September 8, 2011

"Perry shows no remorse, not even a tiny smidgen of reflection, especially when we know for certain that he signed the death warrant for an innocent man."

Writes Andrew Sullivan, live-blogging last night's debate.

Let's look at the transcript:
[BRIAN] WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you...

(APPLAUSE)
Okay, the applause interruption really does look bad. But that's not Perry.
Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?
So... "might have been innocent." Where is the information that Texas "for certain" executed "an innocent man"? I know Perry didn't "sign the death warrant," because — pay attention, Andrew Sullivan — and I'm quoting the Washington Post here: "Decisions to seek the death penalty are made by local prosecutors. Unlike in some states, the governor does not sign death warrants or set execution dates." And I'm not seeing any information in that recent article about the execution of a man known to be innocent. So what is Sullivan posturing about?

Here's Perry's answer:
PERRY: No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which -- when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required.

But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.

WILLIAMS: What do you make of...

(APPLAUSE)
This time the applause is fine. Perry has shown respect for the legal process and for the scope of his role as governor. He's expressed support for the death penalty in an articulate and circumspect way, and most Americans do support the death penalty. He was asked to confess that he agonizes about the possibility of mistakes, and he gave a sober — not emotive — response that refers to the safeguards of the legal process and the proportionality of the punishment.
WILLIAMS: What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?
Again, Williams —skillfully — lures Perry into the realm of emotion. Perhaps he's looking for a big moment, perhaps something like what happened to Michael Dukakis in the second presidential debate in 1988. Dukakis was against the death penalty, and the question asked by Bernard Shaw invited him to show some passion and fire about crime — what if your wife were raped and murdered? — and Dukakis stayed doggedly on his track, expressing coolly rational rejection of the death penalty.

In last night's debate, Perry declined the invitation to show passion about death — the death of the convicted murderer — and, like Dukakis, he stayed coolly rational. In Sullivan's words, he "shows no remorse" or "reflection" — but he did show reflection, reflection about the soundness of the system of justice. He didn't show remorse. Remorse is what you ask a criminal to show. It was fine for Perry not to be lured into displaying angst over executions. But then I thought it was fine for Dukakis to keep from getting sidetracked by Shaw's melodramatic hypothetical. All we're talking about is the public's response to the candidate and the journalist's effort to create excitement. The difference is, most Americans support the death penalty, and they don't need elaborate expressions about the deep significance of death when it's the death of a convicted murderer.

Perry does well at this point:
PERRY: I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of -- of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens -- and it's a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don't want you to commit those crimes against our citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.
That's the answer, plainly and appropriately stated. Sullivan's straining to use this to portray Perry as evil is — to my mind — and I oppose the death penalty — demagoguery.

254 comments:

1 – 200 of 254   Newer›   Newest»
Paul Zrimsek said...

Okay, the applause interruption really does look bad.

Why?

Quayle said...

Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times.

What is the number of executions per capita?

What is the number of executions per capita per year?

The question is downright stupid, and carefully constructed as such to create false impression.

Fred4Pres said...

Andrew Sullivan should so some remorse over his relentless attacks on Trig Palin's parentage.

Kurt said...

You're still reading Andrew Sullivan? And at this point, isn't the game of responding to his mistaken facts and false logic sort of like shooting fish in a barrel?

Seven Machos said...

The applause interruption does not look bad. It shows exactly the facts on the ground: the death penalty is popular in Texas, and it's popular among Americans, and it's utter foolishness for the chattering class to make the death penalty an issue.

While you geniuses are at it, go ahead and make getting the government out of the way of economic growth an issue, too. And gun rights. That'll show those conservative bastards.

I have deep reservations about the death penalty. It is used too often, in cases where it is unjust even if the defendant is guilty, let alone if the remotest possibility of innocence remains. But the death penalty is a legitimate use of state power, and obviously constitutional.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why?"

Because it's not a contest where most deaths wins. It's a sober, serious matter. And even if it were a contest, there's no accomplishment involved. Perry holds the record because Texas is a big state and he's been governor a long time!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times.

They make it sound like Perry is personally executing people. Madly cackling and cavorting while maliciously pulling the plug, flipping the switch (or whatever they do in Texas). As if Perry is running up and down the halls of the prison and picking out his next victim. Bwhahahahahaha!

Instead the reality is that the 'inmates' have been prosecuted, tried and found guilty by a jury of their peers. The justice system working as intended.

Can mistakes happen and an innocent person found guilty? Sure. However, as Governor and as a citizen Perry has to do what the rest of us do: put our faith and hopes in the integrity of the system.

Jon said...

Sullivan is presumably referring to the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham has not actually been proven innocent, so Sullivan was being dishonest as usual. However, there was some serious doubt raised about his guilt prior to his execution, enough doubt that he probably should not have been executed.

garage mahal said...

Perry should double down in the next debate and appear in an executioner mask. Probably get a standing O.

edutcher said...

Why should Perry show remorse?

The process is according to the rules of due process and the Constitution.

Sounds like Andy is looking for Perry's remorse in Sarah Palin's womb.

AprilApple said...

1. Andrew Sullivan's heart bleeds for the lowest common denominator. Sullivan does not care about real victims - he cares about real criminals. Sullivan's emotionalist heart broke for the 3 of the world's top terrorists who were water-boarded; Water-boarded to gain information and help protect citizens from further harm. Sullivan agonizes over the “torture” of 3 of the most despicable cruel culprits on planet earth.
2.Sullivan is a bigot and a liar. He should stick to his obsession with Sarah Palin's womb.

3. Sullivan despises all Christians and Jews. Sullivan equates Christians with terrorists on a daily basis.

GSW said...

I think the applause has to do with the state of California's death penalty system. We have over 700 people on death row right now, haven't executed anyone on it for five years, and are currently in a legal moratorium because we apparently can't find an appropriate source of one of the drugs required. Meanwhile, we pay the ridiculous overhead cost associated with having a death row, and we add to the numbers on it every year. I'm not a supporter of the death penalty, but I think the applause was for a system that stands in stark contrast to California's dysfunctional approach.

phx said...

However, as Governor and as a citizen Perry has to do what the rest of us do: put our faith and hopes in the integrity of the system.

That's not quite true. Perry and the rest of us can advocate for a system of punishment where falsely convicted people are never executed, rather than putting our hopes in the integrity of the system.

Professor Chaos said...

"And I'm not seeing any information in that recent article about the execution of a man known to be innocent. So what is Sullivan posturing about?" He's likely referring to Cameron Todd Willingham.

Seven Machos said...

It's a sober, serious matter.

The problem with your analysis, Althouse, is that an audience at a debate has only one acceptable way to express satisfaction. Your problem should not be with the audience's reaction, but with the stupefying theatrical limitations of the debate as a forum.

Dustin said...

I'm so amused by this. I probably shouldn't be.

Find something Perry actually played a direct role in, such as regulatory stability and vetoes against new taxes and other job friendly stuff, and Perry's detractors claim he gets no credit. The governorship in Texas is weak, so Perry didn't do that!

But find something they think is really bad in Texas, and suddenly Perry personally signed the warrants. Even if anyone informed knows Perry has very little power over executions. A board has to give him permission to decide on cases, and they usually don't!

It's usually legally out of Perry's hands.

It's amusing because Perry can't get a break. IF he did it, and it's good, they ignore it. If he didn't do it and it's bad, they hyperventilate.

Clearly Perry scares the shit out of democrats like Andrew Sullivan (who used to fake being a Republican, I realize). That debate looked like a coordinated effort to shut Perry down.

Frankly I think it was kinda effective, and Perry takes some blame for that because his performance was not super. But whatever. It's revealing that the left fears Perry so much.

phx said...

Willingham has not actually been proven innocent, so Sullivan was being dishonest as usual.

Anyone else want to take that?

Richard Dolan said...

"Sullivan's straining to use this to portray Perry as evil is — to my mind — and I oppose the death penalty — demagoguery."

Demagoguery -- another word for politicized journalism in 21st century America.

Clyde said...

MSNBC! *SPIT* Having them moderate a Republican candidates debate at the Reagan Library is like having an atheist conduct Mass at a cathedral.

Tank said...

This was one of the few minutes I saw while flipping around the channels last night. Perry gave a clear and mature answer to the question. It really could not have been better, in both what he said, and how he said it.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Who said anything about a contest? Texas has been criticized a great deal for its high rate of executions relative to the rest of the country (and it is a high rate, the large population and Perry's long tenure notwithstanding). Why assume that the applause reflects anything but the audience's approval of the state's moral courage in doing the right thing (by their lights, not mine) despite all the disapproval?

MadisonMan said...

If the decision to execute isn't in Perry's hands -- as althouse points out -- I don't see how you can blame him for the executions.

Seven Machos said...

The Willingham case is an atrocious, disgusting, embarrassing miscarriage of justice. But it's not an indictment of the death penalty. It's an indictment of small-time, crappy lawyers and small-time, crappy courts.

Any time the death penalty is at issue, the defendant should be given the attorney of his or her choice at any cost to the state, and all the resources that lawyer requests, at the trial level.

Clyde said...

And frankly, I WANT a remorseless Republican president to undo the catastrophic damage wreaked by the Obama regime. He says "shows no remorse" like it's a bad thing!

Beldar said...

The Texas Constitution was amended in specific response to corruption scandals in the 1920s and 1930s in which Texas Governors Pa & Ma Ferguson reportedly sold pardons. (Yes, of course they were Democrats. Did you really wonder?)

In the decades since then, the Governor of Texas — be he Rick Perry, or George W. Bush, or be she Ann Richards — has had no more constitutional power than to grant one 30-day stay. The governor does appoint the members of the Pardons & Paroles Board, but those appointments are subject to senate confirmation, and the governor can't interfere in the Board's decisions, much less overturn the Board's decisions.

