[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----PENN., CONN., VA., USA, MO.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Wed Feb 22 09:00:48 CST 2012
Report calls pay for lawyers in Philly death-penalty cases 'grossly inadequate'
A report ordered by the state Supreme Court concludes that the pay for
court-appointed lawyers in Philadelphia death-penalty cases is "grossly
inadequate" and "unacceptably increases the risk of ineffective assistance of
The report, made public Tuesday, was written by Common Pleas Court Judge
Benjamin Lerner, whom the high court ordered to assess the facts and legal
issues on the subject and report back. It is now up to the Supreme Court to
decide if it will act, and when.
Last year, The Inquirer reported that scores of Philadelphia death-penalty
cases had been reversed by appellate courts or sent back for new hearings
because of serious errors by defense attorneys. Low pay is a key reason,
In Philadelphia, fewer than 30 of 11,000 lawyers are willing to take
capital-case appointments for indigent clients and also meet minimum state
requirements for doing so.
And Philadelphia pays less than any other county in Pennsylvania, according to
defense lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court to increase the fees or halt
death-penalty cases until that happens. The high court instead ruled that more
information was needed and gave Lerner the assignment.
Lerner, who oversees homicide cases in Philadelphia, was told to determine if
the pay for court-appointed lawyers was "so inadequate that it can be presumed
that court-appointed counsel are constitutionally ineffective."
He also was asked if the problem needed to be dealt with "in a general, global
sense," or case-by-case.
Lerner concluded that each case must be dealt with individually.
"However," he wrote, "the compensation of court-appointed capital defense
lawyers in Philadelphia is grossly inadequate, both as to the dollar amount of
the compensation and as to the compensation schedule provided by the present
". . . The existing compensation system unacceptably increases the risk of
ineffective assistance of counsel in individual cases and is primarily
responsible for the First Judicial District's growing inability to attract a
sufficient number of qualified attorneys willing to accept court appointments
in capital cases."
Lerner wrote that the shrinking lawyer pool had led to the prolonged
dispositions of cases and, "in too many cases, has delayed justice to the
threshold of denial."
Reached Tuesday evening, Lerner would not comment. "A lot of work obviously
went into this, and I hope the report and recommendations will speak for
itself," he said.
Lerner's report recommended that an additional $340,000 be spent in
Philadelphia for capital-case attorneys. In 2010, the city spent $200,000 for
such lawyers, he reported.
The Philadelphia fee system was established in 1997, with an update in 2002
requiring two appointed lawyers in death-penalty cases.
The lead counsel gets a flat "preparation fee" of $2,000, which includes the
first half-day of trial. For the rest of a trial, a lawyer gets $200 for half
days and $400 for full days. A lawyer receives $1,700 fee for the penalty phase
of a case.
For cases resolved before trial, a lawyer's preparation fee is reduced by 1/3.
(source: Philadelphia Inquirer)
Conn. legislators to raise death penalty repeal
After weeks of speculation, Connecticut lawmakers will once again raise
legislation to repeal the state's death penalty.
The bill is expected to be brought before Wednesday morning's Judiciary
Committee meeting, just making the committee's legislative deadline.
Committee members say they are unsure how the bill will fare.
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a New Haven Democrat, said he's been working to gain
the support of state legislators who previously opposed repeal.
Last year, repeal legislation failed in the Senate due, in part, to the
on-going death penalty trial in a fatal Cheshire home invasion case. Two men
convicted in the deaths of a woman and her two daughters are now on death row.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he would sign legislation abolishing the death
penalty for all future cases.
(source: Associated Press)
Bill to expand Va. death penalty up for key vote in Senate committee
Legislation to expand the death penalty in Virginia is up for a key vote at the
The Republican-backed bill would redefine the so-called triggerman rule, which
in most cases restricts the death penalty to the person who does the actual
killing. The bill would allow the death penalty for accomplices who share the
intent to kill.
Del. Todd Gilbert’s bill is on the docket for Wednesday afternoon’s Senate
Courts of Justice Committee meeting.
2 weeks ago, the Senate’s own version of the bill died in the courts committee
on a 7-7 party line vote, with 1 Republican abstaining because he accepts court
appointments to represent capital murder defendants. The same vote on the House
bill would doom the triggerman revision for the 5th consecutive year.
(source: Associated Press)
Bridging the Death Penalty Divide
I’d like to offer a simple proposal that, if enacted, could generate a great
deal of a most precious resource: moral clarity.
