[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----TEXAS, USA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Mon Oct 31 16:52:22 CDT 2011
Perry Displays Varied Stance Toward Crime
By the spring of 2004, when Rick Perry had been governor for over three years,
the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole had yet to recommend to him that a single
death row inmate be spared.
That May, though, the board’s chairwoman allowed the lawyer for Kelsey
Patterson to personally present to her an 11th-hour plea that the inmate’s
execution be blocked because of his severe mental illness.
12 years earlier, Mr. Patterson had murdered 2 upstanding residents of
Palestine, Tex., for no apparent reason and then fled to a nearby yard where he
stripped to his brown socks, gesticulating and hollering until the police
Juries had previously found Mr. Patterson, who had paranoid schizophrenia,
incompetent to stand trial for other senseless assaults. After the double
murder, however, he not only was tried but also testified, ranting about
electronic implants in proceedings so tumultuous that he was repeatedly ejected
from the courtroom or gagged with duct tape.
When the parole board voted unexpectedly to commute Mr. Patterson’s sentence to
life in prison, his lawyer, euphoric, was cautioned by a legal counselor to Mr.
Perry, “Honey, don’t get your hopes up.” Only the board has the power to
recommend clemency, but the governor can deny it.
And indeed, the next day, Mr. Perry rejected the recommendation. Mr. Patterson
was executed, and his incoherent final statement ended with the bell-clear
“Give me my life back.”
In campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. Perry has
vigorously defended the executions on his watch: 236 over nearly 11 years. But
because the governor of Texas does not play a firsthand role in the capital
punishment system, he bears direct responsibility for only a few of those
executions, among them Mr. Patterson’s.
To critics here, Mr. Perry’s denial of a rare offer of mercy by his board
indicates that he is excessively zealous about what he has called “the ultimate
justice in the state of Texas.”
But Mr. Perry’s record on criminal justice is more mixed than his tough stance
on the death penalty might suggest, partly because of changes in the political
and legal climate over his 3 terms as governor.
Death sentences and average yearly executions have declined during his tenure
compared with that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. And persistent efforts
to fix Texas’s troubled justice system have finally borne some fruit. Mr. Perry
has not been a crusader, but he has signed reform-minded legislation and
acknowledged some of the system’s mistakes, once referring to an exonerated
prisoner’s murder conviction as a “great miscarriage of justice.”
“He has done more good than any other governor we’ve ever had,” said Jeff L.
Blackburn, chief counsel of the Innocence Project of Texas. “He approaches
criminal justice issues like a lay person rather than like a prosecutor or
judge, which makes him open-minded and willing to embarrass the system. Unless,
of course, it involves the death penalty.
“On the death penalty, Rick Perry has a profound mental block,” Mr. Blackburn
continued. “The death penalty is part of our fine state’s religion; it’s
somewhere up there with football. To oppose or weaken it would be like playing
with dynamite, and Rick Perry, a quintessentially political person, is not
going to blow himself up.”
Explaining in 2004 why he was rejecting clemency and upholding the execution of
Kelsey Patterson, Mr. Perry said, “No one can guarantee this defendant would
not be freed to commit other crimes were his sentence commuted.” Mr. Patterson
would have become eligible for parole at 74.
Responding recently to that reasoning, Charles Aycock, a former Texas State Bar
president who served on the parole board at the time, said in an interview:
“Baloney. We would have never released anybody like that to the street.”
To some here, Mr. Perry’s championing of the death penalty seems crystallized
by his 2001 veto of a bill banning the execution of the mentally retarded and
by his refusal to stay the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 after a
last-minute report from an arson expert cast doubt on his guilt in his three
daughters’ deaths in a house fire.
After that execution, Mr. Perry did not impede the Legislature’s creation of a
commission to strengthen the state’s use of forensic science. But he did
intervene in the commission’s investigation of the Willingham case, replacing
its chairman, a defense lawyer, with a prosecutor who derailed the inquiry for
over a year.
