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Study Finds Death Row Inmates Indistinguishable from Violent Offenders on Parole

April 2, 2012 | Posted In Criminal Law - Death Row

A new study focusing on death row cases in Connecticut confirms to New Jersey criminal defense lawyers that the death penalty, in states that continue to implement it, may be arbitrary and have little relationship to the actual case.

The report, Capital Punishment in Connecticut, 1973-2007: A Comprehensive Evaluation from 4686 Murders to One Execution, was conducted by Stanford law professor John Donohue and is based on death row cases in Connecticut over a 34-year period.  During his analysis, Donohue found that there was little difference between the inmates who were placed on death row and equally violent inmates who were given life without parole. 

Out of 29 defendants who had a death penalty hearing, Donohue found no difference in violent tendencies or depravity in the 17 defendants who received life without parole and the 12 who were given the death penalty.

NJ Criminal Defense Lawyers Find Death Row Discrimination

The professor also found widespread discrimination in the death penalty process.  For instance, black defendants were more likely to be sentenced to death when they were found guilty of killing a white victim.  Additionally, persons in some geographic areas were also more likely to be sentenced to the death penalty.

New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long would find the results of the study to be particularly vindicating.  For years, Justice Long consistently voted against the death penalty while the state grappled with the question of ending capital punishment.  New Jersey eliminated capital punishment five years ago, and Justice Long played a huge role in this decision.

The death penalty is still used in certain states including California, Texas and Ohio.  What's even more worrisome is that the criteria for sentencing defendants to the death penalty varied greatly in all of these states.

According to some estimates by the Innocence Project, 289 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA tests, and out of them, 17 spent many years on death row.  These former inmates were jailed for an average of 13 years before they were finally set free.

The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer Paul Conley and Kasselman represent persons charged with murder, DUI, drug crimes, sex crimes, fraud, assault and other crimes across New Jersey.

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