Monday, January 05, 2009

People v. Doolin (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Jan. 5, 2009)

The majority (led by Justice Corrigan) and dissent (authored by Justice Kennard) disagree on whether there's constitutional or prejudicial error. But I should hope that we would all agree that a system (here, the County of Fresno's) that tells a criminal defense lawyer "You'll be paid a flat $80,000 to do a death penalty case, and that rate includes all expenses (e.g., for investigation and experts)" creates an unacceptably high risk that counsel might skimp on experts and investigation since, after all, that money essentially comes out of his or her own pocket.

Someone's life is at stake. Can we please, at a minimum, devise a system that doesn't create obvious incentive problems? That doesn't seem too much to ask.

P.S. - It also doesn't seem to much to ask, BTW, to not kill two prostitutes and attempt to kill at least four others. And if you find that too much for you, don't be surprised that you're both sentenced to death and that the California Supreme Court decides to affirm.