Lots and lots of lefties have been told this, and deliberately choose to ignore it. I would make a large wager that Sullivan has made similarly misinformed statements in the past and that he's been corrected. Because Andrew Sullivan is a liar who deliberately spreads lies. I regret that Prof. Althouse has given him even the attention of exposing another of his lies, because the only cure for the blogospheric disease that is Andrew Sullivan is to ignore him.

MB said...

They did this with GWB too. The Texas Governor has very little power in this area; it is the TEXAS BOARD OF PARDONS AND PAROLES: http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/bpp/

As I recall, the governor can delay an execution, but not stop it. It would be more accurate to attack his appointees to state government.

The reason the governor has such limited powers is that about a century ago, one routinely sold pardons.

Since the President Obama and Clinton have the power to grant pardons, could they not have stopped the executions of "innocents"?

Considering the state of some of the CSI here, I can believe that some have been executed who should not have been.

Sixty Grit said...

North Carolina should be more like Texas. We have inmates on death row dying of old age. That's just wrong. If lethal injection is somehow wrong, let's use the Utah method - lead injection. But kill those sons of bitches. Hey - I sound like a union guy now!

Curious George said...

Texas has it right. But I'm old school. Light 'em up!

Henry said...

I'm guessing that Sullivan is talking about the arson and murder case against Cameron Todd Willingham.

Interestingly, the Cameron Todd Willingham case is mentioned in non-dramatic terms in this story on another, likely innocent death row inmate Larry Swearingen:

Like Willingham, Swearingen was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence and a history of run-ins with the law. But Willingham was convicted based on the inexact science of arson investigations, whose flawed assumptions have been slow to evolve.

A long story in the New Yorker explains the research by Fire Investigator Dr. Gerald Hurst that should have exonerated Willingham, but it treats the Board of Pardons and Paroles more harshly than Perry:

LaFayette Collins, who was a member of the board at the time, told me of the process, “You don’t vote guilt or innocence. You don’t retry the trial. You just make sure everything is in order and there are no glaring errors.” He noted that although the rules allowed for a hearing to consider important new evidence, “in my time there had never been one called.” When I asked him why Hurst’s report didn’t constitute evidence of “glaring errors,” he said, “We get all kinds of reports, but we don’t have the mechanisms to vet them.” Alvin Shaw, another board member at the time, said that the case didn’t “ring a bell,” adding, angrily, “Why would I want to talk about it?” Hurst calls the board’s actions “unconscionable.”

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann#ixzz1XNc0EMVU

Dustin said...

"phx said...

Willingham has not actually been proven innocent, so Sullivan was being dishonest as usual.

Anyone else want to take that?"

He was found guilty, actually. Questions about how the fire was set have not exonerated him.

Frankly, I hate to delve into such a specific issue, but the claim Texas executed an innocent man is simply not supportable. This isn't about the definition of acquittal, since he was convicted.

phx said...

Unfortunately "found guilty" is not always the same as "proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Perry and the rest of us can advocate for a system of punishment where falsely convicted people are never executed, rather than putting our hopes in the integrity of the system.

Riiiiight.

Wishful thinking. Fairy tales and pixie dust. Liberals have no concept of reality.

While we are at it, let's wish for intelligent, honest, principled people to always be elected to office. Never elect idiots and crooks.

Let's close our eyes, clap our hands together and wish really really hard that nothing bad ever happens to anyone....ever!

We do the best we can with the systems that we have, try to make them better and realize that there can never be a system that doesn't have some failures. There are NO fool proof perfect systems, especially in government.

Regrettable mistakes will happen. Fortunately they are the exception.

Liberals are for throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Wishing for fairy tale results.

bagoh20 said...

"This time the applause is fine. Perry has shown respect for the legal process and for the scope of his role as governor."

Your problem with the first applause shows a lack of respect for the audience. Those people, and most of the rest of us in favor of the death penalty, are not blood thirsty. We already understand everything you show later with Perry's explanation.
The audience had no way of knowing the explanation that provided a more "appropriate" applause was coming.

They have felt this need to have justice respected for too long, and were relieved to have someone stand up for it unapologeticlly. We feel for the victims of these vicious predators and for the victims that their execution saved.

We are tired of having to layout a paragraph of qualifiers before supporting such a serious and right part of justice. Pro-abortion people rarely feel the need to, and that execution always takes an innocent. No Governor,s signature is needed.

If the audience applauded a simple statement of support for abortion rights, would it seems so bad to you?

Dustin said...

I agree with Beldar that the cure to Sullivan is to ignore him.

Though I don't think Althouse thinks he needs to be cured.

One thing I've noticed about Althouse is that she's more interested in the dialogue than justice for the righteous or the liars. She probably actually hopes there are further strange comments from the Sullivans of the world, as they provide interesting blog fodder.

And perhaps she's right. There's no way to get past the existence of lies. There's only understanding.

slarrow said...

Here's a good resource for general Perry critiques as they come up. Items 11, 12, and 13 deal with the death penalty.

http://peskytruth.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/seventeen-17-things-that-critics-are-saying-about-rick-perry-part-2/

For good measure, here's the first half:

http://peskytruth.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/rick-perrys-negatives/

phx said...

We do the best we can with the systems that we have, try to make them better...

Just in my opinion, taking capital punishment off the table DOES make the system we have better.

Seven Machos said...

the claim Texas executed an innocent man is simply not supportable

It is most certainly supportable. The bottom line is that this man did not receive a fair trial in any substantive sense, and it has been proven that the arson investigator had no idea what he was talking about. This is important because the testimony of the arson investigator convicted the man.

A decent cross examination by a competent defense attorney would have eviscerated the prosecution. A judge who was not an idiot would never have allowed the testimony.

traditionalguy said...

How will the Brits ever adjust to life in the crass and violent USA?

And who cares?

SteveR said...

I suppose Brian Williams has been to Texas, but he doesn't know much about it.

Beldar said...

One could more plausibly say of any execution in Texas that it's Mr. Justice Anthony Scalia's fault, since as the Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court with responsibility for emergency stay applications arising out of the Fifth Circuit (which includes Texas), Justice Scalia could have stayed the execution indefinitely (pending review by the full SCOTUS).

Or you could point to the twenty-plus Circuit Judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit; the various U.S. District Judges in the four federal court districts of Texas; the judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and of the state's fourteen Courts of Appeals; the state district court trial judges who've presided over both trials and subsequent habeas hearings; the prosecutors who brought the charges; and the unanimous juries that have found both guilt and that aggravating circumstances sufficiently outweigh mitigating circumstances to warrant the death penalty.

In other words, in every Texas execution, there are literally dozens of people more responsible for the result than any Texas governor could ever possibly be.

And in each such execution, in their respective spheres of authority, those other people have concluded that the single most responsible person is — the defendant who committed the capital crime.

This entire line of political attack is based on the fraudulent assumption that the Texas governor has pardon powers, and it evaporates instantly upon exposure to the truth. So don't expect this from anyone in the Obama campaign; they will choose issues that can at least survive one day's news-cycle scrutiny for their lies.

You only hear this kind of crap from the flacks and hangers-on like Sullivan.

Scott M said...

Just in my opinion, taking capital punishment off the table DOES make the system we have better.

If we were flush with cash and resources, I might be inclined to agree. Might. On the other hand, I see no reason a society so wronged by extreme cases of lawlessness have a responsibility to provide food, shelter, and guards for the rest of the maniac's natural life.

Send them to Alaska to break rocks.

bagoh20 said...

Althouse, I know you were responding to what you see as the bad optics of it, I think in this election the optics that will win is one of action, courage, and transparency. The only way Obama wins is if the Republican fails to understand that.

Of course such forthrightness will give the Dems all kinds of soundbites and ammo, but that won't work much beyond their base this time. In other words, Mathews and the rest of the media will stay on the plantation, but it won't matter.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Just in my opinion, taking capital punishment off the table DOES make the system we have better.

That's YOUR opinion and you are entitled to it.

Are other people entitled to hold opinions contrary to yours? (without being attacked and misrepresented like Perry was)

Maybe the system would be better if justice was swift and sure. Maybe the system would be better if we had stronger punishments as deterrents. Maybe the system would be better if instead of warehousing criminals we put them to work and get some return on our incarceration investments.

rcocean said...

First Chris Matthews and now Andy Sullivan.

Quit picking on the mentally challenged.

Beldar said...

@ Seven Machos: What has been proven has been guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So say the trial court; the intermediate-level state appellate court; the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; the federal district court who heard the federal habeas petitions; the Fifth Circuit; and the SCOTUS -- each in their respective roles, any of whom could have reversed the conviction if what you claim were true.

You're free to disagree. But we have courts whose job it is to decide what's been proven, and they've done that job, and they reached a conclusion different from yours. And their conclusions, fortunately, are the ones that count.

Chase said...

Andrew Sullivan made the decision years ago that his desire for sex both defines him and rules him. It makes all of his decisions for him in the same way that anyone that allows their sexual life (or any of their selfish passions) to rule and master their thoughts and issue positions above all else, even if any single thing about that is against the greater good of society. Having decided that, Andrew's talents and abilities are all in the service of whatever his dick tells him is the most important thing for society, for mankind, for America. And - SURPRISE! - it always turns out to be what's best for Andrew's dick.

He is not a self-sacrificing person in any way. Andrew is a self-first (dick-service first) person.


Which means, what the fuck does it matter how talented he is if everything he has to say is self-interested, self-protective, and self-righteous? Reading or considering anything this hypocrite has to say is a waste of life's short span.

J said...

