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“Based on my specialized knowledge of this process, I now conclude that the death penalty as a form of punishment should be abolished because the execution of individuals does not appear to measurably advance the retribution and deterrence purposes served by the death penalty; the life without parole option adequately protects society at large in the same way as the death penalty punishment option; and the risk of executing an innocent person for a capital murder is unreasonably high, particularly in light of procedural-default laws and the prevalence of ineffective trial and initial habeas counsel.”
– Judge Tom Price, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; Ex parte Panetti (No. WR-37,145-04), in his 11/26/14 dissent of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ denial of Mr. Scott Panetti’s writ seeking to halt his scheduled execution. The 5th Circuit halted the execution on 12/3/14, acknowledging the “complex legal questions at issue,” presumably that of imposing the death penalty on someone with severe mental illness.
The most recent episode of the Lawyer 2 Lawyer podcast discussed the death penalty with a motley group panel consisting of Judge Alex Kozinski from the United States Court of Appeals for The Ninth Circuit, exonerated death row survivor Ronald Keine from Witness to Innocence, and M*A*S*H actor Mike Farrell from Death Penalty Focus.
Here is a description of the podcast:
The Eighth Amendment protects people from cruel and unusual punishments in the United States but what does that mean? In the last 38 years, Americans used hangings, gas chambers, lethal injections, electrocutions, and firing squads to execute convicted murderers. Given the recent reports of botched lethal injections, some experts are calling for the return of the firing squad as the most humane form of capital punishment. On this episode of Lawyer 2 Lawyer, host J. Craig Williams interviews Judge Alex Kozinski from the United States Court of Appeals for The Ninth Circuit, exonerated death row survivor Ronald Keine from Witness to Innocence, and M*A*S*H actor Mike Farrell from Death Penalty Focus. Together they discuss the merits of firing squads vs. lethal injections, corruption in the judicial system, and the morality of western society. Tune in to hear about the 144 exonerated death row survivors as well as Ronald Keine’s near miss with the gas chamber.
Judge Alex Kozinski sits on the bench of the United States Court of Appeals for The Ninth Circuit where he’s served since his appointment on November 7th 1985. Prior to his appointment Judge Kozinski occupied other prestigious positions including Chief Judge of the US Claims Court and Office of Counsel to the President. He is married with three children plus three grandchildren.
Ronald Keine is an exonerated death row inmate who was just 9 days from his execution in the gas chamber when the actual murderer confessed to the crime. Today, he an Assistant Director of Membership and Training for Witness to Innocence an anti-death penalty organization whose leading voice is that of exonerated death row survivors.
Mike Farrell played Captain BJ Hunnicut for eight years on the hit television show M*A*S*H as well other roles like Jim Hansen in another series called Providence. In the 90s, he served for three years as a member of the State of California’s Commission on Judicial Performance. Mr. Farrell is a life-long opponent of the death penalty and has been the President of Death Penalty Focus since 1994.
A fellow student passed this article along to me. It briefly outlines a horrific miscarriage of justice from 1944. A 14 year old boy was sentenced to death for allegedly killing two white girls; the young boy was black. Advocates for this case have pushed for its re-opening so as to exonerate the name of this young boy. The attorneys working on this case, according to the article, have discovered substantial evidence pointing to the innocence of this young man.
In light of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I really wonder if we, as a society, have come all that far from the days of MLK. Certainly the standards for sentencing individuals to death have improved (you can no longer sentence a mentally disabled person to death nor a child under the age of 18), but have we come much farther than that?
Articles such as this one really make me question, more than I usually do, what our criminal justice system stands for. If the system were truly interested in seeking justice the argument certainly could be made that cases such as this one would be reviewed without such hesitation and stagnation. Why wouldn’t South Carolina want to uncover the truth and give the young boy’s remaining family members some closure and vindication of his innocence? Are they so scared of facing their past wrongs that they are unwilling to do what is right? Even if the evidence continues to point to the boy’s guilt after all this time, what is the harm in re-examining the case?
The Innocence Project has time and again proved many convictions contain faults. Primarily, wrongful convictions rested on eyewitness testimony, unvalidated or improper forensics, false confessions or admissions, or informants or snitches.
It is no longer a secret that mistakes can be and are made. Why, then, do governments continually try to turn a blind eye to cases such as this one?