June 16, 2014 |
THE FATE of a federal death-row inmate, who strangled his cellmate in a central Pennsylvanian penitentiary 18 years ago and who has made national headlines, is now in the hands of a federal judge in Philadelphia. David Paul Hammer, an Oklahoma native who is housed on death row in the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., has been appearing via video link in a Philadelphia courtroom for a resentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Joel Slomsky during the last two weeks. His death sentence was vacated by a different judge in 2005.
April 19, 2014
Though it's human to err, admitting it doesn't come as naturally to the species - much less hiring someone to ferret out our mistakes. But that's exactly what the best government agencies do, setting up inspectors general, internal affairs departments, and the like to review and reconsider their work. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams deserves credit for his newly announced plan to correct some of his office's mistakes, which can have the serious consequences of putting innocent people in jail and letting guilty people go unpunished.
April 1, 2014
Too few justices on Pennsylvania's top court appear willing to grapple with improving the way Philadelphia pays the court-appointed lawyers who guard against the ultimate injustice: the wrongful condemnation of a defendant to death row because he couldn't afford a decent lawyer. The state Supreme Court's ruling last week ended litigation aimed at crafting a reimbursement system to assure that even the poorest defendants get a fair trial. But the 4-3 split offered some hope that one day the progressive minority view will prevail.
February 27, 2014 |
Every play hopes to be timely. And many playwrights want to change the world. The Exonerated , now in a stirring production by Delaware Theatre Company, goes after both goals. Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen's play tells fact-based stories of five men and one woman sentenced to death and later exonerated, many after serving lengthy sentences. In mostly direct address, we hear the words of Delbert Tibbs (David Alan Anderson), Kerry Max Cook (Tony Lawton), Robert Hayes (Akeem Davis)
January 3, 2014 |
DESTINY - that would have been her name - died inside Jennifer Pennington's womb after the woman was shot in the face near a stone bridge in Fairmount Park in 2005. Harold Murray IV, 36, of Philadelphia, was one of three men charged in the revenge-murder case that originated in Montgomery County. He received a death-penalty sentence for killing Pennington and her unborn child. Prosecutors, according to local news accounts after the verdict, said the "death-penalty verdict for the murder of the unborn child sends a strong message about the importance of human life in Montgomery County.
November 2, 2013
Variety in job offers Joel Naroff's plea for a wider variety of jobs in Philadelphia highlights a tremendous challenge for many unemployed ("Creating 'good jobs' just part of answer," Oct. 20). Without openings at all skill levels, those lacking high school or college degrees have few options. Low-income individuals can play a key role in the revitalization of our economy, but they need opportunities that match their skill and education. At Entrepreneur Works - a nonprofit organization that supports underserved small-business owners in the region - we enable self-employment through entrepreneurship by providing training and access to capital.
June 18, 2013 |
INDIANAPOLIS - An Indiana woman put on death row at age 16 for killing an elderly Bible schoolteacher is scheduled to be releasedtoday after serving a prison term that was shortened after the state Supreme Court intervened. Paula Cooper's death sentence at such a young age sparked international protests and a plea for clemency from Pope John Paul II. Cooper, now 43, is being given a second chance at her life. Cooper was 15 when she and three other teenage girls showed up at Ruth Pelke's house on May 14, 1985, with plans of robbing the 78-year-old Bible school teacher.
June 17, 2013
Indiana fire evacuees return INDIANAPOLIS - Hundreds of people were allowed to return to their homes Sunday morning as Indianapolis firefighters watched over the smoldering ruins of a sprawling warehouse where a fire had unleashed a tower of billowing black smoke, raising concerns about possible toxins. But investigators aren't likely to enter the charred wreckage until Monday, after heavy equipment clears a safe path through the debris, said Capt. Rita Burris, the city fire department spokeswoman.
April 26, 2013 |
READING - A federal judge has thrown out the death penalty given to an Pennsylvania man who's spent 15 years on death row. District Judge Anita Brody also overturned Shawnfatee Bridges' murder conviction because prosecutors did not provide the defense with police records that could have impeached a key witness. Bridges had been found guilty of the 1996 drug-related slayings of Reading cousins Damon and Gregory Banks. Brody overturned the death penalty because the defense didn't call an expert psychiatric witness during the sentencing hearing.
April 22, 2013 |
The 17th-century mathematician and religious thinker Blaise Pascal believed we are our worst enemy, our own undoing. "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone ," he wrote, referring to our anxiety over the prospect of having to face ourselves one to one, without any external distractions. What if we were forced to sit quietly in a room, alone, for weeks, months, years? So lived Daniel Holden for 19 years on death row, a veritable purgatory of isolation where, under the shadow of death, one has nothing but oneself to contemplate.