2017-04-27 16:07:06 UTC
Texas Sues Trump Administration To Recover Execution Drugs It Bought From
India----Texas and 2 other states bought a massive amount of execution drugs
from India. The FDA says the drug is illegal to import, so Texas is taking them
On Wednesday, Texas followed through on a promise to sue the federal government
in an attempt to obtain lethal injection drugs the Food and Drug Administration
maintains are illegal.
The Wednesday court filing sets up the unusual scenario of Texas suing the
Trump administration for hindering the death penalty - a new complaint in a
lawsuit originally brought against the Obama administration.
Texas, Arizona and Nebraska each purchased 1,000 vials of execution drugs from
a man in India in 2015. Last week, the FDA formally denied the shipments,
ruling that it's illegal to import the drug.
On Wednesday, the state filed an amended complaint in federal court, alleging
that the FDA is harming the state by blocking the drugs.
"TDCJ has previously purchased and used thiopental sodium in numerous
executions before" the sole FDA-approved supplier stopped making the drug, the
state's lawyers wrote. "Through the import at issue in this case, TDCJ is
attempting once again to utilize thiopental sodium for purposes of imposing
lawful capital sentences."
The FDA blocking the shipments "directly harms TDCJ by preventing TDCJ from
having the option of using the drugs at issue in lawful executions," the
lawyers wrote. "This harm will continue unless and until the Court" forces the
FDA to allow the drugs into the country.
In addition to state government lawyers from Attorney General Ken Paxtons
office, the state has hired outside lawyers from the law firm Alston & Bird to
help represent the state. Wednesday's filing was signed by Daniel G. Jarcho, a
partner in the firm's DC office who used to represent the FDA when he worked
for the Justice Department.
Last week, the FDA sent Texas and Arizona a 26-page letter denying the drugs,
arguing that they are unapproved, mislabeled, and that the government is
legally bound by a 2012 court order issued by the federal district court in DC
that prohibits them from allowing thiopental into the country.
In Texas' complaint filed Wednesday, the state makes no mention of the 2012
court order, which was upheld by a federal appeals court in DC, although it
does note that the FDA's position on thiopental changed that year. Instead, the
state focuses on arguing that it is exempt from the FDA's requirements because
the drugs would be used for "law enforcement."
The state points to a statute that exempts drugs "shipped or sold to . . .
persons . . . engaged in law enforcement, . . . and [are] to be used only for
such . . . law enforcement.???
"Use of thiopental sodium to administer lawfully-imposed capital sentences
through lethal injection is a use of the drug for law enforcement purposes,"
the state argues. "TDCJ is a state agency that is regularly and lawfully
engaged in law enforcement."
The FDA declined to comment on the case. But in the letter the agency sent last
week, the federal government wrote that the law enforcement exemption does not
apply when the drugs are to be used on humans. The FDA also pointed out that
the exemption was written before lethal injection was created.
"As an initial matter," the FDA noted, "the law enforcement exemption could not
have been intended to apply to lethal injection, because FDA issued the
regulation adding the exemption ... in 1956, well before any State used lethal
injection as a method of execution."
Texas is asking the court to force the FDA to allow the drugs in, and to
prohibit the FDA from detaining any future shipments of execution drugs it
buys. Judge George Hanks set a telephone hearing for Thursday to discuss the
status of the case.
In its complaint, Texas does not name the supplier of the drugs at issue,
referring to it only as a "foreign distributor."
In 2015, Texas first planned on buying sodium thiopental from a small company
in India, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. That sale, however,
fell through when the would-be supplier was raided by India's Narcotics Control
Bureau, its employees arrested, its drugs seized, and its facility shut down.
Indian law enforcement seized a massive amount of generic versions of Xanax,
Ritalin, Ambien, Viagra, and various opioids.
When that deal fell through, Texas instead turned to a man in India named Chris
Harris. Harris sold 3,000 vials of sodium thiopental to Texas, Arizona, and
Nebraska for more than $75,000 - promising that there would be no legal
problems with the sale.
