June 2016 News Briefs

San Quentin – Bernard L. Hamilton, 64, a Death Row inmate, died of natural causes on March 28. Hamilton was sentenced to death on March 2, 1981, for a second-degree burglary and first-degree murder in 1979. There are 747 inmates on Death Row.

Lincoln, Neb. – The state’s corrections director asked India-based Harris Pharma LLP to repay $26,700 for 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental not imported and delivered, The Associated Press reports. The firm refused to return payment, saying the state’s failure to import them wasn’t their fault.

Texas – Prison officials are implementing a new policy that would punish inmates for having a social media presence, even when someone on the outside is posting updates on their behalf, reports Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Huntsville, Texas – Coy Wayne Wesbrook, 58, was executed March 9 for a 1997 murder. Pablo Lucio Vasquez, 38, was executed April 6 for a 1998 murder. Texas has carried out six executions this year.

St. Louis, Mo – Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon signed an executive order on April 11 removing questions about criminal history on initial applications for state jobs, even as a legislative effort to also “ban the box” in the private sector stalls, The Associated Press reports.

Springfield, Ill. – A bill is working its way through the state House limiting solitary confinement to no more than five consecutive days and five total days during a 150-day period, The Associated Press reports. It would also allow inmates in solitary four hours per day outside of their cells.

Jackson, Ga – Kenneth Fults, 47, was executed April 13 for a 1996 murder. Fults was the fourth person executed this year in Georgia.

Richmond, Va. – Keith Allen Harward, 59, spent more than 30 years incarcerated for a rape and murder that DNA evidence proved him innocent of. The state attorneygeneral has filed a brief with the state high court saying the conviction should be vacated.

Virginia – Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe recommended keeping lethal injection as the state’s execution method by using a secretive process of allowing prison officials to obtain the drugs through unidentified pharmacies rather than depending on the electric chair as a fallback, The Associated Press reports.

Virginia – Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered, on April 18, the restoration of voting rights to 206,000 people who have completed their entire sentence, including parole or probation.

Raleigh, NC — A federal appeals court ruled Nicholas Ragin was deprived of his constitutional right to an attorney because his trial lawyer, Nikita V. Mackey, slept through his trial, The Associated Press reports.

Maryland – Maryland became the 14th state to allow ex-felons to vote after they are released from prison but still under supervision. About 40,000 ex-felons are affected. An estimated 5.85 million Americans cannot vote due to state laws disenfranchising people with felony convictions. Kentucky, Florida and Iowa have the strictest disenfranchisement laws, disqualifying ex-felons for life unless they are granted an individual pardon.

Maryland – The state’s General Assembly approved a bill that eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, increases penalties for some violent crimes and allows some nonviolent offenders to be released from prison earlier, The Washington Post reports. The bill also lowers the age for elderly parole, and limits the ability of judges to give long sentences for probation violations.

Washington, DC – Landlords who routinely ban tenants with prior arrests or criminal convictions are in violation of the Fair Housing Act, according to Helen R. Kanovsky, general counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Washington, DC – On March 7, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 2002 murder conviction of Michael Wearry, a Louisiana death row inmate. The high court found that prosecutors did not disclose evidence helpful to his defense.

New York – Andre Hatchett, 49, has been freed from prison and his conviction overturned March 10 after spending about 25 years incarcerated. The only eyewitness to testify initially implicated someone else and had told police he’d smoked crack on the day of the murder. Hatchett cooperated with police and gave an alibi, according to his legal team, which included the Innocence Project.

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