Typical A-house hypocrisy--she allegedly opposes the death penalty but has no problem setting aside that little conviction when Sheriff Tex Perry rides into town, and when needed to humiliate her former ideological partner AS (a...glibertarian, not Dem as most of the tea-tards forget).

phx said...

But we have courts whose job it is to decide what's been proven, and they've done that job...

IANAL, but it seems to me the appellate process is not about deciding whether lower courts actually proved what they said they did, but whether they actually followed a process that they are supposed to follow.

Kill me if I'm wrong.

Sixty Grit said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike said...

Clear and mature answers. Yup--that's Perry. Both Huntsman and Romney can give clear and mature answers as well. I dunno who will ultimately prevail out of all of this and get the nomination. I don't happen to agree on every point with any of the three of them, but I didn't see them exhibit any flashes of the petulant irrational whining of our current occupant of the Oval Office.

J said...

"Chase," eh . No blog,no ID, no info.

Looks like the work of..... Belcharonius

Dustin said...

"

IANAL, but it seems to me the appellate process is not about deciding whether lower courts actually proved what they said they did, but whether they actually followed a process that they are supposed to follow.

Kill me if I'm wrong.
9/8/11 12:02 PM "

There is a board that actually investigates the facts, too, if justified. In fact, that happened in the case Sullivan is lying about.

"Typical A-house hypocrisy--she allegedly opposes the death penalty but has no problem setting aside that little conviction"

Typical internet troll dishonesty.

She is pointing out that Perry didn't actually personally sign off on the execution of any innocent people, and thus Sullivan is being unfair (to put it mildly).

She isn't saying she now agrees with death penalties. Just honesty. Seems pretty easy to understand.

Scott M said...

I dunno who will ultimately prevail out of all of this and get the nomination.

Begrudging kudos to Gingrich last night solely for the response he gave in which he said that he didn't like the way the moderators were trying to force a fight between Romney and Perry.

Geoff Matthews said...

Seven,

About Willingham:

"According to their sworn statements, both Brandice Barbe and Diane Barbe urged Willingham to return into the house to rescue his children, as according to Brandice Barbe, "all I could see was smoke". According to Brandice, he refused, and went to move his car away from the fire before returning to sit on a nearby lawn "not once attempting to go inside to rescue his children". Once the fire had reached flashover and the fire department arrived, Willingham became far more agitated, to the point of being restrained by emergency services."

I'm not convinced that an innocent man was executed. This testimony suggests a man who wanted to kill his kids.

Dustin said...

"It is most certainly supportable. The bottom line is that this man did not receive a fair trial in any substantive sense,"

Saying you have a problem with his trial does not prove he was innocent.

No, anyone saying that they know this man was innocent is making an unsupported assertion.

You're mistaken.

They can say they have a huge problem with his trial, or that they think he might be innocent, but they can't say he was innocent.

In fact, I think he was guilty AND there were problems with his trial.

Regardless, the way Sullivan tries to make this Perry's personal decision is quite dishonest to the process.

Beldar said...

@ phx: Appellate courts review both the procedural fairness of the trial and the evidence. Their review of the evidence is circumscribed to permit proper deference to the jury on such matters as who to believe in a swearing match. But especially during the direct appeal proceedings (up through the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals), the appellate courts look at the quantum of evidence of guilt along with the procedural fairness of the trial. And if they find, for example, that no reasonable jury could have voted to convict based on that evidence, they can, and sometimes do, set aside convictions on those grounds (which preclude any retrial).

You don't retry the case at every level, in other words. But at every level, the evidence from the trial is indeed closely examined.

And then there's the habeas corpus process, through which there's an additional chance to offer up evidence that wasn't offered during the trial. That typically comes into play during claims of ineffective assistance of counsel: "If the defense lawyer were worth a damn, she would have discovered that Expert Witness X would have said ...."

J said...

Wrong again, Dust-bin. Hypocrisy--google her. You either uphold your principles, or you don't, regardless of the latest politician to roll down the pike. In the case of AA and her gang--they don't.


And you don't know what "troll" means--just chant stupid slang when confronted with dissent

phx said...

Begrudging kudos to Gingrich last night solely for the response he gave in which he said that he didn't like the way the moderators were trying to force a fight between Romney and Perry.

Respectfully, to me that's just complaining. I'm sick of libtards and Rethuglicans complaining about shit.

Sigivald said...

Demagoguery?

Andrew Sullivan?

Next you'll inform us that the sky is notionally blue.

purpleslog said...

Ann: Sullivan is onto something. Perhaps Trig real father was executed by Perry and machinery of remorseless execution?

Seven Machos said...

Saying you have a problem with his trial does not prove he was innocent.

I'm not saying I have a problem with the trial. This isn't Mumia. I'm saying that the testimony of an arson investigator who had no idea what he was talking about convicted an innocent man, who is now dead.

Dustin said...

Honestly, one should be careful before trusting the press releases from the defense, which are filtered through a lot of liberal sources such as Sullivan.

They are very good at exaggerating detail A and leaving out detail B and often creating villians that weren't. It presents a very convincing narrative of injustice and awfully cynical law enforcement bastards. It plays into our natural spirit for freedom and fairness.

Once you understand how these things are written, you can pick them out really easily. Until then, it's so easy to believe them, every time.

For example, Radley Balko is a terrific blogger, but sometimes he really does mangle the truth. Always with a very convincing narrative. Once you see it for what it is, it's like a spell has been broken.

Anyway, there's a reason the jury convicted this man, and his appeals and boards affirmed. There is powerful evidence. If you ignore most of it, and focus on problems, the narrative is easy to produce. And it is imperative that our trials be good enough that there are no such problems.

But that's not enough to say this guy was innocent. That's unsupportable at this time. In fact, he appears to have been guilty.

SMGalbraith said...

I do find it, well, disconcerting that conservatives so sceptical about government - it's wasteful and incompetent and stupid - can be such strong believers of the death penalty.

The same folks who screw everything else up are applying death penalty laws, folks.

A little scepticism would be welcome.

Seven Machos said...

Geoff -- Interesting snippet you chose from a long, a well-written, multifaceted article. I remember it well. Other witnesses -- and possibly those same witnesses, before changing their story -- reported Willingham acting exactly as crazily as you would expect a father to act in such a situation before authorities ordered him to stop.

phx said...

I do find it, well, disconcerting that conservatives so sceptical about government - it's wasteful and incompetent and stupid - can be such strong believers of the death penalty.


Yeah no kidding. That's a lot of power to give to the state.

Dustin said...

"I'm saying that the testimony of an arson investigator who had no idea what he was talking about convicted an innocent man, who is now dead."

I don't get it. You're saying my description of your argument was wrong, and then you affirm that my description of your argument was 100% accurate.

Yeah, you have a problem with his trial. One aspect of the evidence against him, the arson account, was fucked up.

You get from there to asserting you know the man was innocent. That is not supportable from your premises. How did that fire start? There was no power or gas to the house. It was arson, actually. The arson investigator fucked up, yes, and that's absolutely terrible, but getting from there to certainty the convicted man was innocent is a huge leap of faith.

There was more evidence than that, after all, and it's not like what we know now conflicts with his guilt. Just one investigator's work.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. Focusing on one aspect passionately instead of the whole picture, dispassionately, is misleading.

At any rate, Perry simply abided his proper role in the legal system. Yes, that means he's relying on juries, judges, investigators, to fulfill their role. but the Texas governor is no despot. He is not in direct control of executions, so Sullivan is wrong in two fundamental ways instead of just one.

rcocean said...

Given that other Governors have abused the pardon power I think Texas has the right idea.

As for the Willingham case, it wasn't a "atrocious, disgusting, embarrassing miscarriage of justice".

There's was plenty of evidence of his guilt, & his own wife thought he deserved execution. BTW, the crime was committed in 1992 and it took 12 years to execute him. He had plenty of appeals.

J said...

Appellate courts review both the procedural fairness of the trial and the evidence. Their review of the evidence is circumscribed to permit proper deference to the jury on such matters as who to believe in a swearing match.

Appellate courts generally do not re-review evidence from the trial courts--at any rate, they don't make judgements on it. Attorney Im not but perhaps you recall a recent SC case (last 10 years or so) actually preventing App. courts from doing so. So in effect, if bad/wrong evidence was introduced at the trial court the App.court will not--and cannot--do anything about . So much for Jefferson & Co.

Blue@9 said...

Perry responded well.

I too oppose the death penalty, but Perry defended it well--not as a matter of personal preference, but as a policy choice by the people of Texas. Good answer.

Beldar said...

@ Seven Machos: When your knowledge of the facts comes from the reporting done by the New Yorker, you're getting a journalist's rehash of the arguments made by the defendant's (new) lawyers. In other words, a distorted picture of only part of only one side's positions. There's no judge to consider and rule upon objections, so the New Yorker can write any goddamned thing it chooses to write. And it does.

In each of these cases, by contrast, the people who have the legal responsibility for determining guilt and sentencing have actually heard all of what you're spouting, plus the rest of that side's points; they've also heard from the prosecution too; and they've heard all this in a fair forum in which the testimony is all under oath and there are in fact rules to ensure that testimony is reliable.

So who should we believe? Seven Nachos and the New Yorker?

Or all the courts who've heard the full arguments?

Sigivald said...

phx said: Perry and the rest of us can advocate for a system of punishment where falsely convicted people are never executed, rather than putting our hopes in the integrity of the system.

True, he could and we could.

But why must he? Remember that the alternative is not "a system where the innocent are never punished", but one where "the innocent serve life terms in prison".

I want DNA evidence (or at least a check against DNA evidence of exculpation) before a death penalty conviction, but I don't oppose the death penalty.

