Monday, May 31, 2010

The Case Of Cory Maye

In Woody Allen's movie Bananas, overthrown government officials were being executed in assembly-line fashion after a perfunctory reading of the charge and the taking of the plea. One example is applicable here.
"You are accused of killing over a thousand innocent civilians. How do you plead?"
"Guilty, but with an explanation."
I hereby adopt that as my plea for being remiss in posting: "Guilty, but with an explanation."

I've been pressing hard to finish the second book in my Skeptical Juror series. This one deals with the trial of Cory Maye. Cory Maye was sentenced to death by a Mississippi jury for the murder of Police Officer Ron Jones. There is no question that Cory Maye shot and killed Ron Jones. Nonetheless, in my fictional deliberation of the actual trial, The Skeptical Juror attempts to convince the other jurors that Cory Maye should be acquitted. 

Think of 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda replaced by a geeky database designer / blogger, and a real person's life on the line. Sound exciting? You betcha!

The story was brought to public attention in 2005 by the writing of Radley Balko (aka The Agitator). So compelling were the story and Radley's writing that the law firm of Convington and Burling volunteered to represent Cory Maye pro bono for his appeal.

You can come up to speed by reading Radley's Balko's article or by watching an award winning documentary. The clip below is a trailer for the longer documentary at the link just passed.

If you read the article or watch the documentary, you will come away wondering: "How can this happen?" In late June, when The Skeptical Juror and the Trial of Cory Maye appears in Kindle format, or in mid July when it appears in print format, you will be able to understand how such things happen, and happen all too often.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Cosmic Moment Update

You may remember me writing about Judge Kevin Fine in Now For Another Cosmic Moment.  He is the ex-drug-abusing, heavily-tattooed Houston jurist who will decide if the death penalty is Constitutional, at least in the case of Texas v. John Edward Green. He was scheduled to hear arguments from the attorneys beginning on 27 April 2010.

That date has clearly come and gone, and yet no cosmic event. I place the blame for that clearly on Texas. Patricia Lykos, District Attorney of Harris County (Houston and environs), asked Judge Fine to recuse himself since (among other charges) he was presuming the defendant to be innocent. Judge Fine declined, Lykos appealed to a higher court, and Rick Perry prayed to a higher being.

The recusal challenge was heard by State District Judge L.J. Gist. Judge Gist who may or may not be hiding tattoos under his black robe, and he may or may not be concealing a checkered past. Whatever the case, he ruled that Judge Fine need not be recused. “It is the finding of this court that the totality of evidence does not support the state's motion to recuse Judge Fine nor that his impartiality might be reasonably questioned." 

That means the cosmic moment will be rescheduled. Not only that, Judge Gist agrees with me that the delay is the fault of Texas: "the totality of the evidence does not support the state's motion."

Keep checking in here for the new date.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Congratulations, Lynn Switzer

Lynn Switzer has issued a response to the Supreme Court decision to grant certiorari review to Hank Skinner. In a letter sent to, she explains why she is intent to see Hank Skinner executed.

I have previously criticized Rick Perry for standing mute. (I believe, in fact, I may have called him a coward.) I now congratulate Lynn Switzer for stating her position clearly and publicly.

You can read her entire letter at the link provided above, or (better yet) you can remain here and read the entire letter below. I will allow Ms. Switzer to make her case without interruption. In the coming days, we will discuss the issues she raises.
Today the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari review in Skinner v. Switzer, No. 09-9000.

In January 2010, the United States District Court dismissed Mr. Skinner's civil rights lawsuit, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision. Mr. Skinner petitioned the United States Supreme Court seeking further review, and that request was granted by today's order.

Our office responded to Mr. Skinner's civil rights litigation by taking positions strictly in accordance with the controlling law of the State of Texas, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the briefing we filed primarily challenged whether the District Court had jurisdiction to reach Mr. Skinner's complaint.

