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PostSubject: Article: Execution of the mentally disabled   Thu Sep 09, 2010 12:04 pm

Alabama's Shameful Execution
by Brendan Kirby


Quote :
He's poor, mentally disabled, and his newbie lawyer botched his sentencing. But at 6 p.m. EST today, this convicted killer will be executed. Brendan Kirby on death row's special-needs inmate.

This was never a whodunit.

Holly Wood, the incongruously named 50-year-old African-American man from backwoods Alabama, didn’t deny what he had done. The evidence was too overwhelming, and his lawyers concluded early on that an acquittal was highly unlikely. Wood’s 34-year-old former girlfriend, Ruby Lois Gosha, had been shot in the head on September 1, 1993. Her corpse was found in her bed at home. The 12-guage shotgun, under a pile of leaves at the home of Wood’s father. Wood was arrested and, a year later, convicted of murder.

Alabama's lethal injection chamber at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Al. (AP Photo)

In Alabama, his execution might be not be all that shocking—except that Wood is mentally disabled.

At this moment, the time Wood has left on this earth can be measured in hours. On Tuesday, the Alabama Supreme Court turned down a request for more time to study his mental capacity. Which means that, barring an 11th-hour intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court or Alabama Governor Bob Riley—both of whom Wood has appealed to for mercy—he will die at 6 p.m. today by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

“He was an easygoing, happy-go-lucky, energetic person,” his cousin says.
“And I don’t believe he understands the seriousness of his actions.”

Wood has consistently tested below 70 on IQ tests, and has been labeled borderline mentally disabled. (Only 5 percent of people score below 70 on the test; those who do are generally considered to have a learning disability.) And Wood’s execution comes eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of the mentally disabled. “The lesser culpability of the mentally retarded offender surely does not merit that form of retribution,” the court wrote.

But legally, defining mental disability has turned out to be trickier than it sounds, and Holly Wood finds himself in the unfortunate gray area where prosecutors can argue that he’s essentially not intellectually disabled enough. Alabama and other states look also at how well a defendant is able to function in society. And the Alabama Legislature has never spelled out what that means precisely, leaving it to the courts to decide.

"He’s always had a job. He’s worked on cars. He’s lived independently," says Clay Crenshaw, who heads up the capital litigation section for the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. "That’s not even an issue at this point."

But talk to people who know him, and a different picture of Wood begins to emerge. His own lawyer, Brady Mills, tells The Daily Beast, "It’s very hard to have a conversation with him. I have to admit, I don’t know him very well."

Court records, testimony, and Wood’s own family members tell of a hard life from birth—from even before birth. Wood grew up poor in rural Crenshaw County, next door to Pike County, where he committed the murder. Crenshaw averages 10 people per square mile, and nearly a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Family members say Wood’s unusual name was inspired by an uncle named Ollie, not the flashy moviemaking town 2,000 miles west of here.

Wood’s mother drank while she was pregnant, according to a psychologist hired by the defense team, who said in a report after Wood’s conviction that he suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. According to a summary of the psychologist’s findings, Wood grew up in "extreme poverty," suffered from physical, mental, and emotional abuse, and had traumatic exposure to death as a child.

Mills says Wood’s brother died in a car accident, and that he also lost his mother when he was a child. From there, Mills said, Wood lived with a cousin for a while. Later, his father arranged for him to live with a sister, according to family members.

Despite scraping by, Wood’s younger sister, Maeola Wood, tells The Daily Beast the children never worried about money growing up. She recalls happy summer days picking peas and raising hogs and cows on their father’s farm. She said her brother particularly enjoyed baling hay.

"He was a very active boy," she says. "He liked to swim and ride a tire swing over the spring. He liked riding horses and motorcycles."

Maeola, who is from Birmingham, spent yesterday visiting her brother on death row.

Despite seeming like a normal kid in many respects, she says her brother struggled mightily in school, even after he was placed in special-education classes.

"He never really got it," she says. "He always had trouble learning. He had trouble paying attention."


