Saturday, June 04, 2016

End the death penalty now. Elections for law enforcement and prosecutorial staff needs to end and replaced with selection and confirmation while setting high ethical standards.

May 31, 2016
By Adam Liptik

Washington — The Supreme Court on Tuesday (click here) took action in two death penalty cases, rejecting a broad constitutional challenge to capital punishment from Louisiana and reversing a death sentence from Arizona.
The moves were in keeping with the court’s general approach in this area. It has been open to cutting back on the availability of the death penalty but not inclined to test its constitutionality.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer, dissenting in Glossip v. Gross last year, urged his colleagues to consider the larger question. “Rather than try to patch up the death penalty’s legal wounds one at a time,” he wrote, “I would ask for full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the Constitution.”
The case from Louisiana asked the justices to consider that question, but the court turned down the appeal without comment. Justice Breyer dissented and, as in Glossip, only Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined him.
The case concerned Lamondre Tucker, who was 18 in 2008 when he shot and killed his pregnant girlfriend. Echoing points Justice Breyer made in his Glossip dissent, Mr. Tucker’s lawyers said the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment.
Mr. Tucker was sentenced to death in Caddo Parish, La., which his lawyers said “imposes more death sentences per capita than any other parish or county in the nation.”...

The killing prosecutor that wants more blood spilled on behalf of the state. That is a populous view. The District Attorney is elected. His practice is based in what the public opinion believes is acceptable to be elected.

July 7, 2016
By Campbell Robertson

Dale Cox is acting district attorney in Caddo Parish,  La., where more people were sentenced to death per capita from 2010 to 2014 than in any other county in the United States.      

...“Between 2004 and 2009 (click here) ,” Justice Breyer wrote, “just 29 counties (fewer than 1 percent of counties in the country) accounted for approximately half of all death sentences imposed nationwide.”
Caddo Parish, here in the northwestern corner of the state, is one of these counties. Within Louisiana, where capital punishment has declined steeply, Caddo has become an outlier, accounting for fewer than 5 percent of the state’s death sentences in the early 1980s but nearly half over the past five years. Even on a national level Caddo stands apart. From 2010 to 2014, more people were sentenced to death per capita here than in any other county in the United States, among counties with four or more death sentences in that time period.
Robert J. Smith, a law professor at the University of North Carolina whose work was cited in Justice Breyer’s dissent, said Caddo illustrated the geographic disparity of capital punishment. But he said this analysis did not go far enough. Caddo, he noted, has bucked the national trend in large part because of one man: Dale Cox....

I am sure Justice Breyer sees through the injustice of the elected practitioners of the law. I have always believed there should be no elections for any law enforcement, prosecutor or district attorney.

This year thus far in Supreme Court decisions has proven the hideous practice of elected officials and the trend to harsher sentences.

I have to wonder if police mistreatment of people isn't an extension of the law enforcement culture of the prosecutors as well.

23 May 2016

The US Supreme Court (click here) has ruled that Georgia prosecutors in a case nearly 30 years ago acted unconstitutionally when it excluded all potential black jurors from the death penalty trial of Timothy Foster, an African American man.
In a 7-1 verdict, the high court reversed the ruling in Foster's case, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that notes made by prosecutors during jury selection show clear discrimination.
"The focus on race in the prosecution's file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury," Roberts wrote.
The prosecution notes came to light via an open-records request 19 years after Foster's trial. Names of potential black jurors were highlighted in green on juror questionnaires, with the word "black" circled. Additional notations labeled black jurors, such as "B#1" and "B#2." A prosecution note labeled "definite NO's" included the last five potential black jurors with their own rankings, in case "it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors."
In 1986, Foster, then 18-years old, murdered a retired school teacher during a burglary in Rome, Georgia. He later confessed to the crime, during which Foster beat and strangled Queen White, 79, to death. He also confessed to molesting White with a salad dressing bottle. In 1987, he was convicted of capital murder by an all-white jury that sentenced him to death.
The prosecution team was led by then-Floyd County District Attorney Steve Lanier. In Foster v. Chatman, Foster's attorneys argued that Lanier's team intentionally purged potential black jurors, in violation of a 1986 US Supreme Court ruling in the case Batson v. Kentucky that said removing a potential juror because of race was unconstitutional.
In 1999, Foster's claims of intellectual disability were rejected by a trial court and the Georgia Supreme Court. In a later state habeas proceeding, Foster renewed his Batson claim, buttressed by prosecution notes from Foster's original trial that were obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act...
...Roberts' opinion rejected the state of Georgia's claim that the prosecution's focus on black jurors was not an attempt to exclude them but to ensure the prosecution was “thoughtful and non-discriminatory in [its] consideration of black prospective jurors [and] to develop and maintain detailed information on those prospective jurors in order to properly defend against any suggestion  that  decisions regarding [its] selections were pretextual.”
Roberts wrote that this argument "falls flat."
"The contents of the prosecution’s file… plainly belie the State’s claim that it exercised its strikes in a 'color-blind' manner," he wrote....

June 3, 2016

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams

Philadelphia District Attorney (click here) issues statement on juvenile resentencing protocol in compliance with SCOTUS.

Philadelphia – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today released the following statement about the specialized protocol the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) is using to review approximately 300 juvenile life sentence cases as ordered by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in Miller vs. Alabama and Montgomery vs. Louisiana.
As the independently elected District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia, my job is to fairly apply the law. The Supreme Court of the United States issued their ruling earlier this year, and so today, I’m happy to share the protocol my team and I are using to review these cases.
Other states and counties across the U.S. are looking to Philadelphia to see what we are doing. Our plan meets the Supreme Court’s ruling and takes into consideration public safety, the defendant’s rights, and the services and supports they may need once released; all while respecting the victims and their families. As a policy matter, I recognize that the Court’s ruling emphasized the characteristics of youth and the need for individualized sentences for defendants, based on their age, with minimum and maximum sentences.
We began working on our plan on January 25th, the day Montgomery was decided, and we are going to use the new sentencing structure, applied retroactively as we take into account the age of the defendant at the time of the murder, to provide hope and a light at the end of the tunnel for these individuals who have been serving sentences, many decades-long, of life without the possibility of parole....

"The Nation" reviews this Supreme Court decision (click here).