Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Courts Giveth and the Courts Taketh Away

This week in Ohio death penalty news.
Monday, the 6th Circuit, sitting en banc and by a 9-5 vote, reversed the decision of a three-judge panel and decided that William Montgomery shouldn't get a new trial after all.  That messy part about the exculpatory evidence the state concealed?  Pshaw.  Probably wasn't true. 
Today, a panel of the 6th Circuit, granted habeas corpus relief to Kelly Foust, ordering a new sentencing hearing. 
Petitioner Kelly Foust, a death-row prisoner in Ohio, was convicted of murdering Jose Coreano, raping Damaris Coreano, setting the Coreanos’ house on fire, and related offenses. At the mitigation hearing, Foust’s mother, Foust’s father, and defense psychologist Dr. James Karpawich testified on Foust’s behalf. Although their testimony depicted an unpleasant childhood with an emotionally distant and abusive father, their testimony pales in comparison to the horrific accounts detailed in records from Children’s Services and in affidavits from Foust’s siblings. The records and affidavits reveal the squalor of Foust’s childhood home: feces on the walls; vomit on the floor; infestations of lice, cockroaches, flies, and mice; piles of filled garbage bags, filthy clothes, and dirty dishes; little food and frequent utility outages; children who had not bathed for a month; and conditions so vile that a cleaning crew called the residence an “uninhabitable” “pig sty” and refused to return. The new evidence explains how Foust’s mother, not just his father, physically and emotionally abused Foust by, for example, calling Foust a “worthless piece of shit” when he tried to impress his mother with good grades and a new job. The records and affidavits document rape, incest, and sexual abuse among several of Foust’s siblings. The new evidence also reveals Foust’s attempt to help his younger sister reshape the family’s trajectory.
The three-judge panel that sentenced Foust to death never heard these vivid facts because Foust’s counsel provided ineffective assistance. In preparation for the mitigation hearing, Foust’s attorneys did not interview any potential witnesses. The attorneys did not gather any records from Children’s Services, despite Karpawich’s repeated reminders. The attorneys did not prepare Foust’s parents or Karpawich in advance of their testimony at the mitigation hearing. The attorneys hired Karpawich in lieu of a trained mitigation specialist, even though Karpawich informed the attorneys that he was not a trained mitigation specialist.
Oh.  It's the 6th Circuit, so of course there was a dissent.
And also today the Ohio Supreme Court set two new execution dates.
  • Fred Treesh - March 6, 2013
  • Steven Smith - May 1, 2013.
Of course, we're still waiting to find out whether the state will actually be allowed to kill Billy Slagle in three weeks or Joey Murphy a month later or . . . .  But the folks in Columbus, they just keep adding to the list which at my quick count now has 12 serious execution dates on it and which is geared up for 21 months of killing.
Talk about planning for the future.
Albert Camus wrote of the horror in knowing and waiting.
What then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? For there to be an equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal, who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him, and who from that moment onward had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.
Everyone on the row knows that sometime.  But 21 months with a specific date at the end? 
The word that comes to mind is torture.

1 comment:

  1. ...who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him, and who from that moment onward had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.

    This statement is a damned lie. People who perpetrate this kind of crime do exist in private life and have existed throughout history. You should have recognized this falsehood when you published it, and if you'd been thinking about accuracy instead of chanting Down with the Death Penalty! you'd likely have caught it. Having lived through WW-2 Camus also knows what he wrote isn't true, but so what? It's the principal idea that counts, and if the facts don't conform to the theory they must be disposed of (a different Albert).

    You contend that our system of justice is fractured beyond repair and that the time a prisoner spends on death row is long enough to make the death penalty cruel and unusual. I agree with all that, and I don't think the justice system will be fixed or will even improve during my life time. That isn't any reason to publish falsehoods - isn't the truth bad enough (Mouldy Marvin)?