Blog of Rights


Questions of Politics Persist as Work of the Texas Forensic Science Commission is Delayed

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 3:27pm
Last month, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee of the Texas Legislature held a hearing reviewing the newly reconstituted Texas Forensic Science Commission (FSC), a government agency that gathers information and reports on the use of science in criminal investigations. At the end of September, Gov. Rick Perry dismissed three members of the FSC days before they were scheduled to hear testimony by fire expert Dr. Craig Beyler on the accuracy of evidence presented in the Cameron Todd Willingham arson-murder case. Willingham was executed under Gov. Perry's watch in 2004, and reports indicate information calling into question the arson evidence was given to the governor before the execution. Gov. Perry's dismissal of the FSC members has delayed review of this and two other cases, quite possibly until well after the March primary.

Capital Punishment Project Staff Highlighted in Law Review Article

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 4:50pm

A recent article in the Tennessee Law Review (subscription required) highlights the work done by the ACLU Capital Punishment Project in their representation of Richard Taylor, a severely mentally illness death-row inmate in Tennessee. The article,…

Suspicious Shakeup in Texas

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 5:49pm

On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry dismissed three members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, including the chairperson.

His timing was extremely suspicious, to say the least.

The commission was set to hear testimony today…

ACLU Highlights Flaws in American Capital Punishment

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 4:39pm

In his continuing effort to bring to light human rights issues in the United States before an international stage, Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Program, made a statement about the capital punishment system at the Human Dimension…

No Suitable Vein

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 2:56pm

On Monday, Ohio's execution team was unable to find a suitable vein in Romell Broom's arm so it could not inject poison into his body and put an end to his life. The failed attempts took so long that Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland finally gave Broom…

Innocent Man May Have Been Executed Based on Faulty Science

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 3:12pm

A report (PDF) released Tuesday by Dr. Craig Beyler to the Texas Forensic Science Commission found that a fire which killed three children in 1991 was not arson. This finding is important because the children were not the only people killed as a…

Supreme Court Orders Federal Court to Look at Evidence in Davis Case

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 2:43pm

The Supreme Court of the United States has ordered a federal district court judge (PDF) to "receive testimony and make findings of fact as to whether evidence that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes [Davis's] innocence."…

New Report Examines the Effect of Severe Mental Illness and Capital Punishment on Families

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 11:58am

Double Tragedies: Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty for People with Severe Mental Illness is a report written by a collaboration of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights (MVFHR) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).…

Reggie Clemons and the Parade of Horribles

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 4:37pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

As soon as the St. Louis police officers knocked on the door of the home of Vera Thomas in April 1991, a parade of horribles began which culminated with her son, Reggie Clemons, being convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The case is infected by police brutality, prosecutorial misconduct, witnesses with motivations to give false testimony, dreadful defense lawyering and blatant racism. All of this led to no justice for Reggie Clemons.

Reggie Clemons was destined to die as soon as he walked into the police station for questioning. The police asked him about the deaths of Julie and Robin Kerry, two young white women who fell to their deaths from the Chain of Rocks Bridge in Missouri. Clemons and three people he was with that night were suspected of robbing, raping and murdering the Kerry sisters and forcing their cousin, Tom Cummins, to jump off the bridge.

At the police station, Clemons was beaten until he cried. When the police began to tape the confession, Clemons invoked his right to an attorney and said that the police had beaten him. When a second tape was made, Clemons confessed to rape because the police were preparing to beat him again. He did not confess to murder.

Race, Reasonable Doubt and Reggie Clemons

By Christopher Hill, Capital Punishment Project at 3:26pm

The ACLU often provides examples of the problems with the capital punishment system in the United States. Reggie Clemons is scheduled for execution on June 17, 2009. Clemons, a black man, was convicted of the murder of two young white women in St.…

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