[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----TEXAS
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Oct 15 21:57:38 CDT 2007
Deliberations under way in death penalty case----Defense lawyer invokes
Gandhi in attempt to spare Selwyn Davis' life.
Selwyn P. Davis' lawyers this morning called on a Travis County jury to
set aside their feelings of anger, fear and revenge and sentence the
25-year-old to life in prison and not death in the 2006 killing of his
ex-girlfriend's mother, Regina Lara.
"People like Gandhi, Buddha, Christ, like Martin Luther King Jr., in
response to great violence, or great wrong, their response to that was
something that they thought was more powerful," defense lawyer Steve
Brittain said during arguments closing the sentencing phase of Davis'
trial. "It was peaceful. It was not killing."
The 12-member jury in state District Judge Julie Kocurek's court began
deliberating Davis' sentence at 11:19 a.m. The same jury on Oct. 4 took 4
hours to find Davis guilty of capital murder.
According to testimony, Davis began a two-day crime spree on Aug. 21, 2006
by brutally beating his ex-girlfriend in their Southeast Austin apartment,
fracturing her eye socket and jaw, slicing her leg, pouring rubbing
alcohol over her head and threatening to set her on fire.
Later that night, he went to his uncle's South Austin house and sliced him
with a knife, according to testimony. He left after taking his aunt's car
and purse and went on an overnight drug binge, according to testimony.
The next he went to Lara's 38 Street apartment and fatally stabbed her
when she came home from work. Davis also sexually assaulted a teenage girl
at the house, according to testimony.
To assess the death penalty, the 12-member jury must unanimously agree
that there is a probability that Davis would commit future criminal acts
of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. They
also must unanimously agree that there are no mitigating circumstances to
warrant a life sentence.
Prosecutors said that Davis deserves to die. They pointed to a criminal
history that includes assaults on police officers and unprovoked attacks
on a teacher and another student at Lanier High School, and robberies of
workers in the East Riverside Drive area. When he was 16, Davis attacked a
13-year-old girl by punching her in the face and kicking her in the
stomach after her mother told Davis the girl was pregnant, according to
"You don't need to look into a crystal ball," prosecutor Judy Shipway
said. "You just need to look into the rearview mirror and look at his
track record from a young age."
Defense lawyers conceded that Davis' behavior has been horrible, but
attempted to minimize some of the evidence put forth by prosecutors. Yes,
he attacked the girl at the bus stop, Brittain conceded, but Brittain
attacked her testimony that she had been raped by Davis as unreliable.
Yes, he once fought with a boss at the Wing Stop on East Riverside Drive,
Brittain said, but that boss had made racist comments at Davis.
Allan Williams, Davis' other defense lawyer, said that there is plenty of
mitigating evidence that should lead to a sentence of life in prison. He
ticked off the evidence: Davis grew up in an abusive home where his father
killed his mother; he was neglected and left without parental supervision;
he had mental problems. Williams noted that a defense psychiatrist
diagnosed Davis with bipolar disorder.
"I am pleading for life," Williams told the jury. "I am pleading that we
overcome cruelty with kindness and that we overcome hatred with love. ...
All life is worth saving."
Prosecutor Jim Young argued: "This is not a court of mercy. It's a court
(source: Austin American-Statesman)
Testimony in E. Texas KFC slayings case starts Monday
Jurors in a far northeast Texas courtroom this week begin hearing about an
infamous mass murder case that left investigators baffled for nearly a
quarter-century and will test witnesses and lawyers trying to sort out
fact from legend.
Opening arguments were set for Monday in the capital murder case of Romeo
Pinkerton, 49, the 1st of 2 men accused of fatally shooting 5 people in
one of Texas's longest unsolved mass murder cases, known as the "Kentucky
Fried Chicken Murders."
The 5 victims were abducted during the robbery of a KFC restaurant in
Kilgore in East Texas in 1983 and were found dead the next morning in a
remote area about 15 miles away.
Pinkerton, with a long burglary history, faces a possible death sentence
if convicted. His cousin and alleged partner, Darnell Hartsfield, 46,
faces the same charges when he goes to trial likely next year.
