On “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” Oliver explains just how overwhelmingly difficult it is to be exonerated for a wrongful conviction even in the face of overwhelming evidence of innocence. Focusing on cases including that of Joseph Amrine, exonerated in Missouri, Lamar Johnson and his 27-year fight to overturn his wrongful conviction, and Melissa Lucio, facing execution in Texas next month for a crime she didn’t commit, Oliver offers a compelling argument for criminal justice reform and repealing the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
In their article, “Does a Fair Way to Decide Who Gets The Death Penalty Actually Exist?” in Slate, Michael Meltsner and Daniel S. Medwed look at what led the U.S. Supreme Court to find the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972 in Furman v. Georgia, and conclude that, “The flaws in the death sentencing system that led to Furman are still with us.” Fifty years after that decision, they write, “It is still true that race, class, geography, and lawyer competence determine who lives and who dies.”
In their paper, “Death by Dehumanization: Prosecutorial Narratives of Death-Sentenced Women and LGBTQ Prisoners,” Jessica Sutton, John R. Mills, Jennifer Kerrigan, and Kristin Swain argue that despite the Eighth Amendment’s insistence that the finality of capital punishment demands that,“the sentencer must consider the humanity and dignity of the individual facing the ultimate sanction,” prosecutors regularly rely on dehumanizing narratives when the defendants are LGBTQ+ people. “Such narratives violate the Constitution’s protection of the dignity of persons facing loss of life or liberty,” they write.
In his op_ed, “Republicans’ buffoonish, disingenuous attacks on an Innocence Project attorney,” Washington Post columnist Radley Balko looks at the shameless, hectoring “questioning” of Nina Morrison, President Biden’s nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Morrison, an attorney with the Innocence Project, has helped free dozens of innocent people in her career “and would bring desperately needed balance to a federal judiciary loaded with ex-prosecutors,” Balko writes. “If these Republicans truly cared about the rule of law,” he says, “they would be heaping praise on attorneys such as Morrison . . . . We improve the criminal justice system by exposing and correcting its flaws, not by pretending those flaws don’t exist.”
“Even if I knew it was my job, the feeling of killing a person remained inside of me. I felt it vividly,” a Japanese defense attorney says in an interview in The Mainichi about an execution he witnessed at the Tokyo Detention House in the early 1970s. The account by Yoshikuni Noguchi gives a rare glimpse into the Japanese execution protocol, a process that is shrouded in secrecy, with no family, loved ones, or reporters present during the killing. Noguchi, a prison official before going to law school, describes a brutal process by hanging, albeit one that was more civilized than the current method. Then, the prisoners and their families were notified the day before, and family members could visit their loved ones before the execution. Today, the men about to be hanged are not informed until just before they are taken away, and no family or media outlets are told until it is over.