And, mind you, this is in a Rawlsian justice-evaluation setup, because if we're talking innocent people getting convicted, I could be, too.

The state can't give back an executed man his life - but neither can it give back 20 or 30 years in prison, which is a hell of a lot of a man's life, as well.

So, not seeing the Burning Moral Urgency As Compared To Prison Sentences Themselves, and there's no obvious alternative that prevents any injustice, so... look how much I, along with most everyone else in the country, don't actually give a damn.

Most importantly, that not giving a damn is pretty rational and tolerably moral.

phx said...

...& his own wife thought he deserved execution.

I'm not familiar with the particulars of this particular case, but that's some funny stuff.

Scott M said...

If you can believe it, the same "guy" that wrote this:

just chant stupid slang when confronted with dissent

Also wrote this:

"bailesworth", eh--your latest lie, eh Byro-Anny (yoDigby--yr boy now supporting the GOP again)

...and this:

Maybe someone calling for a tweek test sort of alarms you, eh klangrrl. Same effect on the rest of Althouse perps

...and this:

Big hard truth of evolution like in your mouth, Baggot (looks like fake site,too perp). Yeah something like that, wicca trash

...and that's just today's banality.

Literally fascinating, no?

Beldar said...

@ J: I clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. What I described, I've been part of, so I'm speaking from first-hand knowledge.

I know what I'm talking about. I don't have a clue what you're talking about.

Seeing Red said...

WILLIAMS: What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?


That you're out of touch, Brian?

Oclarki said...

J -

I keep commenting on your blog but you delete me. What's up with that? Why haven't you tracked me down and made good on all your internet threats?

Seven Machos said...

Beldar -- I have a problem with the word you have deftly chosen: proven. Because, as you certainly know, proven in court does not mean proven in any empirical sense -- like, say, the fact that hot air rises.

No, proven means that two sides put on a case and a fact finder and subsequent appellate courts that must abide by various strictures chose to believe that this man was guilty. And, as a result, he died.

The burden of proof in death penalty cases simply must be made higher. Beyond a reasonable doubt is not enough when a person's life is at stake. Something like approaching inarguable certainty is appropriate.

Further, as I argue above, the state has an ethical duty to provide every resource to people facing the death penalty at the trial level.

Seven Machos said...

Beldar -- J. is a lunatic who threatens to beat people up. Ignore him. This is otherwise a great discussion.

Henry said...

@Geoff Williams -- You have inadvertently pointed one of the problems with the trial. The incompetent defense did not present eye witness testimony that disputes the type of testimony you quoted.

Diane Barbee had reported that, before the authorities arrived at the fire, Willingham never tried to get back into the house—yet she had been absent for some time while calling the Fire Department. Meanwhile, her daughter Buffie had reported witnessing Willingham on the porch breaking a window, in an apparent effort to reach his children. And the firemen and police on the scene had described Willingham frantically trying to get into the house.

As for the arson evidence presented at trial, it has been completely discredited:

In December, 2004, questions about the scientific evidence in the Willingham case began to surface. Maurice Possley and Steve Mills, of the Chicago Tribune, had published an investigative series on flaws in forensic science; upon learning of Hurst’s report, Possley and Mills asked three fire experts, including John Lentini, to examine the original investigation. The experts concurred with Hurst’s report. Nearly two years later, the Innocence Project commissioned Lentini and three other top fire investigators to conduct an independent review of the arson evidence in the Willingham case. The panel concluded that “each and every one” of the indicators of arson had been “scientifically proven to be invalid.”

In 2005, Texas established a government commission to investigate allegations of error and misconduct by forensic scientists. The first cases that are being reviewed by the commission are those of Willingham and Willis. In mid-August, the noted fire scientist Craig Beyler, who was hired by the commission, completed his investigation. In a scathing report, he concluded that investigators in the Willingham case had no scientific basis for claiming that the fire was arson, ignored evidence that contradicted their theory, had no comprehension of flashover and fire dynamics, relied on discredited folklore, and failed to eliminate potential accidental or alternative causes of the fire. He said that Vasquez’s approach seemed to deny “rational reasoning” and was more “characteristic of mystics or psychics.” What’s more, Beyler determined that the investigation violated, as he put it to me, “not only the standards of today but even of the time period.”

Seeing Red said...

Just in my opinion, taking capital punishment off the table DOES make the system we have better.


Cass Sunstein co-authored a paper, IIRC, where he stated that states had the moral authority to have capital punishment.

I think a stat was for every murderer put to death saved 13 people.

But I only read snippets a few years ago.

J said...

Scott- M--dissent and free expression hurts and scares you little okiedoke, doesn't it perp? Don't worry yr little head about it. You don't know what banality is, dreck


Nope, Beldard--it's a SC ruling. App courts don't re-review evidence from the trial court--they're all about De Dicto, not De Re. The defendant (if he lost) can file an appeal for attorney incompetence, but the evidence issue is assumed to be settled by the App.court. Which is to say---if you think the law biz is just about evidence, uh we have some coastside property in Pahrrump to sell you, too day.

phx said...

The burden of proof in death penalty cases simply must be made higher. Beyond a reasonable doubt is not enough when a person's life is at stake. Something like approaching inarguable certainty is appropriate.

That is an excellent position I believe.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I do find it, well, disconcerting that conservatives so sceptical about government - it's wasteful and incompetent and stupid - can be such strong believers of the death penalty.

Conservatives are not 'sceptical' about government. We (speaking for myself) feel that government is necessary and should be limited to a very few functions, instead of being the overwhelming behemoth that it is now.

One of those necessary functions is to protect the safety of the citizens and the administration of a system of justice in dealing with crime.

System being that justice is done by society as a whole through a codified system of laws and a jury of impartial citizens instead of by crowds vigilantes processing on emotion.

Government is wasteful, incompetent and stupid. It is that way because we, the people, became complacent and basically fell asleep at the switch. It doesn't mean that conservatives do not believe in government or want government to end. We just want to put it back in perspective.

Yeah no kidding. That's a lot of power to give to the state.

The POWER belongs to the people to be given to the state in our representative form of governance. If the people do not want the death penalty, they can take that power away from the State.

Talk to the hand.

Henry said...

@Dustin -- There was power to the house. What are you talking about?

NYTNewYorker said...

"Andrew Sullivan made the decision years ago that his desire for sex both defines him and rules him. It makes all of his decisions for him..."

Very well said, this is the essence of Andrew Sullivan.

Beldar said...

@ Seven Machos. First, sorry -- that was a typo above when I wrote "Nachos," not a slur. I didn't mean to be disrespectful.

You might be able to imagine a better justice system than the one we have. When you're czar, you might be able to implement it.

Until then, I'm sticking with the one we have now, in the real world. Despite its many and obvious flaws, it is better than any other that's ever been tried.

Gov. Perry is exactly right: If you commit a capital crime in Texas, the range of punishment you face definitely includes the death penalty, and not just a hypothetical, theoretical, sometimes-when-we-feel-like-it death penalty, either.

Texas ain't California. You're free to think that's a bug, but we think it's a feature.

Dustin said...

"J said...

Wrong again, Dust-bin. Hypocrisy--google her. You either uphold your principles, or you don't, regardless of the latest politician to roll down the pike. In the case of AA and her gang--they don't. "

This is all you have. Hyperbole and insults in place of an argument. Trolling instead of seriousness. Lies instead of facts.

It's pathetic. This is all you Obama-bots have, and it's pathetic.

Seven Machos said:
"The burden of proof in death penalty cases simply must be made higher"

I agree.

But proof is not absolute in our system. This man was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That's just the way language works around what its not deductive logic, but rather a best effort of imperfect people.

It's good to criticize harshly where it went wrong, but you're actually calling a man innocent without proving it, while denying the proof that actually has almost all the evidence behind it. It comes across as pretty biased.

I would much rather have the death penalty reserved only for those proven beyond any doubt, but that's not the system we have today.

J said...

Oclarki--you posted yr grunt, and I responded, waited an hour or two for response didn't get one,perp. Now yr banned! Heh heh

Maybe link to your blog, coward,perp, white trash garbage. Or better just STFU, like the rest of the white trash satanists of Asshouse.

SMGalbraith said...

My understanding - and correct me if I'm wrong - is that appellate courts do not examine evidence. They look at whether the substantive or due process rights of a person have been violated. That is, facts, law, process.

To argue that several appeals courts examined the Williams case and they "all agreed" he was guilty is a bit, I think, misleading. They all agreed that the process was fairly carried out but not whether he was, indeed, guilty of the arson murders.

Hagar said...

What Beldar and MB said above.
After "Pa" Ferguson's shenanigans, the Texas governors are very specifically barred from interfering with executions.

We went through all this with George W.

It is very dishonest of the MSM (and specifically NBC's Brian Williams and Andrew Sullivan) to bring it up again now against Rick Perry. There is no way that they do not know better.

Seven Machos said...

Yeah, you have a problem with his trial.

Saying this is smart on your part because it makes me sound like I am saying there was some process problem. That's what "unfair trial" generally mean.

Further, you are arguing semantics, which is stupid, and my own rule is that people who argue semantics lust be losing the argument.

My problem is with the entire justice system as it relates to the death penalty. One aspect of that, in this case, was the arson investigator's abhorrently wrong testimony. The broader problem, though, is with the fact that we allow inept legal counsel in such dire circumstances, and that we are not nearly liberal enough with the resources we allow death penalty defendants. We treat death penalty trials like any other trials -- like the landlord-tenant dispute I was at today. That's absolutely an ethical failure.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. Focusing on one aspect passionately

Well, here I think you should abide the Glass Houses Rule.

Beldar said...

