SLEEPING LAWYERS 


To an outsider, the folks of Texas can seem quite scary sometimes. Apparently, we want to put a fellow to death, even though his lawyer fell asleep on numerous occasions during his murder trial in 1984. The inmate appealed on the grounds that he didn't receive his constitutional right of effective legal assistance. Sounds like a legitimate beef. Then why the heck did the State of Texas send its Solicitor General, Julie Parsley, all the way to Washington to waste the time of the Supreme Court to argue this?

The case was originally appealed by the alleged murderer to a New Orleans-based court in which nine of the 14 judges ruled in favor of granting a new trial. The testimony of jurors and court officials established that the lawyer in question slept as many as 10 times for as long as 10 minutes at a whack. Some of his slumber occurred during critical times when the prosecutor was presenting evidence and questioning witnesses. Parsley had the gall to fritter away the money of the people of Texas and the entire nation with her ignorant behavior.

She actually said that harm to the defendant should not be presumed just because the lawyer "intermittently dozed and actually fell asleep." Lady, I would be lacking in representation if my divorce lawyer fell asleep on me during a meeting — I cannot imagine how I would feel if my advocate was sawing logs while evidence was presented in a case in which the death penalty was an issue. No, I am not a softie when it comes to crime, and I am not totally against the death penalty, but common sense would tell anyone that advocacy, or even the pretense of it, cannot be achieved by a sleeping attorney.

According to the law, if a lawyer has repeated temporary absences from a trial, then that is sufficient grounds for an appeal for re-trial to be granted. Solicitor General Parsley had the audacity to say the appeals court was wrong in equating the instances of sleeping with temporary absences. C'mon, Parsley. An argument like that would be an insult to the intelligence of a group of high school seniors: Did you really expect it to play in front of nine of the country's finest legal minds? The solicitor general ought to pay back the State of Texas for her time and the expense of this useless legal exercise. Furthermore, when she sends in her tax return next year, she ought to send enough extra to cover the expense incurred in the Supreme Court.

Behavior like this lends credence to the supposition that supporters of capital punishment are nitwits. Behavior like this is what puts goo in the wheels of justice, slowing down the process on important matters which need the attention of the Supreme Court. Behavior like this makes us common folks shake our heads in wonder at the learned souls who are licensed to practice law.

One good thing about a sleeping lawyer is that he isn't talking nor wasting time and money on frivolous legal arguments.

More info: www.adelante.com/burdine/index.html

CALVIN BURDINE'S CASE

Texas has executed 271 people since 1982, the largest number in the country.

Attorney Joe Frank Cannon, Calvin Burdine's attorney during his murder trial, has represented 10 men sentenced to death. Two of them have already been executed. Cannon himself died in the late 1990s.

During Burdine's case, the prosecutor urged the jury to choose death over life in prison because Burdine was homosexual: "Sending a homosexual to the penitentiary certainly isn't a very bad punishment for a homosexual ... We all know what goes on inside of prisons, so sending him there would be like sending him to a party."

Cannon, during a post-trial evidentiary hearing, used, among nastier terms, "queer" and "fairy" to describe his client.

When Cannon turned over his notes on the case to another attorney, he had collected only three pages — less than 700 words in total.

Burdine's execution date has been stayed six times since 1984.

"Juries don't like a lot of questioning, all of these jack-in-the-box objections, going into every little detail, so I've never done it," Cannon had been quoted as saying. He promised judges that he could get through tough cases like "greased lightening."

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