New Blog to Check Out: Artists vs. Death Penalty

There's a new blog to check out for those who are interested in the death penalty, published by Athina Ouranidou.  It's entitled "Artists vs. Death Penalty." 

Athina is in her final year as a law student at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom.  She's opposed to the death penalty, and has started publishing Artists vs. Death Penalty as a vehicle for artists to share their work, in its various forms, in a stand against the death penalty.  And, of course, as a means to inspire others as well.

Already, Athina reports that her blog has achieved a steady top ranking in Google Everything Search for the phrase, ‘artists death penalty’ and she's been interviewed by the Greek magazine “Ανεξartητη Γυναίκα της Θεσσαλονίκης” about the blog site (you can read the interview online - check out page 44).

Check it out!


Florida State University Law School Forum: Panel of Experts Targets Florida Death Penalty

Florida has exonerated more Death Row Inmates than any other state in the nation - 23 inmates, to date - and that's something we all need to be taking very, very seriously.

Which is exactly what has been happening over in Tallahassee, where a panel made up of respected academics, experts on death penalty legalities, and legislators gathered together to consider how to combat the evident and obvious danger that innocent folk might be executed by the State of Florida.

Seems everyone agrees that there are lots of problems with capital punishment, cost not being the least of them.  However, it doesn't appear that the swift and clean answer of abolishing the death penalty in Florida will be happening any time soon. 

What was this panel?  It was put together by the Florida State University in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of an ABA study of Florida's death penalty procedures - which included recommendations that weren't followed by Florida lawmakers.

For example, Florida still doesn't need an unianimous jury to sentence someone to death.  Juries can recommend the death penalty by a majority vote, and the judge imposes the sentence (and he or she usually follows the jury's recommendation).  The ABA  thought that juries in Florida should at least be required to vote 100% in favor of death before it was recommended.  Didn't happen.

What will result from the panel's efforts?  Too soon to tell.  We should look for new proposed legislation coming from it ... but whether or not those proposals become law in the State of Florida is another ball game.  

Texas Death Row's Hank Skinner Execution Stayed as Focus Shifts to Prosecutors' Actions

DNA testing for Death Row inmates gets a lot of attention over in Texas, but it's really a national issue -- and lots of eyes are turned to Austin this week as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the November 8, 2011, execution of Hank Skinner.  Skinner's fight is far from over: the opinion states that the stay has been granted so the court can " ... take the time to fully review the changes in the statute as they pertain to this case."

Skinner still has not found victory in his fight to get evidence tested for DNA that includes the knives used as murder weapons. 

David Protess of the Innocence Project has been following the Hank Skinner story - as well as the importance of DNA testing in death penalty cases - for awhile now.  For details on the Skinner case and this latest ruling's impact, read his article at the Huffington Post. 

Meanwhile, more and more attention is being given to the actions of a series of prosecutors in the Hank Skinner matter and their apparent blindspot on justice insofar as testing DNA evidence in this case. 

What happens to the prosecutors?  It's not clear - first things first is getting Skinner's DNA testing requests approved and testing done.  Moreover, assuming that Skinner is proven an innocent man it's also not clear what the ramifications of that reality will be on the district attorneys who made decisions in this case.

Perhaps the best news today, other than the stay of execution of course, is the fact that more and more questions are being asked of the propriety of actions and attitudes of the prosecutors in this case (and hopefully, in every death penalty case). 

Are they concerned with justice or are they concerned with politics or sadly, building a winning track record at trial? 




Ohio May Execute 66 Year Old Reginald Brooks on November 15: Clemency Requests and Court Rulings Are Not Favorable

Over in Ohio, Reginald Brooks and his ace defense team are fighting against an execution date of November 15, 2011, when Brooks is scheduled for capital punishment in the homicides of his three sons, killed long ago while they slept (in 1982).

A federal district judge has failed to find error in the changes that the State of Ohio made in its execution methodology: Judge Gregory Frost then rejected Mr. Brooks' motion that his execution be delayed. 

Meanwhile, on the same day, the Ohio Supreme Court issued its determinations that denied several different requests by Mr. Brooks, also declining to delay an execution day that is two weeks away. 

Read that summary disposition here.

Defense attorneys are working very, very hard on this case.  Brooks' age has been the basis for requests of mercy and clemency, and arguments have been advanced that he suffers from mental illness. 

The Ohio Parole Board came down against clemency in an unanimous vote on Monday.  Read their Clemency Report here. 

There's not many more tools in the defense team's tool box.  Time is running out and no powers that be have seen fit to extend that execution schedule.

Hat's off to that defense team, today and every day through November 15, 2011.  Few can understand the emotional, raw, intense efforts those death penalty defense attorneys are experiencing right now. 

Perhaps knowing that your work is being acknowledged and appreciated by more folk than you know will be of some help to you.  Because it's out here. 

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