At the same time, though, Mr. Perry was signing bills to create a life without
parole alternative to the death sentence, punish hate crimes more harshly,
improve criminal defense for the poor, guarantee a right to post-conviction DNA
testing, upgrade the use of eyewitness identifications and award generous
compensation to exonerated prisoners.
State Senator Rodney Ellis, a Democrat who has led the push for criminal
justice changes, said the governor should not be given too much credit for
declining to veto legislation. “We’ve had to work against the grain to get that
stuff passed,” he said.
On the parole board’s recommendation, Mr. Perry pardoned 35 people arrested in
a tainted drug sting in Tulia and posthumously pardoned Timothy Cole, who was
wrongfully convicted of rape and died in prison of an asthma attack. He also
lobbied for significant compensation for a man who was exonerated after 18
years in prison for murders he did not commit.
Kathryn M. Kase, interim director of the Texas Defenders Service, who sat
alongside Mr. Perry’s deputy counsel on a state advisory panel created after
Mr. Cole’s case, said, “There was certainly the sense that the governor was
genuinely interested in both the problem of wrongful convictions and ways to
reform the system.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Perry expresses certainty that the system has worked well
enough to prevent the execution of any innocent people while he has been
governor. Asked by the moderator Brian Williams at a Republican debate last
month whether he struggles to sleep because he has presided over more
executions than any other governor in modern history, Mr. Perry said, “No,
sir,” after the audience in Simi Valley, Calif., had erupted in applause.
Mr. Perry continued, “In the state of Texas, if you come into our state, and
you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with
another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate
justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.”
Scott Henson, author of “Grits for Breakfast,” a well-read blog on Texas
justice, said that Mr. Perry, believing that “only egg-headed liberals” oppose
the death penalty, liked to bait the news media so he would be given a chance
to show some swagger.
“And y’all take the bait,” Mr. Henson said, “even though Rick Perry has nothing
to do with executions. All his bluster about the death penalty is like the
rooster who crows taking credit for the sun rising.”
The Power to Influence
In death penalty cases, Texas governors have the right to issue a one-time,
30-day reprieve from execution (which Mr. Perry rarely exercises). They were
stripped of the authority to grant clemency 75 years ago when, in reaction to
allegations of corruption, Texas voters created an independent pardons board.
Still, the governor appoints the board, and can influence it.
“I don’t think Governor Perry has appointed anybody to the board that doesn’t
support the death penalty,” said State Representative Jose Aliseda, a former
member. “The beauty of the thing is, though, he never once told us how he
wanted us to vote. He could have sent us a signal. If he were not happy with a
recommendation, he could have asked for a 30-day reprieve and then we’d
probably have reconsidered.”
The board has reviewed more than 200 death penalty cases on Mr. Perry’s watch,
but it chose only a few times to commute sentences. (Two Supreme Court
decisions — banning the execution of the mentally retarded and those who were
minors when they committed their crimes — required commutation in several dozen
Apart from those required commutations, Mr. Perry appears to have accepted the
board’s recommendation to commute the sentence of a death row inmate only once,
for a man who was a getaway car driver and did not commit murder.
Still, under Mr. Perry, in part because of the two Supreme Court decisions,
executions have dropped from a peak of 33 in 2002 to 17 last year and 11 so far
this year. (More than a dozen current and former Texas officials, including
former Gov. Mark White, asked last week for untested DNA evidence to be tested
before the next execution, scheduled for Nov. 9, takes place.)
Fewer death sentences have been handed down, too. In Governor Perry’s first
year, 33 were issued; last year, only 7. That appears partly due to the new
life without parole sentencing option.
State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., who sponsored the legislation, said it took
eight years to get it passed because prosecutors and judges thought it would
lead to more violence behind bars and weaken the death penalty. He said that he
finally succeeded, in 2005, partly because Mr. Perry had signaled his support
for the measure when he voiced his fear that Mr. Patterson might someday be
“Texas has no life without parole sentencing option,” Mr. Perry said in
explaining why he was denying clemency to Mr. Patterson, whom he called “a very
Mr. Patterson traumatized the small East Texas city of Palestine when in the
fall of 1992 he killed a prominent businessman and his well-liked secretary in
broad daylight in front of multiple witnesses.
