“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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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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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.
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
"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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
A death penalty case against Robert Anderson Jr. has resulted in a guilty verdict and a life sentence in Cumberland County. The judge imposed a sentence of life without parole after the jury deliberated for only approximately 90 minutes, returning 12 (unanimous) votes for life.Read More
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.Read More