January 29, 2013
Social Security chief is quitting WASHINGTON - Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue says he will step down in February after completing his six-year term. Astrue's departure gives President Obama the opportunity to name a new head to the federal government's largest program. Astrue's term was marked by increasingly dire warnings about the long-term financial health of the massive retirement and disability program. He worked to reduce backlogs of people applying for disability claims, despite a big surge in applications since the recession.
December 14, 2012 |
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - A judge on Thursday commuted the death sentences of three convicted killers, including two who killed law-enforcement officers, to life in prison without the possibility of parole after ruling that race played an unjust role in jury selection at their trials. Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Weeks based his ruling on evidence presented over four weeks of hearings that he says showed prosecutors in each case made a concerted effort to reduce the number of black jurors.
November 1, 2012 |
During the 18 years that Damien Echols lived in an Arkansas prison, many of them spent in a solitary death-row cell for 23 hours a day, he often saw writing as a way to maintain his connection to a world that was slowly fading from memory. Echols entered prison at 19, after he and his codefendants, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., were convicted of murdering three young boys in West Memphis, Ark. The friends had said from the start that they were innocent, and their convictions became widely viewed as a miscarriage of justice.
October 26, 2012 |
HARRISBURG - Lawyers for a death-row inmate who could be the first person executed in Pennsylvania since 1999 asked a federal judge this week to reopen the case and stop the plans to put him to death in two weeks. Hubert Lester Michael Jr. pleaded guilty to the July 1993 murder of Trista Elizabeth Eng, 16, after kidnapping her in northern York County, about a half-hour south of Harrisburg. Michael, 56, has repeatedly changed his mind about pursuing appeals. His lawyers said he suffers from mental-health problems that were aggravated by life inside Graterford Prison, and have gotten better since he was transferred to the state prison in Greene County.
October 17, 2012
ALL THESE YEARS later, and something is still getting lost in translation. Three decades after Mumia Abu-Jamal murdered Danny Faulkner, and nearly a year since the case finally - really - ended in the courts, comes another street renaming in the suburbs of Paris. It's always been the case that the further you get from Philadelphia, the more support grows for Abu-Jamal. Close to where the murder took place, people know the facts and have never bought into the bunk. I remember interviewing Joe McGill, Abu-Jamal's prosecutor, while researching the book I wrote with Maureen Faulkner, Murdered by Mumia . McGill has often impressed upon me that this was far from the most complicated case he'd tried in his illustrious career in District Attorney Ed Rendell's office.
October 16, 2012
BOBIGNY, FRANCE - Some Philadelphians hate to hear this, but people around the world love Mumia Abu-Jamal. Yeah, that one - the convicted cop killer who spent three decades on death row before his flawed sentence was converted to life in prison last December. When the Paris suburb of Bobigny named a street in honor of Abu-Jamal on Saturday, among the 100-plus attending the rain-splattered ceremony were people from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Attendees included Myriam Malsa, from the Caribbean Island of Martinique, and Lanquiray Painemal, from the South American country of Chile.
October 8, 2012 |
John Thompson spent 14 years on death row in Louisiana's notorious Angola state prison before he was sprung by two Philadelphia lawyers acting on a hunch. Only hours after a Louisiana state judge issued a writ of execution for Thompson, a private investigator sent by his lawyers to search the files of the New Orleans district attorney found blood evidence showing that Thompson was not guilty of one of the charges. The murder conviction was overturned and Thompson won a $14 million jury award in a lawsuit alleging prosecutorial misconduct.
October 2, 2012 |
ATTORNEYS for double-murderer Terrance Williams have asked Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald Castille to recuse himself in the case because they believe he has a conflict of interest. In a motion filed Monday with the state Supreme Court, Williams' attorneys stated that Castille should not take part in ruling on Williams' death sentence because he was Philadelphia's district attorney in 1986 when Williams was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the 1984 murder of Amos Norwood.
September 30, 2012 |
CITING GROSS prosecutorial misconduct and evidence suppression, a Philadelphia judge on Friday vacated the Oct. 3 execution sentence of Terrance Williams and ordered that he be granted a new penalty hearing. The ruling by Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina indefinitely halted an execution decades in the making. Williams' first-degree-murder conviction is unchanged by the ruling, meaning that the jury at his new penalty hearing will determine if he should be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison without parole.