Growing Trend for States to Stop Death Penalty as a Budget Cut - Let's Watch California

This week, FoxNews provided detailed coverage on exactly how the current economic crisis is pushing the 35 states that still have the death penalty on their books to consider its repeal.  And yes, it's all about the money.

New Reaction to an Well-Known Fact - Death Penalty Is Very Expensive on the State

Quoting Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, it's a new reaction that is being seen.  Apparently, the moral and social issues involved in capital punishment are being placed on the back burner as the number-crunchers are focusing upon a fact we've known for a long time:  it costs more to put someone to death in this country than for the state to simply sentence that individual to life imprisonment.

The article is worth the read.  Not that it's anything that has been discussed here and elsewhere, but for the fact that the Money Factor may really be gaining a foothold in the fight against the death penalty. 

Let's watch California closely now. 

Consider the numbers provided in this article that compare California's economy (the state is broke) with the number of people living on Death Row (California hasn't executed anyone in 30+ years), though it still sentences folk to death periodically.   And the media coverage of Billy Joe Johnson's request to join California's Death Row inmates was not that long ago ...

Must be very tempting for California Powers that Be, in particular, to nix capital punishment as a budget cut. 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Cases Are Before the U.S. Supreme Court Where It's Procedure vs. Two Men's Lives

Yesterday, within an hour of his scheduled execution, Hank Skinner request to the United States Supreme Court was granted, and the High Court stayed his execution by the State of Texas via lethal injection.  We posted on Mr. Skinner's case earlier this week:  he continues to proclaim his innocence - has never veered from this - and a significant amount of DNA evidence has never been tested. 

It seems that the defense never did the DNA testing on knives and other items during the trial, and while the items still set there, no one has ever checked to see if Texas got the right man. 

Now, it's possible that once DNA testing is done, the State of Texas will have to recognize that it has tried, convicted, and almost killed an innocent man for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and her two adult sons. 

The case, 09-9000, will be decided by SCOTUS within the next thirty days. 

And on the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Magwood v. Peterson (09-158), where Justice John Paul Stevens pointed to the Elephant in the Room -- whether or not Magwood is not eligible for the death penalty was never determined in the case, and the State is now wanting to execute him because the defense didn't prove up the ineligibility in proper procedural time. 

Billy Joe Magwood was tried and convicted for the1979 killing of an Alabama sheriff, and he was sentenced to death in 1981.  However, under Alabama law, capital punishment is only available when certain aggravating factors exist - and Magwood's never fit into these categories. 

Since his case never met the statutory standards, it's being argued to the High Court that he shouldn't be killed by the state.  The state attorney, of course, argues that Magwood's argument is barred.  Waived. Adjudicated.  Whatever.

Mr. Skinner and Mr. Magwood sit on Death Row.  The States of Texas and Alabama, respectively, want to kill them.  Skinner may be innocent.  INNOCENT.  Magwood should NEVER have been sentenced to death for his crime, under the very same state's law that now seeks to kill him.

In both cases, different defense efforts might have kept these cases from ever being before the High Court, but they didn't happen.  These are two ineffective assistance of counsel cases. 

Now, we watch and learn:  how much is procedure to be valued -- the "finality of the process" -- over the live of an individual??? 

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to tell us.  Watch and learn.   

Will Texas Execute an Innocent Man Tomorrow? The World Awaits Hank Skinner's Fate

The Execution of Hank Skinner is on schedule.  Hank Skinner will die by lethal injection over in Texas unless something happens within the next few hours to stop it. 

The Hank Skinner Case - We Could Know the Truth, If DNA Testing Is Done

Texas is notorious for its active implementation of the death penalty, just as California is known for avoiding its capital punishment option.  Why is the Hank Skinner case such a big deal?

Because Hank Skinner says he's innocent -- and Hank Skinner may well BE INNOCENT.  We're not sure - but there's a way to know:  have DNA testing done on Skinner, and compare it with the evidence from the crime scene. 