Johnny Folmar, a 55-year-old second cousin of Wood's, with whom Wood lived for about two years growing up, sees much of himself in the younger man. Both struggled in school. The difference, Folmar says, is that his mother had the forethought to get him into job-training programs at a young age.

Folmar has his own long-running battles with the law. Beginning with an aggravated robbery conviction, he says he spent 30 years in and out of prison. He says he later was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and got psychiatric treatment.


He wonders how his cousin’s life might have turned out differently if he had gotten help as an adolescent.


"He was an easygoing, happy-go-lucky, energetic person," Folmar says of Wood. "And I don’t believe he understands the seriousness of his actions."

Maeola agrees. She doesn’t think her brother comprehended the legal proceedings or even the entirety of the crime he committed. "I don’t think he really understood,” she says. “No way he could understand.”

Wood’s mental deficiencies were well-documented by the time he went on trial for Gosha’s murder. His lawyers had an expert report detailing evidence of the defendant’s disability, including the extremely low IQ scores. But they chose not to present any of that information to jurors during the penalty phase, something that has outraged Wood’s supporters. The jury recommended the death penalty by a 10-2 vote. The two votes to spare Wood’s life were cast by the jury’s sole two black members.

Subsequent legal challenges have focused on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. An attorney fresh out of law school, with no capital murder cases under his belt, took on responsibility for the penalty phase at the request of two more experienced lawyers on the legal team. During that portion of the trial, defense lawyers are given broad latitude to present any information about a defendant’s background that might persuade a jury to recommend a sentence of life in prison instead of execution.

But the inexperienced attorney’s performance was apparently so inept, in fact, that Senior U.S. District Judge W. Harold Albritton ordered Alabama to vacate Wood’s sentence: convert the punishment to life in prison without parole, or have a new sentencing hearing.

His ruling didn’t last. The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Albritton on a 2-1 decision, ruling that the failure to present evidence about Wood’s disability was a defensible "strategic decision" by his original lawyers.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices ruled 7-2 against Wood in January of this year. In an unusual ideological split, center-right-leaning Anthony Kennedy joined liberal John Paul Stevens in dissent.

President Barack Obama’s first nominee for the high court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, wrote the opinion that doomed Wood.
To Crenshaw, the Alabama assistant attorney general, Wood is a vicious and dangerous person, not a hapless victim of stunted intellectual ability. He notes that Wood was convicted of attempted murder a decade before Gosha’s death in an attack on another woman. And he says that the expert report that Wood’s lawyers chose not to introduce also contained a great deal of damaging information.

"The problem with Holly Wood is if you delve too deep, you find a lot of things that are not favorable to him," Crenshaw says. "The more you talk about those things, the more you open the door for a prosecutor to bring things up.”

By tonight, however, delving more deeply will become an academic pursuit for scholars and anti-death-penalty activists. Holly Wood will no longer be a part of the debate over his own life. He may not have fully understood it in the first place.


My Opinion
Regardless of his actions, if the individual is mentally disabled, he should be off the hook. I'm not saying there were no repercussions of his actions. However, I am saying it was also the responsibility of those around him, to keep him in check. When I say those around him I am saying family, friends, and yes the government too.

The reason for me pointing a finger in the direction of the government is simple, since this individual was at one point in time earning and thus paying taxes it automatically becomes the responsibility of the government to look after him. Isn't that the reason why they collect taxes? I'm sure taxes aren't intended for a leader to clad themselves in expensive dresses in order to be of appeal to other leaders who are brand conscious.

So, if the government is responsible for this person and if the family is "emotionally attached" to this person because of their relationship with him due to being born in the same family and the friends choose to be associated with him in an "emotional attachment". They are also to blame for his actions BECAUSE they knew he was mentally incapable of understanding the reprecussions of his actions at that point in time.

