Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Texas! What a state!

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Lincoln Caplan discusses in the NY Times how Texas is No. 1 in executing prisoners (and in distorting trials to make sure minorities are easily convicted):

On Wednesday, Texas is scheduled to execute its 500th death-row inmate since the Supreme Court restored capital punishment in 1976. The state hasexecuted nearly five times as many people as Virginia, the second state on the list.

Texas’s death penalty system is notorious for its high tolerance of ineffective counsel for defendants, overly zealous prosecutors, and racial discrimination in jury selection. The case of Kimberly McCarthy, the woman scheduled for execution, seems tainted by all three.

Ms. McCarthy is an African-American who was sentenced to death in 2002 for murdering a white woman. That’s not surprising: In Texas as well as other states, a black person who murders a white person is more likely to receive the death penalty than when the victim is black.

The 12-person jury that convicted and sentenced Ms. McCarthy included only one person who wasn’t white, after prosecutors used their peremptory, or automatic, challenges to strike three other non-whites. That was in apparent violation of a Supreme Court ruling against purposeful exclusion of minorities from a jury when a minority is the defendant.

The defense counsel did not challenge these apparently unconstitutional race-based strikes or request the kind of hearing for doing so that the Supreme Court allows. The lawyer did not raise the issue on appeal. A different counsel did not raise the issue in the defendant’s later challenge through a writ of habeas corpus.

Because of these failures, no court has ever reviewed the merits of Ms. McCarthy’s claims about racial discrimination. Last week, Ms. McCarthy petitioned for that kind of review from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, represented by a new lawyer who is an expert in capital cases. As of Monday morning, the court had not yet decided the case. It is expected to rule by Tuesday.

Ms. McCarthy was convicted and sentenced in Dallas County, Texas where the prosecutor’s office has a well-documented history of intentional discrimination going back to the 19th century. Calling it history, though, misrepresents the reality. The discrimination has continued, on a modern foundation of deliberate bias.

In 1963, a manual of the office instructed that prosecutors should not take “Jews, Negroes, Dagos, Mexicans, or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or how well educated.” In 1986, the Dallas Morning News reported that county prosecutors were still trying to keep almost all blacks off juries by using peremptory challenges.

In one trial that year, prosecutors used challenges to keep 10 of 11 blacks in the pool of candidates from serving on a jury. They justified the strikes with . . .

Continue reading.

Texas is also trying to ensure that only illegal abortions are available to women. Katie McDonough in Salon:

Leaflets printed with Bible verses littered the desks of Texas lawmakers early Monday as House Republicans voted to approve a sweeping abortion measure that, if passed, would shutter 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics.

Senate bill 5 aims to ban abortion after 20 weeks, force clinic doctors to hold admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and restrict abortions to surgical centers, measures that opponents say will virtually outlaw the procedure in the state and deny thousands of women vital medical care.

“If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also oppose the measure.

Hundreds of protesters filled the Capitol building on Sunday to voice their opposition to the measure, while House Democrats tried to delay the vote by drawing out the debate and adding amendments to alter the bill.

As reported by Chris Tomlinson at the Associated Press, one such amendment would have called for an exemption to the ban in cases of rape and incest; state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, felt such an exception was unnecessary because “in the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out,” she said, incorrectly comparing the procedure to collect physical evidence after a sexual assault to an abortion. “The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.”

Following the exchange, Laubenberg, who is also the bill’s sponsor and a member of the state’s public health committee, rejected all proposed changes to the measure. House Republicans then forced a vote. The measure passed 97-33.

Senate Democrats said they will try to stage a filibuster until the special legislative session ends at midnight Tuesday night.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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