Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Making it easier to kill

Ever eager to kill more inmates, the State of Texas has informed Attorney General Jeff Sessions that it still wishes to "opt-in" to a program that will tighten deadlines and make it harder for those on death row to contest their convictions.

Gov. Abbott wants Texas to qualify for Chapter 154 certification under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act passed in the aftermath of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. In order to qualify, the state must show that they have provided lawyers considered "good enough" during the state habeas period. If the state can meet that burden then federal habeas deadlines would be tightened.

Of course, as anyone who practices criminal law in Texas - or who keeps an eye on it - knows, local judges are very reluctant to authorize money for investigators, mental health professionals, mitigation specialists or any other experts when it comes to indigent defendants.

Combine that reluctance to spend money with the tradition of exculpatory evidence being withheld from the defense and you get a deadly combination.

According to Gov. Abbott, his concern is with the victims' families who have to endure years of waiting for the condemned to be murdered at the hand of the state. His lackeys have also said that opting in to Chapter 154 would cause federal judge to show more respect to state court decisions and would speed up the federal appeal process.

Oh yeah, and it would also shorten the time appellate attorneys have to sort out the mess left behind by the trial process. It would give them less time to find exculpatory evidence that wasn't handed over during the discovery process. It would give them less time to challenge the junk science that many of the state's "experts" have testified in favor of over the years.

If Texas were operating under Chapter 154 two innocent men, Anthony Graves and Alfred Dewayne Brown, would be six feet under the ground in cheap pine boxes and the public would never know just how badly the criminal (in)justice system failed.

That's really what this is all about. The shorter the window of challenging a conviction you have, the less likely it is that you're going to find what you're looking for. The shorter the window, the fewer exonerations you get. The shorter the window, the easier it is to spread the illusion that the criminal (in)justice system metes out justice equally. The shorter the window, the easier it is to spread the lie that innocent people don't get put to death.

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