Glenn Richardson:

Hey people: You aren’t actually reading the post, just the headline. (Probably my fault for getting too cute.) Here’s the gist: lots of folks want to sue to overturn the death penalty in Georgia. While the Speaker (and to some degree me) see this as a judicial fight to take lots more money for indigent defense, by bringing up impeachment, hearings, etc. the Speaker is really setting us up for a lawsuit to throw out the death penalty because the state won’t adequately fund indigent defendants charged with murder.

Now, continue reading . . .

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Glenn Richardson went on record last night at a fundraiser declaring that he and the Republicans in the General Assembly would abolish the death penalty in Georgia. You can read it for yourself here, but here is the relevant passage:

The judge in the Brian Nichols case may have more than just angry words coming his way from the Georgia Legislature if we are correctly reading between the lines of a comment made last night by House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

During a fundraiser at the Cobb Energy Center, Richardson announced to the crowd of something over 200 people that he

24 comments

  1. Jmac says:

    I don’t oppose the death penalty, but I’ve often wondered whether or not it was the most appropriate punishment. By that, isn’t it too easy sometimes.

    In many cases, I’d rather the convicted be sentenced to a life inside a concrete box. That would be more fitting than death sometimes.

  2. JRM2016 says:

    Does it matter since the Supreme Court and the 11th Circuit are now staying every execution coming up since lethal injection may be “cruel and unusual punishment”?

    Let’s just bring back the old firing squad.

    I would be very interested to compare the costs of the Nichols case to other lower profile death penalty cases. Criminal defendants are entitled to representation thanks to the Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, they are not entitled to “money is no object” representation. That is what Nichols, who how many eyewitnesses saw him murder a Superior Court Judge in court, is receiving from Georgia taxpayers and it needs to be stopped, pronto.

  3. Carpe Forem says:

    Food for thought:

    If a perp (murderer, rapist and/or thief) breaks into any of our houses and we manage to detain him/her and the police arrive (we dialed 911 after subduing the scumbag) to find the perp is tied to a chair with a bullet hole in his/her head.
    At this point we are arrested and charged with murder.

    I ask this: If we as individuals don’t have the right to use deadly force after the threat of eminent danger has been removed, where does the state get it’s authority? Since the state gets its authority/rights delegated to it from “we the people”, how is it possible for us to delegate something we don’t first posses?

    It is this reasoning that has caused the act of the state having the ability to kill one of its on citizens to not sit well with me (however, during the act, please by all means, blow the sombitch away).

  4. The Comma Guy says:

    Erick – I don’t think that the rape case against Nichols has been drawn up into the murder case.

    I agree that the indictment is excessive, but when you have an elected DA who has a poor relationship with the local bench, he’s got to be able to overcharge to protect himself. Can you imagine what would happen if Paul Howard didn’t get a conviction in this case? And remember, all it takes is just one juror to buy into the either the mental health defense or the justification defense that was discussed.

    Part of the problem is the use of the Senior Judge. If a sitting Judge from another Circuit had been brought in to try this case, a lot of the nonsense and shenanigans that we have seen would never have happened. Instead we now have the state version of a federal judge running the show.

  5. SpaceyG says:

    Yep, government killin’ gets kinda expensive in tough times like this. We’ll save tons of $$$ with no death penalty verdicts to carry out.

  6. StevePerkins says:

    Erick, as a law school graduate you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself. This post is just a blob of phony hyperbole to stir the pot, and with your education you should know better.

    The Nichols case has NOTHING to do with banning the death penalty. It only has to do with funding for indigent defense. If someone shoots multiple people in front of scores of eye witnesses, it should be a pretty open-and-shut matter (maybe a couple of expert witnesses on both sides to chat psychology). However, when an overzealous prosecutor (no doubt hoping to build name-recognition for his own future career) decides to balloon the thing into 400+ separate charges… that’s going to make the trial exorbitantly expensive. If it’s an indigent case, that means it’s publicly funded. If you don’t like that (and I don’t either), take it up with the self-serving prosecutor… don’t prattle on about “Clinton appointees” and “activist judges” and “the abolition of the death penalty”.