There have been many inquiries about why Lynn Switzer has opposed Mr. Skinner's request for post-trial DNA testing. It is important for the citizens of Gray County to view that request in light of the procedural background of this case. 
Mr. Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death in March 1995 for having killed Twila Busby and her two adult, mentally-challenged sons Randy Busby and Elwin "Scooter" Caler, shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve of 1993. Before the trial, former Gray County District Attorney John Mann obtained DNA testing and those results were admitted against Mr. Skinner during trial. DNA testing of two of the blood stains on Mr. Skinner's shirt were consistent with Twila Busby's DNA, while a third blood stain was consistent with Mr. Skinner's DNA. DNA testing of blood stains on Mr. Skinner's jeans showed a mixture of blood from Twila and her son Elwin, and two other blood stains were consistent with Elwin's DNA. A forensic scientist testified at trial that 1 in 5.5 billion people (at the time, the population of the earth) would have the same seven DNA probes identified in the blood stains as belonging to Twila, Elwin, and Mr. Skinner. In 2000, former District Attorney John Mann again submitted several items of evidence for DNA testing. The results of some of the items were inconclusive. The testing on the hair found in the right hand of Twila showed a profile that was consistent with both Twila and Mr. Skinner. All evidence was available for forensic testing prior to trial had Mr. Skinner's attorneys Harold Comer and Kenneth Fields chosen to do so. They made a strategy decision to not have it done.

Years later on appeal, as he sat on death row, Mr. Skinner argued that his attorneys were ineffective for failing to pursue DNA testing.

In November 2005, lead defense trial counsel Harold Comer testified during a federal evidentiary hearing and explained the trial strategy, which included (1) that the defense hired a DNA expert who evaluated the State's evidence and found no basis for challenging the results; (2) that certain DNA test results, such as for the blood stains on Mr. Skinner's clothing, had been damaging to the defense's case and counsel did not want to run the danger of uncovering even more damaging evidence; (3) that the defense's blood spatter expert determined that widespread amounts of blood stains on the clothing Mr. Skinner was wearing when he was arrested a few hours after the murders were inconsistent with Mr. Skinner's story that he had lain comatose on the sofa only a few feet away from where Twila was beaten and strangled to death; and (4) that Mr. Skinner's videotaped statement to police about how he and Twila had fought with a stick (which police found imbedded with blood and hair, and laying near Twila's body) was also inconsistent with Mr. Skinner's alibi.

The United States District Court held that Mr. Skinner was represented at trial by competent counsel who made a reasoned strategic decision to not seek DNA testing, and denied relief on this ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The Fifth Circuit found that reasonable jurists would not debate the decision, and the United States Supreme Court denied review.
 Additionally, Mr. Skinner filed two motions with the trial court (in 2001 and 2007) seeking post-conviction DNA testing. Both times, the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeals found that Mr. Skinner was unable to show that there was a reasonable chance that additional testing could exonerate him, and therefore denied the motions. In both instances, Mr. Skinner failed to ask the Supreme Court for certiorari review.
Nearly 15 years after trial, Mr. Skinner tried another tactic -- arguing for the first time that current Gray County District Attorney Lynn Switzer is violating his civil rights by not allowing him to conduct additional DNA testing. Although nothing prevented Mr. Skinner from filing a civil rights lawsuit earlier, he did not initiate this attack until after the trial court ordered his execution for February 2010. followed the Switzer letter with a direct quote from her.
"As District Attorney for the citizens of Gray County, I give great weight to the wishes of the victims' families, and particularly in this case, to the family of Twila Busby and her sons, Elwin and Randy. I have been in communication with the immediate family of these victims and my position regarding the DNA evidence controversy is fully supported. There have been so many questions, speculations, allegations and outright misrepresentations in this case that it has been difficult to stand silent until the civil suit was resolved. I made the decision to defend against this suit with an eye not only on Mr. Skinner's case but on past and future cases as well. I knew that there were ramifications for District Attorney's all across the state, especially where the defendant waits so long before even filing a civil rights lawsuit. I felt that it was important to stand firm, something that is not always easy to do. If defendants are allowed to "game the system" then we will never be able to rely on the finality of the judgments entered in their cases. I know that it has been hard on the family and friends of Twila, Randy and Elwin and I appreciate their feelings of frustration and hurt.

