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August 18, 2007

Five years for abolitionist's fraud in California

As detailed in this post, last year it was discovered that a former criminal defense investigator, Kathleen Culhane, forged statements from jurors and others involved in death penalty cases.  Culhane was prosecuted for fraud and, as noted in this Los Angeles Times article, received a five year sentence earlier this week.  The Times piece reviews her crime and sentencing, and here are some interesting snippets:

As she was led off to prison in handcuffs Thursday, former inmate advocate Kathleen Culhane had few regrets about falsifying documents in an attempt to spare the lives of four convicted murderers.  Earlier during a brief hearing -- shortly before she was sentenced to five years in prison -- Culhane had called capital punishment "a brutal legacy of lynching," adding that "I cannot have remorse for a government that kills at midnight and invests millions of dollars in the process."...

[In an earlier interview], Culhane said she felt "betrayed by former colleagues" who "rolled over for the prosecution" and actively assisted in the case against her.  "I didn't expect that," she said.

Culhane says she is prepared for prison.  "After I turned myself in [in February, 2006], the guards referred to me as a celebrity case, which was a drag because the other prisoners didn't like that," she recalled. "But when I told one prisoner what I'd done, she said, 'Right on.' "

Crime and Consequences has more on this case here.

August 18, 2007 at 09:44 AM | Permalink


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Culhane's excuses sound just like Mike Nifong's excuses.

I am a graduate with a B.S. in Finance.

Posted by: Michael Ejercito | Aug 18, 2007 11:53:59 AM

Of her falsehoods, Culhane's lifelong friend Mary Keelty said, "Legally, it's wrong. But morally, we have to ask: Why is taking a life through execution righteous, and defying the law to save a life egregious?"

Posted by: | Aug 20, 2007 11:25:24 AM


The reason is that we, as a society, have decided that death is an appropriate punishment for certain murders, and when that will is expressed, it should not be thwarted by dishonesty. The victims' family deserve better than that. In this case, victims' families were hurt by Ms. Culhane's actions. Since you have put this in moral terms, did Ms. Culhane have the right to harm them? Did she have a right to try to snatch what they feel as justice from them?

And the "saving the life" reference is nonsense. It's not like we're trying to rescue a drowning person, now is it?

Posted by: federalist | Aug 20, 2007 1:13:10 PM

Because, Mary Kealty, without the law we have nothing. It can be right and noble to openly resist unjust laws, to advocate for their repeal. But it is cowardly and wrong to deceive others to subvert the law because of one's personal beliefs.

Beyond that, as a tactical matter, her deception severely hurts the cause for which she fought. Future death penalty opponents representing condemned prisoners on habeas cases will have that much more work to do to convince prosecutors and the public that they, unlike Ms. Culhane, are telling the truth this time.

Posted by: PatHMV | Aug 20, 2007 3:59:10 PM

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