Born in 1954, Mr. Patterson had grown up in the town, playing football for the
high school and serving in the military after graduation. He was found to have
schizophrenia in his mid-20s after he shot a co-worker for no clear reason
while a groundskeeper at a Dallas hospital. A couple of years later, he shot
another co-worker at a pizzeria in Palestine.
After each attack, he was deemed incompetent to stand trial, hospitalized, and
then, when medication made him competent, found to have been insane at the time
of the offense. Released by hospitals, he stopped taking his medication and
turned floridly psychotic; his family had been seeking to get him
rehospitalized in the days before he killed Louis Oates, owner of a local oil
distributorship, and Dorothy Harris, known as Kay.
For those killings, Mr. Patterson, against his lawyers’ advice, turned down an
offer of life imprisonment and insisted on testifying. He spoke of his food
being poisoned and conspiracies by 50 50-year-old white men. “He was a rambling
mess, but I think the jury was scared of him and wanted him off the streets of
Palestine for good,” said Sam Hicks, one of his trial lawyers.
Records show that Mr. Patterson inhabited an elaborate delusional universe,
believing that a remote control device had been implanted in his body at age 6
and that his name had been inscribed in a registry of “hell pledges” kept
behind the counter of a local store, Cavender’s Boot City. He considered all
participants in the justice system, including his own lawyers, to be emissaries
of “hell court” and believed he could be saved by telling them to go to hell.
“He’d preface his remarks to the judge by saying, ‘Sorry, your honor, go to
hell,’ ” said Robin Norris, one of his post-conviction lawyers. “He was his own
In his years on death row, Mr. Patterson spent his time block-printing
hundreds, if not thousands, of unintelligible letters to the F.B.I. and other
authorities — “schizophrenic word salads,” his lawyers called them. Yet in
confinement, he was docile, compliant and innocuous, they said.
Petitioning for clemency, his lawyer J. Gary Hart argued that Texas had failed
Mr. Patterson. He said Mr. Patterson never would have ended up on death row if,
after previous assaults and hospitalizations, he had not been “set free to
wander the streets of Palestine, Texas, unmedicated, psychotic and eventually
so delusional that he was unable to control the impulse” to commit the murders.
He said his client never should have been found competent to stand trial or to
be executed and that clemency should be exercised to redress the shortcomings
of a judicial system that had found no legal bar to his execution.
Mr. Hart pleaded the case orally to the pardons board’s chairwoman while
another board member traveled to death row to meet with Mr. Patterson — who,
delusionally, informed her that he had received a permanent stay of execution.
The day before the execution was scheduled, the pardons board members voted —
as they always did, by fax — 5 to 1 in favor of commuting his sentence.
“I don’t think you can determine that this man was anything but mentally
incompetent,” said Mr. Aycock, the former board member, after reviewing case
documents recently. “It was a pretty clear case to us. We wouldn’t have voted
that way if it wasn’t.”
Told that he was the one who had voted against clemency, he said, “Oh, jeez.”
He paused. “I wouldn’t have voted the same way now. Don’t ask me why I did
then. I was new to the board. I probably thought, ‘There are a lot of brilliant
lawyers and judges who have looked at his case.’ With experience, I began
thinking more about, ‘What is merciful?’ ”
Because clemency memos prepared by Mr. Perry’s counsel are treated as
privileged, it is unclear what kind of a briefing he received about this case.
After the board’s vote became public, though, he got a phone call from Todd
Staples, now the state’s agriculture commissioner and then a state senator from
Mr. Perry had a personal tie to the community through Cliff Johnson, a close
friend and a one-time senior adviser to the governor who used to represent
Palestine in the State House of Representatives. Mr. Johnson’s successor in the
House, Richard Swift, was connected to the case through his secretary, who was
the victim Ms. Harris’s sister.
