Atlantic Center for Capital Representation

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Lester Holt: What I learned from spending two nights in a maximum-security prison

“For two nights I slept and to a limited extent lived like an inmate in Angola, housed in a tiny cell in the same facility where the most difficult inmates are kept, and chillingly just a few steps away from death row. Journalism thrives on access. To understand the issues of criminal justice reform that are now riding atop a bipartisan wave, it was important to me to get close. And so I did.”

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Op Ed: Victims Against the PA Death Penalty

Vicki Schieber lost her daughter Shannon in 1998 to a serial rapist and murderer. Prior to the trial, Vicki and her husband decided, based on their Catholic faith, that they didn’t want their daughter’s murderer to be executed. The prosecutor ignored them and pursued the death penalty.

“The case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court argues that Pennsylvania’s death penalty system is cruel. I have lived that truth. Victims deserve better than endless trials and appeals that expend countless dollars on death penalty cases. We deserve better than a system meting out the ultimate punishment in our name whether we want it or not.

Pennsylvania should abolish the death penalty and replace it with a system that truly honors victims and their surviving family members.”

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New PA Grant Program for Indigent Capital Defense

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.”

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The death penalty punishes PA's corrections workers, too

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.

Please read & share.

#Pennsylvania #DeathPenalty

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Krasner Argues Pennsylvania's Death Penalty is Unconstitutional

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.

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Today: ACCR's Nine Year Anniversary!

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.

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Akeem Davis
Opinion: Will Pennsylvania Abolish the Death Penalty?

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.


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Efforts Grow to Repeal the Death Penalty in Pennsylvania

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.”

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Akeem Davis
#PlainViewProject Created Database of Racist & Intolerant Facebook Posts by Philly Cops

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

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Akeem Davis
New Hampshire Repeals the Death Penalty

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.”

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Northampton County Man Avoids Death Sentence

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.”

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Philly Man Released from Death Row After 28 Years

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.”

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PA Death Sentence Vacated

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.

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Podcast Alert!

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)

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Akeem Davis