Criminal attorney (and DPF board member) Robert M. Sanger’s article in the current Criminal Law Bulletin, “Duties of Capital Trial Counsel Under the California ‘Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016,” is a guide for trial lawyers in capital cases with pending habeas corpus petitions under Proposition 66. The proposition, which passed in November, is “inoperable” and “unconstitutional” Sanger writes. The California Supreme Court stayed implementation of the proposition after a lawsuit was filed challenging its constitutionality by supporters of DPF. A ruling is expected before September.
“The decline of lynching in America coincided with the increased use of capital punishment. . . By the end of the 1930s, court-ordered executions outpaced lynchings in the former slave states for the first time.” So writes Bryan Stevenson in an essay, “A Presumption of Guilt,” in the NY Times Review of Books. “Given the racial disparities that still exist in this country, we should eliminate the death penalty and expressly identify our history of lynching as a basis for its abolition,” Stevenson argues.
Robert J. Norris’s Exonerated: A History of the Innocence Movement looks at wrongful convictions in the U.S. and “how federal and state governments have passed laws to prevent such injustices; lawyers and police have changed their practices; and advocacy organizations have multiplied across the country.”
The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, a Baptist pastor, theologian, and activist, argues that to believe in the death penalty “kills our relationship with God,” and that “our cultural obsession with violence harms our spiritual life,” in his book, The Execution of God: Encountering the Death Penalty.
In an editorial for the Tampa Bay Times, Fr. Bob Schneider, a Catholic priest in Clearwater, Florida, calls for the state to resentence the hundreds of inmates who were sentenced to death by non-unanimous juries and are now entitled to new sentencing hearings, to life without parole, and then abolish the death penalty altogether. “ I believe in mercy and redemption, and that only God has the power to take life. I know not everyone shares these beliefs, but I believe the great majority of Floridians are smart, practical people who can recognize it’s time to stop throwing good money after bad with our broken death penalty system,” he writes.