Sunday, November 04, 2007

Texas slammed the door on a death-row appeal

Thats the title of Corpus Christi Caller-Times editorial on execution of Michael Richard, calling the Court of Criminal Appeals an "antiquated government office."

Two points have emerged amidst the outrage over the refusal of Keller to keep the doors of justice open. The first is that the Court of Criminal Appeals is an antiquated government office. The attorneys for Richard were scrambling to make 10 paper copies of their appeal, each 100 pages long, which, by court rules, had to be delivered to the court clerk. No electronic filing is permitted. Now members of the Texas bar are petitioning the court to adopt more modern procedures. A court of justice that deals with life-and-death cases absolutely must accept electronic filings, as does the U.S. Supreme Court.

The second point is that the execution of Richard underscores the arbitrary nature of the application of the death penalty. Even defenders of capital punishment -- and this page has supported the death penalty for decades -- have a hard time explaining why one defendant with incompetent legal representation, in a county with different jurors, before a different judge, faced with prosecutors who get plea bargains with accomplices, should die over another defendant accused of an equally cruel crime gets a better luck of the draw. If Keller had kept the doors open, Richard would have had a chance at a stay of execution. But she shut the doors and Richard was executed. This is not justice; it's a roulette wheel.

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