Governor's Adviser Recommends Clemency for Mentally Ill Inmate

Mark Urban, chairman of the Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities, has requested that North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley fully consider death row inmate Guy LeGrande's request for clemency. LeGrande (pictured), who is scheduled for execution on December 1, has been diagnosed as psychotic and delusional.  

"Mr. LeGrande was allowed to represent himself even though he believed near the time of his trial that Oprah Winfrey and Dan Rather were speaking to him personally through television sets," Urban wrote. "It appears his mental illness made it impossible for him to get a fair trial."  LeGrande  asked the jury at his trial to sentence him to death.

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Clemency Urged for Mentally Ill Man in North Carolina

At a press conference on November 1, the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus called for the governor to commute the death sentence of Guy LeGrande.  Le Grande is scheduled to be executed on December 1.  He was allowed to represent himself at his 1996 murder trial, despite the fact that he claimed to be hearing messages from Oprah Winfrey and Dan Rather through television sets.  His defense lawyer, Jay Ferguson, said LeGrande falsely believes he has already been pardoned and will receive a large sum of money.  "The problem is you have a mentally ill person representing himself," Ferguson said. "When his standby counsel asked the court to review his mental competency, the judge asked the defendant if he wanted to do that and he said no. His response was to tear up the paperwork. So you've got a mentally ill defendant making the call on whether his competency should be examined."

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INTERNATIONAL SECOND THOUGHTS: Great Britain Moves to Pardon 300 Soldiers Executed During War

The British Government plans to seek Parliamentary approval of a pardon for more than 300 soldiers executed for military offenses during World War I.  The announcement came just after a pardon was revealed for Private Harry Farr, who was executed at age 25 for refusing to fight.

Defense Secretary Des Browne said:

"I believe a group pardon, approved by Parliament, is the best way to deal with this. After 90 years, the evidence just doesn't exist to assess all the cases individually.

"I do not want to second guess the decisions made by commanders in the field, who were doing their best to apply the rules and standards of the time.

"But the circumstances were terrible, and I believe it is better to acknowledge that injustices were clearly done in some cases, even if we cannot say which - and to acknowledge that all these men were victims of war."

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NEW VOICES: Kenneth Starr and Other Officials Join Discussion of Death Penalty

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, together with the Federalist Society and the Constitution Project, recently sponsored a panel in Washington,  D.C., examining the application, morality and constitutionality of the death penalty in the United States.

The panel was moderated by Virginia Sloan of the Constitution Project and featured Samuel Millsap, Jr., former Texas District Attorney, William Otis, Counselor to the Head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Kenneth Starr (pictured), former Special Prosecutor and now Dean of the Pepperdine Law School, and Bryan Stevenson, Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama.  Excerpts from a transcript of the panel's presentation follow (in order of speaking):

As the former Bexar County district attorney in Texas and the head of the office that prosecuted Ruben Cantu, Samuel Milsap urged vigilance from his fellow prosecutors to ensure that innocent people are not  wrongfully convicted:

I've come to the conclusion — and it's based not on the Cantu case specifically but rather on other things that I've seen happen in the criminal justice system — that the system as it relates to capital murder is simply broken. It's my view in fact that because it's driven by human beings and decisions that are made by human beings, it can't be fixed, and that as a result what has to happen is that the option to put people to death has to end.

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Advocates in Upcoming North Carolina Execution Present Case for Mercy

Samuel Flippen is scheduled to be executed on August 18 in North Carolina for the 1994 death of his two-year-old step-daughter, Britnie Hutton. On the day of Britnie's death, Flippen made emergency 911 calls seeking medical attention for her. There had been no history of him previously injuring Britnie. Defense attorneys claim that Flippen's actions preceding Britnie's death are strong evidence that he had no intention of harming his step-daughter.  The attorneys are seeking clemency from the governor.

Before being sent to death row, Flippen had never been charged or convicted of any crime. He was devoted to his school and church and was known as an upstanding and contributing member of the community.  The state originally offered Flippen a plea bargain to second degree murder.

Britnie's father is opposed to Flippen's execution. During the trial, he got to know Flippen's mother and father well. He says he knows how terrible it is to lose a child and does not want Flippen's parents to suffer in the same way. He has said that the State of North Carolina does not need to execute Flippen for justice to be served.

(Attorney Press Release, August 3, 2006).  See also Clemency and Arbitrariness

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Virginia Governor Delays Execution Pending Mental Illness Inquiry

An hour before the scheduled execution of Virginia death row inmate Percy Levar Walton, Governor Tim Kaine (pictured) issued a temporary stay to allow time for an independent inquiry to determine whether Walton is too mentally ill to be executed. "Due to the history of judicial concern about his mental status, the claims in Walton's clemency petition are entitled to serious consideration. It would be imprudent to either proceed with the execution or grant clemency without further review," Kaine said in a statement issued as he ordered Walton's scheduled execution be delayed for six months.

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MENTAL ILLNESS: Rutherford Institute Calls Attention to Upcoming Virginia Execution

John W. Whitehead, founder and president of the Rutherford Institute, called for clemency for Percy Lavar Walton, a Virginia inmate scheduled to be executed on June 8. Walton is a psychotic schizophrenic who has suffered with severe mental illness since adolescence. He is on death row for three murders he committed when he was 18 years old. Whitehead writes:

Dubbed “Crazy Horse” by prison officials, Walton . . . is scarcely conscious of the fate that awaits him. While others on death row bide their time in counting down to their final hours, Walton spends his time amassing a large pile of salt, pepper and sugar packets in his prison cell.

