Sunday, April 5, 2015

Texas lawyers protest suspension of prominent death row inmates' lawyer

I just read a recent story about about the suspension of a prominent capital defense attorneys by Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals for filing a late petition in a death penalty case.  The author of the article argues that
"the sanction was doubly bonkers . . . because other death penalty lawyers never seem to be sanctioned for sleeping, drinking, or otherwise rendering themselves incompetent at trial. In any event, Dow was barred from appearing before the CCA for 12 months. Which means that his death row clients—whom he represents pro bono, and who may not find other lawyers to do so—literally have their lives on the line because a motion may or may not have been filed a few hours late. Or, as one lawyer quipped after the piece was posted: “Apparently Texas finally found one lawyer to be incompetent: the one who is actually good at his job.”
In response to the sanction, some 300 lawyers have filed a petition in the Texas Supreme Court seeking a declaratory judgment or, in the alternative, a writ of mandamus, overturning Dow's suspension.

Again, quoting from the article I just read,
The gist of the petition has to do with the case Dow was handling on appeal. His supporters say that if the original trial counsel had done the things he was supposed to do at the original trial (like, say, put on mitigating evidence; explain to the jury that his client was mentally ill; call even a single witness at punishment phase), Dow would not have needed to step in at the last minute to try to stay the execution. In our topsy-turvy capital defense universe, Dow is being sanctioned for trying to (quickly and with an execution date looming) do what defense counsel should have done in the first place.
I really don't know anything about this case or its background, so will let you read the full story and make up your own mind.  You can find the story here.

This is not the only story about a state going after successful capital punishment defense lawyers.  The Legal Profession blog has a similar recent story from North Carolina here.

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