Monday, July 16, 2007

Porter Sentenced to Death

Thomas A. Porter was sentenced to die by Judge Chuck Griffith. Last March, a jury panel recommened that Porter be executed during the penalty phase of his trial. Griffith just merely confirmed the preordained today.

Like a script from Potemkin Justice, every death row recommendation by a jury panel in Virginia must be blessed by a trial judge. Yes, the Virginia criminal legal system makes elaborate phony rituals to give some semblance of deliberation by an esteemed public officer of the court.

But of course, each and every time, the judge simply ratifies what the jury panel recommended after their lengthy gut-wrenching deliberations of about...oh, usually 90 minutes or so.

Suffice it to say the system is very biased toward conviction and execution. To illustrate, let us hearken back to the penalty phase of Mr. Porter's trial. The Virginian-Pilot reported that defense counsel was not allowed to ask jurors to try to imagine life in the defendant's shoes.

Why that would be a LEGAL OUTRAGE!

When Capital Defender Joseph A. Migliozzi Jr., told jurors in his closing argument that "to understand Porter, they should 'step in this person's shoes,'" Circuit Judge Chuck Griffith went ballistic.
"That is an improper argument under Virginia law," Griffith said. "You are never to be asked to step inside somebody else's shoes. Never."
Indeed, the jury can witness tearful agonizing testimony from the victim's family and friends but defense can't even so much as ask jury members to empathize just a tad and try to see things from the vantage of the convicted.

And so it goes that Porter becomes the latest soul on Death Row in the commonwealth of Virginia. Folks should feel safer already.


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