UT Law professor Rob Owens, counsel for Hank Skinner, asks the simple question: why not?  Why not do the DNA testing before the execution?  Good question. 

Hank Skinner is Set to Die Tomorrow - Before DNA Testing Can Be Done

Last week, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals nixed doing anything to stop the Skinner execution.  That's the court headed by Chief Justice Sharon Keller, who's facing possible removal for her actions during another 11th hour execution.

Now, Skinner has only two options -- Governor Perry can order a 30 day reprieve (allowing DNA testing in the interim) or the United States Supreme Court can act.  The High Court has been asked to stay the execution, in part because at trial, Skinner's court appointed attorney failed to test bloody knives and other evidence at the crime scene for DNA, to rule out his client as the killer.  (Skinner has been convicted of killing his girlfriend and her two adult sons on New Year's Eve 1993.) 

Texans are crying out for Governor Perry to halt tomorrow's execution and order the testing. Lots of folk all around the world are waiting and watching to see what Rick Perry (who's up for re-election this year) will do. 

What can you do to help?

The Innocence Project has an online petition that is easy to complete, and send over to the Texas Governor's office. Governor Perry's phone number?  (512) 463-2000.  Just in case you'd like to know ....

What is the Actual Cost Involved in the Indigent Defense of a Capital Case?

The constitutional right to counsel for those who cannot afford their own lawyer means that the government foots the bill for the defendant’s legal counsel. This is true for a great many criminal cases (and the expansion of the right to counsel continues with the United States Supreme Court), but it is especially important when the state is seeking the death penalty in a criminal matter. 

The Legalities: Legal Attempts to Satisfactorily Address the Crisis in Indigent Defense Costs

No one really challenges that an individual has the right to legal representation when his/her life is on the line. Many people challenge how to pay for that expense, and much has been – and continues to be – written about the complexities involved in indigent defense cost coverage

 

For example, in February 2010, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) released a study (.pdf) revealing fatal flaws in the procedures surrounding Texas’ indigent defense representation. Research was undertaken on a national scale by the Constitution Project and in April 2009, its results were released in a comprehensive, 232 page report on indigent defense entitled “Justice Denied: American’s Continuing Neglect of our Constitutional Right to Counsel (.pdf).” There, preeminent legal experts agreed that the current system is chaotic and failing, and offered twenty-two (22) suggestions for salvaging the methodology in which indigent defense is provided in this country.

 

The Practicalities: Where Does the Money Go?

 

There are not as many articles written that provide detail on the practicalities of representing the indigent defendant in a capital case. Perhaps lawyers assume that other lawyers know what’s being talked about – but that presupposes that others (including every taxpayer in this country) are not interested in the details. 

 

Actual costs involve not only legal fees and the expenses directly attached to the lead attorney’s efforts, as well as the additional legal counsel that must be involved in a capital case, but the expenses involved in a wide variety of other vital and necessary areas. These include expert costs, transcription fees, travel expenses, and other needs that rapidly contribute to the high cost of these death penalty cases.

 

1. The Attorneys’ Time

 

When the state decides to pursue the death penalty in a case, the prosecutor essentially makes two cases out of one.  This is because the entirety of the case – from preparation through all the appeals – will now deal with two trains riding on the same track: first, the determination of guilt or innocence (trial phase) and second, the determination of punishment – and whether the defendant will die for the crime (penalty phase). It will take more than one attorney to defend this case.

 

Two attorneys are going to be needed in a death penalty defense case. There is simply too much to do for one lawyer to meet his legal and ethical duties of representation otherwise. And, there’s the matter of death-qualification: in Florida, as well as most other states, an attorney cannot defend a capital case unless he’s been approved to do so, based upon education and past experience in similar matters. When the state is asking to kill a citizen, it’s not time for a greenhorn to hurdle a learning curve. 

 

Therefore, at the minimum, you have two attorneys who are working the case. Both will be experienced lawyers. Both will be able to bill a higher hourly rate than an newbie lawyer on any criminal matter. And, in indigent defense cases, it goes without saying that both will be earning much less on the indigent case than they would be on a paying client’s case (lost opportunity costs, from an accounting perspective). 

