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Fixing the Federal Single-Juror Veto Travesty

Update:  Kelly Choate of KBRE/KYOU interviewed Don Williams, the father of Officer Eric Williams.

Congressman Tom Marino of Pennsylvania today issued this press release:

Washington, D.C.--Today, Congressman Tom Marino (PA-10) and Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) introduced H.R. 4493, Eric's Law, named in honor of fallen Bureau of Prisons Correctional Officer Eric Williams.

On February 25, 2013, Bureau of Prisons Correctional Officer Eric Williams was viciously murdered by an inmate at United States Penitentiary Canaan in Wayne County, PA. The inmate was jailed at USP Canaan serving an 11-year sentence for his role in gang-related drug trafficking in Arizona. The inmate had also been convicted in Arizona for the murder of a rival gang member and was scheduled to serve a life sentence following his incarceration at Canaan.

In the trial for Eric's killer, there was no dispute of guilt with the defense stating that he was guilty "beyond all reasonable doubt." The jury deliberated for 5 hours and returned a split decision, with 11 jurors in favor of the death penalty and 1 juror voting for life in prison. One juror flatly stated during deliberations that they would not vote for the death penalty, stating that she had a son in prison and that she felt bad for the defendant's mother.  This resulted in an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.  Since the defendant was already scheduled to serve life in prison, there essentially was no consequence for the brutal murder of Eric.

Eric's Law provides a fix for this miscarriage of justice by allowing an attorney for the government to motion the court to impanel a new jury for the penalty phase only.  Allowing a second jury to have another look during the penalty phase will provide the prosecutor an additional tool if the facts show that the jury system did not work as intended.  If the facts of the case truly do show that life in prison is the appropriate sentence, then the second jury is able to impose that sentence. This approach is modeled after several states that already use such a procedure in death penalty cases, such as California, Arizona and Kentucky.

Congressman Marino said the following regarding the introduction of the bill:

"It is an injustice that a man serving a life sentence was able to take Eric's life and have no consequences for their actions. The American jury system is supposed to work where everyone deliberates and considers the facts of the case. Here a juror simply crossed her arms and said no.  In cases like this where there the jury system doesn't operate as intended and the facts show that the crime is especially heinous, there should be an opportunity for another jury to try and come to a unanimous decision."

Congressman Barletta said the following:

"My heart remains heavy for the family and friends of Officer Eric Williams.  Knocked down a flight of stairs, and viciously stabbed more than 200 times with a homemade shank, the brutality of Officer Williams' murder has weighed heavily on our community for years.  I was disappointed and shocked to learn that the murderer was let off under the same penalty he was already serving when he committed this atrocity.  Despite the gruesome nature of the crime, admittance of guilt, and overwhelming opinion by the jury, one juror felt they should derail justice.  It is an unconscionable miscarriage of justice to the victims of violent crime.  Eric served the community he loved and his life was taken in the line of duty.  Eric's Law will ensure future families of victims will not see the murderer of their loved ones avoid justice."


~ ~ Thank you, Marino & Barletta.

As Congressman Marino said,
"The American jury system is supposed to work where everyone deliberates
and considers the facts of the case.

"Here a juror simply crossed her arms and said 'No [I think it's mean
to the multi-murderer's mom'

~ ~ This is tyranny of the [ludicrous] minority,
decree of the dissolute [one],
rule of the irresponsible.

How'd that crackpot juror slip through jury selection?

Jurors who cannot or will not impose the death penalty regardless of how much the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating are supposed to be disqualified. (The same is true in the reverse situation.)

But some slip through, and that is why the single-juror veto system is arbitrary. Murderers who clearly deserve the death penalty will get it or not depending on whether a "Witherspoon excludable" does or does not slip through, rather than the actual justice of the case.

How do they get through? Some people genuinely don't know until they face the actual decision. Others, though, simply lie. There are rumors of seminars conducted by death penalty opponents coaching people how to lie on voir dire (i.e., suborning perjury), but I don't know if that has ever been proved.

