In his New Republic article, “Why Aren’t Democratic Governors Pardoning More Prisoners?”, Matt Ford looks at how few Democratic governors pardon or commute the sentences of prisoners, even though it is in their power to do so. Ford singles out former Gov. Jerry Brown, who ignored the 739 men and women on California’s death row while issuing pardons for at least 1,332 prisoners since 2011, “quadrupling the number issued by the preceding four governors combined.” His refusal to tackle any aspect of the state’s broken death penalty system before leaving office this week means “He has left plenty of work for his successor to do,” Ford writes.
In her New York Times article, “Jazmine Barnes Case Shows How Trauma Can Affect Memory,” Sandra E. Garcia looks at the case of seven-year-old Jazmine Barnes, who was killed when a gunman fired into the car she was riding in with her mother and three sisters in Texas late last month. Jazmine’s mother and sisters described the gunman, for a composite sketch, as a 30-40-year-old white man driving a red pick-up truck. The actual suspect, now in custody, is a 20-year-old black man. This mistaken eyewitness testimony is an example, a criminologist told Garcia, of why “eyewitness testimony is the least reliable evidence you can have.” Eyewitnesses, especially victims, are stressed by the crime, and “the stress hormone cortisol causes a person to have tunnel vision in the extreme…[and] not only does it have an impact on how things are recorded in your brain but also how you can report on the memory,” a psychology professor tells Garcia.
In his op-ed, “Texas pharmacies willing to kill put us all at risk,” in the Houston Chronicle, Harvard Medical School lecturer Prashant Yadav looks at the ramifications of the recent discovery by BuzzFeed that the Texas corrections department has been obtaining its lethal injection drugs from a compounding pharmacy that was on probation for two years in 2016, “when the Texas State Board of Pharmacy found that it had compounded the wrong drug for three children, sending one to the emergency room, and forged quality control documents,” and has been cited 48 times for safety violations over eight years. Yadav points out that the pharmacy (which denies it is supplying lethal injection drugs), compounds these drugs “alongside medicines destined for hospitals and bathroom cabinets all over Texas.” So not only are the lethal injection drugs possibly tainted, but “A pharmacy capable of such recklessness should not be compounding deadly drugs alongside your grandma’s arthritis pills or your daughter’s epilepsy medication,” Yadav writes.
In the “Uncertain Future of Forensic Science,” a UCLA Law School research paper, Jennifer Mnookin argues that because “often-used forms of pattern evidence, such as fingerprint, tool mark, and bite mark identification, have faced significant criticism for lacking adequate scientific validation or proven reliability,” the science is “at a crossroads.” She maintains that while there has been some reform, it is far from “adequate or transformative,” and argues for the need for a national commission “made up of both research scientists and other institutional stakeholders,” to prevent reform from being hijacked by forensic practitioners.