FEATURED POST

Pope Declares Death Penalty Inadmissible in All Cases

Image
ROME — Pope Francis has declared the death penalty inadmissible in all cases because it is “an attack” on the “dignity of the person,” the Vatican announced on Thursday, in a definitive shift in Roman Catholic teaching that could put enormous pressure on lawmakers and politicians around the world.
Francis, who has spoken out against capital punishment before — including in 2015 in an address to Congress — added the change to the Catechism, the collection of beliefs for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
The revision says the church would work “with determination” for the abolition of capital punishment worldwide.
“I think this will be a big deal for the future of the death penalty in the world,” said John Thavis, a Vatican expert and author. “People who work with prisoners on death row will be thrilled, and I think this will become a banner social justice issue for the church,” he added.
Sergio D’Elia, the secretary of Hands Off Cain, an association that works to abolish capital puni…

Colorado Supreme Court rules prosecutorial misconduct docs can remain secret in death row case

Judge and gavel
The state's highest court ruled against The Colorado Independent in its attempt to unseal the records detailing wrongdoing by DA and AG candidate George Brauchler's office.

The Colorado Supreme Court today denied a petition from The Colorado Independent to unseal records about prosecutorial misconduct in the capital case against Sir Mario Owens, a death row inmate who was convicted of murdering a state lawmaker's son.

The unanimous ruling may make it easier for Colorado courts to decide to block public access to court documents. That includes, evidently, records related to cases in which the death penalty is at issue and cases in which prosecutors are accused of wrongdoing, said Steve Zansberg, attorney for the Independent.

"These types of documents are the only way the press and public can gauge whether prosecutors and judges - officials who have enormous power over people's lives - are serving ethically and fairly. By allowing these records to be shrouded in secrecy, this ruling will further erode confidence in Colorado's criminal justice system and the public's trust the judicial branch of our state government," said Independent Editor Susan Greene.

The Independent is considering appealing today's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, as the state Supreme Court wrote, has never ruled on the matter of whether access to "all criminal justice records is a constitutionally guaranteed right belonging to the public at large."

The statewide nonprofit news site filed an emergency petition in January to the state Supreme Court after District Court Judge Christopher Munch issued a 1,500-page order issued nine months ago in which Munch upheld Owens' conviction and death sentence despite having found a pattern of misconduct by state prosecutors whom the judge found withheld evidence that might have helped Owens.

This suppression of evidence happened under the watch of Carol Chambers, the former district attorney of the 18th Judicial District, and later under her successor, District Attorney George Brauchler, the Republican currently running for state attorney general.

Vikki Migoya, spokeswoman for Brauchler's office, said, "We feel the ruling speaks for itself and have nothing to add."

Owens' legal team filed a motion seeking to disqualify Brauchler's office from the case on grounds that the office had withheld evidence that could have helped Owens's defense. That motion asked the court to appoint a special prosecutor from another district, but it was denied and sealed along with the denial and all documentation related it.

"While presumptive access to judicial proceedings is a right recognized under both the state and federal constitutions," Justice Melissa Hart wrote on behalf of the state Supreme Court, "neither the United States Supreme Court nor this court has ever held that records filed with a court are treated the same way. We decline to conclude here that such unfettered access to criminal justice records is guaranteed by either the First Amendment or ... the Colorado Constitution."

The ruling today has statewide impact and "means the public will never come to understand why a motion to disqualify a prosecutor in a capital murder case was denied. That's, I think, deeply disconcerting," said Steve Zansberg, attorney for the Independent.

"I'm not saying (Owens's) motion should have been granted. but we'll never know why it was denied."

Said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, "Access to court records is important so that the public can evaluate how the criminal justice system is working and hold officials accountable. So it's disappointing that relevant facts about the prosecution of a capital murder case will remain under seal."

Owens, 32, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the 2005 killings of Vivian Wolfe and her fiancee, Javad Marshall-Fields - son of Rhonda Fields, now a state senator from Aurora. Marshall-Fields was scheduled to testify against a suspect in a different murder case for which Owens ultimately was convicted.

Owens is 1 of 3 death-row inmates in Colorado. All 3 were prosecuted by the office Brauchler now leads, and all 3 are African-American - a population that comprises less than 5 % of Colorado's overall population. Vast racial and socioeconomic disparities in who gets sentenced to death in the state have been cited by civil libertarians and even Gov. John Hickenlooper, a 1-time death penalty supporter, as reasons to reconsider capital punishment in the state.

Brauchler repeatedly has said his office is color-blind and ethical in seeking death sentences. Since The Independent became a party in The People v. Sir Mario Owens, the 18th Judicial District Court and the state Supreme Court have blocked access not just to documents related prosecutorial misconduct allegations, but also to Owens' entire 13-year case.

Source: coloradoindependent.com, Alex Burness, June 11, 2018


⚑ | 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!



"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Tennessee executes Billy Ray Irick

New Study: Death Penalty Costing Nebraska Taxpayers $14.6 Million Each Year

Nebraska executes Carey Dean Moore

The Brits on death row around the world hoping to escape execution

Paralysis, eye gouging, amputation, crucifixion: The Medieval punishments faced by criminals in Saudi Arabia

USA: State of Nebraska set to carry out first execution in 21 years

Fentanyl Used to Execute Nebraska Inmate, in a First for U.S.

Tennessee executes Cecil C. Johnson Jr.

Should 'Late Adolescence' Protect Young People from Execution?

URGENT APPEAL for Anthony Haynes to be executed in Texas on 18 October