This morning we got a few clicks from comments on the Jackson Clarion Ledger story I linked yesterday on Slabbed concerning the last minute stay of execution granted Robert Simon Jr. In that post I termed some of the C-L comments ignorant. That would include the poster there linking us.
In a way, the stay granted Simon may indicate there is a glimmer of hope that the court’s lousy reputation nationwide is being mended. In fact a man that was railroaded just over a decade ago has a column in our archives that bears repeating now:
Being a federal court of appeals judge has become almost a prerequisite to ascending up to the Supreme Court. Every present judge on the Court was elevated from the federal court of appeals system. So one would think the three women on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, all from either Louisiana or Texas, would have been given a perusal review. No way, say the close court watchers. Their qualifications or lack thereof, speak for themselves.
The chief judge is one Edith Jones, who received international notoriety a few years back when she ruled that a fellow named Calvin Burdine, convicted of murder and sentenced to death row, received a fair trial even though his court appointed lawyer slept through a good bit of the trial. A sleeping attorney didn’t’ seem to bother Jones, who wrote in upholding the conviction that “we cannot determine whether the defense counsel slept during a critical stage of Burdine’s trial.” So, according to Jones, it’s OK to nap a bit during a trial if you are representing a defendant who could be (and in this case was) given the death penalty. Just pick and choose when you doze off.
Her colleague on the Fifth Circuit, Judge Priscilla Owen, also has a colorful and controversial list of questionable decisions. Times Picayune columnist James Gill outlined a litany of dubious rulings in a recent column, when he cited one example of Owens “setting on a case so long that a quadriplegic kid’s respirator failed before he could collect a dime of the $30 million awarded by a jury against Ford Motor Co. several years earlier.” Former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, once a colleague of Owens on the Texas Supreme Court, described one of her opinions in a parental consent case as “an unconscionable act of judicial activism.” Continue reading “I think we need some perspective on the latest Robert Simon stay.”