Intro to New Scientist article...
WHICH inmates on death row will eventually be executed? Many never make the final journey from prison cell to execution chamber - but nobody really understands who will be spared.
Until now. A new computer system can predict which death row prisoners will live and which will be killed - with chilling accuracy. And its dispassionate analysis has confirmed suspicions that the people most likely to be executed are those who have had the least schooling, rather than those who have committed the most heinous crimes.
The US, the only western democracy to retain the death penalty, executes only a small proportion of the people it sentences to death. For instance, just 53 of the 3228 inmates on death row were executed in 2006.
So how were those 53 chosen? "We couldn't see any clear patterns in the data," says computer scientist Stamos Karamouzis, who has been investigating this question ...
Friday, June 27, 2008
Artificial brain predicts death-row executions
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Why I Oppose the Death Penalty
Why the death penalty? The death penalty is very hurtful to the minority community in Alameda County and the entire state. One reason for this is due to the tremendous cost associated with the death penalty that is draining the county budget. Every death penalty trial costs local counties $1.1 million more than a trial ending in permanent imprisonment. Every person already on death row costs state tax payers hundreds of thousands.
In total, we are paying $139 million each and every year more, for a broken death penalty system, than we would pay for those individuals condemned to permanent imprisonment instead. And now we know that rebuilding death row at San Quentin will cost nearly $400 million, plus over $1 billion to operate the facility for 20 years. While we are spending all this money on people on death row most of them end up dying of natural causes before their long delayed sentences are carried out. At this time of fiscal crisis, when every state program is being cut, just imagine what that money could buy. For example, our children in Oakland could greatly benefit from more afterschool programs, playgrounds, and other activities that can lead them to a more productive life.
People of color, specifically African-Americans and Latinos, are much more likely to be victims of murder than our white neighbors. Yet, the death penalty is reserved almost exclusively for cases where the victim is white. A statewide study by Professors Michael Radelet and Glenn Pierce on race and the death penalty found people convicted of killing a white person are three times more likely to be sentenced to death than someone convicted of killing an African-American. If the victim is Latino, the disparity grows to four times. I don't know what causes the disparity, but it may have a lot to do with the fact that homicides of people of color are less likely to be solved than homicides of white victims. In Alameda County, where I live, only 26% of homicides were solved in 2005. Given that we can keep those on death row from returning to the streets without executions, the millions spent on death row could be better spent for more detectives to solve the many cold cases. That could begin to make those in Oakland feel a bite more safe.
But perhaps more disturbing, at least to me, that same study found that counties that are predominately white are more likely to send people to death row than counties that are diverse. Death sentencing in California is based on geography, not on a structured, evenhanded formula. Only ten counties account for 85% of death sentences since 2000 and Alameda County is one of them. The vast majority of California counties rarely or never send anyone to death row.
We should also ask how many of the 670 people on death row are in fact innocent? Thank God for DNA testing and for those that have been exonerated in the past; but have mercy on those that did not escape the clutches of a broken and unfair system. DNA evidence is only available in a small number of cases. We will never know how many innocent people we have already executed in this country, let alone how many innocent people are growing old on death row all the while praying that someone will help them.
My hope is that more people will understand how unjust the death penalty is and will call for a halt to all death penalty trials. In the meantime, the money now spent on death penalty facilities, and all monies directed towards new death penalty cases should be funneled towards resources that will strengthen our communities. The best way to do that is through funding education. Fight Crime, Invest in Kids—a law enforcement organization—found that increasing California’s high school graduation rate by 10% would prevent 500 homicides per year. They found the impact would be greatest in schools that are predominantly African-American and Latino, schools were the majority of students now do not graduate. Educating our children is not only smart policy in and of itself, it is also the most effective violence prevention program we have.
Please don't surmise that I don't sympathize with all the families that are victims of murder, being one myself, I certainly care. However, I would not have wanted to relive my brother's murder over and over again, trial after trial, as happens in death penalty cases. A discovery I made in the wake of my brothers murder is that hating or failing to forgive the perpetrator allows more than one grave to be dug. The stress, pain and hurt that could riddle my body and mind just does not serve me nor honor my brother's memory. I feel that as long as the perpetrator is permanently locked away, they will serve time in hell here on earth. My heart is with each family that has ever had to face the devastating pain of losing a loved one to a senseless crime.
