News Update 10.09.07
Regular readers may recall the case of Floyd Brown, who has been locked up in the state mental hospital for 14 years because he is too mentally retarded to stand trial for a murder he likely did not commit. (Prior reporting here, here, and here.) Mr. Brown was facing the death penalty until the Atkins decision in 2002.
Yesterday, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson dismissed the charges against Mr. Brown and ordered him released from custody.
(Image from WRAL.com. Go here for video.)
A psychiatrist testified that Mr. Brown is not and never will be competent to stand trial. A doctor and a social worker who work with Brown regularly at the hospital (and who are employed by the State) testified that Brown is mentally retarded and could not have given the detailed confession that is the only evidence connecting him to the crime. An expert in forensics, previously employed by the North Carolina Department of Justice, testified that the performance of Anson County law enforcement in investigating the murder of Katherine Lynch was so far below standards as to border on incompetency. He suggested that an innocent man has been incarcerated for fourteen years while the real murderer has run free.
A woman employed by an agency that helps the mentally retarded find services in their communities told the court that she had found a group home that agreed to take in Mr. Brown and monitor him 24 hours a day, but that after a visit from District Attorney Michael Parker, the home suddenly refused to help. Now that the charges have been dropped, Brown’s family is looking for another placement. Everyone who testified said that Brown is not a danger to himself or others.
The State called no witnesses. Two members of the Attorney General’s Office simply argued that Judge Hudson did not have jurisdiction to decide the matter. Hudson took exception to the notion that a nonviolent person could be locked up forever without a trial, and that the courts would be powerless to help. When the judge announced his decision, Mr. Brown’s attorneys and family burst into tears of joy. “The system we looked to protect him just failed. Anybody who looked could see he didn’t do it, but nobody cared,” said Brown’s sister, Frances Staton. “The 14 years are gone. I can’t bring them back. The main thing now is, he’s free.”
In Cabarrus County, the death penalty has become increasingly rare.
In Charlotte, Ricky Graham received a life sentence.
In Jacksonville, a call to end the death penalty.
The American Bar Association has released its report on the use of the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Problems noted in the report include: inadequate protections for the innocent, limited access to competent counsel, and racial and geographic disparities in the implementation of capital punishment.
The US Supreme Court has amended its grant of certiorari in the Baze lethal injection case. The court dropped the fourth question, whether States are obligated to be prepared to stop an execution and begin life-saving procedures if a stay should be granted after the injections have begun.
Despite the cert grant, Georgia is preparing to execute two inmates. Jack Alderman and Curtis Osborne are scheduled to be killed later this month. Mississippi plans to execute Earl Wesley Berry on Halloween.
Amnesty International has released a report on the 25-year history of lethal injection, including information on botched executions and legal developments worldwide.