Before the drugs were shipped, the FDA and DEA warned the states and Harris
that the sale would be illegal and that the government would have to stop the
shipment. The states bought the drugs anyway.
In its court filing Wednesday, Texas lamented that the FDA was harming its
reputation by stopping the shipment.
By ruling the drugs illegal, "FDA has formally decided that TDCJ - a law
enforcement agency - has attempted to import drugs in violation of federal
law," the lawyers wrote. "The refusal order has caused, and is substantially
likely to continue to cause, adverse publicity that has and will injure
TDCJ???s reputation by asserting that TDCJ has attempted to import drugs in
violation of federal law."
E. Texas woman on death row loses appeal
Texas' highest criminal court Wednesday refused an appeal froman East Texas
woman on death row for the slayiang 7 years ago of her developmentally disabled
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected 15 claims raised by Kimberly
Cargill, 50, of Whitehouse, who was convicted in Smith County in 2012 of
causing the asphyxiation of 39-year-old Cherry Walker.
10 of the claims in Cargill's appeal contended her trial lawyesrs were
deficient for not presenting evidence that Walker died in June 2010 of an
epilepsy-related seizure rather than homicidal violence. The court said 3 other
claims were rejected because they should have been raised in an earlier appeal
following her conviction and 1 was refused because it had been raised and
rejected in that earlier appeal. The final claim argued attorneys handling the
previous appeal were deficient for not arguing that an autopsy photo allowed
into evidence was improper and prejudicial.
Cargill is 1 of 6 women on death row in Texas. She does not yet have an
execution date andstill mayfile appeals in the federal courts.
(source: Dallas Morning News)
Justices express caution, intrigue in death penalty case
U.S. Supreme Court justices wrestled Monday with the possible implications of
siding with a Texas death row inmate who argues his case should have another
chance in federal court because his appellate attorney neglected to bring up a
The court appeared split along ideological lines during the hearing, with
Justice Anthony Kennedy - often a swing vote - sharing the same concerns as the
A ruling on the case is expected by the end of June, when the court's term
The origins of the case dates back to 2008, when Erick Davila fatally shot a
rival gang member's 5-year-old daughter and mother during another girl's
birthday party in Fort Worth. Davila, 30, claims he intended only to kill his
rival, Jerry Stevenson.
To find Davila guilty of capital murder, jurors had to determine that he
intended to kill multiple people, and Davila's main defense was that he only
intended to kill Stevenson. Tarrant County prosecutors countered by pointing to
Davila's confession to police: "I was trying to get the guys on the porch, and
I was trying to get [Jerry Stevenson]."
As jurors deliberated, they focused on the intent issue, asking the judge if
they should decide whether Davila intended to kill his 2 victims or if he
intended to kill someone and in the process fatally shot 2 others.
The judge instructed jurors that Davila would be responsible for a crime if the
only difference between what happened and what he wanted was that a different
person was hurt - without affirming to them that Davila must have intended to
kill more than 1 person.
Davila's lawyer objected to the judge's instruction but was overruled. It was
the right move by the lawyer, but it hurt Davila in the long run, according to
Seth Kretzer, who argued on Davila's behalf before the justices in Washington,
The judge's instruction wasn't brought up during Davila's automatic, direct
appeal,and another lawyer handling Davila's state habeas appeal - which focuses
on facts outside of the trial record - didn't claim the appeals lawyer should
have brought it up. 2 big mistakes, according to Kretzer.
Death penalty cases can also be appealed in the federal court system, but it is
generally ruled that issues that could be raised at the state level can't be
reviewed federally. So, when a federal lawyer tried to raise the claim that
Davila's lawyer in the direct appeal was ineffective for not faulting the
judge's instruction, federal courts said they couldn't rule on that because it
could have been brought up during the state habeas appeal.
