"If the judges interpret the laws themselves, and suffer none else to interpret, they may easily make, of the laws, [a shredded] shipman's hose!" - King James I of England, around 1616.

“No class of the community ought to be allowed freer scope in the expression or publication of opinions as to the capacity, impartiality or integrity of judges than members of the bar. They have the best opportunities of observing and forming a correct judgment. They are in constant attendance on the courts. Hundreds of those who are called on to vote never enter a court-house, or if they do, it is only at intervals as jurors, witnesses or parties. To say that an attorney can only act or speak on this subject under liability to be called to account and to be deprived of his profession and livelihood by the very judge or judges whom he may consider it his duty to attack and expose, is a position too monstrous to be entertained for a moment under our present system,” Justice Sharwood in Ex Parte Steinman and Hensel, 95 Pa 220, 238-39 (1880).

“This case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of not affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for admission. For this record shows that [the rejected attorney candidate] has many of the qualities that are needed in the American Bar. It shows not only that [the rejected attorney candidate] has followed a high moral, ethical and patriotic course in all of the activities of his life, but also that he combines these more common virtues with the uncommon virtue of courage to stand by his principles at any cost.

It is such men as these who have most greatly honored the profession of the law. The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and its glory if it is not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become a group of thoroughly orthodox, time-serving, government-fearing individuals is to humiliate and degrade it.” In Re Anastaplo, 18 Ill. 2d 182, 163 N.E.2d 429 (1959), cert. granted, 362 U.S. 968 (1960), affirmed over strong dissent, 366 U.S. 82 (1961), Justice Black, Chief Justice Douglas and Justice Brennan, dissenting.

" I do not believe that the practice of law is a "privilege" which empowers Government to deny lawyers their constitutional rights. The mere fact that a lawyer has important responsibilities in society does not require or even permit the State to deprive him of those protections of freedom set out in the Bill of Rights for the precise purpose of insuring the independence of the individual against the Government and those acting for the Government”. Lathrop v Donohue, 367 US 820 (1961), Justice Black, dissenting.

"The legal profession must take great care not to emulate the many occupational groups that have managed to convert licensure from a sharp weapon of public defense into blunt instrument of self-enrichment". Walter Gellhorn, "The Abuse of Occupational Licensing", University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 44 Issue 1, September of 1976.

“Because the law requires that judges no matter how corrupt, who do not act in the clear absence of jurisdiction while performing a judicial act, are immune from suit, former Judge Ciavarella will escape liability for the vast majority of his conduct in this action. This is, to be sure, against the popular will, but it is the very oath which he is alleged to have so indecently, cavalierly, baselessly and willfully violated for personal gain that requires this Court to find him immune from suit”, District Judge A. Richard Caputo in H.T., et al, v. Ciavarella, Jr, et al, Case No. 3:09-cv-00286-ARC in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Document 336, page 18, November 20, 2009. This is about judges who were sentencing kids to juvenile detention for kickbacks.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The punishment of death for going to trial - #kellyonmymind

The day before yesterday, the State of Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner for allegedly masterminding the murder of her husband by her boyfriend.

The boyfriend who has actually murdered Kelly Gissendaner, gave testimony against Kelly Gissendaner at trial and received a life sentence.

Kelly Gissendaner was also offered a plea, but turned it down and went to trial.

When she lost at trial, she's got a death sentence.

So, a woman was given a death sentence because she had scruples and refused to testify against the person she loved - and was punished for that with death.

The person the woman loved did not have scruples and testified against her - and his life was spared.

During her 18 years on death row, Kelly Gissendaner reportedly did a lot of good things, counseling other prisoners and changing their lives to the better.

I participated in the social media campaign in an attempt to save Kelly Gissendaner's life.

Many people made statements in support of saving Kelly Gissendaner from execution.

Two statements on social media that I read stand out in my mind:

1. a statement of a woman who described how Kelly Gissendaner was in the same prison with the woman's mother and how Kelly Gissendaner's counseling of the woman made her turn her life around on her release from prison, which changed not only her own life to the better, but the life of her entire family.  The woman thank Kelly Gissendaner for changing their lives.

2. a statement of an individual who, as I understood, was an employee of the Georgia Department of Corrections who said that that person and other people in the Department are praying for Kelly Gissendaner being saved from execution.

She wasn't.

The Board of Parole rejected parole.

The Governor of the State of Geogia refused to impose a stay or give clemency.

Her attorneys lost in the appellate federal court, in the highest court of the state and THREE applications to the U.S. Supreme Court on her last day of life were rejected.

Moreover, her children who were advocating to save her life because they already lost their father and did not want to lose the remaining parent, were given by the state the cruel "choice": 

  1. either to fight for their mother and present their arguments to the Board of Parole, or
  2. have their last meeting with their mother before her execution

There were HOURS between the time when the Board of Parole meeting ended and when Kelly Gissendaner was executed.

During those hours the children were still not allowed to see their mother, and Kelly Gissendaner was not allowed to see her children for the last time, too.

Let's sum it up.

Kelly Gissendaner  was executed NOT because she masterminded the murder of her husband, because the murderer of her husband was actually given life in prison for testifying against her, so there was no reason not to give her the same.

Kelly Gissendaner was executed:

1. for refusing to testify against the person she loved;
2. for going to trial and thus spending government resources 

None of the above actions are offenses punishable by death.

Punishing those acts by death IS cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment.

And - Kelly Gissendaner was denied even the basic human rights of saying goodbye to her children - which was a completely unnecessary cruelty, both to Kelly Gissendaner and to her children.

From this sick experience, I suggest a proposal.

Even if death penalty is not abolished - which it should be, given how arbitrarily it is imposed - once an offer of life is made by the prosecution and turned down by the criminal defendant, the death penalty MUST BE OFF THE TABLE during the trial, because otherwise it sure looks that a criminal defendant is being punished with death for his or her exercise of his constitutional right for a jury trial.

You will then see how quickly the death penalty will stop being used at all, because I have the impression that Kelly Gissendaner was also executed to give leverage to prosecutors in pending and future death penalty cases, to hold the possibility of a death penalty over defendants' heads in order to torture wrongful convictions out of them through pleas.



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