Two Percenters: 2% of Counties in USA Responsible for Most Death Sentences

We've discussed the new Harvard Law School report before, insofar as it concerns prosecutors (read our post here). 

However, this week's New York Times Magazine has taken a different view on that new research report and it's very interesting.

Read the 55-page report from Harvard's Fair Punishment Project, entitled "Too Broken to Fix" here.

The New York Times delves into the national map and considers the ramifications of the report's finding that only 2% (that's right, two percent) of the counties in the United States are tied to most of the Death Row convictions in this nation.

Sixteen counties specifically, all within 7 states, and all located in the South or on the West Coast.

List of Florida Counties in the Harvard Report's Death Penalty Two Percent

Included here are the following counties in the State of Florida: 

  • Duval
  • Hillsborough
  • Miami-Dade
  • Pinellas.

 

New Mexico Reinstating Death Penalty? What About Delaware and New Jersey?

Last week, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez ordered that all flags be flown at half-staff in the State of New Mexico to honor Police Officer Jose Chavez who was gunned down during a traffic stop in Hatch, New Mexico.

This week, the news is that Governor Martinez is seeking to have the death penalty re-instated there. 

Governor Martinez is a former prosecutor, and her perspective in the viability and need for capital punishment is shared by most prosecutors, at both the state and federal levels.

But will New Mexico return to executions? 

It was only a few years back that the death penalty was repealed there -- see our previous post on that event, which was hard-fought by lots of powers-that-be there, including Albuquerque's Sheriff Darren White. 

In January, Governor Martinez will go before the state legislature to start the process of getting the death penalty back on the books.

And it looks like she's got better than even odds of success. 

What about Delaware and New Jersey?

Meanwhile, there are reports of movements in other states to bring back the death penalty:

1.  Delaware has some politicos moving to reinstate capital punishment after the recent state supreme court ruling there that the Delaware Death Penalty statute was unconstitiutional.

2.  New Jersey also has some lawmakers working to have the death penalty reinstated there.  The incentive here, as with New Mexico Governor Martinez, is reported to be in response to the killing of police officers. 

 

Death Penalty Without a Killing: Will Texas Execute Jeff Wood?

As you may know, the focus of Terence Lenamon's death penalty practice is upon the second trial in a death penalty case, the sentencing phase, where a man (or woman) has been convicted of a capital crime and now, the question is whether or not the state will succeed in their quest for capital punishment.  (See, e.g., this post which includes one of Terry Lenamon's opening statements.)

Death Penalty Sentencing Phase:  Mental Illness, Mental Disability

Often, the crux of his defense will turn on things like the mental illness or instability of his client.  Things like schizophrenia come into play.  

In some cases, the critical factor will be mental capacity or intellectual disability.  Things like traumatic brain injuries, chromosomal abnormalities, and introduction of toxins (including extended drug use) may be facts to be presented.

Jeff Wood on Texas Death Row

Terry's not representing Jeff Wood in Texas, but he knows the fight that is being fought right now.  Attorneys for Mr. Wood are trying to stop his execution, scheduled in a matter of days. 

If they don't succeed, Jeff Wood will die by lethal injection on August 24, 2016.

And Jeff Wood is argued to suffer both intellectual and emotional disabilities -- things that his lawyers argue should make him constitutionally ineligible for that execution.

An even bigger argument?  One that goes back to the guilt or innocence phase of a death penalty trial, more than in the sentencing trial. 

Jeff Wood didn't kill anyone.  He was sentenced to die under a Texas law that is called the "law of parties," where he is held just as liable for the death of the victim as his accomplice in crime, the person who did do the killing.  (That killer was executed back in 2002.)

So, will Texas execute Jeff Wood? 

 

Federal Death Penalty Challenged as Unconstitutional

Remember the tragedy back in June 2015 when 9 people were gunned down at a church in Charleston, South Carolina? 

A young man named Dylann Roof was arrested and charged with the multiple homicides under federal criminal laws against hate crimes.

This makes Dylann Roof eligible for capital punishment under the FEDERAL death penalty, not any state statute. The laws of South Carolina are not at issue here.

Now, Roof's defense counsel are arguing that the federal death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution as cruel and unusual punishment under both the Fifth and the Eighth Amendments.

Read their brief here. 

Did you know that there was a federal death penalty statute that operates independently of any state law?

 
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