According to The Palestine Press-Herald, Mr. Staples “conveyed his thoughts” to
the governor that Mr. Patterson was a “cold-blooded killer” and that the
execution should proceed.
Ms. Harris’s daughter, Michele Smith, traveled to Huntsville to witness it and
afterward, sobbing, thanked the governor for “giving me a chance to start again
and have an end to such a horrible time in my life.”
Before he was executed, Mr. Patterson made no final meal request but accepted a
candy bar and a soda. Strapped to the death chamber gurney and asked for a
final statement, he answered, “Statement to what. State what. I am not guilty
of the charge of capital murder. Steal me and my family’s money.” He continued
to ramble as the lethal injection was taking effect, issuing one more “Go to
hell” and finally: “Give me my rights. Give me my rights. Give me my life
(source: New York Times)
The Cost of Death
Samuel Johnson famously remarked, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a
fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” But precisely because it so
concentrates the public mind, capital punishment has distorted the criminal
justice system. Over the past 40 years, while the Supreme Court has been
“tinker[ing] with the machinery of death,” in Justice Harry Blackmun’s haunting
phrase, other components of the system have broken down untended.
In 1972, by a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court struck down all existing capital
punishment statutes in the United States. While three Justices were prepared to
hold the death penalty unconstitutional under all circumstances, two others
focused on the fact that the existing statutes led to arbitrary decisions that
followed no legal standards. As Justice Potter Stewart put it, capital
punishment violated the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth
Amendment because being sentenced to death was like “being struck by
Many states responded by enacting new capital punishment statutes that
purported to formalize decision making. In 1976 the Supreme Court upheld
several of these efforts, pointing to key procedural safeguards, such as the
creation of a separate penalty phase to determine whether the defendant
deserves to die. In this penalty phase, defense counsel can present a broad
range of mitigating evidence that may diminish the defendant’s culpability or
incline the judge or jury to mercy.
But too often the formal safeguards that reassured the Court have proved
illusory in practice. Underfunded, untrained, or outright incompetent lawyers
often fail to provide their clients even minimally adequate representation. A
1990 study by the National Law Journal found that a quarter of the inmates then
on Kentucky’s death row had been represented at their trials by lawyers who
were later disbarred, suspended from practice, or convicted of crimes. A
capital defendant in Georgia was assigned a lawyer who knew the name of only a
single criminal law opinion decided by any court.
And however unwilling the Supreme Court has been to ensure that capital
defendants receive truly competent representation—its interpretation of the
Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of effective assistance of counsel sets the bar so
low that courts have upheld convictions in cases where the lawyer was actually
asleep during part of the proceedings—it has been even less willing to police
systemic unfairness in who is targeted for the most awesome punishment. In
McClesky v. Kemp (1987) the Court rejected powerful statistical evidence
showing that the death penalty in Georgia was infected by racial disparities:
black defendants convicted of killing white victims were far more likely to be
sentenced to death than any other group. Justice Lewis Powell’s opinion was
unusually candid in explaining why the Court could not accept McClesky’s claim:
“Taken to its logical conclusion,” Powell wrote, McClesky’s position “throws
into serious question the principles that underlie our entire criminal justice
system.” Racial disparities marbled the criminal justice system, so they had to
Because the Court and Congress convinced themselves that death row inmates were
dragging out the process of post-conviction appeals, they have dramatically
restricted the ability of all defendants to seek habeas corpus, the primary
vehicle for bringing constitutional challenges against state court convictions.
The provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(AEDPA) create a procedural obstacle course that prevents federal courts from
addressing the merits of a defendant’s constitutional claims. For example, in
the first week of the current Supreme Court term, the Court heard oral argument
in the case of Cory Maples, a death row inmate in Alabama who so far has been
unable to get the federal courts to hear his claim that his trial lawyer was
ineffective at his sentencing. The reason? The volunteer lawyers who later
represented him moved on to new jobs, and when the state court ruled against
his claim, there was no one at their former law firm to receive the letter
announcing the decision. The letter was stamped “Return to Sender,” and the
deadline for appeal passed before anyone noticed. As a result, federal courts
accepted the state’s argument that Maples had “defaulted” his claims.
