1622 The first legal execution of a criminal in the American Colonies occurs in Virginia with the execution of Daniel Frank for Theft. (Note also 1608 execution of George Kendall for spying / espionage in Virginia. See "Before the Needles," by Rob Gallagher at http://users.bestweb.net/~rg/execution/).
1636 The Massachusetts Bay Colony lists 13 crimes punishable by death, including idolatry and witchcraft.
1791 The Bill of Rights is ratified, including the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments. Nevertheless, the practice of capital punishment is universally accepted and it is understood at the time that the Eighth Amendment was not intended to stop it.
1793 Pennsylvania invents degrees of murder, recognizing qualitative differences in the kinds of murder, some not necessarily deserving of a death sentence. This was a compromise between pacifist Quakers who opposed the death penalty and capital punishment supporters.
1833 In the face of public executions becoming chaotic, carnival-like spectacles, with rowdy crowds becoming increasingly violent, Rhode Island becomes the first state to require private hangings. New York follows suit in 1835.
1846 Michigan is the first state to abolish the death penalty. (except for treason, which was finally eliminated in 1963). Rhode Island follows suit in 1852, and Wisconsin in 1853.
1864 Vermont begins a trend from local to state administration of capital punishment with the first state-imposed execution. The slow transition is almost complete by the turn of the century, but by as late as 1955, four states still left executions to the local authorities: Mississippi, Louisiana, Delaware, and Montana.
1888 New York becomes the first state to adopt electrocution as an execution method following demonstrations of the new technology by Thomas Edison. Murderer William Kemmler is the first person executed in the electric chair on August 6, 1890 at New York's Auburn Prison.
1907 - 1917 A short-lived abolitionist wave leads to the repeal of death penalty statutes in Arizona, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee. However, all but two of those states later reinstate the death penalty, largely to combat lynchings and other forms of vigilantism.
1913 Along with many other states, Indiana changes execution method from hanging to electrocution.
1924 Nevada is the first state to adopt lethal gas as an execution method, following the use of poisonous gas in WWI, and executes Gee Jon for murder in a specially designed chamber.
1924 Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb, notorious Chicago “thrill killers,” are sentenced to life imprisonment after impassioned plea to the Judge by defense attorney Clarence Darrow.
1927 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian immigrants with anarchist sympathies, are electrocuted in Massachusetts for two murders during a robbery.
1931 The Scottsboro Boys, 9 young black men, are convicted in Alabama of the rape of a white woman and sentenced to death. After several appeals and retrials all were eventually freed or had their death sentences commuted.
1935 U.S. executions reach an all-time high at 199 in 1935.
1936 New Jersey executes Bruno Richard Hauptmann in the electric chair for the 1932 kidnap and murder of the Lindbergh baby.
Post WW II Era In the post-war years a number of factors contributed to a growing movement against the death penalty, including: a revulsion at atrocities witnessed during the war; the burgeoning civil rights movement; attempts by the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to appeal death penalty cases; its abolition in an increasing number of Western countries; and a weakening in public support for the death penalty. During the 1950s and 1960s, Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, Oregon, Iowa, West Virginia, Vermont, New York and New Mexico abolish the death penalty joining Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
1952 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of treason and executed for selling atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. They are the first U.S. civilians to be executed for espionage.
1960 Caryl Chessman is executed in the California gas chamber. Chessman was purportedly a genius who represented himself through seven trips to the U.S. Supreme Court, and was the author of the best-selling book Cell 2455: Death Row.
1963 Victor Feguer is executed by hanging at the Iowa Penitentiary for kidnapping and murder. He is the last federal prisoner to be executed until Timothy McVeigh is executed in 2001.
1965 Kansas executes Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, central characters in the Truman Capote novel In Cold Blood, for the 1959 murders of the Clutter family.
1966 Support for the death penalty reaches an all time low. Gallup Poll shows nationwide death penalty support at only 42%.
1967 After Luis Jose Monge is executed in the gas chamber at Colorado State Penitentiary, an unofficial moratorium on executions begins.
1970's State referendums in Illinois (1970), California (1972) and Washington (1975) each favor capital punishment by 2-1 margins.
1971 After 9 months of trial, Charles Manson and 3 members of the “The Family” are sentenced to death in California for the Tate-LaBianca murders. All have their death sentences commuted to life when the California Supreme Court and Furman holds the death penalty unconstitutional the following year.
1972 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Furman v. Georgia that the Georgia statute, giving the jury complete discretion to decide death or life imprisonment upon conviction of Murder, was unconstitutional. A 5-4 plurality opinion held that the death penalty was applied in a "freakish and wanton" manner due to unguided jury discretion. The practical effect of the decision was to strike down existing statutes in all states, and removing approximately 629 inmates from death row. In Indiana, approximately 8 death row prisoners had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. 35 states responded immediately by enacting new death penalty statutes, providing either for a mandatory death sentence, or carefully guided jury discretion.
1973 In response to Furman, Indiana immediately passes a new death penalty statute, Indiana Code 35-13-4-1, taking all discretion away from the jury and making a death sentence mandatory upon conviction of First Degree Murder with certain aggravating circumstances existing. This new statute was struck down in 1976 with the holdings of Woodson and Roberts, commuting to life imprisonment the death sentences of at least 7 Indiana death row inmates.
1976 The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the death penalty statutes in North Carolina and Louisiana which provide for a mandatory or automatic death penalty upon conviction of Murder, without consideration of the character of the offender or the circumstances of the crime, thereby violating the cruel and unusual punishment prohibition of the 8th Amendment. Woodson v. North Carolina, and Roberts v. Louisiana.
1976 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Gregg v. Georgia and Jurek v. Texas that a death sentence is not a per se violation of the 8th Amendment, and that where the jury is given guided discretion through aggravating and mitigating circumstances focusing on the particularized nature of the crime and the character of offender, the death penalty no longer violates the Eighth Amendment in application.
1976 The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the death penalty statute of Florida in Profitt v. Florida, despite the statute allowing the trial judge to reject a recommendation of life imprisonment by an advisory jury.
1976 In response to the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Woodson and Roberts, invalidating Indiana’s “mandatory” death penalty law, the Indiana Legislature passes Indiana Code 35-50-2-9, modeled after the Florida statute approved in Proffitt, allowing for the consideration of aggravating and mitigating circumstances presented to an advisory jury. That statute is essentially in the same form today.
