Will This Now Be One of The ABA’s “Problems” with the Death Penalty?
Yet another death-penalty case appears to be lost, thanks to successful defendant brinksmanship (bolds are mine):
In 1992, Cincinnati homicide detectives David Feldhaus and Harry Frisby faced William Garner, a man who broke into an English Woods apartment, stole electronic equipment, then set the home on fire to cover his tracks.
Five children died in the fire.
Only a 13-year-old escaped, dropping from a second-story window as a wall of fire flared across his bedroom doorway.
….. Garner confessed, was convicted on five charges of aggravated murder and sentenced to death.
Now, 15 years later, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted Garner’s Garner’s request for further judicial consideration of his conviction.
The court determined Garner didn’t understand his Miranda rights and reversed the conviction. The 2-1 decision released last month found Garner was poorly educated and borderline mentally retarded.
The court ordered Garner be retried or released.
At issue is not only if police read defendants the Miranda warning, but whether they make sure the suspects understand them.
Police and prosecutors are puzzled how they are supposed to do that.
….. (Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Gerald) Krumpelbeck called Garner a “street-smart kid” who was no stranger to the criminal justice system and the Miranda process. He also noted Garner was deemed competent to go to trial and that there were no insanity issues.
“Garner understood his rights,” Krumpelbeck said.
Don’t miss the video of the reactions of the victims’ surviving family members at the link (warning: hanky alert).
Coolidge notes that Garner was Mirandized by the book.
The idea that William Garner was at all mentally handicapped is breathtakingly (pun intended) absurd. The bolded items show intelligence and flexibility skillfully applied towards an unspeakably evil purpose, along with nerves of steel and shocking ruthlessness:
Hours before the fire, Garner slipped into University Hospital, looking for an easy mark. There, he found (apartment unit residents Marshandra) Jackson and Addie Mack, who had fallen and hurt her wrist.
Garner snatched up Mack’s purse when she wasn’t looking, stealing money and her apartment keys.
He took a taxi to the English Woods apartment, telling the driver to wait while he retrieved his belongings. He carted out electronic equipment, at one point waking up one of the children.
Garner spun a tale about her mother sending him to check everyone and sent her back to bed with a glass of water.
Before leaving, Garner set three fires in the apartment.
Then, he grabbed the phone and smoke detectors and left, Krumpelbeck said.
In late September, an American Bar Association-sponsored Ohio Death Penalty Assessment Team claimed to have found serious problems in how the death penalty is administered in the state:
Ohio’s death penalty system is so flawed it should be immediately suspended while the state conducts a thorough review of its fairness and accuracy, a team of lawyers concluded in a study released Monday.
The system is full of racial and geographic imbalances, too many defendants don’t get adequate legal help and too many protections of offenders’ rights are absent from the capital punishment process, according to a 30-month review of Ohio’s death penalty system by the American Bar Association.
The review said Ohio met only four of 93 ABA recommendations to ensure a fair death penalty system. The ABA team asked Gov. Ted Strickland to halt executions to allow a review of the system.
At the time, the ABA report was also blogged on by fellow Wide Open blogger Jeff, who supports what he claims would be a “temporary suspension.”
If the Garner case now becomes an example of one the ABA team would consider somehow “tainted,” that study should be burned on the figurative embers of that English Woods apartment. It inappropriately places perfect legal procedure above the facts and circumstances of the crime. Did the ABA team even attempt to determine if there was any kind of real doubt about the defendants’ guilt in any of the cases they reviewed? Did they not care?
In capital cases, I care about the legal nuances only after I get the answer to this question: Did he or she really do it? If yes, and without a doubt, as with Garner, all the legal maneuvering and posturing in the world doesn’t change the fact that there is nothing wrong with the verdict — or with carrying out the consequences of that verdict. It may be (but not in this case) that those who didn’t “follow procedure” may deserve discipline — but that has no impact on whether or not the capital crime was committed.
The Enquirer story has a troubling, but unfortunately not surprising, sidebar:
How Judges Karen Nelson Moore, Boyce L. Martin and John M. Rogers split isn’t surprising.
An Enquirer analysis done earlier this year of six years of death penalty decisions by 6th Circuit judges showed the 14 justices consistently voted along partisan lines.
Judges appointed by Republican presidents voted to deny inmate appeals 85 percent of the time, and judges appointed by Democrats voted to grant at least some portion of those appeals 75 percent of the time.
Moore and Martin were appointed by Democratic presidents and Rogers by a Republican.
It seems pretty clear which party criminals like William Garner who want to game the system to its fullest extent should favor. All-knowing, all-seeing Judges Moore and Martin need to tell the victims’ survivors how they can be so sure that Garner suffered such an incredible brain drain in the short time between the crime and his apprehension.
Cross-posted at Wide Open.