We are only as strong as our weakest link. Marginalizing communities based on the color of ones skin needs to become a thing of the past - ASAP. We will come closer to that goal if we replace the death penalty with permanent imprisonment and invest the money saved in educating all our children.
Delane Sims is the owner of a nail spa in Oakland but is a social justice activist at heart. She volunteers as chair of a senior group she founded in San Leandro, is a commissioner on Aging in Alameda County, a student at Berkeley City College and is now the Death Penalty Outreach Coordinator for the ACLU of Northern California.
June 20, 2008, The California Progress Report
The California Progress Report is published by Frank D. Russo, a longtime observer of and participant in California politics.
Mexico asks World Court to halt U.S. executions
By Emma Thomasson
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Mexico asked the World Court on Thursday to take urgent steps to stop imminent U.S. executions of five Mexicans on death row who were denied their rights to consular assistance.
One of the five, Jose Medellin, is due to die on August 5 in Texas, which is poised to set execution dates for the others.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled in 2004 that the United States had violated international law by failing to inform 51 Mexicans now on death row of their right to consular assistance and said the cases should be reviewed. Read more...
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
A plea from Terri Been, Jeff Wood's sister
My name is Terri Been and I am a Texas republican who is AGAINST the death penalty. I am sorry to say that it was not always this way as I was raised to believe in the death penalty; BUT my views changed over 10 years ago when I was thrust unwillingly into the Texas Judicial system; at which time my eyes were opened to the complete injustice of our whole system. See, I am the sister of a man wrongfully convicted under the law of parties in Texas. This man's name is Jeffery Wood and he is set to die on August 21st, 2008 for a murder he did NOT commit.
I am writing to you because I am feeling helpless, and I do not know what I can do. These days, I find myself slave to the computer...at first I was a slave to the computer waiting for the worst...to see my brother's name upon the list of those waiting to be executed. That time has come and gone, but I find myself still a slave to the computer in hopes of finding people who can help us in our fight against the Texas Judicial System.
With the execution date set less than 3 months from now, we are running out of time. We are desperate for exposure with people who have some kind of influence on the public, or people who know other people who may be able to help. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or just anything that may help...please feel free to get in touch with me.
We now have a homepage for Jeff in addition to the online petition that is circulating, (which can be found on his homepage at the following web address: www.freewebs.com/savejeffwood under the how to help section). I humbly ask you to help my family by taking a few minutes of your time to read a few facts regarding Jeff’s case and to sign his petition that we will be sending the governor! While you are on Jeff’s Web Page, I also ask that you take an extra minute or two to look at the other information we have in the how you can help section. For those of you who are familiar with Kenneth Foster’s case (which is very similar to Jeff’s case) it took their family over 17,000 messages to the Governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles to get his sentence commuted to Life. This was accomplished by sending petitions, faxes, letters, and by making phone calls. At this point, I am getting a little worried because we only have 353 signatures on the petition, and while I am eternally grateful for every single signature…I need more. I need calls, letters and faxes to go along with the petition signatures.
I humbly ask that you help my family. Jeff is my baby brother and he did not kill anybody! Please ask yourselves what you would do if you were in my situation.
While I am trying to save my brother because he is innocent of murder, I am fighting to abolish the death penalty completely. In addition to the protesting and campaigning my family and I have been doing with Capital X lately (not only for my brother, but for all who face the Death Penalty), I wrote an editorial about the death penalty and had it published in the Lampasas and Killeen newspapers. This is posted as a bulletin on my page and is entitled…Are we a leader in Human Rights. (It is not about Jeff, but the death penalty in general. Please feel free to repost this document if you feel compelled to do so.) Also, please take a few minutes to look at the few videos I have on my page…they are very powerful clips and will make you think...maybe even cry.
If you do decide that you are interested in helping us save my brother’s life; please forward this to as many people as you know. I need at least 1000 signatures on the petition before we can send it in. And again, I am also desperate for letters, and faxes to be sent to the governor and the Texas Pardons and Parole Board as well.
I feel that the more who know about this and participate in it, the better it will be for all inmates who face death, not just my brother. Up until this point, we have done what we have been told to do...'sit back, and let the system work.' BUT the system has failed my brother, failed his daughter, and failed those of us who love him…Now we are just desperate!
