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Old 04-13-2003, 12:19 PM
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danielle danielle is offline
The Specialist - Surf but be-ware!

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Default Alabama doesn't execute innocent people - and soon neither will Georgia or Florida

The following article was written by Alabama's Attorney General, Bill Pryor. This man is now up for nomination by President George W. Bush for US Court of Appeals, 11th circuit court judge. This means not only will Alabama continue to have to deal with him, but also Georgia and Florida. Watch out guys!

There's a thread in the Alabama forum about helping the prisoners in Alabama that relates to stopping this man. If you disagree with him, then PLEASE try and stop his appointment as a judge!


Alabama doesn't execute innocent people

by Bill Pryor
July 4, 2000

The chances of a terrible mistake grow smaller every day

Opponents of capital punishment recently captured national attention with the release of a biased report by the Justice Project entitled "A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995."

Prepared by anti-death penalty activists, this flawed report lists alleged error rates for states with capital punishment and, for example, concludes that the error rate in Alabama is 77 %.

This report, however, omits critical information and was designed to support the preordained conclusions of its authors. When all of the evidence is considered in its proper context, there are 3 important conclusions about capital punishment.

Rare sentences
First, capital punishment is reserved for heinous crimes. Second, although the courts still go to extraordinary lengths to provide due process in capital cases, errors have been reduced dramatically as the law has become more settled. Third, only the guilty are executed.

Death sentences are rare. The vast majority of crimes, including serious crimes of child molestation, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, drug dealing, and armed burglary of an occupied home, do not carry even a possible death sentence. A fraction of 1 percent of all criminal cases in Alabama is classified as capital murder. To warrant a death sentence,
capital murder must involve other aggravating factors, such as kidnapping, rape, or robbery.

When capital punishment was reformed and reinstated in the late 1970s, the courts went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the new process was fair and accurate. As a result, many death sentences, in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, were reversed for technical errors that were unrelated to the guilt of the accused and the extreme nature of the crime. When the law became more settled and better
understood by prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers, errors at trial were reduced.

It is telling that the report of the Justice Project does not include statistics from the last 5 years: Those statistics show that the error rate in capital cases in Alabama is low. Since Jan. 1, 1995, in direct appeals, the Court of Criminal Appeals decided 102 cases affirming 88 and reversing 14 cases for a so-called error rate of 14 %. Of the 14 cases reversed, 9 cases were returned for new trials and 5 cases were returned only for new sentencing hearings.

The Alabama Supreme Court decided 65 cases on direct appeal affirming 57 and reversing 8 cases for an error rate of 12 %. In state collateral reviews, the circuit courts denied 32 of 33 petitions (error rate - 3 %), the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed 27 of 28 cases (error rate - 4 %), and the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed 16 of 17 cases (error rate - 6 %).

In federal habeas corpus proceedings, the federal district courts denied 20 of 24 petitions and one of the denials was reversed on appeal for an error rate of 13 %. In the U.S. Court of Appeals, 13 of 15 cases were affirmed for an error rate of 14 %.

These low error rates explain why the Supreme Court of Alabama last month unanimously adopted a new rule that I proposed and Gov. Don Siegelman supported to streamline the direct appeal process in capital cases. Under the new rule, the Supreme Court of Alabama will not automatically review every death penalty appeal. The Supreme Court recognized that the Court of Criminal Appeals decides the vast majority
of these appeals correctly with a settled body of law.

Improvements in the litigation of capital cases should be made. Last year, the Legislature increased funding for attorneys to defend indigents in capital cases. Those attorneys are now paid, with an allowance for overhead, an effective rate of $100 an hour. I also favor an increase in
funding for these attorneys to handle direct appeals from the present cap of $2,000 to $15,000. These improvements, however, should be accompanied by stricter deadlines to resolve these cases expeditiously.

The process of death penalty appeals is still too slow, too complicated, and unfair to the families of victims. The last execution in Alabama offers a good example of the unreasonable delays and unfairness in this process.

On June 2, the state of Alabama executed Pernell Ford for a double murder of Willie C. Griffith and Linda G. Griffith in 1983. Ford confessed to the crime, eventually fired his attorneys, and then offered no resistance to his execution.

Nevertheless, attorneys purporting to represent Ford for years filed petitions and other motions to delay Ford's execution. These attorneys argued that Ford was not competent to accept his punishment, but court-appointed experts, including an expert selected by the attorneys, repeatedly found Ford to be competent. Thus, it took sixteen years to execute an admitted murderer.

The authors of the report of the Justice Project could not find even a single case of an innocent person who has been executed. The report states that only 12 murderers were executed in Alabama between 1977 and 1995, but the report fails to mention that, from 1995 to the present, 13 murderers were executed, including ten during my administration. None of the cases reversed during the last five years raised any substantial issue of innocence, and no court found one. That means the real error rate in Alabama is zero.

'Errors' miscounted
On many occasions, death sentences have been reversed only to be reinstated at the trial court. Last year, my office, for example, tried Phillip Wayne Tomlin for the 4th time for a double murder of Ricky Brune and Cheryl Moore that occurred on New Year's Day in 1977. Tomlin was ably represented by two of the leading capital defense lawyers in the nation who nevertheless failed in their latest effort to spare Tomlin
from a death sentence. The Justice Project counts each of the previous trials of Tomlin as errors, but each retrial ended with a sentence of death.

The national news media for years have led a campaign against capital punishment. The heralding of a new flawed report is only the latest example of their dishonesty and bias. Professor Paul Cassell of the University of Utah School of Law, however, got it right recently, in The National Law Journal, when he said, "The death penalty system in America
is the most accurate criminal sanction in the world."

(source: Huntsville Times)
Monica Danielle
On September 22, 2003, my better half came home after 657 days in an Alabama prison!!!

And he's now forever free - passing away from this life and into the next - on January 9, 2010.

My Sweet Wayne
January 21, 1954 - January 9, 2010

I'll always love you.
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