Letters: Release repeal bill from Judiciary Committee, and State has no right to execute while bias exists

Thank you to Connie Jones and Joanne Cabry for raising their voices asking for fair and appropriate behavior on the part of our legislators and courts:

On Fri, Apr 25, 2014, Connie Jones’ letter was published in the Coastal Point:

Editor:
It’s time to let the House of Representatives vote on repealing the death penalty.
Senate Bill 19 calls for the repeal of the death penalty. After passing the Senate, the bill was placed in the House Judiciary Committee in March 2013, and there it remains because there are not sufficient committee members willing to vote to release it. The vote was 6 to 5, according to one representative.
I believe committee members who voted against releasing SB 19 should explain why they are blocking their fellow representatives from voting on this very important bill. Perhaps they could also explain why the criteria for releasing a bill are different in the House and the Senate? In March 2013, the Senate Executive Committee determined it was ready and appropriate to release the bill to the full Senate for a vote. Yet the House committee has had the bill tabled for over a year.
A representative has the right to vote against repeal of the death penalty, but the place to cast that vote is on the House floor, not in a committee hearing.
Connie Jones
Lewes

 

On Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 10:23 PM, Joanne Cabry <jcabry@gmail.com> wrote:
Delaware State News 04/25/2014, Page A06

Justice for all — who can afford it

Two recent news stories have strengthened my conviction that we must repeal capital punishment in Delaware.

In January, prosecutors opened a sealed envelope from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Wilmington during a drug-prosecution case in Kent County and discovered Oxycontin pills had been replaced with blood-pressure medicine. [“Police probe drug evidence tampering,” article, Feb. 22, and subsequent articles.] Since then, over 60 cases of tainted evidence have been discovered, and there are thousands of drug samples from 2010 to the present yet to be tested.

I have heard over and over again that we don’t execute innocent people in Delaware. How can anyone say that with certainty – especially in light of the ongoing investigation of massive contamination of evidence in the Medical Examiner’s office? Judges and prosecutors are humans, subject to the same human frailties we all possess. We all make mistakes.

I have also heard the argument that we have a legal system that protects the defendant. Sadly, I think the reality is we have a legal system that protects the defendants who can afford to pay for their own defense.

In June 2008, a state prosecutor offered Robert Richards IV a plea to a single count of fourth- degree rape of his 3-year- old daughter, which carries no mandatory time. Richards accepted, admitting in court that he abused his child. Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, at the recommendation of the prosecution, suspended an eight-year prison sentence and sentenced Richards to a treatment program for sex offenders. [“Legal brethren back judge in du Pont heir sentencing,” article, April 9] Richards’ attorney commented, “It was more than reasonable, an enlightened plea offer.” As a multimillionaire, Richards could afford to hire a private attorney to defend him. Even though I disagree with the decision of Judge Jan Jurden, who has been described as “an outstanding jurist” by Delaware’s attorney general and a number of lawyers and their professional organizations, I acknowledge Robert Richards’ right to use his financial resources to engage a lawyer or legal team to get him the best deal possible.

But the vast majority of capital defendants don’t have Robert Richards’ money. An article in the National Law Journal concluded that capital trials are “more like a random flip of the coin than a delicate balancing of scales,” because the defense attorney is “too often … ill-trained, unprepared [and] grossly underpaid.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has observed that “People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty … I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve- of- execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial.”

Study after study has shown that whether or not a defendant will be sentenced to death depends more on the quality of his legal team than any other factor.

Until we can change the sad reality that a person’s wealth determines the quality of his or her defense, and until we can say humans never make mistakes, the state has no right to execute a human being.

Joanne Cabry
Chair, Progressive Democrats of Sussex County Rehoboth Beach

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