Law has collaborated on a new website that uses a data-driven, interactive map to illustrate the rapid decline of the death penalty in the United States since 1991.

The website is a supplement to Professor Brandon Garrett’s 2017 book, “End of Its Rope: How Killing the Death Penalty Can Revive Criminal Justice,” published by Harvard University Press.

Previously, there had not been comprehensive, county-level data about persons sentenced to death during the period of 1991-2016. So Garrett worked with a UVA Law librarian and a group of law students, with assistance from undergraduate students in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, to code and check the data of more than 5,000 death sentences. They gathered the information from government records, court rulings and other sources.

“This is the first resource to map out modern death sentencing in the United States,” Garrett said. “The mapping vividly shows how geographically isolated death sentencing has become.” 

The website allows researchers to view the information in a number of ways.

“You can use a slider and see how, over time, death sentencing has retreated from rural to a few larger, more urban counties,” he said. “Lawyers can also more carefully examine patterns in their states and counties, which may prove useful in litigation.” 

The entire archive of data generated in researching the book is available on the website, free and easily accessed by anyone doing research. 

“Several researchers, in addition to those of us at UVA, have already made use of the data, and we hope that more do so in the future,” Garrett said.

Garrett is also the author of "Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong." He is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs and the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at UVA.

In addition to the new book, he has authored several articles as part of the death sentencing data analysis — including one with Ankur Desai ’17, forthcoming in the Notre Dame Law Review, and another with UVA Law librarian Alexander Jakubow.

The Proteus Action League provided a grant to create the website.

Source: University of Virginia, School of Law, Eric Williamson, March, 2018. Mr. Williamson is Associate Director of Communications and Senior Writer


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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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