Saturday, October 27, 2007

Computer Glitch Leads to Capital Execution

Recently, a hold on executions by lethal injection was put in place until the US Supreme Court rules on whether this form of capital punishment is illegal based on the federal law against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

That did not stop an execution on Sept. 25, 2007, in Texas, of Michael Richard, held since 1986 on murder and sexual assault charges. If a computer problem had not delayed an electronic communication, Richard might be alive today.

Richard's lawyers sent a message that was delayed 20 minutes, thus arriving at the state court in Austin after its official closing at 5 pm. The message was a request for an appeal for the case to go the US Supreme Court.

This past Wednesday, Oct. 25th, the 13,000-member National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed a complaint against the presiding judge in the case, Sharon Keller, and 150 Texan lawyers filed additional complaints.

Ironically, Richard's execution transpired on the same day the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a Kentucky case requesting suspension of lethal injection based on the “cruel and unusual punishment" clause. Richard’s life hung on 20-minute computer delay compounded by the fact electronic communications were yet to be considered a legitimate means to file an appeal. Since his execution, electronic communications have been ruled permissible.

What is your response to this case?

The source for information in this post is a New York Times article, on 10/25/07. Photos of Judge Keller and Michael Richard are credited to Bena Grothe/American Statesman, and appeared in the Times accompanying its story.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Young Lifers

Did you know the United States stood alone recently in a United Nations vote to abolish life in prison without parole for children and young teens? We were the only nation out of 185 to vote against the resolution.

Two of our Supreme Court Justices, John Roberts, Jr. and Samuel Alito, Jr., contend that laws in other countries should not affect our constitutional law. Yet, in 2005, we were influenced by other countries when we banned the death penalty for those under the age of 18.

The human rights organization Equal Justice Initiative, situated in Montgomery, Alabama, wants the United States to review its policy on not paroling young lifers. Yet, victims’ rights advocates argue that the offenders' crimes were so horrific that we are all at risk if they are set free.

In most cases in the US today where the young are serving life sentences the crime was murder and the offender was tried as an adult.

Do you believe life in prison without parole is justifiable for those who commit violent murders as children or young adults?

Information from this post was obtained from Adam Liptak’s column that appears in The New York Times. See the 10/16/07 edition of the paper for the story. The photo, by Richard Patterson, appeared in The New York Times October 3, 2005, and is of Rebecca Falcon, a lifer, convicted of murder, when she was 15.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Thou Shall Kill in Church

Maybe not literally, but gun-shooting videos like "Hallo 3" are packing in the congregation at churches across the country. Ministers show children as young as 12 video games heaped with violence. If you have seen the Hallo series, you know killing with guns is glorified.

"Hallo 3" with an M-rating, for mature audiences only, is now shown at churches behind parents' backs. Pastors and minister alike rationalize that once the youth show up for the violent games, they’ll stick around for the sermon.

If the young people cannot legally buy the videos on their own, what are church leaders doing making them available? "Hallo 3" is already on track to become the Number 1 selling video game of all times, according to Microsoft, its producers. Already hundreds of churches across the country have joined the bandwagon, luring youth.

The popularity of Hallo nights has led ministers and pastor to rent extra video players. Will R-rated movies at the Sunday service be the next bait? Given the mounting pressure to attract the young to the congregation, are violent videos like "Hallo 3" the answer?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Hollywood Up in Smoke

First it was media ads, and then it was restaurants. Now, it is movies. A campaign is afoot to ban smoking in films. Apparently, just as violence in films turns young adults into gangsters, smoking in movies condemns them to a life of health woes.

Advocates for a ban on showing scenes of smoking in movies believe the action will abate teen smoking. Universal Studios is ready to go ahead, Time Warner is interested, and Disney Production already has a policy. Yet, other studios, like Dreamworks, claim the ban distorts reality.

Basically, the antismoking lobbies want cigarettes out of films rated G, PG, or PG-13. The Simpson Movie released this summer showed enough cigarette smoking to garner a “Black Lung” rating from

One study found a connection between cigarette smoking in movies and adolescent addiction to tobacco. Another study claimed this link was strongest when a predisposition to smoking already existed.

Is Hollywood going too far in banning cigarette smoking scenes? What about a ban on junk food? Where do we draw the line? What's your view?
Photo of Andy Garcia puffing away in "Ocean's Twelve." The Smoke Free Movies project ( says the film deserves an R-rating for glamorizing smoking.