Daniel Givelber, director of Northeastern's Innocence Project, has written an article that is scholarship informed by experience. Report from the Certiorari Clinic: Impressions of Routine Capital Cases. Especially interesting is the second half of the article. In What the Clinic Cases Reveal: Capital Cases and Doubt, Prof. Givelber notes:
The quality of the evidence [in death penalty cases], as well as its character, is also striking. In a number of cases (a little more than 10% of the eighty-one examined) the evidence of guilt referenced on appeal is either less overwhelming than or, at most, the equivalent of that presented in cases in which death sentences were followed by DNA exonerations.... In two other cases the defendant was convicted based upon the testimony of a co-defendant against whom all charges were dropped.... Another death sentence resulted from a conviction based upon evidence that the defendant was one of two people who was with the victim on the night in question and that he (an African American) had previously abused three white women (the victim was white). A Pennsylvania defendant was convicted and sentenced to die after two hung verdicts based on the evidence of an eyewitness who testified he knew the defendant by his first name and another witness who said that he saw the defendant with a gun of the make used in the robbery (the gun was never recovered). A Mississippi jury convicted and sentenced a defendant to death on evidence that blood was found on the three-year-old victim, that he was the last person seen with the victim, and had a forty-minute window in which to commit the crime, and that the nineteen bite marks on the victim’s body matched dental impressions of the defendant.