"Skinner had a full and fair trial before a Gray County jury. He elected not to have more evidence tested for DNA, which was his trial strategy. He was convicted. His case has dragged on for years. The fact that the Supreme Court has granted Skinner's request for a final review of this matter provides an excellent opportunity for the Court to affirm that once a convicted state prisoner has had an adequate opportunity to make a due process challenge to his conviction through a habeas corpus proceeding, other post-conviction proceedings are better left to the states to handle. The Texas procedure for obtaining this evidence is ample and reasonable, and Mr. Skinner has been given plenty of opportunity to show that additional testing could prove his innocence, but he could not show that. We look forward to presenting the case to the Court."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Congratulations, Hank Skinner

I am pleased to info you that the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear Hank Skinner's petition for a writ of certiorari.

I watched it as it was announced on SCOTUSblog. I found one story so far that has beat me to the posting punch. I'm not sure how they did that, but I don't really care. I'm pleased for Hank Skinner, his family, his defense team, and all those concerned that we are incarcerating, even executing innocent people.

Here's what this means. First and foremost, Texas will not be able to execute Hank Skinner until the Supremes have ruled on his petition. That petition will not be argued until their next session, some time next fall.

If the Supremes at that point decline to issue a writ, Texas will be free to proceed with the execution. It will take Texas a minimum of a month to do so, because their law requires one month between the signing of the death warrant and executing the prisoner.

If the Supremes issue a writ of certiorari, it will instruct a court somewhere (I'm not sure which court) to hear Skinner's case that refusing to test or release all potentially probative DNA material before executing him would violate his civil rights.

In either case, the decision today means that Hank's case will still be active as Rick Perry is fighting to remain governor.  Given that Perry is already trying to muzzle the commission investigating the Todd Cameron Willingham investigation, this will put additional pressure on Perry.

We'll have to see how it all plays out.

The Court's complete order list for today is here. Search it for the brief paragraph regarding Hank. I count 6 motions for writ granted, 174 denied.


The Brandi Grissom of the Texas Tribune has been following the Hank Skinner case for a while. Her post on this morning's developments is here.  She has a quote from Rob Owen, Hank's attorney.
That decision represents the necessary first step to our eventually obtaining the DNA testing that Mr. Skinner has long sought. We look forward to the opportunity to persuade the Court that if a state official arbitrarily denies a prisoner access to evidence for DNA testing, the prisoner should be allowed to challenge that decision in a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Rob Owen clarifies where I confused. I said I wasn't sure which court might be required by the Supremes to hear Hank's civil rights case. Hank is claiming a violation of his federal civil rights, so the case would of course be heard in a federal court rather than a Texas court. Beyond that qualification, I'm not sure which court would be instructed to hear Hank's case should the Supremes issue the requested writ of certiorari.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Failure is The First Option

In the movie Apollo13, Ed Harris portrayed Gene Kranz and uttered these (unfortunately) unforgettable words:
We've never lost an American in space, we're sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option.
I have no idea whether Ed Kranz actually said those words at that time. No matter now. While the words may have been inspirational at the time, they have become mental pablum for people who want something to happen but are unable or unwilling accomplish the task themselves. Instead, the mental pablumists simply delegate the work to others, then demonstrate their leadership ability by saying something along the line of "Failure is not an option."

I don't know from which planet these people hearken, but on this planet, in this universe, failure is the most likely outcome. Unadulterated success, on the other hand, is the least likely option. Success results not from platitudes, but from the cleverness and hard work of talented people struggling against harsh reality.

