SHOULD DEFENDANTS WITH FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME BE SAFE FROM DEATH PENALTY?
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a defect caused in utero that impairs brain activity in ways similar to mental retardation. As of 2002, it is considered cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a mentally retarded defendant to death row. Now, there are many cases seeking to exclude the death penalty for defendants suffering from FAS. Mark Anthony Soliz, one such defendant–convicted in March of killing a grandmother in her home–has started his appeals process.
The Star-Telegram’s Dianna Hunt has the story. Here’s a clip:
Soliz’s appeal of his capital murder conviction in the death of a Godley grandmother has joined a growing list of cases nationwide seeking to exclude the death penalty for defendants with fetal alcohol syndrome, a form of brain damage caused by maternal alcohol abuse.
Experts say the death penalty should be off the table in such cases, just as the U.S. Supreme Court has abolished the death penalty for defendants with mental retardation.
Prosecutors and victims advocates, however, say it’s a guise for going easy on killers who show no such mercy to their victims.
…In a groundbreaking decision in the Atkins case in 2002, the Supreme Court held that executing a person who is mentally retarded violates the Eighth Amendment‘s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The deficiencies associated with mental retardation, the court concluded, reduce a person’s culpability in the crime.
Experts say the same rules should apply to people with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Those people have the same diminished capacities as those with mental retardation, they say, even though their IQs may test somewhat higher than the 70-75 range typically used to define mental retardation.
“The damage to the executive functioning of the brain is as severe as someone who is intellectually disabled,” said John Niland, director of the Capital Trial Project with the Texas Defender Service, a nonprofit law firm in Houston and Austin that also provides training and consultation for attorneys in death penalty cases. “I don’t think we’ve been aware of it long enough to identify all of the cases.”
CA’S “ANTI-ARIZONA” IMMIGRATION BILL TO CUT TIES WITH ICE
California’s TRUST Act–also called the “Anti-Arizona” bill–passed CA senate late last week. If signed into law, law enforcement officers would no longer be allowed to send immigrants to ICE (for deportation) unless they had committed a violent crime or a felony.
Time’s Amy Friedman has the story. Here’s how it opens:
California is taking a stand on immigration – and it doesn’t exactly jive with a recent ruling by the Supreme Court on the issue. Last week, the California State Senate passed the TRUST Act, a move that is in direct contrast to the high court decision upholding a controversial provision of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law requiring police to check the status of people they stop for another reason, if they suspect the person is undocumented. This new bill, also being called the “Anti-Arizona” bill, would lower the number of deportations in the wake of the commission of minor crimes. The TRUST Act will now go to the California state assembly and will most likely pass.
The law would mean that, contrary to what goes on now, evidence of against an immigrant could only be passed on to federal officials after a violent or serious felony. Currently, getting pulled over for merely pausing at a stop sign could mean your fingerprints get sent straight to the feds.
DRUG DOG WITH SUB-PAR SUCCESS RATE RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT PROBABLE CAUSE
A Pittsburgh man is facing drug charges after a drug-sniffing dog alerted officers to his vehicle. His attorneys say that due to the dog’s shoddy 26% accuracy rate, there was no probable cause for the vehicle search. This is a serious issue, but also an irresistible story.
The Examiner’s Christine Funk has the story. Here’s a clip:
Herbert Green is facing cocaine charges after a drug dog alerted on Mr. Green’s vehicle. However, the dog’s alert track record is worse than the flip of a coin. Attorneys for Mr. Green argued that because the dog had a track record of 85 alerts but only 22 discoveries of drugs, the alert lacked probable cause for law enforcement to search the vehicle.
Judge Glen Conrad conceded the dog “may not be a model of canine accuracy,” but also took into consideration the dog’s training, as well as his “flawless performance” on re-certification tests. One might reasonably wonder about the nature and quality of the re-certification tests, if a dog can be “flawless” on the tests, but have only a 26% accuracy rate in the field.