March 12, 2003
Delma Banks granted stay of execution by Supremes

Delma Banks, scheduled to be the 300th Texan to die by lethal injection, was given a last minute reprieve by the US Supreme Court.

The court was acting on appeals by lawyers who raised questions about the legitimacy of his conviction.

As Banks prepared Tuesday to be moved from death row in Livingston to Huntsville, where he was scheduled to be executed, his attorneys complained that the Texas criminal justice system never considered the merits of his final appeals.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said the defense waited too long to introduce evidence that two key prosecution witnesses lied at trial. Also, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a lengthy petition for clemency Monday without reading it because it had been filed after its deadline.

"I think this case goes to show, unfortunately, in Texas, substance and merit and concern about due process and possible innocence don't hold any water compared with technical procedures and rules," said Miriam Gohara, an attorney with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

When I read about cases like this, I come to understand how liberal war hawks have been feeling lately. I want to support capital punishment, but not in the way we've been doing it. We care more about the process than the results, more about closure than justice, more about efficiency than innocence.

Every time a case like Delma Banks or Leonard Rojas hits the papers, the state always natters about deadlines and how the system just can't work if we're never allowed to close a case. There's an easy answer to that, and that's to remove the artificial need for deadlines that executions require. What's more important: getting it right or getting it over with? I know what my answer is.

Cragg Hines lays out the case for Banks' innocence pretty clearly - allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, coerced witnesses, withheld evidence, incompetent representation, racial bias in jury selection - pretty much all of the bullet points you'd expect from an anti-death penalty speech. Does the fact that Banks' lawyers filed his paperwork with the state Board of Parole and Pardons 15 days before he was supposed to die instead of the mandated 21 make all of that moot?

I cannot abide the death penalty as it is administered. If we can't fix the system, we need to throw it out. There's just no excuse.

UPDATE: Jeralyn has anti-death penalty editorials from the four major papers in the state, including the usually reliably conservative Dallas Morning News.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 12, 2003 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

Wait till we start seeing cases that involve HPD's crime lab! *sigh*

Posted by: Kevin Whited on March 13, 2003 10:00 AM

Wait till we start seeing cases that involve HPD's crime lab! *sigh*

Posted by: Kevin Whited on March 13, 2003 10:04 AM

No kidding. Especially since Harris County is the king of death penalty sentences.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 13, 2003 11:09 AM