Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More News That Didn't Happen

Last week we learned that Judge Berchelmann doesn't think there should be any sanction imposed on Sharon Keller.

Yesterday, we saw that the Supreme Court declined its own invitation to overrule (or at least weaken) Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.

Those may have been the tip of the nothing happening iceberg.*

In other news that didn't happen, the Washington Post's Charles Lane reports that Martin O'Malley, the Governor of Maryland who "staunchly opposes the death penalty," has not granted, and apparently will not grant, clemency to the 5 men on death row there.

Maryland, we learn from the Maryland Manual On-Line, is known to a few as the "Old Line State," a nickname allegedly bestowed on it by George W (that's Washington, not Shrub) in honor of the Maryland Line troops who fought valiantly in the Revolutionary War. It's known to a few others as the "Free State" which seems to be a reference to freedom to get snockered, a result of Maryland's declining to provide active support for prohibition. My own suggestion is that we call Maryland the "Symmetrical State" since, as DPIC reports, it's got five guys on the row and has murdered five guys.

In any event, Lane questioned O'Malley about his failure to empty death row, allowing emptyness instead to remain firmly in the camp of his abolitionist rhetoric. O'Malley's explanations, Lane reports, ranged from the disingenuous to the dishonest.
O’Malley suggested that there might be some technical problem with a simultaneous commutation of all five sentences.
Well, then, what about one by one?
O’Malley hemmed and hawed again.
This is, of course, what politicians do. They toss principle aside if it means actually doing something that carries a political risk. (Say, advocating for a public option in health care - somethat that all the polls indicate most people favor.) So it is with O'Malley on commutations. Lane summarizes:
O’Malley’s inability to muster one plausible, principled reason not to commute the death sentences tells me that he’s playing politics. O’Malley’s liberal Democratic party base dislikes the death penalty. But, overall, voters in the state support it 53 percent to 41 percent -- and much of that support is concentrated in Baltimore County, a swing jurisdiction in statewide elections. Clearing death row might turn pro-death penalty voters against O’Malley and hurt his re-election chances this fall.
Meanwhile, back in the Lone Star State (which they talked once about re-nicknaming the "Bluebonnet State" after the state flower, but I digress), the Washington Post reports (via Scott Henson at Grits) that the Forensic Sciences Commission is meeting Friday. This is, of course, months after anti-abolitionist (but occasionally pro-secessionist-seeming because that's just how much he loves his country) Governor Rick Perry pulled the plug, as it were, on the meeting where the Commission was to examine the shoddy forensics that led the state to murder Cameron Todd Willingham.

Well, the Commission with its new chair is getting set to meet. But Willingham won't be on the agenda. Instead, according to the Post, Perry's figurehead Commission chair John Bradley said that
his top priority is bringing structure to the commission, which he said doesn't have policies in place that answer "simple questions, like 'What is the standard for accepting or rejecting a complaint?'"
Bradley says he still hopes to have the Willingham investigation done this summer. Grits doesn't buy it.
[G]iven that the commission could hardly "conclude" its business on arson science by this summer if they won't even address it at this meeting, part of me suspects from Mr. Bradley's statements that he hopes to establish procedures at the Harlingen hearing then dismiss the case on procedural grounds instead of evaluating the merits. I'd also expect him to "assign" the case (by some procedure, one assumes, he hopes to create on Friday) to one of the Governor's new appointees who likely share his apparent goal of delaying or sidetracking the investigation. Perhaps that's too cynical. We'll soon see.

So, let's sum up the recent news:
  • Keller won't be sanctioned.
  • The law won't change.
  • Death Row won't empty.
  • Texas won't reconsider.
What will happen. Karl Keys offers one answer.
Pending Executions
4 Mark Brown* (Ohio)
18 Robert Bryant Melson (Ala)
24 Hank Skinner* (Texas)

2 Robert Lee McConnell (Nev)
12 Dale Wayne Eaton (Wyo)
Karl notes that the asterisks mean the execution is likely.

*Of course, given global warming, there may be no iceberg.

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