A few good items in today's news.
For one, I've been blogging a lot lately about nascent death penalty reforms around the country and around the world. A Maryland bill I blogged about earlier harshly restricting the application of the state's death penalty has passed the state's House. Governor O'Malley has indicated he will sign the bill.
GenPop has a pretty outrageous post about the unfortunate citizens of tiny Parke County, Illinois, population approximately 17,000. The county was forced to raise taxes on its citizens in order to try a death case, costing in excess of $500,000. As Courtney points out,
Imagine being anti-death penalty in that county. Imagine being anti-death penalty and someone who's already suffering financially because of the state of today's economy, and having your taxes raised to put someone to death. That is so backward, barbaric and wrong.A study by the ACLU of Northern California has concluded that "The 11 new additions to [California's] death row add almost $1 million to the annual cost of housing people on death row, now totaling $61.2 million more each year than the cost of housing in the general population." Speaking of an unfair burden levied iniquitously on the citizens of California, "of California’s 58 counties, only 10 counties accounted for nearly 83% of death sentences for 2000 to 2007, and 30 counties had not had a single death sentence since 2000." That means one half of the counties are forced to pay into a system they haven't used in almost 10 years, so that a minority of the counties can put their convicts to death.
Senator Jim Webb of Virginia introduced landmark legislation yesterday to create a blue-ribbon commission tasked with comprehensively examining every aspect of the criminal justice system. SentLaw and Change.org have more. Kudos to Senator Webb. Adds Change.org, "Calling our prison system a 'national disgrace,' Webb says 'we are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing million of lives.' Amen."
Finally, congratulations to Innocence Project founders Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. They are being awarded the 2009 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law this April.
The Thomas Jefferson Medal in Law and its counterparts in architecture and civic leadership are the highest external honors bestowed by the University [of Virginia], which grants no honorary degrees. The awards recognize the achievements of those who embrace endeavors that Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence, third U.S. president and founder of the University of Virginia — excelled in and held in high regard.