 

2. The Attorneys’ Direct Costs (Fixed Representation Costs)

 

Accompanying the defense attorneys’ personal involvement are all those fixed expenses that are tied to his or her legal service. Each lawyer has an hourly rate that must add up over time to a total amount of revenue that can cover his fixed expenses – the things that he has to have up and running in order to do his job. 

 

These fixed costs include all the basics: cellphone expense, office rent, equipment expense (buying the phone system, the copier, the computers, the printers, the fax machines), Lexis or WestLaw contracts (longterm contracts for access to legal research databases), electricity, even the costs of coffee (or a coffee service). 

 

These costs also include salaries for the paralegals, associate attorneys, staff investigators, firm couriers, and other support staff that work on the legal team to get things done. Those motions don’t get written, finalized, printed, faxed, and distributed to the court and counsel by the lawyer alone. Many people working together – and working hard, sometimes in very emotional and stressful times – get these things done. 

 

3.   Attorneys’ Travel to Visit the Client Behind Bars

 

Indigent defendants facing the death penalty usually aren’t out on bail. They’re usually living in a cell near the courthouse where their case will be tried. If a public defender is representing them, then his/her office might be nearby. However, if the court has decided to appoint an attorney to represent the defendant, then that lawyer will have to travel from his/her office to the jail in order to meet with the client. 

 

There may be lots of meetings between attorney and client in a death case. And never, ever does the lawyer get the economic advantage of the client coming to him. 

 

4.   Investigation Costs – Guilt Phase

 

First things first, it is the job of the criminal defense attorney to fight – and fight hard – against the prosecutor’s attempt to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. This is essential for our system of justice. A lazy criminal defense attorney may let down his or her guard against insuring the rights established in our constitution (and our laws) are respected, and with an over-zealous state’s attorney, those rights will be trampled or ignored. It is only through a vigorous adversarial stance that all of us can feel safe in our freedom from government control. 

 

Therefore, a defense attorney in a death case must investigate every lead, every fact, every tidbit that makes up the case. The entirety of the prosecution’s case must be understood, and its weaknesses exposed. The circumstances of the crime must be understood independently of the state’s efforts. The defense must investigate independently exactly what happened in the underlying situation that resulted in the defendant being charged. To do otherwise means the defense just trusts the efforts of the state – and that’s dangerous (and unethical, and illegal). 

 

5.   Investigation Costs – Penalty Phase

 

Along with investigating the crime, the defense in a death penalty case must investigate all the circumstances that make up the state’s “aggravating factors” as well as determine the facts that can be argued as “mitigating circumstances” should the possibility of a sentence of death be reached in the trial. This investigation can be wide, covering lots of territory and time, as well as deep, involving numerous psychological components. 

 

Was the defendant mentally disturbed at the time? Is he mentally challenged to the point that he is considered “mentally retarded” under case precedent (and therefore not subject to the penalty of death)? Are there circumstances of abuse or neglect in his history than help explain the events and lead themselves to mercy? The investigation costs involved in the penalty phase can be just as costly as those in the guilty phase, maybe even higher. 

 

5. Consulting Expert Costs – Guilt Phase

 

No lawyer worth his salt is going to pretend that he’s an expert on everything. Good lawyers readily admit they’re not even experts on all areas of the law, referring clients as needed to divorce attorneys or tax law firms, or immigration counsel. 

 

In indigent defense cases, lawyers will need expert advise on a variety of facts and circumstances in order to understand what they’re dealing with – and yet, these experts won’t be needed to testify. Sometimes, consulting-only experts get the trial lawyer well-versed enough in the particular area (e.g., some component of forensics, say soil samples, or some area of psychological disorder, such as behaviors that suggest fetal alcohol syndrome) so that the testifying experts can be located and hired.

