On February 22, 2018, Florida executed Eric Branch. PJI filed an amicus brief in his case days before his execution, while he was under warrant, attempting to focus the Court on the evolving standards of decency, particularly the national consensus that executing individuals for acts committed when they were young adults, is excessive, cruel and unusual punishment. The ABA has now recommended that jurisdictions should not execute individuals under the age of 22.
PJI worked with a series of lawyers and advocates to bring attention to the problems presented by the case. Branch was convicted and sentenced to death in Florida by a non-unanimous jury. Because his conviction and death sentence became final before 2004, the Florida Supreme Court declined to address his case. He sought to present evidence of how the brains of young adult, up through the age of 22, are not fully mature. The Florida Supreme Court refused to consider the evidence.
There were three executions scheduled for February 22, 2018: One in Texas, involving Thomas Whitaker. His sentence was commuted an hour before his execution. One in Alabama, involving Doyle Lee Hamm. The execution failed after several hours attempting to secure a vein. The execution of Branch proceeded, although media reports indicated that Branch screamed from pain at the outset of the execution.
PJI is committed to a more humane justice system, dependent upon science and the evolving standards of decency.