News Update 12/20/07
A special prosecutor has found insufficient evidence to support the first-degree murder charge against James Johnson. Johnson spent over three years in prison, despite the lack of physical evidence against him and the insistence of the killer than Johnson was not involved. Johnson, who went to the police shortly after the murder and confessed that he helped the killer clean the victim’s car after she had been killed, still faces a charge if accessory after the fact.
In Ohio, Kenneth Richey will soon be set free after almost 20 years on death row. Richey was convicted of setting the fire that killed his ex-girlfriend’s daughter, but the fire has since been determined to have been accidentally set. Sources say the girl was known to play with cigarettes, lighters, and matches, and had set three previous fires.
In South Carolina, two former prison guards say that they were forced to participate in executions on threat of losing their jobs. They also allege that they were not properly trained before the executions or offered counseling afterwards, leading to ongoing mental anguish. The guards participated in both lethal injections and electrocutions.
The United Nations General Assembly has passed a nonbinding resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. The vote was 104 to 54 with 29 abstentions. Among the nations joining the United States in opposition to a moratorium were North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.
The Death Penalty Information Center has released its year-end report for 2007. Forty-two people were executed in 2007, as opposed to 53 in 2006 and 98 in 1999. One hundred and ten new inmates were sent to death row last year, 115 the year before, and 284 in 1999. The report also notes legislative activity and shifts in publc opinion.