Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Send the U.S. Justice Department to North Carolina

In The NY Times today:

The release of the third death row inmate in six months in North Carolina last week is raising fresh questions about whether states are supplying capital-murder defendants with adequate counsel, even as an execution on Tuesday night in Georgia ended a seven-month national suspension.

In all three cases, North Carolina appeals courts found that evidence that would have favored the defendants was withheld from defense lawyers by prosecutors or investigators. In two of the cases, including that of Levon Jones, who was released on Friday after 14 years on death row, the courts said the defendants’ lawyers had failed to mount an adequate defense. Nationwide, Mr. Jones’s release was the sixth in a year.

John Holdridge, director of the A.C.L.U. Capital Punishment Project, which provided representation for Mr. Jones, said the successful appeals showed that the problem with the death penalty was not the method of execution — the issue ruled on by the Supreme Court last month — but instead “poor people getting lousy lawyers.”

“All these states are gearing up to start executing people again, and nobody seems to be concerned about these systemic problems,” Mr. Holdridge said. …
The rest of the story’s here.

Attorney and Fox News’ On The Record’s Greta Van Susteren reacts at her Greta Wire blog:

It is time to send the United States Department of Justice into North Carolina…and prosecutors who are withholding evidence need to have the full force of the law coming down on them.

…..for the 3rd time in 6 months, a death row inmate in North Carolina (yes, death row!!!) was released because of misconduct…..the courts having found, according to the NY Times linked below, that evidence that would have favored the defendants was withheld from defense lawyers by prosecutors and investigators.

Many of you were flipped out to learn about former prosecutor Nifong ….and to think the penalty in the Duke Lacrosse case was “merely” about 30 years in prison!! This is DEATH. Something is very, very, very wrong with the North Carolina state system and the US Justice Department needs to investigate it now.

The Justice Department should not turn its back on going after prosecutors who withhold evidence.


I don't know what's worse: that such disgraceful and possibly criminal activity by prosecutors and investigators goes on in the first place; or that most of North Carolina's political and judicial leaders have for years reacted to the kind of news we read today with what amounts to: "Gee, yes, that's awful. A stain on the old Tar Heel State. Now can we go back to business as usual?"

It's past time that North Carolina's Democratic Governor Mike Easley and its Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper joined with our Republican U.S. Senators Elizabeth Dole and Robert Barr to publicly call for the kind of investigation Van Susteren's calling for.

To his credit, Cooper did call for a Justice Department investigation into the Duke frame-up attempt but was turned down.

Hat tip: Archer 05


Anonymous said...

Seeing the absolute lack of concern by our elected officials, state and federal, for issues such as this makes me ashamed to be a Tarheel. I have asked both United States Senators, my own State Senator, and one of the Republican gubernatorial candidates to speak out about the grand jury system that allowed indictments to be returned based on bald-faced lies by two police officers who have been proven to be serial perjurers. So far, no response from any of them. One of them, Liddy Dole, proved she didn't even know what had occured in her own state! This is not a partisan issue--Democrat and Republican alike are clueless. And I guess asking the U.S. Justice Department to give a rat's a$$ is too much, too. Is it any wonder nobody trusts government any more?
Tarheel Hawkeye

Anonymous said...

John -

Where were all those "liberals" in the Duke lacrosse case? While the accused were not going to be on death row, thirty years can be a slow death. As for the US Justice Department, it continues to disappoint. It can go after Scooter Libby for a non-crime, but it sees nothing wrong when DA's frame innocent victims.

Jack in Silver Spring

f1guyus said...

And the sooner the better, with a broad mandate to investigate misconduct by all elected and appointed NC officials. Got to start somewhere.

Anonymous said...

The Justice Dept. will race to investigate a suspected hate crime almost anywhere;
but nothing in the world can get it to investigate Durham.

I'm disillusioned, disappointed, and disgusted.