24 September, 2010

Virginia executed Teresa Lewis

The U.S. state of Viriginia has executed Teresa Lewis - Telegraph 24th September 2010.  As mentioned in the post below, it beggars belief that any supposedly civilised society can be wedded to the death penalty and yet many of the individual U.S. States continue to be.  For instance, since 1976, Texas has carried out 463 executions and Virginia 107.  Information about the death penalty in the USA may be read at - Death Penalty Information Centre.

Even adherents to the death penalty ought to recognise the fundamental unfairness in executing Lewis when the men involved received life imprisonment sentences.  The difference is explained by the view that Lewis was the mastermind or, as the sentencing judge put it, "the head of the serpent".  A further serious concern related to her mental state.  Most reports indicate that she had an IQ of 72.  Below 70 appears to amount to "mental retardation" and the execution of a mentally retarded person would be unconstitutional - (a "cruel and unusual punishment" in breach of the 8th amendment) - see Atkins v Virginia 536 US 304 (2002).  There is actually no definite method of measuring human intelligence and the use of IQ is very problematic - see, for example, here.  Even if one accepted IQ as a measurement, it is not possible to measure it with such precision that it ought to be used as a test determining issues of life or death.

The execution of Lewis does no credit to the law in Virginia or the USA.  At a fundamental level, the execution will not have made Virginia a better place and will not prevent future murders.

Since 1976, the USA has executed 1214 men and 12 women.  Murder continues to be committed.

Writing in The Washington Post 12th September, the lawyer and author John Grisham analysed the Lewis case.  He wrote - "In this case, as in so many capital cases, the imposition of a death sentence had little do with fairness.  Like other death sentences, it depended more upon the assignment of judge and prosecutor, the location of the crime, the quality of the defense counsel, the speed with which a co-defendant struck a deal, the quality of each side's experts and other such factors.

In Virginia, the law is hardly consistent. There have been other cases with similar facts -- a wife and her lover scheme to kill her husband for his money or for life insurance proceeds. But there is no precedent for the wife being sentenced to death. Such inconsistencies mock the idea that ours is a system grounded in equality before the law" 

Further links:

Death Penalty Information Centre

U.K. based United States Death Penalty Training courses.

The work of AMICUS to assist lawyers working on U.S. death penalty cases is vital.  Their website merits a good look and their work merits support.

Law and Lawyers - the Linda Carty case.

20 September, 2010

It beggars belief ... practices which ought to be ended ...

The Death Penalty

It beggars belief that a supposedly civilised nation such as the United States of America still continues in many of its States to cling to the death penalty.

Robert McDonnell (Governor of Virginia) has refused a reprieve for Teresa Lewis who is likely to die by lethal injection on Thursday 23rd September.  See The Guardian 19th September 2010.  Virginia has not executed a woman since 1912.  An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court remains Lewis's only possibility of surviving.  Even though Lewis stands convicted of a very serious crime (conspiracy to murder) it is notable that the men who actually carried out the killings in pursuance of the agreement with Lewis received life sentences.  One of them confessed in order to avoid the death penalty but Lewis also pleaded guilty.

Here is the statement of Governor McDonnell.

Addendum 23rd September - The Supreme Court of the United States refused Lewis's application for a stay of the execution though two of the justices would have allowed it - see here.   See also New York Times 21st September 2010 and Amnesty International

Deportation with Assurances

It also beggars belief that a nation such as the United Kingdom is continuing to actively pursue so-called Memoranda of Understanding so that individuals can be deported to various States which have absymal human rights records including the use of torture.  See The Guardian 17th September 2010.  It also appears, from a debate in Parliament on 5th July 2010 that the British government is negotiating further memoranda.  This is an absymal practice which ought to stop immediately since it only lends encouragement to the hideous practice of torture.

For the debate see Hansard 5th July 2010 column 74W - here - question by Mr Dominic Raab MP (for Esher and Walton) to the Immigration Minister Mr Damian Green MP (for Ashford).

Mr Raab: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) with which countries the UK has a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the return of foreign nationals without the risk of torture or other inhuman and degrading treatment;

(2) with which countries the Government is negotiating with a view to signing a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the return of foreign nationals without the risk of torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment.

Damian Green: The UK has signed Memoranda of Understanding with Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon and Libya which set out in general terms the manner in which an individual deported to or from the UK and one of those countries under the terms of those Memoranda will be treated. Similar arrangements, which were set out in an exchange of letters between the then Prime Minister and the President of Algeria in July 2006, apply in respect of deportations from the UK to that country.

The texts of these Memoranda and of the exchange of letters are available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's website:


We have made it clear that we intend to extend the practice of seeking assurances to more countries, but it would not be appropriate to identify the countries concerned until negotiations have been successfully concluded.

For the serious student, there is an interesting and critical article in the Cambridge Student Law Review Volume 6 No.1 (2010) at page 226 - "The SIAC, Deportation and European Law"