There is another platitude that sets me off. It is some variation of:
You can do anything you put your mind to. You just have to believe in yourself.
This too is crappola. If you disagree, I ask you to help out and put your mind to going back in time and preventing the holocaust. Please put your mind to stopping the spread of terrorism, or AIDS, or malaria. Put your mind to stopping the oil now gushing into Gulf. Balance the federal budget. Levitate six feet off the ground. Get Charlie Sheen off television. Go ahead. Give it a try. If the going gets too tough, you can just quit and say "I guess I didn't believe in myself."

That brings us to my YouTube clip of the day. The gentleman below is going to prove that you can do anything you put your mind to. He's going to do that by breaking a board over his head. I'll point out beforehand that breaking a board over one's head is considerably easier than, for example, solving our energy crisis, freeing a single innocent person from prison, or getting Alec Baldwin to give it a rest. Nonetheless, it's worth a shot.

Now without further ado (and I apologize for the prior ado), watch and find out if the young man proves me wrong.


It seems as if the video is no longer available due to claims of a copyright violation. Imagine that. You publish a video on YouTube, and you provide an embed code so others may embed the video in their blog or elsewhere, and then people go and do that very thing. Imagine that.

Sorry if you missed the video. It was pretty funny to see the young man attempt to break a board over his head twenty times or so to prove that you can do anything you put your mind to. It was really funny to see him stop about half way through and say "This is harder than I thought."  I'm still laughing.  He did, however, finally break a board over his head, so I guess he proved his point.

We're Number One! Unfortunately!

I'm unabashed in the love and pride I feel for this country. By this country, I of course mean the good ol' USA. Besides the circumstance of my birth, one feature that warms my heart to this little slice of Earth is its willingness to listen to me. Or at least its willingness to allow me to speak. At least for now.

That's important, because sometimes you have to find a way to tell the one you love that she it is making a big mistake. So here it goes. Wish me luck.

I think we imprison far too many of our fellow countrymen. I think we have too many laws, and we criminalize too many people. And I hate to say this, but we convict way too many people who are actually innocent. We even execute some of them. I know you don't like to hear it, but we need to talk.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Words that Inspire ...

... me, at least.

Working wrongful convictions is inherently discouraging business. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that, on occasion, I am discouraged.

This morning, I was drawn to a link about "The 10 Best Graduation Speeches of All Time."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Search of 54: Update

A couple months ago, I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation which caused me to claim that Texas may have executed 54 innocent people. Soon thereafter, I vowed to review all 450 (now 451) lethal injections in Texas to see if I could identify those 54.

I used a coarse filter to rapidly exclude from consideration most of those who were executed. I do not dispute that most of the people executed were in fact guilty of a capital offense. I then designed and applied an Actual Innocence Scorecard to more carefully consider the remaining 69. I summarize below the ones I have scored so far.

Radley Strikes Again

Score another one for Radley Balko, this time for his post on the increasing militarization of our police departments. He's getting letters from military personnel explaining that they (the military) are much more restrained in their search behavior than are SWAT teams.

It's a good read. Here's my takeaway quote: "A couple of years ago after I'd given a speech on this issue, a retired military officer and former instructor at West Point specifically asked me to stop using the term "militarization," because he thought comparing SWAT teams to the military reflected poorly on the military."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hank Skinner Update: No Decision Today

The Supreme Court has handed down its rulings for today, 17 May 2010. There is no mention of Hank's petition for a writ of certiorari.  The next time the court will announce its rulings is next Monday, 24 May.

So that you understand how difficult it is to get the Supremes to grant the sort of relief requested by Hank Skinner, I counted the number of petitions for writ granted (2) and the number denied (228). That's less than one chance in 100.  (I have a math background. Don't try this at home.)

I've been anxiously awaiting word on Hank's petition. I guess I can take the tension I feel, multiply by infinity, then maybe have some sense of what Hank and Sandrine and Rob Owens and the others might feel. (Once again, do not try such emotional math at home.)

Those of you who wish to read of Supreme Court decisions as they are being announced, I recommend SCOTUSblog.  SCOTUS is the acronym for Supreme Court of The United States. Hopefully, that will make the name of the blog self-explanatory.

