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Death Penalty

Jodi Arias Trial Verdict Commentary

David was interviewed by NBC 12 this morning about the recent verdict in the Jodi Arias Trial. She was found guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of her boyfriend Travis Alexander. Watch the video below of David explaining how the defense may handle trying to keep Jodi from getting the death penalty.

The Skeptical Juror

The United States is a remarkable country for many reasons but one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of what makes this country unique is the Jury Trial. While the US did not invent the Jury Trial, thank the Greeks, it does employ the most jury trials of any country in the world. The importance of this fact goes well beyond the ability to create great novels and movies. At its core the Jury Trial represents the most basic of a societies action: a group of citizens deciding the fate of another member of society for a crime or action that they may or may not have done.

For many people the Jury summons is generally a very annoying situation that takes them out of their everyday life. The reality is that the Jury summons may be the most important event in their live as it may lead them to deciding whether another citizen will be put in prison for the rest of their life or even put to death.

In the case of J Bennet Allen serving on a jury literally became a life changing event leading to the creation of The Skeptical Juror. It is with this website that Mr. Allen has become a proponent for the intelligent, questioning, and active Juror. After serving on his fourth jury for a Child Molestation case Mr. Allen realized that the majority of Americans do not fully understand the gravity of their role and the need for them to do more than simply accept the arguments during a trial.

The turning point came during the trail of a suspected Child Molester. For the rest of the Jury the case was open and shut and the defendant was guilty. For Mr. Allen it was not so simple and he set about the tast of changing the minds of the other 11 jurors. He succeeded in changing all but one resulting in a mistrial.

An Engineer by training Mr. Allen was meticulous about getting to the bottom of the evidence and arguments presented. He went further and looked at the methods used for determining the evidence. Since then he has gone on to write a number of books in the True Crime genre where the reader is placed into the role of a juror in a case based on a real case.

These books should be required reading not just for Jurors but all citizens so they can grasp how justice is not black and white.

Texas Executes inmate with Mental Disability

Last week the state of Texas executed Marvin Wilson for the 1992 murder of police informant Jerry Williams. This was done despite Marvin having an IQ of 61. Generally the minimum accepted IQ to qualify someone for the death penalty in the US is 70. Texas State Attorneys countered that the IQ argument is based on just one test and that other assessments indicated that Wilson was not mentally impaired.

The death penalty is the ultimate form of punishment and is generally applied in first degree murder cases. It was ruled unconstitutional to put the mentally retarded/disabled to death per the Atkins v Virginia US Supreme Court ruling of 2002. In that ruling the court found such an act to be cruel and unusual punishment and therefore a violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution.

There is now concern that the execution of Marvin Wilson was a violation of the US Constitution as the state of Texas rejects the Supreme Courts ruling.

Death Penalty by country

According to Amnesty International only ten percent of countries in the world carried out the death penalty in 2011. According to the Associated Press the US was the only Western democracy to carry out the death penalty in 2011. For a country that espouses being the leader of the free world it has some strange company in terms of how it conducts its justice. Here is a list of the top 11 countries in the world by the number of people it put to death in 2011:

  1. China – 1000s
  2. Syria – unknown
  3. Malaysia – unknown
  4. Iran – 360+
  5. Saudi Arabia – 82+
  6. Iraq – 68+
  7. USA – 43
  8. Yemen – 41+
  9. North Korea – 30
  10. Somalia – 10
  11. Sudan – 7+

Holme’s Psychiatrist warned police 6 weeks before shooting

The psychiatrist for James Holmes is reported to have warned University of Colorado police six weeks before his movie theater shooting rampage in Aurora Colorado. Lynne Fenton, Holmes’ psychiatrist, told a police officer on campus that she was concerned that her paitent might be a danger to himself or others. It is not clear what the officer did with that information.

If this is true it marks the second instance where Fenton warned officials about her patients health and safety. It also marks the second time that nothing appears to have been done in response.

Holmes was a doctorate student in the University of Colorado Neuroscience program. He failed an oral examination on June 7th and dropped out of school on June 10th, six weeks before entering a midnight showing of ‘The Dark Knight’ and shooting 70 people, killing 12. He is charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. If found guilty he may possibly face the death penalty.

The death penalty was reinstated in Colorado in 1975 but has only been used once since. In 1997 Gary Lee Davis was put to death via lethal injection after he was found guilty of murder and rape in 1986.

Jared Loughner expected to get Life in Prison

The main suspect in the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords and 18 others is expected to plead guilty in court today. Jared Loughner has been held in a Missouri prison undergoing psychological examination for over a year now and his prison psychiatrist has determined that he is fit to stand trial. On Monday an order was filed for Judge Larry Burns to consider letting Loughner change his plea from not guilty to guilty. Judge Burns will determine if Loughner is fit to stand trial based on how he conducts himself in court today. He may be asked to read through his actions on that January day to show he fully understands what he did and what is happening to him in court.

Loughner was arrested at the scene of the shooting in January of 2011 and immediately showed signs of mental difficulties. He was moved to a prison in Missouri shortly later and began undergoing psychological observation with forced medication. Recently it was determined that while Loughner suffers from schizophrenia he is capable of assisting his defense lawyers in his trial will be capable of understanding what is happening to him.

In exchange for changing his plea to guilty it is assumed that Loughner will receive life in prison rather than the death penalty. For the defense attorney Judy Clarke this is a small victory in a otherwise tragic case. While some may see little difference between spending the rest of your life in prison or being put to death it is a huge difference for the defendant and their family. It is a testament to Ms. Clarke’s skill as an attorney that she was able to get this deal and will be held as examples along with her defense of ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph.

Since Loughners main target was Congresswoman Gabriela Giffords he was charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress. Assassination is a form of first degree murder where the act was premeditated but since Giffords was a politician it makes the act an assassination.

Execution Drug gets Smuggled into USA

Today David Michael Cantor of DM Cantor, a Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney, talks about recent issues where drugs for execution were illegally imported into the US. Apparently two batches of the anesthetic sodium thiopental and one batch of the paralytic-drug pancuronium bromide were brought into the country from Britain last September and October but instead of being listed for execution of humans it was listed for Animal use. As it turns out the Drug Enforcement Agency was less than happy about that and has confiscated the drugs for further investigation from the Georgia Department of Corrections. At issue is whether the executions being performed are humane as witnesses of executions with British sodium thiopental state the prisoners eyes were still open.
Of course we could just stop executing people all together…

What do you think?

Here are the stories from the Arizona Republic on the matter: (more…)

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