Early last month, State District Judge J. Clay Gossett summoned 900
potential jurors to the Bowie County Courthouse in 2 waves over 43 days
before prosecutors and defense lawyers settled on 15 of them 12 jurors
and 3 alternates to hear the evidence against Pinkerton, who already was
in prison when he was charged in this case. Gossett moved the trial to New
Boston because of publicity in the Kilgore area, about 90 miles to the
The judge, who has imposed a gag order on everyone involved in the case,
has said he hoped the trial could be finished by Thanksgiving.
The 5 victims were reported missing the night of Sept. 23, 1983, after
assistant manager Mary Tyler's daughter arrived to pick her up from work
but found the KFC empty and in disarray. Investigators found blood on the
floor and a cash register tape showing about $2,000 had been in the cash
Prosecutors allege Pinkerton and Hartsfield, both of Tyler, showed up
about 10 p.m. to rob the place. A bloodstain on the box containing the
cash tape, tested in 2001 using newly developed DNA technology, put
Hartsfield at the scene.
Prison records show Hartsfield was arrested in Smith County for aggravated
robbery 3 days after the KFC slayings. He was paroled in 1992, had the
parole revoked, was released 2 years later.
Hartsfield had been in a Texas prison since 1995 on a 40-year sentence for
delivery of a controlled substance and engaging in organized criminal
activity. He told a grand jury in 2003 he wasn't at the restaurant, but
with the new DNA results, plus earlier witness accounts that put him there
that night, prosecutors charged him with perjury. A jury convicted him and
he was sentenced to life in prison because of his criminal record, which
also includes aggravated robbery, engaging in organized crime, burglary
and reckless endangerment.
2 weeks later, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced capital murder
indictments against Hartsfield and Pinkerton, who also was linked to the
scene by DNA. The convicted burglar, paroled at least 5 times over the
years, was arrested in Tyler on a warrant for yet another parole
Pinkerton first went to prison in 1981 for a Smith County burglary. He
told investigators he was in prison at the time of the slayings, but
records show he was paroled 2 days before the murders.
Documentation kept by investigators looking into the case now for almost
25 years gives prosecutors an advantage in a case that's been unresolved
for so long, famed Houston criminal defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin said.
"The prosecution is far more able to retrieve the information they have
because they have records of it," said DeGuerin, whose high-profile
clients have included multimillionaire New York real estate heir Robert
Durst. "The defense is very limited in that regards. They're starting 25
years in the hole."
Both sides, however, face witnesses trying to recall events from almost a
"You can have a problem one of 2 ways," said Mark Osler, a former federal
prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Baylor University Law School. "One
is if they're not certain any more of what happened. And on the other
hand, if they're too certain, that doesn't seem credible.
"For most of us, certain events in our mind, our memories of it, they may
become more certain at the same time they become less rooted in what
actually happened. and there are times jurors are suspicious of that."
DeGuerin said defending a client in such a long-cold yet visible case is
"The legend of the case becomes the truth of the case," he said, adding
that witnesses long have thought and talked about the event "and before
you know it, they're really not reporting about what they saw or heard or
know but just what they believe."
"They've mixed fact with legend."
Osler said successful prosecutions of old civil rights cases recently
tried in the Deep South can serve as a "good template" for the KFC case.
Osler said DNA would help prosecutors place Pinkerton at the KFC, although
DeGuerin noted DNA wouldn't necessarily pinpoint a time.
"That means a lot of testimony then will be on the role of each individual
at the place," Osler said. "And once you've got DNA evidence in play, then
you've got a much greater likelihood of a defense based on someone else
did it, I was an observer, it wasn't my idea, I was a secondary player,
and, although not in this case, sometimes self-defense."
Prosecutors initially had more than 600 names on their witness list. The
list was trimmed to just over 100.
Prosecution material includes at least 127 CDs. One of those is a DVD that
holds the equivalent of more than 30,000 pages of documents.
Pinkerton and Hartsfield weren't the 1st to be charged in the case.
