Georgia to execute man whose actively alcoholic lawyer botched his case


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Well, knock me over with a feather.


Cue “If you don’t want to do the time…”

We have a legal system more concerned with protecting itself, police, prosecutors, and finality than with protecting the innocent. We have a legal philosophy based on “retributive justice,” which is a fancy word for revenge, and sometimes indiscriminate revenge. We have institutionalized protections for the police and for powerful, but nothing for the powerless. We have cases where police brutality victims have been publically assassinated while bringing police brutality lawsuits.


But hey, at least they’re tough on crime.


While the article is good, the headline “This Man Is About to Die Because an Alcoholic Lawyer Botched His Case” hurts. (Not boingboing’s fault).

Sure, a halfway competent defense might have prevented the sentence.

But no matter what else went wrong, this man is going to get murdered because Georgia engages in the barbaric practice of state-sanctioned revenge killings. I know I should maybe use more neutral or diplomatic language, but I can’t find it in me.

To me, it’s like saying someone was mugged/raped/murdered at night because the street lights were out. It might not have happened in a well-lit place, and surely the lights should be fixed, but blaming the guy who was supposed to fix the lights is tasteless. A crime remains the criminal’s fault, even if someone could have and should have prevented it.

A related question: Statistics says that if only 10% of the population are opposed to the death penalty, more than 70% of all randomly selected juries would never be able to unanimously recommend the death sentence. With 30% against capital punishment, that number goes up to 98.6%. How is it that juries still vote for the death penalty?
I must be overlooking some important factor.


Does the jury decide on the death sentence? Don’t they just decide guilt, then the judge applies a sentence? The jury should just go for jury nullification every time if the death penalty is applicable.


I must be overlooking some important factor.

Indeed you are!


Wow. Just… wow.

I never had I high opinion of the US legal system to begin with (Common Law + Adversarial System + Plea Bargaining + Excessively Long Prison Terms + Death Penalty), but this…

It’s mind-boggling. The constitution says “impartial jury”, and it’s interpreted to mean that the jury is pre-screened by political opinion (and thus indirectly by age, religion and race, but that seams unimportant by comparison).

And it’s not just any kind of political opinion, it’s a political opinion that will get you ostracized from polite society here in Europe.

(takes a deep breath)

How does this voir dire process work? Are potential jurors obliged to tell the truth when asked directly whether they would consider the death penalty? Is it allowed to infer people’s stance on the death penalty from other questions? (“Which party did you vote for?”, “Where were you born?”, “Where are your parents from?”, “Do you believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God?”)


FOR PURPOSES OF FOLLOW-UP: The morning of Monday, December 8 will see The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles convening to hear Robert Holsey’s final appeal. Their ruling to either commute or uphold the death sentence will presumably be made public prior to the execution currently scheduled for December 9.

Given that Georgia’s judiciary has allowed such a profoundly unconscionable sentence to be upheld this long, I’m not confident in any “presumptions” which hinge upon rational thought or reasonably justifiable behavior.

The scheduling of this execution was made possible by a separate (May 19, 2014) Georgia State Supreme Court ruling which extends a “confidential state secret” classification to:

  • the individual constituents used in any lethal injection compound
  • the manufacturer(s) of these constituent components
  • any processor sourcing &/or combining constituent components of the lethal compound

Perverse rulings such as these strip any aspirational context once found in the maxim “Justice is blind.” The phrase remains then, re-cast & infused with garish, hideously offensive connotations; now more “blinded” rather than “blind.”


Yup. I didn’t know this was an acknowledged legal concept (just thought jury selection allowed a wide latitude in who could be rejected).

But I was once disqualified from serving on a jury, apparently for this very reason.


Every time I find myself in the local courthouse dealing with tickets or jury duty, I wander into the courtrooms to get a glimpse of how justice really happens.

The most sickening thing I ever saw was watching the public defender who couldn’t remember the names or any of the details of his “clients” just going through the motions to keep the sausage factory humming. The legalese was spinning so fast that it was impossible for an outsider to understand, and the prisoners were just agreeing to everything asked of them because you don’t want to piss off the sausage king (judge). After a few minutes of saying “yes master”, they are arraigned with bails they can’t afford, returned to jail to spend weeks or months waiting for everyone to figure out a court date when none of them are on the golf course.

Then I go to other courtrooms where people are represented by competent paid counsel, and it’s just night and day difference. Bail is negotiated down to a fair amount during negotiations the are subtle and nuanced, and can take a half hour or more.

Before I did this I figured justice is blind so I might as well try and represent myself, but after seeing how the sausage is made it is clear that I’ll pay whatever the lawyers ransom is to keep me out of that machine.


The lesson here is, if you’re a prospective jury member, and you’re asked if you support the death penalty, lie.

Then just come up with some other reason to dig in your heels.


What does it take for a condemned person to win a resentencing?

Enough money to afford a real lawyer. Then again a person with those kinds of resources likely wouldn’t need a resentencing. What I find even more disturbing, though, is this:

The court provided money for this, but Prince was unable to account for where it went.

Aside from Prince’s other extracurricular activities how is it that someone who takes money for a specific purpose and is unable to account for it keeps his job? Probably because there’s a shortage of public defenders, and the court can’t afford to hire an auditor.


Public Defenders are often not the cream of the crop, and most of them bust their balls trying to do what they can, but their caseload is insane. Spending the time to do a case right means that a dozen other clients will get no relief at all…

I noted in a thread some months ago that the best thing we could do is force DAs and PDs to work from the same pool, so that (a) they actually have to see (and engage in) the unfairness in what sometimes the job requires and (b) see that “convictions” (or plea bargains) can overlap – but are not hardly always coextensive – with justice.


For only some values of “crime”, unfortunately.


Georgia’s death penalty is just modern day lynching. Georgia kills innocent people on death row. Now if only there was a president who cared about civil rights like Kennedy or Johnson.

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Now, now, that’s totally unfair.

You’re only allowed to complain about lynching if someone suggests that a white cop should be investigated and possibly prosecuted after killing a civilian.

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I wouldn’t lie [and here’s what I’d do]. I would say that the whole criminal system is built on returning evil for evil, and as a Christian I’m against that, and that killing anyone is murder, and that the death penalty isn’t one of those defensible cases like self-defense, and that the criminal system often ensnares innocents. I wouldn’t be likely to get on the jury anyway but at least this would be awkward for those who do.


I would totally lie to save a life.

Pretty thoroughly disinclined to lie otherwise, though

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To clarify:

I would lie to save a life, if I thought I could save a life, but I wouldn’t be likely to get on the jury anyway, so it would probably be more effective for me to sow doubt in the jury pool than to try to get on the jury. I would have a hard time keeping track of the necessary lies under pressure and under flourescent lights anyway: “no, I think this whole system is perfectly legitimate,” “no, I have nothing against state-sanctioned murder,” “no, I have never had trouble with cops such as being beaten and gassed to the point that I thought I was going to die for peacefully protesting against the ongoing wars, and such as other things I’d rather not talk about,” etc.