Wednesday, June 28, 2006

 

Justice? Who Said Anything About Justice?


As tragic and patently unfair as the state's execution of Sedley Alley was at 2:12 this morning, with the case of Paul Reid still in limbo today, the state and the Attorney General's office are trying to top their own standards of injustice.

Yesterday, Paul Reid and his attorneys were in the federal court challenging the state's contention that Paul Reid was mentally competent to end his appeals. For a little background, Paul Reid has diagnoses, going back to the 1970s, including schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and temporal lobe dysfunction. In layman's terms, he is severely mentally ill and brain damaged, living in a perpetual delusional state. With all of this evidence, including the testimony of Dr. George Woods (pg. 59 of the link), Judge Campbell, not surprisingly, ruled that Reid's attorneys had made a prima facie showing of mental illness. Consequently, the judge ruled that a full evidentiary hearing on Reid's competency was necessary. So far, all of this sounds completely reasonable, but then, the state and the A.G. spoke again.

Judge Campbell was willing to proceed with a full evidentiary hearing on the spot yesterday or even today if necessary, a course of action that would not have required a stay of execution. The defense was ready to proceed with more expert testimony and documents. But the state conceded that it was not ready for an evidentiary hearing, because it needed to have its own expert evaluate Reid. So the judge granted a stay of execution to allow the hearing to go forward when the state was prepared. The Attorney General is in the Sixth Circuit today challenging that stay!

Attorney General Paul Summers claims that the defense was dilatory in bringing this claim to the court, despite the fact the Reid's attorneys have been challenging his competency for years. The A.G. also claimed that it had had no opportunity to evaluate Reid, and therefore complained that the stay was unfair, even though the state has had Reid in its custody for the past 9 years! Does Paul Summers expect anyone to believe that the state didn't know that Paul Reid's competency was in question, after thousands of pages of legal filings on the issue? And to then claim that, even though it was his office that was unprepared to have an evidentiary hearing and therefore provoked the stay, the defense was dilatory and that the stay should not have been granted smacks of the most callous disregard for life and for justice imaginable.

Our thoughts and prayers today are with the families of Angela Holmes, Michelle Mace and all of Paul Reid's victims today. The loss of their loved ones was an absolute tragedy. But our thoughts are also with Linda Martiniano, Paul Reid's sister, who may also become the survivor of a homicide victim. The 6th Circuit will rule today on the state's motion to vacate the stay. If justice prevails, they will vote to uphold the stay and hold the evidentiary hearing that the state is so afraid of.
Comments :
Justice in the legal system is non-existant anymore, I think.

I love your cartoon. Very nice. I might mail it anomously to my DA.
 
Dear Marie,

I'm sorry to say that, in substance, I agree with you. The capital appeals process is about procedure and not fairness. Any fair person, even if they believed in the death penalty, would say why not do DNa testing when it's available before we execute someone? Why not hold a competency hearing to determine if this person really meets the standards laid out in law?

Unfortunately, that's not the case in Tennessee. The state pushes for executions regardless of the facts laid before it, even in cases of obvious incompetence.

The day we truly call for justice is the day that we will end this capricious system of state-sponsored killing.
 
I was at Paul's trial, and the most evocative evidence of his mental/cognitive state was the MRI which showed that a significant area of his brain was atrophied or gone. Paul's competency issue is significant and has picture proof.
 
The only thing that the attorney general's refusal to test DNA & competency says to me is that they know they were wrong, or at least not right enough to survive a real challenge, & that the scorecard is more important than the truth. The state had the perfect chance to shut us all up - at least temporarily - about Sedley's guilt or innocence. The fact that they weren't willing to even attempt to do that speaks volumes about how strong they believe their case really is. What a crock!! Keep the faith!
 
i think, agitator, that this reveals how little we understand, as a community in the u.s., about mental disabilities, mental illness, and brain disorders ... i think that such cat scans are very revealing but very few people, including those who report such matters to us in the media, understand and trust what emergent technology can tell us about these issues...
 
i think your comment regarding the scorecard is on target ... it's symptomatic of the process over substance frame that dominates the administration of capital punishment - and what made the ruling in the paul house case so important ... in that instance the court said that while procedure matters that innocence matters too - hah, we knew all along (wink)
 
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