Your help, guidance, and consideration to this matter will be greatly appreciated...more than you will ever know!
Please feel free to contact me if you need to, but if you could pass on that info I would be extremely appreciative!
I thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter! Again, your help will be greatly appreciated! God Bless You All and thank you for all that you do!!!!
Terri Been B.S., M. Ed
mysrus (at) hotmail . com
210-887-2190 or 512-556-5674
P.S. I am very tired and worn out, so please forgive any grammatical or spelling errors as I just cannot seem to think these days!
Introducing A Boy Named Rocky: A Coloring Book for the Children of Incarcerated Parents.
This coloring book will help children discuss and understand their feelings. It can be used in educational, therapeutic, and family settings to explore loss and help maintain family cohesiveness during parent-child separation.
Children with incarcerated parents are an invisible population. There is no one agency that is responsible for them and their welfare. Nationwide, more than 2 million children have a parent who is incarcerated in state and federal prisons, and local jails (U.S. Department of Justice 2007). Since 1991, the number has continued to increase by more than 50%.
Research indicates that the loss of the incarcerated parent, especially the mother, has a profound effect on minor children and adolescents. Children retain bonds and love for parents regardless of the label attached to them by society. One study estimated that children with imprisoned parents are almost six times more likely than their peers to become involved in crime and incarcerated at some point in their lives.
These children can experience a variety of emotions including anger, isolation/sadness, fear, anxiety and guilt. These emotions or their reactions to them can lead to problems or violence, erosion of self-esteem, and “risky” or dysfunctional behaviors. Many of these children see no chance of having their lives follow paths which are different from their parents.
Psychotherapist Dr. Janice M. Beal and Federal Judge Vanessa Gilmore in their respective professions had both seen the emotional devastation in the lives of children whose parents were incarcerated. They designed this coloring book to help children discuss and and understand their feelings.This book can be used in several settings to explore loss and create treatment plans for the minor child.
The book may be purchased online by clicking on the Add to Cart button or downloading an Order Form from.
Supreme Court rejects death penalty for raping children
Court rejects death penalty for raping children
By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer 38 minutes ago
The Supreme Court has struck down a Louisiana law that allows the execution of people convicted of a raping a child.
In a 5-4 vote, the court says the law allowing the death penalty to be imposed in cases of child rape violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
"The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion. His four liberal colleagues joined him, while the four more conservative justices dissented.
There has not been an execution in the United States for a crime that did not also involve the death of the victim in 44 years.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday also cut the $2.5 billion punitive damages award in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster to $500 million.
The court ruled that victims of the worst oil spill in U.S. history may collect punitive damages from Exxon Mobil Corp., but not as much as a federal appeals court determined.
Justice David Souter wrote for the court that punitive damages may not exceed what the company already paid to compensate victims for economic losses, about $500 million compensation.
Exxon asked the high court to reject the punitive damages judgment, saying it already has spent $3.4 billion in response to the accident that fouled 1,200 miles of Alaska coastline.
A jury decided Exxon should pay $5 billion in punitive damages. A federal appeals court cut that verdict in half.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
KXAN: Judge rejects ex-Georgetown sergeant's plea bargain
GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) -- A judge on Tuesday rejected the plea bargain presented in the case of Jimmy Fennell, the former Georgetown police officer charged with sexual assault.
Fennell pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sexual misconduct last month.
It is rare for a judge to reject a plea bargain agreement, but some said it was no surprise because Fennell was getting just two years in prison.
"Ninety-five percent of all defendants who are resolving their cases resolve them with recommendations that are made from the DA's office occasionally the recommendation that we make the court feels needs to be decided by a jury this is one of those cases," said Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley.
"Does it reduce his odds of coming out as innocent, because he's already pled guilty? No, the law does not permit anything to be used in a jury trial that was conducted during plea bargain negotiations," said defense attorney Bob Phillips.
Fennell, 34, went before Judge Burt Carnes Tuesday afternoon expecting to be sentenced to a two-year prison term along with 10 years' probation and a $5,000 fine.
He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sexual misconduct stemming from an incident in October. That's when Fennell was accused of driving a drunk woman to a secluded area while on duty for the Georgetown Police Department and asking her to dance and then sexually assaulting her as she leaned against his police cruiser.
