22 The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, adopted in 1996, restricts federal review of convictions and death sentences imposed in the state courts in many ways. Among its provisions is one that provides that habeas relief may not be granted unless the state court’s decision “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) (2006). The Supreme Court has held that a “state court’s determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree’ on the correctness of the state court’s decision.” Harrington v. Richter , 131 S. Ct. 770, 786 (2011), quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado , 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004). The Court added in Richter: “If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be” (ibid.). 23 Fisher v. State , 206 P.3d 607, 610-11 (Okla. Crim. App. 2009). 24 Ibid., p. 610. 25 Ibid., pp. 612-613. 26 Dan Barry, “In the rearview mirror, Oklahoma and death row”, New York Times , 10 August 2010, available from . “THE DEATH PENALTY IS ONE OF AMERICA’S MOST PROMINENT VESTIGES OF SLAVERY AND RACIAL OPPRESSION.” — Stephen B. Bright earlier, depriving his clients of any review of their cases by inde- pendent, life-tenure federal judges. 27 Both clients were executed. Yet, despite such gross malpractice, the Texas Bar took no action, nor did the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The trial court judges in Hous- ton continued appointing Godinich to defend poor people accused of crimes, including in capital cases. He has been the lawyer in as many as 350 criminal cases at one time. Micah Brown was sentenced to death in May 2014, represented by Toby Wilkinson, who filed appellate briefs in two capital cases in 2006 that contained gibberish, repetitions, and rambling arguments. In one case, Wilkinson clearly lifted passages from one of his previous cases so that in places the brief discussed the wrong crime and used the wrong names. In the other case, Wilkinson included portions of letters sent to him by his client. 28 No matter how egregiously lawyers handle a capital case, Texas judges keep appointing them to represent others. Lawyers have missed the statute of limitations in at least seven other cases in Texas. In 2014, the federal courts refused to consider an appeal in the case of Louis Castro Perez, who was sentenced to death in Texas, because his lawyer without telling Perez or other counsel on the case did not file a notice of appeal. 29 One judge dissented, pointing out that the lawyer’s failure to file a notice of appeal was “an egregious breach of the duties an attorney owes her client” and that Perez had made a strong showing that he may have been sentenced to death in violation of the Constitution.
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 152 pages?
- Spring '16
- Margaret Mishra
- Kirk Bloodsworth