@ J: You're just full of crap on this. I'm sorry, but you obviously don't have a clue what the appellate process is. I am 100% confident that my description of the process is correct, and I am 100% confident that no case from the U.S. Supreme Court contradicts me, so if you really think you're right, come up with the case citation so I can look at it. Until then, please quit wasting everyone's time pretending you know anything about the appellate process.

Scott M said...

Scott- M--dissent and free expression hurts and scares you little okiedoke, doesn't it perp?

Nope, but hypocrisy shouldn't go without mention. As far as "guts" and "scared" go, why would you ever, for any reason, delete someone's posting on your hopelessly unpopulated blog? Apparently your definitely of bravery includes things done in a comments section. Sorry. My threshold for what constitutes bravery is just tad...no, make that...magnitudes higher than that. Besides, low self-esteem is easy to spot and always a facet of bullies, ineffectual internet types or not.

John M Auston said...

If it's just a numbers game, then better that an occasional 'innocent' person die, than 10 guilty people go free and, given a conservative 30% recidivism rate, 3 additional 'innocent' victims be created - names to be determined later.

Scott M said...

definitely = definition

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

The Willingham case is an atrocious, disgusting, embarrassing miscarriage of justice. But it's not an indictment of the death penalty. It's an indictment of small-time, crappy lawyers and small-time, crappy courts.

And crappy governors.

Beldar said...

@ SMGalbraith: Your understanding is incomplete and wrong.

Start, if you want, with Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), if you want to educate yourself about this process.

G Joubert said...

Dustin @11:41 He was found guilty, actually. Questions about how the fire was set have not exonerated him.

Have you read this article? It's clearly written by a death penalty opponent, but even with that bias going in I'd say it nevertheless lays out a more than compelling case for Willingham's innocence.

Beldar said...

@ CAC: Care to add some content to your snark, or was that just a drive-by?

slarrow said...

God, I love it when Beldar gets cranky.

J said...

No Dustbin that's a textbook example of hypocrisy, sry to say.

Arguments? you don't know modus ponens from yr garbage mama. Heh. Obama? Didnt vote for him (or McCaint).

Argument, with clever insults. Tex. repubs aren't about Due Process, anyway--they're about getting away with as many crypto-nazi executions as they can, and thereby pleasing the southern yokels

J said...

yr full of crap Beldard--and really should be disbarred-- if you think App. rulings are merely about trial court evidence.

Beldar said...

@ G Joubert: Have you read any of the opinions of any of the courts who've considered -- and then rejected -- the defense arguments that were repackaged in that New Yorker article?

No?

When you only hear one side of the story, your conclusions aren't going to be reliable.

You've been persuaded by a nice piece of advocacy. That's okay, if you're content with only hearing one side. But there is another side.

Seven Machos said...

Beldar -- I agree that we have a very good justice system. But, as you say, there are flaws. Why not correct those flaws? We should improve our justice system and make it better.

Further, we don't need a czar, even if it's me. All we need is a bare majority of the legislature and an agreement by the executive (or, I bet you in all states including Texas, a 2/3 or so majority of the legislature alone).

Dustin -- I am saying that the State murdered an innocent man. I cannot prove it. It is not provable. But that's the point of my argument. The burden of proof for death penalty cases -- the threshold for evidence we will accept to murder somebody -- should be much, much, much higher.

Seven Machos said...

And crappy governors

Althouse Cohen -- You haven't been showing up well lately. You need to up your game.

The Texas pardon process is not identical at all to the federal pardon process. The fact that you assume it is makes you look stupid.

The Ghost said...

actually "found guilty" is "proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" for the 12 jurors who decided the case ... your opinion doesn't count ... (nor mine)

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

About Willingham:

"According to their sworn statements, both Brandice Barbe and Diane Barbe urged Willingham to return into the house to rescue his children, as according to Brandice Barbe, "all I could see was smoke". According to Brandice, he refused, and went to move his car away from the fire before returning to sit on a nearby lawn "not once attempting to go inside to rescue his children". Once the fire had reached flashover and the fire department arrived, Willingham became far more agitated, to the point of being restrained by emergency services."

I'm not convinced that an innocent man was executed. This testimony suggests a man who wanted to kill his kids.



I admit I don't know a lot about this case, but two things: 1) You might think a father should, if he's a good parent, risk his life to save his children from a burning building, but he doesn't have to risk his life in this situation, and probably a lot of people would wait for the fire department to arrive; 2) the statement about him becoming agitated is actually very vague, and I wouldn't assume from that description that he was trying to prevent them from saving their kids. I would be "agitated" myself if my children were in a burning building.

Beldar said...

@ CAC: Texas capital punishment laws haven't been changed in any material respect while Perry has been governor.

Are you suggesting that he's a crappy governor because he hasn't led a charge to persuade the Texas Legislature to abolish capital punishment?

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

@ CAC: Care to add some content to your snark, or was that just a drive-by?

Drive-by.

glenn said...

First of all, I too oppose the death penalty. I don't trust the State or more precisely the people who run the State to be honest. having said that, the next guy up in California beat a beautiful young woman to death in a vineyard because a male friend of his was "in love" with the young ladies boyfriend. I can't rationalize the facts of many of the death penalty cases with my opposition to the death penalty but if this is the worst conflict I have in my life I'll count myself lucky.

phx said...

actually "found guilty" is "proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" for the 12 jurors who decided the case...

As if there was no such thing as jury nullification, for example.

J said...

Heh heh.

Cudgeling the Smurfhouse peasants .What larks!

Ta ta for now A-tard grrls, you miserable sacks of white trash shit

Oclarki said...

J -

So now I have to monitor your stupid blog every 5 minutes? Just leave your replies up, or are you too scared?

Seven Machos said...

As if there was no such thing as jury nullification, for example.

So you admit that proven does not have anything to do with the concept of prove in an empirical sense. Right?

Because no jury can nullify the fact that hot air rises, or the fact that hydrogen and oxygen make water.

Good. We are getting somewhere past semantics. Now we can talk substantively about justice.

cassandra lite said...

That New Yorker article was particularly well done and would, I suspect, be a persuasive petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The reporting did not appear to be selective. Hard not to conclude that an innocent was executed.

phx said...

@seven machos

I think you're arguing w/ the wrong person.

Hagar said...

The American justice "system" sucks, and innocent people - at least innocent of the crime for which they have been convicted - are being executed all the time.

Remember Gov. Ryan of Illinois? Going out of office, he commuted all Illinois convicts on "Death Row" stating he had studied the system and found that he could not guarantee that any one of them had had a "fair trial."
(And then ""The System" struck back and prosecuted and convicted ex-Gov. Ryan of corruption.)

However, this is not the subject at hand which was Gov. Perry's role in Texas executions.

Seven Machos said...

phx -- I think you are right! It was a great argument, though. Truly I nailed it.

phx said...

I know you did brother. For a minute I felt completely beaten.

garage mahal said...

The idea of the state executing it's citizens is fucking horrific. More so when you consider how many poor people were executed simply from lack of money for adequate representation. There have been 41 DNA exonerations in Texas in the last 9 years, and Perry says he sleeps well. Gruesome to think how many innocent people have fried. If the question asked was "do you believe in capital punishment knowing innocents have been executed", I suspect support would go way down.

Beldar said...

@ Seven Machos: There are already a whole set of special rules designed to make it particularly difficult for prosecutors to get death sentences -- rules that don't apply to any other kind of criminal prosecution. The whole bifurcated trial, aggravating/mitigating circumstances drill is unique to death penalty cases.

But the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard dates way back before the birth of this country. It is the bedrock on which our entire criminal justice system is founded. As it was developed, and as it has since been applied, that standard has been deliberately calibrated to make it very hard -- but not impossible -- for prosecutors to prove guilt. And while higher standards have been proposed, none has ever been shown to be workable.

The price for an across-the-board change to a standard higher than "beyond a reasonable doubt" would basically be setting all criminals free. Or if you restricted that higher standard just to death penalty cases, it would mean the end of the death penalty.

phx said...

Or if you restricted that higher standard just to death penalty cases, it would mean the end of the death penalty.

That may be true. From my point of view if it is true it says more about the flaw inherent in CP rather than a flaw with a higher standard of guilt than BARD.

Beldar said...

@ cassandra lite: Yes, the New Yorker article is persuasive.

Why do you presume none of its arguments were ever made in court, though? You think we don't let the defense side have a turn in Texas?

If you only have read one side, then you're likely to find that side persuasive, but you're not likely to find the truth.

Rialby said...

Speaking of Sully... When is he finally getting deported? I thought that was going to happen soon.

Seven Machos said...

The price for an across-the-board change to a standard higher than "beyond a reasonable doubt" would basically be setting all criminals free. Or if you restricted that higher standard just to death penalty cases, it would mean the end of the death penalty.

I am arguing only for a higher standard for the death penalty. If that ends the death penalty, I have no problem with that.

I am repelled by Garage's perpetual inability to use its and it's correctly, but also by his blanket statement that the death penalty is always wrong. It's not. People who molest and kill children deserve to be murdered themselves. Jeffrey Dahmer deserved to be murdered. Christ, even the career criminal who killed him understood that. Tex Watson, that BTK guy -- the list is long.

But the evidence has to be absolutely overwhelming -- almost equating with a freely given confession. And the defendant facing murder by the State must receive a near-perfect defense and every possible resource.

Freder Frederson said...

Perry holds the record because Texas is a big state and he's been governor a long time!

Bullshit. Texas is responsible for 37% of the people executed since its reinstatement in 1976. Are you really claiming that Texas has 37% of the U.S. population, or even 37% of the population of the states that allow execution.

C R Krieger said...