Fennell will go before a jury Sept. 8.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
15th Annual Fast and Vigil Approaching
Every year, for the past fifteen years, from June 29 – July 2nd, something amazing happens in Washington, DC. Abolitionists from around the country and world come together for a four day Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty.
They set-up shop on the sidewalk of the U.S. Supreme Court and put their ideals into action. And they lose some weight.
You might wonder why hold such an event during such a hot time of the year. And if you know DC in the summer, you know that it can be brutal. Do note that the fast is optional for participants and those who fast drink plenty of liquids.
Yup, summers in DC are high tourist season and the U.S. Supreme Court is a heavily trafficked spot for tourists and DC residents. So, it’s a fantastic opportunity to engage thousands of people on the death penalty. And since many of those who participate in The Fast and Vigil year after year have such powerful stories to tell – they are death row exonorees, family members of murder victims, family members of death row inmates and other long-time abolitionists - if a passerby takes the time to stop and have a conversation with someone, that will likely be one profound conversation and experience.
But why not hold court at the court in April or May, at the beginning of DC’s tourist season and when the weather is much more moderate?
The answer is that June 29th and July 2nd are the anniversaries of two historic death penalty cases heard and decided by the very Court where this protest now takes place – the U.S. Supreme Court.
On June 29, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty is arbitrary and capricious. More than 600 condemned inmates had their death sentences reduced to life. On July 2, 1976, in Gregg v. Georgia the U.S. Supreme Court upheld new state death penalty laws allowing the resumption of executions in the United States.
For more information about the Fast and Vigil and to see a schedule for this year’s event, click here.
Charles Hood execution order withdrawn
execution order for Charles Hood. Details to follow.
Headline: Stay the execution of Charles Dean Hood
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals failed to uphold the integrity of the justice system yesterday by refusing to stay the execution of murderer Charles Dean Hood.
There is no hint that Mr. Hood is innocent of the grisly double slaying in Plano that he was convicted of 18 years ago. Rather, the issue is whether anyone should be tried in a Texas court that resembles a stacked deck.
Questions have been raised about the impartiality of the trial judge, Sue Holland, because of a hush-hush romantic involvement she purportedly was having with the district attorney at the time, Tom O'Connell. Mr. O'Connell was active in the trial, questioning witnesses and delivering part of the closing arguments.
If he did so in front of his secret lover, it would not only offend the sense of fair play, it would appear to offend the Texas Constitution. Article 5, Section 11 offers protections against court proceedings in which a lawyer has things wired with the judge. It says:
No judge shall sit in any case wherein the judge may be interested, or where either of the parties may be connected with the judge, either by affinity or consanguinity.
In petitioning the appeals court last week, Mr. Hood's attorneys offered only innuendo about, not proof of, a secret affair. Nor did they provide proof that a close relationship affected the judge's decision-making.
But considering the gravity of the charges, the appeals court was duty-bound to stay Mr. Hood's execution today in Huntsville and to sort out the facts.
The case involves the ghastly slayings of Ronald Williamson and Tracie Lynn Wallace. They must not be forgotten, and their loved ones deserve swift resolution of the killer's fate. The execution date has been postponed before. To some, another delay might have seemed like a cruel joke.
But public confidence in the justice system is essential. The appeals court needed to send a signal that Texas courts demand the highest standards when people's lives are at stake. It's beyond disappointing that wasn't the case.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Report from the Texas Democratic Convention
The last two days have been a roller coaster ride for everyone at the TX State Democratic Convention with the Resolution to Abolish the Death Penalty in Texas.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Barack Obama I know
"I did not know Senator Barack Obama at all, but like many others here in Illinois became completely convinced about his leadership abilities after I had the opportunity to watch him deftly help guide our state through a crisis in our criminal justice system. I can say from personal experience that Barack Obama definitely has what we need to lead this nation and is the man that can help us solve our most complex problems.
"It was the spring of 2003 when I made the long drive down to our our capitol city of Springfield, Illinois to give testimony regarding a complex series of criminal justice reform bills being considered in the Illinois General Assembly.
"Three members of my family had been brutally murdered, and I went representing a victim organization concerned with some of the legislation. The hearings were tedious and very contentious and went on before the state's Senate Judiciary Committee for over 5 hours that day.
