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Author Topic: When Prosecutors have Tunnel Vision: Why the Death Penalty can be flawed Back to Topics
RNorm

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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2014 2:35:32 PM

"HOUSTON — Anthony Graves survived 18 years in prison for murders he did not commit, a dozen of those years on death row, where he was twice scheduled for execution.

On Wednesday, Graves stood defiant outside a courthouse in a blue pinstripe suit with several state lawmakers and announced that the State Bar of Texas would be investigating his complaint against the prosecutor who convicted him, Charles Sebesta.

“Give us justice,” said Graves, 48, of Houston.

The announcement was the latest salvo in a legal battle that the two men have been fighting for two decades.

Sebesta, 73, the former district attorney in rural Burleson County, about 100 miles northwest of Houston, has defended his record and insists that despite Graves’ exoneration, he is guilty.

“They’re bringing in politicians, members of the Legislature, in an attempt to intimidate the state bar,” Sebesta said Wednesday. “This matter’s over.”

Some legal experts do not agree with that assessment, including members of the state prosecutors' association.

Two years ago, the Texas District and County Attorneys Assn. issued a report that found errors in the Graves case that raised “serious questions about prosecutor misconduct,” including “tunnel vision on the part of the prosecutor” who focused on Graves early on and “stuck to that initial conclusion in the face of many contradictory circumstances.”

The state bar will now decide whether Sebesta committed misconduct.

Graves was convicted in 1994 of killing a 45-year-old woman, her 16-year-old daughter and four grandchildren in a single stoplight town about 90 miles northwest of Houston in 1992. The victims were variously beaten, stabbed, strangled and shot.

The sole witness to the crime, Robert Carter, was also charged and initially implicated Graves, but later recanted.

Sebesta said he did not withhold a statement from Carter, and that it was the job of Graves’ attorney to question Carter more closely.

Both Carter and Graves were convicted. Carter was executed in 2000. Sebesta retired the same year.

Graves appealed. In 2006, his conviction was set aside by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the prosecutor not only withheld evidence that would have helped Graves, but that he also encouraged witnesses to commit perjury. Four years later, the new district attorney dismissed the charges and declared Graves innocent."



Exonerated death row inmate takes on his former prosecutor in Texas


[Edited by: RNorm at 3/6/2014 2:37:10 PM EST]
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RNorm
Champion Author San Bernardino

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Message Posted: Mar 13, 2014 2:25:01 AM

"How many of those were convicted after the mid 1990's when DNA evidence started being used?


A lot.
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hero4hire
Champion Author Chicago

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Message Posted: Mar 13, 2014 2:08:48 AM

I agree with the point made in the opening comment, and, that is at the least - very unfortunate that prosecutors have tunnel vision (for the most part) instead of seeking out the truth and justice.
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johnnyg1200
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Message Posted: Mar 13, 2014 1:54:02 AM

<<<<<<<<Since 1973, there have been over 140 Death Row inmates exonerated...I'm not going to flood the thread with all of their stories, but simply state that there are more innocent people who are eventually exonerated than there are guilty people who get out (for whatever reason) and commit the same crime(s).<<<<<<

How many of those were convicted after the mid 1990's when DNA evidence started being used?
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johnnyg1200
Champion Author St. Louis

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Message Posted: Mar 13, 2014 1:52:25 AM

As I have stated many times, the death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst and only when the issue of guilt is not in question. Since the advent of DNA evidence the chance of a guilty person being convicted has been drastically reduced. But it has only been in use since the mid 1990's. It has exonerated may people, and that's a good thing. But the animals that prey on the rest of us and are caught with no doubt of guilt need to be put down.


One current case that is working its way through the courts in Missouri is the abduction of a 10 year old girl who was abducted and shot in the back of the head. She was found in the suspect's basement, he was driving the truck that matched the one she was pulled into including the license plate number. The suspect matched the description given of the man who abducted her including his beard and cloths down to the baseball cap. It took law enforcement less than two hours to find the body of the little girl thanks to help from the public. But it still wasn't fast enough.

His guilt is not in question. The only question is what sentence he will get. The only work the prosecutor will have to do is convince a jury of the need to end this animal's life before he can kill again. If he does kill again I blame the people who gave him the chance to do it again. But I don't think he will get that chance. Child killers have a notoriously short life expectancy in prison.

