Victim/Offender Reconciliation & the Death Penalty

This weekend’s NPR had a very interesting “Humankind” program featuring David Kazinski and Gary Wright. David Kazinski is the brother of the Unabomber Theodore Kazinski and ultimately turned his brother into the authorities. Gary Wright is the victim of the Unabomber. Gary almost died and was permanently injured by the Unabomber. David and Gary have come together and have a unique spin on the criminal justice system including on how the healing needs to take place. Too many crime victims believe that vengeance has to their overarching mantra. Prosecutors have a systemic interest in keeping victim injuries and hurt accessible It is in the State’s interest to be able to pull these people out at various hearings to insure that the offender remains incarcerated. This was fascinating piece.

Illinois Still Waiting on Death Penalty Decision

Illinois Governor Quinn has in front of him the monumental bill which would abolish the death penalty in Illinois. Despite passing both houses, the Governor wishes to hear from the public before making this decision. After a ten year moratorium and doubts about actual innocence regarding more than half the people on Illinois’s death row, you would think that this would not be a difficult decision. Unfortunately, despite all the research too many Americans still believe in the death penalty.

Is Texas About to Execute Another Innocent Defendant?

Today’s New York Post contained a troubling story involving an a demonstrably false allegation of rape. Biurny Peguero Gonzalez repeatedly told police, prosecutors, the grand jury, and the petite jury that she had been raped by William McCaffrey. The jury believed Ms. Gonzalez and convicted the defendant. Mr.McCaffrey served more than four years in prison before exonerated by DNA test. At that point, Ms. Gonzalez coached on by her priest recanted her testimony and admitted she was never raped. What is sickening about the case is her underlying reason for the false allegation of sexual abuse. Ms. Gonzales was out with friends and temporarily left with the Mr. McCaffrey. Her friends were upset with her for leaving. In order to garner her sympathy, she invented the story that she was raped. At the original trial, she testified that she was 110% sure that the police have the right defendant and that he had raped her. Like many allegations of sexual abuse, the state had relied on her contemporaneous and distressed outburst over it to demonstrate that it was not a fabrication. While I recognize the danger of anecdotal evidence, the Gonzalez case demonstrates just how difficult it is to tell a genuine allegation of sexual abuse from a false one. It also paints a troubling picture about how easily some people won't make up such a damning lie. Click here to read the New York Post story.


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ABA Says That the Van Hook Didn't Diminish the Importance of its Standards

American Bar Association President Carolyn B. Lamm Nov. 16 said the U.S. Supreme Court's recent opinion in Bobby v. Van Hook, Supreme Court No. 09-144 (U.S. 2009)(previously covered on this blog here), should not be read as minimizing the significance courts, attorneys, and legislators should attach to the ABA's Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases. See also this ABA summary of Van Hook.
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SCOTUS Blasts Overreliance on ABA Standards For Assessing Prevailing Professional Norms

The U.S. Supreme Court made clear in a Nov. 9 per curiam opinion that the American Bar Association's Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases may not be treated as setting the standard of prevailing professional norms when a court is assessing a Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court reversed a grant of habeas corpus relief to an Ohio death-row inmate that was predicated on the circuit court's determination that counsel for the petitioner at his trial more than two decades ago failed to satisfy the 2003 ABA standards for uncovering and presenting mitigating evidence. Bobby v. Van Hook, U.S., No. 09-144, 11/9/09. The Legal Times Blog has a nice discussion on this ruling.

New Mexico Repeals the Death Penalty

I just got back from the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys seminar in Santa Fe New Mexico and what perfect timing. We didn’t know it at the time that the conference was planned, but New Mexico abolished the death penalty just before we came and we got to join in the celebrations. The repeal is not perfect. It is not retroactive and is statutory (rather than constitutional), but Yipee!. For more on the abrogation, check out this New York Times article.

SCOTUS DENIES Rehearing in Kennedy v LA!

Kennedy v LA Goes to Conference

SCOTUS Requests Further Briefs on Death Penalty for Child Rape

According to SCOTUS Blog, the United States Supreme Court has ordered supplemental briefing in Kennedy v Louisiana, Supreme Court No. 07-343. The original ruling struck down Lousiana’s death penalty for child rape, but may have done so based on a false premise concerning the number of jurisdictions that had a death penalty for child rape. The new briefing must be filed by Sept. 24 suggesting that the Court will be considering the issue at the first Conference of the new Term, on Monday, September 29, 2008.