Like it or not, the Hillary P.s and J.J.s of the world are gaining momentum in their fight against the death penalty. Informal Legal Pub reader polls shows that approximately 55% of those surveyed apparently oppose the death penalty. However, of the 45% of readers in favor of the death penalty, many believe it should be reserved for the most severe and or heinous crimes.
The Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve Tuesday to Earl Wesley Berry. Berry was convicted for the 1987 murder of Mary Bounds. (Berry was less than an hour from being executed by injection when the stay was granted.) Mississippi citizens in opposition to the death penalty had apparently written Gov. Haley Barbour on behalf of Berry with out success. The letter writing campaign argued that executing Berry would violate the right to life as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and constitute cruel and degrading punishment. They further argued that it would be unconscionable for the state of Mississippi to proceed with any lethal injection before the U.S. Supreme Court has established protocols for when, if ever, capital punishment is justified. The Governor apparently did not act. However, the Supreme Court jumped in literally minutes before the execution and granted an emergency stay of execution. (Talk about your dramatic game winning saves...)
Undoubtedly, the families of Harrell Franklin Braddy and the family of his victim, Quatisha Maycock and her mother, Shandelle await the Supreme Court's final ruling as to whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution. No matter what the Supreme Court's final decision, one thing is for certain, Braddy will not be executed anytime soon.
* Note: A 2006 Gallup polls showed that 65% were in favor of the death penalty with 07% having no opinion. So are legal pub readers "different" or has public opinion changed because of DNA revealing some convicted criminals were innocent?
Update 4-22-08 With the recent Supreme Court decisions, Wes Berry's execution will be rescheduled in the immediate future.
Update 5-1-08 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 16 that the three-drug procedure of Kentucky — that sedates, paralyzes then kills — does not violate the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. After the court's decision, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood requested that Berry's execution date be set for Monday, which is Berry's 49th birthday. The Mississippi Supreme Court has not ruled on the request. Berry could become the first convict put to death in the United States since Texas executed Michael Richard on Sept. 25.
Georgia may execute William Earl Lynd on May 6 for the murder of his girlfriend. That is the earliest date that has been approved by a state court. A clemency hearing is scheduled for Monday in Lynd's case. On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled Georgia's method of execution which is similar to Kentucky's does not violate the Constitution. Berry's attorneys filed a motion Tuesday arguing he is "mentally retarded" and "that Mississippi's lethal injection creates a substantial risk of serious harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment because there are no safeguards such as those that Kentucky has in place." Stay tuned.
Update 5-6-08 Looks like the Mississippi Supreme Court has reset the execution for May 21, 2008. (Earl Wesley Berry just celebrated his 48th birthday.)
5-22-08: Yesterday the State of Mississippi executed Earl Wesley Berry. No happy ending for any one here. Best we can say is that it is over.