News Update 05.21.08
In a highly unusual turn of events, the Charlotte man accused of killing a state insurance investigator who was conducting an audit of his business has been denied the assistance of a public defender. According to Judge Bill Costagny, Michael Arthur Howell makes too much money to be entitled to assistance in hiring a lawyer. Howell apparently makes over $70,000 a year, but his expenses are greater than his income. Furthermore, the cost of a proper first-degree murder defense (not to mention a capital trial) far exceeds what almost any individual short of O.J. Simpson is capable of paying out of pocket. If the case goes capital, Howell’s savings will quickly be depleted and he will eventually be appointed a public defender. By then we will be several months down the line, the crime scene may have changed, critical witnesses or evidence might have disappeared. Rather than saving taxpayers money, perhaps the only thing Judge Costagny will have accomplished is giving Howell a built-in issue for appeal.
Meanwhile, the folks at NC Policy Watch are always good for a laugh:
Relatedly, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has this reflection on Georgia’s rush to the death chamber, which is particularly disturbing in light of the near-collapse of the state’s public defender system.
Earl Wesley Berry is scheduled to be executed in Mississippi tonight. His lawyers have filed a petition with the Supreme Court, arguing that in light of the court’s ban on the execution of the mentally retarded in Atkins v. Virginia, Berry cannot be executed until he has received a proper hearing on the issue.
Amnesty International discusses the pending execution of Percy Levar Walton, a severely mentally ill man in Virginia. You can learn more about Mr. Walton’s case here. Walton is slated to become the 100th person executed in Virginia in the modern era.