In April 1995, James Earl "Jimmy" Mankins Jr., a Kilgore man convicted of
federal drug trafficking charges, was indicted for capital murder after a
torn fingernail believed to be his was found on the body of one of the
victims. Subsequent DNA tests exonerated him and the charges were dropped.
Key dates in KFC slayings case
Sept. 21, 1983: Convicted burglar Romeo Pinkerton of Tyler is paroled.
Sept. 23, 1983: 5 people 4 employees and 1 friend of a worker are
reported missing at 11:30 p.m. from the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant
in Kilgore. The restaurant was to have closed at 10 p.m. A Rusk County
couple reports hearing gunshots about 11 p.m.
Sept. 24, 1983: An oilfield worker at 10:20 a.m. finds the bodies of the 5
missing people along an oil lease road near a well off Rusk County Road
231 just northwest of Henderson, about 15 miles south of Kilgore. All had
been shot in the head.
Sept. 26, 1983: Pinkerton's cousin, Darnell Hartsfield, commits burglary
in Smith County, according to prison records.
Sept. 27, 1983: Reward for information about the slayings reaches $50,000,
half of the total offered by the restaurant chain. It is never claimed.
Feb. 13, 1984: Hartsfield is sentenced to 9 years for burglary and 25
years for robbery.
May 8, 1984: Pinkerton is sent to prison for 25 years for January 1984
Smith County burglary while on parole.
Jan. 27, 1988: Pinkerton paroled.
June 8, 1989: Pinkerton parole revoked for April 1988 burglary while on
parole. He gets 50 years.
March 1995: Rusk County grand jury begins hearing KFC testimony.
April 27, 1995: James Earl Mankins Jr., son of a former state legislator,
indicted on 5 counts of capital murder after fingernail recovered from
clothing of KFC victim said to match Mankins.
Aug. 11, 1995: Hartsfield taken to prison with 40-year sentence from Smith
County for delivery of controlled substance and engaging in organized
Nov. 13, 1995: Charges against Mankins dropped after fingernail evidence
determined to not be his.
Dec. 1, 1998: Pinkerton paroled.
December 2000: Rusk County Sheriff James Stroud hires a former FBI agent,
George Kieny, to work on the KFC case. He finds evidence scattered at labs
from Austin to Dallas.
Sept. 11, 2001: Kieny requests DNA test on blood-stained box that held
cash register tape rolls at KFC restaurant. The splatter on the white box,
about the size of a dress-shirt gift box, had never been tested.
Hartsfield's blood is identified.
Sept. 2003: Rusk County grand jury begins hearing KFC testimony. 5 months
later, grand jurors released.
Nov. 10, 2004: Hartsfield indicted on aggravated perjury charges for lying
about whether he was in KFC restaurant the night of the abductions in
Dec. 8, 2004: Pinkerton paroled.
July 30, 2005: Pinkerton arrested in Tyler for burglary of school.
Oct. 26, 2005: Jury convicts Hartsfield of aggravated perjury; sentenced
to life because of 6 earlier felony convictions.
Nov. 17, 2005: Texas attorney general announces capital murder indictments
against Hartsfield and Pinkerton for the KFC slayings.
Aug. 5, 2006: Pinkerton's capital murder trial moved from Henderson to New
Boston on change of venue approved by State District Judge J. Clay
Aug. 6, 2007: Jury selection begins in New Boston.
Oct. 15, 2007: Scheduled opening arguments and start of testimony.
(source: Associated Press)
Momentum builds to abolish death penalty
"I still have a smile on my face, and such a tremendous weight has been
lifted from my shoulders," said Lawrence Foster this week. His grandson,
Kenneth Foster Jr., was spared the executioners needle just 6 hours before
he was to be put to death in Texas on Aug. 30.
Since the victory of Foster's death sentence being commuted to life in
prison, the fight against executions has been like that rolling stoneit's
gathering no moss. One event after another has either been a welcome blast
of good news for abolitionists or has been so outrageously bad that it is
shocking peoples consciousness.
On Sept. 25 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge filed by 2
Kentucky death row prisoners, Ralph Baze and Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr.
Their challenge claims that the state's lethal injection process is cruel
and unusual punishment because it can inflict unnecessary pain and
This case has broad national implications.
The only time the U.S. Supreme Court ever ruled directly on a method of
execution was in 1878, when it upheld the use of the firing squad. In
1999, the justices agreed to hear a challenge to Florida's use of the
electric chair, but the state substituted lethal injection for
electrocution before the case could be decided.
Also on Sept. 25, Michael Richard, a mentally disabled man from Houston,
was executed. The chief judge of Texas highest court refused to stay open
an extra 20 minutes to hear Richard's appeal on the lethal injection issue
after his attorneys called saying their computer had malfunctioned and
they needed the extra 20 minutes to present their appeal.
Judge Sharon Keller, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' presiding judge,
refused the request and didn't even tell several other judges who stayed
late expecting an appeal. They expressed their anger publicly.
Her callous decision put Texas on the front page of the New York Times and
into many foreign media as editorial after editorial in major newspapers
expressed shock and dismay.
2 days after Richard was executed, Carlton Turner was scheduled for
execution in Texas on Sept. 27. His case was presented to the Texas Court
of Criminal appeals and turned down. Then the U.S. Supreme Court took his
appeal based on the lethal injection issue and granted him a stay.
Texas had yet another execution scheduled for Oct. 3. Heliberto Chi, a
native of Honduras, was also granted a stay, this time by the Texas Court
of Criminal Appeals. It became apparent that executions were going to stop
until the Supreme Court meets next spring or summer at the earliest.
Shedding new light on death penalty
A recent 4-part news series published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
"A Matter of Life or Death," stated that Georgias death penalty is "as
predictable as a lightening strike." Based on an investigation of 2,328
murder convictions between Jan.1, 1995, and Dec. 31, 2004, the paper
determined that the states capital punishment system is unfairly shaped by
racial and geographic bias.
According to a new study released by the American Bar Association, Ohios
capital punishment system was declared so flawed that it should be
suspended while the state conducts a thorough review of its fairness and
The study, conducted by a 10-member panel of Ohio attorneys appointed by
the ABA, found that the state's death penalty is prone to racial and
geographic imbalances and that it meets only 4 of the 93 ABA
recommendations to ensure a fair capital punishment system.
"Regardless of one's views of the morality of the death penalty, it is
beyond question that if Ohio is to have a death penalty it needs to be one
that is fair, accurate and provides due process to all capital defendants
and those on death row. Unfortunately, this is not the case," said Phyllis
Crocker, a Cleveland State University law professor and member of the Ohio
In a recent meeting with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board,
Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst urged legislators to re-examine the state
law that allows an accomplice to be tried by the same judge and jury as
the shooter in murder cases. He agreed with Gov. Rick Perry's decision to
commute Kenneth Fosters death sentence to life in prison based on similar
Dewhurst also called on legislators to establish a state innocence
commission to study wrongful convictions and possible reforms to the
criminal justice system. "We only want the truly guilty to be subject to
punishment in Texas. None of us want an innocent person convicted. ... I'd
like the Senate to coalesce on a position," Dewhurst said.
His concerns, in large part, stem from a series of 14 DNA exonerations in
Dallas County, which has reversed more convictions because of DNA evidence
than any other U.S. county.
In addition, just this week in Houston, where concerns about wrongful
convictions and the handling of DNA evidence have gained substantial
attention in recent years, DNA evidence has prompted the Harris County
district attorneys office to release Ronald Taylor, a man convicted of
sexual assault in 1995.
"At the HPD Crime Lab, it is not just DNA evidence that sends people to
death row. 3 people I know were sent to death row because of faulty
ballistics testimony. They are Nanon Williams, Johnnie Bernal, and Martin
Draughon," said Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement organizer Njeri
Shakur told WW that the Nanon Williams Support Association has
reestablished itself and supporters are ready to again go to the public
with Williams' case. "A special investigator hired by the City was paid a
lot of money to tell us what is wrong with the system. But the mayor,
police chief and the DA wont follow his recommendation to hire a special
monitor," stated Shakur.
