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(same URL we had for this site).

Please feel welcome at our new site.

July 29, 2015

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Voices of Death Row Inmates International Protests April 30th

The Voices of Death Row Inmates will hold a peaceful protest in London, Australia, Ohio and Texas against the death penalty on Friday, April 30th. In order for our Innocence Team to be successful in our struggles against wrongful convictions, we need to build collaborations, coalitions, and working relationships with other similarly focused groups. Just as they need our support for their events, we will need theirs. In this particular instance, the relationship between the death penalty and wrongful convictions is obvious: the death penalty risks the execution of innocent people. If you can help their event, either by helping to spread the word about it, or even with your attendance, please do so.

Pastor Thom Miller will be holding a peaceful protest outside the gates of Ohio death row on the same day as the London, Australia and Texas protest. He will be joined by many other men and woman who oppose the death penalty.

Pastor Thom has been a spiritual advisor to the men at Ohio’s death row for many years now. He has accompanied many men on the final leg of their journeys, witnessing firsthand the brutal way these men are legally murdered. Pastor Thom will be visible by the men on death row.
If you would like more information on the event, please contact
Pastor Thom Miller at
PO BOX 7015
Mansfield OH 44903
The event will be at:
Ohio State Penitentiary
878 Coitsville-hubbard Road
Youngstown Ohio.

To learn more about Pastor Thom Miller, please visit his website at:

http://Thom Miller.org

The event in Austin Texas will be at the Texas State Capitol Building and will be held by the Kids against the Death Penalty along with their mother Terri Been and many others. The event is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 at:
Texas State Capitol Building
Congress Avenue
Austin Texas

Terri Been's brother Jeff Wood has been sentenced to death under the Law of Parties in 1996.She advocates for his case and sentencing. To learn more on this event, you can contact Terri via email at: mystrus@hotmail.com

To learn more about Kids against the Death Penalty, please visit their website at:


Or their Facebook page of the event at:


“At the London event we will have several guest speakers and hopefully an exonerated former death row inmate. We are proud and honored to announce that Gilles Denizot has confirmed that he will be there to speak about his life working to end the death penalty. We are holding this event to show that the world has not forgotten the inmates which sit awaiting their state sanctioned murder. We urge the U.S to abolish the death penalty. They need to be heard and we are their voice. So make the 30th April available in your diary and get yourself down to London, we all fight for the same thing and so join us in solidarity. This WILL be a day of success and will be the first of many events held by ''VOICES FOR DEATH ROW INMATES''

The London event will be held from 12:00pm - 5:00pm at:
U.S Embassy
Grosvenor Square
London, United Kingdom

The Australia event will be held from approximately 5:00 -8:00 pm at:
The US Embassy
Martin Place
Sydney Australia .

Kelly Ryan is the organizer, a long time advocate against the death penalty. She can be reached via phone at: 0416721372 or at her Facebook page at:

Kelly Ryan Facebook

Please sign the petition against the death penalty at:

Voices for Death Row Inmates Petition

The link to the Facebook cause is:


Please share this cause and petition on your Facebook pages to bring awareness to these events.

The link to the promotion by Reprieve can be viewed at:


Jeffrey Deskovic

Friday, April 23, 2010


The deadline for us to RECEIVE submissions is JUNE 1, 2010.
Please spread far and wide to the folks you know on the inside, or if you already have on hand writings that fit the guidelines, please submit them!

As always, we are looking for more organizations and more individuals to be part of the PAN publishing collective. If you are interested in getting involved, let us know!

Please send your updates to arrive before June 1, 2010 to:
PAN c/o Boston ABC, PO Box 230182, Boston, MA 02123
or prisonactionnews@riseup.net
Click 'Read More' to view guidelines

Monday, April 19, 2010

Secret prison revealed in Baghdad

Reporting from Baghdad
By Ned Parker
April 19, 2010

Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's military office, where many were routinely tortured until the country's Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility, Iraqi officials say.

The men were detained by the Iraqi army in October in sweeps targeting Sunni groups in Nineveh province, a stronghold of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq and other militants in the north. The provincial governor alleged at the time that ordinary citizens had been detained as well, often without a warrant.

