Blog of Rights

Act Now! Push Death Penalty Repeal in Illinois Past the Finish Line

By Ed Yohnka, ACLU of Illinois at 11:27am
Randy Steidl is one of 20 men who've been exonerated and released from Illinois' death row in recent years. Last Tuesday, he and I sat just a few feet apart when the Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 3539 — repealing the state's irretrievably broken death penalty system.

North Carolina's Path to Repeal

By Cassandra Stubbs, ACLU Capital Punishment Project & Jennifer Rudinger, ACLU of North Carolina at 10:40am

North Carolina's death penalty system has finally been exposed as just another failed government program. In light of two recent shocking revelations, the time has come to shut the system down.

First, an independent audit of one unit of the…

Death Row Defendant Gets Reprieve From Horrid Lawyering

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 11:09am

Yesterday, the Supreme Court found that the one-year statute of limitation to file for  federal habeas corpus review under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996 can be put on hold in certain circumstances, including…

Death Penalty Unconstitutional, Says Justice Stevens

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 4:21pm

On Wednesday, retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens gave an interview at the annual conference of the 5th Judicial Circuit in Chicago, and explained his changed view on the death penalty.

In 1976, Justice Stevens was among the…

Tell Gov. Perry: Stay the Execution of Henry Skinner

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 4:06pm

Henry Skinner is scheduled for execution tomorrow night at 6 p.m. in Texas's death chamber in Huntsville, Texas. He was convicted of the 1993 murder of his girlfriend and her two adult sons.

But DNA evidence found at the crime scene could…

Executing on a Technicality

By Brian Stull, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 4:45pm

When a person accused of a crime goes free, we often hear the refrain, "He got off on a technicality." In reality, these technicalities often involve a violation of a person's constitutional rights. In the case of Holland v. Florida,…

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…

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.

UN Special Rapporteur Calls for Transparency and Accountability

By Nahal Zamani, Human Rights Program at 6:41pm

On Wednesday, the United Nations independent expert on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, made a presentation before the Human Rights Council on U.S. policies and practices that have led to unlawful deaths…

UN Special Rapporteur Recommends Reforms to U.S. Death Penalty System

By Anna Arceneaux, Staff Attorney, ACLU Capital Punishment Project at 6:03pm

This week, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston released an advance copy of his report on the state of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in the United States. Chief among Alston’s concerns was the capital punishment system in the…