Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Update: Execution fails to bring back killer's victim

Jamie McCoskey is dead.

The State of Texas murdered him last night.

The Houston Chronicle carried out its duty to distract the public from the cruelty and inequity of the death penalty by reminding readers that Mr. McCoskey was a bad person.

But what did this execution accomplish?

Mr. McCoskey was convicted of a particularly heinous crime. He kidnapped a young couple, drove them around Houston, stabbed the boyfriend to death and raped the girlfriend. At trial, after the jury convicted him - but before sentencing - he picked up a chair and hurled it at two prosecutors.

He served time in prison for violent offenses. He cracked the skull of another inmate at the Harris County Jail.

But strapping Jamie McCoskey down on a gurney and injecting massive amounts of pentobarbital obtained from a compounding pharmacy in The Woodlands didn't undo any of the crimes he committed.

On Execution Watch last night, host Ray Hill interviewed Mr. McCoskey about his case. Needless to say, Mr. McCoskey's version of the events that led to his conviction were at odds with the facts as presented to the jury. I daresay, however, that the verdict would have been the same, in my opinion, had he presented him account of the evening at trial.

He was also asked about his legal representation. Of particular note were his comments regarding his appellate attorney. He told Mr. Hill that his appellate attorney came and spoke with him a couple of times but that both meetings were short and the attorney didn't want to discuss what Mr. McCoskey wanted him to discuss.

What I believe Mr. McCoskey failed to grasp was the difference between a trial attorney and an appellate attorney - or, more specifically, the difference between trying a case and appealing a case. While the trial attorney needs  to sit down with his or her client and discuss the events leading up to the arrest, the appellate attorney relies solely on the record of the trial. The trial attorney is interested in telling a story to the jury, in bending the facts in such a way as to fit inside the narrative. The appellate attorney, on the other hand, parses the record for hints of reversible error.

One approach means talking to everyone tangentially involved in a case in order to get the clearest possible picture of the alleged crime and the client. The other approach consists of looking for case law that distinguishes this case from others that came before it. The defendant is an integral part of trial preparation while his role in the appellate arena is negligible.

In the end Mr. McCoskey was convicted of murder while committing a felony.

He was sentenced to death.

The world is no safer today than it was yesterday. The young man he killed is still dead today. His victim's parents still mourn the loss of their son.

Nothing was changed when the State of Texas pumped a lethal dose of pentobarbital into his arm.

Texas has murdered over 500 inmates since the death penalty was reinstated. There are still murders committed all across this state. There are still people who die at the hands of others for no good reason.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Capital punishment is insanity in action.

No comments: