Various thoughts on current events with an emphasis on politics, legal issues, books, movies and whatever is on my mind. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; please put "blog comments" in the subject line.
Two people were scheduled to be executed today, but Texas had another execution (Dexter Johnson) held up:
For more than a decade, the condemned killer lodged appeal after appeal based on allegations of brain damage and intellectual disability, but in the end it was the possibility of a conflicted attorney and ineffective lawyering that prompted a federal district judge to side with him.
The sentence was based on a double murder during a carjacking.
The other execution was out of Georgia involving a double murder (a third person was also shot; two kids were at the scene too) arising when Scotty Morrow (to quote his petition) "went to the home of his former girlfriend, Barbara Ann Young, in an attempt to save their faltering relationship." The state reply provided a somewhat more negative summary, including past harassment and sexual violence. As noted there, the argument is that the "trial court, not the jury, made the necessary finding for death when it imposed a sentence." Others referenced his abusive childhood.*
But, though it took to close to 9P.M. for whatever reason, the Supreme Court (without dissent; thought maybe Sotomayor, who voiced concerns about related matters, might) rejected his stay. He was then executed. As an opponent of the death penalty, I'm not one to deny some (not all) of these cases have some particularly horrible facts. My basic concern is that the death penalty, especially the arbitrary process of carrying it out, is not the appropriate way to deal with the situation. This includes addressing the serious domestic violence situation in this country.
Two executions are scheduled on the 16th.
* Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking) had a long thread on Twitter, but another death penalty activist, Hannah Riley, summarized:
Scotty Morrow will be executed tonight in Georgia. He witnessed & was subjected to horrible abuse throughout his youth. At 3, he saw his dad stomp on his pregnant mother’s belly, causing her to miscarry. When they fled to a relative's home, at 7, he was repeatedly raped.
Sister Prejean argues that the jury did not get a full sense of his background and the result would have been different if they did. Basically, however, the people involved here tend to be scarred souls and execution of a few of them to me is not a very helpful way to address the situation.
Take the case at issue. As a matter of deterrence, putting aside the issues of the twenty-five year lag time between crime and execution, the sort of emotional tinged crime at issue is not likely to be deterred by executing some people especially per the limits of our system of justice. As to retribution, the emotion and background of the murderer here tempers things to some degree, plus again, not sure how useful or appropriate it is to execute a selective number of people here.
Why twenty-five years in prison is not appropriate is unclear on a certain level. Again, the system as a whole stands flawed, over individual cases.