Dead Man Walking…Away From Death Row

News Update 09.11.07

North Carolina

Twelve years after being sentenced to die, Charles Walker is off of death row. Walker was hours away from execution in 2004. In 2006, a judge found that the State withheld vital evidence from Walker’s defense team and that one of Walker’s co-defendants lied on the stand. Instead of retrying the case, prosecutors allowed Walker to enter an Alford plea to conspiracy to commit murder and accessory to murder. Said Walker’s attorney, “If there is a larger lesson here, it’s that you can’t expect a system made up of human beings to be successful when they decide to play God.” More here.

Elsewhere

In New York, a court is considering the fate of the only person on the state’s death row. New York, which has not executed anyone since 1963, reinstated the death penalty in 1995. That law was held unconstitutional in 2004. For John B. Taylor, the question is whether special jury instructions given by the judge at his trial were enough to cure the defect in the statute under which he was convicted.

Given the choice between electrocution and lethal injection, Tennessee‘s Daryl Holton chose the former. (Article available only to New York Times Select subscribers.) Holton chose the chair simply because that was the sole method the state used when he was convicted. The law was changed in 1999, but Holton wants to die in the manner to which he was sentenced. To that end, Tennessee officials tested the state’s chair yesterday by running electric currents through a test load designed to simulate a human body. Tennessee’s electric chair has been out of use since 1960.

In Texas, a judge has blocked the state from destroying evidence that could prove whether Claude Jones actually committed the crime for which he was executed. Jones was convicted of a liquor store robbery-murder in 1990. The only piece of physical evidence in the case was a single hair found on the store’s counter. Jones was convicted based on testimony that the hair was “consistent” with his own, which could mean little more than that it was the right color and came from a person of the same race. The Innocence Project has arranged for DNA testing. (c/o Amnesty International)

On this tragic anniversary, MVFHR checks in with the families of some of those killed. Anthony Aversano was one of the 15 family members to testify at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, asking the jury not to sentence him to death. “I testified not for the sake of that one man, but to share some of my story and clearly speak that it is possible to rise above tragedy. I spoke loud and clear that if I responded to that act of terror by giving my life to the anger, hatred, and vengeance that terror breeds, my life might as well be another name on that list of casualties. I testified to the world that day that I had reclaimed the power of my choice in life and, in the face of all the pain we endured as family members, I chose to live my life in peace.”

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