Tagged: death penalty

Event: Professor Bennett Gershman Stars as Clarence Darrow

Clarence Darrow performancePace Law School and the Pace Criminal Justice Society present Clarence Darrow starring Professor Bennett Gershman. Please join us for this once in a lifetime event and note that there will be only two performances! Suggested donation is $15 and all proceeds will benefit the Equal Justice Initiative. Don’t miss it and come and join us!

FRIDAY April 24, 2015 at 7:30 pm
SATURDAY April 25, 2015 at 2:00 pm

The Moot Court Room at Pace University School of Law, 78 North Broadway, White Plains, NY

Clarence Darrow (April 18, 1857 – March 13, 1938) was born in Ohio and attended the Allegheny College and University of Michigan Law School. He began his career as a corporate lawyer, moved on to labor law, and at the end of his legal career he was a criminal attorney defending, among others, Leopold and Loeb in Chicago presenting a defense that the two accused boys were mentally disabled and should not be sentenced to death, John T. Scopes in Tennessee who was accused of teaching evolution theory in violation of the Butler Act, Ossian Sweet in Michigan, articulating and highlighting racial prejudice throughout the trial of Mr. Ossian Sweet who was charged with murdering a white male while defending his home, or the Massie Trial in Hawaii presenting an honor killing defense in a case where two defendants were charged with murdering Joseph Kahahawai – a man who was accused of raping and beating Ms. Thalia Massie but who was believed to have escaped justice because of hung jury.

Related Readings:

A New International Focus on the Death Penalty

The botched execution in Oklahoma last week has drawn international attention.  Few countries still employ the death penalty, and the barbarity of the procedure is old news to our European Union colleagues.

The argument against the death penalty may be decided by – what else – money.  Pharmaceutical companies are refusing to produce the drugs needed for orderly executions and the botched Oklahoma execution may be an example of what will follow.

Prof. Lissa Griffin of Pace Law School recently published a blog on this subject.  Click here to read it in its entirety.

Related Reading

Conflicts and Public Defense

On Thursday, June 20, the Supreme Court decided whether to hear Garcia v. Louisiana – a case where the Louisiana public defender was forced to decide which of three jointly charged men – all facing the death penalty – should be appointed death-qualified public defenders. Marcia Coyle wrote about the case for the National Law Journal.

Jerry D’Aquila , chief defender and supervising attorney for the 18th Judicial District Indigent Defender Board in Louisiana, assigned himself and his certified lawyers to one of the defendants and assigned non-death certified lawyers to the other two defendants – arguing that his office would go bankrupt if he was forced to assign the more expensive death-certified lawyers to all three defendants.

Although D’Aquila’s decision may have actually saved the lives of the 2 defendants represented by non-death certified lawyers (since the prosecutor eventually reduced the charges against them), that outcome should not determine whether the decision was improperly impacted by the conflict between D’Aquilla’s concern for the well being of his office and his concern for his clients.

Any decision about which particular category of lawyer to assign that is influenced primarily by financial factors cannot be an independent conflict-free decision.

Should a public defender ever be permitted to assign an uncertified lawyer in order to conserve the resources of his office?   Must he always spend the extra money? This issue wrecked havoc on the Georgia Public Defender system, which was financially undermined by its mandated representation of Brian Nichols – a capitally charged defendant who escaped from custody and killed a judge, court reporter, and sheriff’s deputy. The defense cost 2.3 million dollars and seriously impacted GPD’s operation.

For more on the Georgia case and it’s impact on the GPD, see Steve Bright and Lauren Sudeall Lucas, Overcoming Defiance of the Constitution, The Need for a Federal Role in Protecting the Right to Counsel in Georgia


Sentencing in Jodi Arias Trial

BY: Luis Felix

On March 31, 2013, Jodi Arias’ attorneys were denied the opportunity to have the death penalty taken off the table in her murder trial, as the Arizona Supreme Court rejected their petition for an appeal. Arias was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, and is currently awaiting sentencing. However, this case is far from the typical murder case seen in news outlets across the country every day. The media has followed the Arias case heavily, casting it directly in front of the public’s eye. The gruesome nature of Alexander’s murder  – 27 stab wounds, a slit throat, and a gunshot wound to the head – captured the attention of the public in recent months. There can be no doubt that Arias’ murder of her ex-boyfriend was a particularly heinous one, and justice must be served. However, is sentencing Arias to the death penalty the appropriate remedy?

Those in favor of sentencing Arias to the death penalty focus their arguments on the brutality and excessiveness of her crime. Much like Hammurabi’s “an eye for an eye,” proponents of the death penalty argue that retribution must be sought, and the only way for Arias to pay for such a heinous crime is with her life. Those opposed to Arias receiving the death penalty argue that it is unethical, and two wrongs would not make a right. However, I would take a slightly different approach in arguing against the death sentence for Jodi Arias.

Death is the ultimate price. Although murder is among the most culpable of crimes, the murder of one victim should not receive the greatest sentence that our criminal justice system has to offer. I am not attempting to downplay the culpability of a single murder; I am examining the sentencing phase of our criminal justice system in a different light. A light that does not focus on each particular crime and each particular victim, but instead focuses on our society and the criminal justice system as a whole.

There are crimes that carry a higher level of culpability than a single murder. For example, a defendant who maliciously murders two victims, is certainly more culpable than a defendant who maliciously murders one victim. If we then sentence both defendants to death, we as a society are not distinguishing between the culpability of their crimes. As a society, we have evolved passed the European medieval times where every crime was punishable by death because we decided to distinguish between the varying culpabilities accompanying different crimes. We must stay true to this distinction and reserve the death penalty for only the most culpable of defendants. While murder certainly carries a high level of culpability, a single murder cannot be deemed as culpable as a mass murder, a serial murder spree, or a terrorist attack. While the ladder three are certainly deserving of the death penalty, the former is not and must be distinguished because it carries a lower level of culpability. Thus, a more deserving sentence for a single murder, such as the murder of Travis Alexander, would be life imprisonment without parole – not the death penalty.

Ultimately, this is merely my opinion and there are certainly compelling arguments on both sides. Above all else, this article is an invitation. It is an invitation to think, an invitation to research, and an invitation to speak your mind. Consider this an open forum to any and all who agree, and especially those who disagree. You may now take the floor.

Arias Death Penalty Case – Retrial of Punishment Phase

In the Arias murder trial, the jury deadlocked eight to four in favor of the death penalty. Arizona is just one of two states that permit a retrial where a jury deadlocks on punishment in a death penalty case. The other states provide that a post-deadlock sentence be one of life imprisonment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that a hung jury in a typical criminal case does not prohibit retrial. Briefly, the theory behind that holding is that the first, initial jeopardy does not terminate with a hung jury, so the prosecution can simply continue. Presumably, although the situation is a bit ghoulish, the same theory would likely apply to permit the Arias prosecutor to retry the penalty phase of the trial.

Still, does it make sense to retry the death penalty case? Aside from the time, expense, and anguish associated with a retrial, a new jury would have to be selected and some of the evidence the original jury heard during the guilt phase of the first trial would have to be presented to the second sentencing jury, which would never have heard it. The judge has the option of sentencing Arias to life without parole or 25 years to life in place of a retrial.

For further information about the jury’s deliberations, read here.