Monday, February 11, 2013

Virginia's Executioner Speaks Out: State Employee Paid to Kill 62 People Almost Kills Innocent Man // Meet Maryland Exoneree

CURIOUS ABOUT THE FACE OF DEATH PENALTY IN MARYLAND - In the last week, Maryland Juice has been hoping to find information about the state employees who run Maryland's death penalty system. I've been trying out to figure out how many people in total our state is paying to participate directly in executions, including the employees who prepare the gurney and execution chamber, procure or requisition the poisons used to kill the prisoner, and ultimately insert the needle and administer the lethal dose. This information is not easily found, so if anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd appreciate it: Indeed, I have been trying to imagine the faces of Maryland's bureaucratic executioners, and it is making me really curious to see who it is that we last paid to do the killing in our state.

TWEETCHAT TUE 2/12 AT NOON - In the meantime, if you are curious about some aspect of the death penalty in Maryland, Equal Justice USA and Amnesty International are hosting a Tweetchat to answer questions at noon tomorrow (Tuesday, February 12, 2013). Just follow the #EndMDDP hashtag to join the conversation:
Join us tomorrow at noon for a tweetchat on #MDRepeal. Follow #EndMDDP tomorrow at 12pm to follow and participate! #DeathPenalty

VIRGINIA'S EXECUTIONER SPEAKS OUT ABOUT HIS 62 KILLINGS & AND THE INNOCENT GUY HE ALMOST KILLED - Given my recent curiosities I was intrigued to wake up this morning and discover that Virginians now know exactly who has been doing their killings for them. The Washington Post had a very worthwhile profile piece on the state employee who served as executioner for 62 Virginia inmates. The former corrections officer is now opposed to the death penalty and faces feelings of guilt for the more than five dozen premeditated killings he committed. Apparently he came within days of executing an innocent person. I hope you'll check out the fascinating full piece (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST:  Jerry Givens executed 62 people....  “If you knew going out there that raping and killing someone had the consequence of the death penalty, then why are you going to do it?” Givens asked. “I considered it suicide....”

Ultimately, though, it was a man he didn’t execute who would make the biggest impression. Earl Washington Jr. was sentenced to death in 1984 in the rape and killing of a 19-year-old mother of three in Culpeper.

Washington, who has an IQ of about 69, admitted to the killing, although many of his answers were inconsistent with the facts of the case. Just days before his scheduled execution in 1985, lawyers secured a stay based on doubts about his guilt.... After testing with a more advanced forensic science, Washington was cleared and eventually granted an absolute pardon, making him the first person on Virginia’s death row to be exonerated by DNA evidence....

The DNA testing “was a scientific process totally outside the system that said, ‘You’ve got the wrong guy,’ ” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center and an opponent of the death penalty. “The fact that you had the entirely wrong person was a revelation to some people.”

The man who would have been Washington’s executioner was one of them. Givens said the case shook his faith in the justice system. He came within days of putting an innocent man to death. “If I execute an innocent person, I’m no better than the people on death row,” Givens said....

NEW YORK TIMES PROFILES MARYLAND DEATH ROW EXONEREE - A fitting complement to today's Washington Post piece is a  recent New York Times' recent profile of Maryland death row exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth. Check out the full NYT profile online (excerpt below):
NEW YORK TIMES: Twenty years ago, [Kirk Noble Bloodsworth] walked out of a Maryland prison, the first inmate in the nation to be sentenced to death and then exonerated by DNA....
In 1984, he was a former Marine with no criminal record who had followed his father’s profession as a waterman on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. A woman glimpsed on television a police sketch of the suspect in the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl outside Baltimore. She thought it looked like her neighbor Kirk, and she called the police.

From there, with the police and prosecutors under intense pressure to solve the crime, it was a short route to trial, conviction and a death sentence.... “I was accused of the most brutal murder in Maryland history,” Mr. Bloodsworth, now 52, told the church audience. “It took the jury two and a half hours to send me to the gas chamber.

Only after nine years in the state’s most decrepit and violent prisons did Mr. Bloodsworth, through his own perseverance and some aggressive lawyering, manage to get the still-novel DNA test that finally proved his innocence in 1993.... 
Prosecutors and jurors ignored glaring problems with witnesses — two were boys who did not pick Mr. Bloodsworth out of a lineup — and dismissed five alibi witnesses who testified that he was home at the time of the murder.

“The adversarial system doesn’t know who’s guilty or who’s innocent,” Mr. Bloodsworth said. “The millstone does not know who’s under it....”

More on the movement to ban state executions in Maryland soon!

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