This week’s case is a related to the episode we released last week about the death penalty case of Ivan Teleguz. This is not a part two, but we will be referencing last week’s episode and continuing our discussion of capital punishment in the United States. If you haven’t heard it, go ahead and pause this and go back and listen. Ivan’s case is very important to both of us. You don’t know how much we would appreciate it if you gave the episode a listen and called Governor McAuliffe’s office and ask him to grant Ivan clemency.
Today we are discussing the trial, conviction, and eventual exoneration of Clarence Lee Brandley. In 1980 he was working as a janitor at a high school in Texas. On the morning of August 23rd 1980, Cheryl Dee Fergeson was found murdered in a loft above the auditorium where Clarence worked. Some forensic evidence was recovered from the scene but was lost or destroyed before it was tested for trial.
Eventually the evidence was tested and it was proven that it could not have come from Clarence. Even with all the issues with the evidence, Clarence, an African American, man was convicted in front of an all white jury in 1981. Eleven months later, he was sentenced to death.
The appeals process began immediately and 6 days before Clarence’s scheduled execution, a stay was granted. It came out that a lot of the evidence and testimony against Clarence was fabricated or purposefully misinterpreted to make him look like the perpetrator.
In 1990, Clarence was exonerated. After his conviction was overturned, it became clear Clarence did not receive a fair trial. It came to light that most of evidence and eye witness testimony was manipulated by the Conroe police department and the DA to frame Clarence who was their suspect from day one.
As a result, Clarence spent almost a decade in prison and was within a few days of being executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Today, Clarence’s story is another name on a list of cases investigated and tried in a county that had an extensive problem with racism.
We wanted to leave you with some facts on the death penalty so you can draw your own conclusions. We will also link further reading on our website.
· Since 1973 over 150 people have been exonerated from death row. 10 occurred in 2013.
· False informant testimony is the top cause of wrongful convictions.
· At least 10 people have been executed even though there were serious doubts about their guilt leading up their execution.
o Colleen: the first case I got involved in with trying to raise awareness was Troy Davis who was executed in 2011 in Georgia even after most of the witnesses recanted. He was executed, but serious doubt about his guilt persists to this day.
· California, which has the largest death row in the country, has spent over $4 billion on the death penalty since 1978, while carrying out just 13 executions.
· Death penalty cases are significantly more expensive than non-death penalty cases. The greatest costs associated with the death penalty occur prior to and during trial, not in post-conviction proceedings. Even if all post-conviction proceedings (appeals) were abolished, the death penalty would still be more expensive than alternative sentences.
- More investigative costs are generally incurred in capital cases, particularly by the prosecution.
- Trials in which the prosecutor is seeking a death sentence have two separate and distinct phases: conviction (guilt/innocence) and sentencing. Special motions and extra time for jury selection typically precede such trials.
· The death penalty diverts resources from genuine crime control measures. Spending money on the death penalty system means:
- Reducing the resources available for crime prevention, mental health treatment, education and rehabilitation, meaningful victims' services, and drug treatment programs.
· The South has consistently had the highest murder rate while accounting for 80% of the country’s executions. The Northeast consistently had the lowest murder rate, while accounting for less than 1% of the country’s executions. So is the death penalty actually a deterrent?
· In 2014, three executions involving experimental lethal injection protocols were botched, this caused the inmates to gasp, choke, and writhe during the executions.
· All European countries and many American pharmaceutical companies have banned the use of their drugs in executions. This is related to what we are seeing in Arkansas.
Links below to further reading on the death penalty: