[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----USA, ALA.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Thu Oct 6 16:03:08 CDT 2011
Death penalty an unnecessary punishment
Troy Davis, convicted of killing a police officer in 1991, was put to death on
Sept. 21, but Davis insisted he was innocent until his dying moment.
There have been 1,268 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in
1976, but how many of these people were actually guilty of the crimes they were
killed for? We will never know.
Take, for example, a man and a woman who have been having marital problems.
They go out on a hike, and the woman supposedly falls to her death. When the
man comes back to town, distraught, he is forced to face investigation.
Let's say there is evidence he is having an affair, which can be used as motive
for him to murder his wife. Now instead of falling, she was pushed off the
cliff. But there is no real proof. There may be proof of an affair, a rocky
marriage and other problems in his life that are enough to convict him, but
should this man face execution? What if he really didn't commit the crime? What
about his family? His friends?
Going back through the ages, a life for a life has always been the popular form
of punishment. But ultimately it doesn't do much good.
Because of the extensive judicial process involved to ensure innocent men and
women aren't being put to death for crimes they didn't commit, capital
punishment is much more expensive than sentencing someone to life in prison
According to ncadp.org the cost from start to finish in a single death penalty
case can be as high as $7 million, while it's only estimated to be around
$500,000 in cases resulting in life imprisonment.
Not only is this a more humane punishment, but it is also the economical
The money taxpayers spend on death row prisoners could be put to better use in
improving the communities we live in. And even with the extensive hearings,
there is a chance someone innocent will be executed in the end.
Another issue is whether or not the death penalty really deters murderers. Do
they even care if they will get killed for committing such a terrible crime?
Most murderers don't commit the crime planning to get caught. They think
through their actions carefully and plan on getting away with the crime, so the
punishment, if they do get caught, can't be that big of deterrent.
Obviously if someone is going to commit a murder, then he or she doesn't care
much for human life.
Studies done in Oklahoma and California tried and failed to prove that capital
punishment had any effect on violent crimes. In fact, they found an increase in
stranger killings and homicides after the death penalty was reinstated.
(William Bailey, "Deterrence, Brutalization, and the Death Penalty,"
Criminology, 1998; Ernie Thompson, "Effects of an Execution on Homicides in
California." Homicide Studies, 1999)
Think about the typical murders today. There's the average serial killer who
murders for pleasure and doesn't plan on getting caught, so I doubt he or she
gives much thought to the possibility of execution.
Then you have rapists who fall pretty much under the same category. After that
there's gang-related killings where it is often encouraged as part of the
culture, so it's unlikely that they will think too deeply about their
And lastly you've got your accidental murder, often committed in a moment of
passion, when there is little time to consider the outcome.
In the end, most murderers probably don't give a second thought to the death
penalty. And even if they do, who's to say they see it as a punishment? In all
reality, if I was given the choice between life in a cell, getting beat up
every day, and put through who knows what else, or being put out of my misery,
I'd choose death.
A life for a life is a great idea, but it isn't going to bring back the victim.
It just costs taxpayers billions of dollars that could be going toward
improving the communities we live in and making life better for those of us who
are not facing life in prison, or worse.
So next time you're going to defend a death row case, just remember: An eye for
an eye makes the whole world blind.
(source: Erica Poulsen, The (Dixie State College of Utah) Dixie Sun)
Make death convictions certain
Should a condemned inmate be put to death even if his lawyers failed to meet a
filing deadline for an appeal?
That's something the U.S. Supreme Court will decide in the case of misdirected
paperwork for Alabama death row inmate Cory Maples.
Justices must weigh this case carefully to ensure our jurisprudence system is a
model of fairness and justice.
Maples, 37, was convicted in the 1995 murders of two acquaintances as they sat
in his driveway in Morgan County after he had been drinking. He was arrested 2
weeks later in Tennessee in the car of one of his victims.
Maples was convicted and sentenced to death by a Morgan County jury by a vote
of 10-2 using evidence that included a videotaped confession.
The issue before the court is whether the missed filing deadline should be
excused because it was an administrative oversight by the defense lawyers who
took up his appeals case but moved to other jobs without informing him,
reported the Birmingham News Sunday in a story out of Washington.
A ruling for Maples would give him another chance to argue that his earlier
court-appointed lawyers made mistakes during his trial and sentencing. It could
also change the way states think about their post-conviction appeals processes.
Alabama, unlike other states that allow capital punishment, doesn't provide
legal assistance for death row inmates to challenge issues raised after trial
such as ineffective counsel. That is done pro-bono, usually by out-of-state
legal firms specializing in death penalty defenses. The New York lawyers
handling Maples' post-conviction case left the firm (one for a job in Europe,
the other to clerk for a federal judge) while his appeal was pending. Given
their absence, written rejection of his appeal was returned unopened to a court
clerk in Alabama. The mix-up wasn't discovered until after Maples' latest
appeal filing deadline had passed.
The state argues Maples is "unquestionably guilty" and that Maples' Alabama
lawyers received federal notice that his appeal had been rejected. The local
lawyer did nothing, however, thinking the New Yorkers were on the case.
The case is garnering attention from both sides. Groups opposing the death
penalty, including criminal defense attorneys and some former Alabama judges,
filed briefs saying the system is a "labyrinth in which many a hapless inmate
has become hopelessly lost, sometimes through no fault of his own."
The state has drawn its own supporters, as 20 other states warn that allowing
Maples another appeal would open the floodgates to new challenges and endless
A civil society can't allow for a judicial system that takes executions
lightly. Certainly, the appeals process is lengthy already, heaping prolonged
grief on victims' families. But an execution is irrevocable and shouldn't be
carried out without ample review of the case.
(source: Editorial, Huntsville Times)
Supreme Court: In Cory Maples Case, Scalia Is Only Justice to O.K. Capital
Punishment Despite Mailroom Mix-Up
Capital punishment is a subject that has received a good deal of media play
over the past month or so. In particular, the cases of Texas inmate Duane Buck,
who was temporarily spared though a stay in execution, and Georgia inmate Troy
Davis, who was killed even though a slew of evidence and witness reports that
led to his conviction were later recanted, led to widespread discussions about
the nation's application of the death penalty and the legal snags that can make
or break a case.
The latest court battle surrounding capital punishment now involves a legal and
moral question that has even puzzled the U.S. Supreme Court -- should a
prisoner be executed because of a mail room mix-up?
The case in question involves Cory R. Maples, an Alabama death row inmate who
is facing execution because two lawyers at a New York law firm handling his
appeal left their firm without notifying Maples or the state of Alabama.
Maples was convicted of gunning down two friends after a night of heavy
drinking in 1997, with a jury sentencing him to death with a 10-2 vote. Because
Alabama is the only state that does not grant taxpayer funded legal assistance
to death-row inmates seeking to challenge what happened at trial, when Maples
appealed the death sentence he had local counsel acting in name only and was
actually represented pro bono by two 2nd-year associates from the New York law
firm Sullivan & Cromwell.
It seems like a lucky break, but it wasn't. Maples' lawyers, who associated
themselves with an Alabama-licensed attorney, John Butler, Jr., as required by
state law, initially filed a petition arguing that their client's death
sentence should be overturned due to "ineffective assistance of counsel" at
trial. 18 months later, a judge dismissed the petition and the court sent
notice of the decision to all three lawyers. However, by that time, both of the
New York attorneys had left Sullivan & Cromwell, leading the firm's mailroom to
send the decision back to the Alabama court with "Return to Sender" written on
the unopened envelope. The county clerk filed the envelope away without
informing Butler it had been returned and subsequently Maples -- who thought he
had three lawyers on his team but in fact didn't have any -- missed the 42-day
deadline for filing another appeal. Eventually, the state sent a notice
directly to Maples about his denied appeal.
Although Butler had also received a copy of the ruling, he reportedly did not
do anything with it because he assumed Maples' New York team would handle it.
Reviewing courts all rejected Maples' request for an extension in the filing
deadline, with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that "any and all fault
here lies with Maples for not filing a timely notice of appeal." Now, the U.S.
Supreme Court must decide whether Maples' missed filing deadline can be excused
if he was blameless and if the actions by the Alabama government were a
contributing factor to the confusion.
The Supreme Court may have some extreme characters, but according to reports of
the hearing, none of them want to be the person that says a man should be
executed as a result of a mailing mistake... except Justice Antonin Scalia.
Most of the court seemed surprised at Alabama's decision to deny a man the
right to appeal what is literally a life or death sentence when, according to
Justice Samuel Alito, the mix up occurred "through no fault of his [Maples]
own, through a series of very unusual and unfortunate circumstances."
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor and Chief Justice
John Roberts all questioned former U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garre, whom
was hired to represent Maples, on whether the clerk of the court should have
known that Butler was not substantively aiding Maples.
Scalia, on the other hand, could not get past the idea that Butler had no
function in the case at all. He argued the "Return to Sender" stamp did not
mean Maples' lawyers had abandoned him since it could have indicated the
Alabama court had simply sent it to the wrong address. He also said that when a
prosecutor mailed a letter directly to Maples in prison saying that he had lost
his appeal, it wasn't a sign that his lawyers had abandoned him but an
"extraneous volunteer statement to Maples."
Kagan, Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy also questioned whether the Alabama
court should have been suspicious when Maples did not file his appeal since it
is unusual for an inmate to not appeal a death penalty decision. Even Alabama
Solicitor General John Neiman, when prompted by Kagan, admitted that if he had
in the state's position and had the letter sent back unopened from the missing
lawyers, he "suspects that in those circumstances I might well personally do
Scalia, however, said there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution or federal
rules of procedure that says an accused party has the right to judicial notice,
noting that even in capital punishment cases, "Once you are in court and you
have a lawyer, it's up to your lawyer to follow what goes on in the court."
That may be the point many Americans should take away from this case. Because,
if Scalia is right, it means that in the U.S. court system, an accused party's
only lifeline is with their attorney -- whether that attorney is competent or
not. It means that even if a lawyer unceremoniously (and unprofessionally)
drops a client, even one facing lethal injection, well ... that's just tough.
(source: International Business Times)
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