There is an exception to this rule, created in the Supreme Court decision
Martinez v. Ryan, which says that if state habeas lawyers fail to raise the
issue of ineffective trial counsel, the federal courts can still hear it to
ensure that defendants are guaranteed their Sixth Amendment right to a fair
Justice Samuel Alito told Kretzer that applying Martinez to Davila's case would
burden federal appeals courts with numerous claims of errors from both trials
"If we accept your argument, it applies everywhere, and it's not limited to
ineffective assistance of counsel," Alito said, according to the court's
transcript. "... it applies to every single - every single type of error that
could occur at trial."
Kretzer disagreed, saying that if the Supreme Court sided with his client, it
would only apply to claims of bad lawyering during the appeals process.
"But the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel would be based on any type
of error that occurred at trial," Alito said. "So here you have a jury
instruction error. But if we agree with you, it would apply to the erroneous
introduction of evidence, to the - to improper statements made in closing, to
any type of trial error, any type of constitutional trial error you can dream
Justice Stephen Breyer, a noted death penalty critic, said it wouldn't be a
huge burden for federal appeals courts to hear more cases similar to Davila's
but added that he thought Alito made an interesting point. Breyer asked what
the difference was between raising the claim that a lawyer messed up during
trial and during the appeals process.
"I mean, I'm just probably missing it, but what - what is a case where - where
there's ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, but not ineffective
assistance of trial counsel?" Breyer said. "What is that case?"
Breyer expanded on what he saw as a conundrum in the rules of how and when
someone can raise the claim that they had a bad lawyer at trial and/or during
the direct appeal after trial.
"Suppose we said, yes, there is - it's the same situation, you know, you have
ineffective assistance - you have ineffective appellate counsel," he said.
"Well, obviously, you can't raise it because he was ineffective. So you never
had a shot at it. It's Catch-22. Same with the trial counsel."
Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller shared the same concern as Alito.
"Extending Martinez to appellate-IAC [ineffective assistance of counsel] claims
will have a huge systemic cost by opening up the entire trial and everything
that happened at trial to federal habeas review," he told the court.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked if that was enough of a reason to deny Davila.
She and other jurists had noted throughout oral arguments that even if more
claims were brought forward because the court sided with Davila, there would be
a "initial uptick of claims until people settle down and realize that it's a
small number that are viable," Sotomayor said.
If the high court rules in Davila's favor, the case would be sent back for
federal courts to review his ineffective counsel claim. If it sides with Texas,
Davila's appeal will be denied and he could become eligible for execution.
Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----24
Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----542
Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #
25---------May 16-------------------Tilon Carter----------543
26---------May 24-------------------Juan Castillo----------544
27---------June 28------------------Steven Long-----------545
28---------July 19-----------------Kosoul Chanthakoummane---546
29---------July 27-----------------Taichin Preyor---------547
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
PENNSYLVANIA----new death sentence
Jury chooses death sentence for convicted murderer Eric Frein
A jury Wednesday ordered the death penalty for Eric Frein, who gunned down 2
state troopers outside their Pike County barracks in 2014 and then eluded more
than 1,000 law-enforcement officers until he was captured in the Poconos after
As the verdict was read just before 10 p.m. in a packed courtroom, sighs of
relief and a shout of "yes" were heard from the troopers and the victims'
family members present.
Frein showed little reaction as the verdict was read after nearly 5 hours of
The decision marked the end of Frein's 4-week trial, which offered new
information about the man who spent the fall of 2014 on the FBI???s most-wanted
list for killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass.
Some of the testimony recounted the deadly sniper attack and manhunt for Frein
that gripped the Northeastern United States and made international news. A
sentencing hearing is to be held Thursday afternoon before Judge Gregory H.
Lawyers for the 33-year-old Canadensis man did not rebut or deny any evidence
that he was the killer. Instead, they sought to persuade jurors to see Frein's
troubled home life - with an abusive, alcoholic father who railed against
police and the government, and fabricated stories about being a war hero - as
reason to spare him from the death penalty.
But the jury, selected from Chester County and sequestered in Milford during
the trial, decided execution was the only proper punishment for the shootings
outside the Blooming Grove barracks in September 2014.
