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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
States That Allow The Death Penalty Still Aren't Using It

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.

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Moratorium on California's 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.

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Akeem Davisdeath penalty
Brief Filed in PA Supreme Court for Kareem Johnson Case

A red hat with the victim’s blood and the defendant’s sweat was key to the prosecution’s case against Kareem Johnson. Mr. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death; he spent the next 9 years of his life on death row. Then, his defense team gained access to the original DNA report and learned that the red hat had no blood on it at all! The Prosecutor claimed that he (along with the lead investigators) “misread the report” and then made a series of “mistakes,” but such a series of calamitous errors seems unlikely. ACCR’s brief urges the Supreme Court to recognize the prosecution’s abhorrent misconduct as intentional and bar retrial for Mr. Johnson on double jeopardy grounds.

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Philly Man's Second Conviction Overturned After 28 Years on Death Row

Orlando Maisonet must now be retried or set free after spending 28 years on death row following 2 homicide convictions. The judge in this case cited prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel when vacating the second conviction. Both convictions were secured by disgraced, and now deceased, ex-prosecutor Rodger King. As a result, criminal justice reform advocates are now calling for a review of all cases handled by King.

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Cyntoia Brown Granted Clemency

On December 12, 2018, ACCR worked with many other great organizations to file a clemency letter on Brown’s behalf. Brown, a sex trafficking victim, was sentenced to life for killing a man who bought her for sex and would have had to serve 51 years of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Now, she will be released on August 7, 2019, exactly 15 years from the date of her arrest. Check out our Twitter page to read the clemency letter.

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