This is the type of person and case I believe in the death penalty for.
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RNorm
Champion Author San Bernardino

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Message Posted: Mar 13, 2014 12:57:10 AM

Since 1973, there have been over 140 Death Row inmates exonerated...I'm not going to flood the thread with all of their stories, but simply state that there are more innocent people who are eventually exonerated than there are guilty people who get out (for whatever reason) and commit the same crime(s).
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johnnyg1200
Champion Author St. Louis

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Message Posted: Mar 13, 2014 12:30:00 AM

This one was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1982. The conviction was overturned on appeal and with a plea deal he got 2nd degree murder and a 20 sentence. In 1989 he escaped and killed again in killed again. Jeffrey Landrigan
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johnnyg1200
Champion Author St. Louis

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Message Posted: Mar 12, 2014 11:49:27 PM

Why was this person not executed for his first murder much less released. Murderer on parole kills again .
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johnnyg1200
Champion Author St. Louis

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Message Posted: Mar 12, 2014 11:43:34 PM

Now this is what happens when we don’t keep killers in jail or put them down. Convicted killer released on parole now being sought again for murder
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johnnyg1200
Champion Author St. Louis

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Message Posted: Mar 12, 2014 11:36:44 PM

As with my examples of death row inmates that killed again your examples of death row exonerations are also from about the same time.
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sgm4law
Champion Author Maryland

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Message Posted: Mar 12, 2014 2:26:26 PM

Another one.
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mnrick041
Champion Author Twin Cities

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Message Posted: Mar 8, 2014 8:23:48 PM

johnnyg1200, we need to note that all of your examples there involved people originally convicted and sentenced to death a very long time ago. Most every state had much more lenient sentencing and parole laws than they do in this day and age. Each of these people was sentenced to death and then when that sentence got vacated they were re sentenced under whatever laws were in effect at the time their crime was committed.

Life without parole was not even a option in Minnesota or most other states back in the 50's or 60's. In many States you could get life and be out in a matter of years if you were a good boy in there. Now days in most States life means life, even in liberal Minnesota if you got a life sentence anytime since the mid 90's you are doing life without a chance of parole.
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sgm4law
Champion Author Maryland

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Message Posted: Mar 8, 2014 10:50:21 AM

We have strayed far from the origins of our legal system (as stated by Blackstone, long ago):

"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."
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RNorm
Champion Author San Bernardino

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Message Posted: Mar 8, 2014 7:16:39 AM

"Now how do you feel about this one?"


I'm pretty sure there are more people who have been wrongly convicted and put on death row than there are people who are on death row and guilty who get out of prison on some legal technicality. That is why Illinois simply eliminated the death penalty in their state and that is why Texas has more death row inmates found innocent than any other state.
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johnnyg1200
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Message Posted: Mar 7, 2014 10:05:56 PM

And here’s a fourth one.

Robert Lee MASSIE

He was sentenced to death in 1965, but the sentence was commuted to Life by Furman in 1972.

Massie was paroled in 1978 and murdererd liquor store owner during armed robbery 8 months later. Pled guilty and was again sentenced to death.
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johnnyg1200
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Message Posted: Mar 7, 2014 9:58:19 PM

And here’s a third one.

Paroled Sex Killer Strikes Again, Gets Death Penalty for the Third Time
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johnnyg1200
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Message Posted: Mar 7, 2014 9:56:44 PM

Just so you don’t think only one person has been released after a death penalty was over turned went on to kill again.

Former death row inmate kills mom
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johnnyg1200
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Message Posted: Mar 7, 2014 9:41:00 PM

I will agree with you that there can be prosecutors who put a conviction before the truth and justice. I have already explained how I feel about that.

Now how do you feel about this one?

McDuff was first convicted for raping and murdering three teenagers on August 6, 1966 — Robert Brand, Mark Dunman, and Edna Louis Sullivan — a crime that became popularly known as the Broomstick Murders. His partner, 17-year-old Roy Dale Green, was sentenced to four months house arrest and five years probation. Although McDuff was sentenced to death, the sentence was overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court abolished capital punishment in 1972. He served life with the possibility of parole.
Due to extremely crowded Texas prisons, McDuff was paroled in 1989. Upon release McDuff was arrested on a series of parole violations, but he was never locked up for any substantial length of time until he was arrested for the murder of a 22-year-old Texan woman, Melissa Ann Northrup, in 1992. He was implicated in at least three other murders. After being released, he got a job at a gas station making $4 an hour and took a class, at Texas State Technical College in Waco. One year after he left his job at a gas station and dropped out of TSTC, he began killing again.
He is suspected of killing up to nine other people after his death penalty was overturned and he was released. He didn’t just kill these women he raped, beat, and tortured them. If his death penalty had been carried out at least nine women would still be alive, at least one of them was pregnant when she was killed.
Kenneth Allen McDUFF
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RNorm
Champion Author San Bernardino

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Message Posted: Mar 7, 2014 11:22:41 AM

"This is what happens in a system where there is more emphasis on winning than there is on learning the truth. When prosecutors will lie, coerce witnesses and hide/destroy evidence just to not lose a case we have a serious problem with our courts."


Bingo and Boom!

This is more common in TEXAS than in any other state. And in fact, Texas DID Execute an innocent man, Todd Willingham, in 2004 and evidence in that case is STILL being discovered that showed he was innocent and prosecutorial misconduct as well:


In the 10 years since Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham after convicting him on charges of setting his house on fire and murdering his three young daughters, family members and death penalty opponents have argued that he was innocent. Now newly discovered evidence suggests that the prosecutor in the case may have concealed a deal with a jailhouse informant whose testimony was a key part of the execution decision.