"Cpl. Dickson will always remain in the hearts of all members of the
Pennsylvania state police forever," Commissioner Tyree Blocker said outside the
courthouse with former Commissioner Frank Noonan, who was leading the state
police at the time of the manhunt.
Frein will not be put to death immediately, if at all. His lawyers vowed to
pursue appeals on his behalf, and Pennsylvania has a moratorium on executions.
Frein will join more than 170 other death-row inmates in a state that has not
executed anyone since 1999.
Bill Ruzzo, 1 of Frein's lawyers, told reporters outside the courthouse that he
had plans to appeal at least 1 issue - the decision to allow Frein's
video-recorded confession to be played for the jury.
"Hope springs eternal with every defendant I've ever had," Ruzzo said.
Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin said after the verdict that the death
penalty was "richly deserved."
"This verdict is for each and every member of law enforcement who dons a
uniform and goes out to protect us each and every day," he said.
Frein's parents broke their nearly 3-year silence about the case this week,
after a jury convicted him and the trial moved into the penalty phase.
The Freins testified about failing their son, whom they described as a loner
who struggled in school and did not learn to read until 6th grade. Defense
lawyers argued that his father's influence - which included fabricated stories
about being a sniper in Vietnam - should be a mitigating factor.
"This didn't happen in a vacuum," defense attorney Michael Weinstein told
jurors in his closing argument for the penalty phase. "This is the tenor and
climate of this house."
Frein???s mother, Debbie, was the only family member present in the courtroom
as the verdict was read. She showed no reaction.
Frein did not testify during his trial. As the penalty phase continued, his
lawyers said he stopped communicating with them and was put on suicide watch.
Monday, he had to be brought into court in a wheelchair.
But Tonkin portrayed Frein as a cold-blooded murderer, and focused on the
mourning and struggle of the Dickson family.
"Full justice is deserved in this case," Tonkin said. "Absolute full justice."
Frein, Tonkin said, remained "ready for battle," armed and carrying bombs,
until he was captured outside an abandoned airplane hangar where he was hiding.
His capture ended an intense search that included foot patrols, armored
vehicles, and helicopters. Schools were closed in parts of Pike and Monroe
Counties for parts of the 6-week search, and residents faces roadblocks and
searches of their properties. The state police spent more than $11 million on
the manhunt; that does not include money spent by the FBI, U.S. marshals, and
other agencies that deployed officers to the area.
This year, Pike County budgeted $250,000 for the trial, and the county
commissioners attributed a tax increase in part to its cost - longer and with
more media attention that any the county had hosted in decades.
Douglass, the trooper wounded in the ambush attack, was present in the
courtroom for the verdict. He gripped the hand of George Bivens, who was the
public face of the state police search for Frein in 2014, and smiled after the
death penalty verdict was announced.?
A Closer Look at the Death Penalty in PA
If the jury finds in favor of the death penalty for Eric Frein -- some ask the
question if his execution would ever be carried out? As of April 3rd, there
were 171 inmates on Pennsylvania's "Death Row"-- but the state has not executed
an inmate since 1999 and has carried out only 3 executions since 1976. The
I-Team's Andy Mehalshick talked with legal experts about the status of the
death penalty in the Keystone state.
September of 1982, George Banks of Wilkes-Barre goes on a shooting rampage
killing 13 people including 5 of his own children. He was convicted and
sentenced to death and sat on death row for more than 30 years until a court
ruled him mentally incompetent to be put to death..saying it would be cruel and
Robert Gillespie prosecuted Banks and says if there was any crime that screamed
for the death penalty it was the banks case."If you saw what i saw when we went
into banks house and saw the little children that were murdered you'd
understand why you think there are times when the death penalty is the most
appropriate remedy for society."
But Gillespie thinks the Commonwealth's appeal system delays justice for the
victims way too long.
"We have to revamp the system because if the death penalty is going to be
imposed it should be imposed, otherwise we are wasting time and wasting money."
