About Me

My photo
This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Death Penalty News

And Also: Autumn started mid-morning EST on Monday. A few slots still to be determined for the Fall Classic (baseball). And, Mets blow it again, in special fashion, get off the ground, and play again tomorrow. A few more games until "didn't we watch this before?" Rays one game away from controlling the East. Must be that killer payroll.

Troy Anthony Davis was scheduled to die yesterday for the murder of a Savannah police officer. However, Bob Barr (conservative running on the libertarian ticket for President this year, most famous as a gung ho supporter of Clinton's impeachment) joined Jimmy Carter and other more usual suspects in opposition:
Barr wrote the board Wednesday saying he is "a strong believer in the death penalty as an appropriate and just punishment" but said the proper level of fairness and accuracy required for the ultimate punishment has not been met in Davis' case.

Democracy Now! (see website) also had his sister on a few times recently. One concern of Barr might be that most of the witnesses that testified against Davis later changed their story. This led to a credible shot at making an actual innocence claim, which is very hard to make once you are convicted.

The deadline (rather literal here) for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide just past and they granted a stay to examine the issue. Five of nine votes are required to stop the execution pending appeal, agreeing to decide the question taking only four. But, the matter can be moot -- the person can be executed before the SC decides, if five doesn't agree.

The order:
The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the Court is granted pending the disposition of the petition for a writ of certiorari. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the issuance of the mandate of this Court.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court in its recent ruling striking down execution for rape of children said this:
By contrast, 44 States have not made child rape a capital offense. As for federal law, Congress in the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 expanded the number of federal crimes for which the death penalty is a permissible sentence, including certain nonhomicide offenses; but it did not do the same for child rape or abuse. See 108 Stat. 1972 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 18 U. S. C.). Under 18 U. S. C. §2245, an offender is death eligible only when the sexual abuse or exploitation results in the victim’s death.

A rather obscure -- not raised by either side, including the dissent -- a recent military law provision DOES allow it. The SC -- in a fairly rare post-decision move -- asked for briefs to determine if further action is justified. Action on both might occur in the next few weeks.

[It should be noted that not applying the death penalty does not necessarily mean sympathy for the convicted, though here actual innocence might warrant it. The fact the family of the person Davis was found guilty of murdering are not surprisingly appalled at the delay. This does not justify the death penalty if there is some real (maybe even not enough to keep him out of prison) chance of innocence. As well as other reasons.]

Meanwhile, we have an update on a case involving one of those fired Bush attorneys:
A federal judge on Tuesday effectively closed a murder case that may have played a role in the 2006 ouster of the U.S. attorney in Arizona.

U.S. District Court Judge James A. Teilborg sentenced Jose Rios Rico to life, plus 55 years in prison. Rios Rico, 31, pleaded guilty earlier this month to a host of murder, drug and weapons charges in the slaying of Angela Pinkerton in February 2003.

The case was a sparring point between former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton and Department of Justice officials who wanted to seek the death penalty against Rios Rico. Charlton believed Rios Rico "may not have been an appropriate candidate." Charlton said the case lacked the forensic evidence for "the ultimate penalty."

The Justice Department refused to pay for a search of a landfill west of Phoenix believed to contain Pinkerton's remains. Then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Charlton exhibited poor judgment in his hesitation to support the administration's position on capital punishment in the Rios Rico case. Gonzales resigned last year.

It is not surprising or problematic (on legitimacy grounds at least) that the Bush Administration pushed for more application of the death penalty, given we got fair warning of his policy inclinations in that department (as compared to say nation building) before Election Day. OTOH, how Alberto Gonzales handled things, not so much. We did get fair warning of his "appallingly unprofessional work on death penalty cases when he was counsel for Gov. Bush" ... well, people who did the research did. As with Barr, the people in control of the Justice Department support the death penalty.

Still matters how you carry it out.