    If the prosecutor had stuck with the charges necessary, there would be no issue here. If the Georgia legislature concerned itself with funding the criminal justice system as much as it does with fishing programs, there would be no issue here. Hell, if Nichols had a few nickels in the bank, there would be no problem here! This matter only deals with INDIGENT defense… if a defendant has almost any money at all, the government doesn’t have to provide public defender services. You learned that in law school, Erick (or should have).

    We can debate the morality and practicality of the death penalty in general. However, arguing about the Nichols case as being the abolition of capital punishment is either deliberately disingenuous or else just dumb.

  7. Mad Dog says:

    SpaceyG,

    The most expensive part is the trial. As we can see in the Nichols case.

    But, I can’t help but wonder out loud if Richardson isn’t thinking of a “pardon in advance” for himself or someone that he knows.

    I’m not saying he’s already committed a crime. I’m saying maybe he knows someone that has or is about to commit a capital crime.

    The whole GOP thing about pre-emptive action…

    MD

  8. ChuckEaton says:

    I’m very pro-death penalty, but’s it’s an interesting case. You’ve got folks who have recently been set free from prison, due to DNA etc.., who really could have orginally used better representation and you’ve got Nichols (who everyone knows did it) getting an essentially unlimited amount of representation.

  9. Erick says:

    Steve,

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you aren’t comprehending what I’m actually saying.

    Yes, this is about indigent defense funding. But if you haven’t been paying attention, there is a large contingent of people ready to file suit to end the death penalty in Georgia.

    And these machinations by the Speaker present the perfect opportunity for them to do it.

    Look beyond the superficial story.

  10. dorian says:

    Steve,

    You’re wrong. The capital defenders office will probably tell you themselves that they are using money to break the system. Although the Nichols trial is outsourced, the same principles apply. If you’d ever have met or been in court with these folks, you’d see that they are rabid about abolishing the death penalty. Which is kinda ironic, considering that, until recently, they couldn’t tell you how many death penalty cases they actually had. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees!

  11. StevePerkins says:

    Erick –

    You’re correct, I don’t comprehend what you’re actually saying (your over-the-top hyperbolic headline makes it look like the Speaker favors abolition). To successfully “sue away” capital punishment in Georgia (or any other state), a plaintiff would have to establish a precedent that capital punishment is cruel and unusual punishment (i.e. the “we’re not really sure that the anesthesia works” kind of argument). Nothing in your post even hints about that sort of thing. Nichols getting funding or not has nothing to do with the overall debate over abolishing the death penalty.

    Dorian –

    I’m sure that defense would love to see the case tossed out due to inadequate funding. Their job is to provide the best defense possible, and complete victory is a pretty good defense. However, their motives don’t change the fact that such a strategy couldn’t work if the moron prosecutor hadn’t set it up for them.

  12. dorian says:

    Steve, I respectfully disagree with that too. Here’s why. First, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. Let’s hypothesize that Nichols committed 20 unique felonies from agg assault to murder. You can tack on a possession charge to each of those, but so what? He either committed the underlying felony or not. There is no extra work involved in defending the possession charge. Second, can anyone say “merger”? If he is charged with “murder” and “felony murder” yea it is “overcharging”, or as prosecutors like to say “charging in the alternative”, but it is also a very common practice. Once again, how much extra work goes into that? How about none?

  13. The Comma Guy says:

    Does anyone have a link to the complete indictment so we can agree or refute dorian’s valid point about merger?

    And consider that up in Gwinnett County, there was a dust-up between the PD’s office and Judge Ray concerning their payment schedule – they wanted the same rate as Nichol’s dream team is getting. Also, Brian Steele did something similar down in or around Macon I think with negative results.

    Part of the question that should be asked is what are these over-paid attorneys from NC doing? Guilt is all but conceded. So what are they doing for the penalty phase?

    One final point – why is it not a bigger issue that when Henderson & Co. do indigent work in NC they charge a much lower hourly rate?

  14. dorian says:

    Comma, I was making an educated guess based on first hand experience and common sense. I don’t see how the charges could not overlap, but having said that, I don’t actually know.

    Also, I am very pleased with Mack Crawford as the new head of the PDSC. I have no doubt what-so-ever that he will fix (and is indeed fixing) many of the problems that have plagued the system. Unfortunately, there are some things he simply has no control over. This case being the most obvious example of that.