When the court hands down its decisions, usually Mondays beginning at 10 AM eastern time, SCOTUSblog has a reporter in the courtroom sending back information on the decisions as they are announced in open court. You can follow the live-blog of the court session from the SCOTUSblog home page. It's pretty cool, actually.

During that live-blog session today, the reporter provided the link to the written summary of decisions. There are far too many decisions to speak to each individually in court, so the court speaks briefly to just a few. I followed the link provided by the in-court reporter, searched that document for Skinner, and came up with zero hits. I then went line-by-line searching and counting, so you don't have to. Unless I'm missing something, no decision today. Maybe next Monday.

And by the way, I guess I was wrong yesterday when I predicted the court would have a decision today.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hank Skinner Update: Tomorrow May Be the Day

Sunday, 16 May 2010

I think tomorrow is the day Hank Skinner will learn whether or not the Supreme Court will consider in full court his request for a writ of certiorari.

Seven weeks ago I predicted, based primarily upon my utter ignorance of Supreme Court procedures, that the Supremes would not respond to Hank Skinner's request for a writ in less than a month. (I also explained what a writ of certiorari was, and I seem to have gotten it correct. It was one of my more lucid moments.) Others were saying the Supreme Court might reply within days or weeks, but I was confident no bureaucracy could respond faster than Texas when it finally has the opportunity to execute someone.  Even in Texas, that process takes a month from signing the death warrant to pushing the needle.

One month after my uninformed prediction, the Supremes ruled against a bunch of appellants but postponed a decision on Hank's case for one week. That week passed, and the Supremes then ruled against another bunch of appellants but postponed a decision on Hank's case for two more weeks. It's now been seven weeks since Scalia put a hold on Hank Skinner's execution. That seven weeks works out to the "we-can-now-execute-him" Texas minimum, plus three weeks of announced delays.

I don't think there will be another delay. The Supremes met in conference Friday, and they will announce the results of that conference tomorrow. I think they will make known their decision regarding Hank Skinner. 

If they rule in his favor, they will be ruling only to consider his request in full court during their next term, which begins in October.

If they rule against him, that means there will be no more impediments to Texas executing him. Everyone will be back to asking Rick Perry to intervene. Unfortunately, I don't believe Rick Perry will do so. I can't get inside that man's head, but it sure seems as if he was going to remain mute last time, when Hank came within forty minutes of being executed. I'm not sure what calculations are going on inside that "I-am-destined-to-be-President" brain, but I suspect political variables are more common and more dominant that justice variables.

I think the die has been cast. Tomorrow, we shall see.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Case of Ruben Cantu

Ruben Cantu is among the Pantheon of those wrongfully executed by Texas. His name appears frequently with the likes of Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna. His story is simple and compelling.

Two men were shot and robbed while guarding a house under construction. One of the victims, Juan Moreno, survived and identified Ruben Cantu as one of the two men who robbed and shot them. Moreno made that identification only after four previous interviews in which he was unable or unwilling to identify Cantu. Based exclusively on Moreno's testimony, and despite an alibi witness, Cantu was convicted and executed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The State-Sponsored Criminalization of America

Radley Balko has a follow-up on the drug raid video I included as part of my recent post Arizona, Missouri, Pennsylvania: A Cautionary Tale. Lots of bloggers have linked to it (the YouTube video, not my post), and upwards of a million people have now viewed it.

According to Radley, that raid was just one of 100 to 150 conducted each day in America, mostly for  consenting crimes such as possession of marijuana. That's 35,000 to 55,000 such raids a year. 

Add to that the number of citizens who will be "detained" by the police due to Arizona's new illegal immigration bill. Consider as well that other states are considering similar "show us your papers" bills.

Add to that the number of people who will be pursued correctly or incorrectly by insatiable tax collection agencies. "Your name is Tom. You live just off of 5th Street. Nice car Tom. Nice house. What's not so nice is you owe Pennsylvania $4212 in back taxes. Listen Tom, we can make this easy ..."