And while state officials may view Walton’s pending execution as the final form of punishment, Walton does not see execution as the end of his life. Instead, he believes that his execution will restore life, bringing him, his grandfather and his victims back to life. During his sentencing hearing, he reportedly laughed, waved to family members in the courtroom and wrote incoherent notes to his attorney.

Clearly, this is not a sane man. Nor does he seem to have sufficient mental acuity to view his pending state-enforced death as the ultimate punishment. Most medical experts concur. . . . Two independent doctors have officially diagnosed him as schizophrenic. One doctor noted that Walton has continually suffered from severe depression, an inability to focus and moderate to severe levels of insanity. Another doctor pointed out that he presents symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, bizarre behavior and positive formal thought disorder. State psychiatrist Dr. Patricia General described Walton as “floridly psychotic”. . . .

Walton’s delusions are so far-fetched that he has claimed to be everyone from his own father to the King of Hearts, Superman, Queen Bee and Jesus Christ. He insists that the Bible was written about him and that he hears voices and sees a disturbing image of a face with a fishhook in its eye. Walton also believes that if he closes his eyes, he can become invisible.
. . .

No truly civilized and humane society executes the helpless. To do so is to resort to barbarism. There must be lines beyond which we will not cross, even in the name of seeking justice or a greater good.

(Rutherford Institute, Commentary, May 24, 2006). See Mental Illness and New Voices.

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Philippine President Gloria Macapagel-Arroyo (pictured) ordered the commutation of all death sentences to life in prison, an order that will spare the lives of the 1,205 people on death row. As her nation marked Easter Sunday, she issued the clemencies: "I wish to announce that we are changing our policy on those who have been imposed the death penalty. We are reducing their penalty to life imprisonment. Anyone who falls and makes mistakes has a chance to stand up and correct the wrong he has committed."  Since Arroyo became President in 2001, no death sentences have ben carried out and she has repeatedly issued stays to those facing execution. The Philippines abolished the death penalty in 1987, but it was reimposed by Congress in 1994. Since 1999, when executions resumed, seven people have been executed by lethal injection. The Catholic Church in the Philippines has opposed the death penalty.  (Bangkok Post, April 17, 2006). 

See International Death Penalty and Life Without Parole.

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NEW VOICES: California Judge Seeks Clemency for Man He Sentenced to Death

More than two decades after Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath condemned Michael Morales to die, McGrath is asking California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant clemency because the conviction was likely based on false testimony from a jailhouse informant. Morales is scheduled to be executed on February 21. McGrath's letter was included in a clemency petition filed by Morales' attorneys, David Senior and Kenneth W. Starr, dean of Pepperdine Law School and a former federal judge.

In his letter to Schwarzenegger, McGrath said that executing Morales would be "a grievous and freakish injustice." McGrath noted that in exchange for testimony given by the jailhouse informant, prosecutors dropped four of six felony charges against him. The informant testified that while he and Morales were together in a crowded cellblock, Morales confessed in Spanish to the rape and murder of Terri Winchell. A later investigation by the state attorney general discovered that Morales does not speak Spanish. McGrath's letter stated that the informant's testimony convinced the jury that the killing was egregious, and his testimony was the only evidence to support the single special circumstance that made Morales eligible for the death penalty.

McGrath told Schwarzenegger that California law requires judges to review the death verdicts of jurors to protect "the integrity of the judicial system, public confidence in the administration of the state's power to impose death and the rights of defendants to individualized sentencing decisions." He then added that had he known of the informant's falsehoods, "I would not have let the death sentence stand, and the awesome decision to spare his life would not be before you at this time. Under such circumstances, executing Mr. Morales would frustrate the design of our sentencing laws."

If executed, Morales would be the first Latino executed in California since capital punishment was reinstated. Senior and Starr note that the decision to bring their client up on capital charges was fueled by racial and ethnic concerns and that the district attorney who prosecuted Morales did not seek the death penalty in six other egregious crimes that happened during the same period, including the beating death of a black teenager by a white male.

(Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2006). See New Voices, Clemency, and Race.

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NEW VOICES: Former Warden and Supreme Court Justice Seek Clemency for California Man Former California Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin and former San Quentin warden Daniel Vasquez are urging California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant clemency to Clarence Ray Allen.   Allen, who will turn 76 just a day before his scheduled execution on January 17, is blind and disabled, conditions that his attorneys have argued would make his execution cruel and unusual punishment.

In a letter to Schwarzenegger, Grodin, who authored the court's 1986 opinion upholding Allen's conviction and death sentence, stated, "[T]he issue now - for you as governor and for me as private citizen - is whether the execution of Mr. Allen would serve any legitimate societal interest in either retribution or deterrence. My own judgment, considering the time that has elapsed, the physical suffering that Mr. Allen has endured and the state's likely involvement in that suffering, is that it would not. On the contrary, to execute Mr. Allen now, under these conditions, for a crime which he committed more than a quarter century ago, would itself violate societal standards of decency."

Vasquez, who was San Quentin's warden from 1983 to 1993, wrote in his letter to the governor that Allen's case is "an extraordinary one for which commutation of his death sentence is warranted." Stating that Allen "presents absolutely no risk to institutional safety or to public safety," Vasquez added, "[H]e is physically declined so dramatically since his reception on Death Row that he is physically incapacitated from promoting any violence. According to CDC [California Dept. of Corrections] records and my own observations, he is verifiably blind and disabled. . . . He is an old man who has fallen apart in almost every respect."
(Inside Bay Area, December 29, 2005).  See New Voices and Clemency.

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