Al Flora defended Banks, he still has the court sketches in his office. He
believes the death penalty should not be imposed on anyone. "The flaws in the
system are just so great that to sentence somebody to death in this day and age
and it will most likely be reversed on appeal it just isn't worth it."
Flora says there is simply too much at stake and once the sentence is carried
out..there is no turning back
" Look at these cases that have been reversed.. look at the people who have
been put on death row and in fact later it turns out they are innocent because
of dna and things of that nature."
Governor Tom Wolf placed a moratorium on executions until the capital case
system can be reviewed..that drew outrage from many prosecutors but was welcome
news to civil rights activists and defense lawyers..that review is still
Judge holds hearing in case overturning death penalty
A judge is holding an evidence suppression hearing for a murder suspect whose
case led to Delaware's death penalty being overturned by the state Supreme
Wednesday's hearing comes in the prosecution of Benjamin Rauf, who is charged
in the 2015 drug-related killing of 27-year-old Shazim Uppal of Hockessin, a
fellow Temple University law school graduate.
Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty against Rauf, but after a
U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding Florida's death penalty statute, the judge
sought a state Supreme Court opinion on Delaware's law, which is similar to
A majority of the justices concluded that Delaware's law was unconstitutional
because it allows judges too much discretion and doesn't require that a jury
find unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant deserves
(source: Associated Press)
South Carolina struggles to execute death row inmates
Though Americans remain divided on the issue of the death penalty, South
Carolina faces the bigger issue of being able to execute inmates.
On January 11, Dylann Roof, convicted murderer and self-proclaimed white
supremacist, was sentenced to death in South Carolina. Roof is the 1st person
in history to be sentenced to death for a hate-crime, according to PBS.
The death penalty is still legal in 31 states, according to
deathpenaltyinfo.org. Though it is legal in more than half of the country, many
do not support it.
"I don't support it," said Alexa Vega, 20-year-old public relations major at
Columbia College South Carolina. "2 wrongs don't make a right. Killing someone
isn't okay, no matter what the circumstances are."
"I support the death penalty," said Ashley Barber, 20-year-old elementary
education major at Columbia College South Carolina. "Why pay taxes to keep
murderers and rapists alive?"
Studies show that over time, more have grown to oppose the death penalty. In
1995, 80 % of those polled supported the death penalty, according to an annual
Gallup poll. The same poll taken in 2016 showed that only 60 % of those polled
are in favor.
Though support for the death penalty and execution rates in the U.S. have
dropped steadily since 1999, according to CNN, the death penalty is by no means
Between 2011 and March 2017, 17 states executed 260 inmates, according to CNN.
Texas, Florida and Georgia account for more than 1/2 of those executions. In
South Carolina, only 1 inmate has been executed since 2011, according to
deathpenaltyusa.org. Arkansas executed 2 men April 24, 2017.
Support or opposition for the death penalty is not the issue that South
Carolina currently faces. The problem the state faces is finding a way to
Lethal injection, the method most commonly used to execute those on death row,
initially required a 3-drug "cocktail." "The 1st, (sodium thiopental or
pentobarbital) puts the prisoner to sleep," according to CNN. "The 2nd
(pancuronium bromide) brings on paralysis, and the final agent (potassium
chloride) stops the heart."
In 2011, Hospira, the manufacturer of sodium thiopental, stopped making the
drug as concerns arose about whether this method of execution was humane.
Because of this, it is becoming increasingly difficult for states to obtain
lethal injection drugs. These states have had to look for other ways to execute
inmates. In Tennessee, for example, when no lethal injection drugs are
available, the state may use the electric chair.
As of March 3, there were 38 men on death row in South Carolina. There are no
women currently on death row in this state. However, there is no way to execute
the inmates. Lethal injection is the default method of execution in South
Carolina, but the state's supply of lethal injection drugs expired several
years ago. Pharmaceutical companies have refused to sell the state any more.
A South Carolina Senate panel is currently in the process of finding
alternatives for lethal injection, according to an article in The State
Newspaper. Until an alternative is found, a death row inmate in South Carolina
may choose to die via the electric chair, but the state cannot force this upon
the convicted inmate.
