Scott Panetti’s mental illness at issue again in new hearing

Scott PanettiIn a hearing last week in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, lawyers for Texas death row inmate Scott Panetti argued that his severe mental illness renders him without the mentally competency to be executed. They asked the court to send the case back to a lower federal court to decide whether Panetti could have federally appointed defense and further resources to argue his case against execution.

Continue Reading →

Questions about mitigating factors, in Kansas and beyond – a U.S. Supreme Court preview

Supreme Court Building

In preparation for the new term of the U.S. Supreme Court, starting on October 5, we will feature an occasional guest column by our newest board member, Ursula Bentele. Ursula is a renowned Supreme Court scholar, who will look at some of the Court’s cases with a particular eye towards those with implications for the death penalty. Once the Court has heard oral arguments and delivers its opinions, she will reflect on those outcomes and comment on how the Court’s resolution of the issues might affect the future of the death penalty in this country.

The first capital cases in front of the Court this term, scheduled for argument on October 7, involve three people whose death sentences were overturned by the Supreme Court of Kansas. Kansas’s highest court ruled that the instructions given to the jury during the sentencing phase of the trial were not adequate, and therefore their sentences are invalid.1 The fundamental issue in the case is obligation of jurors to consider mitigating circumstances in capital trials.

Continue Reading →

Pope Francis intensifies his call for America to end the death penalty

Pope Francis

As part of his visit to the United States this week, Pope Francis renewed his call for world abolition of the death penalty. He included specific encouragement to those working to end the death penalty in the United States and a focus on hope and rehabilitation.

Here is the Pope’s full statement on the death penalty, excerpted from his speech in front of the join session of Congress.

“The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

Continue Reading →

Governor Wolf stands by moratorium in PA Supreme Court hearing

Governor Tom Wolf

In February, Governor Tom Wolf called for a moratorium on executions, pending the outcome of a statewide study of the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf’s policy is now the topic of a heated debate that was heard earlier this month in front of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Philadelphia.

Terrance Williams, convicted of murder in 1984, was the first inmate who was granted a reprieve under Governor Wolf’s moratorium last spring. In response, many Pennsylvania prosecutors questioned Wolf’s power to halt all executions. Seth Williams, the District Attorney’s for the City of Philadelphia, filed a challenge accusing Governor Wolf of overstepping his authority.

Continue Reading →

Oklahoma court stays execution of Richard Glossip

In a unanimous ruling early this afternoon, the highest criminal court in Oklahoma granted a two-week stay in the execution of Richard Glossip. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals released their ruling, granting Glossip’s request for time to review new evidence.

One piece of evidence submitted to the court was a sworn affidavit from another inmate who claims he heard Justice Sneed admit to acting alone and setting up Glossip. Sneed plead guilty to the murder of Barry Van Treese in exchange for his testimony against Glossip, who he claimed hired him to commit the crime. Glossip has always maintained his innocence.

The Court of Appeals set a new execution date of September 30th. We will continue to post updates to our Twitter feed and Facebook page, and stay tuned for suggested actions to ensure Glossip’s claims of innocence are properly heard and the next execution date does not go forward.

Act now to halt execution in Oklahoma

Richard Glossip

Time is running out for Richard Glossip.

In less than 24 hours, Glossip is scheduled be executed, despite mounting evidence of his innocence.

Call Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin now, and ask her to stay the execution to allow for further investigation. Her phone lines are being flooded, but she needs to hear from you that this execution should not go forward.

Governor’s main office number: (405) 521-2342

Governor’s voicemail for comments: (405) 522-8857

The pending execution has generated a huge outcry from all over the world. From Sister Helen Prejean, to former Dallas Cowboys Coach Barry Switzer, to Virgin mogul Richard Branson, to conservative US Senator Tom Coburn, to actress Susan Sarandon – even a juror from the original case came forward to say he wouldn’t have voted to convict Glossip if he’d had all the evidence that is currently available.

Continue Reading →

Recommended: College Republicans in Kansas endorse repeal

KFCR logo

Citing pro-life views and fiscal responsibility, the Kansas Federation of College Republicans unanimously adopted a resolution calling for repeal of the death penalty. The group urged Kansas legislators to pass repeal and joined ranks with the Republican Liberty Caucus of Kansas, who announced support for repeal last year. The Kansas Republican Party has also dropped death penalty support from its platform.

Check out this article in the Huffington Post that puts the College Republicans’ new stance into a boarder context of bipartisan support for death penalty repeal.

Connecticut Supreme Court puts a nail in the coffin of state’s death penalty

CT Supreme Court building

Three years ago, EJUSA joined our partners at the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty and a broad coalition of supporters to celebrate Connecticut’s repeal of the death penalty. Now, the Connecticut Supreme Court has taken things a step further and ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.

Repeal in Connecticut was prospective, meaning it only applied to cases after the law was passed. It left 11 men on the state’s death row. The Court said that “the death penalty now fails to satisfy any legitimate penological purpose and is unconstitutionally excessive,” ruling that those 11 men will now be resentenced.

Continue Reading →

Campaign in Nebraska shifts focus to 2016 election

Voting booth

Last week, death penalty supporters in Nebraska submitted petition signatures to put repeal legislation in front of voters in the 2016 election.

The signatures have now been sent to county clerks, who will attempt to verify them against registered voters in the next 40 days. The official numbers will come out in October from the Secretary of State’s Office, but it seems there are enough for the death penalty to go before Nebraska voters next fall.

Continue Reading →

Breaking: Nebraskans to vote on the death penalty

Voting booth

Today, a group of death penalty supporters submitted signatures for a referendum on death penalty repeal – enough to suspend repeal and put it on the November 2016 ballot if they are all verified.

The media might tell you that this kills the repeal of the death penalty that you helped achieve this spring. They might say that Nebraskans across the state disagreed with repeal and will vote to bring the death penalty back next fall.

But here’s the truth:
Continue Reading →