[Edited by: RNorm at 3/7/2014 11:24:01 AM EST]
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therder
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Message Posted: Mar 7, 2014 6:35:06 AM

johnnyg1200:>>But the recent death penalty case appeals have revolved around the method of execution, not guilt.<<

In Wilkerson v. Utah,(1878), the Supreme Court stated that death by firing squad was not cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The other states besides Utah and Oklahoma should stop delaying executions because of arguments about the drugs used. Hand out bullets and put these murderers down or start using the electric chair again.

[Edited by: therder at 3/7/2014 6:35:26 AM EST]
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johnnyg1200
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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2014 10:54:19 PM

>>>>>Thanks to the appeals process, several found guilty 20 years ago, with technology today not available then, have been cleared of murder. I would rather the process be drawn out than have one innocent person put to death.<<<<<

I agree with you 100%. But the recent death penalty case appeals have revolved around the method of execution, not guilt.

Death-row inmate Christopher Sepulvado was granted a 90-day stay of execution today, just two days before he was set to be killed with a new, controversial combination of lethal-injection drugs.

Georgia high court hears arguments in Warren Hill stay of execution case

His lawyers filed a last-minute appeal, saying the state ought to disclose the compounding pharmacy that would provide the lethal injection drug.

Attorneys for Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor have asked a federal court for a stay of execution, citing concerns about the drugs Missouri plans to use.

In none of these cases is guilt even a question.
The only question is the comfort of animals who butchered human beings. In most of these cases the victims suffered far more than the killer will.
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jayrad1957
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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2014 10:18:31 PM

"which means the death penalty today is far less likely to be applied to an innocent man than it was 20 years ago"

Thanks to the appeals process, several found guilty 20 years ago, with technology today not available then, have been cleared of murder. I would rather the process be drawn out than have one innocent person put to death.
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mudtoe
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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2014 9:52:13 PM

It does happen once in a while, although as the technology of criminal forensics gets better and better, the number of mistakes continues to decline, which means the death penalty today is far less likely to be applied to an innocent man than it was 20 years ago, and 20 years from now the chances of an innocent man being executed will be far less likely than it is today.


mudtoe
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johnnyg1200
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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2014 9:36:14 PM

I will first say that I am a strong supporter of the death penalty. I think the penalty is not used often enough and the appeals process has been subverted in an attempt to get a de facto ban on executions. Once a person is found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death it should not take twenty years to execute the sentence.

Now having said that I believe the death penalty should be used only in cases where guilt is not in any question.

For example we just executed an animal in Missouri. He walked in to a jewelry store using a fake name, asked to see some engagement rings, then shot the owners wife twice. As she lay on the floor pretending to be dead she had to watch as her husband was shot and killed while begging for his life telling the thief to take whatever he wanted just stop. This low life scum then stole jewelry including the jewely the woman was wearing including the wedding ring he had to take off her hand. This dirt bag was caught fifteen minutes later with the jewelry, including the woman’s wedding ring. The gun was found on the road between the shooting and the location where he was pulled over. The gun was matched to the bullets recovered from the victims.

Guilt was never in question. The only appeal of the death penalty was based on this scum bags comfort as he was put to sleep. For me a bullet to the back of the head is better than he deserves.

Now that you know how I feel I will also say that any and I mean any prosecutor misconduct that hides or falsifies evidence in a capital punishment case should result in a life sentence for the prosecutor and anyone else involved. These slaps on the wrist for prosecutors and law enforcement that are caught dirty or corrupt need to end. At the very least the prosecutor needs to spend as much time in prison as the person falsely convicted served. Now I understand mistakes can happen but intentionally courting or hiding evidence is different.

The Duke Lacrosse case is a prime example. The prosecutor should have gone to jail.
If the accusations of hiding evidence or encouraging witnesses to perjure themselves is true this prosecutor also needs to spend a long time in jail and lose his pension.
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mnrick041
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Message Posted: Mar 6, 2014 7:18:47 PM

This is what happens in a system where there is more emphasis on winning than there is on learning the truth. When prosecutors will lie, coerce witnesses and hide/destroy evidence just to not lose a case we have a serious problem with our courts.

I have long been against the death penalty in all cases. There is no reason for it and we would be a better country without it. The application of the death penalty is arbitrary and serves no deterrent value.

It is cheaper to incarcerate a person for however long the rest of their life is than it is to run a death penalty trial and all the appeals that follow.

For those who will say there should be no appeals I say as long as there are cases like this there has to be.

People who try to defend the death penalty by saying "what if they kill another person in prison?" are full of it. Most of you are the same people who rant about inmates getting decent medical care, their food is too good, they don't deserve this or that and so on. You do not care about them so don't pretend now.

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