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O'Connor caught a clue and so have I

By ANDREA GEORGSSON, an editorial writer, is a member of the Chronicle Editorial Board. 

Sandra Day O'Connor is beginning to see the light, and so am I.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court justice shocked the nation when she told a women's law group in Minneapolis that the criminal justice system "may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed." And, she speculated, poor defendants might not be getting a fair shake, suggesting further that the country may need to set some minimum standards for defense counsel in capital cases.




State Senate leader urges changes in pardons and paroles board 

State Sen. Rodney Ellis wants to continue his efforts to rehabilitate  Texas' criminal justice system by examining the State Board of Pardons and Paroles and the state's clemency process.  
The Houston Democrat, who championed an overhaul of the state's ad hoc indigent defense system in the last legislative session, included the parole board on a list of interim study requests to acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.
Ellis, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is asking to work on issues outside the purview of his committee. But he said he wants to make sure criminal justice overhauls he has championed don't get pushed to the back burner.

 Uneasy about death row, Terrell wants name off unit

Prison expected to be renamed   By Ed Timms The Dallas Morning News   Dallas insurance executive Charles Terrell was honored when a new state prison was named for him in 1993.   But it just wasn't the same after that unit later became the new home for death-row inmates. He wanted his name off, and the state's prison board may accommodate him next week.   "We name prisons after a lot of people, and if I'm just another name ... that's fine," the former chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice said Friday. "There's a lot of difference between having your name on a regular prison, and on death row."

Power of information makes application of death penalty unfair

The July 4 Sun printed 2 seemingly unrelated articles on page 3: one concerned changing attitudes toward the death penalty by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ("Justice O'Connor expresses new doubts about fairness of capital punishment") and the other reported the plea bargaining by ex-FBI agent Robert P. Hanssen to avoid the death penalty, which is the traditional punishment for traitors ("Ex-FBI agent to plead guilty to espionage, confess activities").


Empathy for a Killer

What if a madman had invaded Andrea Yates's home in suburban Houston and drowned her 5 children?
It would have been the biggest story in America, with the coverage ranging from the sensational to the hysterical. Every angle would be pursued. Except one. There would be no serious attempt to understand the mental state of the killer -- to determine, for example, if there were mitigating factors at work. Few would care if he suffered from depression or some other mental illness, or if he'd been horribly abused as a child.
And there would have been no hemming and hawing about whether prosecutors in Harris County, Tex., which is fanatical about capital punishment, would seek the death penalty. No question at all. Not in a multiple murder case in which all of the victims were children.


Napoleon Beazley, black, aged 24

Napoleon Beazley is due to be executed in Texas on August 15, 2001, 10 days after his 25th birthday.   He was sentenced to death in 1995 for a murder in Tyler, Smith County, committed when he was 17.    International law prohibits the execution of those who were under 18 at the time of the crime.
The murder victim was John Luttig, white, the father of a federal appellate judge.     One of the trial jurors appears to have been a long-time employee of one of John Luttig's business partners, which was not revealed during jury selection.   The jury was all-white despite Smith County's population being 20 %  African American.  

Lack of Lawyers Blocking Appeals in Capital Cases
Dozens of death row inmates lack lawyers for their appeals, in part because law firms are unwilling to take on burdensome and expensive capital cases, lawyers say.

 The US Supreme Court and TX Board of Pardon and Parole turn down Napoleon Beazley, but the CCA grants an indefinite stay of execution only hours before the execution had to take place.  

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