No matter on which side of the death penalty debate you might find yourself, the real question in this case is, should you trust a so-called criminal justice system that deliberately would withhold evidence in a case to make sure the prosecution’s will be done? Although this case falls into a different category, more and more evidence surfaces on a daily basis that indicates prosecution teams have played fast and loose with evidence at times to win convictions. Advances in science have brought some of those wrongful convictions to light. In some cases, we will never know what the truth might be due to judges refuses to let defendants resubmit evidence for modern scientific testing.
Some might call it an overzealous attitude towards pursuing justice. That could be part of the problem but we also think it could be do to a criminal justice system tied to politics. Elected prosecutors are forced to run on won-lost records rather than diligence and moral rectitude even in the face of a loss. Voters are told to care only that they win cases. We’ve heard a number of complaints from police officials around the country who have complained about prosecutors not taking cases to court simply for fear of losing. We, like those police officials, say, if the evidence is enough to warrant a trial, let the jury decide.
By the same token, we’ve heard defense attorneys (as well as former prosecutors) speak of concepts such as “testilying”—getting prosecution witnesses to tell a concerted lie—as acceptable behavior for the prosecution to win a case. And, there have been national reports of prosecution teams withholding evidence and witnesses that might prove damaging to their “wins.”
Perhaps if prosecutors were vetted by a panel of legal experts who judged them on diligence, knowledge of the law and knowledge of proper procedure and legal ethics and then hired rather than elected, some of the desire to win victories at any cost would go away.
One final note: In the landmark documentary “The Thin Blue Line,” an attorney reveals that there’s an old saying in Texas. To paraphrase a bit:
“It takes a good prosecutor to convict a guilty man but it take a great one to convict an innocent man.”
Would you trust your or a loved one’s fate to a system that would play fast and loose with ethics simply to get a win?
Appeals court stays Texas execution after intellectual disability claim
By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Convicted murderer and rapist Robert James Campbell is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday,
NEW: An appeals court stays Robert James Campbell’s execution
He had been scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday
Defense team’s challenges include state misconduct, client’s mental retardation
Defense: Campbell has 5th-grade academic skills, can’t read watch or car’s fuel gauge
CNN’s original series “Death Row Stories” explores America’s capital punishment system Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT beginning July 13 on CNN. Join the conversation about the death penalty at facebook.com/cnn or Twitter @CNNorigSeries using #DeathRowStories.
(CNN) — A federal appeals court has stayed the Texas execution of a convicted rapist and murderer, saying that his defense team should have more time to make their case that Campbell is intellectually disabled.
Robert James Campbell’s execution had been scheduled for Tuesday. It would have been the first execution in the United States since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma left an inmate writhing in pain before death.
His defense team now will have more time to appeal his death sentence.
“It is regrettable that we are now reviewing evidence of intellectual disability at the eleventh hour before Campbell’s scheduled execution. However, from the record before us, it appears that we cannot fault Campbell or his attorneys, present or past, for the delay,” justices from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said in their opinion.