A new report released this week by Amnesty International, "Execution by
lethal injectiona quarter century of state poisoning," calls on medical
professionals to refuse to participate in executions and details ongoing
concerns about current lethal injection protocols that could result in
inmates feeling excruciating pain during their executions.
"Governments are putting doctors and nurses in an impossible position by
asking them to do something that goes against their ethical oath. ...
Medical professionals are trained to work for patients' well being, not to
participate in executions ordered by the state. The simplest way of
resolving the ethical dilemmas posed by using doctors and nurses to kill
is by abolishing the death penalty," said Jim Welsh, Amnesty
Internationals Health and Human Rights coordinator.
This week there is a rally in Bastrop, Texas, on Oct. 13, in support of
Rodney Reed, an innocent man on Texas death row, from Bastrop, just
outside of Austin, sponsored by the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
All out for Oct. 27!
On the same day in Houston, the outreach committee of the 8th Annual March
to Stop Executions will present Old School Meets New School: Bridging the
Gap from Freedom Riders to Freedom Writers; Topic the Death Penalty. Hosts
and moderators will be noted television personality Darian Ward, spoken
word artist Brother Equality and DJ and radio host Brother Zin.
On Oct. 20, a "Pre-march Fundraiser and Kenneth Foster Victory
Celebration" will be hosted by the 8th Annual March to Stop Executions at
SHAPE Community Center from 7 p.m. until midnight.
The march will take place on Oct. 27, beginning at Emancipation Park in
Third Ward of Houston across the street from where the Black Panther Party
headquarters once stood. The theme of this years march is "Celebrating our
Victories, Remembering our Losses, Fighting for Abolition."
The guest of honor will be Clarence Brandley, who was freed from death row
after 10 years by a struggle waged by the Houston community. Also, the
family of Brandley as well as the family of Kenneth Foster will be
honored. The march will be led by death row families, including those of
Frances Newton, Shaka Sankofa and Joseph Nichols, families that lost their
loved ones to the executioners needle.
International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Houston
City Councilwoman Ada Edwards and Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead
Man Walking," are among many who have endorsed the march.
Momentum against the death penalty is growing. The movement against
injustice is building as witnessed by the past summers campaign to save
the life of Kenneth Foster. As Foster's friend and supporter Claire Dube
said, "We made the impossible possible. We saved Kenneth." Abolitionists
around Texas are aiming for another impossibilityabolition of the death
penalty not just for those who can prove their innocence in a courtroom
but for all the poor and oppressed who are systematically targeted for
Go to www.marchtoendexecution.org to endorse or contribute to the march.
(source: Gloria Rubac, for Worker's World)
Trial Set to Begin in Pregnant Teacher's Murder
In Houston, the trial for a Katy man accused of murdering his pregnant
wife nearly 9 years ago is scheduled to begin Monday.
David Temple, formerly a well-liked coach at Alief's Hastings High School,
has always denied shooting his wife Belinda Temple, a teacher at Katy High
School. She was 8 months pregnant when she was killed.
"I am an innocent man. I have all the faith in the legal system it'll turn
out right in the end," Temple told FOX 26 News during an interview in
Police say Temple tried to make the killing look like a burglary so that
he could be with his mistress, who he later married.
David Temple was not charged with murder until 2005, nearly 6 years after
the crime. The Harris County District Attorney's Office said there was not
enough evidence until then to charge him.
"This was kind of our local version of the Laci Peterson case," Andy
Kahan, who fights for victim's rights at the Houston Mayor's Office, told
FOX 26 News on Sunday.
Kahan has talked with Belinda Temple's parents through the years. A gag
order has kept her parents, along with anyone else involved in the case,
from talking to the media.
"It's been an emotional roller coaster after emotional roller coaster,"
However, despite not being able to talk to the media, Belinda Temple's
parents believe they know who killed their daughter.
"After looking at the evidence -- David killed Belinda," Tom Lucas,
Belinda Temple's father, told CNN's Nancy Gray during an interview in
"Sometimes knowing who did it and proving who did it are two separate
The murder weapon, a shotgun, was never found but the arrest warrant
states gun residue found on David Temple's clothing matches residue found
on Belinda Temple's body.
