Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rodricus Crawford: Louisiana; Two important reads in preparation for Rodricus Crawford's appeal of his murder conviction set for Wednesday September 7, 2016; In an older story (May, 2015) Slate Magazine takes on 'America's Deadliest Prosecutors.' One of them is 'Dale Cox' - Rodricus Crawford's prosecutor. (The sub-heading to the story, written by Robert J. Smith, reads: "The last stubborn, bloodthirsty devotees of the death penalty". By Robert J. Smith); The second and more recent article, published on August 23, 2016) is a New York Times story by Emily Bazelon, headed "Where the death penalty still lives." The sub-heading reads: "As capital punishment declines nationwide, a tiny fraction of the country generates an alarming number of death sentences. What this new geography tells us about justice in America)... (One of these death penalty enclaves is Caddo Parish, where Rodricus Crawford was prosecuted by prosecutor Dale Cox - who appears in the Slate story on America's deadliest prosecutors. HL);

STORY: "America's Deadliest Prosecutors" by Robert J. Smith, published by 'Slate'  on May 14, 2015; (Robert J. Smith is a senior fellow at Harvard Law School's Charles Hamilton Houston Institute and a visiting scholar at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.)

SUB-heading; "The last stubborn, bloodthirsty devotees of the death penalty."

GIST: “I think we need to kill more people,” Dale Cox, a prosecutor in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, said recently. He was responding to questions about the release of Glenn Ford, a man with Stage 4 lung cancer who spent nearly three decades on death row for a crime he did not commit. Cox acknowledged that the execution of an innocent person would be a “horrible injustice.” Still, he maintained of the death penalty: “We need it more now than ever.” Cox means what he says. He has personally secured half of the death sentences in Louisiana since 2010. Cox recently secured a death sentence against a father convicted of killing his infant son, despite the medical examiner’s uncertainty that the death was a homicide. Rather than exercising caution in the face of doubt, Cox told the jury that, when it comes to a person who harms a child, Jesus demands his disciples kill the abuser by placing a millstone around his neck and throwing him into the sea. The nation suffered more than 10,000 homicides last year, yet only 72 people received death sentences—the lowest number in the modern era of capital punishment. The numbers have been steadily declining for the better part of a decade. Most states are abandoning the practice in droves. Even in states that continue its use, capital prosecutions are being pursued in only a few isolated counties. What distinguishes these counties from neighbors that have mostly abolished the death penalty, in fact if not in law? Perhaps the biggest factor is the presence of a handful of disproportionately deadly prosecutors who represent the last, desperate gasps of a deeply flawed punishment regime. Most of their colleagues are wisely turning away from a practice that has revealed itself to be ineffective at deterring crime, obscenely expensive, inequitably administered, and not infrequently imposed upon the innocent. But America’s deadliest prosecutors continue to pursue death sentences with abandon, mitigating circumstances and flaws in the system be damned..........Not surprisingly, death sentences drop precipitously after these prosecutors leave office. ........These drops underscore the degree to which prosecutors such as Dale Cox, Jeannette Gallagher, Juan Martinez, and Bernie de la Rionda are out of step with the times. Twenty years ago, when support for capital punishment was at an all-time high, these prosecutors often touted their death sentences proudly, like medals of honor to display to a receptive public. Today the electorate is in a decidedly different mood. The curtain has been pulled back not just on our nation’s deeply flawed application of the death penalty, but on broad swaths of the justice system. These prosecutors increasingly look irresponsible and reckless, wasteful of precious public resources, and decidedly lacking the humility or judgment required of public officials entrusted with life-and-death decisions. We can only hope that, unwittingly, their inability to temper their own bloodthirsty impulses will further illuminate the ugly truth about capital punishment, and hasten its demise once and for all."

