From the current edition:
Leading off this week is the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Michael Coleman v. State. Trial counsel at a postconviction evidentiary hearing “testified that he was convinced Coleman was innocent and indicated he had no reason to believe he needed to pursue mitigation for the penalty phase.” Trial counsel also “admitted that he never inquired into whether Coleman (1) was in special education classes; (2) abused drugs; or (3) suffered a head injury,” in addition to other mitigation, rather he focused the penalty phase defense on residual doubt. The jury recommended life but the trial court overrode that recommendation. The State on appeal argued that “Coleman did not provide Stokes with any mitigation, and such mitigation may have been harmful to Coleman‘s case.” The Coleman holds, however, if trial counsel “had properly presented the aforementioned mitigating evidence, the trial judge would have had to view it in light most favorable to the defendant and would have been precluded from overriding the jury.” As Mr. Coleman “has demonstrated that the mitigation presented would have provided a reasonable basis for the jury recommendation, the defendant is entitled to a life sentence.”
Leading off the news, in New York, despite a multimillion dollar federal death penalty, Vinny “Gorgeous” Basciano’s defense team quickly secured a life sentence based on the federal government’s use of witnesses who were much more sullied than the Defendant and because more morally culpable participants in the murder received life. In Texas, prosecutorial misconduct has led both parties in the Chelsea Richardson appeal to seek a a new penalty phase. A clemency request has been filed with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for Humberto Leal Garcia by the Mexican National Human Rights Commission. In Montana, counsel have filed a high profile challenge to the state’s death penalty statutes under Ring. Also in Montana the state legislature has granted a supplemental budget item, approximately $1 million from the 2011 Montana Legislature specifically to defend death penalty cases. The Nevada Senate passed a bill authorizing a legislative audit of the cost of the state’s death penalty.
As always a heartfelt thanks for reading and a special thank you to Steve Hall from which must of the news is drawn. – k