Entries in Capital Punishment (3)


Death Penalty 'Unlikely' for White Teen Accused of Running over Black Man

Dynamic Graphics/Thinkstock(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Prosecutors are "unlikely" to pursue the death penalty for Deryl Dedmon, the white Mississippi teen charged with running over a black man with a pickup truck, because the family of the victim opposes the death penalty for religious reasons, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith said Wednesday.

Smith told ABC he plans to make a formal announcement in the next two days, after strongly considering the family's wishes to spare Dedmon, 19, who was indicted with capital murder this week by a special grand jury.

James Anderson, an auto worker, was killed June 26 in Jackson, Miss. His murder received renewed attention when grisly surveillance video of his death surfaced in August.

In the letter sent to Smith, dated Sept. 13, Anderson's sister, Barbara Anderson Young, said she spoke on behalf of their mother and her two brothers in asking prosecutors not to seek capital punishment, saying the family's opposition to the death penalty is "deeply rooted in our religious faith, a faith that was central in James' life as well."

"We also oppose the death penalty because it historically has been used in Mississippi and the South primarily against people of color for killing whites," the letter says. "Executing James' killers will not help balance the scales. But sparing them may help to spark a dialogue that one day will lead to the elimination of capital punishment."

The Anderson family attorney, Winston Thompson III, told ABC on Wednesday that they want "everyone that was involved punished to the fullest extent of the law" and would be "very happy with life in prison without out parole," which would be the next harshest punishment after the death penalty.

After discussing the issue, the family's decision was "unanimous," Thompson said. "Really it was Mr. Anderson's mother [who led the family in coming to this decision]. She's 85 years old...she said, 'This is what I would like.'"

Dedmon's trial will most likely be held next year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Troy Davis to be Put to Death after Losing Appeal

David J. Sams/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Troy Davis has run out of appeals.

Davis was denied clemency Tuesday by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only authority in the state that can commute a death sentence, and is set to be executed Wednesday night at the state prison in Jackson.

"The board has considered the totality of the information presented in this case, and thoroughly deliberated on it," said board spokesman Steve Hayes in a statement. "After which the decision was to deny clemency."

Davis was convicted in 1989 for the shooting death of off-duty officer Mark Allen McPhail. McPhail was working as a night security guard in Savannah when he ran to help a homeless man who was the victim of an assault. In the chaos that followed, McPhail was shot three times.

Police never found the murder weapon, and seven of the nine witnesses who said Davis was the shooter have since changed their story.

In 2007, one of those seven witnesses told ABC News that she initially pointed the finger at Davis because of police coercion, and that she believed the real killer was one of the other witnesses. She said she feared he would come after her if she told the truth. She did not want to be identified at the time.

Another woman told the parole board Monday that she too believed the real killer went free. Quiana Glover said that she overheard Slyvester "Redd" Coles say that he was actually the shooter. Coles had been drinking heavily, she said. They were both at a party.

Coles, it turns out, was the first to implicate Davis, and at trial he testified that he left the scene before the shots were fired.

The officer's family said after the decision was announced that they simply want justice.

She points out that this is Davis's fourth execution date, in a case that at one point went before the U.S. Supreme Court. McPhail's family has never had any doubt that Troy Davis was the shooter. They believe he was properly convicted.

The NAACP, Amnesty International, and other groups have all decried the parole board's decision, all suggesting that life in prison would have been a more just decision.

At time of McPhail's murder in 1989, the shooting divided Savannah along racial and socio-economic lines.

The police were under tremendous pressure to solve the case, and put the killer away.

Davis is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Wednesday night.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Illinois House Votes to End Death Penalty

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -- Eleven years after Illinois declared a moratorium on capital punishment, the Illinois House of Representatives voted Thursday to make the ban permanent.

In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan declared the initial moratorium on capital punishment, citing a string of wrongful convictions, but 11 years later, Illinois and other states are now reconsidering the death penalty for an entirely different reason -- tight budgets.

"Illinois has spent over $100 million in 10 years and hasn't put anyone to death," said a sponsor of the Illinois bill, State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, a Democrat.  "It's time to put this barbaric practice to rest."

As states struggle to cope with major budget shortfalls and even the prospect of bankruptcy, they're confronting the fact that sentencing someone to death is extremely expensive.

In California, for example, a 2008 report showed that the $137 million annual cost of maintaining the criminal justice system would drop to just $11.5 million annually if the death sentence were abolished.

New Hampshire has also wrangled with the issue, with a commission report suggesting the state not expand the death penalty, partly out of cost considerations. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio