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 email@example.com; please put "blog comments" in the subject line.
And Also: Showing judicial review and changing court personnel leading to changing doctrine has an international flavor, the South Korea constitutional court held there is a right to choose an abortion 7-2, splitting the other way 4-4 not too long ago. More liberal leadership at top led to a change in personnel.
I have begun to address each individual execution, which is assisted by the fact that only a handful are involved -- four people were executed so far this year with multiple cited as "rescheduled." The Texan inmate involved in the last minute stay has yet to be given a new date.
On Monday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the Thursday execution of Mark Robertson, who was convicted nearly 30 years ago in the Dallas shooting deaths and robbery of an elderly woman and her grandson.
Checking, one of the two scheduled this week was put on hold by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for a somewhat ironic reason. There is evidence that the defense attorney acted to keep blacks off his jury because of a fear they would not be fair to his client. Past Supreme Court rules have made clear that neither side (in both civil or criminal cases) can discriminate by race. This includes when the defendant is white and the reason is for his own defense. And, there is reportedly evidence the prosecution was aware of it here, tainting the process further.
Meanwhile, more typical alleged problems with the sentencing and such is also flagged. This is probably a fairly typical capital case where the problems are less blatant than in some of these matters. Note the continual issue of someone on death row for decades. Also, a robbery homicide of this sort seems a somewhat unclear grounds to execute, especially since so few of the many potential candidates actually get a death sentence.
The other person sentenced to die on the same day is ChristopherPrice, who has been on death row for twenty-six years (though is only in his 40s), a white man (notable given concerns of racism) guilty of killing a minister during a robbery (his wife survived) shortly before Christmas. When Price was a child, his own father was murdered. This is the sort of background information that is put out there to try to obtain mitigation. And, in fact, two jurors did vote against death. But, that currently is allowed, it seen as sentencing, not the unanimous jury necessary to find guilt.
It is this sort of thing that defense attorneys spend a lot of time trying to go the right way, which even if the person is guilty, a good defense is key. This is in fact often the basic value of representation generally -- guilt is not really is dispute, but how guilty, how strong must the penalty be and various other needs of the client (such as care in prison or the like). This article flags this case as one where inadequate counsel arguably led to his death sentence. Again, who knows with the death lottery being fickle.
Price also was involved in lethal injection protocol disputes, but we have seen the value of those these days. Again, it is not because there was lack of reason for concern. Nitrogen gas is now an option in Alabama, which is a key difference from the last Supreme Court case, but Price was held not to have signed on for usage by the required date. The first execution (the infamous iman case) was still done by lethal injection, since an inmate has to choose the alternative and the inmate had religious opposition to actively do so. An ironic wrinkle on that dispute.
On the day of the scheduled execution, the federal district judge stayed the execution for sixty days to examine the question of the risks of lethal injection and possibility the nitrogen gas alternative would significantly enough lesser them. For what it matters, the judge is a Bush Jr. appointment. A few hours later, shortly before seven o'clock in the evening, the 11th Cir. of Appeals (who also stayed the Muslim inmate's prosecution earlier this year) upheld the stay. I find this whole thing silly. Was there not a way to decide these final questions before TODAY?
Yes, this is the sort of thing that bothers some conservatives and others, but it is not just gaming of the system. We can simply have a smooth running system of final appeals that are set before the day of the execution so that the Supreme Court is asked to rule in the evening. Anyway, meanwhile, somehow Price got married today. How long he knew his wife is unclear. Remember he has been in prison for over twenty years. He also said he wants no spiritual advisor in the death chamber; the state Christian chaplain can observe among other witnesses, including the wife of the deceased who survived the original attack among others.
[The execution warrant was good until midnight local time. SCOTUS not announcing anything, report is -- less than twenty-five minutes before the expiration -- that there will be no execution given time restraints. This is stupid. Why couldn't SCOTUS say something in time?]
Meanwhile, his older co-assailant will continue to serve his LWOP sentence, Kelvin Coleman avoiding death via plea bargain.