State claims mentally disabled prisoner is not entitled to a stay, since his arguments have already been rejected in lower courts
The state of Georgia has applied to the US supreme court to overturn a stay of execution for Warren Hill, the intellectually disabled prisoner who came within half an hour of being put to death on Tuesday night.
Georgia’s attorney general has filed a petition with the highest court in the US, arguing that Hill is not entitled to a stay of execution, because of the fact that he has exhausted all legal remedies. The petition states that his lawyer’s argument that the prisoner is “mentally retarded” is not new, and has been rejected by previous courts.
In a riposte to the supreme court, Hill’s attorney Brian Jammer countered that the appeal is indeed based on new evidence – the decision of three doctors to change their testimony that has transformed the case.
It now remains to be seen whether the nine justices of the supreme court wish to become embroiled in this particular challenge. In similar cases, the court has wished to remain above the legal fray, leaving the argument to be fought out by the lower courts.
Georgia has until 26 February to execute Hill, after which deadline it will have to apply for a new death warrant. That may help explain its urgency in trying to overturn the stay.
Full story here.
Court Rules Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Death Sentence is Unconstitutional, Grants New Sentencing Hearing
The case of Pennsylvania death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal took a surprising turn Tuesday when the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously declared his death sentence unconstitutional. It is the second time the court has agreed with a lower court judge who set aside Abu-Jamal’s death sentence after finding jurors were given confusing instructions that encouraged them to choose death rather than a life sentence. Now Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and journalist, could get a new sentencing hearing in court. We speak with his co-counsel, Judith Ritter, and Linn Washington, an award-winning journalist who has followed Abu-Jamal’s case for almost three decades. [includes rush transcript]
Full story and audio here.
Simon Mann, Washington
February 12, 2011
Last year, 46 people were executed in America, less than half the number in 1999, the peak year since the US Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
”The death penalty is putting millions [of dollars] into getting one execution per state per year, if that,” says Richard Dieter, of the Death Penalty Information Centre. ”It’s just totally symbolic, totally political and that’s an expensive thing to keep operating just because it plays well in sound bites.”
Full story here.
A Texas judge will consider this week whether a man the state executed in 2004 for killing his three toddlers in a house fire was innocent of the crimes.
If the court exonerates Cameron Todd Willingham, he will be the first person officially declared innocent after being executed in the modern era of US capital punishment.
“This is a watershed case that may break some new ground,” said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Centre.
Full story here.
Last fall, the American Law Institute, which created the intellectual framework for the modern capital justice system almost 50 years ago, pronounced its project a failure and walked away from it.
There were other important death penalty developments last year: the number of death sentences continued to fall, Ohio switched to a single chemical for lethal injections and New Mexico repealed its death penalty entirely. But not one of them was as significant as the institute’s move, which represents a tectonic shift in legal theory.
“The A.L.I. is important on a lot of topics,” said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “They were absolutely singular on this topic” — capital punishment — “because they were the only intellectually respectable support for the death penalty system in the United States.”
Full story here.
Overturned convictions and growth of DNA forensic evidence shake state’s rock-solid faith in capital punishment
Chris McGreal in Livingston
Sunday 15 November 2009 22.00 GMT
Even in Texas they are having their doubts. The state that executes more people than any other by far – it will account for half the prisoners sent to the death chamber in the US this year – is seeing its once rock-solid faith in capital punishment shaken by overturned convictions, judicial scandals and growing evidence that at least one innocent man has been executed.
The growth of DNA forensic evidence has seen nearly 140 death row convictions overturned across the US, prompting abolition and moratoriums in other states that Texas has so far resisted.
Jonathon Turley writes about nine recent death penalty cases in Texas where appeals were lost due to the tardiness of lawyers, and in one case where a judge ordered the clerk’s office to close early when a last-minute appeal on a death penalty case was in the offing.
Read more here…
This year alone the United States has executed 11 people, with many more scheduled in the next few months.
Please take the time to make your voices heard on these two upcoming cases in the US -
Jeffrey Hill in Ohio:
And Edward Bell in Virginia:
And you can view the complete list of scheduled executions in the U.S. here: