Tag Archives: Mississippi

Stay in Mississippi; execution in Texas

In a reversal of an April decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court voted 8-1 to grant a reprieve “until further order” to Willie Manning, who was convicted in 1994 of murdering two college students. The stay came about four hours before the today’s scheduled execution.

The court did not explain its decision or put a time limit on the reprieve. The U.S. Justice Department had sent letters to  officials involved in the case raising questions about the degree of certainty expressed by F.B.I. forensic experts at Manning’s original trial.

Hopefully this stay will offer an opportunity for the DNA testing that the Innocence Project and others call for in this case. Testing all the evidence seems an absolute minimum standard in capital cases.

I grieve for those who love Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller, of whose murders Manning is convicted. An execution will not bring them back.

At 6:32 p.m. CDT, in Huntsville, Texas, Carroll Joe Parr died from a lethal dose of pentobarbital administered by the state. Parr stood convicted of the murder of 18-year-old Joel Dominguez. Although Parr denied the killing, evidence against him was strong.

Parr reportedly endured an abusive childhood. His criminal record included convictions on drug-related charges and alleged links to other crimes.

I grieve for the family and friends of Joel Dominguez.

But an execution demeans us all and perpetuates a cycle of violence. There has to be another way.

See you along the Trail.

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The clock runs for Willie Manning

I ask you to join me in calling on Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to stay Willie Manning’s execution and order DNA testing!

The state of Mississippi has set May 7 as the execution date for Willie Manning.

I do not know if Willie Manning committed the acts for which he stands convicted. But I believe it is utterly unconscionable to execute him without examining all the possible evidence.

The Innocence Project notes:

DNA testing can provide definitive proof of guilt or innocence. As the dissenters on the Mississippi Supreme Court noted, it could also identify the person responsible for the crime. Testing in this case will provide surety that Mississippi is not committing a travesty of justice by executing an innocent man.

I do not know if Willie Manning is guilty. Do the test and see what it reveals.

I do not know about all the utterly unconscionable acts and travesties of justice occur daily. I cannot know about them all. I cannot stop them all. I grieve for that.

What I do know is that the state plans to execute Willie Manning on May 7. And evidence remains untested. And that is wrong.

So I call on Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to stay Willie Manning’s execution and order DNA testing. I encourage you to do the same.

See you along the Trail.

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Governor Bryant – test the evidence

I do not believe in capital punishment. I believe the state should not kill. But, if the state does, then the state has an awesome responsibility. That includes being as certain as possible that no available evidence should go unexamined and untested.

In that spirit, I have asked Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to stay Willie Manning’s execution and order DNA testing of crime scene evidence. You can too.

The Innocence Project writes about the case:

Willie Manning is on death row in Mississippi, awaiting execution for the abduction and murder of two college students in 1992. He was convicted on circumstantial evidence, including the testimony of a jailhouse informant who had previously given a statement implicating another person. No physical evidence has ever linked Willie to the crime, and he has always maintained his innocence. He has been seeking DNA testing of crime scene evidence for years.

Incredibly, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that there is “overwhelming evidence of guilt,” so no DNA testing is needed. His execution has been set for May 7th. Eighteen men have been exonerated by DNA testing after being sentenced to death, including Kennedy Brewer of Mississippi. We are asking the Governor to stay the execution and order the DNA testing that will definitively prove Willie Manning’s guilt or innocence. Join us in calling on Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to stay Willie’s execution and order DNA testing!

My letter has gone. Will you send one?

See you along the Trail.

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Amnesty International: Execution set for man defended by law clerk

Amnesty International invites people to send appeals to the Governor of Mississippi on behalf of Michael Brawner who is scheduled to be executed on next Tuesday. Here are details on how to contact the Governor:

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 12 JUNE 2012 TO:
Governor of Mississippi
Governor Phil Bryant
PO Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205
Fax: 1 601 359 3741
Salutation: Dear Governor

And here is why Amnesty calls for this action (slightly adapted):

Michael Brawner is due to be executed in Mississippi on 12 June for a quadruple murder in 2001. His pre-trial representation was mostly conducted by a “law clerk” who had failed his state bar exam, and only became a practicing lawyer on the first day of the trial.

On 25 April 2001, 24-year-old Michael Brawner shot dead Barbara Brawner, from whom he had been divorced the  previous month, her parents, Jane and Carl Craft, and his four-year-old daughter, Candice Paige Brawner, at the Craft  home in rural northern Mississippi. He was arrested the following day at his fiancée’s apartment.