1977 After waiving all appeals of his convictions for murdering a hotel clerk and a gas station attendant during a robbery, a Utah firing squad makes Gary Gilmore the first person executed in the U.S. in almost 10 years. In prison most of his life, Gilmore becomes a celebrity with his efforts to hasten his execution. His last words: “Let’s do it.”
1977 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Coker v. Georgia, that the imposition of a death sentence for the rape of an adult woman, where death does not result, is "disproportionate" and violates the Eighth Amendment proscription of cruel and unusual punishments.
1977 Oklahoma is the first state to adopt lethal injection as a method of execution.
1978 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Lockett v. Ohio, that the Defendant must be permitted to argue his minor participation in the murder, and the lack of a prior criminal record. The jury must be allowed to consider as a mitigating factor "any aspect of the defendant's character or record, and any of the circumstances of the offense that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence other than death."
1979 John Spenkelink is executed in Florida’s electric chair, becoming only the second person executed in the U.S. in the last 12 years, and the first to fight his execution to the bitter end.
1981 22 year old Steven Judy is convicted of murdering a woman and three small children in Morgan County. Judy waives all appeals and is executed by the state of Indiana in the electric chair. He is the first person executed in Indiana in almost 20 years, and only the 4th nationwide since 1967.
1982 Texas performs the first execution by lethal injection with the execution of Charlie Brooks.
1982 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Edmund v. Florida, that a death sentence may not be imposed upon a felony-murder accomplice when he did not kill, intend to kill, attempt to kill, or intend that deadly force be used. Such a punishment is disproportionate and violates the 8th Amendment.
1984 Velma Barfield is executed in North Carolina. She is the first woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty. By 2000, 55 women will be on death row and 4 others executed.
1985 Indiana Prosecutors put a post-Furman high of 10 defendants on death row.
1985 William Vandiver waives all appeals and is executed in Indiana for the 1983 murder for hire and dismemberment of his father-in-law in Lake County. Serious difficulties are experienced with electric chair. He is the 72nd prisoner executed in Indiana this century and 2nd since 1977.
1985 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Wainwright v. Witt, that a prospective juror can be excused for cause if their views on the death penalty would "substantially impair their performance of duty as a juror,” extending the 1968 holding in Witherspoon v. Illinois, which authorized removal of a prospective juror for cause if they are unalterably opposed and would "automatically" vote against the death penalty.
1985 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Caldwell v. Mississippi, that a prosecutor cannot be permitted to argue that any error by the jury will be corrected by higher courts on appeal, since it gives the jury a diminished sense of responsibility with regard to its decision.
1986 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Ford v. Wainright that it is unconstitutional to execute the insane.
1986 Paula Cooper is convicted in the 1985 torture murder and robbery of a 78 year old Bible teacher in Lake County and sentenced to death. She is 15 years old at the time of the murder, the youngest ever on Indiana Death Row. In 1989 the Indiana Supreme Court vacates the death sentence, holding that murderers less than 16 cannot receive a death sentence without violating the U.S. and Indiana Constitution.
1986 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Batson v. Kentucky that a Prosecutor cannot use peremptory challenges to exclude black jurors on the basis of race, when the defendant is black.
1987 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in McCleskey v. Kemp that statistics appearing to show sharp racial disparities in sentencing of killers in Georgia was not sufficient to overturn a death sentence. The Baldus study demonstrated that blacks who killed whites were sentenced to death seven times more often than whites who killed blacks. General patterns of discrimination were not enough to overturn death sentences. A person had to prove that he or she had been discriminated against personally.
1987 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Thompson v. Oklahoma, that a death sentence may not be imposed on a person following conviction of a murder committed when they were 15 years old.
1989 The Indiana Supreme Court adopts Rule 24 of the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure, requiring that when a prosecuting attorney seeks a death sentence, the request must be filed with the trial court and with the Indiana Supreme Court Administrator.
1989 After a 9 month trial, Richard Ramirez, “The Night Stalker,” is convicted of 14 murders and sentenced to death in California.
1989 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Stanford v. Kentucky that the Constitution does not prohibit the execution of 16 year olds who commit murder.
1989 The Indiana legislature passes Indiana Code 33-9-14 allowing for 50% reimbursement to counties from the state for indigent defense services provided in capital cases, but only if certain guidelines are met.
1989 Ted Bundy is executed in Florida for the 1978 murders at a Florida State sorority, and the kidnap, rape and murder of 12 year old Kimberley Leach.
1989 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Penry v. Lynaugh, that executing mentally retarded persons does not violate the Eighth Amendment.
1990 Alan Matheny is convicted of murder in St. Joseph County and sentenced to death. Matheny had been released on an 8-hour prison furlough in 1989, returned to the home of his ex-wife and beat her to death. Matheny was serving time for beating her in 1987. The case causes the Indiana legislature to pass a law requiring victim notification upon an inmates release from prison.
1991 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Payne v. Tennessee that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit admission of "victim impact" evidence and related prosecutorial argument at capital sentencing.
1992 Governor Bill Clinton interrupts his presidential campaign to return to Arkansas so that he can “supervise” the execution of Ricky Ray Rector.
1992 The Indiana Supreme Court amends Rule 24 of the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure, requiring the appointment of experienced counsel with minimum caseloads and unlimited compensation in all capital cases.
1993 Washington executes Westley Dodd by hanging, the first hanging in decades.
1993 Indiana Code 35-50-2-9 is amended to allow a jury option of recommending Life Without Parole.
1994 Gregory Resnover is executed in Indiana by electrocution following his conviction for murdering an Indianapolis police officer 14 years earlier. His co-defendant, Tommie J. Smith, will be executed for the crime in 1996. Resnover is the 73rd prisoner executed in Indiana this century and 3rd since 1977.
1994 Congress passes the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, authorizing the death penalty for scores of new federal crimes.
1994 Illinois executes John Wayne Gacy, “The Killer Clown,” following his 1980 convictions for 33 counts of murder of mostly young men and boys, 27 of which were found buried in the crawl space beneath his home.
1994 Support for the death penalty reaches an all time high. Gallup Poll shows nationwide death penalty support at 80%.
1994 Indiana Code 35-50-2-9 is amended to prohibit a Prosecutor from seeking a death sentence against a mentally retarded individual.
1995 Delays in death penalty cases reach a peak with those executed during 1995 spending an average of 11 years, 2 months awaiting execution.
1995 New York Governor George E. Pataki fulfills campaign promise and signs new law reinstating the death penalty in New York.
