« "Preventive Detention in Europe and the United States" | Main | Split Second Circuit panel rejects varied constitutional attacks on NY parole practices »

August 3, 2012

Victim's family, 32 years later, now seeks closure via life (with parole) rather than deah sentence

This fascinating local story out of Texas, headlined "Long-serving Death Row inmate makes deal, could be paroled in 12 years," provides a distinctive perspective on what closure can end up meaning for some family members of murder victims.  Here are the remarkable details:

Delma Banks Jr., who has been on Death Row for three decades, accepted a life sentence Wednesday and will be eligible for parole in 2024 under an agreement with Bowie County prosecutors. Banks, 53, was convicted of fatally shooting 16-year-old Richard Whitehead in 1980 in a park near Texarkana and stealing his car.

In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Banks' death sentence, finding that Bowie County prosecutors who tried the case suppressed evidence and deliberately covered up their mistakes for decades. A new punishment trial was scheduled for October in Collin County, where it was moved on a change of venue.

Bowie County District Attorney Jerry Rochelle told the Texarkana Gazette that Whitehead's family wanted the case to end. "They were ready for some closure," Rochelle told the newspaper. "After 32 years of dealing with the offense, the death of their son, the original trial, the appeals and the prospect of a new trial, they were ready for it to end."...

There were no witnesses to the killing and no physical evidence linking Banks to it. The prosecution's case relied largely on the testimony of Robert Farr and Charles Cook, both admitted drug users; Cook also had convictions for robbery by assault and forgery. Banks had no criminal history, and people who were with him and Whitehead on the last night that Whitehead was alive testified there was no ill will between the two.

Banks is black; Whitehead was white.  An all-white Bowie County jury convicted Banks and returned a death sentence.  In 1999, a federal judge forced Bowie County to open its case records. Banks' lawyers found a transcript showing that Cook's testimony had been extensively rehearsed and coached.  They also learned that police paid Farr, an informant who had an unreliable record, $200 for his role in the investigation.

Farr said in an affidavit that he was afraid that the police would arrest him on drug charges. In exchange for the money, and to avoid jail, he agreed to set up Banks, he said. Prosecutors allowed Cook and Farr to lie in court and never told jurors that their information was false, the Supreme Court found.

In arguments before the Supreme Court, state lawyers did not dispute that Cook had been coached and that Farr was paid for his help.  But they said Banks' lawyers were at fault for not uncovering the information sooner.   In 2003, Banks got within 10 minutes of his scheduled execution before the Supreme Court stopped it....

In previous motions, Banks also sought to challenge the jury's decision that he was guilty, based on the court's findings that prosecutors had erred in the trial.  But in the agreement signed Wednesday, Banks agreed to no further challenges of his conviction.  He will be 65 when he is eligible for parole, and he will have served 44 years in prison.

George Kendall, an attorney for Banks, issued a brief response to the agreement: "After 32 years, the State has decided to no longer seek the death penalty in this case.  We hope the resolution of this case will bring closure to all concerned."

August 3, 2012 at 07:00 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2017616fa8715970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Victim's family, 32 years later, now seeks closure via life (with parole) rather than deah sentence:

Comments

"Banks' lawyers were at fault" because if the defense hadn't repeatedly delayed the execution the victims would have had closure years and years ago.

Posted by: Winston Smith | Aug 3, 2012 2:23:00 PM

In arguments before the Supreme Court, state lawyers did not dispute that Cook had been coached and that Farr was paid for his help. But they said Banks' lawyers were at fault for not uncovering the information sooner.

The chutzpah! Sure we cut deals with informants and coached key witnesses on their testimony, but that's not our fault we didn't turn that almost-certainly-exculpatory evidence over to the defense!

And, Winston, my dear sir, you do realize that the reason why this gentleman's sentence was commuted was because of doubts about his guilt and because of misconduct by prosecutors, don't you?

And, furthermore, you realize that the only way that sort of stuff comes about is almost certainly the fault of Banks' lawyers? Or shall we consign considerations of guilt, innocence, fair trials, and due process of law to the dustbin and proceed to sating your retributive blood lust?

Posted by: Guy | Aug 3, 2012 2:42:44 PM

it is criminal stupidity like this that tells me the two-faced lieing son of a bitchs who run this country have LIVED TOO LONG!

Sorry any decsion like this!

"In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Banks' death sentence, finding that Bowie County prosecutors who tried the case suppressed evidence and deliberately covered up their mistakes for decades. A new punishment trial was scheduled for October in Collin County, where it was moved on a change of venue."

SHOULD result in an AUTOMATIC release and a BIG FAT CHECK and NO more case. UNLESS of course the govt is ready to get off it's ass and arrest and prosecute the judge and DA

as for that idiotic statement from winston...... hopefully one day it will be YOU they are framing and executing quickly to COVER UP THE EVIDENCE!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 3, 2012 5:12:46 PM

It seems that abolitionists are not the onlyh ones who 'cherry pick' their cases. I don't see any comments from Bill, Kent, Supremacy, or Dudley. What's up with that?

Posted by: Mary | Aug 4, 2012 7:36:18 PM

rodsmith, I'd ask if we are related except as previously mentioned I am a character in a book. There is a little essay about me.

The Last Man: George Orwell’s 1984 in Light of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Will to Power

See, I think this evidence went down the memory hole and I was loving Big Brother in my first post above. Because we are supposed to learn to love Big Brother.

Instead of holding onto this piece of evidence, Winston drops the article in his memory hole, a hole in which all things of the past which were to be rewritten were dropped and obliterated in great furnaces below. During the interrogation, O’Brien produces the same article.
“You believe that you had actually held it in your hands. It was an article like this….”
“It exists!” he [Winston] cried.
“No,” said O’Brien.

Posted by: Winston Smith | Aug 5, 2012 9:49:18 AM

maybe YOU love big brother!

all i want to do with big brother is but a 357magnum slug right through his camera lens into the brain!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 5, 2012 9:13:49 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB