Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's the Rush?

Tomorrow, January 28, it will be 16 years since Hayder Al-Turk and Isam Salman were murdered at the Midway Market.

At 10 a.m. on February 4, just over 7 1/2 days from now, the State of Ohio intends to murder Mark Brown for having killed Salman. There's just one problem. It looks like he didn't do it.

Here's what we know. Shortly after the killings Brown and Allen "Boonie" Thomas were arrested for the killings.

Boonie got a plea deal. His charges were reduced from aggravated murder to obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence. He wasn't obligated to testify, and he didn't. He was sentenced to serve at least six months in the custody of the Department of Youth Services, but that sentence was suspended, he was put on probation and allowed to serve that in California, altogether out of the way. He'd been there for over a year when Brown went on trial for killing Al-Turk and Salman.

At Brown's trial, Marcus Clark and Myzelle Arrington, two juveniles, testified that Brown was alone in the store when both Al-Turk and Salman were killed. Brown, who admitted killing Al-Turk from the time he was arrested but who always denied killing Salman, was convicted of murdering both of them.

The way Ohio law works, Brown was separately sentenced for each murder. He got life for the killing of Al-Turk. He got death for Salman's murder.

After that, it was the usual run of things. Appeals failed. Post-conviction hearings failed. Habeas failed. Except that there was this curious thing nobody ever followed up on. Arrignton recanted. He said he lied on the witness stand.

Finally, and alas just recently, Brown's latest set of lawyers saw Arrington's letter recanting his testimony. They asked for a new trial. And you know, once you start down that road, things happen. The prosecutor's office turned up a letter from Arrington, from back in 1995, asking for special treatment in exchange for his testimony. They should have given that letter to Brown's counsel then. The finally did in December. Then, just this month, Clark recanted his testimony.

There was a hearing. The judge took testimony from Arrington and Clark, but refused to hear testimony that would have shown why their recantations were credible. Without the testimony the judge refused to hear, he decided that he wouldn't believe the recantations. Brown appealed.

But you see, he's supposed to be killed in just under eight days. That's not enough time for a fair review. In December, before the hearing, Brown's lawyers asked the Ohio Supreme Court for a stay so that he could prove he was innocent. They renewed and supplemented that request today. The state, of course, is opposed.

Brown is set to be murdered in just under 8 days for the Murder of Isam Salman, a man who, it looks like, he didn't kill.

You might think it's worth taking the time to be sure. You might think that getting him dead is less important than making sure we don't kill him for a crime he didn't commit. Of course, what you might think doesn't count.

Unless you happen to be a Supreme Court justice. Or the Governor.

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