In the March issue of Reason, reporter C.J. Ciaramella writes of how state officials have decided the “black hood of anonymity also covers the pharmacies that mix the deadly compounds used to kill prisoners.” Thanks to the “dogged work of investigative journalists,” Ciaramella says we know that the states “have turned to untraceable cash transactions, unregulated pharmacies, and overseas scammers to buy drugs to fill the veins of condemned inmates. They have even resorted to experimental combinations of drugs, in several cases leading to botched executions.”
In The Celebrated Marquis: An Italian Noble and the Making of the Modern World, University of Baltimore Law Professor John D. Bessler (whom we profiled in last June’s Focus) tells the story of Cesare Beccaria, an 18th century economist and lawyer, and his book, On Crimes and Punishments, a bestseller that argued against torture, the death penalty, and religious intolerance. Though the book was banned by the Inquisition and placed on the Catholic Church Index of Forbidden Books, it helped catalyze the American and French Revolutions, Bessler writes, and his ideas shaped the American Declaration of Independence.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month heard oral argument in McCoy v. Louisiana. In the 2008 case, Robert McCoy’s lawyer told jurors his client had killed his estranged wife’s mother, stepfather, and son in spite of the fact that McCoy had insisted he wanted to plead not guilty. His lawyer defied his wishes in the belief it was the only way McCoy could avoid the death penalty. In an editorial in the American Constitution Society blog, Yale Law School professor Lawrence J. Fox says that in the “extraordinary case” of McCoy v. Louisiana, “Once Mr. McCoy decided to maintain his innocence and hold the prosecution to its burden of proof, his lawyer had only one obligation: to respect his client’s decision regarding that paramount objective and seek an acquittal.”
An article in the January 21 edition of the New York Times examines whether bar licensing panels are using fair and consistent standards in determining whether law school graduates who have felony convictions should be permitted to take the bar exam. Reporter Elizabeth Olson looks at three law school graduates who spent time in prison — a former drug addict, a former drug dealer, and a bank robber — and their fight for the right to practice law.