 

Rarely are these experts cheap, and they usually bill by the hour. The attorney usually knows them, they have a rapport, and maybe the discussions can be had over the phone, with the help of a courier service or delivery company. Costs will be kept as low as possible, but no expert worth the attorneys’ time is going to be inexpensive. They will charge a rate commiserate with their level of expertise. 

 

6. Consulting Expert Costs – Penalty Phase

 

Consulting experts in the penalty phase may be even more necessary than in the trial phase. Psychiatric consultations on the childhood facts and the current behaviors of the defendant may be needed in order for the attorney to understand what issues he or she is facing in mitigation. Does the defense team need to pursue physical testing or mental testing or both? The legal team won’t know, they’ll need to consult an expert to guide them. 

 

7.   Testifying Expert Costs – Guilt Phase

 

Testifying experts in the guilt phase will cover all manner of the guilt determination. Law enforcement experts, forensic accountants, crime lab technicians, there is an infinite number of professionals that may be needed to bring the full, factual story to the fact-finder in the case. 

Since their expertise, as well as their opinions in the particular case, will be subjected to review by the court before they are allowed to testify, their costs will include the completion of reports and the possibility of court hearings focused solely upon motions to the court on whether or not they should take the stand. The costs here, given their hourly rate, can skyrocket.

 

8. Testifying Expert Costs – Penalty Phase

 

After the defendant is found guilty, testifying experts that usually involve at least a doctorate level if not a medical degree will be needed. Mitigation factors involve a number of mental and physical factors that must be addressed. Psychiatric and psychological expertise is mandated. Psychiatrists and psychologists are never cheap, and again, since they are testifying, they may well file reports, and face courtroom scrutiny where they are essentially on trial as to their qualifications before they begin their work, providing an opinion on the underlying case itself. 

 

9.   Trial Preparation – Guilt Phase

 

Defending a capital case at the trial phase is an enormous undertaking. Every document must be reviewed, every witness’s recollection understood. Investigators’ contributions, expert opinions, and legal briefing must be threaded together into an understanding of what has happened to bring this defendant before this tribunal – and a defense must be mounted as to why he should be allowed to walk free. Hours and hours of attorney time is involved here, as well as those of the legal team. Trial itself may takes weeks or months, and preparation happens well into every night and weekend, preparing for the next day, the next week. It is very, very expensive. 

 

10. Trial Preparation – Penalty Phase

 

Preparation for the event that a guilty verdict is returned begins long before the defense rests. The defense team must dovetail its preparation for the guilt phase with its preparation for the penalty phase, although there may be some work done in preparation for trying the penalty phase that does not occur until guilt has been decided.  As described above, there is much, much preparation before a defense attorney will argue against the aggravating factors and for mitigating circumstances in a request for mercy when death is being deliberated. Experts, investigation, legal research, and other time-consuming tasks will be involved. It is not unusual for a single expert’s fee in a penalty phase to exceed $50,000.00. 

 

A Florida County Expert Invoice as an Example of the Detailed Costs Involved Here

 

How can an expert’s fee be so high? An example of the detail involved here can be seen in the online invoice made available by Gwinnett County, Florida, for use by experts. 

 

Note the hours that the expert is to complete on the form for the categories interview, research, consultation, report preparation, conference with attorney, trial preparation, attend court, and “other”. Assuming the expert charges $500/hour, and charges only a single hour for each of these categories (highly unlikely), the fee would be $4000.00 – and no expert is going to spend just one hour on these tasks. 

 

Death at the Hands of the Government is the Issue: Indigent Defense in Capital Cases Is Complicated and Costly Because It Should Be.

 

The right to counsel in a case where an American citizen has been charged with a crime, and the state decides to seek the punishment of death in the case, must stand as sacrosanct. It is an honor to be among those chosen to act as defense counsel in these situations. 

 

However, in all the debate of budgetary costs and the best methods of meeting indigent defense expense, too little light has been shed on how much effort and wherewithal must be undertaken in the fight to save someone’s life from capital punishment. Perhaps when more people understand how big the battlefield is, and how much work is involved in each of these cases, then the availability of funds to address the current financial crisis will be more easily found. 

