In his multi-part series, “We need to fix forensics. But how?” in the Washington Post, Radley Balko poses six questions to 14 experts who work in the areas of law, science, and forensics on how to fix the problems with the way forensics are used in criminal cases. “In covering these issues, I have found that there are lots of people willing to talk about the problems with forensics in the courtroom. But solutions are harder to come by — especially solutions that would be politically feasible, findable, and fit the current framework of our judicial-legal system,” Balko writes.
In his SCOTUSblog piece, “Symposium: The Supreme Court turns against novel or late-breaking execution challenges,” Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour notes that U.S. Supreme Court decisions this term indicate the justices will “defer to the states’ judgments about how the death penalty should be carried out and who should be subjected to it,” and that they believe “inmates challenging their death sentences should bring their challenges without delay.” Not surprisingly, LaCour attributes the change to the replacement of Justice Anthony Kennedy by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
In her book, Grace Will Lead Us Home, The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness, Jennifer Berry Hawes writes a “soul-shaking chronicle of the 2015 Charleston massacre and its aftermath,” Johns Hopkins University Philosophy Professor Chris Lebron writes in an op-ed in the New York Times. Hawes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Post and Courier, tells the story of the mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church during which nine of the 12 African-American men and women who were in the church for Bible study, were killed. Hawes “Recounts not just what happened that night but afterward, to the families and friends who were forced to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives — or were unable to do so,” Lebron writes. The man convicted of the murders, Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist, was sentenced to death in spite of the fact the victims’ family members were opposed to the death penalty.
In the University of Miami’s “U News,” three legal experts in law and sociology weigh in on DOJ’s announcement that it will restart federal executions. Miami Law School Innocence Clinic Director Craig J. Trocino, law school professor Scott Sundby, and Nick Petersen, an assistant professor of sociology and law, address the death penalty’s flaws, the likelihood that the government will not be able to procure pentobarbital, the single drug it needs for its lethal injection protocol to carry out December and January’s planned five executions, and the fact that this announcement, like other tough-on-crime declarations in the past, is just further proof that “Crime and punishment in the United States has been used as a political weapon for decades.”
In The Architect: How to transform yourself and your world, Steve Champion and Craig Ross, both death row prisoners at San Quentin State Prison, offer a step-by-step guideline for active and former gang members on how to design a plan “of action and empowerment” and change the narrative of their gang lives. Both Champion and Ross are former members of the Los Angeles Crips gang, and say they are offering “authentic, honest dialogue about the problems gang members face and the potential solutions to those problems.” Both are Pen Prison Writing Award winners, and have co-authored the book, Sacred Eye of the Falcon, and three pamphlets, “Walking it Like you Talk it,” “The Ninth Ground,” and “Everything you Value you Must Carry Without Hands.” Both have been on death row for 37 years.
In her anthology, Strange Fruit: Poems on the Death Penalty, Sarah Zale says the poems, written by poets from around the country, “were chosen for their intention to evoke empathy, to open minds and hearts to the fate of individuals on death row and the individuals directly affected by their crimes.”