FEATURED POST

Iran: The death penalty is an inhumane punishment for death row prisoners, their families and society as a whole

Image
"Whether guilty or not, the outcome of the death penalty is the same. In Iran, the death penalty is by hanging, and it takes from several agonising seconds to several harrowing minutes for death to occur and for everything to be over."

Every year several hundred people are executed by the Iranian authorities.
According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and other human rights groups, death row prisoners have often no access to a defence lawyer after their arrest and are sentenced to death following unfair trials and based on confessions extracted from them under torture. 
These are issues which have been addressed in IHR’s previous reports. The current report is based on first-hand accounts of several inmates held in Iran's prisons and their families. The report seeks to illustrate other aspects of how the death penalty affects the inmate, their families and, as a consequence, society.
How does a death row inmate experience his final hours?
Speaking about the final ho…

On Texas Death Row and “Represented” by a Disbarred Lawyer

Jury seats
The Sixth Amendment provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall … have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” The right to counsel encompasses the right to an attorney -- a qualified attorney. Not, for instance, one who has been disbarred and prohibited from practicing law.

And yet, that’s exactly what happened to TaiChin Preyor, who is scheduled for execution in Texas on July 27. Mr. Preyor was convicted and sentenced to death in 2005 for a murder in San Antonio. Mr. Preyor’s trial counsel, however, did not properly investigate known red flags regarding his background, including the violence and sexual abuse Mr. Preyor experienced as a child. These formative experiences are not an excuse, but this mitigation evidence, and other critical details about Mr. Preyor’s childhood, could have persuaded at least one juror to vote for a life sentence, rather than death.

Mr. Preyor’s trial counsel’s ineffective assistance at trial should have been presented to the state and federal courts on appeal. But, I contend that the individuals providing Mr. Preyor’s “representation” at that time were more interested in defrauding the courts than pursuing Mr. Preyor’s legal claims. One of his post-conviction attorneys, Brandy Estelle, was a California lawyer who practiced probate, estate planning and real estate and had no experience in death penalty cases -- which explains why her case files for Mr. Preyor included a printed-out Wikipedia page on “Capital Punishment in Texas” with highlights.

But Ms. Estelle didn’t work alone. A recent investigation has revealed that she merely served as a front for the case, which actually was run by another individual, Philip Jefferson, who had long ago been disbarred in California for gross misconduct and chronic inattention to his clients’ interests.

Mr. Jefferson was introduced to Mr. Preyor’s mother, who was desperate to save her son, at the home of her niece over Thanksgiving dinner. Mr. Jefferson told Mr. Preyor’s mother that he had worked with Johnnie Cochran, the famous attorney who received a not guilty verdict for O. J. Simpson. He offered to represent Mr. Preyor, but claimed his status as a “retired” attorney prevented him from signing and filing court documents. Instead, Mr. Jefferson offered to bring in a younger attorney, Ms. Estelle, to appear in court and file documents drafted by Mr. Jefferson and Ms. Estelle.

TaiChin Pryor
TaiChin Pryor
Ms. Estelle never informed the courts that a disbarred lawyer had a role in the case and was receiving compensation from Mr. Preyor’s mother -- even as she sought payments from both Mr. Preyor’s mother and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for the same work. In total, Ms. Estelle and Mr. Jefferson were able to get $45,000 from Mr. Preyor’s mother, wiping out her savings from years of work at the U.S. Postal Service, in addition to secretly seeking duplicative compensation from the courts for the same work.

That Mr. Jefferson and Ms. Estelle rendered “services” that were abysmal is not surprising. Among many examples of their shockingly deficient performance, the duo filed a federal habeas corpus petition that included no citations to record or extra-record evidence. A federal court later commented that the petition disregarded applicable federal law. Like his trial counsel, they also utterly overlooked compelling mitigation evidence in Mr. Preyor’s background and upbringing – including astonishing allegations that Mr. Preyor was sexually abused by a family member and removed from counseling as a young child out of concern that “personal matters” like this were being discussed.

Because of Ms. Estelle’s and Mr. Jefferson’s efforts to mislead the courts and Mr. Preyor’s family, TaiChin Preyor never received anything close to competent representation in his state and federal appeals. He should not be penalized for Mr. Jefferson and Ms. Estelle’s seemingly unethical and potentially fraudulent scheme. Mr. Preyor has been appointed new, legitimate and qualified attorneys. And in May – just two months before Mr. Preyor’s scheduled execution – a federal court authorized funding for these attorneys to conduct an investigation and prepare a case on his behalf.

The courts or the Governor should allow Mr. Preyor the opportunity to be represented by legitimate attorneys – with valid law licenses – before his execution proceeds. If our system is to have integrity, we cannot allow the State to take Mr. Preyor’s life without a fair hearing, with effective legal representation, for his claims.

Source: ACS, Guest Post, July 25, 2017. The authors are John H. Blume, Samuel F. Leibowitz Professor of Trial Techniques; Director of Clinical, Advocacy and Skills Programs; Director, Cornell Death Penalty Project, Cornell Law School.

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Texas executes Joseph Garcia

Tennessee: David Earl Miller moved to death watch as his execution approaches

Tennessee executes David Earl Miller

Death penalty in Tennessee: What I saw when I watched David Earl Miller die on the electric chair

'A simmering rage': David Earl Miller's path to Tennessee's electric chair

Hours before execution, Tennessee governor rejects killer’s plea for mercy

ISIS militant who beheaded a former Army Ranger killed by US airstrike

Iranian Juvenile Offender Milad Azimi Saved from Execution

Texas ready to execute member of 'Texas 7' for policeman's murder

Texas: Border Patrol agent charged with capital murder, prosecutors will seek death penalty