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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Is it another stalling tactic or real issue?

Friday, March 29, 2002

"...a death row convict will grasp at anything to save his life."

Death row inmates - virtually without exception - file appeals on their convictions based on inadequate legal representation. There's a reason for this. In most instances, those facing execution cannot effort legal counsel and thus get lawyers appointed by the state. Some of these attorneys are seasoned veterans with ample experience - most are not. And this leads to the avalanche of lawsuits by condemned men over the legal representation.

The United States Supreme Court is about to decide on this on-going issue with a ruling concerning a Memphis case. Debate this week centered on just how ineffective the convict's lawyer was and whether that lack of effectiveness would have resulted in a different outcome in court. The case will be closely watched by the legal profession.

Claims of inadequate counsel are so commonplace they are almost expected. Let's face it - some of these claims are legitimate. But most of the lawsuits are simply delaying tactics. The hope by most convicted death row inmates is most certainly not a reversal of their conviction. Most seek to have their cases reduced to life in prison instead of execution. All of this is understandable to everyone involved.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that it may be time to require minimum standards for lawyers and that argument may gain some ground although I doubt it.

Maybe we just need to accept the reality that a death row convict will grasp at anything to save his life. One of those straws is the argument of ineffective counsel. Until this is resolved, look for continued postponements and delays and stalling tactics for everyone on death row. I see very little prospect that that will change.

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