1996 Congress passes the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, restricting a prisoners' access to new state hearings for claims of actual innocence. The law also provides that only "unreasonable" unconstitutional state rulings could be overturned, establishes filing deadlines for all habeas claims, and requires competent post conviction counsel for defense
1996 Tommie J. Smith is the first prisoner executed in Indiana by lethal injection following his conviction for murdering an Indianapolis police officer 15 years earlier. His co-defendant, Gregory Resnover, had been executed for the crime in 1994. Smith is the 74th prisoner executed in Indiana this century and the 4th since 1977.
1996 Delaware executes Billy Bailey by hanging after he refuses the option of lethal injection.
1996 The movie “Dead Man Walking,” Sister Helen Prejean’s account of her relationship with fictional Louisiana Death Row inmate, Matthew Poncelet, debuts in Hollywood. The movie is loosely based upon the real-life cases of Robert Lee Willie and Elmo Patrick Sonnier, both executed in 1984.
1996 Utah executes John Albert Taylor by firing squad.
1997 The American Bar Association calls for a moratorium on executions until the death penalty can be "administered fairly and impartially, in accordance with due process," and with minimum risk of executing innocent people. The resolution also says that the ABA takes no position on the death penalty per se.
1997 Gary Burris is the executed in Indiana by lethal injection following his conviction for the robbery and murder of a cab driver in Indianapolis 17 years earlier. He is the 75th prisoner executed in Indiana this century and 5th since 1977.
1997 John Stephenson is convicted of murdering three persons with an assault rifle in Warrick County after an 8 month trial and is sentenced to death. With the assistance of the trial judge, it is believed to be the longest and most expensive trial in Indiana history, with a total pricetag which included attorneys fees of $334,156, paralegal fees of $57,788, expert fees of $79,193, investigator fees of $74,493, and miscellaneous expenses of over $10,000. (Not including appeal expenses)
1997 Timothy McVeigh is convicted and sentenced to death for the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, becoming the 13th inmate on federal death row.
1998 Karla Faye Tucker is executed in Texas for the 1983 pickax murders of a Houston couple. The execution attracts international attention and worldwide pleas for mercy from Pope John Paul II to Pat Robertson are ignored.
1998 Robert A. Smith is executed in Indiana by lethal injection following his conviction for murdering a fellow inmate at Wabash Valley Correctional Complex in Sullivan County. Smith pleads guilty, requests the death penalty and waives appeals. He is the 76th prisoner executed in Indiana this century and 6th since 1977.
1999 The Federal Government completes a new lethal injection execution chamber at the U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. All federal death row prisoners are moved there.
1999 98 persons are executed in the U.S., the highest number since 1951.
1999 Northwestern University journalism students help uncover new evidence showing an eyewitness who lied and another person comfesses, leading to Anthony Porter being freed from Illinois death row.
1999 Chicago Tribune publishes a sensational series of articles, “Trial & Error,” claiming that Prosecutors engaged in misconduct which sent many to prison and some to death row. This is followed by an equally sensational series entitled “Failure of the Death Penalty in Illinois.”
1999 D.H. Fleenor is executed in Indiana by lethal injection on December 9, 1999 following his 1984 conviction for murdering his mother-in-law and her husband in Jefferson County. He is the 77th prisoner executed in Indiana this century and the 7th since 1977.
1999 The Nebraska legislature overrode Governor Mike Johanns veto on a vote of 43-0 to fund a two-year study of the fairness of the application of the death penalty in Nebraska. The legislature also passed a moratorium on executions for the duration of the study by a vote of 27-21. This was also vetoed by the governor. No override vote was taken on the moratorium bill. Nebraska's Legislature was the first in the nation to pass a moratorium on executions.
1999 Prosecutors and police go on trial in DuPage County, Illinois for conspiring to frame an allegedly innocent man, Rolando Cruz, for the rape and murder of a 10 year old girl in 1983. Cruz spent 10 years on death row before his acquittal at his third trial in 1995. All prosecutors and police are found not guilty, but the verdict is much less publicized by the media than the trial.
2000 Glen McGinnis is executed in Texas. He is the 16th person since 1977 executed for a murder committed before his 18th birthday. 74 more await execution on death row nationwide.
2000 Illinois Governor Ryan announces a moratorium on Illinois executions following repeated reversals of death sentences, including several highly publicized exonerations, and appoints a bipartisan panel to investigate.
2000 Gallup Poll shows death penalty support at 66%, its lowest level in 19 years. Incredibly, according to the same poll, 11% believe that at least 1 in 5 on death row are innocent.
2000 Pat Robertson offers opinion that a death penalty moratorium would be “appropriate.”
2000 The New Hampshire Legislature passes a repeal of its death penalty laws, but it is vetoed by Governor Jeanne Shaheen. (New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939, has no one on death row, and has one of the lowest crime rates in the nation)
2000 Causing a media sensation, researchers at Columbia University studied more than 4,578 death penalty appeals from 1973 to 1995 and released a report claiming that nationally 68% of all death penalty sentences are overturned on appeal. The study was authored by long-time anti-death penalty advocate and Columbia University Professor James S. Liebman. The report is seriously flawed and later discredited, in part due to the refusal of Columbia researchers to provide access to their work.
2000 The Department of Justice releases an internal report, "1988-2000 Survey of the Federal Death Penalty System,” which raises issues of racial and geographic disparity in the application of the federal death penalty. As of April 2000, 20 persons are on federal death row in Terre Haute, only 4 of which are white.
2000 Florida death row inmate Frank Lee Smith, who died of cancer after 14 years on death row, is posthumously cleared by DNA testing in the 1985 rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl which sent him there. Nine other death row inmates across the country have been exonerated because of DNA testing, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based group that has provided legal assistance to prisoners.
2000 Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon directs the Indiana Criminal Law Study Commission to review all aspects of Indiana’s death penalty system to determine if bias exists and whether safeguards are in place to insure that innocent persons are not sentenced to death. The Commission is chaired by State Senator William Alexa, and has met monthly for over one year, and a report is expected in 2001.
March 2001 After 10 years on death row and losing appeals on direct appeal and PCR, Gerald Wayne Bivins waives the remainder of his appeals in federal court and is executed by lethal injection in Indiana on March 14, 2001. Bivins was convicted in Boone County for the murder of Reverend William Radcliffe at an I-65 truck stop in 1991. He is the 78th prisoner executed in Indiana this century and the 8th since 1977.