  15. Chris says:

    Steve,

    I think the case Erick is trying to make is that the anti-death-penalty crowd will use the Speaker’s veiled threats against the judge as a basis for getting a federal court to throw out the death penalty.

    Nothing to do with 8th amendment grounds, but Gideon grounds.

  16. StevePerkins says:

    Gideon v. Wainwright dealt only with indigent defense. In the worse-case scenario (assuming you’re pro-death penalty), what could come out of this is a standard under which a public defender must not only be assigned but actually funded. Given the number of death-row cases that have been thrown out in recent years based on DNA evidence, which the overwhelmed public defender wasn’t able to raise at trial, you’d have a hard time convincing me that this would be a bad thing. Either way, a standard of representation for indigent defense has nothing to do with “throwing out the death penalty” altogether.

  17. dorian says:

    They are funded. They’re just not given a blank check. There is a difference between “best possible defense” and “best defense possible”. Moreover, you have to be certified to try death penalty cases in Georgia. There already are standards. If you think they are inadequate, then why? Also, you have the unified appeals process, appeals to the Supreme Court of Georgia, state habeas, federal habeas. It is a mind-numbing process to go through whichever side you are on.

  18. StevePerkins says:

    I don’t know if there should be bright-line rules for indigent funding levels, and I doubt that I would make Nichols my poster-boy example even if I did. However, none of the examples you’ve listed particularly blow me away. Regarding certification, just because you’re labeled as competent to do something doesn’t means you automatically have the tools at your disposal to do it (public schoolteachers are “certified” too). Habeas corpus just means you have the right to challenge the fact that you’re sitting in jail without charges… only in the post-Patriot Act world would that idea be worth mentioning at all. Of course there is a lengthy appeals process, but that in and of itself is meaningless if you don’t have funding to adequately appeal.

    Look, I’m not arguing for giving Brian Nichols a blank check. I simply read nostalgic comments about firing squads, and suggestions that suspects should get only a rubber-stamp token defense, and think that some standards are necessary. The rabidly pro-death penalty crowd comes across sounding like a lynch mob a lot of the time, and I simply believe our country is better than that.

  19. ondichliberty88 says:

    If comes true Georgia will join California,New York and Minnesota as states that don’t have the death penalty. I only believe in the use of death penalty in only extreme cases.

  20. Chris says:

    Ondich,

    I agree the Death Penalty should only be used in extreme circumstances. However, a judical ban of the DP, as outline by Erick’s hypo, would prevent its use at all.

  21. StevePerkins says:

    Erick’s hypo is just flat-out legal ignorance. In all but two states (California and Missouri) that have imposed moritoriums on capital punishment, the decision come from either the executive or legislative branches. California and Missouri’s moritoriums on capital punishment dealt with “cruel and unusual punishment” issues (i.e. requiring those states to either show that the anesthesia protocols work, or else find a technique other than lethal injection). The temporary national moritorium from 1972 to 1976 was also on cruel and unusual punishment grounds.

    There is no legal basis upon which indigent defense alone could encompass all capital punishment. Even a “backdoor ban” (i.e. making the cost of capital punishment for indigents prohibitly expensive) would fail to pass muster, because that would mean that someone above the poverty line could face the death penalty while someone below it couldn’t. Capital punishment jurisprudence revolves around whether the act of killing itself is cruel and unusual punishment… you can’t get an outright judicial ban on Constitutional grounds until and unless the judiciary answers that question with a yes.

    As for the concerns that judges “might not like Richardson bad-mouthing them”… when have Republican lawmakers ever said a kind word about lawyers?!? This isn’t exactly a revolutionary break from tradition or anything…

  22. jm says:

    Russia just convicted a serial murderer on 48 counts (the killer claimed 63, just one shy of his goal). And they aren’t going to kill him – they have a moratorium. That’s Russia…where they used to kill you for looking at Stalin funny.

    I’m OK with keeping the death penalty in reserve for those convicted killers who want it as a way out of life in prison. Too many cases of people freed on evidence after X number of years has convinced me that we have, in this country and probably in this state, convicted someone who was innocent and then put them to death. So I say we have our moratorium, and let the killers opt in if they want to.

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