USA | States Continue to Oppose DNA Testing in Death Penalty Appeals, Attorneys Ask Why Don’t They Want to Learn the Truth?

The last 3 men scheduled for execution in Georgia said they did not commit the killing and that DNA testing that was not available at the time of trial could prove it. In 2 of the cases, victim family members supported the request for testing. Prosecutors opposed the requests, and the courts refused to allow the testing. 2 of the 3 men were executed, with doubts still swirling as to their guilt.
Shawn Nolan, a federal defender who represented Georgia prisoner Ray “Jeff” Cromartie, summed up the sentiments of the prisoners, families, and defense attorneys in these cases. “I’d like to know what the state is so scared of,” he said. “Why are they afraid of the truth? This is sad and so disturbing.”
“We have the capability of testing a wide range of forensic evidence that we couldn’t test in the past,” said Death Penalty Information Center Executive Director Robert Dunham. “It is a powerful tool to get to the truth and to get important answers as to whether the criminal legal system has b…

Pennsylvania | Rahmael Holt sent to death row for killing New Kensington Officer Brian Shaw

Rahmael Holt
Rahmael Holt simply said “no” when asked Wednesday whether he had anything to say before his death sentence was formally imposed.

Holt, 31, of Harrison, Allegheny County, officially became the 133rd person on Pennsylvania’s death row when he was condemned to death by lethal injection for shooting and killing New Kensington police Officer Brian Shaw in November 2017.

A Westmoreland County jury in December, following a two-week trial, convicted Holt of first-degree murder and two other offenses in connection with the fatal shooting in New Kensington. The jury also determined Holt should be sentenced to death.

Prosecutors said Shaw chased Holt as he fled from a car after a traffic stop. The officer was shot and killed during the pursuit.

“He was a model police officer in the community,” said Common Pleas Judge Rita Hathaway. “This family lost him, the community lost him that day.”

Holt did not testify during his trial or the subsequent penalty phase. He continued his silence Wednesday.

Shaw’s surviving family members and friends sat quietly in court and did not testify during the sentencing hearing. They were not available for comment afterward.

Defense attorney Tim Dawson said Holt will appeal his conviction and sentence.

“He was surprisingly upbeat for a man who was just convicted and sentenced to death. He knows he has a long road ahead of him,” Dawson said.

In addition to the death penalty, Hathaway imposed two consecutive sentences that require Holt to serve 10½ to 27 years in prison for convictions on two firearms charges.

As a convicted felon, Holt was not permitted to possess the gun he used to kill Shaw, prosecutors said.

Hathaway recounted Holt’s lengthy criminal record that dates back to when he was 16. He was convicted as a juvenile in connection with multiple arrests for gun possession and giving false identification to police.

Holt was convicted of another firearms offense when he was 19 and was convicted of simple assault and disorderly conduct and sentenced to probation at age 22. A year later, Hathaway said, he was convicted of another weapons offense and sentenced to two to four years in prison.

She said the circumstances that led up to Shaw’s murder were a direct result of the previous convictions.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Holt was in possession of a gun while riding as a passenger in the vehicle Shaw attempted to stop. Had he been found with the gun during a search of the vehicle, Holt could have faced a parole revocation that might have resulted in a prison sentence of up to five years, the judge said.

“You didn’t potentially want to serve five years in prison, so you took that man’s life,” Hathaway said. “He may not even have searched the car, but you didn’t want to take that chance.”

Source: triblive.com, Rich Cholodofsky, February 12, 2020

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