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August 14, 2011

"Should severe childhood abuse spare a murderer the death penalty?"

The question title of this post is the headline of this lengthy article discussing an upcoming scheduled execution.  Here is an excerpt:

It took jurors less than two hours to convict Jackson and sentence him to die twice over: For murder while committing robbery, and murder while committing rape. Jackson, now 31, is scheduled for execution Thursday night.

His team of attorneys scrambled to convince Gov. Bob McDonnell to commute his sentence to life in prison without parole. In a statement Friday, the governor refused, having found "no compelling reason to set aside the sentence." They're also appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

They argue that Jackson's original attorneys failed to paint their own grim picture for jurors -- a picture of a childhood saturated with abuse so sadistic and pervasive that, they say, it likely would have moved at least one juror to vote for life in prison. In Virginia, one reluctant juror is all it takes to avoid the death penalty.

In an unusual move, a federal judge ruled in 2010 that Jackson's first attorneys should have put his brother and sister on the stand to provide vivid, firsthand testimony that might have led the jury to spare him. She ordered a new sentencing hearing. "The picture painted of Jackson by his own counsel," U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema wrote, "all but invited a death verdict."

Her ruling was reversed in April by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, setting the stage for the execution. The Fourth Circuit upheld a Virginia Supreme Court ruling that said the siblings' testimony would be merely "cumulative" to other trial testimony, and that the law doesn't impose a "constitutional requirement that counsel uncover every scrap of evidence that could conceivably help their client."

August 14, 2011 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

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Comments

hmm if it was so sadistic and abusive....seems might be better to put him out of his and our misey! He's a REPEAT offender...bye bye!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 14, 2011 11:53:00 AM

Great Blog! Redneck that I am, I still believe that the penalty-phase jury should know EVERYTHING--about the person whom they have to judge. Life or death.
I believe that the miscreant's lawyers should indeed have introduced evidence that the defendant was sexually abused. This fact mayhave persuaded one juror to have voted for life instead of death. The Fourth Circuit judges and the Virginia Supreme Court judges may not have changed their votes had they been on the jury, but they were NOT jurors.

Posted by: Bubba from Georgia | Aug 14, 2011 12:17:03 PM

Mitigation factors should be contemporaneous with the crime, not the past of the defendant.

If this excuse is allowed, then the following should be allowed.

1) The rape victim was sexually promiscuous. The defendant is just a big fan of trashy hussies. They are the most fun dates to him.

2) Leona Helmsley paid $200 million in income tax in the past. She should be treated leniently after being convicted of not paying $4 million in taxes.

3) The defendant learned to abuse children during his own sexual abuse. Liked it. Decided to do it to others.

4) The defendant's culture will not allow an insult to manhood, or to one's mother. The victim offended both by falsely claiming he saw them making love.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 14, 2011 1:18:25 PM

Ironic contradiction. So what if he had a murdered soul. All he had to do is make the right choices.

Posted by: Confused | Aug 14, 2011 4:51:06 PM

Is there any reason to believe the abuse did happen rather than was invented later by family looking to save him?

Posted by: MikeinCT | Aug 14, 2011 11:17:01 PM

Is "Justice" to be merely procedures or is there to be a humane context to it?

Posted by: Tim | Aug 15, 2011 8:47:28 AM

MikeinCT...Only the intuitive sense that children who were well cared for probably don't end up on death row as often as those who weren't.

Posted by: John K | Aug 15, 2011 11:41:46 AM

@JohnK
And yet many of those with good families do end up on death row. Or perhaps they had bad families, but not as bad as Jackson's attorneys claim. Heck, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy came from good homes.

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