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This Death-Penalty Case Should Give Anyone Pause

By       Message Roger Shuler     Permalink
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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Like many Americans, I used to be in favor of the death penalty. But after 10-plus years of witnessing rampant corruption in our justice system, I've done an about face. Our system, I've come to believe, is so infested with rogue judges, lawyers, and law-enforcement officials, that it has no business taking anyone's life.

That belief became even stronger with the recent case of Ryan Gerald Russell in Shelby County, Alabama, where I live. Russell was sentenced to death in December for the killing of Katherine Helen Gillespie, the 11-year-old cousin for whom he was serving as legal guardian.

The case hits close to home for us because it was investigated by the Shelby County Sheriff's Department, which we have shown is blatantly corrupt. The trial was overseen by Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner, whose multiple unlawful rulings in a civil lawsuit filed by our troublesome neighbor are largely responsible for our legal headaches.

The stench surrounding the Russell case, however, goes well beyond our personal experiences. Based on press coverage of the trial, there appeared to be ample reasonable doubt that Russell committed murder, much less capital murder. And count me as one observer who has serious doubts that Russell is responsible at all for Katherine Gillespie's death.

Even press coverage of the case makes it seem that a railroad job is going on. Consider this paragraph from The Birmingham News' story about the death sentence, written by Malcomb Daniels:

Evidence at Russell's trial showed he shot the girl in the back of the head in a laundry room of his house, stuffed her body head-first into a plastic trash can and placed the trash can in the back seat of his Cadillac Escalade that was parked in the garage.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)

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