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May 22, 2008

A last-minute (and unexpected?) capital commutation in Georgia

As detailed in this Reuters article, a "parole board in the state of Georgia spared a convicted killer from execution hours before he was due to die by lethal injection on Thursday and commuted his sentence to life in prison."  Here are more details:

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles made its decision less than three hours before Samuel David Crowe, 47, was to be executed, according to a spokeswoman for the state's prisons. "After careful and exhaustive consideration of the requests, the board voted to grant clemency. The board voted to commute the sentence to life without parole," the parole board said....

Crowe was not present at the parole board hearing in Atlanta. He had already eaten his last meal and was preparing to enter the execution chamber at the prison in Jackson, Georgia, Mallie McCord of the Georgia Department of Corrections said.

In March 1988, Crowe killed store manager Joseph Pala during a robbery at the lumber company in Douglas County, west of Atlanta.  Crowe, who had previously worked at the store, shot Pala three times with a pistol, beat him with a crowbar and a pot of paint.  Crowe pleaded guilty to armed robbery and murder and was sentenced to death the following year....

At Thursday's hearing, his lawyers presented a dossier of evidence attesting to his remorse and good behavior in jail, according to local media reports. The lawyers also said he was suffering from withdrawal symptoms from a cocaine addiction at the time of the crime.

I have not followed this case closely, so I do not know if this commutation is a complete surprise.  Still, as this local article highlights, this is "only the third time since 1995 that the Pardons and Parole Board has commuted a death sentence."

May 22, 2008 at 07:43 PM | Permalink

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Why do so many commutations (and other similar decisions that cancel or delay executions) always come down the the last few hours before an execution?

Posted by: bruce | May 23, 2008 8:06:05 PM

Collin County DA admits Michael Blair should not be on death row
1:59 PM Fri, May 23, 2008
Michael Landauer

Months after DNA evidence proved that a hair used to connect Michael Blair to Ashley Estell did not belong to either person, the Collin County DA has finally admitted that Michael Blair's conviction cannot stand. On Death Row, he is case number 999122, but he won't be there for long.

Don't worry, though. Because this man has confessed to other brutal sexual assaults, he won't be freed. Ever. But a Texas DA, a Texas jury and several appeals courts almost had the blood of an innocent man (in this case) on their hands. He was convicted because he was a known child molestor who showed an interest in the case. If the process moved as quickly as death penalty proponents wished it did, he'd be dead by now.

Posted by: | May 23, 2008 9:54:27 PM

This is what the government means by taking responsibility.

State Sen. Florence Shapiro, a Plano Republican who authored many of those laws, says Blair's guilt or innocence is not a factor in the need for the tougher statutes. It was Ashley's murder, regardless of who did it, that is the issue, she says.

"My feeling is that it was the parole of Michael Blair that spotlighted for me that the system was broken," she says.

So she has not problem letting the real murderer go free because the parole system was broken.

Do anyone know if Blair's other crimes he's doing life for were corroborated?

Posted by: George | May 24, 2008 12:06:04 AM

As long as someone was murdered, someone has to be killed for it. As long as the defendant is a criminal type that's all most people care about. If someone else happens to be the real murderer that's perfectly fine - we'll kill him too!

Posted by: bruce | May 24, 2008 1:30:15 AM

Bruce:

"As long as someone was murdered, someone has to be killed for it."

OK, let's see how close that comes to the truth.

In the five years 2002 - 2006 (inclusive), there were roughly 81,800 murders, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. in that same period, there were 308 executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an abolitionist group. (I have started with 2006 rather than 2007 because the latter year was partly affected by the Baze de facto moratorium, and therefore shows an artificially low number of executions).

Thus, over this quite recent five year period, it was not exactly the case that, as you maintain, "someone has to be killed" for every person who is murdered.

Instead, the number of executions was slightly less than four tenths of one percent of the number of murders.

What you're trying to do by this florid exaggeration is to portray the United States as the bloodlusting, barbaric, kill-'em-all, etc., etc. country featured in the usual abolitionist burlesque.

Still, I have to give you some credit. The Roger Kieth Coleman innocence hoax was 100% off. Your statement about an execution for each murder is only 99.6% off.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 24, 2008 7:59:11 AM

Bill, the part you quoted may not always be true, but the part you didn't is: "As long as the defendant is a criminal type that's all most people care about."

Death penalty advocates are trying to cleanse the world of what they perceive to be "scum." They'll never succeed, of course, particularly since the system they support is set up to create such "scum," but what it usually boils down to for death supporters is whether the condemned is a "bad" person. Just ask federalist, he'll tell you straight up.

Posted by: DK | May 24, 2008 1:03:10 PM

The question remains: Does anyone know if Blair's other crimes he's doing life for were corroborated?

I've searched and searched and can only find that he pleaded guilty to the charges he confessed to and will still to life for.

Is it a case of an animal chewing off his leg to get out of a trap?

Only a hunch at this point.

Posted by: George | May 24, 2008 3:20:40 PM

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