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Death Penalty Update

Via Capital Defense Weekly, on June 13th the 9th Circuit granted penalty phase relief in a habeas corpus proceeding to Fernando Belmontes:

"We affirm the district court’s ruling that Belmontes received deficient representation at the penalty phase of his trial, but set aside its ruling that he suffered no prejudice as a result. We hold that counsel's failure to introduce adequate lay witness testimony regarding Belmontes's childhood experiences and his failure to explain to the jury the consequences of the minimal mitigating evidence he did introduce was prejudicial, especially in light of the scant aggravating evidence and the uncertainty the jury indicated about the sentence it should impose. We also hold that counsel's failure to introduce expert witnesses to testify to the relationship of the type of childhood traumas suffered by Belmontes to future criminal conduct, and thus to offer important mitigating expert testimony was prejudicial and thus provides a separate and independent basis for reversal, again especially in light of the circumstances referred to above. Accordingly, we remand to the district court with instructions to grant the petition for writ of habeas corpus and to return the case to the San Joaquin County Superior Court to reduce Belmontes's sentence to life without parole, unless the State pursues a new sentencing proceeding within a reasonable amount of time, as determined by the district court."

Headlines from the Death Penalty Information Center:
New Voices: Another Texas Death Penalty Official Has Second Thoughts
Costs for New California Death Row Soar to $400 Million
FBI Report: Murder rate falls 2.7% nationally, but rises in the south
The Story of a Death Row Inmate Who Wanted to Die
VA Governor Commutes Death Sentence of Mentally Ill Man
Mexico Asks World Court to Stay U.S. Executions of Foreign Nationals
Criminal Justice Integrity Unit Created by Texas High Court to Address Growing Concerns
New Resources: Study on Quality of Defense Representation in Tennessee Death Penalty Cases
Severely Mentally Ill Death Row Inmate Resentenced to Life 27 Years After Crime
Oklahoma Man to be Executed Based on Jailhouse Snith; Rebuttal Evidence Excluded by Judge

From Sentencing Law and Policy: Capital case lawyer pay called low. Baltimore Sun 6/17/08

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