I have posted many articles on Women in Crime Ink about the death penalty, especially in the State of Texas. There have been several incidences recently which scream out for a revisit of this unpopular and hateful subject.
I read an article yesterday in the local Houston paper that our Supreme Court refused to give Linda Carty a new trial - even though her trial lawyers did not put on any mitigating evidence and only met her two weeks before jury selection. Linda Carty did a terrible thing. She kidnapped a woman and her four-day-old baby, and killed the mother. Do not misunderstand - I, of all people, am well aware of the horrible acts that one person can commit against another. It is sickening and disgusting. That doesn't change the fact that we must have rules and laws that we all obey we're going to take a person’s life in the name of our law.
A defense attorney has a duty to “know” his client -- especially one who may die as a result of the attorney’s laxity or ineptness. It is indefensible for a lawyer to not meet his client until two weeks prior to trial. It is indefensible for a lawyer to know so little about his client that he has no witnesses and records to present to the jury during the punishment phase of a capital case. How can any attorney convince a jury that mercy -- life in prison instead of execution -- is appropriate without a complete picture of the defendant's background? What kind of life did this person live? What negative influences may have changed his life?
Then, there is the arson murder case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Willingham was convicted of setting a fire that killed his three children. I don't have the words to express my outrage at how ignorant and uninformed Gov. Rick Perry sounded when he said the there was other evidence besides the state's arson experts to prove the cause of the fire. The State of Texas had to prove arson if the jury were to reach a capital murder verdict. The problem is that fire experts, not just someone the post-conviction lawyers pulled off the streets, but individuals renowned in the field, now condemn the state’s arson testimony as bogus and unscientific. Oh, did I forget to mention - Texas has already executed Cameron Todd Willingham. He was most certainly an innocent person. At least, Perry must be afraid he was. In October, Perry abruptly replaced the chairman and two members of the state's Forensic Science Commission -- two days before they were to hear the evidence of the arson expert.
Rick Perry doesn't like the idea that while he sat on his ass and refused to look at the reputable fire scientists' evidence, Cameron Todd Willingham died.
Is there one person out there who can state that Cameron Todd Willingham is the only innocent person Texas has executed? I dare you to make that statement. You would have to ignore the evidence related to the cases of Carlos DeLuna and Ruben Cantu, just to name two. There are many more. But, the issue is - even if there is one, just one - that is one too many. Killing another human being, through an act of violence or an act of the supposed legal system of Texas our State, is final. We can't bring that person back to life. We took that away from him or her, and we did it wrongly.
Our capital punishment system in Texas -- and elsewhere -- is flawed. It is not dispensed fairly. It is not certain. Arrogant, self-centered, unqualified politicians decide whether new evidence is sufficient to stop an execution. These same arrogant, self-centered politicians -- so-called judges -- tell us that “actual innocence” is not enough to warrant a new trial, let alone stop an execution.
What in the hell are we doing?