Just Five Prosecutors Are Responsible for 440 Death Row Convictions



    Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project released a new report late last month titled “America’s Top Five Deadliest Prosecutors.” In it, the authors describe the U.S.’ use of the death penalty as a “personality-driven system” where “only a tiny handful of prosecutors are responsible for a vastly disproportionate number of death sentences.”

    Or as Ed Pilkington put it in The Guardian, “of the 8,038 death sentences handed down since the death penalty was restarted in the modern era 40 years ago this week, some one in 20 of them have been the responsibility” of the five district attorneys who give the report its title.

    All but one of these prosecutors — Johnny Holmes of Harris County (Tx.) — have seen their cases revisited because of allegations of misconduct, although Holmes did preside over the conviction of one person who ended up being exonerated. The assistant prosectuors overseen by Holmes put 201 people on death row — averaging 12 per year — before he retired in 2000. Since then, his successors have averaged about one death penalty conviction per year. Read More >>