(source: The (Columbia College) PostScript)
Georgia schedules its 1st execution of the year
A Murray County judge on Wednesday signed a warrant setting a May execution of
J.W. Ledford for the 1992 murder of his elderly neighbor.
If Ledford, 45, is put to death, he will be Georgia's 1st lethal injection in
2017, coming off a record year during which the state executed 9 men in 11
According to the warrant, Ledford's execution is to be scheduled for between
noon May 16 and noon on May 23. Usually, the Department of Corrections
schedules executions for 7 p.m. on the 1st day of the window, which will be May
16. It will be carried out at the death chamber at the Georgia Diagnostic and
Classification Prison near Jackson, about 50 miles south of Atlanta.
William Sallie was the last person Georgia put to death. He was executed Dec. 6
for a 1990 murder.
Ledford was 20 years old, but had been drinking and using drugs half his life
when he murdered his "rather feeble" 73-year-old neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston
on Jan. 31, 1992.
According to testimony at the death penalty trial in Murray County, Ga.,
Antoinette Johnston had just seen her husband drive away in his pickup with
someone in the passenger seat when Ledford knocked on the door and asked to
speak with the physician.
Ledford left when she told him her husband wasn't home, but he returned 15 to
20 minutes later, introducing himself and asking again to see Johnston. Ledford
left only to return a 3rd time about 10 minutes later to ask Antoinette to tell
her husband to come to his house that evening.
The 4th time Ledford came to the Johnston house he had a knife; one that
belonged to the elderly man. Ledford told Antoinette Johnston he need money for
drugs, and if he didn't get it he would kill her. Ledford tied up the woman and
left the house with 2 handguns, a rifle and a shotgun that belonged to the
Antoinette Johnston freed herself in time to see Ledford drive off in her
Within the next 30 minutes, Ledford sold the rifle and shotgun at 2 different
pawnshops, stopped to buy cigarettes and was stopped on Highway 441 and
He told investigators Johnston was giving him a ride to the grocery store when
the older man accused him of stealing and turned around the truck and headed
back to his house.
On the side of the Johnston garage, Ledford said, Johnston knocked him to the
ground and then pulled a knife from a sheath in his belt. Ledford said he
pulled his own knife and repeatedly stabbed Johnson.
Ledford dragged the body a short distance away and covered it with tree limbs.
(source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Jim Crow justice: Samford professor tells story of wrongly convicted
man----Samford University history professor Jonathan Bass tells the story of a
wrongly convicted man sentenced to Death Row in the new book, "He Calls Me By
Caliph Washington got into a physical confrontation in 1957 with Lipscomb
police officer James B. "Cowboy" Clark, whose gun accidentally fired. A bullet
ricocheted off a car and bounced back to hit Clark in the heart, killing him on
a Bessemer street.
The officer's wife, Florence Clark, collected an insurance settlement following
what was ruled an accidental death in a jury trial of a lawsuit against the
Still, Washington was charged with capital murder and sentenced to death by a
jury of white men. The Alabama Supreme Court overturned Washington's first
conviction. He was convicted twice more. Nearly a dozen times, Washington was
within minutes of being electrocuted in Alabama's electric chair, nicknamed
Gov. George Wallace granted Washington 13 stays of execution in 1963-64. In
December 1964, Wallace declined executive clemency, but U.S. District Judge
Frank M. Johnson stayed the execution. Johnson ordered him released from
prison, but Washington was arrested again and held in Bessemer for
re-prosecution. He was in jail from 1965-70, waiting for his third trial, in
which he was convicted again. For a 3rd time, a higher court overturned the
"He's a Job-like figure," said Samford University history professor Jonathan
Bass, author of a new book, "He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph
Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death
Penalty," published by Liveright, a division of W.W. Norton & Co. Bass
previously wrote an acclaimed book about the civil rights era, "Blessed Are the
Peacemakers," which focused on the clergy that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
addressed in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
In 1963, Caliph Washington underwent a Christian conversion in prison.