Casey Anthony Attorney Fees - Will the State of Florida Pay Casey Anthony Lawyer Fees?

Casey Anthony is back in the middle of a media controversy - this time, because the current defense team has filed a motion asking that the judge confirm her indigent status, essentially ordering the State of Florida to pay her legal defense fees and expenses

First things first, this shouldn't be a big surprise to capital defense lawyers.  Once the State of Florida put the death penalty back into the case, the financial cost of defending Casey Anthony skyrocketed. Lots of death penalty lawyers know how fast the money goes, and what it means to have a young, single woman with no visible source of income as the client. 

Casey Anthony is providing the nation with a prime example of what it costs to try a Florida indigent defense death penalty case.  That's good.  

This is not because Casey Anthony's case is something unusual (although there are many ways to characterize the trial for the murder of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony as not the norm).  Anytime that the prosecutor decides to pursue capital punishment when trying a defendant, then the state's attorney has defined how big the defense work will be.  Not the defense attorney. 

Here's why: in each case where the death penalty is at issue, the defense must prepare not only all the issues regarding (1) guilt vs. innocence, but also (2) life vs. death. The life vs. death phase of the trial is called the "sentencing phase," or "penalty phase," and it is here where the prosecution advances its arguments regarding aggravating circumstances, and the defense pursues its arguments regarding mitigating factors.

First issue: is the defendant Casey Anthony indigent?  Yes, according to the Orange County Clerk.

It has already been decided by the Orange County Clerk's office that Casey Anthony is indigent. Judge Strickland will approve this determination upon the defense's motion.  The Clerk's office makes it decision based upon affidavits and supporting documentation filed with the Clerk.  The Judge is having a evidentiary hearing on the matter of his approval of the decision.

Once an individual is found to be indigent under the law, then all those 'right to counsel' laws and court opinions -- all pursuant to the U.S. Constitution -- come into play.  Just like any other defendant facing a possible death sentence, Casey Anthony has an indigent's right to effective legal counsel. 

Second issue: will additional information on her financial status cause the Judge to rule differently than the Orange County Clerk on Casey Anthony's Indigent Status? 

In a hearing that is being televised by various media, including HLN (the same channel that brings us Nancy Grace and Jane Velez Mitchell), the judge is hearing argument and evidence on how much the State of Florida should pay for Casey Anthony's legal fees and expenses. 

You can watch the indigent defense cost hearing online at video provided by the Houston Examiner (examiner.com).  Judge Strickland is expected to rule tomorrow (Friday). 

Evidence is being provided about what money has been placed into the Casey Anthony defense coffers, and how much is left to defend the death penalty case (trial phase as well as any penalty phase).  The Judicial Administrative Commission (JAC) is recommending to the Court that Judge Strickland consider the defense's financial information in detail before making his decision. Others are calling into question why she's asking for indigent status now, when most defendants ask for this at the outset. 

How much is left in Casey Anthony's defense budget? That answer is clear: zero

How much has Anthony collected towards legal fees and expenses? Evidence shows that Anthony has received $200,000 from ABCNews; $70,000 from former defense counsel Californian Todd Macaluso, and $5000 from an anonymous donor.  This money has already been spent since Casey was first charged back in 2008. 

How was this spent? According to the evidence provided at the hearing, some of the lawyers are working for free (Kinney-Baden; newcomer Cheney Mason) and some have received some legal fees (Baez) and some have had their expenses covered (Lyon). 

What does the defense argue that the indigent defense money will cover?  Details on what the defense projects have been (and presumably will be) necessary to properly try this case through both phases will be provided to the Judge; however, it's clear that the usual suspects will be there: costs of experts, investigators, transcripts, subpoenas, travel costs, etc. 