Ineffective trial lawyers, inconclusive evidence, inconsistent testimony, and
impenetrable procedural thickets are not unique to capital cases.
A fortnight before, the Court stayed the execution of Duane Buck, whose death
sentence Texas seeks to insulate from federal review despite the fact that,
under questioning from a prosecutor, a psychologist told the jury that being
black “increases [Buck’s] future dangerousness”—a necessary element for a death
sentence under that state’s law.
Cases such as these—not to mention the recent execution of Troy Davis, which
spurred worldwide protests—receive focused attention both inside and outside
the Court. The Court’s rules single out capital cases for special treatment,
directing that the notation “CAPITAL CASE” appear at the beginning of any such
request for review and mandating that the government, which often waives its
right to reply, file a response. The clerk’s office has a special staff
attorney charged with overseeing the voluminous, often last-minute filings in
death penalty cases. The justices and their law clerks often scrutinize the
filings with great care. The bar has also responded: death row inmates
typically receive superb legal assistance before the Supreme Court. Former Bush
Administration Solicitor General Gregory Garre is now representing Maples.
Current Solicitor General Donald Verrilli previously represented several death
row inmates pro bono before the Court.
But the concentration on capital cases comes at a cost. Ineffective trial
lawyers, inconclusive evidence, inconsistent testimony, and impenetrable
procedural thickets are hardly unique to capital cases. Nonetheless, the Court
is far less likely to pay attention to these claims when the consequences to
the defendant seem less harsh. Criminal law and procedure scholars such as
Robert Weisberg of Stanford and Douglas Berman of Ohio State have described how
the Court’s concern with death leads it to shortchange the constitutional
claims of defendants facing lesser punishments. Berman has calculated that
about one in ten thousand state felony sentences is a death sentence, yet the
Court devotes more resources to reviewing death sentences than to reviewing
claims in all other criminal cases combined. And while the Court has repeatedly
considered whether a death sentence is proportionate to a particular class of
crimes—for example, barring death sentences for non-homicide offenses or for
juvenile or mentally retarded defendants—it has set virtually no limits on the
severity of prison sentences. In the 40 years that the Court has been actively
policing capital punishment, prison sentences have lengthened and the U.S.
prison population has skyrocketed. With execution at the top end of the scale
of punishment, a life sentence begins to look something like leniency, and
other sentences are inflated in turn.
Capital cases also consume thousands of hours of legal services from some of
the finest legal minds in America. The time those lawyers spend challenging
death sentences of inmates whose guilt is not seriously in doubt could be spent
preventing and remedying wrongful convictions, ensuring that all defendants
receive prompt appointment of competent counsel, and attacking draconian prison
conditions, not to mention providing civil justice to poor and disenfranchised
people. But as long as the death penalty is with us, superb and committed
lawyers at organizations such as the Southern Center for Human Rights, the
Equal Justice Initiative, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund will
find themselves defending the lives of a few while the lives of many others
continue to be ruined by pervasive flaws in our criminal justice system.
(source: Boston Review)
Lifelong Death Sentences
In 1978, when he was 27, Manuel Valle killed a police officer in Coral Gables,
Fla. In September, when he was 61, Mr. Valle was put to death for his crime.
A couple of hours earlier, the Supreme Court had refused to stay his execution
— with 1 dissent. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote that the 33 years Mr. Valle
had spent on death row amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
That line of reasoning strikes some supporters of the death penalty as
perverse. “It is a very strange argument to say that a murderer can delay
justice with protracted appeals for decades and then turn around and claim his
own delay as a reason to escape his deserved punishment altogether,” said Kent
Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
But Justice Breyer’s approach has historical support, and it is line with
“Our Constitution was written at a time when delay between sentencing and
execution could be measured in days or weeks, not decades,” Justice Breyer
wrote in another dissent on the same subject, this one in 1999. English law in
the 18th century called for executions to take place on “the next day but one”
Foreign courts have ruled that living for decades under the threat of imminent
execution is a form of psychological torment.
