« Perspectives on some changing prosecutorial perspectives | Main | "Conservatives Are Leading the Way as States Enact Criminal Justice Reform" »

March 31, 2017

New report spotlights concerns with disabilities and bad lawyering for eight Arkansas condemned scheduled for execution next month

In this post last year, I noted the initiative emerging from Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston for Race & Justice and its Criminal Justice Institute called the Fair Punishment Project (FPP).  And, as regular readers now know, FPP is now regularly producing notable reports and research on the administration of various sentencing systems in various parts of the nation.   The latest timely report from FPP is titled "Prisoners on Arkansas’s Execution List Defined By Mental Illness, Intellectual Disability, and Bad Lawyering," and here is how it gets started:

Since the Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1976, Arkansas has executed just 27 people.  It has not sent an inmate to the death chamber since 2005.  But beginning on April 17, Arkansas intends to execute an unprecedented eight men in just ten days.

This report examines the cases of those condemned men, and what we found is devastating.  At least five of the eight cases involve a person who appears to suffer from a serious mental illness or intellectual impairment.  One of these men was twenty at the time of the crime, suffered a serious head injury, and has a 70 IQ score.  Another man suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and believes that he is on a mission from God.  He sees both his deceased father and reincarnated dogs around the prison.  A sixth condemned inmate endured shocking sexual and physical abuse–he was burned, beaten, stabbed, and raped, and his mother pimped him out to various adults throughout his preteen and teen years.  In the two remaining cases, there is no evidence to suggest that the attorneys ever conducted even a minimally adequate mitigation investigation to determine if their clients had any illnesses or disabilities.

Across the eight cases, the quality of lawyering that we detected falls short of any reasonable standard of effectiveness–one lawyer was drunk in court, while another struggled with mental illness. Several of the lawyers missed deadlines, failed to visit their clients, and continued on a case despite the appearance of a conflict of interest. Taken together, these cases present a foundational challenge to the legitimacy and integrity of the death penalty in Arkansas.  The Governor should declare a moratorium on executions so these legal deficiencies can be given a closer look, or else the Courts must intervene to stop these executions in order to preserve public confidence in the rule of law.

March 31, 2017 at 12:44 PM | Permalink


No case had evidence or question of innocence.

Posted by: David Behar | Mar 31, 2017 2:50:03 PM

Euro style death penalty.


Posted by: David Behar | Mar 31, 2017 8:58:44 PM

These descriptions sound quite a bit like anti death penalty activism and/or appellate issues that have failed to gain any traction, aka The Fair Punishment Project

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Apr 1, 2017 6:13:02 AM

Dudley. Harvard assholes are not even pro-criminal. They are pro-lawyer hearings, procedures, time wasting lawyer job production. The aim of the above study is to generate hearings.

Of course, these reptiles do not care about crime victims, past and future ones.

They do not even care about the murderers. With these phony delaying tactics, most are likely to die of natural causes. In 90% of natural deaths, the person has a prolonged, painful, humiliating death, with months and years of organ failure, and having illegal aliens clean the person up. Imagine the pain of a bone fracture. Cancer metastasis to 100 bone locations feels exactly the same in each.

The cruel lawyer reptile only cares about their lousy, worthless, government make work job.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 1, 2017 11:56:30 AM

Restated for SC live from the trenches: "it's all about the billable hours, Beemers and bimbos."

Posted by: MarK M. | Apr 1, 2017 8:59:47 PM

Mark. No resentment about the Beemers and bimbos, if... you take care of the dying murderer. He has metastatic cancer, with the pain of a bone fracture in a dozen places. He is fully awake. He is moaning, and now is squeezing your arm, not letting go, because he is in agony. You have to stay for weeks until he goes under. Naturally, opiate pain medication is not allowed inside the prison walls. So, you do not have that tool. You have Tylenol to offer him.

Then come back, and debate the Eighth Amendment violation of an infiltrated IV, that takes a half an hour to kill the immediately unconscious murderer.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 2, 2017 1:25:58 AM

Should the death penalty be mitigated or accelerated for this person?


Posted by: David Behar | Apr 2, 2017 4:19:33 AM

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