Monday, December 17, 2018

Court allows execution to proceed after receiving evidence of prosecutorial misconduct

Last Tuesday night the State of Texas murdered Alvin Braziel - despite the fact prosecutors admitted, hours before the scheduled execution that they had committed prosecutorial misconduct during the trial.

Nevertheless the Court of Criminal Appeals stepped aside and allowed the execution to proceed - once again demonstrating why the men and women who sit on that court are called Judges and not Justices.

Tom D'Amore and George West were the prosecutors who tried the case. Mr. D'Amore contacted Mr. Braziel's attorneys the night before the scheduled execution and told them that Mr. West had deliberately provoked a reaction from the victim's wife by showing her an autopsy picture of her dead husband. When Mr. Braziel asked for a mistrial after her outburst, the court denied the request after Mr. West assured the court that he had not intended for the outburst to occur.

Mr. Braziel's attorneys petitioned the trial court to call off the execution. The court said it would if they were sent a sworn statement from Mr. West. However, even after receiving the sworn statement, the trial court tossed it in the trash and washed its hands of the matter. His attorneys filed a similar request with the Court of Criminal Appeals at 5pm stating that this information only came to them the night before.
"It is axiomatic that a death sentence is irreversible and no one could reasonably believe that it should be carried out with such serious allegations of possible prosecutorial misconduct pending." -- Judge Elsa Alcala
Over dissents from Judges Elsa Alcala and Scott Walker, the Court of Criminal Appeals declared that it didn't care that a mistrial should have been declared and refused to halt the execution.

After he was strapped down to the gurney in the death house, Mr. Braziel apologized to the victim's widow for killing her husband.

This was never a case about mistaken identity or wrongful conviction. Mr. Braziel raped a woman and killed her husband. But when the Court of Criminal Appeals says that it couldn't care less if the state committed prosecutorial misconduct at trial, the Court is saying that it has little interest in guaranteeing a fair trial for those accused of criminal conduct.

It is entirely possible, and very probable, that a second trial would have produced a similar result. In fact I would be surprised if a second jury didn't convict Mr. Braziel and sentence him to death as well.  If the widow's outburst hadn't occurred it's also very likely that the verdict and sentence would have been the same. But, the state shouldn't be given a pass on their conduct just because it's a bad case with bad facts for the defendant.

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