"Illinois had been through a very traumatic couple of years. The Chicago Tribune and other major media outlets had done lengthy and high-profile exposés about the many problems in the state's criminal justice system, including the release of several wrongfully convicted men, some on death row, some within hours of execution, and millions of dollars of taxpayer money wasted through incompetence. A study commission had recommended a lengthy list of reforms. Victims' families and prosecutors had been through months of agonizing public hearings.
"After the state legislature refused to implement even a single one of the needed reforms, Illinois' previous Governor made national history by commuting the entire death row population to natural life sentences. The political climate in the state was highly charged and everyone knew the problems were systemic and a lot was at stake. When the new legislature and Governor came to office, all these pieces of reform legislation were brought forward again, and all had to pass through the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"The lead co-sponsors of the reform bills were State Senators John Cullerton and Barack Obama. I had heard of the very prominent attorney Senator Cullerton, but did not have a clue who the other guy was. The bills were highly complex, legally often very technical, and feelings were running very deep. Law Enforcement, States Attorneys, victims families, civil rights groups, science experts, human rights organizations, defense attorneys, media and religious figures, politicians and public officials from all over the state were very concerned with the details of the various bills. There was little agreement, it was all incredibly complex, and yet the need was clear that we had to make some big changes.
"While waiting for my turn to speak, I listened to the other witnesses give the most complicated and technical testimony imaginable. I watched more than a dozen state senators for hours and they were, expectedly, all over the place: in and out of the room, often on the phone, or eating, or reading, or talking to someone else, sometimes even seemingly just inattentive to the testimony that droned on and on. But not Barack Obama.
"He was really, really listening. And fully engaged. And incredibly insightful. And helpful. I remember several hours into the hearing leaning over to the woman from the League of Women Voters seated next to me and saying, 'Who is this Barack Obama guy? He is really good . . .'
"Because what I had been seeing that day, and what I saw several other times I had to return to Springfield for similarly lengthy hearings and debates, was a man so competent, so intelligent, so articulate, so patient, so 'on-task', so able to cut to the very heart of the issue and craft so well the solution to such complex problems, that he stood out unmistakably. He never broke focus, hour after hour, from the important testimony being given. He listened intently without distraction. He asked incisive and important questions. And when he would finally speak after difficult debate, the discussion would be over. Because invariably what he would say was so clearly the common sense solution that it was evident to everyone in the room. He spoke with such charismatic authority, he showed such leadership, conscience, and clarity of thought and word, that opposition simply melted away. His solutions received strong bi-partisan support and dozens of complex reforms were passed into law. In the final package of bills that passed there were many 'winners' and no 'losers'. Everyone was engaged, heard, and reasonable, acceptable solutions were found for all concerned. I am fortunate to now serve on a committee for the Illinois General Assembly that is monitoring the progress of those reforms.
"What I can say without equivocation is that knowing now the state of our nation, this is exactly the kind of man we need running everything from Cabinet meetings in the White House, to international negotiations on the global stage."
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Karl Chamberlain Executed in Texas
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that
Texas has executed convicted killer Karl Eugene Chamberlain for the rape-slaying of a woman in Dallas 17 years ago, making him the first Texas prisoner in nearly nine months to be put to death in the nation's most active death penalty state.This was the first execution in Texas since Sept 25, 2007, and the 406th person executed in Texas since 1982.
Chamberlain, 37, died by injection Wednesday night
Cross-posted in TMN blog.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Austinites Protest the Resumption of Texas Executions:
"STOP THE EXECUTION OF KARL CHAMBERLAIN"
Austin, TX – June 10, 2008 – Members of the Campaign to END the Death Penalty and opponents of Capital Punishment will rally in downtown Austin Wednesday, June 11 to protest the execution of Karl Chamberlain and the resumption of executions in Texas after an eight-month hiatus. Demonstrators will gather at 5:30 PM at the south-side steps of the Texas State Capitol Building at 11th and Congress Avenue.
Between September 2007 and May 2008 there were no executions in the United States while the Supreme Court deliberated over the current method of lethal injection raised in Kentucky by Baze v. Rees. On April 16, 2008 the United States Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Kentucky lethal injection protocol, thus allowing states to proceed with scheduled executions. Texas intends to carry out the execution of Karl Chamberlain on June 11.
Sponsored by Campaign to END the Death Penalty
Endorsed by Campus Progress, International Socialist Organization, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Texas Moratorium Network,
and Texas Students Against the Death Penalty