texasmonthly:

Every murder involves a vast web of people, from the witnesses and the detectives who first come to the scene, to the lawyers and the juries who examine the facts, to the families of the victims, who must make sense of the aftermath. The more traumatic the killing, the more intricate the web. In the summer of 1982 the city of Waco was confronted with the most vicious crime it had ever seen: three teenagers were savagely stabbed to death, for no apparent reason, at a park by a lake on the edge of town. Justice was eventually served when four men were found guilty of the crime, and two were sent to death row. In 1991, though, when one of the convicts got a new trial and was then found not guilty, some people wondered, Were these four actually the killers? Several years after that, one of the men was put to death, and the stakes were raised: Had Texas executed an innocent man?
This week, with the release of its April issue, Texas Monthly will publish “The Murders at the Lake,” an in-depth examination into the Lake Waco murders, for which one man (David Spence) was executed, two others (brothers Gilbert and Tony Melendez) were given life sentences, and a fourth (Muneer Deeb) was sent to death row only to be released after six years.
Texas Monthly senior editor Michael Hall spent a year studying the case, conducting dozens of interviews with the principal and minor players and reviewing thousands of pages of transcripts, depositions, and affidavits, from the case’s six capital murder trials and one aggravated sexual abuse trial. The result is a 25,000-word piece that examines the case through the viewpoint of five people: a patrol sergeant who investigated the crime; a police detective who became skeptical of the investigation; an appellate lawyer who tried to stop Spence’s execution; a journalist whose reporting has raised new doubts about the case; and a convict who pleaded guilty but now vehemently proclaims his innocence.
This article, which will be serialized on texasmonthly.com over the next two weeks, is not a legal document; some of the people involved in the case are dead, others don’t remember much, and even others—including the patrol sergeant who investigated the case and the DA who prosecuted it—refused to be interviewed. Rather, this is a story built around the question that has haunted so many people for so many years: What really happened at the lake that night?
Stay tuned. The first installment of this remarkable story will be published tomorrow.
Collage by Adam Voorhes and Robin Finlay

The entire piece is now available online, and Mark Obbie nails the sad truth:

Hall’s story, destined to join the upper ranks of wrongful-conviction storytelling, documents the usual causes: tunnel-vision policing, dubious scientific and informant evidence, coercive techniques of interrogation and deal-making that backfire on the truth. In this case, they point toward a prospect even more appalling than a life wasted behind bars: yet another Texas execution of a plausibly innocent man.

I guess that I shouldn’t have been too terribly surprised that when the name of another death row inmate pops up in Book IV, it’s Cameron Todd Willingham.

“It’s not enough to feel bad that an innocent man was executed; we must use this moment to do better.”

texasmonthly:

Every murder involves a vast web of people, from the witnesses and the detectives who first come to the scene, to the lawyers and the juries who examine the facts, to the families of the victims, who must make sense of the aftermath. The more traumatic the killing, the more intricate the web. In the summer of 1982 the city of Waco was confronted with the most vicious crime it had ever seen: three teenagers were savagely stabbed to death, for no apparent reason, at a park by a lake on the edge of town. Justice was eventually served when four men were found guilty of the crime, and two were sent to death row. In 1991, though, when one of the convicts got a new trial and was then found not guilty, some people wondered, Were these four actually the killers? Several years after that, one of the men was put to death, and the stakes were raised: Had Texas executed an innocent man?

This week, with the release of its April issue, Texas Monthly will publish “The Murders at the Lake,” an in-depth examination into the Lake Waco murders, for which one man (David Spence) was executed, two others (brothers Gilbert and Tony Melendez) were given life sentences, and a fourth (Muneer Deeb) was sent to death row only to be released after six years.

Texas Monthly senior editor Michael Hall spent a year studying the case, conducting dozens of interviews with the principal and minor players and reviewing thousands of pages of transcripts, depositions, and affidavits, from the case’s six capital murder trials and one aggravated sexual abuse trial. The result is a 25,000-word piece that examines the case through the viewpoint of five people: a patrol sergeant who investigated the crime; a police detective who became skeptical of the investigation; an appellate lawyer who tried to stop Spence’s execution; a journalist whose reporting has raised new doubts about the case; and a convict who pleaded guilty but now vehemently proclaims his innocence.

This article, which will be serialized on texasmonthly.com over the next two weeks, is not a legal document; some of the people involved in the case are dead, others don’t remember much, and even others—including the patrol sergeant who investigated the case and the DA who prosecuted it—refused to be interviewed. Rather, this is a story built around the question that has haunted so many people for so many years: What really happened at the lake that night?

Stay tuned. The first installment of this remarkable story will be published tomorrow.

Collage by Adam Voorhes and Robin Finlay

The entire piece is now available online, and Mark Obbie nails the sad truth:

Hall’s story, destined to join the upper ranks of wrongful-conviction storytelling, documents the usual causes: tunnel-vision policing, dubious scientific and informant evidence, coercive techniques of interrogation and deal-making that backfire on the truth. In this case, they point toward a prospect even more appalling than a life wasted behind bars: yet another Texas execution of a plausibly innocent man.

I guess that I shouldn’t have been too terribly surprised that when the name of another death row inmate pops up in Book IV, it’s Cameron Todd Willingham.

It’s not enough to feel bad that an innocent man was executed; we must use this moment to do better.”

“This story completely defies common sense.”

Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, who ruled late last month that evidence presented by lawyers for Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin was simply not enough to merit a new trial for Florida death row inmate

State prosecutors maintain that he sneaked into the mobile home at 121 Vagabond Way in Altamonte Springs just before 6 a.m. on June 18, 2004. Inside, he stabbed Bareis twice and Williams 129 times with a kitchen knife. He then ran back to his home.

When deputies questioned him, Aguirre-Jarquin admitted that he had visited the home early that morning to ask if they had beer. He came across Williams’ body and tried to revive her, he said. After he realized she was dead, he stepped further inside and found Bareis. He spotted the knife and picked it up, fearing the killer might still be there, he said. He ran home and tossed the knife in the grass. He claimed he didn’t report the crime because he was in the U.S. illegally and feared deportation to his native Honduras.

"This story completely defies common sense," Recksiedler wrote in her ruling.

In 2010, lawyers for the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel, a state agency that represents death row inmates, secured DNA testing for 84 pieces of crime scene evidence that had not been tested previously. None of the items contained Aguirre-Jarquin’s DNA.

Among the tested items were eight small blood droplets, which an expert said were fresh. When tested, they matched the DNA of Cheryl Williams’ daughter, Samantha.

Further investigation revealed Samantha Williams had a history of psychiatric problems and trouble with the law. She had also made numerous statements in the years since her mother’s death that lawyers said suggested she was somehow responsible.

"Do you understand that they died for me," she wailed during a 2007 arrest. In another incident, she was reported to have said that "demons" were in her head and made her kill her family.

Recksiedler declared that DNA and other newly discovered forensic evidence was not convincing enough to discount the official theory of how the crime happened. The claim of a defense expert, who testified that the new DNA evidence pointed to Samantha Williams as the killer, was highly unlikely, the judge wrote.

So I’m sorry, what aspect of this story defies common sense?

How Can You Defend Those People?

letterstomycountry:

Andrew Cohen waxes philosophical about the question every criminal defense attorney has to answer at least once:

It surely is a sign of some great cosmic conspiracy that Jacques Verges, one of the most famous defense attorneys of all time, a man who unapologetically defended the Khmer Rouge, Carlos the Jackal, and countless other international villains and rogues, woulddiethe very same week that Abbe Smith and Monroe H. Freedman would publish a collection of poignant essays from notable defense attorneys titled “How Can You Represent Those People?

“The Question,” as the editors title it, is probably asked in sorrow, anger, and curiosity, a thousand times a day. “What is really being asked is ‘How can you represent people you know to be guilty?’” write Smith and Freedman. “Not guilty shoplifters, marijuana possessors, drunk drivers, or political protesters—these could be us, our children, our parents. Not the wrongly accused or convicted either—even the harshest critics understand defending the innocent. The Question refers instead to the representation of guilty criminals who have committed acts of violence or depravity.”

“There are no right answers” to the Question, the editors hasten to add; it all depends upon the lawyer. As someone who has never been a criminal defense attorney, here’s how I would answer: Anyone—everyone— is entitled to a defense, and to a lawyer, because our rule of law is based upon the premise that the State must prove its case against a person beyond a reasonable doubt and because the history of the world, and of America, teaches us that the State is quite often wrong, or worse, when it accuses someone of crime. The principle of that—like the presumption of innocence or the right to confront a witness against you—is more important than is the result of any single case.


The motto of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is “Liberty’s Last Champion.”  When the government tars your reputation with scandalous charges, the media speculates about your guilt, the public has already judged you guilty, and your family and friends have forsaken you, a defense attorney will still be there to protect your best interests.  

It is right and good that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to counsel in criminal cases, however imperfectly enforced these days.  When nobody else cares what happens to you, a defense attorney will be a living paraphrase of Buckley’s infamous alarum, standing between you and the government, screaming “stop!” at the machine-work of criminal justice, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.  

The alternative to guaranteeing a lawyer to everyone accused of a crime is nothing short of tyranny over plain men & women by a class of civil servants with superior knowledge of the law.  It is hardly advantageous to have a Sovereign who can arbitrarily decide who deserves the right to a lawyer and who doesn’t.  Experience shows that when you make exceptions for the worst of us, those exceptions inevitably creep to include the rest of us as well.  

Amen. Inadequate legal defense leads to convictions (and possibly deaths) of innocent people.

Mugambi Jouet points out at Salon that a lot of the coverage surround Warren Hill’s potential execution “focused on the death penalty process – i.e., the drug used to lethally inject him — but not on whether executing someone is inherently problematic.”:

Back in 1972, the Democratic Party’s platform notably vowed to “abolish capital punishment,” depicting it as “an ineffective deterrent to crime, unequally applied and cruel and excessive.”
Now the nation’s two major parties tend to unquestioningly embrace the death penalty in principle. How did we get there?
Democrats live in the shadow of Michael Dukakis, who was asked an emotionally-charged question by a journalist during a 1988 presidential debate against George H.W. Bush. Would Dukakis hypothetically support executing a man who raped and murdered his wife? “No,” Dukakis calmly answered, “I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life.” Dukakis’ response is credited by some with having helped cost him the election, as critics depicted his unwillingness to kill in vengeance as a character flaw. Never mind that Massachusetts, the state he governed, had a relatively low crime rate but no death penalty. Dukakis allegedly lacked the moral high ground for believing that society cannot show that killing is wrong by killing people.
Ambitious politicians took note. The number of executions in America surged in the 1990s with the encouragement or tacit support of most Democratic and Republican leaders. In 1992, when then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was out of state campaigning for the presidency, he returned to Arkansas to signal support for his state’s execution of a seriously mentally impaired prisoner. Clinton later declared “no one can say I’m soft on crime.” The 1996 Democratic Party platform boasted about the enactment of new legislation making the death penalty applicable for more federal crimes — a stark contrast with the 1972 platform’s abolitionist stance.

Mugambi Jouet points out at Salon that a lot of the coverage surround Warren Hill’s potential execution “focused on the death penalty process – i.e., the drug used to lethally inject him — but not on whether executing someone is inherently problematic.”:

Back in 1972, the Democratic Party’s platform notably vowed to “abolish capital punishment,” depicting it as “an ineffective deterrent to crime, unequally applied and cruel and excessive.”

Now the nation’s two major parties tend to unquestioningly embrace the death penalty in principle. How did we get there?

Democrats live in the shadow of Michael Dukakis, who was asked an emotionally-charged question by a journalist during a 1988 presidential debate against George H.W. Bush. Would Dukakis hypothetically support executing a man who raped and murdered his wife? “No,” Dukakis calmly answered, “I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life.” Dukakis’ response is credited by some with having helped cost him the election, as critics depicted his unwillingness to kill in vengeance as a character flaw. Never mind that Massachusetts, the state he governed, had a relatively low crime rate but no death penalty. Dukakis allegedly lacked the moral high ground for believing that society cannot show that killing is wrong by killing people.

Ambitious politicians took note. The number of executions in America surged in the 1990s with the encouragement or tacit support of most Democratic and Republican leaders. In 1992, when then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was out of state campaigning for the presidency, he returned to Arkansas to signal support for his state’s execution of a seriously mentally impaired prisoner. Clinton later declared “no one can say I’m soft on crime.” The 1996 Democratic Party platform boasted about the enactment of new legislation making the death penalty applicable for more federal crimes — a stark contrast with the 1972 platform’s abolitionist stance.

“So we have a Supreme Court ruling that says that the mentally retarded cannot be executed. And we have a man whom all experts now agree is mentally retarded beyond a reasonable doubt. And we have the mental health community siding with the defendant. And yet we have an execution scheduled for July 15th. And yet we have state officials (and lower court judges) arguing that the mentally retarded man who is scheduled to be executed cannot find succor in Atkins because of procedural rules that limit his ability to raise new claims (like the facts that his doctors now say they were wrong). This is what I mean when I write that the case shows how hollow the Constitution can be when the justices compromise over core protections.”
Andrew Cohen, “Will the Supreme Court Make an 11th-Hour Intervention in Georgia?"

Another grotesque and unjust execution" by a state that less than two years ago likely killed an innocent man.

“So, you know, it’s either timely ‘justice’ or it’s grave injustice. But either way, it’s quick. And apparently Florida legislators just like their justice or injustice to happen quickly. … If you have to kill a few innocent people in order to get revenge as fast as possible against several dozen guilty people, well, that’s a good deal, right? … I’ll just go ahead and answer my own question: No, Florida, it’s not.”
"Timely Justice," my ass:

For a state with 24 death row exonerations under its belt (the highest in the country), you would think Florida might want to slow down its execution process to avoid putting innocent people to death. But Florida lawmakers are doing just the opposite

The Miami Herald calls the bill “unacceptable”:

As Mark Elliott, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, points out, “That’s one exoneration for every three executions.”
That should give every Floridian pause.
Frank Lee Smith died of cancer on Death Row after 14 years in prison. Sadly, after his death, DNA testing proved he was innocent and also identified the real killer. What kind of justice did Mr. Smith get?

Natasha Lennard, writing for Salon, calls it “ill-named”:

In a most perverse admission, flagged by Khalek, Republican Senator Rob Bradley said “this is not about guilt or innocence, it’s about timely justice.” So long as proceedings through the Kangaroo court are swift, Bradley seems to admit, the lives of inmates are expendable.


Chris Hedges calls it “cynically named”:

William Van Poyck … is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. June 12 at Florida State Prison. He is a writer who has spent years exposing the cruelty of our system of mass incarceration. On June 12, if Gov. Rick Scott has his way, Van Poyck will write no more. And that is exactly how our political class of murderers wants it.

The New York Times calls it “grotesquely named”:

As the American Bar Association explained in a scathing 2006 report on the state’s death penalty system, Florida is one of the few states that allows a jury to recommend a sentence of death based on a majority vote rather than a unanimous one. Defendants charged with capital crimes often have woefully unqualified counsel, and are much more likely to be convicted and sentenced to death if the victim is white — a sign of racial disparity that is clearly unconstitutional. The flaws in Florida’s system, which soaks up huge amounts of resources, cannot be fixed. It is long past time to abolish capital punishment.

An MSN headline appropriately summarizes, “Florida’s death row Timely Justice Act is cool, unless you’re innocent"—which Juan Melendez can understand since he spent 18 years on death row before being exonerated in 2002: 

The “Timely Justice Act” would speed up a system we know has already sent innocent men, like myself, to death row. Some of these prisoners may be men like me, who have exhausted their legal appeals, yet keep trying to find a way to prove their innocence.
In multiple cases of current death row prisoners, we don’t know exactly what the legal claims are. Some of the men on Florida’s death row ran out of legal options simply because their attorneys missed filing deadlines.
In those instances, no court had the opportunity to evaluate the claims and determine whether they have merit. How can we possibly justify speeding up the execution of prisoners in those cases?
According to logic of the “Timely Justice Act,” any prisoner who has exhausted his appeals and been through a clemency process has had every opportunity and is ready for an execution date, regardless of the specific questions and issues that surround his case.
I am living proof that each case is unique and that the system must allow ample time for the truth to emerge.
Given Florida’s troubling track record on wrongful convictions, this legislation ensures the unthinkable — the execution of an innocent person.

There needs to be more outrage about this.

"Timely Justice," my ass:

For a state with 24 death row exonerations under its belt (the highest in the country), you would think Florida might want to slow down its execution process to avoid putting innocent people to death. But Florida lawmakers are doing just the opposite

The Miami Herald calls the bill “unacceptable”:

As Mark Elliott, director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, points out, “That’s one exoneration for every three executions.”

That should give every Floridian pause.

Frank Lee Smith died of cancer on Death Row after 14 years in prison. Sadly, after his death, DNA testing proved he was innocent and also identified the real killer. What kind of justice did Mr. Smith get?

Natasha Lennard, writing for Salon, calls it “ill-named”:

In a most perverse admission, flagged by Khalek, Republican Senator Rob Bradley said “this is not about guilt or innocence, it’s about timely justice.” So long as proceedings through the Kangaroo court are swift, Bradley seems to admit, the lives of inmates are expendable.

Chris Hedges calls it “cynically named”:

William Van Poyck … is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. June 12 at Florida State Prison. He is a writer who has spent years exposing the cruelty of our system of mass incarceration. On June 12, if Gov. Rick Scott has his way, Van Poyck will write no more. And that is exactly how our political class of murderers wants it.

The New York Times calls it “grotesquely named”:

As the American Bar Association explained in a scathing 2006 report on the state’s death penalty system, Florida is one of the few states that allows a jury to recommend a sentence of death based on a majority vote rather than a unanimous one. Defendants charged with capital crimes often have woefully unqualified counsel, and are much more likely to be convicted and sentenced to death if the victim is white — a sign of racial disparity that is clearly unconstitutional. The flaws in Florida’s system, which soaks up huge amounts of resources, cannot be fixed. It is long past time to abolish capital punishment.

An MSN headline appropriately summarizes, “Florida’s death row Timely Justice Act is cool, unless you’re innocent"—which Juan Melendez can understand since he spent 18 years on death row before being exonerated in 2002

The “Timely Justice Act” would speed up a system we know has already sent innocent men, like myself, to death row. Some of these prisoners may be men like me, who have exhausted their legal appeals, yet keep trying to find a way to prove their innocence.

In multiple cases of current death row prisoners, we don’t know exactly what the legal claims are. Some of the men on Florida’s death row ran out of legal options simply because their attorneys missed filing deadlines.

In those instances, no court had the opportunity to evaluate the claims and determine whether they have merit. How can we possibly justify speeding up the execution of prisoners in those cases?

According to logic of the “Timely Justice Act,” any prisoner who has exhausted his appeals and been through a clemency process has had every opportunity and is ready for an execution date, regardless of the specific questions and issues that surround his case.

I am living proof that each case is unique and that the system must allow ample time for the truth to emerge.

Given Florida’s troubling track record on wrongful convictions, this legislation ensures the unthinkable — the execution of an innocent person.

There needs to be more outrage about this.

zurdaizquierdista:

Updated: Supreme Court Denies Stay of Execution for Marvin Wilson
Lee Kovarsky, lawyer for Marvin Wilson, said that the U.S. Supreme Court denied the request to stay his execution scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday. He called the decision disappointing and said he was profoundly saddened.
“Ten years ago, this court categorically barred states from executing people with mental retardation,” Kovarsky said. “Yet, tonight Texas will end the life of a man who was diagnosed with mental retardation by a court-appointed, board-certified specialist.”
Kovarsky said the criteria Texas uses to determine mental disability in death penalty cases is a “decayed remainder of an uninformed stereotype that has been widely discredited.”
Prosecutors in Jefferson County have maintained that Wilson is competent for execution and have called the claims of mental disability a “red herring.” 



An IQ of 61.

zurdaizquierdista:

Updated: Supreme Court Denies Stay of Execution for Marvin Wilson

Lee Kovarsky, lawyer for Marvin Wilson, said that the U.S. Supreme Court denied the request to stay his execution scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday. He called the decision disappointing and said he was profoundly saddened.

