As executions resume in U.S., so does the risk of executing the innocent


Last night, Georgia ended a seven-month national moratorium on executions when William Lynd was executed by lethal injection. The de-facto moratorium came about while the U.S. Supreme Court was considering the constitutionality of lethal injections. The court ruled last month that lethal injections could continue.

Meanwhile, Levon Jones was released from death row last week in North Carolina after his lawyers revealed new evidence of his innocence and showed that he received an inadequate defense at trial. Several death row inmates across the country are seeking to prove this innocence in the courts – including Innocence Project client

Tommy Arthur

, who has been seeking DNA testing from death row for years, and Georgia inmate

Troy Davis


Innocence Project client Paul House is still waiting in legal limbo for a decision after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the jury in House’s case may have acquitted him. House has been in prison for 22 years – much of it on death row – for a murder he says he didn’t commit. Prosecutors in his case said this week they would retry House, who remains in jail awaiting a new trial or his release.

Read the full story here.

(Tennessean, 05/07/08)

An article in today’s New York Times considers the state of legal representation for indigent Americans charged with capital crimes.

Georgia’s new public defender system came under attack by politicians and was recently forced to cut more than 40 positions.

That system, established after a series of lawsuits, was patterned after one North Carolina put in place in 2001, which was considered a national model. But not many other states have followed suit, said Robin Maher, director of the American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project.

“I wish I could say that things have gotten a lot better, but in fact I can say with confidence that things have changed not much at all,” Ms. Maher said. “We are seeing the same kinds of egregiously bad lawyering that we saw 10 or 15 years ago, for a variety of reasons, including inadequate funding.”

Of the 36 states that allow the death penalty, only about 10 have statewide capital-defense systems, one of the practices recommended by the Bar Association.


Read the full story here

. (New York Times, 05/07/08)

And CBS reported on Monday that 14 executions are scheduled across the U.S. in the next six months and five states are considering expansions to the death penalty – allowing them to execute people for crimes other than murder. Meanwhile, five states are seriously considering repealing the death penalty.

Watch the CBS News video here, featuring an interview with Kirk Bloodsworth, who spent 8 years on death row before DNA proved his innocence of a Maryland murder



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