BLATANT MILLIONS CLAYTON WILLIAMS’ BUYING TEXAS The cowboy doesn’t want to debate the lady. Claytie’s reluctance to debate Ann Richards tells more about his attitude toward women than his comment that rape is like bad weather: “if it s inevit able, just lay back and enjoy it. By the author of And Justice for Some, Arthur Frederick Ide’s newest book, Blatant Millions, exposes the other issues Claytie doesn’t want to discuss. It looks at the environment, personal rights, money and politics, the poor, and more. in paperback. $7. Plus tax mail order to: Publishers Associates P.O. Box 160361 Las Colinas, TX 75016 tion, the penalty phase of the trial demands a great deal of investigation and testimony, which the state-provided fee also does not begin to cover. Lawyers who represented capital defendants, even those lawyers who are idealistic and absolutely first-rate, almost certainly are not able to give the cases the amount of time a competent job requires. Hence, the tales of incompetence are dizzying. In Texas, for example, lawyers representing capital defendants have done everything from writing legal motions while in jail to falling asleep during jury selection \(which is among the most important stages of a death row in Texas, one-third, or around 100, were tried in Harris County. Of those from Harris County, about one-tenth were represented during their trials by the same lawyer. That is a staggering statistic: Of the 13,000 attorneys in Harris County \(there are nearly sible for some 10 percent of the death row inmates from the county. Several years ago Warren Burger, who was then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, angered the American Bar Association when he announced that half the lawyers he saw were not qualified to practice. Burger, of course, was talking about lawyers who appear before the Supreme Court of the United States; the level of lawyering in the typical indigent capital defendant’s case would be unimaginable to Burger. Indeed, it is safe to assume that neither the Chief Justice nor the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have ever known or associated with lawyers as lethargic and indifferent as some of the trial lawyers who hold the lives of accused murderers in their hands. UNQUALIFIED LAWYERS are not the only problem in the system. Trial judges periodically display a flippant attitude toward capital defendants that is simply inexcusable. State District Judge Ted Poe of Houston, for example, goes out of his way to set execution dates on holidays: Valentine’s Day, San Jacinto Day, Washington’s birthday he apparently thinks this is clever or cute and does it to amuse himself. Lawyers in the state attorney general’s office have been known to hold parties in their Austin offices after executions; they actually celebrate human deaths. A federal court of appeals judge once notified an attorney representing a capital inmate lawyer filed a motion of rehearing a motion that is routinely filed in virtually every civil case decided before the court of appeals the court would not entertain it. Thus, on the eve of a man’s execution, one hour before the lawyer’s client was to die, a federal judge directed the lawyer to stop working. \(The same judge once denied a stay in a case after claiming to have carefully reviewed the entire record. The record was later determined In view of this etiology of the capital punishment system, the proposal championed by the present Chief Justice and \(as I altogether inappropriate. By stipulating that the time limits would begin to operate only when and if the state appoints habeas counsel, the federal government would be, in effect, coercing the state to appoint counsel at the appeals level. Because states obviously want to hurry the pace of executions, and to be able to do so under the pending legislation they will have to appoint habeas counsel, court-appointed attorneys will take over the appeals process. Yet one thing we know is that the habeas counsel, largely volunteers at present, are the best lawyers in the system. The worst lawyers tend to be those appointed by the state. Indeed, the root of the problem is that the lawyers who receive state appointments are not the best lawyers, nor the most zealous, nor even, in many cases, minimally competent. They are the lawyers with the least to do, or the lawyers who have develtrial judges responsible for doling out appointments trial judges like the one who sets executions on holidays. Now Congress wants to give the states another opportunity to appoint such lawyers. Chief Justice Rehnquist and many other federal judges might be annoyed at the delay so are millions of citizens but that does not mean that this is a problem Congress ought to be poking its nose into. Let lawmakers and the Chief Justice think about how to relieve the congestion on the civil trial docket in federal courts, where a great deal less is at stake than human life and where cases take at least as long to wend their way through the system. If states that have the death penalty want to speed up the pace of executions, then they need to fix their own systems from the ground up. This means that the first thing they need to do is figure out a way to provide indigent capital defendants with qualified lawyers, and that means, among other things, paying the lawyers enough to do a credible job. For irrespective of one’s position on the death penalty, the one thing everybody ought to agree upon is that no one should be executed just because he was too poor to afford a decent lawyer and an adequate defense. U \(TAA1!13IPN “Best Lodging Location for Fishermen & Beachgoers” Group Discounts P.O. Box 8 Port Aransas, TX 78373 Send for Free Gulf & Bay Fishing Information THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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