Costs through the end of trial will continue to grow.  Experts at the guilt phase and at the penalty phase will be very different, because different issues are in focus depending upon the issue being addressed.  All these experts will be costly, billing by the hour as well as incurring travel time, etc.  Mitigating factors need a different kind of expertise than forensic fact-facting during a guilt phase.  Practitioners understand this already, without knowing the details of the case. 

Casey Anthony is providing a very much needed perspective into the current crisis in indigent defense, both in the State of Florida and across the country.  It is very, very expensive to try a death penalty case, no matter who the defendant may be.  And when that defendant is indigent, then every single dime of that cost comes out of the taxpayer's pockets. 

For more information on the crises facing indigent defense attorneys in death penalty cases ....

We've got a continuing series of articles dealing with the explosive growth of the legal right to counsel and the correlated expense that is entailed over at our JD Supra site.  If you're interested in this issue, then please check back there periodically as more articles on this topic are posted.

For even more information, please visit the new website of the Florida Capital Resource Center as it continually adds additional information to support defense attorneys representing defendants in Florida death penalty cases.

 

Florida Capital Resource Center Website Is Up and Running

The Florida Capital Resource Center is non-profit and nonpartisan. Its goal is to assist attorneys throughout Florida who are representing indigent defendants facing the possibility of capital punishment.   

At the Florida Capital Resource Center, resources will be continually compiled by fellow Florida criminal defense attorneys and offered to Florida death penalty defense lawyers as a means to assist and support both their defense (guilt phase) and their mitigation (sentencing phase) of capital murder cases in Florida.

The purpose of the website to build an online presence for the Florida Capital Resource Center, and to assist the FCRC in its work, as it collects and disseminates top-quality legal resources as economically as possible to any and all Florida criminal defense lawyers that are defending capital cases. From the site:

"As counsel in nine death penalty trials and counsel in over sixty capital cases, I share your concerns about shortcomings in Florida’s capital litigation system, especially in light of critical budget shortfalls. Because of these concerns, I have formed a non-profit corporation, the Florida Capital Resource Center, to serve as an information source and clearinghouse for capital defenders in our State."
- Terence M. Lenamon, Executive Director

 Please take a moment and surf through the FCRC site, and send any comments or questions you may have.  Your thoughts are most welcome.

 

Rasheem Dubose Sentencing Trial in Jacksonville: Jury Expected to Decide Very Soon

It's been a long week for everyone.  The younger Dubose Brothers were given life sentences by another jury last week, and this week all eyes have been upon the men and women setting in a Jacksonville, Florida, courtroom who are hearing evidence as part of Rasheem Dubose's sentencing phase.

Will Rasheem Dubose be given the death penalty? 

The jury may give their recommendation to the judge as soon as today.  Yesterday, jurors heard testimony about how Rasheem Dubose saved the life of another young girl -- the girl's mother recounted how Rasheem dove into a swimming pool, saving her daughter, who was drowning. 

If you are interested in the death penalty issue, or in the Dubose Brothers' case in particular, you can follow the events via video feed at The Florida Time Union's Jacksonville.com.

Florida Capital Resource Center Is Supporting the Dubose Brothers' Defense Team

The Florida Capital Resource Center, my non-profit organization, has been providing support to the Dubose Brothers defense team.  The costs of defending indigent individuals who are facing the possibility of capital punishment are simply out of control.  This isn't new to regular readers here, it's a theme that ribbons through this blog

Indigent defense is in severe crisis in this country, and particularly in Florida. 

Recent news on the Casey Anthony motion for financial assistance as an indigent in that death penalty case has shed some light on the need; however, there has not been nearly enough light shed on the lack of support given to the death penalty defense lawyers of folk who cannot afford to pay for legal services. 

It does not look like the Dubose Brothers case will garner much media exposure of the indigent defense financial crisis, either.  The public is simply not aware of the injustice and chaos that exists.  

This needs to change. 

Dubose Brothers Sentencing Continues in Jacksonville - No Death Penalty So Far

On Friday, Tajuane Dubose, 23, escaped the penalty of death.  Today, Florida Judge Page Haddock will sentence his brother Terrell Dubose, 21, -- but the judge has already stated from the bench that Terrell will also be spared death, and likewise sentenced to life in prison.

