This post isn’t really about social media sex secrets for lawyers. I don’t even know one. But experience teaches that three things sell online: sex, social media, and lists.
This post is about Hank Skinner. Hank is going to be executed in about four hours unless Governor Perry or the U.S. Supreme Court grants a reprieve. The chances of that are somewhere between slim and none.
I am not morally opposed to the death penalty. I recognize that “thou shalt not kill” is not a rule that can always be practically followed. There might be people who cannot be deterred or incapacitated by a lesser penalty. If we could ensure that only such people were executed, I would not oppose the death penalty.
But the mere possibility that factually innocent people might be executed is a deal-breaker for me. Death is different than other penalties, and we should be certain before imposing it.
Guilt, in death penalty cases, is determined by a death-qualified jury. A death-qualified jury is, by definition, not a representative subset of society. It is selected for bloodthirstiness. Once this jury has decided that a person is guilty and deserves killing, that decision is not reviewed. The legal rulings of the trial judge are reviewed, as are the performance of counsel and the conduct of the prosecution. But unless evidence of factual innocence shows ineffective assistance, prosecutorial misconduct, or some other Constitutional violation, it will not save a person from execution.
Whether you are a fan or a foe of the death penalty, you should favor the untested material being tested. Either it puts the final nails in Skinner’s coffin (as the DA thought it would), it shows nothing material, or it raises doubt about the identity of the killer. In any case, it’s better to know that all of the facts are known.
(Actually, death penalty foes might not want the untested material tested. Two out of three of the possible results are unhelpful to death penalty abolition. But they should press for it to be tested—fight like hell and hope to lose.)
Sure, it requires some delay, but Hank Skinner and his lawyers didn’t just start asking for the untested DNA evidence in his case to be tested. He’s been asking for a long time. This is not a tactic to merely delay his execution.
And feel free to publicize this post just as widely as you would one that contained a list of ten social media sex secrets for lawyers.