“There is an instinctive revulsion against the prospect of hanging a man after
he has been held under sentence of death for many years,” the Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council, which is based in London and hears appeals from
former British colonies, wrote in a 1993 ruling in favor of 2 inmates who had
spent more than five years on death row in Jamaica, commuting their sentences
to life in prison.
Similarly, the European Court of Human Rights in 1989 ruled that extended
periods on death row violated the provision of the European Convention of Human
Rights that bars torture or “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The
court acknowledged that capital punishment was permitted by the convention in
some circumstances. It nevertheless ruled that the United Kingdom could not
deport a German man to Virginia to face capital charges there because he would,
if convicted, expect to spend six to eight years on death row suffering “the
anguish and mounting tension of living in the ever-present shadow of death.”
Sarah H. Cleveland, a law professor at Columbia and a former State Department
official, said there was a gap between the United States and much of the rest
of the world on this point. “Although concerns about the human impact of
excessive time spent on death row have received little attention in this
country, the ‘death row phenomenon’ — including lengthy time on death row — has
been recognized as inhuman punishment and illegal throughout Europe since the
1980’s,” she said in an e-mail.
Justice Clarence Thomas has said he is not impressed by these international
“I am unaware,” he wrote in response to Justice Breyer’s 1999 dissent, “of any
support in the American constitutional tradition or in this court’s precedent
for the proposition that a defendant can avail himself of the panoply of
appellate and collateral procedures and then complain when his execution is
That seeming contradiction misses a larger point, Justice Breyer wrote in his
dissent in the Valle case. A capital justice system that cannot be administered
without long delays, he said, points to “the difficulty of reconciling the
imposition of the death penalty as currently administered with procedures
necessary to assure that the wrong person is not executed.”
Here is what is clear: the average prisoner on death row has spent 13 years
there, and his odds of growing old in prison are pretty good.
There are about 3,300 inmates on death row in the United States. Last year,
there were 46 executions.
According to a study published in 2004 in the Journal of Empirical Legal
Studies, 5 percent of the 5,826 death sentences imposed from 1973 to 1995 were
carried out in those years. By contrast, the study found, there was a 68
percent chance that death sentences in those years would be overturned by the
One of the authors of that study was James S. Liebman, a law professor at
Columbia. In a seminal 2000 article in The Columbia Law Review called “The
Overproduction of Death,” he explained where the capital justice system has
gone wrong: It produces too many death sentences at trial and then throws most
of them out.
At trial, almost all of the incentives conspire to generate death sentences.
Prosecutors and judges tend to be elected, and they reap political benefits
from appearing tough on crime. Defense lawyers tend to be appointed, underpaid
and overmatched. People with qualms about the death penalty are not allowed to
serve on capital juries.
It is only on the back end — on appeal and in other post-conviction proceedings
— that the legal system, at great length and expense, starts to examine
seriously whether particular death sentences were actually warranted.
A system that takes 33 years to issue a final decision about whether a
defendant should live or die would seem to be broken.
“The incentives driving the nation’s process of imposing and reviewing death
sentences,” Professor Liebman wrote, “are skewed from stem to stern.”
(source: New York Times)
Supreme Court to take another look at prosecutorial misconduct
Prosecutors, says Angela Davis, former head of the D.C. public defenders
office, “are the most powerful officials in our criminal justice system.”
Davis, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law,
“They decide whether a person’s going to be charged, what to charge them with,
whether there’s going to be a plea bargain and what the plea bargain will be.
As they make those decisions, they exercise almost boundless discretion.”
That combination of power and discretion, she said, “can and has led to abuse.”