Oh, I've encountered people in state court who have been coached to get on capital juries. I meant, how did someone with a family member in prison get on the jury?

The questionnaire should weed out those folks, or a straight foward voir dire would. If someone didn't disclose that on the questionnaire, they can and should be prosecuted for perjury and another jury should be seated for sentencing.

Here's some about the criminal mom juror:

Con-ui jurors say forewoman saw ‘good in Jessie’
James Halpin / JULY 12, 2017

SCRANTON — The lone holdout in the split verdict [deadlocked 11-1] .. told other jurors she still saw good in the convicted gang assassin and couldn’t bring herself
to order his execution, according to other jurors.

Two members of the jury majority who spoke to The Citizens’ Voice on Tuesday described a frustrating five hours of deliberations with a holdout who wouldn’t

“I know I’m personally saddened that the jury couldn’t be unanimous, but there
were 11 of us that believed that he should have been put to death.”

“‘I still see good in Jessie,’ is what she said. It just gave me chills up my arm.
There was no getting through to her,” Briggs said.
She actually said that God put her on this trial for a reason, and I just feel like
once people start saying things like that, there’s no getting through to them.”

Wiedlich said that it appeared the holdout’s major issue was that she had a son
who had been in prison and she sympathized with Con-ui’s mother.

“I think mainly she was identifying with her own son,” Wiedlich said. “She just said,
‘Well he can never hug his children. The phone calls will just stop
in the middle of your conversation.’ That, she seemed to connect to the
conversations that she had with her son.”

~ http://citizensvoice.com/news/con-ui-jurors-say-forewoman-saw-good-
____ ____ ____

WILKES-BARRE — The foreperson of the jury who spared Jessie Con-ui’s life on Monday broke down during deliberations and confessed to the 11 other jurors
she couldn’t bring herself to sentence the multiple murderer to die because
her son was in jail, a juror said Tuesday.
“There’s nothing in my mind the government could have done more to prove
their case,” she said. “And the defense did what they needed to do:
they told us it only takes one.”

“She kept saying, ‘I just feel bad for Jessie’s mother,’” recalled Weidlich.

She said her son is in prison,” Weidlich said.
“She said we can’t bring Eric back. There’s enough bad things in the world
the way it is, and
I can’t see taking a life.”

At that point, Weidlich knew the juror’s mind was made up.
“It just isn’t fair how this turned out,” she said.

When the verdict was read, Weidlich couldn’t bring herself to look up.

~ http://www.timesleader.com/news/local/667124/con-ui-juror-

A few facts tossed aside by the "I can’t see taking a life" juror.

1.] Defense attorney David Ruhnke said Monday in his opening statement that
Con-ui, .. killed Williams without excuse or justification and "is guilty of murder
beyond all doubt." However, Con-ui's attorneys made it clear they plan to do everything it takes to keep him off death row.
2.] asked if he killed Williams, and they said he responded "Yes, disrespect issue."

3.] Williams was stabbed more than 200 times with two shanks, kicked repeatedly
in the head, stomped, and his head was slammed onto the concrete floor.
4.] [Con-ui] was convicted for stabbing Pennsylvania prison guard 200 times

5.] He later paused to chew a piece of gum he took from the dying guard's pocket
6.] During the two-day trial, jurors watched graphic surveillance video showing
Con-ui attack Williams and stab him more than 200 times.

7.] Con-ui was convicted of a 2nd murder charge because Williams was an on-
duty federal law enforcement official [he was already a convicted murderer].
8.] Federal corrections officers tell Newswatch 16 that because Con-ui didn't
get the death penalty [again], they fear he may kill again.

~ http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/pennsylvania/mc-pa-prison-guard-murdered-20170607-story.html
~ http://wnep.com/2017/07/10/con-ui-to-get-life-sentence-in-murder-of-officer/

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