How can people sit in a room for days or weeks on end with a person who may or may not be correctly convicted at the end of the trial and then proceed to kill that person in cold blood? It IS barbaric and inhuman, cruel and unusual punishment by any civilised standard.
The story of Ricky, a convicted child molester and murderer, and the mother of the child he killed; and of mental illness, the death penalty, victimhood and seeking understanding.
Clive Stafford Smith OBE is a lawyer specialising in defending people accused of the most serious crimes, and is Founder and Director of the UK legal action charity Reprieve.
Clive spent 26 years working as an attorney in the Southern United States, where he represented over 300 prisoners facing the death penalty. Whilst only taking the cases of those who could not afford lawyers, he prevented in the death penalty in all but six cases (a 98% “victory” rate). Few lawyers ever take a case to the US Supreme Court. Clive has taken five, and all of the prisoners prevailed.
Right. It’s about time district attorneys stopped seeking the death penalty in cases where the accused is evidently suffering from severe mental illness. It’s a waste of money, and morally wrong.
In light of the life-without-parole sentences imposed on Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Jared Loughner (who shot and killed Congresswoman Gabriele Giffords and a federal judge) and James Eagan Holmes (who shot and killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado), that “mark the progress of a maturing society,” I believe our society’s “evolving standards of decency” have reached a point where Congress and our state legislatures should pass legislation that prohibits executing the mentally ill for murders they committed. At long last, have we not reached the point where reasonable and thoughtful people can conclude that executing the mentally ill violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment?
In Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 100-101 (1958), Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote,
This Court has had little occasion to give precise content to the Eighth Amendment, and, in an enlightened democracy such as ours, this…
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A note on James Holmes, who has been found guilty of first degree murder.
According to news reports, State experts agreed Holmes had severe mental illness.
It’s sick to treat people with severe mental illness people as criminals, and even sicker to contemplate executing them.
See also here.
CJ: Does that mean Dylan Roof should not get the death penalty?
BS: I don’t think anybody should get the death penalty. I’m against the death penalty. Not because I believe people don’t deserve to die for the crimes that they commit. I think that we don’t deserve to kill. The system of justice in South Carolina is not going to be better or more racially just based on whether this kid gets executed or not. If I were the governor of South Carolina, I’d say: “We’re going to abolish the death penalty, because we have a history of lynching and terror that has demonized and burdened people of color in this state since we’ve became a state. I’m not gonna end the death penalty because there are innocent people on death row, I’m not gonna end the death penalty because I think it’s unreliable or it’s too expensive, I’m gonna end it because in South Carolina, we have a history of bias and terror and violence and segregation, and the death penalty has been a tool for sustaining that, and I’m gonna say we’re not gonna have that.” And most African Americans in South Carolina would celebrate that. That actually would be the first time somebody has done something responsive to this history of racial hierarchy and bigotry. And I think every southern governor should do the same. That’s when you’d get the different conversations starting in this country. Then you might get some progress.
Predictably, someone is calling for the death penalty for Dylan Roof.
The crime was undeniably appalling, at every level.
But there is always a reason why death for death is not the right response.
I say the death penalty would validate the crime, by implying that the person committing the crime was not insane.
As usual, it’s the wrong response.
The more Bill learned about Paula, the more he was certain his grandmother would have forgiven her. He tried to visit her in prison, but was denied permission — it was against policy to allow convicted murderers to see members of their victim’s family. So Bill and Paula wrote letters. Their correspondence would last years. When 19-year-old Paula’s death sentence was commuted to 60 years in July 1989, Bill’s first words were, “Praise the Lord!” And by the time she was released on good behavior, on June 17, 2013, neither was the same person they had been in 1985. Paula was a grown women who had earned her GED, multiple degrees, and the support of prisoners and activists alike. Bill, now in his 60s, had founded Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing, one of the most influential anti-death penalty groups in the country, led by victims of crime. He had also gained permission to see Paula, visiting her 14 times.
The list is dominated by California, with 20 cases. California’s death penalty system is demonstrably broken, with no recent executions.
Florida has 5 cases. Notably Casey Anthony was found not guilty by a jury some years ago after the State sought the death penalty, to the surprise of many. Another disputed case is Ana Maria Cardona, which I have not studied in detail.
Arizona has an especially catastrophic record : Debra Milke was recently exonerated more than 25 years after her son was murdered, I suspect Shawna Forde is also innocent, and but for a single juror, Jodi Arias, also innocent, might be on Arizona death row. That leaves just Wendi Adriano.
Mississipi has one case, another Michelle Byrom who is innocent, was awarded a last minute retrial in March 2014.
Generally speaking, there are several cases when the woman allegedly acted with her boyfriend or husband, some cases of extreme child neglect, and some with mental disorders.
My general conclusions:
(1) The execution of women in the United States is serving no useful purpose.
(2) There are a significant number of wrongful convictions.
[ Article may be updated over time ]
See also Marilyn Mulero
What an idiot this judge on the US Supreme Court is : did he HAVE to pick a case where the accused was innocent.
A little over two decades ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was dismissive of then-Justice Harry Blackmun’s concerns about the death penalty. In fact, Scalia had a case study in mind that demonstrated exactly why the system of capital punishment has value.As regular readers may recall, Scalia specifically pointed to a convicted killer named Henry Lee McCollum as an obvious example of a man who deserved to be put to death. “For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat,” Scalia wrote in a 1994 ruling. “How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!”For Scalia, McCollum was the perfect example – a murderer whose actions were so heinous that his crimes stood as a testament to the merit of capital punishment itself.Yesterday, McCollum was pardoned. Scalia’s perfect example of a…
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