The entire story can be found at:

See the New York Times article referred to above at the link below: "Where the death penalty still lives," by author Emily Bazelon,  published by The New York Times on August 23, 2016. ((Emily Bazelon is a staff writer for the magazine and the Truman Capote fellow at Yale Law School. She last wrote about Kamala Harris, the California attorney general.)  The sub-heading is: "As capital punishment declines nationwide, a tiny fraction of the country generates an alarming number of death sentences. What this new geography tells us about justice in America."..."Twenty states and the District of Columbia have abolished capital punishment. Four more have imposed a moratorium on executions. Of the 26 remaining states, only 14 handed down any death sentences last year, for a total of 50 across the country — less than half the number six years before. California, which issued more than one-quarter of last year’s death sentences, hasn’t actu­ally executed anyone since 2006. A new geography of capital punishment is taking shape, with just 2 percent of the nation’s counties now accounting for a majority of the people sitting on death row. An even smaller fraction of these counties still imposes death sentences regularly. In June 2015, in the Supreme Court case Glossip v. Gross, which involved lethal injection, Justice Stephen Breyer noted in a dissent that only 15 counties — out of more than 3,000 across the United States — had imposed five or more new death sentences since 2010. The number rises to 16 counties if Breyer’s count is extended through the end of 2015.........(The article names Caddo Parish - where Rodricus Crawford was sentenced to death on the basis of a disputed pathologist's report and outlandish exhortations to the jurors  by prosecutor Dale Cox - as one of the 16. The whole article is well worth a read - but here are the references to Caddo Parish. HL); O: "What separates the 16 counties where the death penalty regularly endures from the rest of the country, where it is fading away? The 16 counties span seven states in the South and the West. They include major cities, like Los Angeles, Houston, Las Vegas and Phoenix; suburban areas like Orange County, Calif., and San Bernardino, Calif.; and semirural pockets like Mobile County, Ala., and Caddo Parish, La. Some are dominated by Demo­cratic voters, some are dominated by Republicans and a few are evenly split. Many of the counties have high numbers of murders, but so do plenty of other places that don’t use the death penalty."...O: "Black jurors are relatively absent from death-penalty trials, which can affect their outcomes. “Research shows the mere presence of blacks on capital juries — on the rare occasions they are seated — can mean the difference between life and death,” Melynda J. Price, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, wrote in a 2009 law review article. But to be seated on a death-penalty case, a prospective juror must say he or she could vote for execution without substantial moral or religious qualms, in keeping with the test set by the Supreme Court. Since African-Americans oppose capital punishment at a higher rate than whites, fewer of them can serve. Prosecutors also can take steps to keep them off juries. In Caddo Parish, La., which is among the 16 counties, prosecutors excluded black jurors at three times the rate of white jurors between 2003 and 2012, according to Reprieve Australia, a legal-assistance group. “You see all-white or nearly all-white juries at capital murder trials where you’d never expect it given the diversity of the population,” says Smith of the Fair Punishment Project."...O: Many of the 16 counties where the death penalty is prevalent have a criminal-justice system with a power structure similar to Duval’s. Whites retain control to a striking degree, despite the presence of sizable numbers of African-Americans or Latinos. This phenomenon is the most pronounced within the former borders of the Confederacy. “Alabama has 19 appellate judges,” says Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, which represents clients on death row in the state. “They are all white. Fourteen percent of the trial judges are black. Out of 42 elected prosecutors in the state, one is black.” Stevenson says that by seeking numerous death sentences, prosecutors in the Deep South “hark back to the history of using the criminal-justice system to maintain racial control.” Mobile County is the site of the last known lynching in the country, in 1981. (After a jury deadlocked in the trial of a black man accused of killing a white police officer, two Ku Klux Klan members abducted a black 19-year-old who had nothing to do with the death, cut his throat and hanged his body from a tree.) Jefferson had the state’s highest total of lynchings between 1877 and 1950. In Caddo Parish, men have been hanged outside the courthouse, where a monument to the Confederacy still stands on the front lawn."

The entire article can be found at:

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