Friday, October 22, 2010

Exonerated prisoners campaign against the death penalty:

Two men who spent a combined total of nearly 35 years on death row for crimes they didn't commit are now campaigning to help others who may be facing similar fates.
Working directly with Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CADP), Derrick Jamison and Shabaka WaQlimi said in an interview interviewed this week with David Sirota on Colorado’s Progressive Radio AM 760 that they are hoping to raise awareness about wrongful convictions and the likelihood that states across the country may be preparing to execute innocent people. The exonerees are staunch critics of the death penalty in general -- with good reason -- are currently on a nationwide tour to draw attention to their cases.
Derrick Jamison spent 20 years on death row in the state of Ohio before being cleared of all original charges in 2005. His case in 1985 had all the features of a typical wrongful conviction: unreliable eyewitness testimony, withheld evidence and a codefendant who testified against Jamison in exchange for a sweet plea deal. In initial photo lineups, one witness to the robbery and murder that Jamison was ultimately convicted of didn’t choose Jamison out of a photo lineup. Instead, he chose two other men.
Shabaka WaQlimi, formerly known as Joseph Green Brown, came within 14 hours of being executed before a stay was issued. He had spent 13 years on death row in Florida, the state currently leading the nation in wrongful convictions. What he believed to be his final three weeks were spent just 30 feet from the execution chamber in what’s known as the “death watch cell." He had been measured for the suit he would be buried in, though he refused to order the “final meal."
Mr. WaQlimi was accused of robbing, raping, and murdering the co owner of a Tampa clothing store, Earlene Barksdale, a woman who also happened to be the wife of a prominent area attorney. Again, like Jamison’s case, WaQlimi’s hinged on unreliable testimony and withheld evidence. The prosecution’s star witness had a personal vendetta against WaQlimi for a former robbery case and the jury never did hear expert testimony that would have shown the suspected murder weapon could not have been used in the commission of the crime. Despite the witness later admitting his lie, appellate courts offered WaQlimi no relief. It wasn’t until an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecution had purposefully allowed false testimony at trial that the stay of execution was signed—less than a day before his execution.
The men aren’t bitter—only motivated. They also aren’t blind to the things which put them on death row and make some observations that even some legal experts, lawmakers, and politicians still refuse to see. When asked whether the real problem is the death penalty or how it is being administered, WaQlimi noted capital punishment isn’t just a system of executing people for horrendous crimes with a few mistakes—he called it a system of “elitism."
About the other men WaQlimi shared death row with, he recognized a few things they all had in common--“not one had the money to buy an attorney." He noted that the vast majority of death row inmates he knew personally were poor -- whether black, white or Hispanic. He also addressed the issue of race, observing the majority of victims in death row cases are white while questioning how people can really believe that a country founded on “300-plus years” of slavery can dole out true, fair justice, saying racism is deeply ingrained in the system.
After spending years incarcerated for offenses they didn’t commit, you would think Derrick Jamison and Shabaka WaQlini would be content to spend their remaining years with family, relaxing outdoors, or enjoying life’s simple pleasures. While they could be enjoying their freedom by living as many other Americans do, they instead choose to spend their time on the road, giving a voice to the men and women awaiting execution across the country, and speaking out against something that so nearly took their lives

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vote NO on Justice Cannady

Charles Canady has spent most of his career in elected office. He was first elected as a “conservative Democrat” to the state legislature in the early 1980s, and switched parties in 1990. In 1992, he was elected to Congress, and became known as an extreme partisan ideologue. Canady was a leading pro-life force in the Congress. He has often been credited with coining the term “partial-birth abortion.” Canady left Congress after the 2000 elections, when he chose not to run for another term, after leading the charge in the impeachment and trial proceedings of then-president Bill Clinton. Canady was one of the impeachment managers appointed by the House to prosecute Bill Clinton in the United States Senate.
When then-governor Jeb Bush appointed Charles Canady to the district court in 2002, he made an overtly partisan and political choice. The same can be said of Charlie Crist, who appointed Justice Canady to the Supreme Court in 2008. Voters should take this opportunity to reverse these lapses of judgment. It is fine to have justices which represent a diverse point of views – liberal, conservative and all points in between – but we do not need political hacks making law from the bench.
From "Pinski on Politics"

Friday, October 01, 2010

A couple of questions about court in Sarasota

A few weeks ago a client came to see me and asked if I could represent him. He was homeless and charged with a minor offense and the judge had been giving him a hard time because he wore shorts to court. His possessions were limited to those he could carry and he didn’t own long pants.

I agreed to take the case. Yesterday I bought him some pants at Goodwill. This morning I met him outside the courthouse. He had his duffle bag that contained all of his possessions. We got in the long security line to enter the courthouse. My client’s bag was put through the x-ray system and rejected. He had can openers and utensils and other odd objects. The bailiffs didn’t want to take the time for him to unpack and go through each compartment, not with a hundred people in line behind us They told him he had to take it away, that he couldn’t leave it there and he couldn’t bring it inside.

Now this story ended without problem. I took his bag and walked out and locked it in my trunk and we went to court. But what about everyone else with all that they own in their possession and a date with a judge? What are they supposed to do with their duffle bags and knapsacks?

And how are they supposed to pay their court costs? But let's make sure they wear long pants.