Add to that the number of people who will have money and property confiscated by the government, without trial or court order, as part of drug forfeiture laws.

Add to that the number of criminals we will soon create because some of us will refuse or be unable to purchase health insurance.

Add to that the number of people who will be caught by the traffic cameras so beloved by cities. The cameras actually increase the number of accidents, but they are gold mines for cities always eager for more "revenue."

Add to that the number of returning vets that Janet Napolitano wants to keep a close eye on because she believes they are more likely to become domestic terrorists. 

Add to that the number of people wrongfully convicted. That number may be as high as 10%, a number which I will soon defend in this blog and elsewhere. Given that we now have 2,300,000 people in prison or jail, that means a quarter million of them may be wrongfully convicted.

Add to that the notice I received from my city that I was watering my lawn at the wrong time of day.

Okay, the last one is not as serious, but you get the idea. Welcome to the state-sponsored criminalization of America.

So again I ask the question: Have we reached the point where we now have more to fear from the State than from the criminals we hoped it would control?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Case of Cheecho Mertaris (w/ 3 updates)

In June, Cheecho Mertsaris will go on trial for sexual harassment of a female judge. Cheecho and the judge (sounds like a TV series) both work for the Taxi and Limousine Commission in Queens, New York. The judge claims Cheecho grabbed her upper thigh and buttocks. Cheecho claims it was an accident, sometimes he can't control his arms, the sun got in his eyes, and the dog ate his homework. Mostly because he can't control his arms.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Arizona, Missouri, Pennsylvania: A Cautionary Tale

Issues regarding the proper exercise of police powers, or lack thereof, are tearing at the fabric of our country. The issue of wrongful convictions is but one drop in a big melting pot that is now percolating.

Consider first the issue of the Arizona's recently enacted illegal immigration law. The people of Arizona have grown weary of the the serious crime they perceive as being perpetrated by illegal aliens. They therefore passed a law that, among other things, allows their law-enforcement authorities to demand papers from anyone they believe might be in this country illegally, assuming that person has been legally stopped, detained, or arrested. They claim the law will allow them to enforce, at the state level, federal laws already on the books but largely ignored.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Case of Carlos DeLuna

The case of Carlos DeLuna is one of the more simple cases to comprehend. I'll try to be quick.

Corpus Christi, Texas, February 1983. George Aguirre pulls into a gas station and notices a man outside with a knife. The man asks Aguirre for a ride. Aguirre declines. The man goes to the side of the building. Aguirre goes inside and warns the clerk, Wanda Lopez, about the man with the knife. Aguirre leaves. 

Lopez calls 911 and tells them about the man with the knife. They say they can't do anything, that she should call back if he comes inside. The man with the knife comes inside. Wanda Lopez calls 911 again and tells them that the man with the knife has come inside. She begins to scream. The 911 operator records the last moments of Wanda's life.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lynn Switzer's Responses to Hank Skinner's Requests

Two small stories here which I will combine into one.

Back on 27 January, this year, Hank Skinner sent a letter to Lynn Switzer in which he offered to take a lie detector test. I include that portion below.

I've always said that I have nothing to hide. I meant that. If you wish, I will meet with you, I will answer any question you want to ask me and I will take a polygraph on any answer I give you, with one caveat: that you have retired Texas Ranger Mickey Blackmon do the polygraph. My reason for that request is simple - his reputation is legendary. He's the son of previous Hutchison County Sheriff Lon Blackmon. He used to be the DA's investigator. He's law enforcement 100% - which should suit you. I know the man and I know he's hard but 100% honest, which suits me. I'm well aware of how polygraph results can be manipulated by unscrupulous operators. I know Mr. Blackmon isn't.

Article 43.141 provides that you can file a motion to modify or withdraw the execution warrant and do the DNA testing. So I'm asking you to have my execution modified 120 days forward to June 24th and you do the testing. I'm not asking you in this letter to enter into any deals with my attorneys or give them the evidence to test. I'm asking you to do it yourself.