It concerns the death penalty.
Opponents of capital punishment for murderers argue that the state has no right
to take a murderer’s life. Apparently, one fact that abolitionists forget or
overlook is that the state is acting on behalf of the murdered person and the
murdered person’s family, not only on behalf of society.
In order to make this as clear as possible, here is my proposal: Americans
should be able to declare what they want the state to do on their behalf if
they are murdered. Those who wish the state to keep their murderer alive for
all of his natural years should wear, let us say, a green bracelet and/or place
a green dot on their driver’s license or license plate. And those who want
their convicted murderer put to death can wear a red bracelet and/or have a red
dot on their license.
Just as I have a pink “donor” circle on my driver’s license signifying that in
case I die, I wish to provide my organs to help keep some person alive, I wish
to make it known that if I am murdered, I do not want my murderer kept alive a
day longer than legally necessary.
There are a number of reasons for recommending such a policy.
First, as noted, it is clarifying for the individual. It is easier to take a
position in the abstract than when it hits home. It is one thing to oppose the
death penalty when others are killed, but if you have to decide what happens if
it is you who is murdered, the mind focuses with greater clarity.
Before deciding which color to choose, let a woman imagine herself raped and
then stabbed to death. And let her further imagine that if this happened to
her, she now has some say in determining what happens to the person who did
this to her. She is no longer a silent corpse. Her voice will be heard, perhaps
even be determinative of her killer’s fate.
Likewise, the woman who truly opposes death for any murderer, no matter how
heinous and sadistic his actions, will also now have the ability to speak from
the grave. No matter how much her family may seek the death penalty, family
members will have no say. Any woman — or man — who passionately opposes the
death penalty under every conceivable circumstance can now help to ensure that
at least in his or her case, a murderer’s life that might have been taken might
now be preserved. There is no more direct way to give death-penalty
abolitionists the right to have a say over the fate of a murderer.
Second, such a choice gives great power to the individual. Abolitionists who
live in pro-death-penalty Texas, for example, can now have a say on a matter of
enormous moral magnitude.
And pro-death penalty citizens living in states that have either legally or de
facto abolished the death penalty regain a sense of power over their life (or
death, to be precise). The whole American experiment has been predicated on
giving individuals as much control over their own lives as possible. But this
has been undermined in the last 50 years, as the state has gotten ever more
powerful. Giving murder victims say over their murderer’s fate would be a small
but symbolically significant step in Americans reasserting the importance of
the individual. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate arena than in
determining what happens to the person who murdered you.
As dark as thoughts of one’s own murder may be, we all think about it. And I
don’t think I speak only for myself in saying that I would rest just a tiny bit
better knowing that if I were murdered, my murderer might not be allowed to
watch TV; read books; exercise; develop relationships with people inside and
outside of prison; surf the Internet; sing; listen to music; have his health
care needs addressed; and be visited by loved ones while I lay in my grave.
And for those opposed to the death penalty, they, too, will be able to rest a
bit easier. They will be assured that even men who came to their home, raped
all the females in their family, and then set the house on fire with the family
inside — as happened in Connecticut a few years ago — would never be killed by
Third, it would be interesting to see if these color-coded bracelets and
licenses had any effect on who gets murdered. Clearly, when the murder is a
crime of passion, it is hard to imagine that a would-be murderer would stop
himself from killing someone upon noticing a red bracelet or a red dot on a
license plate. But crimes of passion are generally not, in any event, punished
by death. On the other hand, in murders that could be capital crimes, it is
possible (not necessarily likely, but possible) that a murderer (or even more
likely, his accomplice, if there were one) might just re-think murdering the
Fourth, choosing which color bracelet or dot on one’s license not only forces
people to confront their own consciences, but it will undoubtedly engender deep
discussions with others. To cite but one example, it can surely help singles
who are dating. If you’re against the death penalty, and your date drives up
with a red bracelet and/or dot on his license plate, you’ll have either a far
deeper discussion than you would have otherwise have had at dinner, or you’ll
spare yourself the time and expense of a date that will probably go nowhere.
These are some of the arguments for the plan. I can’t think of one good
argument against it — unless you’re an abolitionist who is fearful of seeing
(source: Dennis Prager, frontpagemag.com)
Please help us out be voting in this poll. Thanks!
Kathleen Holmes--State Coordinator
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