July 2, 2016
By Marc Bookman Forty years ago, on July 2, 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court put its imprimatur on capital punishment in the case of Gregg v. Georgia . This was a surprising development. Only four years earlier, the court had struck down death-penalty laws across the country, declaring the death penalty "cruel and unusual in the same way as being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual. " In other words, the laws did not target those most deserving of the maximum punishment, instead making death sentences a random occurrence.
June 11, 2016 |
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille was wrong to participate in an appeal from a death-row inmate whose prosecution he oversaw nearly three decades before. In a 5-3 split, the justices ordered a new hearing for Terrance Williams, finding that Castille's involvement in hearing the case when it came before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2014 violated Williams' constitutional rights. The decision served as a sharp rebuke to Castille, one of the Pennsylvania legal system's most towering figures in recent years.
April 21, 2016
A hearing will be held Thursday on whether the media and public can view a videotaped interview of Eric Frein, charged with the ambush killing of a state trooper and the wounding of another. At a proceeding Tuesday on the defense requests to waive the death penalty for Frein, 32, of Barrett Township, and suppress statements he made to police, Pike County Court Judge Gregory Chelak decided that the videotape be shown "in camera," or out of public view. After he announced the decision, a reporter objected in open court, and others filed objections later, the Pocono Record reported.
April 12, 2016
DUANE BUCK was convicted in 1997 of murdering his ex-girlfriend and a male friend. After a Texas jury determined that he was likely to pose a continuing danger to society, it sentenced him to death. How did the jury conclude that he posed a future threat (a finding that state law requires as a condition for imposing the death penalty)? Simple: Buck is black and, according to a psychologist who testified at the sentencing hearing, race is one of a number of "statistical factors" that can be used to predict whether a person will reoffend in the future.
April 12, 2016 |
The crime was horrific: LaQuanta Chapman fatally shot his teenage neighbor, then dismembered him with a chainsaw. The Chester County District Attorney's Office promised it would seek the death penalty - and it delivered. Chapman was sent to death row in December 2012. But he remains very much alive, and two weeks ago the state Supreme Court reversed his death sentence, citing prosecutorial error. Chapman is just the latest example of a death-row inmate spared execution. In fact, no one has been executed in Pennsylvania since Philadelphia torturer-murderer Gary Heidnik in 1999.
April 5, 2016 |
Over the past decade, there has been a revolution in juvenile justice and the sentencing of youths. The Supreme Court ended the death penalty for juveniles in 2005; in 2012, it did the same for mandatory life without parole. Four years later, in the case Montgomery v. Louisiana , the court applied its earlier ruling retroactively and granted new sentencing for close to 2,000 juveniles who had received mandatory life sentences without parole. In so doing, the court has turned a very bright light on the Philadelphia justice system, which has more juveniles serving life-without-parole sentences (300)
April 2, 2016 |
Philadelphia prosecutors have charged the two brothers accused of killing Police Officer Robert Wilson III with committing a series of armed robberies in the same North Philadelphia area in the three months before Wilson was fatally wounded in a March 2015 robbery and shootout. Assistant District Attorney Brian Zarallo said Thursday that Carlton Hipps, 30, was charged with eight armed robberies and brother Ramone Williams, 26, with nine. Zarallo said the pair, both being held without bail in Wilson's killing March 5, 2015, were officially charged last month, but the new cases only recently appeared on the court database.
March 2, 2016 |
WASHINGTON - When he was Philadelphia's district attorney, Ronald D. Castille signed off on a decision that would land Terrance Williams on death row for the 1984 beating death of a Germantown church deacon. Now, a role that Castille later played in the case as chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court could prove key in efforts to fend off Williams' execution. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on whether Castille, the prosecutor who approved pursuing the death penalty against Williams, should have recused himself when the case came before the state's top court for appeal.
February 25, 2016
By Gil Garcetti The decision to seek the death penalty is one of the most profound responsibilities entrusted to any district attorney. Seeking a punishment that ends the life of a human being, even when that person is accused of having committed murder, is a solemn and sobering decision that cannot be taken lightly. In the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office when I led it, a decision to seek a death sentence was the result of an intensive process, but the final decision was mine alone.
February 18, 2016 |
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office has decided not to seek the death penalty in the retrial of a North Philadelphia man whose 2007 death sentence was invalidated after discovery of a mix-up in DNA evidence. Assistant District Attorney Andrew Notaristefano announced the decision at a hearing Tuesday for Kareem Johnson, 31, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in the 2002 shooting of Walter Smith, 39, outside a North Philadelphia bar. Smith, a barber, was a potential witness in a murder case against Johnson's friend.