Florida Executes Prisoner Without Federal Court Review of Constitutional Claims

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Florida Executes Prisoner Without Federal Court Review of Constitutional Claims

On February 26, 2014, Paul A. Howell became one of the first Florida death row prisoners to be involuntarily executed without any federal court review of his constitutional claims. The ABA filed an amicus brief in support of a petition urging the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The Court took no action on the petition until minutes before Mr. Howell’s execution, when it denied certiorari and rejected a request for a stay of execution in a one-sentence order without any further comment.

A number of states are considering proposals that would accelerate the state death penalty appeal process. Opponents of these measures are concerned that a shortened appeal process will make it more difficult for death-sentenced prisoners to meaningfully challenge their convictions and sentences.

Former Texas death row prisoner Anthony Graves announced on January 20, 2014, that he is taking action against the prosecutor who secured his wrongful conviction and death sentence by violating numerous ethical and professional rules.

During the past several months, an increasing number of death penalty states have turned to compounding pharmacies that can create various lethal injection drugs using raw materials, bypassing the need for a commercial manufacturer. In response, challenges to the constitutionality of using these largely unregulated and often untested compounded drugs have been filed in many states by a coalition of capital defenders, volunteer law firms, and the UC Berkeley Death Penalty Clinic's Lethal Injection Project.

In November 2013, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Duane Buck’s petition for habeas corpus, dealing him another setback in his efforts to obtain relief from a sentencing proceeding tainted by racially based testimony and incompetent representation.

Latham & Watkins secured an important victory for their client, Virginia death row prisoner Alfredo Prieto, when a federal district court ruled on November 12, 2013, that death row conditions in Virginia are unconstitutionally restrictive.

Volunteer lawyers from Arnall Golden & Gregory recently secured a remarkable victory for their client, former Georgia death row prisoner Joaquin Arevalo. In September 2013, a judge vacated Mr. Arevalo’s death sentence after a volunteer legal team led by Robert L. Rothman successfully argued that he received grossly inadequate representation at trial amid allegations of serious government misconduct.

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