Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Writs Gone Wrong: Austin American Statesman on Habeas Corpus Appeals

Broken gavelThe Austin American Statesman’s Chuck Lindell has published a scathing series of articles on habeas corpus appeals in Texas death penalty cases. The writs of habeas corpus he examines are not only poorly executed but staggeringly incompetent. Large tracts are copied wholesale and pasted into the text without revision from letters written by poorly educated inmates. Sentences are riddled with basic errors in grammar and punctuation. Attorneys are claiming hundreds of billable hours for work product that would flunk freshman English.

Austin American Statesman - Interactive Guide: Writs Gone Wrong

When I read David Dow's descriptions of incompetent counsel in Executed on a Technicality I had imagined well-meaning but ineffective counsel. The incompetence displayed by the writs of the attorneys featured in the article is pervasive and complete.

Ultimately this situation should be attacked by both sides of the death penalty divide. For opponents gross incompetence at the appellate level clearly risks gross miscarriage of justice. Even those for the death penalty must realize that reckless imposition of society's strongest punishment demands the Supreme Court intervene as they have at the trial level.

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