March 2, 2012
The welcome decision by the Philadelphia courts to dramatically boost the fees paid to lawyers appointed to represent indigent defendants facing the death penalty strikes a long-overdue blow for justice. As long as Pennsylvania maintains what Supreme Court Justice Harold Andrew Blackmun famously called "the machinery of death," the state cannot afford to scrimp on fairness. Yet, for decades, the legal representation provided the poor in capital cases has been called into question by the courts themselves.
February 26, 2012 |
COLUMBUS, Ohio - As a young state senator 30 years ago, Paul Pfeifer helped write Ohio's death-penalty law. Today, as the senior member of the state Supreme Court, he's trying to eliminate it. It's not uncommon for sitting judges to change their minds about the death penalty - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun famously said in 1994 he would no longer "tinker with the machinery of death" - but Pfeifer may be the only one to argue so ardently against...
February 6, 2012 |
BEFORE LAST WEEK, the main question posed to 76ers coach Doug Collins and his team was about the next 2 weeks, which included seven games against some of the top teams in the league. Wins against Orlando and Chicago were impressive, before Friday night's 20-point loss to the Miami Heat. In that game, the Sixers stayed close before a 15-0 run by Miami in the final quarter allowed it to pull away. After the game, forward Andre Iguodala put it best: "You have to give [Miami]
January 29, 2012 |
Mumia Abu-Jamal has been moved into the general prison population for the first time since going on death row for the killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. Susan McNaughton, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, said Abu-Jamal was moved Friday from the restricted housing unit at the Mahanoy facility in Frackville, Schuylkill County. In the restricted housing unit, Abu-Jamal had largely been in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day. Abu-Jamal was convicted of the 1981 shooting death of Faulkner.
January 19, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court rarely gives criminal defendants a second chance if they miss a deadline to file an appeal, but the justices did so Wednesday in the case of an Alabama death-row inmate, citing a "perfect storm" of missing lawyers and unopened letters. Cory Maples, who was convicted of killing two people in Alabama, was "abandoned" by his lawyers and lost his right to appeal because of "extraordinary circumstances quite beyond his control," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the 7-2 majority in Maples v. Thomas . Alabama is one of the few states that do not pay for lawyers to represent death-row inmates in their appeals, Ginsburg noted.
January 13, 2012 |
The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office said Friday that it would not conduct a new sentencing hearing for a Death Row prisoner whose sentence was reversed by a federal appeals court. The decision, announced at a brief hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner, means Saharris Rollins, 50 - found guilty and sentenced to death in 1987 in a drug-related shooting - will spend life in prison without chance of parole. Rollins' case is one of a series of Death Row appeals that have resulted in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's vacating a sentence and ordering the District Attorney's Office to hold a new death penalty hearing or accept a life sentence.
December 21, 2011
For anyone facing a murder charge in Philadelphia, having a private attorney appointed by the court to represent you may be the surest way to land on death row - or in jail for life. Confronted with that finding from a study by the nationally renowned RAND Corp., local court officials should be under even greater pressure to speed steps toward improving the quality of the legal aid provided to indigent defendants. RAND reported last week that guilty verdicts and longer sentences are more common for defendants with court-appointed private lawyers, as compared to those whose cases were handled by full-time public defenders.
December 16, 2011 |
MUMIA Abu-Jamal is officially off death row. The cop-killer was transferred from a maximum-security prison in western Pennsylvania Wednesday to the Mahanoy state prison, a medium-security institution in Frackville, 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Corrections Department spokeswoman Susan Bensinger confirmed the move yesterday. Abu-Jamal, who shot to death Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981, had spent the past 16 years at Greene state prison in Waynesburg, more than 260 miles west of Philadelphia.
December 13, 2011 |
It sure makes for one heck of an icebreaker whenever Christina Swarns mentions that she represents the notorious Mumia Abu-Jamal. But Swarns didn't take on such a controversial case just to engage in holiday party chitchat. Forget for a minute that Swarns believes in Abu-Jamal's innocence. She is just as passionate about what anti-death-penalty activists believe worldwide - that the application of the death penalty in this country is racist. It's the reason Swarns, director of the Criminal Justice Practice for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has done capital-case work for 15 years.
December 7, 2011 |
In the decades since his conviction in the 1981 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, Mumia Abu-Jamal has become one of the most recognized inmates in the world. On Friday, supporters of the former radio reporter will hold a gathering at the National Constitution Center marking the 30th anniversary of his arrest in the slaying of Faulkner. They will also pay tribute to Troy Davis, who was executed in September for the 1989 killing of a police officer in Savannah, Ga. The free program - titled "We the People: Honor Troy Davis!