New PA Grant Program for Indigent Capital Defense
It's Time for Pennsylvania to Abolish the Death Penalty
Pennsylvania was previously the only state in the country without state-wide funding for capital defense. This year however, Pennsylvania’s legislature has allocated $500,000, partly in response to a bipartisan state study on the death penalty. While the funds are a start to improving the quality of defense for those facing capital punishment, there are significant problems to overcome.
“Imagine there’s a terrible drought across Pennsylvania and the Legislature decides to address the problem by opening up a lemonade stand in Harrisburg,” Bookman said. “That’s what they’ve done here to address the state-wide problem with capital punishment.”
The death penalty punishes PA's corrections workers, too
The strongest argument against the death penalty in Pennsylvania: More people have been exonerated than executed. Read more in this week’s @PhillyInquirer editorial
Krasner Argues Pennsylvania's Death Penalty is Unconstitutional
In her opinion, former SCI Graterford Superintendent Cynthia Link provides an unusual perspective on the death penalty in Pennsylvania. She describes in excruciating detail what its like to work with death-sentenced inmates.
In particular, she explains that the traumatic toll on staff assigned to that unit is so great, that they are not permitted to work there for more than 2 years. What's worse? While she was at least able to take some action to help her staff cope, there was little to nothing she could do for death-sentenced prisoners.
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Today: ACCR's Nine Year Anniversary!
Last year, federal defenders filed briefs with the PA Supreme Court on behalf of two clients, Cox and Marinelli, asking the Court to examine Pennsylvania’s use of the death penalty, and ultimately find it unconstitutional. A number of other organizations, including ACCR, have filed amicus briefs in support of finding the death penalty unconstitutional. Support for the position was in large part due to the results of a bipartisan study that characterized PA’s death penalty as seriously problematic.
In a brief filed Monday night, reformist prosecutor Larry Krasner urged the Supreme Court to find that the current death penalty violates the state constitution. His position is based heavily on an internal study of 155 convictions. According to the findings within the brief, 72% of Philadelphia’s death penalty cases have been overturned, largely due to ineffective assistance. Furthermore, out of the 45 people currently on death row from Philadelphia, 37 are Black. The brief is the first of its kind filed by any prosecutor’s office in the U.S.
Opinion: Will Pennsylvania Abolish the Death Penalty?
ACCR was founded nine years ago today with the singular mission of reducing the impact of capital punishment through litigation, consultation, training, and communication. During this period, death sentences in Pennsylvania have undergone a shocking transformation, from routinely imposed to increasingly rare. We now have a Governor who has imposed a moratorium on executions, a District Attorney of our biggest city who has foresworn the punishment, and a statewide bipartisan study that makes a compelling case for abolition. These achievements were not accomplished by a single person or even a single entity, but ACCR is proud of its role in bringing capital punishment closer and closer to extinction.
Opinion: When We Kill
Pennsylvania has one of the largest death rows in the nation and yet is also the only state that does not fund a statewide capital defender program for indigent defendants. Instead, counties are left to finance death penalty defense individually, and the results are severely problematic. Filler outlines some of the reasons why abolition is the only sound solution; the exorbitant cost to impose the death penalty, civil rights/race disparity issues, innocence and the legislature’s refusal to repair the broken system.
Check out opinion piece by Daniel Fuller, the dean of Drexel University’s Klein School of Law, in the @PhillyInquirer.
Efforts Grow to Repeal the Death Penalty in Pennsylvania
"Some day, I believe, Americans will look back at today’s executions just as we now look back at witch burnings and public hangings, and they will ask, 'What were they thinking?'"
Read @NickKristof’s death penalty opinion in @nytimes, published today.
Marc Bookman's Latest Blog: The Empire Strikes Back
Pennsylvania is now the only remaining state in the Northeast with the death penalty.
“One year after a state task force issued a report calling Pennsylvania’s death penalty seriously flawed and in need of major reform, bipartisan opposition to capital punishment is surfacing in the Commonwealth’s legislature. A group of legislators, led by Lebanon County Republican State Rep. Frank Ryan (pictured, left) and Philadelphia Democrat Chris Rabb (pictured, right), have prepared legislation to repeal Pennsylvania’s death penalty and are circulating the proposal for co-sponsorship.”
#PlainViewProject Created Database of Racist & Intolerant Facebook Posts by Philly Cops
In a history lesson that winds through names like Ron Castille, Lynne Abraham and Seth Williams, Marc Bookman debunks the perception that a golden age of prosecutorial judgment in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania preceded Larry Krasner's ascension to the DA's office.
New Hampshire Repeals the Death Penalty
The offensive posts, made by police officers from a range of departments across the country, show a clear subculture. The data discredits the theory of “bad apples”, rather it shows conversations between officers at all ranks, who engage in inappropriate discussions about the people they are supposed to protect and serve.