Worried that courts would order the detainees' release, security forces obtained a court order and transferred them to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation. Human rights officials learned of the facility in March from family members searching for missing relatives.

Revelation of the secret prison could worsen tensions at a highly sensitive moment in Iraq. As U.S. troops are withdrawing, Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, and other political officials are negotiating the formation of a new government. Including minority Sunni Arabs is considered by many to be key to preventing a return of widespread sectarian violence. Already there has been an increase in attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group.

The alleged brutal treatment of prisoners at the facility raised concerns that the country could drift back to its authoritarian past.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Memorial to a Hero Needs Your Support!

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial will be the first on the National Mall to recognize a person of color and a man of peace, not a president or a veteran of war. In 1996 Congress authorized the Memorial Foundation to raise funds to establish a national memorial to honor the legacy of Dr. King on the National Mall. The memorial’s very existence signifies that we as a people believe Dr. King and his legacy deserve this esteemed placement in what can be considered America’s “Hall of Fame.”

We want to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by leading a collaborative funding, design, and construction process in the creation of a memorial to honor his national and international contributions to world peace through non-violent social change..

The vision of a memorial in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. is one that captures the essence of his message, a message in which he so eloquently affirms the commanding tenants of the American Dream — Freedom, Democracy and Opportunity for All; a noble quest that gained him the Nobel Peace Prize and one that continues to influence people and societies throughout the world. Upon reflection, we are reminded that Dr. King's lifelong dedication to the idea of achieving human dignity through global relationships of well being has served to instill a broader and deeper sense of duty within each of us— a duty to be both responsible citizens and conscientious stewards of freedom and democracy.


Dr. King championed a movement that draws fully from the deep well of America's potential for freedom, opportunity, and justice. His vision of America is captured in his message of hope and possibility for a future anchored in dignity, sensitivity, and mutual respect; a message that challenges each of us to recognize that America's true strength lies in its diversity of talents. The vision of a memorial in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. is one that captures the essence of his message, a message in which he so eloquently affirms the commanding tenants of the American Dream — Freedom, Democracy and Opportunity for All; a noble quest that gained him the Nobel Peace Prize and one that continues to influence people and societies throughout the world. Upon reflection, we are reminded that Dr. King's lifelong dedication to the idea of achieving human dignity through global relationships of well being has served to instill a broader and deeper sense of duty within each of us— a duty to be both responsible citizens and conscientious stewards of freedom and democracy.

Location: National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Natural elements – water, stone, trees – are used to underscore the themes of justice, democracy and hope, and love.

Composition and Space: This memorial is not designed to be experienced in a single way with one single message, but rather it is to have a broad accessibility, appealing to all of the senses with diverse, repetitive and overlapping themes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Barber v. Thomas - in Plain English

In Barber v. Thomas, the Court engaged in a tough process of statutory interpretation. Put simply, a major part of the Court’s job is to read federal statutes and figure out what the words in them mean, how they work together, and how they should apply. Very often, different federal courts of appeals have interpreted the statutory language differently, and it’s up to the Court to establish a consistent interpretation of the law.

In Barber, the language at issue is the phrase “term of imprisonment,” under a federal law that awards federal prisoners credit – in the form of days off of their sentences – for good behavior. While the term might seem simple on its face, in operation, it is anything but. At argument, the Justices’ job was to figure out how different interpretations of the phrase would play out in real-life sentences. How did they attempt to do that? Through a common questioning technique called “extension of the hypothetical.”

When the Justices extend the hypothetical (a practice Justice Breyer particularly enjoys), what they’re doing is trying out different ways of looking at the law in situations that might arise sometime in the future. That’s because they know that their decision will apply not only to the facts of the case currently before them, but also to lots of other cases in the future. They want to make sure that whatever they decide about what the language of the statute means will work in all (or at least the majority of) these cases, even though they have not yet arisen. Sounds hard, right? But that’s part of the job of a Justice: to look into the future and think about what other kinds of cases are down the pike. That also means that it’s the advocates’ job, too, because part of oral argument preparation involves thinking about hypotheticals. They’re undoubtedly up to the task, as most of law school involves class discussions that revolve around – you guessed it – the good old hypo (in law school speak).