"They've been through hell and high water and they're hopeful. Finally,
justice will prevail," Kahan said. "They're looking forward, but at the
same time, it's nerve racking as well to realize after all these years
it's finally coming to fruition."
If this crime happened today, David Temple would be charged with capital
murder and would be facing the death penalty. In 1999, when the murder
occurred, Texas law did not consider an unborn baby a victim.
(source: Fox 26 News)
Less killing, but not fear
Americans love murders as long as they are fictional.
Murders are wildly popular in movies, television dramas and books.
Houston sports a full-service bookstore entirely devoted to the topic:
Murder by the Book, on Bissonnet.
Fictional murders entertain us.
Real murders horrify us.
And murder statistics make our eyes glaze over.
But a quick tour through recent Houston murder statistics offers both
insight and mystery especially for a city that still feels somewhat under
siege from a portion of New Orleans' criminal element that washed up here
25 months ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The numbers more than hint at that particular part of the Katrina Effect,
but they also put it somewhat into perspective.
Handguns in murders increase
The number of murders went up from 272 in 2004 to 336 in 2005 and 377 in
2006. That's 39 % more in 2006 than in 2004.
The number of murders that took place in apartment complexes low-income
evacuees were placed into more than 10,000 apartments shot up from 85 in
2004 to 153 in 2006, an increase of 80 %.
The percentage of 2006 murders in which the victim didn't know the
murderer was the second-lowest in the last 5 years at 23 %, down from 32 %
The percentage of black victims jumped from 42 % in 2005 to 54 % in 2006.
Blacks made up 48 % of the suspects in 2006.
The percentage of murders by handguns rose from 48 % in 2002 to 75 % in
2005 and 70 % in 2006.
Some thugs home-grown
Clearly these statistics represent more than the Katrina factor, although
some may be closely related.
Police officials figure that about 20 5 of the city's murders in 2006 were
known to be Katrina-related.
That's a significant jump. But 30 of those 74 murders involved victims who
were evacuees and murderers who either were not evacuees or were unknown.
In other words, some of those "Katrina murders" were perpetrated by
"We saw an infusion of people into some areas of the city that produced a
target-rich environment," said Assistant Chief Vicki King, who analyzed
the statistics for the department. "Some of the victims were trying to
survive and had cash on their persons given to them by FEMA or Red Cross
or other organizations, and they didn't have bank accounts or other
One clear Katrina Effect is that Houstonians are more worried about crime.
According to Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg's annual
Houston Area Survey, crime knocked traffic out as the top concern for the
first time since 1999.
In early 2005, before Katrina, only 13 % worried most about crime. Last
year it was 31 % and this year 38 %.
Many newcomers to Houston would be startled to learn that last year's
murder rate of 16.9 per 100,000 residents was less than half the 30-year
peak rate of 36.5 in 1992.
In that year the actual number of murders was 608, compared with 376 last
The good news, as reported recently by my colleagues Mike Snyder and Kevin
Moran, is that the rate has gone down this year.
As of Sept. 17, Houston had 248 homicides, compared with 279 at that date
last year, a drop of 11 %.
What's more, reported rapes are down an impressive 35 % from last year and
the lowest in the past 5 years.
But I suspect that the fear of violent crime will take longer to subside
than the violent crime rate itself. Bill King, the attorney/hurricane
evacuation activist/2009 mayoral candidate who brought some of these
numbers to my attention, offered an explanation.
I expected him to blame it on the media. That's what I was inclined to do.
He pointed to a different set of villains: burglars.
Burglary is up 12 % from last year after remaining absolutely flat for 4
years. Theft is also up, though more modestly.
King theorizes that people either are victims of burglary or know people
who are. Either way, their sense of security is shaken.
Maybe he's right. Me? I think it's the media.
We show pictures of murder victims again and again. And we tell the
stories in detail.
