Articles Posted in Death Penalty & Postconviction Relief

Giffords.jpgWith the horrific news of the shooting of a United States Congresswoman and other innocent bystanders, many are asking whether and when her shooter will get the death penalty. The Federal Death penalty, although rarely carried out, is available for many types of crimes. As explained on the USDOJ website, these crimes generally include crimes in which “(1) the defendant is charged with a crime for which the death penalty is a legally authorized sanction, (2) the defendant intended or had a high degree of culpability with respect to the death of the victim, and (3) one or more aggravating factors specified in a statutory list are present in the case. The statutory aggravating factors include such factors as the commission of a killing in the course of another serious offense, the defendant’s having a prior criminal history involving serious violent offenses, the commission of a killing after substantial planning and premeditation, killing multiple victims, or endangering the lives of other persons (in addition to the person killed) in committing the crime. 18 U.S.C. 3591-93.(1)”
If US Representative Gabrielle Giffords does not survive, her shooter will be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 351 (murder of a member of Congress, an important executive official, or a Supreme Court Justice). However, since multiple federal employees were killed at the scene according to reports, if any were engaged in their duties (such as a congressional staffer assisting the representative in official business), the shooter can be death-penalty prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1114 (Protection of officers and employees of the United States). The general federal murder statute, 18. U.S.C. 1111, can also lead to the death penalty if the “death qualification factors” are proven.

Graves.jpgInnocent Texas death-row inmate Anthony Graves was released earlier this week from the Burleson County Jail. Mr. Graves was wrongly imprisoned for 18 years, most of it on death row, due to the horrendous behavior of dishonest and unethical prosecutors. As KHOU noted,
“The only evidence tying Graves to the killings was Carter’s testimony, and Carter recanted just before his 1998 execution. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned Graves’ conviction in 2006, ruling that prosecutors withheld evidence and elicited false testimony.”
Mr. Graves can take little comfort that he will get a pittance in compensation from the State of Texas for his time on death row due to suborning of perjury and hiding of evidence by those who swore an oath to “seek justice.” He does have a great civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C 1983 and 1985 for violation of civil rights and conspiracy to violate civil rights against those involved. Such claims cannot be brought until a criminal prosecution ends successfully for the defendant, so he is well within the statute of limitations. Hopefully those who prosecuted him are no longer lawyers, and certainly no longer criminal lawyers.

Willingham4.jpgTexan Cameron Todd Willingham was tried, convicted of killing his children and sentenced to death based on bogus arson junk science and a jailhouse snitch in 1992. The tragic death of Willingham’s children was made more tragic by the unnecessary killing of their father will little regard for due process, the rights of citizens accused, or ethics.

I thought the State’s position on this tragedy, including the kangaroo process of appointing a “forensic science commission” whose leader appears to be a State hack, reminded me of a Brittany Spears song. So without further ado, here it is:

[Sung by the State of Texas to Cameron Todd Willingham, to the tune of “Oops I Did It Again” by Brittany Spears]

prison.jpgHis first performance of self-mutilation not being enough, Sherman, Texas death row inmate Andre Thomas pulled out his last remaining eye and ate it. They say he said it tasted like fish.

This raised an interesting and academic question of the propriety of his future death, scheduled to be brought to you by the state of Texas. A Texas capital jury, after they find a person guilty of capital murder, are given the three special issues that the Supreme Court wants answered.

1) whether there exists a probability the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a “continuing threat to society”.

thomas.jpgA million words have been written about Andre Thomas, the Sherman, Texas death row inmate whose brutal act of capital murder I will not describe here. Needless to say, infant children and their mother were killed by knife in about as grotesque of a manner possible.

However, a million words can also be said in support of the State of Texas not following Andre Thomas’s horrific crime with a horrific act of its own – executing a severely mentally ill human being of questionable competency to even stand trial in the first place. Since his jury trial, prior to which he tore out his right eyeball, he has since torn out his left eyeball and eaten it. Some say his acts are simply “malingering,” but I believe he is one crazy SOB.

The facts of the Andre Thomas case are detailed in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeal’s opinion denying his postconviction writ of habeas corpus, a post-conviction challenge whereby condemned defendants, following their appeal, litigate in the Court of Criminal Appeals whether they got a fair trial under Constitutional and state law.