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June 3, 2002
1:35 PM   Subscribe

Your quote of the day: "She said harm should not be presumed just because the lawyer 'intermittently dozed and actually fell asleep.'" Because, y'know, the inmate's only on Death Row in Texas.
posted by solistrato (24 comments total)

 
The lawyer (now dead) also supposedly referred to his client with gay slurs. This story is just crying out for some kind of quote saying just what was going on here. Yes, the guy's dead, but when he was alive, did he ever comment on his behavior at the trial? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by GaelFC at 1:48 PM on June 3, 2002


Parsley predicted the appeals court decision "will invite countless ineffective assistance (of counsel) claims based on any type of intermittent 'unconsciousness' by counsel during trial."

uh, that seems like it would be a good thing. why would they ever allow a defendant's attorney to be unconscious at any moment during trial?

Texas argued that the performance of a sleeping lawyer should be judged like those of drunk, drugged or mentally ill attorneys. In those cases, a defendant must prove the lawyer's behavior would have affected the outcome.

your attorney can show up to a capital murder trial drunk, and it's up to you to prove it effected the outcome of the trial? what hell?
posted by tolkhan at 2:00 PM on June 3, 2002


Everyone, all together now, hands up in the air, "Oh my dear God...I can't believe this has happened. Let's blame Bush (it was in Texas don't ya know). Let's blame the death penalty because it does not work (all lawyers are incompetent, especially when defending minorities in death penalty cases). Let's blame..." blah. How many times in a two-week period can we discuss this topic?
posted by BlueTrain at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2002


which topic are you referring to? the one about court-appointed lawyers falling asleep during trial while their clients get sentenced to death? Did we discuss that one before?
posted by jnthnjng at 2:22 PM on June 3, 2002


BlueTrain, what in the hell are you babbling about? Your pathetic attempt to try and turn this partisan is just that - pathetic. THE FUCKING LAWYER WAS SLEEPING DURING A MURDER TRIAL. Can you possibly comprehend how this may be a BAD THING? Or do you simply have to twist any discussion of the inadequacies of our legal system into someone attacking Bush? Is that the only scope of your thinking? Shut up. Just shut up.
posted by solistrato at 2:32 PM on June 3, 2002


"The lawyer (now dead) "

Why...you're a damn poet.
(Except, of course, for when I need one)
posted by HTuttle at 2:36 PM on June 3, 2002


How many times in a two-week period can we discuss this topic?

I dunno, we've been discussing the I/P thing about 6 times a day almost every day since last fall..
posted by matteo at 2:38 PM on June 3, 2002


I've been following this case for awhile, just because I was astounded that the case wasn't thrown out immediately. I could not believe that my tax dollars went to taking this to appeal, over and over again. Texas had a no-win situation on their hands and they should have known that.

Here's some legal documents of the case. It's relevant to note that someone else confessed to the murder, whereas Mr. Burdine plead guilty to being an accessory, but not the murderer.

Homophobia played a huge part in this conviction, as not only did the defense attorney sleep through the trial, and call Mr. Burdine a "faggot", he allowed jurists who clearly stated their anti-homosexual beliefs.

Now, I'm not saying that Mr. Burdine was necessarily a good person, but this was a huge travesty of justice and the State of Texas, of which I am a citizen, should be ashamed that we fought giving this man a fair trial with reasonable representation.
posted by dejah420 at 2:47 PM on June 3, 2002


your attorney can show up to a capital murder trial drunk, and it's up to you to prove it effected the outcome of the trial?

Otherwise, all defendants would claim their attorney was drunk, or dozing, or sleepy, or on Prozac, or [fill in the blank] and the wheels of justice would grind to a halt.
posted by plaino at 2:47 PM on June 3, 2002


Plaino's right, of course -- if an appeal were automatically granted in these cases, every defendant who was found guilty would pipe up and say "Hey, I smelled booze on my lawyer's breath, I want an appeal and a new attorney!"

However, when there is rather conclusive evidence that an attorney was not performing appropriately during trial for such reasons, it is astounding that the state would be so reticent to retry the case. I can understand a desire to avoid the cost and trouble of an appeal after all this time, but to go so far as to take it to the Supremes makes me wonder why someone in Texas is so adamant that Calvin Burdine die. I mean, principles are all fine and good, but there is a point where you let them go in pursuit of justice, and if there were ever such a case, this is it. After 18 years, I'm left to wonder who it is, exactly, who wants Burdine dead so badly.
posted by Dreama at 3:06 PM on June 3, 2002


Don't do the crime if you can't keep your lawyer awake all the time.
posted by Dirjy at 3:09 PM on June 3, 2002


Otherwise, all defendants would claim their attorney was drunk, or dozing, or sleepy, or on Prozac, or [fill in the blank] and the wheels of justice would grind to a halt.


So the legal system has a assumption of competence for lawyers and the burden of proof of incompetence is on the defendent? Let's try and remember that the defendents in these cases are typically in custody. What are they supposed to do? Advise their lawyer to look into their own competence? Maybe they can get their lawyer to hire a PI to see if their lawyer is drinking.