A declining number of murders? That's just statistics. We run them only
(source: Rick Casey, Houston Chronicle)
Court Arrogance Must Not Invalidate Human Rights
The notion that unwanted matter, unwanted difficulties, unwanted
complexities, will disappear if they are removed from the immediate field
of vision has no position in a democracy. After all, the future of
democracy is closely associated with the future of freedom in the world.
If we are to be concerned with liberty as a primary or ultimate social
value, we must also be concerned with the ultimate fate of democracy.
Although, democracies can and have abused individual rights and liberties
throughout history. P> This appears to be the take by the United States,
against the State of Texas decision to execute Jose Ernesto Medellin, a
Mexican. Medellin gave a written confession to Texas officials for a
murder in Houston in June of 1993, and a Texas judge sentenced him to
death in October 1994.
In 2003, Mexico sued the United States in the International Court of
Justice (the ICJ, also known as the World Court) in The Hague, on behalf
of defendant Medellin and 50 other Mexicans who were allegedly denied
access to diplomats (consular services) following arrest.
The ICJ ruled for Mexico in 2004, citing reviews of the convictions and
sentences by United States courts were necessary. The United States wishes
to abide by the ICJ's decision, believing that ignoring it would harm US
interests abroad. The US Supreme Court will eventually hear arguments and
settle the issue.
Notwithstanding the nature of brutal crimes inflicted on innocent victims,
nor the issue of actual guilt or innocence of the defendants, their right
to due process of law is fundamental to all people tried by our courts.
When it comes to the death penalty a unilateral courts decision must
require intrinsic review.
Intellectual impetus must override hypocrisy as the volatile nature of
immigration and related crime manifests itself. Ones perspective
inevitably conditions ones understanding. Even every truth is an
interpretation from some particular perspective.
Courts must also understand that they are not an extension of prosecutor's
offices, prosecuting attorneys being those who essentially decide what to
charge, and what charges should be retained or dropped.
As well, judges lose much of their sentencing discretion due to a
continued reliance on mandatory sentencing guidelines. This distorts much
of the criminal justice system.
The absence of a national immigration policy has left cities and states
with overwhelming burdens regarding these matters. Immigration enforcement
is primarily the domain of the federal government further complicating
the ambiguities of jurisdictional domain. Immigration continues as a
confusing picture for local police as they look at enforcing federal and
state laws equally.
In the Medellin case, Texas must satisfy that mere perfunctory prosecution
and court rulings fully justify this death sentence, and the denial of
Medellin and the 50 other Mexicans of their right to consult with their
consulate offices was justified.M
Were the defendants fully afforded the parameters of a fair investigation
and defense? Did counsel do all to advance the defendants interests and
rights, or were they prejudiced by ineffectiveness?
In the case of Medellin, his written confession needed to be no less than
fully knowing, intelligent, and thus completely voluntary.
A court in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia area), faced a similar
issue and situation in the case of Eduardo Canepa, an Argentine citizen.
Canepa was accused and convicted of aggravated assault on his 5 year old
son. In October 1999, Canepa, a legal resident in the United States, was
transporting his son in the car on family errands when gas cans inside his
car ignited in a public parking lot within view of an ATM bank camera.
Canepa is seen pulling his son to safety, although the boy did sustain
Canepa did not speak English and was not afforded the opportunity to
contact the Argentine consulate, nor a translator. The court found Canepa
guilty. Judge David Heckler (on record) sentenced Canepa to 20 years in
prison, outside of the guidelines of five to ten years, saying Canepa
"showed no remorse." Canepas son was on record saying that his daddy
rescued him from the flames
The courts, as well as counsels' acts or omissions, ultimately lead to a
finding of guilt or innocence. Failing to track relevant procedures,
methods and systems utilized by police and the courts raises significant
doubts about the accuracy of evidence at trial, and the propriety of
judgment of sentence. When you add the confusion level of foreign national
defendants in our system, competent assistance with their case is
United States citizens in foreign lands would expect nothing less
(source: Jerry Brewer, the Vice President of Criminal Justice
International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm headquartered in
Miami, Florida, is a guest columnist with MexiData.info.)
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