I'm unaware of any formal response from Lynn Swizter or her office. It's obvious though, since Hank Skinner came within forty minutes of being executed, that she has no intention of taking him up on his offer.

Next, I present Lynn Switzer's response to Hank Skinner's request for a writ of certiorari.  Remember that a writ of certiorari is a instruction from a higher court to a lower court to conduct a hearing. Hank Skinner requested the Supreme Court to order Texas to consider whether the DA's refusal to test the DNA violated Hank Skinner's civil rights. It's an almost new way of trying to enforce testing of untested DNA. It would have implications far beyond Skinner's case. The Supreme Court has yet to declare whether or not it will consider Hank's request.

With regard to Switzer's response, I offer this quick summary: Too little, too late. The DNA would not exonerate Skinner, and even if it would, he asked way too late. The most interesting part of the response, in my opinion, was that she cited Clinton v. Jones.  That would be Bill Clinton v. Paula Jones. I'll give you just a snippet. "It is not the habit of the court to decide questions of a constitutional nature unless absolutely necessary to a decision of the case." I know it's boring. It's the nature of the beast.

To get a feel for the significance of these to responses, think first of your own passion. Think of what matters to you in this life, of what focuses your time and energy. Now think of Lynn Skinner's passion. She hopes to see Hank Skinner die while she ignores the foreign handprint on the trashbag which held the murder weapon, while she ignores the hair clutched in Twila's dead hand that factually exonerates Hank Skinner, while she withholds the DNA that might set him free.

My guess is that your passion, whatever it is, is more noble.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Behind The Scenes: StatCounter Maps

One of the striking things about the internet is the quality and extent of free stuff. Everyone wants to provide me with high-quality products and services for free. Firms will compete fiercely with one another to give me stuff for free. It's certainly not because I'm rich, or famous, or powerful. They treat me this way even though I'm one of the masses. The motto seems to be "To each according to their wants they didn't even know they had, from each a big fat zero."  It's the kind of economic system that really works for me.

Let me admit up front that which must be obvious to everyone. As a blogger, I'm a novice. I'm not a blogging expert, by any means, and I'm in no particular position to pontificate on the art of blogging. I thought, however, you might like to learn of some of the free things people really, really, really want me to use.  I'll begin with StatCounter, because it provides (among other things) this very neat graphic.

It's a world map showing where the most recent visitors came from. (Click on it to enlarge it.) Most of you hail from the US, but there are a fair number that come from Europe and some loyal visitors from down under.

The one on the equator is one that StatCounter couldn't figure out where it came from.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hank Skinner Status: Another Monday, Another Delay

The Supreme Court failed once again to announce their decision regarding Hank Skinner's request for a writ of certiorari.  The next time they are scheduled to make such announcements will be two weeks from today, 17 May.

You can read the story here.

Not much to do but wait. I guess you could read Part II of my post on Delma Banks. Last week, while delaying a decision on Hank Skinner, the Supreme Court gave Texas the green light for executing Delma, almost thirty years after the crime.

The Case of Delma Banks: Part II

In Part I of this two part story on Delma Banks, I laid out the State's slam-dunk case against Delma Banks. Banks came to my attention because the Supreme Court just recently cleared the way for Texas to kill him. Texas had been giving it their best shot for almost thirty years (the murder having occurred in 1980) and they had come within 10 minutes of doing so in 2003, but the path now looks more clear than ever.

If you wish to experience this post as I intended, you should first read of the State's no-brainer case as I took the trouble to present it in The Case of Delma Banks: Part I. I know you won't do that though, if you haven't done so already. I know you. And you won't do that.

So I'll do the next best thing. I'll give you a real quick summary of the State's case, real quick, and then I'll go through it again as I did in my first post. This time, however, I'll add the tidbits that bring uncertainty to this seemingly open-and-shut case.

Real Quick Summary: