Supreme Court Strikes Down Three Texas Death Sentences

April 25, 2007

In a series of 5-4 decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down three death sentences handed out in Texas over 15 years ago. Said Justice Stevens in one case, “‘When the jury is not permitted to give meaningful effect or a ‘reasoned moral response’ to a defendant’s mitigating evidence…the sentencing process is fatally flawed.” Texas has not used the jury instructions in question since 1991, but there are over 40 other inmates on Texas’ death row who were sentenced under the faulty scheme. It remains to be seen what will happen to them. The defendants before the Court were LaRoyce Smith, Brent Brewer, and Jalil Abdul-Kabir.

You can read the decisions here. (Smith v. Texas, 05-11304, Brewer v. Quarterman, 05-11287, and Abdul-Kabir v. Quarterman, 05-11284.)

Here’s the early analysis from SCOTUSblog. More tomorrow.


Survey Shows Decline in Support for Capital Punishment

April 25, 2007

News Update 4.25.07

North Carolina

A new poll indicates that support for the death penalty is decreasing in North Carolina. Less than half of respondents thought that death was the most appropriate punishment for murder, down from nearly two-thirds less than two years ago. Click here to see the data. Pollsters also gathered information about attitudes towards public schools, hurricane preparedness, immigration, and various criminal justice issues.

The Western Wake Democratic Club hosted a forum on the death penalty in Cary last night. (Although I must say that if the people quoted in the article are representative of the composition of the panel, the deck was pretty stacked in favor of capital punishment from the beginning.)

Elsewhere

The Effective Use of Resources Award for this week goes to Colorado. Edward Montour’s death sentence was struck down this week, leaving a grand total of one person on Colorado’s death row. The State continues to pay four full-time capital prosecutors, none of whom are apparently very good at their jobs.

The runner-up for the EURA is…wait for it…the entire United States! For every $500 we spend putting people in jail, we spend only $1 to help the victims of violent crime (most of which goes to their immediate medical needs, not to help with lost wages or ongoing psychiatric consequences).

From Georgia, a roundup of legislative wins and losses from the state legislature’s 2007 session. The bill I find most interesting is House Bill 586, which limits the amount that the state has to pay for capital prosecutions and requires the county to pay the balance. In sum, this means that counties who choose not to expend millions of dollars on capital prosecutions no longer have to foot the bill for those that do.

In Kentucky, people of faith are making big contributions to the abolitionist movement.

Where, oh where, have my habeas rights gone, oh where, oh where can they be?


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