Re Governor Michael Dukakis, I think he missed an opportunity.  He might have said:  "I would not want to be alone in the same room with that criminal, even if he was twice as big as I am—and he might well be—for fear of what I might attempt to do, but that is why we have a justice system, because we have moved beyond vengeance and an eye for an eye.  It was a move for the better.  Otherwise our civilization would not know the freedom, democracy and economic prosperity we know today—just look at those few places that have not moved beyond private or family vengeance and vendettas."
Regards  —  Cliff

Freder Frederson said...

You think we don't let the defense side have a turn in Texas?

Actually, I don't. If you are poor in Texas, or a few other states (e.g., Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia) you are more likely than not to get a lawyer who doesn't know what the hell he is doing going against a system hell bent on executing people.

Freder Frederson said...

And then ""The System" struck back and prosecuted and convicted ex-Gov. Ryan of corruption.

He was clearly guilty of corruption. It just shows that a corrupt man can sometimes do something right.

Beldar said...

@ Freder Frederson: Your regional bigotry is noted. Your assertions are contrary to reality. I'm a board certified lawyer with 30 years experience, including in appeals from capital cases, and I've tried dozens of jury trials to a conclusion; before that I was at the top of my class at the best law school in the state.

And those qualifications would not be enough for me to get a court appointment for a capital murder case in Harris County, Texas.

You don't know what you're talking about.

Gavin said...

What I really wanted to happen was when Rick Perry started grunting, "look - I hate cancer" was for Newt Gingrich to interject by advising him that you can make cancer go away if you just have sex with other women.

garage mahal said...

But the evidence has to be absolutely overwhelming -- almost equating with a freely given confession. And the defendant facing murder by the State must receive a near-perfect defense and every possible resource.

But you know that doesn't always happen, and they are executed anyway. You still support?

Seven Machos said...

Fred's right, people. Texas has a death penalty with a terrible lack of safeguards for defendants -- all the way down to the pardon process.

Texas needs to improve its laws in this regard.

All of that said, I remind you all of what I said early in the thread: the left is absolutely foolish to make this a presidential campaign issue.

Delayna said...

The most important words Perry said last night:

"it's a state-by-state issue"

Nobody wants to talk about how we have a candidate for President who isn't trying to shove a Federal solution for every problem down our throats?

If California (for example) wants to ban carbon emissions and keep murderers in prison for fifty years, let California do so. But don't force the rest of the country to go along with it.

Dear Blue States--I will gladly learn basketweaving just to make that handbasket for you. But I won't ride along.

WV: Stranti. My analogy is stranti, but it's the best I can do today.

jimspice said...

You're missing out on the fact that Perry 'squashed' a probe into the man's innocence after the fire analysis came into question.

Seven Machos said...

Garage -- I am arguing for massive changes in the law concerning the death penalty. I still support the death penalty itself, as a possible outcome. I do not support the death penalty without the changes I suggest, or other changes which would lead to the results I want.

Am I going to base any vote on this issue? No. Neither is anybody else, except possibly bitter clingers who love the death penalty and need one final reason to vote Republican.

Monkeyboy said...

I'd like to riff off somehing DBQ said.
We - the people - have ceded our rights to defense to the state, assuming that an impartial, non-emotional process will proved justice.

If we, as the population at large no longer think that the interests of the victime are served the people will take their right to defence.

When that happens you get the accused being chased down the street and beaten by mobs. I think that the overall village opinion is that heinous murder deserves death. If the state refuses to do that, you'll see the people do it instead.

slarrow said...

Look again, phx. Beldar was pointing out that such a standard sets ALL criminals free. Thus, it's unrelated to the death penalty cases. Raising the bar from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "beyond an unreasonable doubt" or "beyond the shadow of a doubt" is to demand evidence that's virtually impossible to produce in even the simplest of cases.

Further, on justice: it is unjust to punish the innocent. But it is also unjust to let the guilty go free. It is unjust to give someone a harsher penalty than deserved, but it is likewise unjust to give someone a lighter penalty than deserved. Any system that reduces the number of wrongly convicted innocent must also avoid increasing the number of wrongly acquitted guilty to create a net increase in justice. Once you guys come up with that system, let us know about it.

Seven Machos said...

Jim -- So Perry squashed a "probe" in 2009 of something that happened in 2004? Big fucking deal.

There's no need for a probe, except possibly of your anal cavity. Just change the law.

Dustin said...

"Actually, I don't. If you are poor in Texas, or a few other states (e.g., Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia) you are more likely than not to get a lawyer who doesn't know what the hell he is doing going against a system hell bent on executing people."

Insanity. I'm sure this draws plenty of tears, but the fact is that everyone executed in Texas got a horde of brilliant defenders. The brightest liberal lawyers FIGHT and COMPETE for a chance to help defend these people.

It's incredibly competitive, and they do a great job, and I'm proud that such a system exists.

In hollywood, or perhaps from some emotional article you read, Texas is some hellhole where the sheriff makes all the rules and the black guy is framed for being uppity or something.

That is not reality.

G Joubert said...

Beldar@12:42

Actually I have looked for information for reassurance that Willingham was guilty, and that refutes the New Yorker piece (which I was right up front about being anti-death penalty). I haven't found it. Perhaps you have some links.

Also, I use this case for material in an undergrad Social Ethics class I teach. Many of the students are Criminal Justice majors, and are mostly favor capital punishment. I specifically assign students to write a persuasive paper on the issue of capital punishment, taking either side. I've taught this class for several terms. Not one student has been able to refute the New Yorker article. Like I say, perhaps you have some links.

phx said...

The price for an across-the-board change to a standard higher than "beyond a reasonable doubt" would basically be setting all criminals free. Or if you restricted that higher standard just to death penalty cases, it would mean the end of the death penalty.

Bolded by me (if I did the HTML right).

Oligonicella said...

Ann Althouse --


"Why?"

Because it's not a contest where most deaths wins. It's a sober, serious matter. And even if it were a contest, there's no accomplishment involved. Perry holds the record because Texas is a big state and he's been governor a long time!


And you presume the audience to see the death penalty as a 'contest' why? Might it be that you see the death penalty as a contest with zero being the winning number?

Henry said...

@Beldar -- I think your explanation of the how the court system works vis-a-vis the Texas Governor is very convincing.

But I'm curious about your adamant defense of the appeals process. Is it your experience that poor criminal defendants have adequate counsel? Do public defenders have adequate resources to make a strong defense, esp. in a trial that rests on "expert" scientific testimony?

Seven Machos said...

Raising the bar from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "beyond an unreasonable doubt" or "beyond the shadow of a doubt" is to demand evidence that's virtually impossible to produce in even the simplest of cases.

This is not true at all. The death penalty should be reserved for truly awful crimes. These charges are often not hard to prove. Take, just for example, Tex Watson or that BTK guy. If the State cannot meet an ultra-high level of proof, then the State doesn't need to try for the death penalty. Life without the possibility of parole in a fuck-me-in-the-ass prison will just have to do.

I stand adamantly against the death penalty for a routine cop killer.

Dustin said...

"Fred's right, people. Texas has a death penalty with a terrible lack of safeguards for defendants -- all the way down to the pardon process."

This isn't true.

What safeguard do you want? You just want to change the burden of proof to absolute certainty.

That's a philosophical difference. It's not like defendants in Texas lack for great defenses or many appeals, or even a way to overcome a conviction.

It's a human enterprise, and there was a screw up with on investigator, though it still sure looks like the guy was guilty. It's a worthy issue to be furious about. But the system is not perfect, but it cannot be perfect.

Texas's justice is a lot better than, say, Illinois or California. The will of the juries are often cancelled altogether by fiat. That's justice denied. Pointing to one fucked up investigation out of thousands is a fair point, but compared to alternative systems, Texas's looks to be one of the very best.

In fact, in many ways, Texas is one of the most defendant friendly. But if you're sentenced to death, the judges don't overrule the jury.

Drew said...

it's utter foolishness for the chattering class to make the death penalty an issue.

But then they don't have to talk about the economy.

Seven Machos said...

What safeguard do you want?

I rest assured that I have spelled that out ad nauseum on this thread.

As an aside, the burden of proof is most certainly a safeguard.

phx said...

So who determines the penalty in a capital crime in Texas?

Crimso said...

It's not like Perry is using Reapers and Predators.

Dustin said...

"phx said...

So who determines the penalty in a capital crime in Texas?"

Rick Perry personally. He has executed 100% of black felons personally with a noose. Texas has never executed a white person, or any corporations.

Seven Machos said...

So who determines the penalty in a capital crime in Texas?

Speaking of that, another safeguard: in death penalty cases, there should be two jury trials. One for guilt or innocence, and to ratify the death penalty. A second one solely to affirm or deny the death penalty, changing it to life in prison. And with the option at any time for the defendant to take life provided that it was ever offered as a plea bargain.

Is that too expensive? Too expensive than a life?

Henry said...

@Beldar -- The New Yorker piece notes as a matter of fact that the "expert" who testified as to Willingham's sociopathic state was later expelled from the American Psychiatric Association for unethical behavior.

Would Willingham's attorney's have had the resources to hire and put on the stand their own psychiatric experts?

Beldar said...

@ G Joubert: Have you even read the written opinions of any of the courts who reviewed this case? That would be the logical starting place.

@ Henry: You ask, "Is it your experience that poor criminal defendants have adequate counsel? Do public defenders have adequate resources to make a strong defense, esp. in a trial that rests on 'expert' scientific testimony?" My answer: In general, yes and yes. The constitutional adequacy is tested over and over again in the direct appeals and habeas processes, and on the specific occasions when it's lacking, that lack can become the basis for a reversal and retrial.

I mentioned earlier that I wouldn't be qualified for a court appointment in a capital case. That's because I don't have five-plus years of first-chair experience in criminal cases, haven't taken enough criminal trials to jury verdict, and haven't been endorsed by a majority of state criminal district judges who've seen me practicing before them.

