Thursday, April 07, 2005

Death sentence upheld for Starr's death row client.
From reading this article, it seems as though the Fourth Circuit has managed to botch another capital case. The Fourth Circuit and the Fifth Circuit have this bizarre reasoning in regards to child abuse that goes something like this: Yes it is a mitigating factor. Yes that means the defendant has a Constitutional right to present it, and not presenting it is prejudicial. But if the jury knew how badly he was beaten and starved as a child, they'd just want to put him to death. Therefore, the decision not to present that evidence is strategic. In light of Williams v. Taylor (2000) and Wiggins v. Smith (2003), the Fourth Circuit is dead wrong. No pun intended. In those cases, the Supreme Court bent over backwards to reverse on the failure to present child abuse evidence on a Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The attorneys knew about the defendant's abuse, didn't present the evidence or presented it briefly, and the Court still found a Sixth Amendment violation. To say I'm not a fan of Ken Starr would be an understatement, but I hope this client is heard, by the Supreme Court or otherwise.
Also, all DNA evidence was destroyed in this case preventing post-conviction testing. That's inexcusable. He was convicted in 1999, DNA evidence wasn't unheard of. Additionally, since when are court clerks all up on cleaning things up around the courthouse? Evidence and files sit around for decades gathering dust. Except, apparently, when the state wants to kill a man.

Virginia is a lethal state. They do love their capital punishment.

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