capital punishment

  • December 1, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Brandon L. Garrett, Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law. His first book, Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, was published by Harvard University Press in 2009, and his most recent book, Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations, was published in 2014.

    Can lawyers stop their own client from challenging his death sentence? Apparently, in Texas, they can. A lawyer’s most fundamental professional obligation is to “zealously” advocate for the client and uphold “justice.” Lawyers cannot give up working on a case, or put their own interests above their client’s. And yet that is what two Texas lawyers appear to have done to death row clients they were appointed to represent.

    Raphael Holiday was just executed in Texas. His two court-appointed lawyers told him that they would no longer contest his execution. “This marks the end of work for your appeals,” they said. They then told Holiday they would not seek clemency from the governor, despite a federal law requiring them to honor the client’s desire to do just that. Facing imminent execution, Holiday told the court, “They have refused to help me and it is a disheartening conundrum I am not fit to comprehend.”

    Holiday, who lacked money to hire his own lawyer, asked for the court to appoint a new one. The lawyers who said they were “not going to file further appeals” for him opposed his request, essentially telling the court that their client had nothing but frivolous claims left. The court-appointed lawyers simply gave up on Holiday’s case, even though half of 2015 Texas executions have been stayed or withdrawn, often because lawyers discovered compelling issues as the execution date approached. Based on the appointed lawyers’ representations, the court refused to assign a new lawyer to the case. Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, commented that it was “unconscionable” to prevent Holiday from getting new lawyers and that death penalty lawyers representing clients facing imminent executions “have a duty to make every legal argument they can.”

  • September 29, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Richard L. Hasen at Talking Points Memo contends that the future composition of the Supreme Court is “the most important civil rights cause of our time,” for it will determine the fate of many current civil rights struggles.

    In The Washington Post, Geoffrey R. Stone and Will Creeley urge colleges and universities to publicly reaffirm their commitment to free speech on campus.

    In Washington Monthly, Steve Sanders criticizes the Christian right for hijacking the term “religious liberty,” which once reflected a bedrock American value, and abusing it such that it “became just another synonym for bigotry.”

    G. Ben Cohen and Michael Admirand at the Harvard Law and Policy Review discuss the fallibility of finality in the legal system, especially in cases involving capital punishment.

    Eric M. Ruben and Saul Cornell in The Yale Law Journal argue that recent decisions to strike down bans on the public carrying of handguns are rooted in nineteenth century Southern opinions that reflect a regional, outdated conception of the Second Amendment.

  • May 13, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    At the blog for the Brennan Center for JusticeRachel Levinson-Waldman argues that the surveillance state concerns all citizens.

    Robert May questions in The Washington Post why many courts shackle minors when they go to trial. 

    Matt Ford of The Atlantic takes a look at the history of executions in the United States and the current Supreme Court challenge to lethal injection. 
    At The Marshall Project, Andrew Cohen writes that conservatives are showing growing support for reforms that would strengthen indigent defense programs. 
    Carrie Johnson reports for NPR that inmates with mental disabilities are often subjected to excessive force. 
    At the Milwaukee Journal-SentinelMary Spicuzza and Bill Glauber write that the Madison District Attorney has decided that Police Officer Matt Kenny will not face charges for the fatal shooting of Tony Robison Jr.
  • February 2, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    Geoffrey R. Stone writes in the Huffington Post about campus sexual assault and argues for a more thoughtful approach from universities “to keep their students safe and to ensure that they can live and learn in an environment free from sexual violence.”

    At The Week, Andrew Cohen considers the lessons of Georgia’s recent decision to execute a developmentally disabled man.

    In The Atlantic, Kent Greenfield asserts that corporations should shoulder greater responsibilities if they are to be considered people under the law.

    Cristian Farias argues in The New Republic that Justice Scalia could be the decisive vote on the Affordable Care Act.

    In Slate, Jamelle Bouie contends that public apathy has led to significant criminal justice reform, but larger support is needed to tackle the biggest problems. 

  • December 19, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times praises the new policy in New York that ends routine insurance discrimination against transgender individuals.

    Joel Rose reports for NPR on the Justice Department’s new lawsuit over the conditions at Rikers Island Jail.

    At Salon, Joe Conason argues that outrage over the new Cuba policy is misplaced.  

    Maurice Chammah explains at Slate why capital punishment cases are declining even in Texas.

    At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf considers how insensitivity and trigger-warnings are treated at law schools.