“Ten years ago, this court categorically barred states from executing people with mental retardation,” Kovarsky said. “Yet, tonight Texas will end the life of a man who was diagnosed with mental retardation by a court-appointed, board-certified specialist.”

Kovarsky said the criteria Texas uses to determine mental disability in death penalty cases is a “decayed remainder of an uninformed stereotype that has been widely discredited.”

Prosecutors in Jefferson County have maintained that Wilson is competent for execution and have called the claims of mental disability a “red herring.” 

An IQ of 61.

“As a result, hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration, a retrial or a retesting of evidence using DNA because FBI hair and fiber experts may have misidentified them as suspects. … In one Texas case, Benjamin Herbert Boyle was executed in 1997, more than a year after the Justice Department began its review. Boyle would not have been eligible for the death penalty without the FBI’s flawed work, according to a prosecutor’s memo.”
kohenari:

 
About ten days ago, I asked people to read about Robert Gattis’ case and to consider signing a petition asking the Delaware Board of Pardons to recommend that his death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. Here’s an important update:

The Delaware Board of Pardons is recommending that Gov. Jack Markell grant clemency to a man facing execution this week for killing his former girlfriend.
[…]
A person with direct knowledge of the decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn’t been released, said the board voted in favor of commutation. However, Markell has the final word.

The same petition that went to the Board of Pardons will now go to him so you needn’t sign again (though you can, of course, still pass this information along).
If you haven’t yet signed, more information about the Gattis case and the petition itself can be found here.

kohenari:

About ten days ago, I asked people to read about Robert Gattis’ case and to consider signing a petition asking the Delaware Board of Pardons to recommend that his death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment. Here’s an important update:

The Delaware Board of Pardons is recommending that Gov. Jack Markell grant clemency to a man facing execution this week for killing his former girlfriend.

[…]

A person with direct knowledge of the decision, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn’t been released, said the board voted in favor of commutation. However, Markell has the final word.

The same petition that went to the Board of Pardons will now go to him so you needn’t sign again (though you can, of course, still pass this information along).

If you haven’t yet signed, more information about the Gattis case and the petition itself can be found here.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, family members of murder victims, and Death Row exonerees urge Ohio lawmakers to abolish capital punishment:

“The death penalty in Ohio has become what I call a death lottery,” Pfeifer told the House Criminal Justice Committee. “The application is hit or miss depending on where you happen to commit the crime and the attitude of the prosecutor in that county.”
He added: “I believe Ohio is no longer well served by our death-penalty statute. It should be repealed.”
…
Derrick Jamison was freed after 17 years for the 1984 murder of Cincinnati bartender Gary Mitchell. Dale Johnston was exonerated in 1990 after serving seven years for the dismemberment slayings of his daughter, Annette Cooper, and her friend Todd Schultz.
Jamison tearfully recounted the death of his mother and father while he was in prison. “I am not a statistic. I am a person, a child of God who did not deserve the death penalty,” he said.
…
Lawrence Herman, a former Ohio State University law professor, said he thinks capital punishment should be repealed, in part because innocent people are wrongfully convicted.
“It’s certainly likely … that we have executed several persons that were factually innocent,” Herman said.

More here:

"Thirty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court brought back the death penalty, reasoning that judges and juries could be provided with enough guidance to identify the offenders most deserving of capital punishment," said Dale Johnston, who was wrongly convicted of the 1982 murder of his daughter and her boyfriend and spent seven years behind bars. "After three and a half decades of experimentation, it is time to admit the obvious: If the ultimate punishment cannot be applied fairly, it should not be applied at all."
The Dec. 14 hearing included comments from Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, one of the authors of the death penalty law on the books in Ohio, who now opposes capital punishment.
"Is Ohio well served by the death penalty at this point in time?" he asked. "… We tried to make sure that it would only be applied to the worst of the worst. I’m here today to testify and indicate to you I believe Ohio is no longer well served by our death penalty statute and it should be repealed."
The Supreme Court justice also said data indicate capital punishment does not deter violent crimes.
"If you look at the data from states that don’t have it, you see roughly the same number of murders, aggravated murders," he said. "So it’s impossible to make a case that the death penalty deters anyone."