The Jury Said No to the Death Penalty for these two boys

Tajuane and Terrell, with their brother Rasheem Dubose, 25, have been found guilty of first degree murder in the death of 8 year old DreShawna Davis, who died during a drive-by shooting in her grandmother's home back in 2006.  Evidence during the guilt phase of the trial revealed that the bullets were meant for her uncle, who had robbed Rasheem earlier in the day and forced him to drop his pants. 

Rasheem will hear the jury's decision on whether or not Rasheem should receive the death penalty tomorrow.  Under Florida law, Judge Haddock will then sentence Rasheem based upon the jury's recommendations.

A separate jury is deciding Rasheem Dubose's fate.  One jury made the sentencing decisions for both Tajuane Dubose and Terrell Dubose -- and that jury has already revealed that mitigating factors in its decision included (1) these two didn't fire the fatal shots and (2) the details regarding the brothers' childhood and background -- resulting in an almost unanimous jury decision that these two boys should not be subjected to death at the hands of the State of Florida.

Now, we await the decision of another jury about another Dubose brother.  May they be merciful, as well. 

 

 

 

 

Death Penalty Cases: U.S. Supreme Court - Furman thru 2009

Late last month, we published a list of Supreme Court precedent over at JD Supra, in a .pdf format (Terry Lenamon’s List of Major United States Supreme Court Death Penalty Cases:Furman v. Georgia (1972) to Harbison v. Bell (2009)). 

Suddenly, over at Twitter, my fellow Tweeters @Joachim65 (aka Joachim Kubler of Germany, blogging at Todesstrafe USA (use GoogleTranslate!)) and @TheOptimistClub (founded by Kathy Brown, blogging at The Optimist Club) had already found the list, and were spreading the word in the Twitter Universe.  @OdellaWilson was giving @TerryLenamon praise (wow) and things were getting Retweeted ... which was all very amazing and complimentary and wonderful. 

So, looks like this list may be helpful, right?  Good!  Here it is again, placed here in the blog, where it's searchable and NOT in a .pdf format, however helpful that might be.  For instance, the links to the full opinions show up in the .pdf format, but maybe they are easier to use in the blog site (maybe?). 

For a full search on all things death penalty by the U.S. Supreme Court (or any other topic, for that matter), Cornell University provides a great search tool with its online library.  Cases are even divided into majority opinion vs dissents, etc.  Very handy. 

Now, here's the list.  Caveat:  it's not every case where the High Court deals with capital punishment, nor is it the only list that deals with US Supreme Court cases on the death penalty.  What is hopefully helpful here is that this list: (1) culls out the overturned cases and (2) provides the links to the full opinions so you can jump there to read the case itself. 

Terry Lenamon’s List of Major United States Supreme Court Death Penalty Cases:Furman v. Georgia (1972) to Harbison v. Bell (2009)

In 1972, the United States Supreme Court effectively halted the death penalty in this country with its opinion in Furman v. Georgia. However, the moratorium was short-lived and four years later, the government was again free to kill its citizens as punishment for certain crimes. 

 

For easy reference, here are the major High Court’s decisions dealing with the death penalty from Furman forward (excluding those that have been overruled by later precedent), hyperlinked to the full opinion:

 

1972

Furman v. Georgia

Requires consistency in execution, i.e., consistency in the states’ application of death.

 

1976

Gregg v. Georgia

Reaffirmed use of the death penalty after the states had passed legislation that met the Furman requirements.

 

1977

Coker v. Georgia

Under 8th Amendment, death penalty is not acceptable (i.e., constitutional) punishment for crime of rape of an adult woman when murder not involved, i.e., the victim is not killed. Effectively set the standard that capital punishment should only be imposed when the underlying crime involved the death of another. 

 

1978

Lockett v. Ohio

Sentencing authorities cannot be limited to a list of factors when deciding on imposing capital punishment; constitutionally, they are to have the ability to consider all mitigating factors.

