Saturday, October 30, 2010

Flurry of media surrounding Anthony Graves exoneration

Rounding up coverage of Anthony Graves' exoneration, check out:
And of course, for the definitive history of the case, comparable in scope and import to David Grann's New Yorker piece on Todd Willingham, see Pam Colloff's "Innocence Lost" from the October issue of Texas Monthly and a short documentary video the magazine produced to accompany the story.

One thing that occurred to me this morning reviewing the coverage: It took a federal appellate court to overturn this conviction and order a new trial (see their order here) based on the extreme prosecutorial misconduct that's being alleged. Texas state appellate courts had already rubber-stamped Graves' death papers and would have sent him to the execution chamber by now, if they had their way.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your last point is an interesting one. The Supreme Court didn't always review death cases. There was a case very early in the 1900's in which a black man in Tennessee was wrongly convicted in a sham trial (not much different from the way many trials today go). He was convicted of a rape, which at that time was punisheable by death, especially when the alleged perpetrator was black and the victim was white. The man was sentenced to death and his attorneys persuaded the Supreme Court to hear the case. I think this was the first time the court agreed to review a case like that. The locals were incensed that the Supreme Court would dare to intervene in a local matter. While awaiting the courts decision, a mob broke the man out of jail and hung him from a bridge. He was legally exonerated by a court in 2000 (I think). It took almost 100 years to clear his name.

Imagine if the Supreme Court did not review death cases.

It also amazes me how, so often, we fail to learn from the past. I like Justice Scalia, although i don't always agree with him. His statement about there being no proof that an innocent person has ever been executed was......unwise, I think. Think about the case I described above. This man was sentenced to death, and back then these sentences were usually carried out quickly. Had the Supreme Court not intervened, there is no question the state would have executed him. (He was ulimtately executed by a mob instead of the state. I'm not sure there's much difference). Looking at this case, it is extremely likely, given the lack of review and safeguards, as well as issues of racial prejudice and sham trials, especially for minorities, that a few innocent people were executed. Yet, if you look at the Willingham case, it is clear we have failed, once again, to learn from history. I'm not trying restart the debate about Willinghma's guilt or innocence. But, it is clear that there is some question and everyone should be willing to take a look at the case and try to learn from it. Or, will it be another 100 years before we are willing to do that?

The other thing the case I described always makes me wonder is: how many people today would participate in a lynch mob, if given the chance?

Atticus said...

Statistically speaking, federal court review of state court criminal convictions does not exist outside of death penalty cases. You covered this recently in an article discussing habeas corpus.

Even in death penalty cases, the Anthony Graves cases are so rare as to be nearly meaningless on a practical level. Which is not to say that the lawyers' efforts on his behalf were anything other than heroic.

Beyond that federal courts, while they are another shot at relief, suffer from the same pro-government bias that afflicts every other court and judge.

You might take a look at my posting today about a speech by Judge Jacobs of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, if you're not otherwise too busy.

strikelawyer.wordpress.com

kay sieverding said...

Well I wasn't on death row and I don't have a criminal record but I would like to be exonerated of a federal record for "5005 civil contempt". The feds held me for 5 months without a criminal charge or an arraignment or bail hearing. I was accused of filing papers in a federal civil court proceeding without hiring a lawyer. DOJ imprisoned me so Lloyds of London wouldn't have to pay anything if I won my civil case against the City of Steamboat Springs CO et al. There isn't a federal law for 5005 civil contempt, they just made that up. 5005 is a wild card used in the Warrant Information Network and the Prisoner Tracking System. 5005 lets the computers run without a recognized charge. The feds don't care about the Nondetention Act or the Administrative Procedure Act. I think it had to do with the U.S. Marshals providing a guard and driver 24/7 to former federal judge Naughty Nottingham. I guess the Marshals wanted to go with judge Naughty to the Denver Players brothel.

zeety said...

I'm just glad Mr. Graves was fortunate enough to get justice. This might just as easily have turned in to another Todd Willingham thing with Guv Goodhair calling him a monster and Bradley babbling on about "New York Lawyers" and other such nonsense.

Graves very easily could have been executed, and at that point it would have been all but impossible to raise any issue at all to his innocence. And that's what these doucebags want, kill them as fast as you can and put an end to any ability to question due process.

Fucking Taliban, they are no better than the nutbag extremists who want to blow us all up.

Don Dickson said...

I just have this awful feeling that if Anthony Graves had been sentenced to life instead of death, he'd still be in prison.

How many of THOSE do you figure are out there?

Anonymous said...

Atticus: Where are you getting your statistics from? I only handle capital habeas cases in federal court, but in my research I come across what seems to me to be an humungous number of non-capital cases - most of them dinged early on because the pro se litigants don't meet the statute of limitations, or make other procedural mistakes. So it may true enough to say that the number of non-capital cases that get merits review is tiny, but the dockets seem pretty full regardless. Do you have links to Administrative Office of U.S. Courts stats?

Thanks.

Hook Em Horns said...

There are those who suggest that Graves exoneration is "proof that the system works." Actually, it is proof that the system is fatally flawed and in need of serious reform. As long as Texans continue to live with either there heads in the sand, or gobbling up the constant "tough on crime" crap that we are fed over and over again, this will continue.

Anthony Graves is the tip of the iceberg and while a lot of us KNOW this, we feel powerless to do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

"It took a federal appellate court to overturn this conviction and order a new trial (see their order here) based on the extreme prosecutorial misconduct that's being alleged. Texas state appellate courts had already rubber-stamped Graves' death papers and would have sent him to the execution chamber by now, if they had their way."

I take the broader point about the feds being less queasy about overturning convictions, but are you suggesting that Sebesta's Brady issues were ever before the Texas appellate courts?

Hook Em Horns said...

Don Dickson said...

I just have this awful feeling that if Anthony Graves had been sentenced to life instead of death, he'd still be in prison.

How many of THOSE do you figure are out there?

10/31/2010 10:32:00 AM
----------------------------------
Don, when I hear honorable folks, such as yourself, lend credence to the fact that there are serious problems in the Texas justice system, it gives me some hope but makes me sick at the same time.

Your point about life v. death is pretty apparent and I agree with your premise. The Innocence Project estimates that there could be "thousands" of inmates, wrongfully convicted. This is, of course, conjecture based on statistics and a formula they have come up with.

Suffice to say that our elected leaders would much rather this go away (by throwing money at the exonerees) than actually doing anything about it, at least so far.

Don said...

to "hook'em" That's exactly what I thought when the Guv said that very thing in Lubbock. I almost dropped my teeth. Sitting for decades on Death Row when you are innocent is proof that the system works? Holy Shit!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, can you please find me the case you are talking about. I would really appreciate it!