O'Connor caught a clue and so have I
By ANDREA GEORGSSON, an editorial writer, is a member of the
Chronicle Editorial Board.
Sandra Day O'Connor is beginning to see the light, and so am I.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court justice shocked the nation when she
told a women's law group in Minneapolis that the criminal justice system
"may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be
executed." And, she speculated, poor defendants might not be
getting a fair shake, suggesting further that the country may need to
set some minimum standards for defense counsel in capital cases.
State Senate leader urges changes in pardons and paroles
State Sen. Rodney Ellis wants to continue his efforts
to rehabilitate Texas' criminal justice system by examining the
State Board of Pardons and Paroles and the state's clemency
The Houston Democrat, who championed an overhaul of
the state's ad hoc indigent defense system in the last legislative
session, included the parole board on a list of interim study
requests to acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.
Ellis, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is
asking to work on issues outside the purview of his committee. But
he said he wants to make sure criminal justice overhauls he has
championed don't get pushed to the back burner.
Uneasy about death row, Terrell wants name off unit
Prison expected to be renamed By Ed Timms The Dallas
Morning News Dallas insurance executive Charles Terrell was
honored when a new state prison was named for him in 1993.
But it just wasn't the same after that unit later became the new home
for death-row inmates. He wanted his name off, and the state's prison
board may accommodate him next week. "We name prisons
after a lot of people, and if I'm just another name ... that's
fine," the former chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice
said Friday. "There's a lot of difference between having your name
on a regular prison, and on death row."
information makes application of death penalty unfair
The July 4 Sun printed 2 seemingly unrelated articles on page 3: one
concerned changing attitudes toward the death penalty by Justice Sandra
Day O'Connor ("Justice O'Connor expresses new doubts about fairness
of capital punishment") and the other reported the plea bargaining
by ex-FBI agent Robert P. Hanssen to avoid the death penalty, which is
the traditional punishment for traitors ("Ex-FBI agent to plead
guilty to espionage, confess activities").
Empathy for a Killer
What if a madman had invaded Andrea Yates's home in
suburban Houston and drowned her 5 children?
It would have been the biggest story in America, with the coverage
ranging from the sensational to the hysterical. Every angle would be
pursued. Except one. There would be no serious attempt to understand the
mental state of the killer -- to determine, for example, if there were
mitigating factors at work. Few would care if he suffered from
depression or some other mental illness, or if he'd been horribly abused
as a child.
And there would have been no hemming and hawing about whether
prosecutors in Harris County, Tex., which is fanatical about capital
punishment, would seek the death penalty. No question at all. Not in a
multiple murder case in which all of the victims were children.
URGENT ACTION APPEAL
Beazley, black, aged 24
Napoleon Beazley is due to be executed in Texas on August 15, 2001, 10
days after his 25th birthday. He was sentenced to death in
1995 for a murder in Tyler, Smith County, committed when he was 17.
International law prohibits the execution of those who were under 18 at
the time of the crime.
The murder victim was John Luttig, white, the father of a federal
appellate judge. One of the trial jurors appears
to have been a long-time employee of one of John Luttig's business
partners, which was not revealed during jury selection. The
jury was all-white despite Smith County's population being 20 %
of Lawyers Blocking Appeals in Capital Cases
Dozens of death row inmates lack lawyers for their appeals,
in part because law firms are unwilling to take on
burdensome and expensive capital cases, lawyers say.
US Supreme Court and TX Board of Pardon and Parole turn down Napoleon
but the CCA
grants an indefinite stay of execution only hours before the execution
had to take place.