Food for Thought Prt 30


There was a news article in the Philadelphia Inquirer October 23 2011, written by Nancy Phillips, talking about the costly mistakes lawyers representing capital cases in Pennsylvania, that would shock the conscience of the average person. Mistakes that lead to reversals because of their ineffectiveness and the scary part about it is many of these cases of prisoners on death row haven’t been reversed that had similar things happen and they are still on the row awaiting execution.

Some of these lawyers found to have provided ineffective assistance of counsel, are still routinely appointed to new cases. At least two lawyers whose work on death penalty cases that were labelled ineffective, in court opinions now serve as judges in courts in Philadelphia, Pa . That’s crazy!!! Willis W. Berry Jr, and William Austin Meehan Jr are two of the lawyers that were found to be ineffective and their death penalty cases were reversed and these lawyers were not only not sanctioned or disciplined, but were rewarded and given a “Robe” Yes, promoted to Judge, Now how can a lawyer that was proven to be ineffective in a D.P case preside over trials and make rulings on what’s right or wrong, in compliance with the law and constitution, when he or she doesn’t even know themselves. I assume according to them, anything goes…

After this inept and ineffective lawyer (Willis W Berry) was rewarded for his performance to Judge, this chump ran a real estate business out of his judicial chambers for more than a decade, using his taxpayer paid secretary to collect rent on a string of ramshackled apartments, he owned in North Philadelphia (a slumlord) In 2009 the state judicial conduct board gave him a four month suspension after ruling he violated judicial canons and brought disrepute to the bench. They briefly transferred him to a civil division, for a minute, but he returned to hearing criminal cases after the smoke cleared. This chump was not only an ineffective lawyer and not even qualified to be a judge, but a crook and criminal that should have been disbarred and sent to prison. As you can see, there is a selective position when people of the lower or average class break the law and when one of their own gets jammed for something.

The inquirer found that there were 125 capital cases reversed for ineffective assistance of counsel and dozens more in which courts ruled the lawyers clearly erred but the mistakes didn’t reach the threshold of prejudice required to overturn the sentence. Keep in mind these are capital cases!! Lawyers supposedly fighting for defendants lives often spend little time preparing their cases and put on only the barest defense, don’t seek witnesses or do any investigating. A lot of the problem is because defendants are indigent and the court doesn’t pay the lawyers enough. The court appointed lawyers only get $2,000 for trial preparations and $400 a day in court to handle cases. Most legal experts and lawyers say it requires a minimum of 35 to $40,000 to try a capital case and the appeal process can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Critics say, the peanuts the lawyers get to represent a capital case, deter good lawyers from getting involved. By paying these lawyers such little pay we get the bottom of the barrel and its inexcusable and reprehensible, to say the least, where the state is either trying to kill us or put us under the jail for the rest of our lives.

After they railroad capital defendants at the trial level, the process continues on the appellate level where a lot of the appeal lawyers file the most scarce legal challenges and make meager arguments, citing little or no case law. This is no more than a sham or a dog and phony show. People should be outraged of how tax payers money is used for this sham.

That judge I mentioned earlier, Willis, that was found to be ineffective representing Harold Wilson, who later was retired and acquitted, after getting a new trial because of Berry’s ineffectiveness, was found to not have made any attempt to prepare for the penalty phase of the trial. The appeals court also found he made no effort to investigate Wilson’s background or search for evidence to argue against the D.P. Wilson had a history of psychotic behavior got hit in the head with a baseball bat, as a child and suffered brain damage. He didn’t even have a significant history of prior convictions, but none of this was told to the jury. The appeals court ruled the record is full to the brim with Berry’s ineffectiveness. Now, keep in mind, this is the lawyer that is now a judge. This is what we are working with in Pennsylvania, when we go to trial in a capital case and this is only the tip of the iceberg. I can go on and on about similar situations in this state and in every state In America.

To be continued

Power to the Struggle


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