According to the head of the organization, @ebakerwhite1 on Twitter, the database contains:
>100 officers encouraging unlawful police brutality
>100 officers encouraging vigilante violence
>100 officers posting false, bigoted claims about Islam and Muslims
>100 officers referring to alleged lawbreakers as "animals," "savages," or "sub-humans"
View the database at plainviewproject.org, and read more about it @nytimes @PhillyInquirer
Northampton County Man Avoids Death Sentence
New Hampshire became the 21st state in the country and last in New England to abolish the death penalty.
“The veto override, which required a two-thirds majority from both chambers, narrowly passed the state senate with 16 in favor and 8 opposed. It passed similarly in the New Hampshire House last week, with 247 votes in favor and 123 opposed. Sununu, who supports capital punishment, vetoed a similar bill just last year.”
Philly Man Released from Death Row After 28 Years
After prosecutors won a first degree murder conviction, both sides stressed to the jury the weight of the decision they needed to make. Jurors then deliberated for four hours, and according to the foreman, they remained deadlocked (7-5) for the entirety of their time in the jury room. As a result of the split, the judge will impose a life without the possibility of parole sentence for Dekota Baptiste.
“There’s no victory here,” Monahan said after the deadlock was declared. “One man is dead and the other will serve the rest of his life in prison. Two families are shattered.”
PA Death Sentence Vacated
Orlando Maisonet spent 28 years on death row following a trial plagued by ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct by disgraced Philly DA Roger King. Almost three decades later, Maisonet was resentenced to 14 to 28 years in prison plus two years probation and released from PA Death Row. According to his defense attorney, Daniel Silverman, Mr. Maisonet’s case represents one of the most troubling parts of the criminal justice system, “It was way too easy for the state to unfairly convict Mr. Maisonet 28 years ago, and far too difficult for Mr. Maisonet to finally receive the justice he was always due.”
A judge in York County vacated the death sentence of Paul Jackson Henry III after determining that the jurors who sentenced him to death failed to consider 2 mitigating factors. The jurors reportedly considered one mitigating factor— that Henry did not kill the eye-witnesses to the murder. However, the prosecution and defense had stipulated to two additional mitigating factors, meaning the jurors had to consider those and weigh them against the aggravators. Because the jurors only listed one mitigating factor (and not the 2 stipulated ones) on their jury slip, it could not be proven whether they considered all the required mitigating factors prior to making a decision.
While Henry’s death sentence has been vacated, his conviction for first-degree murder still stands. Both the prosecution and defense are considering how to proceed; whether to reach a deal or impanel a new sentencing jury.
ACCR Participates in Philly HAT Mitigation Seminar
In this episode of Aider and Abettor, Avi and Sajid get back together with Marc Bookman from the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation. Marc talks about his work on behalf of Kareem Johnson. He gives an update on Ricky Olds (User-139217541 – 14-going-on-life-without-parole). They also get an update on Krasner’s work in Philadelphia.
The Atlantic Center put out video on Ricky Olds. See it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XtySsPOP9w
Marc refers to this article: www.theatlantic.com/national/archiv…ent-men/278363/
Music in this episode is composed by @leeroservere, @omniboi, and @ryanperreault (fellow public defender)
States That Allow The Death Penalty Still Aren't Using It
This weekend we presented as faculty in the 16th National Seminar on the Development & Presentation of Mitigation in Capital Cases. Thanks to the Habeas Assistance & Training Counsel Project for hosting such an educational think-tank event!
Moratorium on California's Death Penalty
One third of U.S. states with the death penalty have not carried out an execution in at least ten years…sometimes much longer. Pennsylvania is no exception; the last execution occurred in June of 1999. Additionally, since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1979, 3 people have been executed. All three individuals, including the two who were executed in 1995, waived their rights to appeals and asked that their executions be carried out.
ACCR Files Amicus for King's Bench Petition on PA Death Penalty
"Our death penalty system has been — by any measure — a failure," Newsom said in a written statement. "It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible and irreparable in the event of a human error."
The moratorium will suspend executions as long as Newsom is governor and the death chamber at San Quentin Prison will be closed. This executive order will bring relief for 737 individuals on death row, however no sentences or convictions will be changed.
PA Prosecutors Are Increasingly Reluctant to Pursue Capital Murder Charges
ACCR filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court arguing that the Pennsylvania Death Penalty is broken beyond repair. The brief details some of the most horrific examples of ineffective assistance of defense counsel and prosecutorial misconduct around the state.
Due to the high cost of a capital prosecution, the lengthy legal battles and the likelihood that the sentence will not actually be carried out, prosecutors in Pennsylvania are seeking death sentences less often.