Author: Fair Punishment Project

Harris County’s Marijuana Diversion Program an Important First Step Towards Community-Centered Justice Reform

On Thursday, February 16, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced the formation of the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program (MMDP), which is a pre-charge diversion program for individuals who meet certain criteria and are in possession of four ounces or less of marijuana. Previously, those found with four ounces or less of marijuana faced criminal charges and jail time. The policy shift means that fewer low-level offenders will languish in jail and that they instead can continue working, caring for their families, and playing a productive role in their community. Importantly, Ogg’s decision helps align Houston’s marijuana policy with...

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New Report: Death Penalty Disproportionately Used Against Persons with Significant Mental Impairments in Five Florida Counties

Introduction The Florida Supreme Court recently held that the state’s capital punishment statute is unconstitutional. Approximately 380 people sentenced to death under the now-invalidated sentencing scheme remain on death row.[1] While litigation is still pending over whether the decision applies to all Florida death sentences, the Court has clarified that the approximately 150 people who were convicted after the Ring v. Arizona decision in 2002 must have their sentences reconsidered. Roughly one-third of these individuals convicted since 2002 come from just five of Florida’s 67 counties: Duval, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Orange, and Pinellas. This report examines the 48 invalidated death...

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New Report: Oregon’s Death Penalty Disproportionately Used Against Persons with Significant Mental Impairments

Introduction Oregon retains capital punishment mostly as an exorbitantly expensive legal fiction.[1] In practice, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy recently noted, the State falls on the abolitionist “side of the ledger” because “Oregon has suspended the death penalty and executed only two individuals in the past 40 years.” More revealing still: Over the past 10 years, Oregon juries have imposed an average of just one death sentence per year, which translates into less than 1.25% of homicides, a rate far lower than that which prevailed nationally in 1972 when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White concluded that...

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Do the protections of Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama extend to Juveniles Who Have Committed Multiple Offenses?

In Graham and Miller, the U.S. Supreme Court severely limited the imposition of life-without-parole sentences on juveniles. No matter the severity of the crime (or crimes) a juvenile has committed, he cannot be denied any possibility of future release unless he is the rare juvenile homicide offender “who exhibits such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible.” The animating principle behind these decisions is that, relative to adults, juveniles possess a “lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility,” tend to be “more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures, including peer pressure,” and are “more capable...

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Case Spotlight: Can St. Tammany Parish in Louisiana Shake its Reputation and “St. Slammany” Moniker?

In a decision handed down from a Louisiana appellate court this week, prosecutors from St. Tammany Parish, also known as “St. Slammany” Parish, Louisiana, have once again shown that their office’s win-at-all-costs attitude results in a pattern of misconduct. The case, State v. Murphy, involves a man named Donald Murphy who was convicted in 2012 of several counts of possessing child pornography and solicitation and was sentenced to multiple 99-year terms of imprisonment. He appealed on several counts, including the fact that the prosecutor made prejudicial comments about the defendant during the course of the trial. For example, in...

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