March 2001 Robert Lee Massie is executed by lethal injection in California, becoming only the 9th prisoner executed by that state since 1976. Over 600 remain on California Death Row. In 1965, Massie was convicted of murder after following a car off the freeway and shooting the driver after he took his wallet. He committed two similar robberies, but the victims survived. He was sentenced to death that same year, but it was commuted to life imprisonment in 1972 after Furman. He was paroled in 1978 after serving 13 years. One year later, he shot and killed a liquor store clerk and wounded another during a robbery, and was again sentenced to death. After 20 years of appeals, Massie was executed only after he waived and consented to the execution.
May 2001 Missouri passes a new law banning the execution of the mentally retarded. Of the 38 states which authorize the death penalty, Missouri and Indiana are among 15 which now ban such executions.
May 2001 Timothy McVeigh, convicted and sentenced to death in 1997 for the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, waives all appeals intent on becoming a martyr for his cause. Days before his scheduled May 16 execution date, the FBI discovers over 3,000 documents that had not been turned over to the prosecution or the defense at trial. McVeigh decides martyrdom can wait and seeks a delay in his execution.
June 2001 Timothy McVeigh, waiving all appeals intent on becoming a martyr for his cause, is executed by lethal injection at the Federal Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana. The execution is accompanied by a media circus as McVeigh is the first federal prisoner since 1963 to be executed. McVeigh had been convicted and sentenced to death in 1997 for the murder of 168 persons killed in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building on April 19, 1995. Remorseless to the bitter end, McVeigh had openly admitted his guilt in the bombing, saying it was an act of war against the federal government, and that he was only responding to FBI actions at Ruby Ridge and Waco. The execution was delayed by 30 days following the discovery of over 3000 documents that the FBI failed to turn over to the defense or the prosecution at trial. McVeigh unsuccessfully sought an extended last-minute stay to allow for further examination of the documents.
June 2001 Juan Raul Garza is executed by lethal injection at the Federal Penetentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana 8 days following the execution of Timothy McVeigh, becoming only the second murderer executed by the federal government since 1963.
June 2001 James Lowery is executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City on June 27, 2001. Lowery was first convicted and sentenced to death on July 11, 1980, for the murder of an elderly couple, Mark and Gertrude Thompson, in Tippecanoe County on September 30, 1979. Lowery formerly worked as a caretaker at the home of the Thompsons, and became enraged after he was fired. Following a change of venue, trial was held in Boone County and the sentence was handed down by Boone superior Court Judge Paul H. Johnson. In 1982, the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the murder conviction due to a failure to sequester the jury. On remand, the trial was venued to Hendricks County and Lowery was again convicted of murder and sentenced to death by Judge Jeffrey Boles on January 7, 1983. He remained on Indiana Death Row for another 18 years, pursuing appeals to the bitter end.
2001 The Nebraska Crime Commission issues its final report to the Governor: The Disposition of Nebraska Capital and Non-Capital Homicide Cases (1973-1999), A Legal and Empirical Analysis.
2001 The second major research study of 2001 finds strong deterrent effect of capital punishment. Scholarly research paper from economics professors at the University of Colorado at Denver, H. Naci Mocan and R. Kaj Gittings, suggests that the death penalty has a significant deterrent effect. This study follows similar conclusions reached in January 2001 by economics professors at Emory University, Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Paul Rubin, and Joanna Mehlhop Sheperd. Neither study attracts significant media attention, undoubtedly due to media bias against the death penalty.
2001 Georgia's Supreme Court became the first appellate court in the country to rule that electrocution is an unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. In a 4-3 decision, the court said that death by electrocution "inflicts purposeless physical violence and needless mutilation that makes no measurable contribution to accepted goals of punishment." With the ruling, the state automatically switches to the use of lethal injection under a law passed last year to provide an alternate method of execution if the courts ruled electrocution illegal. (Alabama and Nebraska are the only states using the electric chair as the sole method of execution)
2001 Citing problems with the jury charge and verdict form, United States District Court Judge William Yohn sets aside the death sentence of Mumia Abu-Jamal in a 272-page ruling, but dismisses all other defense claims in affirming the 1982 conviction for the murder of Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner. The State was given 180 days to conduct a new sentencing hearing. Both sides are expected to appeal. Abu-Jamal has gained worldwide notoriety as an anti-death penalty activist, particularly among the young and the entertainment industry, claiming that his conviction and sentence was racist and unjust.
April 2002 Ray Krone is released from Arizona prison after DNA proves his innocence. Krone was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1992. On appeal, he was granted a retrial but was again convicted and sentenced to life in prison. His release is trumpeted by anti-death penalty activists as the 100th exoneration from death row since 1973. Death penalty supporters strongly dispute the "100" number created by the Death Penalty Information Center, in this case pointing to the fact that Krone was not even on death row when released, and say that his release only shows the system works. Supporters also point to over 7,000 death sentences handed down since 1976, with a remarkably low percentage of wrongful murder convictions.
April 2002 Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment issues its report to Governor Ryan, who appointed the Commission in March 2000, shortly after declaring a moratorium on executions in Illinois. The Report includes several controversial recommendations to narrow the scope and reach of the death penalty, as well as others designed to avoid wrongful convictions. Opponents charge that the commission is stacked with death penalty opponents.
April 2002 Governor O'Bannon signs into law 2002 legislative changes to Indiana Death Penalty Law, including: (1) Raising the minimum age for death penalty eligibility from 16 to 18 at the time of the crime (Minimum age remains at 16 for Life Without Parole), (2) Requiring the trial judge to sentence according to the jury verdict, thereby eliminating the option of a trial judge to "override" the jury's verdict (If jury is hung, trial judge may still sentence to death), and (3) Requiring the use of a special jury verdict form and unanimity as to each aggravating circumstance.
April 2002 Alton Coleman is executed by the state of Ohio at 10:13 a.m. Coleman was the only death row inmate in the United States with death sentences in three states: Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. These sentences were the culmination of a 1984 midwestern crime spree by Coleman and accomplice Deborah Denise Brown that included up to 8 murders, 7 rapes, 3 kidnappings, and 14 armed robberies. In Indiana's case, Coleman and Brown convinced 7 year old Tamika Turks and 9 year old Annie to follow them into the woods to play a game. The children were walking to a nearby candy store. Once in the woods, the children were bound, raped, and beaten. Tamika was strangled to death. Annie survived with serious injuries. Once again, Indiana was beaten to the punch, this time by Ohio. In 1997, Michael Lee Lockhart was executed by the State of Texas while appealing his Indiana death sentence.
