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5 Conn. Inmates Challenging Death Penalty

Publication Date: 
September 05, 2012
Source: 
Associated Press
Author: 
Dave Collins

A study by Professor John Donohue reviewing 4,700 murders in Connecticut from 1973 to 2007 is mentioned in this Associated Press article by Dave Collins as key evidence in the state's death penalty bias case.

Connecticut's top prosecutor testified Wednesday the state had no written policies on when to seek the death penalty but that state law provided enough guidance.

Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane was the first witness to take the stand in a trial involving five death row inmates who say prosecutors' decision-making process in death penalty cases has been arbitrary and fraught with racial and geographical biases. The inmates are suing the state and seeking to have their death sentences overturned.

...

The key evidence for the inmates is a study by Stanford University professor John Donohue, who reviewed the nearly 4,700 murders in Connecticut from 1973 to 2007.

Donohue said he found that minority defendants who murder white victims are three times as likely to receive a death sentence as white defendants who murder white victims. He also found that minority defendants who commit death penalty-eligible murders of white victims are six times as likely to receive a death sentence as minority defendants who commit death penalty-eligible murders of minority victims.

The study, commissioned by the chief public defender's office, also concluded that Connecticut's capital punishment system included geographic biases. Donohue is expected to testify next week.

State prosecutors disagree with the study's findings. They hired their own expert who reviewed death penalty cases and disputed much of the Donohue report.