So in Barber, the Court had to consider not only the text of the statute, not only what Congress intended by it, not only the rule of lenity (a rule of statutory construction that says that, when in doubt about how harsh a punishment is supposed to be, the defendant gets the benefit of the more lenient option), but also how the prison system could properly calculate the good-time credits in a variety of hypothetical situations. They ended up looking at what would happen with long sentences, and short sentences, and sentences in between. When would the reduction occur? How would that work? As Justice Stevens said, “awfully hard to understand.”

Sounds like a pretty serious issue, but even serious questions can engender good times at the Court. CNN noted that even Justice Thomas, usually silent at oral arguments, was heard to be laughing, as was everyone else in the courtroom. Not surprising – what many people don’t realize is that the Justices truly enjoy their jobs, and they often make jokes or engage in banter with the advocates and each other, making sitting in the Courtroom an entertaining way to spend a morning.

Of course, when we’re dealing with federal statutes, we’re talking about laws passed by Congress. That means that, once the Court tells us what a statute means and how it applies, Congress might change (“amend”) the law, and we’ll never see any of these hypotheticals play out. Why? Well, sometimes the Court’s interpretation of the law does not align with what Congress intended to say, or sometimes the political climate will not support the Court’s interpretation and Congress feels pressure to change the law. Sometimes, those very same hypotheticals are on Congress’s mind, so it acts to change the law so that it will operate better. Will this happen in Barber? We’ll have to wait and see – first, what the opinion ends up saying, and second, how Congress reacts.

In Renico v. Lett, the Court faced a different issue: When is it double jeopardy to try a defendant again because the judge did not properly declare a mistrial? The case involves a defendant whose first trial ended in mistrial, but who claims that the judge should not have granted the mistrial because she received mixed signals from the jury. Both the federal district court and the Sixth Circuit granted the defendant relief, saying that the trial court judge had not been sufficiently vigilant in determining that the jury was indeed deadlocked and a mistrial was necessary. The question for the Court now? How much deference is due the trial court judge in determining that a mistrial was necessary.

Let me explain. Whenever a case is appealed, the appeals court must review the decision of the trial court. Appeals courts tend to (rightly) respect trial court judges and the difficult decisions they must make. Therefore, except in unusual circumstances beyond the scope of this discussion, the appeals court will often “defer” to the trial court’s decision. When it does not, it may (depending on the question before the appeals court) need to determine that something went seriously wrong in the trial court’s decision-making process, or that there was an “abuse of discretion.”

Here, however, the defendant says that the judge did not use “sound discretion,” as required by Supreme Court precedent that’s almost two hundred years old. Therefore, the oral argument in this case centered largely around what, if anything, the trial judge could or should have done differently before declaring the mistrial. Should she have consulted with counsel? Should she have determined whether the jury could have reached a verdict on a lesser charge? And if the judge did err, what effect does that have under AEDPA, a federal law providing for habeas relief? A tough case, but an interesting one for those involved in criminal litigation.

In one more major argument involving criminal law and sentencing, the Court considered Dillon v. United States, a case about whether defendants convicted of offenses involving crack cocaine are entitled to have their sentences reduced because of new sentencing guidelines issued by the United States Sentencing Commission. The Commission recommended reduced sentences in 2007 but then sought to make that recommendation retroactive – or go back in time – to reduce the sentences of defendants who were previously sentenced. A federal law authorized the sentence reduction. However, the Commission’s guidelines also say that the minimum sentence outlined in the guidelines is the minimum sentence a judge can impose – in other words, a judge is bound by the guidelines in reducing sentences imposed for crack offenses.

However, in Dillon, the Court must look to its own decision in one of the major decisions of the decade, United States v. Booker, in which it held that the sentencing guidelines are advisory, not mandatory. Perhaps predictably, the oral argument involved intense questioning from the Justices about Booker’s scope and applicability, as well as about whether a court can be bound by Sentencing Commission policy statements and whether allowing discretion in this type of sentence-reduction scenario would overburden the courts. Finally, do other factors like good behavior play into the calculation? And , as Tony Mauro notes here, what would the sentence reduction actually be? A new sentence, or a commutation, or some type of modified sentence?

The Court also heard arguments in cases involving private securities fraud lawsuits, private actions for criminal contempt, and recidivist drug possession.

Source - SCOTUS Blog