Justice Delayed: Nine Death Row Inmates Lost Appeals Due to Late Filings By Counsel

260xstory1A recent study of capital cases in Texas shows that nine death row inmates lost their appeals due to the failure of counsel to file by the court deadline. Johnny Ray Johnson was put to death after his lawyers missed a filing deadline by one day. He is one of six such inmates put to death after missed deadlines.

The six executed prisoners are Johnny Ray Johnson: Executed Feb. 12, 2009; Willie Marcel Shannon: Executed Nov. 8, 2006; Robert Andrew Lookingbill: Executed Jan. 22, 2003, Leonard Uresti Rojas: Executed Dec. 4, 2002; Spencer Corey Goodman: Executed Jan. 18, 2000; Andrew Cantu Tzin: Executed Feb. 16, 1999.

Three more inmates are pending execution after losing appeals over late filings.

I can certainly understand barring counsel from future capital cases for missing such deadlines if there is no excuse. However, it seems unjust to deny a death penalty appeal because it is one day late given the gravity of the matter. Deterrence can be achieved by addressing the mistake of counsel. Indeed, there has been a move to remove Judge Sharon Keller in Texas who ordered a clerk’s office closed before an after-hours death appeal could be filed.

In the meantime, prosecutors appear to be having the same problems in managing their calendars. In Montana,
Bianca Wilson was charged with deliberate homicide in the September 2004 shooting of 30-year-old Justin Marchant, but District Judge Blair Jones ruled that prosecutors could not refile the charge because they violated her constitutional right to a speedy trial, here

For the full story, click here.

13 thoughts on “Justice Delayed: Nine Death Row Inmates Lost Appeals Due to Late Filings By Counsel”

  1. I would appreciate any help from you on lawyers.
    Does anyone know if you can sue the state for the incompetent
    lawyers that were hired?
    Connie Marchant

  2. connie marchant 1, May 28, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I am the mother of Justin Marchant who’s murderer will go free because of incompetent lawyers who didn’t check the calender right.

    Mame with all due respect, my heart go to you and your family. I do not know you and you do know us, but this is a pretty good group of people on this Blawg.

  3. Connie Marchant:

    Yours is a tragic case and you every right to your loathing of the slop that apparently passed for lawyering. If your statute of limitations hasn’t expired, I would suggest a civil lawsuit for wrongful death both to vindicate your son and to exact some measure of justice here. It worked for the Goldman family. This time you get to pick your own lawyer. I suggest you check around in your area for competent counsel. If you find none, let me know with a message on the blog and I can suggest some good ones in your area. You have my sincere sympathy.

  4. I am the mother of Justin Marchant who’s murderer will go free because of incompetent lawyers who didn’t check the calender right.
    Also the special prosecutor Ira Eikan hired for the first charge, didn’t take my sons death serious and was supposed to have a brief for the judge but got drunk instead.
    He got fired but that isn’t enough.
    Our family was cheated out of the justice for Justin because they didn’t do their job that they are paid for.
    Connie Marchant

  5. In civil cases, the courts appear much more willing to sanction lawyers for missing deadlines, while preserving the rights of the litigants to pursue their claims. The judicial attitude toward late filed appeals in death cases is probably political in part, a cowardly reaction to public criticism of what is perceived to be an endless chain of appellate proceedings. What is particularly sad is the view that the pursuit of all legal means to save the life of a human being is somehow dishonorable if it requires more time than what an impatient public deems “reasonable.”

  6. Another great example of the high quality justice that is available in that great state of Texas! When was Bush the Governor of Texas??

  7. That’s okay, Mike. I thought maybe you were going to tell us your views on Etheled. Wasn’t he a fifth century Celtic king?

  8. I am at a loss to understand the type of mentality that would balance a persons life, with the notion of a late appeal by counsel. Is it the idea that if they’re convicted then they’re always guilty? Is it a lack of empathy? Is it a slavish devotion to the letter of the law? Is it sociopathy? I’m always dumbfounded by this type of behavior and I’m a traind please don’t get me started on Etheled psychotherapist. More than anything else this is why I’ve always been against Capital Punishment.

    In my youth in the 50’s a man named Caryl Chessman was executed for rape under the Lindbergh Law, because his taking the victim ninety feet down the road was defined as kidnapping. Most people in the country who relished his execution didn’t even realize that murder was not involved in the case. And please don’t get me started on Ethel Rosenberg, when I was about 8 years old.

  9. When I started to read this post I assumed it was an article about cases from decades ago. In Illinois the state responded to this type of problem with forming a capital litigation bar requiring a certain resume of murder and serious felony work aswell as requiring specific CLE requirements (more people on Illinois death row have been found factually innocent than executed since the death penalty was reintroduced).

    Calls for speedy justice in capital cases no doubt have lead to innocents being executed in places like Texas. YYYYEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAWWWWWWW. Hook ‘Em Horns. (Still, I hate to see Duke win).

  10. I am watching the HFSC hearings today. I am appalled at what I saw:

    After each member got their face time asking a question, THEY GOT UP AND LEFT!! Towards the end of the hearing there were mostly empty chairs.

    We all know now that the members never read any of the legislation regarding the Stimulus or the Bail Out packages. They have admitted it. Now they can be seen in full view of everyone that they could not be bothered to stick around and listen to what was said. All they were interested in was the face time. THEIR STAFF LEFT ALSO, so don’t tell me they will be informed about the proceedings in another manner. What could have been more important that they had to attend to.


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