As readers know, Terry Lenamon is a nationally known expert in mitigation trial work on death penalty cases.  For those watching the media coverage of the Arias’ case, the work to which Terry has dedicated his life is exemplified in the stage that this trial entered when the jury verdict returned with a guilty verdict.  

Here are some reference materials that those following the Jodi Arias’ trial as it enters the sentencing phase may find helpful.

Jodi Arias is scheduled to take the stand on Monday as her mitigation counsel puts on their case for why the jury should exclude capital punishment for her in the death of Travis Alexander 

For those following along with the media coverage next week:

The Arizona Legislature has passed legislation (A.R.S. § 13-751) that requires two things to be found by the jury before a person can be sentenced to death in that state:

1.  proof beyond a reasonable doubt of at least one aggravating circumstance as set forth in Arizona law (A.R.S. § 13-751(F): read that law here) and

2.  finding that there are "no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to call for leniency.” Mitigation is defined as evidence relevant to “any aspect of the defendant’s character, propensities or record and any of the circumstances of the offense."  (A.R.S. § 13-751(E): read that law here.).

The Arizona Supreme Court has published its Capital Sentencing Guide online and further information is provided there, including a discussion of case law pertaining to mitigating circumstances in death penalty sentencing trials.

Both the statute and the court opinions discussing and ruling upon mitigation will be applicable to the mitigation case presented by the defense team.  

 Most folk interested in the death penalty, whether they are for or against capital punishment, have read the non-fiction novel by Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, or seen the film based upon that book which starred Robert Blake and Scott Wilson as the two men executed by the State of Kansas for the killings of the Clutter family back in 1959.  

Most people know that Perry Smith and Richard Hickock were sentenced to death by hanging for the killing of an entire family in their rural family home but not as many people are aware that after the Kansas crime, the two men left Kansas and roamed the country — including stints in Nevada and Florida.

Which means that it is very possible that Smith and Hickock were in the State of Florida at the time of another set of homicides close to Miami: that of the Walker family, crimes that have remained unsolved even today.

Through a set of facts tying Smith and Hickock to the Walker homicides that has been deemed sufficient to support a court order allowing exhumation of their bodies, the two In Cold Blood killers may now be tied by DNA evidence to the Walker homicides as well.

For details, read the continuing coverage at the Huffington Post or the Miami Herald.  The bodies were exhumed yesterday and DNA testing has already begun.  It’s not clear when any results or findings will be announced.  

 

This past Sunday, the New York Times responded to the horrific execution of Ken Biros by the State of Ohio last week.  Yes, where Biros was killed in the same way that your vet euthanizes dogs and cats.  Yes, where Ohio ran ahead and used a new method of execution that hasn’t been vetted, allowing Biros to be a human guinea pig. In a succinct, well-written opinion piece, the New York Times shares in the horror of what Ohio has done.  From its offices in Manhattan, the Times states it plainly:  “There is no Humane Execution.”  Of course, the editorial has its critics.  At Sentencing Law & Policy, for example, the New York Times piece is challenged — most interestingly, for its suggestion that the Texas case of Cameron Todd Williamham is a fluke:  

“Finally, as serious students of the death penalty know, the Willingham case is the closest we’ve gotten to a clear showing an innocent person may have been executed; to suggest that a large number of innocent people have quite likely been put to death is especially misguided.”

Really?  Currently on Death Row, a number of men set waiting to be executed, and the Innocence Project is monitoring this list.  Surely we’re not to wait until they are killed before we have enough justification to stop capital punishment in this country.  From our post dated 09/11/09, here are the names of the innocent setting on Death Row per the Innocence Project as of that day – visit our earlier post for links to each man’s individual story, as told by the IP: Kirk Bloodsworth Rolando Cruz Alejandro Hernandez Verneal Jimerson Dennis Williams Robert Miller Ron Williamson Ronald Jones Earl Washington Frank Lee Smith Charles Irvin Fain Ray Krone Nicholas Yarris Ryan Matthews Curtis McCarty Kennedy Brewer Michael Blair

I have written an article concerning the impact of media coverage on our constitutional rights to a fair trial – and the presumption of innocence, which appears today in both the print and web versions of the Orlando Sentinel.

It is entitled “Media zap right to fair trial: To wit, Casey Anthony et al. ” and you can read it here.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

1. In your jurisdiction, if you are charged with a state crime, will the state’s discovery in your case be accessible as a public record, like the “document dumps” made famous in the Casey Anthony case?

2. In your jurisdiction, if you or a family member is charged with a state crime, what are your protections against people going through your trash and demonstrating in front of your home 24/7, as occurred at the Anthony family home after Casey Anthony was arrested on charges of filicide?

3. If you are interviewed by the local authorities, are you being videotaped? Is that videotape available to the media? In the Anthony case, interviews were videotaped and those videotapes have been provided to the media. Continue Reading Five Questions to Ask Yourself about the Casey Anthony Case