In his op-ed, “California halted executions, now it should abolish the death penalty,” in the Los Angeles Times, Scott Martelle says the moratorium on executions instituted by Gov. Gavin Newsom “is not a solution” to the state’s many problems with its death penalty system. He maintains it’s time for the governor and legislative leaders to put an abolition initiative on the ballot in 2024, and “Newsom should use his political capital to persuade Californians that ending the death penalty is the right thing to do.”
A New York Times front-page article, and a Times documentary, “In Alabama, a Death Sentence for a Man Who Never Pulled the Trigger,” examines the case of Nathaniel Woods, who was executed in March 2020 for the killing of three police officers, a crime he didn’t commit. While Woods was being arrested in a Birmingham crack house in 2004, Kerry Spencer opened fire, killing three of the four officers. Woods fled the scene when the shooting started. Despite Spencer’s repeated declarations that he acted alone and without Woods’ involvement, a jury voted 10-2 to sentence Woods to death. There were ten white jurors, two Black.
In “Rodney Reed and Texas’ Troubling Reliance on the Death Penalty,” in theTexas Observer, Michael Barajas argues that the Rodney Reed case “underlines troubling questions about Texas’ continued use of the death penalty, even as most of the country has turned away from executions.” Two years ago, Reed came within five days of being executed but was saved by a last-minute court ruling. But even as new evidence emerges bolstering Reed’s claims of innocence, a judge last month rejected his request for a new trial. “Prosecutors’ case against Reed contained many of the red flags that are often hallmarks of wrongful convictions,” Barajas writes. Reed’s case now heads to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the equivalent of a state supreme court).
David Ramirez and Barry Jones have “one thing in common: They likely wouldn’t be sitting on death row if their court-appointed criminal defense lawyers had not botched their cases to a degree that federal courts have found to be unconstitutional,” Marco Poggio writes in Law360. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday whether its decision in Martinez vs. Ryan would allow the two men to “use new evidence to support their ineffective counsel claims in federal court, despite a federal law barring such a move.” According to Poggio, both men had court-appointed lawyers in both the trial and the post-conviction phases of their state court proceedings.
Anthony Broadwater’s wrongful rape conviction in Syracuse, New York, in 1982 “encompasses inequities in the criminal justice system, of a White victim misidentifying a Black man whose life will never fully recover,” Karen Heller writes in the Washington Post. Broadwater spent 16 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the rape of writer Alice Sebold, who wrote a memoir, “Lucky,” about her attack. The story of how Broadwater was finally exonerated last month could be the plot of a John Grisham novel.
New materials released by President Biden’s Supreme Court reform commission are more evidence that the commissioners are continuing to be “careful to avoid doing anything that might be construed as fulfilling the task they’ve been assigned,” Balls and Strikes’ Yvette Borja writes. She applauds the efforts of three senators and a congressman, who recently sent a letter to the commission. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Democratic Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson asked the commissioners to address “the role of shadowy multimillion-dollar lobbying campaigns in drastically altering the ideological composition of a Court now controlled by a supermajority of six conservatives.”