[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----N.Y., N.C., S.C.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Jul 15 09:50:34 CDT 2007
Public Defenders Get Better Marks When on Salary
Some poor people accused of federal crimes are represented by full-time
federal public defenders who earn salaries, others by court-appointed
lawyers who bill by the hour. A new study from an economist at Harvard
says there is a surprisingly wide gap in how well the 2 groups perform.
Text of the Study: An Analysis of the Performance of Federal Indigent
Both kinds of lawyers are paid by the government, and they were long
thought to perform about equally. But the study concludes that lawyers
paid by the hour are less qualified and let cases drag on and achieve
worse results for their clients, including sentences that average 8 months
Appointed lawyers also cost taxpayers $61 million a year more than
salaried public defenders would have cost.
There are many possible reasons for the differences in performance.
Salaried public defenders generally handle more cases and have more
interactions with prosecutors, so they may have a better sense of what
they can negotiate for their clients. Salaried lawyers also tend to have
superior credentials and more legal experience, the study found.
The study will add a new layer to the debate over the nation's indigent
defense systems. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Gideon
v. Wainwright that poor people accused of serious crimes were entitled to
legal representation paid for by the government.
The federal system handles about 5 percent of all criminal prosecutions
and is relatively well financed. The implications of the new study for the
states may therefore be limited.
But more than half the states use a combination of public defenders and
appointed lawyers, and most indigent defendants are not represented by
staff public defenders at the trial level.
In the federal courts, roughly 3/4 of all defendants rely on lawyers paid
for by the government, about evenly divided between salaried public
defenders and appointed lawyers paid by the hour. Most of the rest hire
their own lawyers, with about 2 % representing themselves.
Before the new study, the debate over how best to provide poor defendants
with adequate representation had largely concerned whether lawyers for
indigent defendants were paid enough to ensure a fair fight with
prosecutors. The debate did not much consider how the lawyers were paid,
and whether that made a difference.
The new study looked at federal prosecutions from 1997 to 2001. It was
performed by Radha Iyengar, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for
Quantitative Social Science at Harvard, and presented as a working paper
of the National Bureau of Economic Research last month.
Judge Morris B. Hoffman, a Colorado district court judge and a co-author
of a 2005 study on the representation of indigent defendants, said the new
study's innovation was in its noticing that public defenders and appointed
lawyers were assigned randomly in many federal judicial districts.
That meant, Ms. Iyengar wrote, that the two sorts of lawyers had "the same
underlying distribution of guilt in the cases they represent and thus are
equally likely to lose at trial."
Court-appointed lawyers known in federal judicial jargon as Criminal
Justice Act panel lawyers are needed when public defenders' offices have
conflicts of interest in cases involving multiple defendants. They can
also fill in as the volume of prosecutions requires.
The vast majority of federal prosecutions end in plea bargains, and only
about 5 percent of them reach trial. Ms. Iyengar found that
court-appointed lawyers were slightly more likely to take cases to trial
and slightly more likely to lose.
But her most important finding, given all the plea bargains, was that
defendants represented by court-appointed lawyers received substantially
longer sentences. That suggests that appointed lawyers are less adept at
assessing which cases to pursue through trial and at negotiating with
Over all, defendants represented by court-appointed lawyers received
sentences averaging about eight months longer. People convicted of violent
crimes were given five more months, while those convicted on weapons
charges received nearly a year and half more. But those convicted of
immigration offenses received sentences that averaged 2.5 months less if
represented by appointed lawyers.
Appointed lawyers took longer to resolve cases through plea bargains 20
days on average, a 10 percent difference.
"These results appear consistent with the hourly wage structure," Ms.
Iyengar wrote, as that structure creates incentives for appointed lawyers
to take longer to resolve cases.
She concluded that appointed lawyers impose an additional $5,800 in costs
to the system for every case they handle.
Analyzing data from California and Arizona, the study found that appointed
lawyers were less experienced and had less impressive credentials.
"The court-appointed lawyers tend to be quite young, tend to be from small
practices and also they tend to be from lower-ranked law schools," Ms.
Iyengar said in an interview. "They have a smaller client base and fewer
interactions with prosecutors."
Judge Hoffman said a number of the study's conclusions were unsurprising
given that finding. However they represent their clients, less experienced
lawyers tend to do less well in plea negotiations, in deciding which cases
to take to trial and in trial outcomes, he said.
Jon M. Sands, the federal public defender in Arizona, said he did not
recognize the picture painted in the study. Court-appointed lawyers, Mr.