It’s an issue of perpetual interest at the Supreme Court. Next week, the court
will hear a case in which a Louisiana death row inmate alleges that prosecutors
withheld information that would have cast doubt on the eyewitness account that
led to his conviction.
The case from New Orleans concerns prosecutors who worked for former district
attorney Harry Connick Sr., who left office in 2003.
If that sounds familiar, it is because Connick and his office were at the
center of last term’s big decision about prosecutorial misconduct. In that
controversial 5-to-4 decision, the court stripped a $14 million award from John
Thompson, who spent 14 years on death row after prosecutors withheld evidence
that showed his innocence.
The court has long agreed that individual prosecutors should be protected from
civil liability so that they may freely pursue criminals. However, Thompson had
convinced a jury that Connick’s office should be held accountable for not
properly training staff about the duty prosecutors have to turn over evidence
favorable to the defense.
But Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by the court’s other conservatives, said
Thompson did not meet the high standard of showing a pattern of “deliberate
indifference” on Connick’s part.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on behalf of the court’s liberals, read her
dissent from the bench, saying she would have upheld the award against
Connick’s office for the “gross, deliberately indifferent and long-continuing
violation of (Thompson’s) fair trial right.”
Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, said the court’s decision
in Connick v. Thompson made it clear that civil remedies are not a viable
option for those trying to stop prosecutorial misconduct.
He, Thompson and others were part of a group of “innocence advocates” who last
week proposed a national dialogue with prosecutors to try to find other ways to
investigate and sanction prosecutors who break the rules.
Santa Clara University law professor Kathleen Ridolfi said the group needs to
find a way around “a system where the Supreme Court refuses to hold prosecutors
accountable, even for repeated, deliberate misconduct.”
The new case, Smith v. Cain , is not about punishing prosecutors. It is about
whether withholding evidence should mean a new trial for Juan Smith, who
prosecutors said was involved in a gangland-style shooting that left five dead.
Prosecutors have an obligation under a nearly 50-year-old Supreme Court
precedent in Brady v. Maryland to turn over any evidence material to a
defendant’s guilt or punishment.
The case is expected to be determined by its specific facts rather than the
potential for a new examination of Brady. It also seems not coincidental that
it involves New Orleans prosecutors.
Smith’s lawyers point out that courts have overturned 4 death sentences from
Orleans Parish because of violations of the Brady rules, and they say 8 other
non-capital cases have met the same fate.
The American Bar Association has asked the court to use the case to tell
prosecutors that they have a greater obligation than simply meeting Brady
requirements. The ABA says the court should mandate that prosecutors abide by
ABA model rules that call for disclosure of any exculpatory evidence, whether
it is determined to be material or not.
The National District Attorneys Association replied that the ABA is nothing but
a private association of lawyers that consistently takes the side of criminal
defendants. The regulation of prosecutors, it says, “is appropriately left to
the individual states.”
Such sensitivity is why Scheck and others at a news conference last week took
pains to say they believe only a small slice of prosecutors have committed
misconduct. He said he was generally advised, “?‘Don’t go around the country
pillorying prosecutors and giving the impression that what happened in John
Thompson’s case is happening across the board in an epidemic.’?”
He added: “ We’re not saying that.”
(source: Washington Post)
Death penalty in U.S.
Contrary to what some people might think, the death penalty is not immoral.
Taking the life of another person deserves a greater punishment than
incarceration, and by executing the ones responsible it prevents them from
repeating the same crime.
It is wrong for us to simply imprison someone for murder, when the same
punishment is being handed out for much lesser crimes. A human life is much
more valuable than any material item.
Locking murderers up in an air-conditioned facility, giving them 3 meals a day,
personal recreation time and family visits is a “slap in the face of morality,”
says Casey Carmical, author of Ethics of Capital Punishment.
Some will claim that the death penalty is in violation of the Eighth Amendment,
but it is not. To claim that cruel and unusual punishment references the death
penalty would be ridiculous.
Sydney Buckley----Lee’s Summit
(source: Letter to the Editor, Kansas City Star)
More information about the DeathPenalty