Friday, August 04, 2006

Boston Legal Briefing Notes – Death Penalty

(Excerpts of dialogues with Alan Shore (casted by James Spader) taken from the television series “Boston Legal - Death Be Not Proud (Season 1, Episode 17))

N.B. Chelina Hall asks Alan Shore to assist her in Texas because her former client, Ezekial Borns, is getting executed but may be innocent of the crime.

(In a courtroom.)

A.D.A. Glenn Jackson: Ezekial Borns murdered a man in cold blood for a few dollars. He confessed to it. The Petitioner has gone up and down State and Federal courts, exhausting his appeals, losing his habeas arguments, and failing on claims of constitutional violations. Four different courts of appeal have reviewed and rejected each and every one of his arguments. Now is the time for this man to pay the penalty imposed on him fairly and legally. A Texas jury had decided that Ezekial Borns is a dangerous killer. He has forfeited his right to live. Thank you.

(Alan moves to get up. Chelina stops him to softly remind him.)

Chelina Hall: With all due respect, may it please the court.

(Alan nods.)

Alan Shore: Good afternoon. My name is Alan Shore.
Judge Christopher Serra: Mr Shore. What are new issues being raised here?
Alan Shore: The first issue before the court concerns the absence of any African-American jurors.
Judge Lance Abrams: That was previously argued and ruled on council.
Alan Shore: Yes. Before the lower courts. This bench has never considered…
Judge Christopher Serra: We’re not persuaded that the absence of a black juror is in violation of due process. What’s your next issue?
Alan Shore: I would turn the courts attention to the fact that the Grand Jury which indicted Mr Borns, similarly, was all white. This raises equal protection laws that…
Judge Christopher Serra: That issue was never raised and is therefore waived.
Alan Shore: Your Honor, Texas Law requires that the jury recommend death only in cases where they find that the defendant poses a threat, a future dangerousness to society. We maintain this is unconstitutional. Juries are supposed to find on elements of guilt and innocence based on facts beyond a reasonable doubt. Not on the basis of perceived probabilities. Moreover as a practical matter, since Ezekial Borns will remain in prison for life, he couldn’t possibly constitute a future threat to society, unless the law assumes prison breaks.
Judge Christopher Serra: That’s an interesting issue council, but uh, that also was never raised and therefore it is deemed waived. Next?
Alan Shore: May it please the court. Mr Born’s trial lawyer has recently admitted he was ineffective council. He was abusing cocaine and alcohol during the trial, and...
Judge Martha Brenford: Not legally inadequate.
Alan Shore: I believe if you examine the transcripts…
Judge Lance Abrams: Mr Shore. Representation can always be better. Especially when we play Monday morning quarterback.
Alan Shore: With all due respect, this lawyer never gave an opening statement, he never questioned several of the prosecutions witnesses, he failed to pursue a number of leads and important sentencing issues. This court right here today has recognized that many valid grounds for appeal were never raised.
Judge Christopher Serra: This court is satisfied that representation was adequate. Is there anything else?
Alan Shore: Yes. Mr Borns may be innocent. The jury disagreed. And legally that issue has been settled.
Alan Shore: The DNA evidence shows somebody else was there.
Judge Christopher Serra: But it does not disprove that your client was also there. And, your guy confessed by the way.
Alan Shore: My client has an IQ of 80; he was interrogated for 16 hours.
Judge Lance Abrams: Coercion was never raised.
Alan Shore: It was never raised because he lawyer was an inadequate hack! Though the 9 of you seem quite satisfied with his performance. With all due respect.
Judge Christopher Serra: Mr Shore? You came down here from Massachusetts?
Alan Shore: Yes. Sir.
Judge Christopher Serra: We in Texas have been living with this case for 8 years.
Alan Shore: You’ve been living with it personally? May it please the court.
Judge Christopher Serra: You first met Mr Borns, when?
Alan Shore: Yesterday.
Judge Christopher Serra: And you are proposing to us, that you know him. You know what I’d like to propose? I’d like to propose that you got a problem with the death penalty in general. Now, is that why you came here sir?
Alan Shore: I am here. With all due respect, may it please the court, because I have a problem with the State executing a man with diminished capacity. Who may very well be innocent. I’m particularly troubled, may it please the court, with all due respect, that you don’t have a problem with it. You may not want to regard my client’s innocence, but you cannot possibly disregard the fact that 117 wrongfully convicted people have been saved from execution in this country. 117! The system is hardly foolproof. And Texas! This state is responsible for a full third of all executions in America. How can that be? The criminals are just somehow worse here? Last year you accounted for fully half of the nation’s executions. 50% from 1 State! You cannot disregard the possibility, the possibility that something’s up in Texas.
Judge Lance Abrams: I would urge you to confine your remarks to your client, and not the good state of Texas.
Alan Shore: Zeke Borns never had a chance. He was rounded up as a teenager, thrown in a cell while he was still doped up on drugs, brow-beaten and interrogated, until his IQ of 80 was overcome, he confessed to a crime he had no memory of, still has no memory of, for which there is no evidence, other than two witnesses who saw him pumping gas around the time of the murder. He was given a coked-up lawyer, who admittedly did nothing. I’m now before 9 presumably intelligent people in the justice business, who have the benefit of knowing all of this. Add to that, you know DNA places somebody else at the scene, and you’re indifferent! You don’t care! Whether you believe in my client’s innocence, and I’ll assume, with all due respect, may it please the court that you don’t! You cannot be sure of his guilt! You simply cannot! And failing that. How can you kill him? How can you kill him?

(Walks away from the podium.)

Alan Shore: And I would sincerely, sincerely, sincerely, hope that you don’t penalize my client, simply because his lawyers happen to be from Massachusetts.

(He moves to sit down, then rises.)

Alan Shore: The home of the New England Patriots, who could kick ass with any football team you’ve got in the good state of Texas. May it please the court.

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