Sands said, "are seasoned and committed, and their sentences on the whole
dont vary that much from those obtained by public defenders."
David Carroll, the research director for the National Legal Aid and
Defender Association, said the study's most important point was economic.
"There is," Mr. Carroll said, "a cost savings in establishing staff public
(source: New York Times)
Death penalty possible in 89 killing
A judge raised the stakes this week for the defendant in a 17-year-old
homicide when he ruled it could be treated as a capital case.
Ernest Wayne Jones could now face the death penalty if convicted of
1st-degree murder in the death of Ralph Chumley, found beaten inside his
mobile home on Nov. 25, 1989. Chumley died later that day.
Jones, 58, was arrested in April on charges of murder, solicitation to
commit murder and 1st-degree arson.
Police have not released details about Chumley's death, including a motive
or Jones' connection to him.
In his ruling, Superior Court Judge Mark Klass said there was at least 1
aggravating factor in the case that warranted it be given capital status.
That factor was not revealed in court documents related to the judge's
Authorities developed Jones as a suspect in Chumley's death through
another investigation. They said in early April that Jones contacted his
nephew, James Stephen Wray, and asked him to kill a woman named Lisa
Jones' proposed payment to his nephew was a bass fishing boat, police
Authorities said Jones also planned to kill Divinnie's boyfriend.
Police recorded an April 10 conversation between Jones and his nephew in
which they said Jones talked about the murder plot.
Jones, of Eden, is being held at Central Prison in Raleigh.
Reidsville attorney Jason Ross is representing Jones. He was in court
Friday and could not be reached for comment.
Rockingham County Assistant District Attorney Randle Jones did not return
a message left at his office Friday.
(source: Greensboro News Record)
Woman pleads guilty to murders----Anne Louise Gordon avoids death penalty,
could get life in prison for 2002, 2003 slayings
A Swansea woman pleaded guilty Friday to murdering an elderly man and
woman in separate incidents in 2002 and 2003.
Anne Louise Gordon, 48, pleaded guilty to avoid prosecutors' seeking the
death penalty against her, said her Columbia attorney, Cam Littlejohn.
Her sentencing is tentatively set for Tuesday in 11th Circuit Court in
Lexington. She faces a sentence ranging from a minimum mandatory of 30
years up to 2 life sentences plus 110 years, said 11th Circuit Deputy
Solicitor Dayton Riddle.
"The victims' families are happy that the charges were resolved, and
they're looking forward to the sentencing hearing and getting it totally
behind them," Riddle said after Friday's hearing.
Lexington County Sheriff James Metts said he never has seen a case like
Gordon's in his more than 30 years as sheriff.
"I really believe she is a serial killer based on her profile," he said.
"She's a very intelligent woman, very manipulative, very cunning - and
certainly committed these very vicious crimes. ... I think if she got out,
she would do it again."
Metts said he believes Gordon, who had worked as a nurse, was the
"mastermind" behind the killings, and her motive was robbery to feed a
crack cocaine habit.
"She had a crack cocaine addiction," Littlejohn said. "We think it's the
root of the entire problem."
Co-defendant Paul Edward Anderson, 34, who sometimes lived with Gordon,
has not been tried on murder and other charges.
Gordon was scheduled to go on trial Monday in the case of L.H. Tindall,
66, who was found shot in the back of the head April 20, 2003, at his
Lewis Rast Road home near Swansea.
Besides pleading guilty to that slaying, Gordon also admitted in court
Friday to killing Viola Pearl Neal, 80, who was found stabbed 27 times and
shot in the back of the head Sept. 23, 2002, at her Meadowfield Road home
Both homes, about 7 miles apart, were set on fire in an attempt to cover
up the killings, sheriff's deputies said.
Neither Riddle nor Assistant Solicitor Angela Avinger specified who was
the shooter. Riddle declined to discuss specifics afterward, noting more
details would be revealed at next week's sentencing hearing.
Littlejohn also declined afterward to discuss specifics of his client's
role in the slayings.
Gordon pleaded guilty to three charges in each slaying: murder, armed
robbery and 2nd-degree arson. As part of the plea deal, a total of 6 other
charges of 1st-degree burglary, possession of a firearm during the
commission of a felony, and conspiracy were dropped, Riddle and Littlejohn
Riddle said if the Tindall case had gone to trial, his office was
intending to seek the death penalty afterward against Gordon for Neal's
Death penalty cases against female defendants are rare in South Carolina.
There are no women on the state's death row; it has been 60 years since a
woman was executed in the Palmetto State.
(source: The State)
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