Georgia Schedules Execution

Georgia has set June 23 as the date for Roy Blankenship’s execution.   Doubts about his guilt persist.  In February, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles did the responsible thing and granted a stay to allow for DNA testing that might exonerate Blankenship or implicate an alternative suspect.

Unfortunately, the available crime scene samples were too small and degraded and the testing was inconclusive.  There is still some evidence that points to another suspect; without quality physical evidence that can be conclusively tested, questions about Roy Blankenship’s guilt will probably never be resolved.

Today, Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich granted clemency to Shawn Hawkins, based on doubts that Hawkins committed the crime for which he was sentenced to die.  While pondering his decision, Kasich told the media that: “We are not going to go forward with an execution where we are not certain.”  This was the right, and common-sense, course of action, as it was right for the Georgia Board to grant Roy Blankenship a stay for DNA tests.  Given the continuing doubts about Blankenship’s guilt, the right course of action now would be to grant clemency and commute his sentence permanently.

Ohio: Angry Lawyering And Doubts About Guilt

Ohio’s Parole Board has voted 7-0 to recommend clemency for Shawn Hawkins due to doubts about his guilt and an angry lawyer that berated his jury.  Ohio Governor John Kasich does not have to follow this recommendation, but he should.  (And you can urge him to do so.)

Hawkins’ conviction rests mainly on the testimony of an eyewitness who has changed his story several times (and was initially a suspect before being granted full immunity).  There was no murder weapon found and Hawkins had several alibi witnesses.

Upset that his client was convicted despite such a weak case, Hawkins’ lawyer lashed out at (and vaguely threatened) the jury during the sentencing phase of the trial.  He warned them (according to the Parole Board’s report) that, if they issued a sentence of death, “what comes around goes around”.  No mitigating evidence was presented, and, not surprisingly, the jury came back quickly with a sentence of death.