Friday, November 12, 2004

Gag Orders and the Death Penalty

While I enjoyed taking the LSAT in a fit of college-senior insanity, I opted not to go to law school. So everything I know about the legal system, I've learned from watching Law & Order. Thus, I found this statement about the new Matthew Shepard report worrisome:

"The interviews [given by Shepard's killers] apparently violate the plea agreements the two men signed at their sentencing. According to reports, the men agreed never to talk to the media about the case as part of the agreement that spared them the death penalty."

This sounds like what amounts to a non-disclosure agreement being attached to a criminal proceeding. Is that SOP with pleas? And if so, why? Doesn't that make it harder for wrongly-convicted people to prove their innocence? Hugh, Beldar, Glenn, SoxBlog, Law Jedi, help me--you're my only hope!

Note: I am NOT suggesting that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson--the men who brutally murdered Shepard--are innocent. They're obviously guilty and deserve their fate. Although I'm intellectually (if not emotionally) glad that they weren't given the death penalty, since some of us theocons really are bothered by capital punishment.

(And yes, contra Andrew Sullivan, I'm not wild about Gonzales's record--or Bush's pre-presidential glibness--concerning the death penalty. But what Sullivan seems not to understand is that Gonzales was upholding existing law, which is what he gets paid to do. What good theocons would prefer is to change the law, not tut-tut in disapproval of people who faithfully execute laws we don't like.)


Anonymous said...

It's a pretty sad commentary on our world that JVL even had to throw in that disclaimer about the murderers' guilt.

The GLAAD (et al) machine is going to launch with as-yet-unseen ferocity if anyone even SUGGESTS that Shepard was killed by people who did not know him as a result of drug involvement, i.e., not a "hate crime." Shepard's death is too potent a rallying cry to be removed from the arsenal.

mulp said...

No one would plead guilty to a crime they didn't commit, would they? That would be a crime - lying to the court.

Besides, an innocent man will believe that there will be no evidence that can convince a jury of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because he didn't do it.

Surely you would risk the death penalty rather than plead guilty to reduce the penalty to 10-15 years, right?

KipEsquire said...

I have no especial knowledge of the case beyond the news/play/movie, but the "no media" plea agreement may have had something to do with Matthew's parents -- perhaps they asked for it so they would not have to see their son's murderers on television or hear their voices on the radio. Prosecutors (and judges) are allowed to consider the victim's (or the survivors') wishes during plea bargaining and sentencing.

Just thinking out loud...