Innocent on Death Row? New Evidence Casts Doubt on Convictions

Rodney Reed’s death sentence was suspended. But researchers say other current cases raise similar doubt about the guilt of the accused.
The number of executions in the United States remains close to nearly a three-decade low. And yet the decline has not prevented what those who closely track the death penalty see as a disturbing trend: a significant number of cases in which prisoners are being put to death, or whose execution dates are near, despite questions about their guilt.
Rodney Reed, who came within days of execution in Texas before an appeals court suspended his death sentence on Friday, has been the most high-profile recent example, receiving support from Texas lawmakers of both parties and celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, who urged a new examination of the evidence.
Mr. Reed has long maintained that he did not commit the 1996 murder for which he was convicted. And in recent months, new witnesses came forward pointing toward another possible suspect: the dead…

Georgia executes Robert Wayne Holsey

Robert Wayne Holsey
After a 3-hour delay as Georgia prison officials waited for the United States Supreme Court to rule on last-ditch appeals, Robert Wayne Holsey was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday night.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected the argument by Mr. Holsey's lawyers that the state's unusually strict standard for judging mental disability violated the Constitution.

The lawyers immediately appealed to the Supreme Court in Washington for a stay. But in a terse note issued some 45 minutes later than the originally scheduled execution time of 7 p.m., the court said the petition, based on the claim about Georgia's disability standard, had been denied. Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor would have granted the request, the notice said.

The defense lawyers then filed an usual second request for a delay, which the Supreme Court turned down around 10 p.m., allowing the lethal injection procedure to commence.

Mr. Holsey, 49, who killed a deputy sheriff, William Robinson, in Baldwin County after robbing a convenience store in 1995, died at 10:51 p.m., according to state officials.

On his final day, Mr. Holsey prayed and was visited by several relatives, his lawyers said.

In a statement on Tuesday, members of the slain deputy sheriff's family said they were relieved that the legal process had ended after 19 years and expressed appreciation for public support, The Associated Press reported. "William was a leader and true hero, evidenced by the years of outpouring of support to our family by all who loved and respected him," the Robinson family said.

Mr. Holsey's case received wide attention in part because his chief lawyer at his 1997 trial later admitted to drinking up to a quart of vodka a day at the time. He had also been preoccupied with pending theft charges that sent him to prison.

An appeals court found that the defense had been deeply inept during the penalty phase of Mr. Holsey's trial. His lawyers failed to present potentially mitigating details about Mr. Holsey's history of abuse as a child and did not press arguments that he was intellectually disabled.

Mr. Holsey had an I.Q. of around 70, his lawyers said, on the borderline of a disability that could have made his execution illegal.

But state officials maintained that Mr. Holsey had been properly represented and was not severely disabled, and the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty could stand.

At issue in the new appeal to the state court on Tuesday was Georgia's requirement that intellectual disability be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt." The rule is stiffer than that in any other state and makes it nearly impossible, legal experts said, to declare as disabled a person who is near the borderline and only partly able to manage daily life.

Mr. Holsey's lawyers argued in a motion on Monday that the Georgia standard violated United States Supreme Court rulings, especially one in May that held that states could not create "an unacceptable risk that persons with intellectual disability will be executed." The State Supreme Court rejected that appeal, with 2 of 7 members dissenting.

"By making it virtually impossible to prove intellectual disability, the Georgia standard reduces the Eighth Amendment's ban on executing people with intellectual disabilities to a nullity," Brian Kammer of the nonprofit Georgia Resource Center, one of Mr. Holsey's lawyers, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Many legal experts predict that the United States Supreme Court will at some point accept a case resembling Mr. Holsey's and declare the state's tough standard unconstitutional.

Holsey becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 55th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

Holsey becomes the 34th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1393rd overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: New York Times, Rick Halperin, December 9, 2014

Robert Wayne Holsey executed by lethal injection

Robert Wayne Holsey died by lethal injection Tuesday night for the killing of a Baldwin County deputy in 1995.

He was executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson.

In his last moments, Holsey addressed the father of Deputy Will Robinson, who witnessed the execution. Holsey said: "Mr. Robinson, I'm sorry for taking your son's life that night. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me and my family." That account comes from our reporter Randall Savage, who was among a handful of reporters who were also witnesses.

Holsey was pronounced dead at 10:51 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for Holsey earlier Tuesday evening.

That decision came after the Supreme Court of Georgia refused to block the execution in a 5-to-2 ruling Tuesday even though Holsey's attorney argued that the state's strict standards for determining intellectual disability violated his constitutional rights.

Holsey, 49, was convicted in 1997 for killing Baldwin County Deputy Sheriff Will Robinson following a convenience store robbery in 1995.

His trial lawyer, who admitted drinking vodka heavily during the trial, was later disbarred and given a 10-year sentence for stealing client funds.

Source: WMAZ news, December 9, 2014

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