[insert a 'pass the bar' joke here]
posted by srboisvert at 3:44 PM on June 3, 2002


Yet another reason to give Texas back to Mexico...
posted by Ty Webb at 3:58 PM on June 3, 2002


...but then I have another bite of Texas barbecue and listen to some Stevie Ray Vaughan and I love Texas all over again. Damn contradictory emotions.
posted by Ty Webb at 4:05 PM on June 3, 2002


So the legal system has a assumption of competence for lawyers and the burden of proof of incompetence is on the defendent?

No, the legal system has an assumption of regularity in trial proceedings, and the burden of proof that there was an irregularity does lie with the defendant -- in a case like this, the defendant would obviously need to secure new counsel. Yes, easier said than done, especially if one is indigent, but there are attorneys whose practice is centered solely on death penalty appeals who would come to his aid, which is exactly what has happened.

Clearly, though, if the lawyer was getting away with sleeping during the trial, the problem extended beyond him -- I've never seen a judge let a lawyer get away with such blatant unprofessional behaviour. I once saw a judge admonish counsel for bending under the table and rummaging around in his trial case during his opposing counsel's direct examination of a witness which involved a chart. The judge slammed his gavel and shouted "Mr. ____! Sit up and pay attention! How can you cross-examine this witness if you're not looking at what he's showing the court?"
posted by Dreama at 4:06 PM on June 3, 2002


It's relevant to note that someone else confessed to the murder, whereas Mr. Burdine plead guilty to being an accessory, but not the murderer.

Where did the article you posted say that? My source tell me that he (Burdine) confessed, and later recanted.

Burdine confessed to police, but now denies killing Wise. He claims an accomplice actually killed Wise, while Burdine tried to talk him out of it.

sjc, I'm not sure what to tell you. The Court ruled in his favor. What was your point when bringing Texas into the post. The prosecutors were doing their job. The lawyer may have been incompetent, but we know nothing of Burdine's guilt. Nothing you linked, or that has been linked since, proves that Burdine was innocent, only poorly represented.
posted by BlueTrain at 4:07 PM on June 3, 2002


BlueTrain: Nothing you linked, or that has been linked since, proves that Burdine was innocent, only poorly represented.

Presumption of innocence, yo. If it applies before a trial then it also applies after a mis-trial. So putting a guy on death row after a mis-trial is presumed to be as bad as putting an innocent guy on death row. And the idea that the state is blameless because the prosecutors did their job - please. The judge was negligent, the sleepy lawyer was court-appointed and the state still wanted to execute him.
posted by Gaz at 4:20 PM on June 3, 2002


...makes me wonder why someone in Texas is so adamant that Calvin Burdine die.

Anyone got figures on successful appeals against capital cases in Texas over the past few decades? Ah, here: 52%. You wonder if there's a desire to get back to 50-50.
posted by riviera at 4:27 PM on June 3, 2002


I've mentioned this before in a death penalty discussion here, but i think it bears repeating: Since the death penalty was reinstated, 68 percent of death sentences have been overturned due to findings of serious prejudicial error. The most common reason is grossly incompetent representation followed closely by prosecutorial misconduct. The only thing even mildly unusual about this case was that the sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court instead of a state appeals court (federal courts rarely overturn death sentences on habeus corpus appeals).

Everyone thinks that courts are just itching to overturn death sentences, but the evidentiary standards are actually quite high. you have to show that whatever went wrong in the trial probably would have altered the outcome of the trial. in addition, most judges are elected, and they are loath to appear soft on crime, lest they lose their next election.

the remarkable thing is that we have all this more or less indisputable evidence that the death penality is arbitrary, capricious, racist, and highly prone to error, and yet we still overwhelmingly support it as a country. what is it about putting people to death that gets us so excited?
posted by boltman at 5:58 PM on June 3, 2002


Okay. Let's please take the death penalty issue out of the mix for a minute or two. Lawyer falling asleep at trial is bad. No lawyer in the world can be effective counsel whilst asleep. Can we all agree on that point? Yes? Good.

Now, again, without invoking the death penalty issue any more than is absolutely necessary, I find it amazing that this case made it past the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (Texas's highest criminal court, *all* death penalty cases go there for automatic appeal), and apparently a Federal appeals court before reaching SCOTUS.
posted by ilsa at 6:21 PM on June 3, 2002


your attorney can show up to a capital murder trial drunk, and it's up to you to prove it effected the outcome of the trial?

Otherwise, all defendants would claim their attorney was drunk, or dozing, or sleepy, or on Prozac, or [fill in the blank] and the wheels of justice would grind to a halt.


no, you jumped from [proving the behavior affected the outcome] straight to [suspecting the behaviour] the logical jump would be to [proving the behavior] not everyone would claim their lawyers fell asleep or drank before trial, only the people that could prove they did.
posted by rhyax at 7:15 PM on June 3, 2002


Texas, it's a whole 'nother country. A banana republican country to be more precise. And since you brought it up bluetrain, yes, Dubya does have to shoulder some of the responsibility for this since he cut public legal aid in Texas, passed laws to 'expedite' death penalty cases and other things too numerous to mention.
posted by nofundy at 10:34 AM on June 4, 2002


And legal aid funding cuts, expedited death penalty appeals processes and other things too numerous to mention all bored Burdin's lawyer -- in 1984, long before GWB ever held office in Texas -- so much that he couldn't stay awake during the trial.
posted by Dreama at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2002


"I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
posted by y2karl at 8:56 PM on June 4, 2002


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