If I were a defendant, would I want more resources than are available to indigents? Oh, yes. Does that mean that what's available to indigents now is constitutionally inadequate? Oh, no indeed.

Maguro said...

It's not like Perry is using Reapers and Predators.

True. Someone should ask Obama if has any remorse, even a tiny smidgen of reflection, over all those brown people he executes extrajudicially.

Dustin said...

"And with the option at any time for the defendant to take life provided that it was ever offered as a plea bargain."

Why in the hell would this be justice?

A jury says execute that man who raped and murdered children, or killed cops.

The guy was offered life instead, when the case was unproven, or there was less evidence.

This allows the murderer to veto his own penalty?

You sound ridiculously biased here. This is totally out of the blue, and has nothing to do with justice. It's just a desperate effort to create as many ways to veto a death penalty as possible.

It is as though you are demanding that life is a superior penalty than death. This is not the case. Sometimes, the death penalty is more appropriate than life.

It's got nothing to do with 'how much is a precious life worth' crying. That's unreasonable and not related to the process in Texas.

Ugh ugh ugh.

Seven Machos said...

constitutionally inadequate

Again, very clever. But this clearly is not a constitutional issue. Much awfulness is allowable under the Constitution. This is about ethics and human dignity. Are the current safeguards adequate according to those standards?

Ann Althouse said...

"And you presume the audience to see the death penalty as a 'contest' why?"

The point is: the clapping was jarring. It seemed inappropriate.

I thought the "contest" metaphor would be helpful to you, but if it's not, don't worry about it. I'm not going to be distracted into defending the metaphor. A large number got applause, for whatever reason. I did not make a good impression on me and I would guess on many people who don't think death is something to react to like that.

Ann Althouse said...

"And you presume the audience to see the death penalty as a 'contest' why?"

The point is: the clapping was jarring. It seemed inappropriate.

I thought the "contest" metaphor would be helpful to you, but if it's not, don't worry about it. I'm not going to be distracted into defending the metaphor. A large number got applause, for whatever reason. It did not make a good impression on me and I would guess on many people who don't think death is something to react to like that.

Seven Machos said...

This allows the murderer to veto his own penalty?

Absolutely. Switch around double jeopardy for the death penalty. You are convicted in your first trial but not sentenced until after your second trial.

You sound ridiculously biased here.

That's an interesting choice of words. Do you see yourself as some neutral arbiter here? Fascinating.

Jay said...

Freder Frederson said...

Actually, I don't. If you are poor in Texas, or a few other states (e.g., Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia) you are more likely than not to get a lawyer who doesn't know what the hell he is doing going against a system hell bent on executing people.


And you would know this how ______ again?

phx said...

So those who want to stand by the "beyond a reasonable guilt" standard for CP: how many people do you think have been exonerated and freed from death row?

phx said...

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" of course.

jimspice said...

Sorry 7M, I'm straight. I'm sure you'll find someone though.

Shanna said...

Because it's not a contest where most deaths wins.

I think the people who cheer do so at the idea of murderers not being around to murder anyone else. Executing murders, to a lot of people, doesn’t equal more death, it equals less. Hence the cheering.

Beldar said...

@ Henry: Court-appointed counsel don't have unlimited budgets, of course. But they may indeed apply for permission to hire, at state expense, expert witnesses when such witnesses are needed for the defense. When the state is proving a disputed part of its case through expert testimony, that's an awfully strong argument that the defense team ought to get permission to investigate, challenge, and counter that testimony. Trial courts have a lot of discretion in such matters, but if they are shown to have abused that discretion in a particular case, that can become a basis for a conviction to be reversed.

Jay said...

garage mahal said...
Gruesome to think how many innocent people have fried. If the question asked was "do you believe in capital punishment knowing innocents have been executed", I suspect support would go way down.



Of course you can't name any innocent people who have been executed.

But I think you should rest assured in your smug superiority that the populace may agree with you if you ask a biased poll question.

Clown.

RobertW said...

Beldar has it right. The Texas governor cannot stop an execution. That power was taken away from him many years ago.

pauldar said...

Useless - all this back and forth between each side is totally useless. You know it and I know it. If you are convicted in Texas of killing someone and the JURY find you guilty and gives you the death penalty, nothing anyone says, outside the state (That includes you Sullivan) can do squat about it.

My suggestion, is don't go to Texas and kill someone, and expect a parade in your honor.

Seven Machos said...

But they may indeed apply for permission to hire, at state expense, expert witnesses when such witnesses are needed for the defense.

You state the problem as if it's not a problem. There shouldn't be an application or permission. Defense counsel should be able to mandate such witnesses, at the state's cost.

Trial courts have a lot of discretion in such matters

Trial courts should have no discretion whatsoever in death penalty cases concerning the resources available to the defense.

We are talking about a person's life here -- possibly an innocent person's life.

If the state doesn't want to pay, well, it sucks to be the state. The prosecutor can opt for life without parole.

Seven Machos said...

Of course you can't name any innocent people who have been executed.

We've been talking about one in this thread. Come on, dude.

Dustin said...

"phx said...

So those who want to stand by the "beyond a reasonable guilt" standard for CP: how many people do you think have been exonerated and freed from death row?"

Of course, ever single one of them is a testament to the system working.

Though you use the word 'exonerated', which is quite loaded. Often these people are guilty as sin, but are freed because some evidence adds doubt. For example, DNA from another person. It doesn't prove anything other than someone else may have been there too.

We have a system with so many aspects tilted to the defendant's favor, which I think is the right way to do it. But a lot of times these freed folks haven't truly been proven innocent. That's just propaganda, frankly, for the abolition of a just penalty.

People who think the death penalty is philosophically wrong should just sit these debates out. They are not playing fair.

However, I personally would prefer a higher burden of proof for death penalty cases. I reject Seven's call for two jury trials. I see no point of that. That's just playing the odds, or something. Just increase the burden, which I realize would decrease the executions.

Seven Machos said...

If you are convicted in Texas of killing someone and the JURY find you guilty and gives you the death penalty, nothing anyone says, outside the state (That includes you Sullivan) can do squat about it.

Which is a serious, disgusting, embarrassing, shameful problem for Texas because Texas murdered an innocent man. Thus the need for many more safeguards.

The murder of a man who was or even probably was or even maybe was innocent is nothing to brag about, little dude.

Seven Machos said...

Dustin -- If states would agree to all my suggestions except the extra trial, I would be elated.

garage mahal said...

But I think you should rest assured in your smug superiority that the populace may agree with you if you ask a biased poll question.?

The fact a knuckle-dragging troglodyte like you doesn't agree with me only reaffirms my belief system even more.

Scott M said...

a knuckle-dragging troglodyte

Video or it didn't happen.

Crunchy Frog said...

A few random points:

Has the Innocence Project ever looked at a case and said, "Yep, he did it"? No. So why would I or anyone else give any sort of credence to them or their "experts"? Until their record of impartiality diverges from that of Rose Bird, their conclusions are always going to be suspect.

Also, it's not as if death penalty opponents would be satisfied by its abolishment. The next step would be the end of LWOP. And then life with parole. Lather, Rinse, repeat.

One side benefit to the DP is that it makes trials less likely for the most obviously guilty - if the likely outcome is Death Row, copping a guilty plea for LWOP becomes an acceptable alternative, both to the perp, as well as the public (e.g. the Unabomner).

wv: grewants - Whatever grewants, gregets.

Beldar said...

@ phx (9/8/11 1:35 PM): You ask, "So who determines the penalty in a capital crime in Texas?"

Taking that as a serious question: In the first instance, prosecutors decide whether to charge the case as a capital or noncapital crime. That's subject to increasingly close review by the trial judge at various stages of the case; and certainly by the time of the charge conference at the conclusion of the evidence, the trial judge will have had to have been convinced that there is sufficient evidence of guilt of a capital crime that a reasonable jury could convict the defendant. Otherwise he'll direct a verdict of acquittal. Then the jury must unanimously agree that the prosecution has proved every element of the capital crime beyond a reasonable doubt. When and if the jury convicts the defendant under that standard, then there is a second trial before the same judge and jury. In that separate trial, the prosecution may offer additional evidence -- including some that may not have been relevant during the guilt/innocence phase, but that is relevant to punishment -- in an attempt to persuade the jurors (again, beyond a reasonable doubt) that there are statutorily defined aggravating circumstances that outweigh any mitigating circumstances and that are sufficient to deserve the death penalty. The defense cross-examines the prosecution's witnesses and then can present almost any kind of mitigating circumstance evidence that can be imagined. The jury again deliberates, and again returns a finding of whether death is appropriate.

That, in turn, is again reviewed at the trial court in post-verdict proceedings. There is an automatic, mandatory appeal to the intermediate court of appeals and then to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court can review that court's decisions through a discretionary petition for certiorari.

Typically at that point the defendant sheds his existing lawyers so they can be portrayed later as the fall guys for the ineffective assistance of counsel argument during state and federal habeas procedures. Most of these cases end up going through at least one, and possibly more, further evidentiary hearings in either state or federal district court, and then there are the appeals of those rulings back up and down the state and federal systems, ultimately presenting the SCOTUS with another opportunity (typically discretionary review through a petition for certiorari from the Fifth Circuit's most recent ruling).

So the short answer to your question is: The jury.

The long answer is: The jury, plus everyone else connected with the prosecution and defense of the case through all those stages, at any one of which the death sentence can be undone.

phx said...

Though you use the word 'exonerated', which is quite loaded. Often these people are guilty as sin, but are freed because some evidence adds doubt.

If "exonerated" is quite loaded term, shouldn't we also insist "guilty" is also a loaded term?

