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April 5, 2010

Report on capital justice delayed in Alabama

This local article from Alabama, which is headlined "Death penalty cases take longer to complete as debate continues," provides details on why capital justice takes a long time in the Yellowhammer State. Here are excerpts:

When a new inmate arrives on Alabama's death row, the chief capital punishment attorney for the state does not begin making plans for the execution. Instead, Assistant Attorney General Clay Crenshaw begins making plans for representing the state in numerous appeals of the death sentence, which can often last for more than 20 years.

Crenshaw said the average length of time between a death sentence being imposed and an execution carried out in Alabama is 13.5 years. He said that period is growing as appeals courts spend more time before issuing decisions. "The courts are taking longer than ever to issue opinions on death penalty cases and I'm not sure why," Crenshaw said. "The Alabama Supreme Court can take two years just to decide if it is going hear a case."

Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly said he always discusses the lengthy appeals process with family members of capital murder victims when deciding if the death penalty will be pursued. "We want to make sure they understand the execution is not going to happen overnight and they could be attending appeal hearings for 20 years or more before an execution takes place."...

Connolly said the likelihood of a capital murder case lingering in the courts for decades before the execution occurs sometimes prompts family members of the victim to opt for a life sentence in prison, without parole, for the defendant to bring quick closure to the case.

April 5, 2010 at 08:04 AM | Permalink


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Let's hope that the Supreme Court of Alabama sets a date for Holly Wood pretty soon.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 5, 2010 8:32:49 AM

And let's hope Kentucky can dispatch a few killers this summer:


Posted by: federalist | Apr 5, 2010 8:35:10 AM

"The Alabama Supreme Court can take two years just to decide if it is going hear a case."

that's rather curious since Alabama elects it's justices in partisan elections, and only has one democrat out of nine justices.

Posted by: . | Apr 5, 2010 8:52:22 AM

"." I was thinking the exact same thing. Why do I think that this article may light a fire?

Posted by: federalist | Apr 5, 2010 9:14:56 AM

Federalist, maaybe the Alabama courts, like most others, are beginning to recognize the perfidy of many prosecutors. What do you think of the following cases: State ex rel. Engel v. Dormire 2010 WL 623655 (Mo.,2010) (kidnapping conviction reversed where state failed to disclose letter suggesting that a prosecution witness had been paid for his testimony); Valdovinos v. McGrath, 2010 WL 789536 (9th Cir. March 10, 2010) (murder conviction vacated because "a pattern of non-disclosure permeated the proceedings against [petitioner]" which deprived petitioner of due process.); Gonnella v. State, 686 S.E.2d 644 (Ga.,2009) (murder conviction reversed where prosecutor failed to disclose deal with accomplice); Simmons v. Beard, 590 F.3d 223 (3d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor failed to disclose that witness was pressured to cooperate and that a second witness committed perjury); Wilson v. Beard, 589 F.3d 651 (3d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and sentence of death vacated because of prosecutor’s suppression of favorable information regarding witnesses criminal convictions and providing money to witnesses); Montgomery v. Bagley, 581 F.3d 440 (6th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of prosecutor’s failure to disclose exculpatory report from ‘witnesses who would have cast serious doubt on the State’s case.” ); U.S. v. Price, 566 F.3d 900 (9th Cir. 2009) (conviction reversed where prosecutor violated his due process duty under Brady to learn the results of investigation into criminal past of government witness); U.S. v. Reyes 577 F.3d 1069 (9th Cir. 2009) (government violated due process by not disclosing favorable evidence discovered in parallel SEC proceedings); Douglas v. Workman, 560 F.3d 1156 (10th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction and death penalty vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor failed to disclose promise to key witness); Drake v. Portuondo, 553 F.3d 230 (2d Cir. 2009) (murder conviction vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor knew witness was testifying falsely); Harris v. Lafler, 553 F.3d 1028 (6th Cir. 2009) (murder conviction vacated because of due process violation where prosecutor suppressed promise to key witness); U.S. v. Robinson, 538 F.3d 1265 (10th Cir. 2009)(conviction reversed because of district court’s refusal to disclose informant’s mental health records to defense which violated Due Process);

Posted by: anon 13 | Apr 5, 2010 10:33:58 AM

Non-disclosure doesn't equal "perfidy". But where the government withholds materially exculpatory information from the defense, generally, the remedy should be vacation of the conviction.

Look at what Alabama courts went through with Thomas Arthur. He's guilty, and he lied to get a stay of execution. And justice continues to be delayed.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 5, 2010 11:17:03 AM

horse pucky fed! a LIE of omission is stil a LIE....calling it non-discloser doesn't change the reall effect.. THY LIED!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 5, 2010 11:26:16 AM

In Virginia it takes seven years. We have the second most active DP in the country. Other than the Roger Keith Coleman innocence hoax, there has not even been a claim that Virginia has executed a factually innocent man in the modern era.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 5, 2010 1:55:37 PM

Mr. Otis, I'm sure that if the Virginia prosecutors try a little harder, they can soon take over first place--now that would be something to brag about.

Posted by: anon 13 | Apr 5, 2010 3:05:33 PM

Alabama should get rid of the intermediate Court of Criminal Appeals. The death sentences should go automatically to the Alabama Supreme Court. Two appeals courts don't need to rehash the same issues.

Posted by: DaveP | Apr 5, 2010 4:25:01 PM

To Bill Otis,
There is one other claim of innocence that has for some reason attracted so much attention: Joseph O'Dell. He was put to death in 1997 but his defenders still claim he was innocent of robbery, kidnapping, rape and murder. Besides the serology, eye witnesses and tire tracks linking him to the crime he had previously served 16 years in Virginia for robbery and murder and nine years in Florida for kidnapping and attempted rape. All these facts seem to have escaped the DPIC and his supporters.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Apr 5, 2010 4:33:29 PM

Same for the supporters of William Zeigler in Florida. Hundreds of people have called for clemency, but refuse to acknowledge that he tried to pay other inmates to confess to the murders he was sentenced to death for in 1975. Our Governor Crist won't sign the death warrant probably because incredibly the jury recommended life imprisonment and the judge overrode it. DNA issues also plague the case.

Posted by: DaveP | Apr 5, 2010 4:38:32 PM

MikeinCT --

Thank you for the correction. I had forgotten about O'Dell.

anon 13 --

I'll make you a deal. I'll be proud of Virginia prosecutors and you can be proud of the Beltway sniper, whom they sent to the death chamber. I know whose side I'm on. Whose side are you on?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 5, 2010 5:39:53 PM

anon 13 --

While we're at it:

I am in no position to 'brag" about the work of Virginia prosecutors, having never been one. I was a federal prosecutor living in Virginia.

I will happily plead guilty, however, to being pleased with the work of Virginia prosecutors, who apply the law consistently with the text and meaning of the Constittion, the rulings of the courts, and the will of the people who pay their salaries and sit on the juries in their cases. This sometimes results in the execution of remorseless mutiple murderers like the Beltway sniper. If you're litigating preference is to line up with the sniper, that's your problem.

One kind of bragging I won't do is the constant bragging of abolitionists about how morally advanced they are above the huge majority of their fellow citizens. The arrogance and self-congratulatory quality of such bragging is just amazing, wouldn't you agree?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 5, 2010 7:34:22 PM

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