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Texas Execution

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Michael Graczyk reports for AP:

A former San Antonio rap musician has been executed for a knife attack and robbery that left a recording studio owner dead.

Ray Jasper was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital Wednesday for the November 1998 stabbing death of 33-year-old David Alejandro.

Jasper had acknowledged he slit Alejandro's throat to steal equipment from the San Antonio studio. But he insisted a partner was responsible for Alejandro's fatal stab wounds.

In Enmund v. Florida (1982) the Supreme Court limited the use of the death penalty on an accomplice in the underlying felony "who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place or that lethal force will be employed."  In Tison v. Arizona (1987) the Court included "reckless indifference to human life" as well.

Jasper would have been eligible even under the earlier, more restrictive Enmund rule.  Slitting a person's throat is "lethal force" even if another wound is the actual cause of death.

This case is a good example of why accomplice liability under the felony murder rule is proper.  Two miscreants go in with knives to attack and rob a person.  Do we really need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt which one actually inflicted the death-causing wounds?  No.  They both intended that deadly force would be used and knew death of the victim was a very real possibility.  If we have to prove which one inflicted which wounds, both will often escape the deserved punishment.

One of the crazier allegations I hear from people who read and believe the anti-death-penalty propaganda is that under the Texas "law of parties" a person can be put to death merely for being present at the killing.  Nonsense.  That isn't the law of Texas (Penal Code ยง7.02), plus the Enmund/Tison rule provides a further limit.

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It's hard to even know where accomplice liability ends and committing the offense begins. If I lure a person into a place where my cohort can kill him, I have committed murder under many state criminal justice systems.

The issue is culpability, not some silly idea that somehow accomplices are necessarily less culpable.

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