Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 20, 2012

Dear Sis~
I believe you already know we have another execution coming up, this one scheduled for April 12, a guy named David Gore (whom I don't know) who has been on the row for 28 years now.  I'm told - but don't know for sure - that he's an ex-cop, and a serial killer.  This will be Gov. Scott's fourth execution in seven months which is an historically fast clip for Florida.  Traditionally, over the last few decades, Florida's execution rate averaged about 21/2 annually, but Scott has made it clear that he wants to kill a lot of guys.  At this pace he'll knock off six or more per year, a sobering statistic for someone like me who is in the crosshairs...
Our local PBS station broadcasts the oral arguments of the Florida Supreme Court and I catch them whenever I can.  We see all the arguments, civil and criminal, capital cases and otherwise.  It's interesting to see the dynamics of the court as it wrestles with different cases and issues, and interesting to watch the various lawyers in action, lawyers who range from brilliant (mostly the big civil cases where lots of money is at stake) to mediocre, to inept and incompetent (a lot of capital appellate attorneys fall into this category, particularly those from the "registry").  Ex-Supreme Court Justice Cantero made the same observation some years back, stating that "the worst lawyering the court has seen" came from the appointed capital appellate attorneys who appeared before them.  This is not all of them, of course.  There's a small handful who are exceptional. But far too many are mediocre at best and an alarming number are completely incompetent.  Unfortunately, when it comes to capital law, when the attorney screws up the client may well pay with his life.  Recently we watched an oral argument made by an attorney who I am very familiar with.  The prisoner lives on my floor and I know his case very well, having discussed it with him for over a year, and having read a lot of his record on appeal, and all of his appellate briefs.  But when it came time for the oral argument this lawyer became a bumbling dunce.  He was totally unprepared and demonstrated no familiarity with the issues being raised in the brief, which he supposedly authored.  He repeatedly conceded legal and factual points he never should have conceded and which were contrary to his positions taken in the briefs.  His hands were visibly shaking and he often appeared lost.  It was embarrassing to watch this inept performance and very discouraging considering the consequences.  I've seen this particular attorney perform numerous times (he regularly represents capital prisoners) and he's constantly below par; he was at his worst this last time and I could hear his client (who lives just two cells away from me) groaning and muttering with each incompetent statement ...
That's it for now, Sis.  I'll write again next week!

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