News Update 04.11.08
Judge Ronald Spivey has been recused from presiding over the appeal of Kyle Berry, who is on death row for a 1998 New Hanover County murder. Another judge removed Spivey from the case after his hostile courtroom comments to Berry’s counsel were found to indicate prejudice.
The attorneys for Glen Chapman weigh in on how the Attorney General’s office should have handled the case. Had the AG intervened when evidence of Chapman’s innocence first emerged, as it did in the Duke lacrosse case, Chapman would have been saved nearly four years in prison, and the people of North Carolina would have been saved the cost of needless litigation.
Cesar Laurean, suspected in the killing of fellow Marine Maria Lauterbach, has been captured in Mexico. The Onslow County District Attorney has agreed not to seek the death penalty in order to facilitate Laurean’s extradition.
Mark Kleinschmidt asks why Orange-Chatham DA Jim Woodall has recently become so eager to pursue the death penalty. Woodall’s office has announced its intention to seek death against Barbara Clark and Bobby Lee Person. There are indications that Woodall will also pursue capital punishment for Demario Atwater, who is accused of killing UNC-Chapel Hill student body president, Eve Carson. It has been sixty years since someone from Orange or Chatham County was executed.
Reporting from AI and CDW on this week’s congressional hearings on the poor quality of counsel in capital cases. Among those offering testimony, Bryan Stevenson from Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative. You can read his comments about the travesties of representation he has witnessed here. From Senator Leahy (D-Vt.):
If we sanction the use of a penalty as final as capital punishment, we must be sure that the system is working properly. The catastrophe of executing an innocent person is not one that we can ever tolerate. Unfortunately, the number of innocent people freed from death row to date illustrates that this is not an idle concern.
The best way to ensure that justice is done is to have exceptional counsel on both sides of these cases. As a prosecutor, I always knew that it was better to have good opposing counsel. With properly trained attorneys and appropriate resources on all sides, we can have much more confidence in our system of justice. Unfortunately, our track record on representation of capital defendants has not been good.
In Ohio, the death sentence of Clifton White III has been commuted to life. The State Supreme Court ruled 7-0 that White, who has an IQ of 52 and functions at the level of a second-grader, is mentally retarded. You can read the Court’s decision here.
In Colorado, some are questioning whether a local prosecutor’s aggressive stance on the death penalty is an attempt to distract attention from her own troubles.