FEATURED POST

No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

Image
Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

Race and the Death Penalty in Texas

Texas death chamber
Texas death chamber
This month, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the appeal of Duane Buck, a black man from Texas who was sentenced to die for the 1995 murder of his ex-girlfriend and a man who was with her. There is no dispute about his guilt; the issue is how he ended up on death row.

Under Texas law, a person can be sentenced to death only if prosecutors can show that he or she poses a future danger to society. During the trial’s penalty phase, Mr. Buck’s defense lawyer called a psychologist who testified that race is one of the factors associated with future dangerousness. The prosecutor got the psychologist to affirm this on cross-examination, and the jury sentenced Mr. Buck to death.

In other words, Mr. Buck is scheduled to be executed at least in part because he is black. Nearly everyone who has had any involvement with Mr. Buck’s case agreed that making this link was wrong — including one of his prosecutors, Texas’ state courts, the federal district and appeals courts, and the Supreme Court itself.

In fact, the psychologist who testified in Mr. Buck’s case also said there was a link between race and dangerousness in five other cases with black or Latino defendants who were sentenced to death. All of those men received new sentencing hearings after Texas’ attorney general at the time, John Cornyn, who is now a United States senator, agreed in 2000 that they were entitled to proceedings free of racial discrimination.

Mr. Buck, however, got no such relief. That’s because it was his lawyer, not the prosecutor, who first elicited the psychologist’s view on the correlation between race and future dangerousness.

That’s an astonishingly flimsy rationale for allowing a state to kill someone. If, as Mr. Cornyn said in 2000, “it is inappropriate to allow race to be considered as a factor in our criminal justice system,” does it matter who brought it up first? It did to the Supreme Court, which declined to review Mr. Buck’s previous appeal in 2011, even though it called the testimony“bizarre and objectionable.”

Mr. Buck is now back before the justices, this time with a claim that his trial lawyer was ineffective. A federal district judge said Mr. Buck’s lawyer “recklessly exposed his client to the risks of racial prejudice,” but still found that his case was not “extraordinary” enough to reopen.

It’s hard to see how this case isn’t extraordinary. The risk of prejudice is particularly high in Harris County, Tex., where Mr. Buck was sentenced. In a seven-year period that included Mr. Buck’s trial, Harris County prosecutors were more than three times as likely to seek the death penalty against a black defendant as against a white one. Over the past dozen years, every new death sentence in the county has been imposed on a man of color.

Racism, of course, has been central to the American death penalty from the start. Forty years ago, the Supreme Court reversed its own brief moratorium and permitted executions to resume, provided that death sentences were not imposed in an “arbitrary or capricious manner.”

Four decades later, the evidence is clear: The death penalty in 2016 is as arbitrary as ever — whether because of racial discrimination, bad lawyering, geographical variations or other factors. There is no way for the justices to rationalize capital punishment — not in Mr. Buck’s case, or any other.

Source: The New York Times, The Editorial Board, April 2, 2016

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

Nevada releases detailed manual on how it plans to execute death row inmate

Ohio: Alva Campbell execution delayed indefinitely

A Travelling Executioner

Iran: Prisoner Hanged in Public

Cruel and Unusual: A Second Failed Execution in Ohio

South Carolina's 1st execution in 6 years set for Dec. 1

Nevada refuses Pfizer demand to return drugs state plans to use in execution

Too Old and Too Sick to Execute? No Such Thing in Ohio.

Record 11 Taiwanese sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug crimes