The trial judge appointed a lawyer for the indigent Michael Brawner, and appointed a “law clerk” to assist. This individual was a law school graduate who had failed his state bar exam. He managed to pass the exam in early 2002, and was admitted to the practice of law on 8 April 2002, the first day of the Brawner trial. The judge appointed him as co-counsel on the defense, and noted that he was “in court today for the first time as a lawyer”. According to Brawner’s current lawyers, it was the clerk who had handled the bulk of the pre-trial defense work. For example, he, not the lawyer,discussed with Michael Brawner the prosecution’s offer of a life-without-parole sentence in return for a guilty plea, which Brawner rejected, and advised Brawner on whether he should plead not guilty by reason of insanity (which was the plea eventually submitted). The only defense witness presented at the guilt phase was the defendant, with no expert evidence to support the insanity plea. After a three-day guilt phase, the jury deliberated for half an hour before finding Brawner guilty of four counts of capital murder.

The lead lawyer delegated the preparation of mitigating evidence to the clerk, but the latter’s time sheets indicate that he did no investigation to this end. Towards the end of the guilt phase of the trial, the lead lawyer asked the defendant (outside the jury’s presence): “Mr Brawner, do you wish me to try and get you ‘life’ or ‘life without parole’, if you are, in fact, found guilty of any of these counts by the jury? In other words, it’s what the lawyers call ‘put on a mitigation case’…”

The lawyer said that a psychologist was available to present mitigating evidence. However, she had been retained only to evaluate whether Brawner was competent to stand trial and sane at the time of the crime. In an affidavit in 2011 she said that she had never met or spoken to the lead lawyer, only to the clerk, and that the lawyer’s suggestion that she had been ready and willing to present mitigation was “simply not true”.

Michael Brawner responded that he did not want mitigation, saying, “I don’t feel that I deserve life to live”. This was surely not an informed decision if his lawyer was unaware of the range of mitigation evidence available and unable to advise him fully of his options. Evidence that could have been introduced at the sentencing included details of a childhood of severe  abuse, parental alcohol and drug abuse, and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Please write immediately:

  • Explaining that you are not seeking to excuse these murders or to downplay the suffering caused;
  • Expressing concern that Michael Brawner was in effect represented before his trial by a law clerk, not a lawyer;
  • Noting that his jury did not hear mitigating evidence of his severe childhood abuse and mental health problems;
  • Opposing the execution of Michael Brawner and calling on the governor to grant him clemency.

SEND APPEALS BEFORE 12 JUNE 2012 TO:
Governor of Mississippi
Governor Phil Bryant
PO Box 139
Jackson, MS 39205
Fax: 1 601 359 3741
Salutation: Dear Governor
Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after the above date.

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A reversal

Life can change in the twinkling of an eye – or at least very quickly some times.

On Monday, an attorney representing Edward Hart Turner had persuaded a U.S. District Court to block, temporarily, Turner’s execution. The argument did not dispute Turner’s guilt. Rather it focused on a Department of Corrections policy that apparently prevented Turner from getting tests about his mental health at the time of killings.

It appeared that the Mississippi would step back and determine if Turner was mentally ill before it decided if it would take his life.

Today things changed. Quickly. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the stay. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay the execution. The Governor of Mississippi refused a reprieve.

And Turner received a lethal injection this evening – 8 February 2012 – as scheduled.

Nothing can defend the brutal murders of Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry.

However, nothing can justify execution by the state of someone whose mental health, and ability to understand what they are doing, is in question.

See you along the Trail.

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Call for halt to stayed execution in Mississippi

Reuters reports that, on Monday,  a federal judge on Monday temporarily halted the scheduled execution of Edwin Hart Turner in Mississippi. The ruling  will allow attorneys to argue whether the state has improperly kept Turner from getting a psychiatric evaluation. The state was to execute Turner tomorrow – February 8.

The argument is not that Turner is innocent. He was convicted of killing Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry in two separate incidents in Carroll County,

The argument hinges on Turner’s mental health and whether the Mississippi Department of Corrections had improperly prevented a psychiatric evaluation of Turner. The argument goes on to say that information related to his mental health had not been presented during the trial.

His attorney argues that Turner has a “long and extensive” history of mental illness. He shot himself with a rifle when he was 18. He survived but suffered disfiguring wounds to his face.

According to the ACLU:

Courts have established that inmates who are insane – so out of touch with reality that they do not know right from wrong and cannot understand their punishment or the purpose of it – cannot be executed (Ford v. Wainwright ). The Supreme Court has also held that a mentally retarded individual cannot be executed (Atkins v. Virginia).

The court order postpones the execution until at least February 20.

If you live in Mississippi, you can contact the governor and ask him to halt Edwin Hart Turner’s execution.
The Hon. Phil Bryant
Governor of Mississippi
(601)359-3150

If, like me, you live elsewhere, you can sign a petition to Mississippi officials.

Calling for a halt to this execution in no way condones Turner’s acts. It does not diminish the deaths of Eddie Brooks and Everett Curry. It does not minimize the grief of those who love them.

It does say that the state – any state – should not kill – particularly someone who is mentally ill.

See you along the Trail.

 

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