Of the 130 exonerated since 1973 and set free from death row, which ones were "guilty as sin"?

Seven Machos said...

Of the 130 exonerated since 1973 and set free from death row, which ones were "guilty as sin"?

My guess, actually, is a lot of them. But some of them were not guilty, and it's hideous that they faced the prospect of death.

Beldar said...

I left out one step in my comment above (9/8/11 2:03 PM) about who decides whether the sentence should be death: Prosecutors decide whether to ask for a capital indictment, but the grand jurors also have an opportunity to refuse that request. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen sometimes; and it's not just a formality, it's the first time the community members are directly involved (the second being via the trial jury).

phx said...

So I assume if the jury decides punishment in CP cases in Texas, the jury must be "death qualified" in voir dire.

cassandra lite said...

Beldar,
My recollection of the article is that the investigation was done after the trial had concluded, when it's particularly difficult to get new evidence admitted in the form of a petition for writ of hc. I know this not because I'm a lawyer but because I spent nearly three years as a volunteer investigator, uncovering a veritable mountain of exculpatory/dispositive evidence in the case of a young African man wrongly convicted of raping a rich college student in Santa Barbara. (I'd never met the young man before his conviction in late 2007.) An unethical prosecutor, an overzealous cop, and an underperforming defense attorney all conspired, wittingly and unwittingly, to deprive this young man of his freedom.

The resulting petition for a writ of HC is, if I do say so myself, a work of jurisprudential art. But it was filed in January of this year and has yet to be ruled on; I'm guessing that the judge is waiting until the young man has served nearly his entire sentence before ruling.

Should you have both time and inclination, you can read a long piece I wrote about the case here http://www.independent.com/news/2009/dec/30/exonerating-eric-frimpong/

...and view the petition here. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9222250/Frimpong_Eric_Habeas%20Petition_12-28-2010.pdf

Bottom line, I have discovered the hard way, is that once you're convicted, the courts are hard to persuade. As Justice Scalia once memorably commented, innocence isn't necessarily pertinent.

Seven Machos said...

the jury must be "death qualified" in voir dire

This brings up an excellent point, and, at last, a constitutional one. The Constitution says a jury of your peers. It does not say a s jury of the subset of your peers that is not against the death penalty.

phx said...

Yes, Seven. You and I would probably be excluded from such a jury.

Beldar said...

@ Seven Machos: Neither the Constitution nor anything else gives one the right to a jury that includes people who've testified under oath that they cannot follow the law as given to them by the trial judge.

We don't have a right to have juries that include scofflaws.

If we gave people that right, it would result in people being acquitted at random. You really don't want that, do you?

lyssalovelyredhead said...

Gruesome to think how many innocent people have fried. If the question asked was "do you believe in capital punishment knowing innocents have been executed",


There's absolutely no question that some innocent people have been imprisoned in our system, probably in every state in the union, and occassionally for years or decades at a time.

Does that mean that support for the prison system is gruesome?

I'm generally against the death penalty, but only on the grounds that I don't think that the costs and benefits work out. But I've hardly ever seen an argument that could be used against the DP, but not used against any punishment in our system of justice. In any penal system, unless we suddenly discover psychic powers or time travel, there's going to be the possibility of some failure that we accept.

- Lyssa

Revenant said...

"Perry trusted in the system" is a bullshit excuse. Part of the system is that the governor can act to prevent executions. Perry did not deign to do so when asked.

So, yes, while Perry did not literally "sign the death warrant" he *did* refrain from taking the simple step needed to prevent the death of a man who should never have been found guilty in the first place. Sullivan is being typically histrionic, but Perry's not looking good here.

Beldar said...

@ cassandra lite: I haven't re-read the New Yorker article in several months, but my recollection is that when I read it, I immediately thereafter read the whole series of appellate opinions tracking the case up through all its various direct and habeas appeals. My further recollection is that some large portion of the assertions made in the New Yorker article were indeed also argued in the habeas process; that many of those arguments depended on credibility determinations on which I see no reason to believe the New Yorker author over the jurors who heard the evidence; and that the balance of the arguments were things "discovered" after the man's death that were never presented to any court anywhere. It's rather unfair to blame those courts for not ruling on arguments that they never heard, yet that's exactly what the New Yorker article does.

I'm frankly unwilling to get deeper in the details than that, but I also recall seeing more than one effort to rebut that article in whole or in part, perhaps by some association of prosecutors? I don't recall. Having done once what I'm recommending to others -- i.e., to read the court opinions instead of, or at least in addition to, the New Yorker -- I'm just unwilling to do that whole drill again, no offense intended to you, ma'am.

roesch-voltaire said...

Steve M- thanks for your reasoned and knowledgeable comments on justice and the death penalty. I agree with your comment: The death penalty should be reserved for truly awful crimes. These charges are often not hard to prove. Take, just for example, Tex Watson or that BTK guy. If the State cannot meet an ultra-high level of proof, then the State doesn't need to try for the death penalty.
But think thanks to Perry this can become an election issue that is needed to improve the system. Unfortunately for Perry backers his lack of self-reflection closes off his contribution to making things better.

phx said...

Neither the Constitution nor anything else gives one the right to a jury that includes people who've testified under oath that they cannot follow the law as given to them by the trial judge.

And in this instance I personally see an obvious problem with the law rather than a problem with people who are peers of the defendant who just happen to be against CP.

Curious George said...

"jimspice said...
You're missing out on the fact that Perry 'squashed' a probe into the man's innocence after the fire analysis came into question."

Like most libs, I think you need to learn the difference between "fact" and "opinion."

Seven Machos said...

Beldar -- Jury nullification! Ha!

I am well within my rights as a juror to call the law horse shit and vote to acquit for that reason.

There's nothing random. Just laws produce just results. And just laws are just laws. We see that in the Moses story when Moses says that these Commandments -- handed down by God -- will be seen by other peoples to be good laws. How -- if there's not some standard for that? We see it in the reasonable person standard, the very basis of common law. Juries are expected to decide and people are expected to act the way any reasonable person would. If the law doesn't stand for that, what exactly does the law have to offer us?

phx said...

There's absolutely no question that some innocent people have been imprisoned in our system, probably in every state in the union, and occassionally for years or decades at a time.

SC Justices have themselves pointed out that there is a difference in the death penalty in terms of its severity and finality.

Seven Machos said...

Rev -- We've been over this. The Texas governor cannot pardon. Can he stay an execution? I do not know.

Beldar said...

@ Revenant: You're factually wrong, and you're spreading misinformation, when you assert that Perry could have blocked Willingham's execution.

He could have delayed it exactly once, for no more than 30 days.

If Perry had granted a 30-day stay, that wouldn't have changed the outcome of any of the direct or habeas appeals. Because Willingham lost those, he would absolutely, positively have been executed no matter what Rick Perry did.

cubanbob said...

Seven Machos said...
Yeah, you have a problem with his trial.

Saying this is smart on your part because it makes me sound like I am saying there was some process problem. That's what "unfair trial" generally mean.

Further, you are arguing semantics, which is stupid, and my own rule is that people who argue semantics lust be losing the argument.

My problem is with the entire justice system as it relates to the death penalty. One aspect of that, in this case, was the arson investigator's abhorrently wrong testimony. The broader problem, though, is with the fact that we allow inept legal counsel in such dire circumstances, and that we are not nearly liberal enough with the resources we allow death penalty defendants. We treat death penalty trials like any other trials -- like the landlord-tenant dispute I was at today. That's absolutely an ethical failure.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. Focusing on one aspect passionately

Well, here I think you should abide the Glass Houses Rule.

9/8/11 12:34 PM

You and Beldar have made some very thoughtful comments. The flaw as I see it is that there is no one outside the adversarial system to see that justice is in fact done. If it were up to me, I would have a joint state/local federal forensic science scheme set up that is independent of the police/prosecutors or defense to make an independent determination.

I would also fund a pool of death penalty/serious felonies lawyers that would be able to present a decent defense of those accused of very serious crimes. As good as the prosecution. In the end not only would this be fairer, it would also be be seen as fairer, the outcomes perceived as more just and in the end cheaper as there would considerably less appealable issues. in the past before there was a dept. of defense we had a war department. What we need is a department of justice and a department of prosecution. And finally prosecutors, police and others who have judicially granted immunity should be striped of those immunities. Fuck up and lie, pay the consequences. Withhold exculpable evidence, go to prison. The worst sort of criminal is the one who commits crimes under the color of law. Contrary to what they may plead, if that is done only shitty cops, prosecutors and judges will quit. And good riddance to them.

The death penalty is just that, a punishment for a crime beyond the pale. Those executed should be executed for those reasons alone and nothing else. In in return delaying the penalty is an injustice to the victims memory and to the families and loved ones which is why it should be done right up front and not clearing up bad lawyering and unethical prosecutions after the fact.

Revenant said...

There's absolutely no question that some innocent people have been imprisoned in our system [...] Does that mean that support for the prison system is gruesome?

There is no viable alternative to imprisonment. We have to accept its costs, whatever they are.

In contrast, imprisonment itself is a viable alternative to execution. We have to spend some extra money, and the feeling of vengeance isn't as satisfying -- but I don't want it on my conscience that I killed an innocent man to save a few bucks and make myself feel good.

Beldar said...

@ Revenant: Are you under the misimpression that some new evidence was discovered within the 30 days after Gov. Perry declined his one opportunity to grant a 30-day stay? Because not even the New Yorker article claims that, and it's not true.

phx said...

The death penalty is just that, a punishment for a crime beyond the pale.

Although time and again it's been demonstrated that CP is applied unequally, and in fact it's virtually a freak accident if you are one is sentenced to die.

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