"He becomes so deep in his faith it informs everything he does," Bass said.
"God's giving him a vision he will be free. He not only begins to fight for his
own freedom, you start to see him fight for justice for others."
After his release from prison in 1971, Washington became a model citizen,
working as an engineer at WVTM-TV Channel 13 for 19 years and spending more
than 2 decades as a pastor at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Lipscomb.
He married an Italian woman, Christine Luna, and they had six children and
lived in Hueytown. He bought a van and went around Bessemer looking for
troubled youth who needed help. He got them to join his basketball team, the
Salvation Club, which he used to keep them active and steer them away from
drugs and violence.
Civil rights attorney Orzell Billingsley, who often represented the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr., served as Washington's lawyer during his long legal ordeal.
Washington died May 24, 2001. Billingsley died later that year. Bessemer's
attempt to put Washington on trial a 4th time, initiated with another
indictment in 1972, was finally shelved after his death.
"Very little has been written about the Jim Crow legal system and how it
impacted the average citizen," Bass said. "The civil rights movement was truly
a grassroots movement. There are a lot of unsung heroes and untold stories."
Bass has told one of those stories in his book about Washington. It's as much a
history of segregation and injustice in Bessemer and Alabama as it is the
biography of a wrongly accused Death Row inmate.
Bass will be signing copies of "He Calls Me By Lightning" at the Alabama
Booksmith on May 9 at 4 p.m.
"The key element is Caliph's personal story, growing up in poverty in Bessemer
in a poor area and how he gets treated in the Jim Crow legal system," Bass
Bass grew up in Fairfield but his parents grew up in Bessemer. He found himself
intertwined at times with Washington's story. James B. "Cowboy" Clark, the
Lipscomb police officer who was killed in the scuffle with Washington, used to
work for his uncle.
"He worked for my uncle at a service station," Bass said. "He was Gomer Pyle.
He was a filling station attendant. He'd only been on the Lipscomb police force
for 6 months when he died. He had no police training."
The book describes the history of corruption and mafia ties in Bessemer that
form a backdrop for the Caliph Washington saga.
"The story could not be told apart from Bessemer," Bass said.
"The entire legal system was stacked against him," Bass said. "Every single
aspect of Alabama's legal system was totally stacked against a black man
accused of murdering a white man, especially a police officer."
Death penalty serves a purpose
Tuesday, a bill that would end the death penalty in Louisiana passed a Senate
committee. Now heading to the full Senate floor, SB-142 would go into effect
for those convicted of 1st-degree murders and rapes after Aug. 1 of this year.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge).
According to a report in The Advocate, church leaders are backing the bill on
the grounds that being pro-life includes ending the death penalty. But since we
live in a world where sickening crimes take place each day, let's be blunt
about some aspects of the death penalty.
Most people know that cold-blooded murder is immoral. It is common knowledge
that purposely taking a life can lead to living life behind bars, or suffering
the death penalty. The average death row inmate was not blind to this fact when
they committed the crime that led to their fate. Those who end up with a death
sentence have been convicted in the most sickening murder cases. If a person
chooses to kill another human being - or, in many death row cases, multiple
people - then that person chooses their fate. Some argue that this is a
pro-life issue when it is actually a question of whether the punishment fits
the crime. No cold-blooded killer is surprised by a death sentence; it is a
consequence they willingly chance.
No conviction should ever be taken lightly. No matter the situation, a person
should be convicted with evidence that proves their guilt beyond reasonable
doubt. If no stone has been left unturned by investigators and prosecutors, and
the evidence clearly proves someone took another's life in cold blood, then the
death penalty should be an option.
The death penalty exists for 2 very important reasons: So harsh justice can be
served when a heinous crime is committed, and to deter those with a weak moral
compass from targeting the innocent. While death should not be an option in
every case, removing the option altogether gives the appearance of greater
concern for the criminal than the victim.
(source: Editorial, Jennings Daily News)
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