May 2002 Maryland Governor Parris Glendening imposes a moratorium on executions in Maryland until the state finishes a study on whether there is racial bias in the use of the death penalty. Glendening, a Democrat whose second and final term as Governor ends in January, said he envisions the stay remaining in place until an ongoing study by the University of Maryland is reviewed and acted upon by the legislature, "which I expect to take about one year." Glendening's opponents charge that the move is merely a political move to assist his likely successor, Kathleen Townsend, in playing the race card to get out the black vote. It is worth questioning why those governors who commute death row sentences or impose death penalty moratoriums do so only when they no longer have to stand for election.
May 2002 Napoleon Beazley is executed by lethal injection in Texas for the 1994 slaying of businessman John Luttig during a botched carjacking. Beazley was 17 at the time of the murder. Luttig, 63, was the father of Judge J. Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Beazley is the 11th inmate in Texas, and the 19th in the country, to be put to death since 1976 for committing a murder before age 18. Currently, of the 38 states with capital punishment, 17 allow death sentences for 16-year-old convicted murderers. Sixteen states set the age limit at 18, and five states, including Texas, set the limit at 17.
May 2002 Gallup Poll shows increase in death penalty support to 72%, the highest since 1999, with 47% believing that the death penalty is not imposed often enough. Only 19% favor the death penalty for the mentally ill and 26% favor the death penalty for juveniles. 52% favor the death penalty over life imprisonment "with absolutely no possibility of parole," and 53% say the death penalty is applied fairly in this country.
June 2002 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Atkins v. Virginia that execution of the mentally retarded constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling reversed a previous opinion on the issue in 1989 in Penry v. Lynaugh, and recognized that 18 states (including Indiana) now forbid execution of the mentally retarded by state law. Justices Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas dissent, saying that the court relied too heavily on opinion polls and noting that there are 20 death penalty states that have rejected the exclusion of the mentally retarded. The dissent also pointed to the 20 prior felonies on Atkins record and his disputed evidence of retardation. While the opinion leaves open the definition of "mentally retarded," it is generally defined as having an IQ less than 70. In Indiana, the two most likely death row inmates to gain from the decision are Howard Allen and Debra Denise Brown, both of whom received death sentences before Indiana's change in state law prohibiting execution of the mentally retarded.
June 2002 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Ring v. Arizona that the finding of an aggravating factor justifying a death sentence must be made by a jury, not merely by the sentencing Judge. The ruling reversed a 1990 opinion upholding the Arizona death penalty procedures in Walton v. Arizona. Along with four other states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska), Arizona commits both capital sentencing factfinding and the ultimate sentencing decision entirely to the sentencing Judge. The ruling would appear to be retroactive and reverse all death sentences in these 5 states, approximately 168 cases. Four other states (Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana) have hybrid systems that require an "advisory" verdict by the jury, but the sentencing Judge makes the ultimate sentencing determination. The effect in these states, with approximately 629 convicted murderers on death row, is unclear, but the ruling would appear to at least reverse the death sentences where the jury made no finding of an aggravating circumstance. In Indiana, that would include those cases where the jury recommended against a death sentence: (Benny Lee Saylor - Madison County, Christopher Peterson - Lake County, William Minnick - Lawrence County), and those cases where the jury was unable to reach a jury recommendation: (Eric Holmes - Marion County, Charles Roche - Lake County, Edward Earl Williams - Lake County).
October 2002 Admitted serial killer Aileen Wuornos is executed by the State of Florida for a series of murders committed along Florida highways in 1989/1990. Wuornos had earlier claimed that she had committed all of the murders in self-defense when the men attempted to sexually abuse her. The case generated extreme publicity and notoriety, resulting in several books and movies, and even one opera on the life of "America's first female serial killer." She is the 805th murderer executed and the 10th woman executed in the U.S. since executions were resumed in 1976.
October 2002 In a case which attracted nationwide publicity, California Superior Court Judge William Mudd sentences David Westerfield to death for the kidnapping and murder of his 7 year old San Diego neighbor Danielle Van Dam. Danielle was last seen in her bed on February 1, 2002. Her nude body was found nearly a month later along a road outside the city.
January 2003 A study conducted by the University of Maryland, examining Maryland death penalty cases over a 21 year period concludes that defendants accused of killing white victims are significantly more likely to face the death penalty than cases with non-white victims. The county jurisdiction involved also has a significant effect on who receives a death sentence. The study was authorized by outgoing Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, who has imposed a moratorium on executions in that state. The lead author is University of Maryland Professor Raymond Paternoster, a well-known opponent of capital punishment. Curiously, the summary states that "When the prosecuting jurisdiction is added to the model, the effect for the victim's race diminishes substantially, and is no longer statistically significant." This perhaps recognizes that prosecutors in Baltimore City, the jurisdiction with the highest percentage of minorities, were the least likely to seek the death penalty in eligible cases, the study shows.
January 2003 Declaring the Illinois death penalty system "arbitrary, capricious, and therefore immoral," Governor George Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 condemned inmates on Illinois Death Row. According to Ryan, all but three of those inmates now face life in prison without the possibility of parole. The other three will get shorter sentences and could eventually be released from prison. A day earlier, Ryan handed outright pardons to 4 death row inmates. Ryan, a Republican, placed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000 after he concluded that 13 former Illinois death row inmates had been "exonerated." The blanket commutations two days before leaving office, while not unprecedented, has been hailed as a "courageous act" by death penalty opponents, with hopes of other states following his lead. However, the move also prompted outrage and anguish from prosecutors and the families of murder victims. Particularly offensive to many was a statement by the Governor that "I am a friend to these men on death row." Other political observers think that the move was merely a shallow effort to shift attention away from the corruption scandal that has plagued his administration and led to criminal charges against top aides.
January 2003 Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. urged state leaders to abolish the death penalty, saying that mistakes are inevitable in the capital murder system and that the prospect of executing an innocent person is an "intolerable risk." But his statement is likely to intensify debate over the death penalty in Maryland, where newly elected Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) has rescinded a moratorium imposed by former Governor Glendening.
February 2003 The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a plan by the PBS series Frontline to videotape jury deliberations in a Harris County death penalty case. The trial Judge, Ted Poe, had agreed to allow the taping of deliberations by a remote camera in the murder trial of Cedric Henderson. The Court of Appeals said that jury deliberations were purposely designed to be free of such influences and that the filming, even by an unmanned camera, may have affected the free flow of discussions. The videotaping would have been the first time jury deliberations in a death penalty case had been filmed. Juries in trials with less at stake have been filmed in Wisconsin and Arizona.
May 2003 Kevin Lee Hough is executed by lethal injection on May 2, 2003 at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Hough was convicted and sentenced to death on June 11, 1987, for the murder of his cousin’s landlords, Ted Bosler and Gene Rubrake, in Allen County on November 6, 1985. Hough was upset with his cousin's landlords, Ted Bosler and Gene Rubrake. He is the 82nd prisoner executed in Indiana since 1900 and the 12th since 1977.
May 2003 Gallup Poll shows increase in death penalty support to 74%, the highest since 1996, with 48% believing that the death penalty is not imposed often enough. Although 73% say that they believe an innocent person has been executed in the last five years, 60% think the death penalty is applied fairly.
June 2003 Joseph L. Trueblood is executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City on June 12, 2003. Trueblood was first convicted and sentenced to death in Tippecanoe County on August 12, 1990 for the murder of his former girlfriend, Susan Bowsher, and her two children, aged 2 and 17 months. He is the 81st prisoner executed in Indiana since 1900 and the 11th since 1977.
June 2003 Kentucky Governor Paul Patton, whose administration has been rocked by scandal, announced that he will commute the death sentence of Kevin L. Stanford, who was 17 years old in 1981 when he sodomized, kidnapped and fatally shot 20-year-old Louisville gas station attendant, Baerbel Poore.
Stanford’s case attracted nationwide publicity when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed his sentence, upholding the right to execute “juvenile” murderers. At the same time of Stanford’s commutation, Governor Patton also pardoned his chief of staff and three others accused of breaking campaign finance laws in 1995.
November 2003 “Green River Killer” Gary Leon Ridgeway pleads guilty and admits to killing 48 women in the Seattle, Washington area over the last 20 years, avoiding the death penalty pursuant to a plea agreement with Seattle prosecutors. He is instead sentenced to life without parole.
November 2003 Sniper John Allen Muhammad is convicted of capital murder in Virginia and sentenced to death. Muhammad and teenager Lee Boyd Malvo shot and killed 10 people at random in October 2002 during a 3 week spree that terrorized and paralyzed the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. areas. Muhammad faces pending capital charges, also in Virginia, and may face additional trials in other jurisdictions.
December 2003 Teenage sniper Lee Boyd Malvo is convicted of capital murder in Virginia. Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, shot and killed 10 people at random in October 2002 during a 3 week spree that terrorized and paralyzed the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. areas. However, the jury rejected the death penalty, citing his young age and manipulation by the older Muhammad, and agreed to a life sentence instead. Malvo still may face additional capital murder trials in other jurisdictions.
March 2004 Governors of Wyoming and South Dakota sign into law legislative changes raising the minimum age for imposition of the death penalty from 16 to 18 at the time of the crime. Of the 38 states that now authorize the death penalty, 31 set the minimum age at 18. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier held in Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815 (1988) that executing a person convicted of committing a murder at age 15 constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
April 2004 Indiana Death Row inmates end a two week hunger strike. The prisoners had been relocated from Michigan City to Westville while renovations were made to Death Row. When the Department of Corrections decided to delay their return to Michigan City until the summer of 2005, they became angered at having to endure “filthy and inhumane” conditions at the Westville Maximum Control Facility. The “hunger strike” generated a few newspaper articles from sympathetic journalists, but produced little else.
May 2004 Indiana Supreme Court sets a July 9 execution date for Darnell Williams, sentenced to death along with Gregory Rouster in Lake County for the 1986 murders of John and Henrietta Rease. Williams came within a few days of execution in 2003, when then-Governor Frank O’Bannon ordered a temporary reprieve for DNA testing on his clothing. The testing was inconclusive and the Indiana Supreme Court held that there was other overwhelming evidence showing guilt.
May 2004 Gallup Poll shows death penalty support in the United States at 71%, in spite of overwhelming anti-death penalty media saturation, with 48% believing that the death penalty is not imposed often enough. Although only 35% believe that the death penalty lowers the murder rate, 55% say that they believe that the death penalty is applied fairly.
June 2004 In spite of the opposition of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., and the short-lived “moratorium” of a previous administration, Maryland executes Steven H. Oken for the Rape and Murder of 20 year old Dawn Marie Garvin. Oken was also convicted of murdering two other women, including his sister in law, during a 20 day crime spree in 1987.
June 2004 Terry Nichols, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in federal court in 1997 along with Timothy McVeigh for the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, was convicted in state court of 161 counts of murder. However, the jury deadlocks on the death penalty during penalty deliberations.
June 2004 The New York Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, but vacated the death sentence of Stephen LaValle, who was condemned for raping and killing a jogger in 1997. In a 4-3 ruling, the court said the state's sentencing rules might unconstitutionally coerce jurors into voting for a death sentence rather than risk a deadlock by holding out for life without parole. If a jury cannot agree on a sentence, the judge imposes a sentence of between 20 and 25 years to life, with the possibility of parole. "The deadlock instruction gives rise to an unconstitutionally palpable risk that one or more jurors who cannot bear the thought that a defendant may walk the streets again ... will join jurors favoring death in order to avoid the deadlock sentence," the court wrote.The judges ordered that LaValle be resentenced to life without parole or a parole-eligible sentence of between 20 and 25 years to life. It is likely that the ruling will remove all 4 current residents of New York Death Row.
July 2004 Indiana Governor Joe Kernan issued an Executive Order commuting the death sentence of Darnell Williams to Life Imprisonment Without Parole. Noting that Gregory Rouster was more culpable in the murders, but had been spared the death penalty after he was declared mentally retarded. Governor Kernan said “Because Rouster cannot be executed for the crime, it is unjust for Williams to be executed.” The commutation followed a recommendation for commutation from the State Parole Board. This was the first time since the reinstatement of the Death Penalty in Indiana in 1977 that the Parole Board recommended commutation of a death sentence, or that the Governor commuted a death sentence. In July 2003 Governor Frank O’Bannon granted a stay of execution for Darnell Williams in order that DNA testing could be performed on clothing he was wearing when arrested. However, the testing proved inconclusive at best, and the Indiana Supreme Court set a July 9, 2004 execution date. (Since Life Without Parole did not exist at the time of Williams' murder and original sentencing, it is unclear what actual sentence will be imposed).
