Faith leaders support new trial in case of juror exclusion

Over 500 pastors recently released a letter calling for a new trial for Texas death row inmate Chris Young. The letter urges Texas officials to award Young a new trial because of the exclusion of a potential juror in his original death penalty case.

Young and his attorneys argue that the prospective juror was improperly struck from the jury because of her religious affiliation and her involvement in her church. They argue that striking a potential juror for that reason is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.

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Georgia Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty – An update from CCATDP

Last year, Georgia led the nation in executions with nine, which was the most in the Peach State’s history. While executions are at record levels, no one has been sentenced to die in Georgia in nearly three years, which suggests that its death penalty is slowly dying. However, there are many in Georgia who wish to hasten its demise. Just last week, a group of conservatives and libertarians came together to launch the Georgia Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (GA CCATDP) group and call on the state legislature to reexamine capital punishment. The press event was attended by a conservative state representative, former Republican Party official, think tank leader, and activists from across the state who described in detail why capital punishment is inconsistent with their values.

Republican State Representative and press conference participant, Brett Harrell, said, “I like to make sure that government is as efficient, effective, and small as possible,” but when speaking about the death penalty, “the government has failed to provide an efficient, effective, accurate system.”

If you missed the press conference, you can watch it here.

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Texas’ declining death penalty – An update from CCATDP

The death penalty remains in steep decline across the United States, and a recently released report (PDF) illustrates how capital punishment is falling out of favor even in Texas. According to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, this year the Lone Star State sentenced the fewest number of people to die since 1976. Furthermore, Texas has executed seven people in 2016, which represents a 20-year low. This is incredibly encouraging and demonstrates the hard work of many people in Texas. It also underscores what we’ve known for years: the death penalty is dying.

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Death Penalty Support Plunges to 40-Year Low – an update from CCATDP

Florida’s death penalty has remained in the national spotlight as of late. In January, the Sunshine State’s capital sentencing scheme was ruled unconstitutional because it gave judges, rather than jurors, too much power in the death penalty sentencing process. As a result, Florida’s legislature passed a bill requiring at least a 10-2 jury vote in order to sentence someone to die, but this statute was quickly deemed unconstitutional by a Miami-Dade judge.

However, the courts didn’t settle the matter until recently when the decision was appealed to the state’s Supreme Court, which agreed that Florida’s sentencing statute was a constitutional violation. Until the legislature addresses this issue, Florida is effectively without a death penalty, which should be a welcome hiatus given the state’s poor record with capital punishment.

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Report: America’s outlier death penalty counties

Outlier Counties report graphic

Harvard’s Fair Punishment Project released the second installment of a report showing the dysfunction in the use of the death penalty in the only 16 counties that continue to use it with any regularity. “Too Broken to Fix: An In-depth Look at America’s Outlier Death Penalty Counties,” looks at the 16 “outlier counties” – of 3,143 counties nationwide – that imposed five or more death sentences between 2010 and 2015.

The report looks at that last 10 years of  court opinions and records from these 16 “outlier counties” and analyzes all of the new death sentences handed down in these counties since 2010. Continue Reading →

Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Justices, give Duane Buck a second chance, CNN.com
Linda Geffin was the second chair prosecutor in Duane Buck’s case is now calling for a new sentencing in his case. She reflects on the racial bias that permeated Duane Buck’s case and our criminal justice system.

Being black shouldn’t mean a longer prison sentence, USA Today
The destructive myth of black dangerousness was heard in the highest court of the land yesterday – in a death penalty case out of Texas. Never has “broken beyond repair” been more apparent.

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Supreme Court hears death penalty racial bias case from Texas

Duane Buck

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Texas death penalty case of Duane Buck. Buck was sentenced to death after his own lawyer called an “expert” who testified that Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black. At this crucial moment, when our nation is confronting hard truths about race and the criminal justice system, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether this blatantly racist testimony will be allowed to stand or whether Buck must receive a new sentencing hearing, free of racial bias.

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Restorative Justice: Why Do We Need it?Brave New Films
EJUSA believes restorative justice can transform our justice system. Now a new film by Brave New Films explains why.

The Death Penalty Is Finally Dying. Here’s Why., Sojourners
Another piece by the incomparable Shane Claiborne with a powerful call to action: “Let’s all find a way to get in the way of death — and put our voice, our vote, our bodies in the way of the machinery of death until we make the death penalty history, once and for all.”

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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Execution drop makes some think death penalty is fading awayAssociated Press
The end is near. Executions are on track to hit a 25-year low in 2016.

Colorado Rep Don Pabon on John Fugelsang’s ‘Tell Me Everything’, Sirius XM via YouTube
The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) recently passed a resolution in favor of repealing the death penalty. With the help of Equal Justice USA, they studied the issue and came to the conclusion that the system is broken beyond repair and must be ended. Colorado State Representative Dan Pabon joins John Fugelsang on Sirius XM’s “Tell Me Everything” to talk about the resolution and NHCSL’s commitment to ending the death penalty in the U.S.

Meet The Ex-Gang Members From Chicago, Baltimore Trying to Keep Blood Off The StreetsThe Real News on YouTube
A video primer on the Cure Violence model to prevent harm and treat violence like a public health epidemic.
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Recommended this week

“Recommended this week” features highlights from the past week in news about the death penalty, crime survivors, and trauma-informed responses to crime.

Are Evangelicals Ditching the Death Penalty?The Marshall Project
Another sign of how the U.S. is changing on the death penalty: Evangelical Christians are turning against it. Heather Beaudoin, our Director of Evangelical Outreach quoted in this article that looks at the demographic’s growing concerns over the ultimate punishment.

There’s trauma on both sides of the police-community relationshipThe Washington Post
“African American and Latino children manifesting symptoms of stress and trauma akin to those who have lived in war zones. And many who patrol those communities show the same signs of stress and trauma… [T]hey’re supposed to serve share the same space, necessarily interact and can be deeply, sometimes tragically affected by each other.”

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