Formerly Condemned Man Freed

October 11, 2007

News Update 10.11.07

North Carolina

Rex Penland, who spent 11 of the last 15 years on death row for a Stokes County murder, was set free last week. Penland, who maintains his innocence, entered an Alford plea to charges including second-degree murder. Given his good behavior and the time already served, he was released almost immediately. Penland was convicted of the 1994 rape and murder of Vernice Alford based on the testimony of his twin nephews. In 2004, DNA testing showed that the semen in the rape kit was not Penland’s, and that the blood on Penland’s pocketknife did not come from the victim. The true source of the semen has not been identified.

In Nash County, a juror was arrested in the middle of James Wesley Stallings’ murder trial. First the juror fell asleep during testimony. Then, during a break called so that he could wake up, the juror had a conversation with someone connected to one of the parties in the case. The juror and the audience member spent the night in jail, but the judge declined to declare a mistrial.

Elsewhere

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Medellin v. Texas. Medellin, like many other foreign citizens sentenced to death in the United States, was not advised of his right to speak with someone from the consulate after his arrest. The Court has already decided that the denial of one’s rights under the Vienna Convention is tough tomatoes. Medellin asks whether the analysis changes when the President steps in and directs the states to re-examine an inmate’s Convention claim. Background info at ScotusWiki.

Michael Richard was executed in Texas on September 25, the same day that the Supreme Court announced it would consider the constitutionality of lethal injection. Judge Sharon Keller of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused to accept Richard’s plea for a stay, which was filed 20 minutes late due to catastrophic computer problems at his attorney’s office. Keller did so without notifying other judges who were awaiting the filing, including the judge appointed to handle Richard’s case. Her fellow judges were not amused. Yesterday, a judicial conduct complaint was filed accusing Keller of violating Richard’s right to due process. (c/o StandDown and CDW)


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