December 2004 The jury returns a unanimous verdict for a death sentence against Scott Peterson, earlier found guilty of the First Degree Murder of his wife and unborn child in Redwood City, California. The trial and verdict attract extraordinary nationwide publicity, despite not being televised. Laci Peterson was last seen on Christmas Eve 2002 near their home in Modesto. Her body and fetus was later recovered washed up on the shore of San Francisco Bay months later.
January 2005 Outgoing Indiana Governor Joseph Kernan commutes the death sentence of Michael Daniels, the longest serving prisoner on Indiana Death Row. Daniels was sentenced to death on September 14, 1979 for the robbery and murder of Allen Streett, who was merely shoveling snow outside his residence when confronted by Daniels and accomplices. Governor Kernan showed less than courage in granting the clemency in his last days in office after being defeated in his bid for reelection. As reasons for the clemency, Governor Kernan basically stated that Daniels was "almost" retarded, "almost" entered into a plea agreement for a lesser sentence, and the case was "almost" reversed on appeal. Also the case was very old.
March 2005 The United States Supreme Court decides Roper v. Simmons, 125 S.Ct. 1183 (Missouri 2005), holding in a 5-4 decision that executing convicted murderers who were 16 or 17 years old at the time of the murders was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ruling reverses existing precedent decided only a decade ago, and invalidated death penalty laws in 20 states which allow such executions. The Opinion is hailed by anti-death penalty activists, who note that the United States was the last remaining country on earth officially sanctioning the execution of juveniles. Death penalty proponents, led by the stinging dissenting opinions of Justice Scalia and Justice O'Connor, decry the ease with which the Court overturned existing precedent, and the citation of European public opinion in support of the change. The Missouri defendant was 17 years old when he burglarized a home and entered the bedroom of the victim. He used duct tape to tie her up and gag her, then drove her to a state park and threw her in a river.
March 2005 Donald Ray Wallace, Jr. is executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Wallace was first convicted and sentenced to death in Vigo County (Venued from Vanderburgh County) on October 21, 1982 for the murder of Patrick and Teresa Gilligan, and their two children Lisa (age 5) and Gregory (age 4), during a burglary. He is the 82nd prisoner executed in Indiana since 1900 and the 12th since 1977.
April 2005 Bill J. Benefiel is executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Benefiel was first convicted and sentenced to death in Vigo County for the February 7, 1987 murder of 19 year old Delores Wells. Benefiel held Delores Wells captive in a vacant house for 12 days, repeatedly raping her before killing her by putting superglue in her nose and pinching her nose closed. He also held captive and sexually abused another woman for four months in the same house. He is the 83rd prisoner executed in Indiana since 1900 and the 13th since 1977.
May 2005 Gallup Poll shows death penalty support in the United States at 74%, the highest in a decade in spite of overwhelming anti-death penalty media saturation, with 53% believing that the death penalty is not imposed often enough. 56% choose the death penalty over life “with absolutely no possibility of parole.” 61% believe that the death penalty is applied fairly in the U.S., and 70% believe that the death penalty is morally acceptable.
May 2005 Gregory Scott Johnson is executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Johnson was first convicted and sentenced to death in Madison County for the 1985 stomping death of 82 year old Ruby Hutslar during a burglary to her home. Johnson makes national news by unsuccessfully seeking a last minute delay in order to donate his liver to her ailing sister. He is the 84th prisoner executed in Indiana since 1900 and the 14th since 1977.
July 2005 Kevin Aaron Conner is executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Conner was first convicted and sentenced to death in Marion County for the murder of "friends" Steve Wentland (stabbing), Tony Moore (shotgun), and Bruce Voge (shotgun) in 1988. He is the 85th prisoner executed in Indiana since 1900 and the 15th since 1977.
August 2005 The infamous BTK serial killer, Dennis Rader, is sentenced in Wichita, Kansas to 10 consecutive life terms in prison, with a minimum of 175 years without a chance of parole. Rader, 60, a former church congregation president and Boy Scout leader, led a double life, calling himself BTK for “bind, torture and kill.” He was arrested in February and pleaded guilty in June to the 10 murders that terrorized Wichita from 1974 to 1991. The unspeakable crimes, often involving deviant sex and torture against men, women and children ranging from a woman in her 60's to a child less than 10, were all committed when Kansas had no death penalty on its books.
September 2005 Alan Lehman Matheney is executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Matheney was first convicted and sentenced to death in Lake County after a change of venue from St. Joseph County for the beating his ex-wife to death with a shotgun in 1989. Matheny was convicted of battery upon his ex-wife and while in prison was given an 8 hour furlough. He went straight to South Bend to her home, chased her down the street, and beat her to death. The case generated massive amounts of publicity and led to state legislation requiring the Indiana DOC to notify victims of release from prison. Matheney is the 86th prisoner executed in Indiana since 1900 and the 16th since 1977. Matheney is the 5th person executed by the State of Indiana in 2005, the most in any year except 1938.
January 2006 Marvin L. Bieghler is executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Bieghler was first convicted and sentenced to death in Howard County for the 1981 murders of Tommy Miller, a suspected snitch in Bieghler's marijuana selling business, and his pregnant wife, Kimberly. He is the 87th prisoner executed in Indiana since 1900 and the 17th since 1977.
January 2006 While awaiting a sentencing hearing retrial, Charles Edward Roche committed suicide by hanging in his cell on death row at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Roche was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 1990 for the murder of Ernest Graves and Daniel Brown during a drug transaction in Lake County. In 2002, the U.S. District Court granted a Writ of Habeas Corpus as to his death sentence only.
January 2006 Post-execution DNA tests on rape/murder evidence in the case of Roger Keith Coleman in Virginia confirm his guilt. Governor Warner had become the first governor in the country to order post-execution testing. Despite his conviction of a 1981 rape/murder, Coleman had successfully convinced Jim McCloskey of Centurian Ministries of his innocence, and McCloskey responded with over a decade of energy on his behalf. Time Magazine had featured a cover with Coleman on the cover and a story proclaiming his innocence. Other mainstream media picked up the banner without hesitation. In a press release, McCloskey said that he felt betrayed by Coleman and could not believe he had been untruthful to him. Big surprise, murderers may also lie.
January 2006 Governor Richard J. Codey signed into law legislation requiring an immediate moratorium on all executions in New Jersey and creating a study commission that will undertake a comprehensive examination of the State's current death penalty system.