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul E. Pfeifer, family members of murder victims, and Death Row exonerees urge Ohio lawmakers to abolish capital punishment:

“The death penalty in Ohio has become what I call a death lottery,” Pfeifer told the House Criminal Justice Committee. “The application is hit or miss depending on where you happen to commit the crime and the attitude of the prosecutor in that county.”

He added: “I believe Ohio is no longer well served by our death-penalty statute. It should be repealed.”

Derrick Jamison was freed after 17 years for the 1984 murder of Cincinnati bartender Gary Mitchell. Dale Johnston was exonerated in 1990 after serving seven years for the dismemberment slayings of his daughter, Annette Cooper, and her friend Todd Schultz.

Jamison tearfully recounted the death of his mother and father while he was in prison. “I am not a statistic. I am a person, a child of God who did not deserve the death penalty,” he said.

Lawrence Herman, a former Ohio State University law professor, said he thinks capital punishment should be repealed, in part because innocent people are wrongfully convicted.

“It’s certainly likely … that we have executed several persons that were factually innocent,” Herman said.

More here:

"Thirty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court brought back the death penalty, reasoning that judges and juries could be provided with enough guidance to identify the offenders most deserving of capital punishment," said Dale Johnston, who was wrongly convicted of the 1982 murder of his daughter and her boyfriend and spent seven years behind bars. "After three and a half decades of experimentation, it is time to admit the obvious: If the ultimate punishment cannot be applied fairly, it should not be applied at all."

The Dec. 14 hearing included comments from Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, one of the authors of the death penalty law on the books in Ohio, who now opposes capital punishment.

"Is Ohio well served by the death penalty at this point in time?" he asked. "… We tried to make sure that it would only be applied to the worst of the worst. I’m here today to testify and indicate to you I believe Ohio is no longer well served by our death penalty statute and it should be repealed."

The Supreme Court justice also said data indicate capital punishment does not deter violent crimes.

"If you look at the data from states that don’t have it, you see roughly the same number of murders, aggravated murders," he said. "So it’s impossible to make a case that the death penalty deters anyone."

kohenari:


“Unfortunately, the trial court’s order offers no explanation for its conclusion that DNA testing is not called for in this case,” said Rob Owen, attorney for Hank Skinner and clinical law professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “It will now be up to the Court of Criminal Appeals to give Mr. Skinner’s case the deliberate consideration that is necessary to ensure a correct result.”

I don’t want to sound an overly pessimistic tone … but I have a sneaking suspicion that the appeals court won’t give Skinner’s case the consideration for which his lawyer is hoping. Skinner’s lawyers know this, but it’s not really something they can say to a reporter.
Maybe I’ll be wrong this time; that would be fantastic. But it would also be a fluke, an unusual result in a bizarre system that defies most attempts at predition. And yet pundits — from Texas — continue to claim that the system is working. It’s not. It’s fundamentally broken. The cases that make this clear are far more numerous than the unusual cases where courts actually offer some remedy for the errors that have taken place.
On this particular case, you can find more here. And here. And here.
A petition that asks the state of Texas to test the DNA evidence is here.

kohenari:

“Unfortunately, the trial court’s order offers no explanation for its conclusion that DNA testing is not called for in this case,” said Rob Owen, attorney for Hank Skinner and clinical law professor at the University of Texas School of Law. “It will now be up to the Court of Criminal Appeals to give Mr. Skinner’s case the deliberate consideration that is necessary to ensure a correct result.”

I don’t want to sound an overly pessimistic tone … but I have a sneaking suspicion that the appeals court won’t give Skinner’s case the consideration for which his lawyer is hoping. Skinner’s lawyers know this, but it’s not really something they can say to a reporter.

Maybe I’ll be wrong this time; that would be fantastic. But it would also be a fluke, an unusual result in a bizarre system that defies most attempts at predition. And yet pundits — from Texas — continue to claim that the system is working. It’s not. It’s fundamentally broken. The cases that make this clear are far more numerous than the unusual cases where courts actually offer some remedy for the errors that have taken place.

On this particular case, you can find more here. And here. And here.

A petition that asks the state of Texas to test the DNA evidence is here.