I particularly do not approve of them looking in hindsight and saying all of these things, they could have, and should have been proactive much earlier on. Correct me if I am wrong but there is a considerable time period between 1993 (action) 1994 (conviction) and then 2010 (execution date) for them to be attempting to provoke emotions. I'm sorry to say this, but the people (who knew of this since 1994) to date (8 years after the new law being passed of not executing mentally incapable people), and didn't raise a rukus earlier are just as much responsible for this injustice as those who are executing him. Since all I have is this article to base my opinion on, these people attempting to provoke and emotional response at this point in time only leads me to one conclusion, they want to build their own PR in order to get sympathy out of those around them.

Source

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Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak out for me.



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PostSubject: Re: Article: Execution of the mentally disabled   Thu Sep 09, 2010 5:24 pm

Interesting point of view Xs, I was suprised with your approach to the topic. :)
For me worse is overall determination of judges to kill this man(10-2 to kill him 2 votes against were from black people) . When you want to execute mentally ill man, for me it is like punishing dog for eating meat which was not guarded by anyone. I doubt anyone tried to taught him moral aspects of life, even by saying that killing is just wrong. Organs of justice in US of A just got used to death penalty and they are using it too often (also in USA they can send underaged person to life sentence without possibility of premature ending of punishment). It looks funny when some Condoleeza or other Clinton speaks to govermental officials from Iran China or whatever about their law when in USA capital punishment is still legal and overused.
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PostSubject: Re: Article: Execution of the mentally disabled   Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:21 pm

patriota_PL wrote:
Interesting point of view Xs, I was suprised with your approach to the topic. :)
For me worse is overall determination of judges to kill this man(10-2 to kill him 2 votes against were from black people) . When you want to execute mentally ill man, for me it is like punishing dog for eating meat which was not guarded by anyone. I doubt anyone tried to taught him moral aspects of life, even by saying that killing is just wrong. Organs of justice in US of A just got used to death penalty and they are using it too often (also in USA they can send underaged person to life sentence without possibility of premature ending of punishment). It looks funny when some Condoleeza or other Clinton speaks to govermental officials from Iran China or whatever about their law when in USA capital punishment is still legal and overused.

Thanks. :)

I did a little googling to ensure I was correct about the figures regarding the disproportionate number of executions in some states compared to others in USA. My earlier thought process was leading me to the assumption that Texas is where it is heavily used in comparison to other states. However THIS link (wiki) tells a different tale. Key things of interest there are various tables and graphs which represent the demographics and number of people killed (by law) by using various processes. (electric chair, hanging, lethal injection, and so on)

Slight Tangent
Interestingly, I am led to even lesser conviction in wiki. Yes its a great reference source since we are so predominantly illiterate. (we are, all of us!). However, the bias a writer develops is not entirely kept aside in the articles. A little digging into the validity of number quoted reflects this very thing.

1. Capital punishement in US in its initial sections says that USA executed only 52 people in the last year.
2. This table gives the current people who have been sentenced to execution in USA (state wise distribution). the same link above (1) in comparison gives a very small number.
3. Capital Punishment (wiki) is in agreement with that number (as stated in link 1) of 52 and places USA on #5. However based on link #2 alone, this claim seems to be rather invalid.

I saw a number of other articles which threw me even more into circles, but since one of those tangents brought Pakistan into the discussion which I feel would be inappropriate of me because there is a high probability that I am biased towards this country.

Safe to say, under present situations, countries which have banned it entirely might not be correct either. Countries which have not banned it but use it for trivial things are not correct either.

My question for the countries banning it entirely is simple: 1 man (mid-40s) raped and killed 99 children a few years ago. What penalty does him justice?

For the countries where it is being used for trivial offenses: 1 person is executed due to a trivial crime. Is that what "life" is worth?

For anyone who feels that me pointing a finger in the direction of USA with reference to capital punishment is incorrect: I agree, I'm just saying the numbers should be revised to include the millions that have been executed because thousands died in the 9/11 incidents. No trial occurred and no conviction for any of them.