March 2006 New legislation in Indiana becomes effective (IC 35-38-6-6) allowing up to 8 members of the family of the murder victim to witness an execution. Previous law required permission from the convicted murderer for any family members of the victim to attend. The number of friends and family invited by the convicted murderer is reduced from 10 to 5.
May 2006 Gallup Poll shows death penalty support in the United States at 65%, down from the 74% approval a year earlier. Despite overwhelming anti-death penalty media saturation, 51% believe that the death penalty is not imposed often enough; 60% believe that the death penalty is applied fairly, and when given a choice to name the better penalty for murder, "life imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole” is preferred over the death penalty 48% to 47%.
August 2006 Thomas Schiro was convicted of Rape, based upon sexual assaults committed in 1980. He had been charged in Vanderburgh County upon his release from prison for the 1981 murder of Laura Luebbehusen. He was originally convicted and sentenced to death for that murder, but the death sentence was later vacated by the Indiana Supreme Court in 1996 after a third PCR petition.
December 2006 While awaiting decision by the U.S. District Court on his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, 75 year old Richard Moore died of natural causes on death row at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Moore was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 1980 for the shotgun murders at an Indianapolis home of his ex-wife Rhonda Caldwell, his ex-father in law John Caldwell, and responding police officer Gerald Griffin. The death sentence was vacated in 1997, and reinstated after a sentencing hearing in 2000.
February 2007 The American Bar Association issued a report urging a moratorium on the death penalty in Indiana. The report is one of many issued in several states by the ABA, who claims neither to support or oppose the death penalty. The report concludes that Indiana satisfies only 10 of 93 protocols recommended by the ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project. While claiming to be fair and unbiased, the assessment team is made up of notorious death penalty opponents.
May 2007 David Leon Woods was executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Woods was first convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the burglary, robbery and murder of 77 year old neighbor Juan Placencia in DeKalb County. He is the 88th convicted murderer executed in Indiana since 1900, and 18th since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.
June 2007 The steady drumbeat academic studies continue to unequivocally find that capital punishment does indeed act as a deterrent to murder. The results of at least a dozen studies in the past 10 years have horrified death penalty opponents, who largely have ignored the findings, which count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer. - A 2003 study authored by Naci Mocan, an economics professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. and a 2006 study that re-examined the data, found that each execution results in five fewer homicides, and commuting a death sentence means five more homicides; Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University; The Illinois moratorium on executions in 2000 led to 150 additional homicides over four years following, according to a 2006 study by professors at the University of Houston; Speeding up executions would strengthen the deterrent effect. For every 2.75 years cut from time spent on death row, one murder would be prevented, according to a 2004 study by an Emory University professor.
June 2007 Michael Lambert was executed by lethal injection at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Lambert was first convicted and sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of Muncie police officer Gregg Winters. While handcuffed in the back seat of a police cruiser, Lambert managed to shoot Winters five times in the back of his head and neck. He is the 89th convicted murderer executed in Indiana since 1900, and 19th since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.
June 2007 Stevens v. McBride, 489 F.3d 883 (7th Cir. June 18, 2007) Opinion by U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, granting Writ of Habeas Corpus as to Death Sentence only for Christopher Stevens, reversing the decision of the U.S. District Coourt and holding that investigation and presentation of expert psychological testimony at his penalty trial amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. Stevens was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for the Child Molest and murder of 10 year old Zachary Snider. The case drew intense media and legislative attention, later resulting in Zachary’s Law, establishing the Indiana Sex Offender Registry.
July 2007 South Dakota carried out its first execution since 1947, putting to death 25-year-old Elijah Page after he waived all appeals. Page was convicted of torturing and killing 19-year-old Chester Poage following a robbery. Before the lethal injection, there had been only 15 executions in the state, the first occurring in 1877 when Jack McCall was hanged for shooting Wild Bill Hickok. Only three other men remain on death row, including a co-defendant of Page.
October 2007 Gallup Poll shows death penalty support in the United States at 69%, remaining steady in spite of overwhelming anti-death penalty media saturation. The poll also shows 66% who believe the death penalty is morally acceptable, 49% who believe the death penalty is not used often enough, and 57% who believe that the death penalty is applied fairly.
November 2007 While awaiting the setting of an execution date, 60 year old Norman Timberlake died of natural causes on death row at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. Timberlake was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 1993 for the murder of Indiana State Police Trooper Michael Green during a traffic stop along I-65 near Indianapolis.
December 2007 New Jersey Governor Corzine signed into law a measure officially abolishing the death penalty in New Jersey, making it the first state to ban capital punishment since its reinstatement in 1976. Since that time, New Jersey has had a death penalty law on its books, but has executed no one and has no inmates on death row.
December 2007 The UN General Assembly voted 104-54 to adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, with 29 members abstaining. Supporters ignore recent findings of deterrence and conclude that “any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty's implementation is irreversible and irreparable." Opponents included a block of 13 Caribbean nations and others like Singapore, which accused Europeans of imposing their values on other sovereign nations.
January 2008 The year 2007 ended with a total of 42 executions in the U.S., the lowest in 13 years. With an unofficial moratorium in the U.S. since September 2007 while awaiting a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the lethal injection method of punishment, no executions have taken place since September 25 in Texas.
February 2008 The Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the first degree murder conviction of Raymond Mata, but took the opportunity to strike down the use of the electric chair as a method of execution, holding that it violates the Nebraska Constitution. "The evidence shows that electrocution inflicts intense pain and agonizing suffering," said the 69-page majority opinion. "We recognize the temptation to make the prisoner suffer, just as the prisoner made an innocent victim suffer. But it is the hallmark of a civilized society that we punish cruelty without practicing it." The Chief Justice was the lone dissenter. Since Nebraska is the only state that authorizes electrocution as the sole method of execution, the state is practically left without a death penalty as a result of the decision. The electric chair has been in use in Nebraska since 1920 and has resulted in 15 executions since, with the last being Robert Williams in 1997.
February 2008 The California Supreme Court withdraws a proposal for a state constitutional amendment aimed at expediting death penalty appeals. The Court had earlier sought to ease the backlog of cases of death row inmates by allowing transfer to the California Courts of Appeal. The Chief Justice noted that the amendment might overburden the limited financial resources of the Courts of Appeals, as well as the attorney general's office and the public defender's office. California has the 667 prisoners on death row, the nation’s largest. Only 13 have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.