Thursday, August 6, 2009


Time for another miscellany.


Crime is down, and nobody seems to know why. At least, that's the thesis of an article in last Sunday's New York Times.

Of course, everyone takes credit. So Jon Corzine, Governor of New Jersey and well behind in the polls in his bid to win another term this November, is touting the wonders of his crime fighting efforts as the key to a dramatic decrease in violent crime - especially homicides - in the state since 2007. Maybe he's right and entitled to take credit. But if crime is down across the nation, maybe it's just coincidence? Or maybe . . . .

Ah, the hell with it.

One note though about New Jersey. Since it legislatively abolished the death penalty at the end of 2007, homicides are down. I'm not suggesting a causal relationship, but I am suggesting (nay, I'm insisting), that the Garden State's becoming the first state to legislatively abolish the death penalty in half a century certainly didn't lead to an increase in homicides.

OK, one more thought on New Jersey. Violent crime may be down, but corruption, it seems, at least if that massive federal bust reflects reality, is rampant. Here's exhaustive coverage from the Newark Star-Ledger. And here, courtesy of the Times, are the criminal complaints against three of the principles.


As reported in this story in the Winston-Salem Journal, North Carolina is on the verge of enacting a Racial Justice Act. A spokesman for the Governor indicates that she is likely to sign the bill which has passed both houses of the legislature. If she does sign it, North Carolina will join Kentucky as the only states pemitting challenges to the death penalty based on statistical evidence of racial bias.

The Journal reports that opponents claim the bill would
set up an enormous roadblock for capital punishment and reopen old wounds for the families of murder victims.
Let's think about that for a minute. Here's the claim: If we look at general trends rather than particular cases, we'll discover that the system is so heavily racially biased that nobody will believe we're innocent of bias in any particular case. We can't have that.

Actually, that's roughly what the U.S. Supreme Court said in McCleskey v. Kemp: We accept that statistical data demonstrates that the death penalty is applied in a racist way, but if we decided it mattered, then we'd have to call the whole criminal justice system into question, and we just aren't willing to do that.

But, it seems, North Carolina is likely to do the first step. Here's hoping the Governor Perdue signs the bill and that the courts then have the guts to actually apply it fairly.


Sharon Keller, "Killer Keller" as she's known around Texas, is Chief Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She goes on trial/media circus August 17 in San Antonio for a variety of forms of judicial misconduct arising from her refusal to keep the courthouse open to permit a last minute filing by Michael Wayne Richard which, it's pretty much clear, would have prevented his execution.

You can get all the background you might want through the links at this Grits for Breakfast post.

Thanks to Mark Bennett, We've seen Keller's written response to the charges against her. As Bennett points out, she complains that she's being forced to hire her own lawyer for her defense. She believes she's entitled to have the state pay for the lawyer of her choice at the fee of his choice. As Bennett also notes, in the same post, Keller claims that applying the Texas Constitution to her would violate the Texas Constitution.

That might lead to a "Huh?" were Keller not so consistently willing to put reason aside in order to favor her own goals. She is, after all, the one who explained, in the context of Roy Criner's case where the DNA exonerated him, that finality trumps innocence. She told Frontline, "At best, he established that he might be innocent. We can't give new trials to everyone who establishes, after conviction, that they might be innocent. We would have no finality in the criminal justice system, and finality is important. "


We're still waiting for Strickland to decide whether to commute Jason Getsy's death sentence. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the parole board said he should. But the Trumbull C0unty Prosecutor is mounting a vigorous effort to convince Strickland to let the aggravated murder of Getsy go forward. (Story here.)

In the meantime, Rommell Broom, who's scheduled to be killed in September, got a big win in the 8th District Court of Appeals. The court said that he can use the public records that he received back in 1994, when it was lawful for him to get that information, to try to prove that if he'd been able to get that information before trial, he'd likely not have been sentenced to die.

What took him so long? you might well ask. The answer is that for years the courts have been telling him that he can't use evidence that the police basically hid from him to prove he shouldn't have been sentenced to die because, well, he just shouldn't.

After all, if people on death row could use the information police had to prove they shouldn't be there, we might have to reopen all these old cases. There'd just be no end to the confusion and uncertainty. Once you're convicted, that should be it. Oh, and you shouldn't be able to get to that stuff before you're convicted, either. Roughly speaking, that's what the Ohio Supreme Court said in 1994 in State ex rel. Steckman v. Jackson, overruling it's 1990 decision, State ex rel. Clark v. Toledo (Sorry, can't find a free copy of either on line, though Steckman should be out there.)

It's good news for Broom, and it's an important decision. Naturally, the state intends to appeal.


I noted the other day that Kenya has just commuted the sentences of the 400 or so people on death row there. An AP report says that China is to begin using the death penalty "less often and for only the most serious criminal cases." On the other hand, Iran just had a mass execution of 24 bringing to at least 219 the number that nation has executed so far this year.


And the beat goes on.

No comments:

Post a Comment