_________________
Martin Niemoller wrote:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak out for me.



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PostSubject: Re: Article: Execution of the mentally disabled   Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:30 am

For once I agree with all of you even pat!!

1 thing I also think is funny countries who ban the death penalty and the people who speak about it and support the ban but then instead supports war. Sweden is a great example were we claim to be neautral and peace loving but at the same time we produce tons of weapons which we sell to the whole world (but mostly 3rd world countries end up with them) + we put troops in Afganistan.

That was a bit off-topic...

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PostSubject: Re: Article: Execution of the mentally disabled   Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:32 am

Errr? This tables does not exclude each other. What do you mean Xs? One shows total number of executed since 76 in US and other shows that 52 inmates were executed in US of A in 2009. Everythings fine (when it comes to data of course).
I agree that completely banning death penalty is bad idea. For example a guy who was attacking kindergarten's in China and stabbing children with knife. Send him for 25 years in prison? What after? Or to life sentence? Life sentence is senseless. It forces tax-payers to fund some moron free life in prison and he does nothing in here. Nothing beneficial for society. However I must say that it was worth to loose death penalty in return for sole possibility of free movement in borders of EU (Shengen zone ftw:D) On this list Iran has 388 executions. I wonder how many of those were executions for "religious" crimes, man it even sound stupidly. Also looking at Iraq, how much were executions not because of crimes but just to... erase dangerous people or political oponents.

PS @Satan well... Sweden has nice navy does it not?Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Article: Execution of the mentally disabled   Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:57 pm

@DizordA: Good point.

@Pat:
One of the reasons I pointed out that file is simple. The numbers don't exactly add up. I agree you need to spot the pattern in there to be able to see that because its rather nicely buried. Let me elaborate.

Executions in the United States
This graph is also present in the same wiki page (much smaller there which is fine and understandable). According to this graph based on locations and their correlation to other numbers (since there can't be a 1.5 execution in a given year :P ) My estimate according to this graph is that there were a total of 1179 executions according to this graph.

Executions since 1976 (as linked in prior thread) Gives a total of 1224 executions.

So, the graph says 1179 executions and the thread says 1224 executions. The odd thing there is, 1224 (I'm speculating) since its in a table was easy to manipulate. My reasoning is boring as hell.

A little more speculation on my part (and I hate speculations).
1224 executions / 33 years (between 2009 and 1976) = 37.09091 ... Since my interpretation of the graph could be wrong (only major lines, no minor lines even though they are needed). How is it possible for 0.09091 of a person to be executed? Did a judge rule that the convict jerk off and thus the sperm "executed"? (pun intended, at self) That can't be right, SO, they must be counting 1976 inclusive in that table. alrighty, 1224 / 34 = 36! PERFECT!

So how much is 1179/34? (according to the graph no executions in 1976)
its a wonderful 34.72727! 0.72727 people were executed?

So where did the 1.3 person go?

Yes I have the answer.

Also in the same document is this beautiful file.
Death Sentences in the United States I'm too lazy to go over the numbers BUT i can safely estimate one tiny thing. If a few thousand people are being sentenced to death, AND only 34~36 people are being executed, where are the others?
In that graph the lowest number is 400 and it steadily goes up. even if I assume 400 people were sentenced every year and only 40 were executed. That means 90% of the people who are sentenced to death do not get executed?

Thats what I mean when I say the numbers don't add up. Please don't forget, Afghanistan, Iraq and "War on Terror" were actions due to the few thousand dying on 9/11. I'm not saying their deaths shouldn't be avenged, but I am saying at what point are they considered avenged? because presently a few million have died thanks to "vengeance" and since there was never a "court case" about it. We can only speculate, to their guilt. Unless, we are all guilty until proven innocent!

@Pat:
Yes you again. For some reason I want to hug you cuz you poke me around and that makes me look up numbers and data and statistics more closely and often I see new patterns in things which I would otherwise not register.

Keep it up! (No sarcasm)

_________________
Martin Niemoller wrote:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak out for me.



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