Sunday, October 14, 2007

Emmett to Greensville-Oct 11, 2007

Dear Sis~
They came and took Emmett away today, back to the death house at Greensville for his scheduled October 17, 2007 execution. You may recall that Emmett (Christopher Scott Emmett) was within 3 hours of execution four months ago when Gov. Tim Kaine unexpectedly gave him a "temporary" four-month stay to enable him to pursue certain last-minute legal remedies challenging the lethal injection process. Well, now his time is up and he's back at Greensville. He lost his legal challenges but, in the interim, just 16 day ago, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the certiorari petition in a Kentucky case (2 consolidated Kentucky cases, actually) raising the same issue (the constitutionality of the drugs & protocols used in the lethal injection process). In the wake of the US Supreme Court's action a number of courts and governors in several different states (even Texas, surprisingly) have granted stays of execution for prisoners on the eve of their executions. So, right now Emmett has two last chances; either the US Supreme Court may grant him a stay of execution, or failing that, Governor Kaine may (or may not) grant him a stay. Ethically/morally/objectively Emmett should get a stay since the issue he's raising is the exact same issue the Supreme Court will be ruling on in the Kentucky case (oral arguments are set for January 7th, and they'll probably issue a ruling in April or May). But it's no guarantee; in fact it is totally arbitrary. Between now and April/May, some guys will get stays and others will be executed, depending on the particular judges and governors they have. The Supreme Court could (and should) settle this by simply stating that there should be no more executions until they rule on the Kentucky case, but so far, the Court has shown no inclination to do so... Here's a true-life example of how arbitrary and cold-blooded the legal process can be: On Sept 25th, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the Kentucky case. That same day a prisoner in Texas named Michael Richard was scheduled to die that night and his lawyers were scrambling to file an appellate brief (asking for a stay in light of the Supreme Court's decision to review the Kentucky case) in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. But, his lawyers had a computer crash and could not prepare the brief before the Clerk of the Court closed at 5:00pm. They called the clerk and begged him to stay open for 15 more minutes so they could file the brief but the clerk refused. So, the lawyers had to go to the US Supreme Court without a court ruling from the Texas courts. The Supreme Court refused to grant a stay and Richard was executed that night. 48 hours later, in another Texas case, Carlton Turner asked the US Supreme Court for a stay (again based upon the Kentucky case). This time, the US Supreme Court granted a stay, on Sept 27th. So, two guys with the exact same issue, yet one lives while the other dies. (all because of a computer crash which prevented his lawyers from filing a brief in time). That typifies the arbitrary and capricious nature of America's capitol punishment process.
Light & Love,

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