 

1982

Enmund v. Florida

No death penalty for someone who does participate in a felony but not involved in killing – no intent to kill, no attempt (successful or not) to do so.

 

1985

Glass v. Louisiana

Death penalty by electric chair (electrocution) is constitutionally acceptable.

 

1986

Ford v. Wainwright

No death penalty for insane persons.

 

1987

Tison v. Arizona

Death penalty acceptable for defendant convicted of felony murder, who was a major participant and who shows an “extreme indifference to human life.”

 

1988

Lowenfield v. Phelps

State’s determination of which individuals are eligible for the death penalty can be done by statute (legislature decision) or by findings of aggravating circumstances (courtroom decision).

 

1988

Thompson v. Oklahoma

No Death Penalty for children who are 15 years old or younger at the time that the crime is committed.

 

1992

Morgan v. Illinois

In jury selection, the defense can challenge for cause anyone in the jury pool who says they would vote for death penalty in every case.

 

2002

Ring v. Arizona

Death Penalty cannot be imposed unless there is a jury (not judge) determination of the necessary aggravating factors because this is a part of the defendant’s constitutional right to a jury trial. (In 2004, Schriro v. Summerlin refused to apply this retroactively.)

 

2002

Atkins v. Virginia

No Death Penalty of mentally retarded defendants.

 

2004

Tennard v. Dretke

In capital punishment case, all mitigating factors must be considered in both the guilt phase and the penalty (sentencing) phase.

 

2005

Roper v. Simmons

No death penalty for anyone who was under 18 years old when the crime was committed, i.e., juvenile offenders.

 

2006

Oregon v. Guzek

It is constitutional for a judge to limit the sentencing phase evidence of a defendant’s innocence to that which was presented in the trial phase.

 

2006

Kansas v. Marsh

Death penalty can be imposed even though both mitigating and aggravating factors exist.

 

2006

House v. Bell

On appeal, post-conviction DNA forensic evidence can be presented in death penalty cases.

 

2008

Baze v. Rees

Lethal injection (three drug) method acceptable form of execution.

 

2008

Kennedy v. Louisiana

No death penalty for any crime "where the victim's life was not taken."

 

2009

Harbison v. Bell

When the state refuses to provide habeas counsel in post-conviction clemency proceedings, the constitutional right to counsel mandates that federally-funded legal counsel be provided to indigent death row inmates.

Follow the Trial Via LiveBlog - Dubose Brothers in Jacksonville Fight Against the Death Penalty

The Dubose Brothers death penalty trial continues this week in Jacksonville, and the liveblog has survived a legal challenge.

As posted last week, the Times-Union and Jacksonville.com are live-blogging the trial as it happens.  This is a great thing -- a phenomenal way for those interested in death penalty matters to follow the case online when it's not being telecast. 

Benefits of the Live Blogging

In fact, there is something unique about following the reporter's blogging -- you see things through the blogger's vision, learning things that you might have otherwise not noticed.  The grandfather's work uniform as he comes into the courtroom to take a seat in the back.  Things like that, things that bring home that human lives are on the line here. 

Additionally, there is the opportunity to make comments to the blog as things are occurring.  You can ask questions, make commentary, read other folk's contributions.  Participate with the reporter as the trial moves along. 

LiveBlogging Ordered to Stop When Cameras in the Courtroom

Judge Haddock has set limits on live blogging by the media.  Blogging from the courtroom can happen only when the media isn't using a camera (still or video).  Judge Haddock doesn't like the blogging, the blogger is reporting that word from the bench is that the judge and the jurors are finding the reporter's typing on a laptop "distracting."  

Distraction vs Intrusion

Distracting for some -- but a great window into the proceedings that are going to decide whether or not these three young men will be sentenced with death for so many others.  Distraction and intrusion are not synonimous terms, and having the eyes of the world (via the WWW) on a room where the government is asking to kill three of its citizens is very important. 
 

 
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