URGENT ACTION APPEAL Urgent Actions (as of 7/06//00)

Urgent Actions Against the Death Penalty

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TEXAS:

CLEMENCY SOUGHT AS TEXAS EXECUTION NEARS

Robert Ladd is scheduled to be executed in Texas on 29 January. He was sentenced to death in 1997 for a murder committed in 1996. The claim that he has an intellectual disability that would render his execution unconstitutional was rejected by the courts.

View the full Urgent Action, including case information, addresses and sample messages, here.

The body of Vicki Ann Garner was found in her home in Tyler, Texas on 25 September 1996. The cause of death was determined to have been strangulation. Robert Charles Ladd, who is now 57 years old, was charged with capital murder on the grounds that the murder had taken place during the commission of a burglary, sexual assault and arson. He was sentenced to death on 27 August 1997.

In 2001, a federal District Court denied a claim that the trial lawyer had been constitutionally ineffective for failing to present evidence at the sentencing of Robert Ladd's "mental retardation". In 2002, the US Supreme Court, in Atkins v. Virginia, prohibited the execution of people with "mental retardation". The Court did not define retardation (now usually known as "intellectual disability"), but pointed to definitions under which it is a disability, manifested before the age of 18, characterized by significantly sub-average intellectual functioning (generally indicated by an IQ under 70), with limitations in 2 or more adaptive skill areas. In 2005, a US District Court judge held an Atkins evidentiary hearing in Robert Ladd's case. For the defense, an expert testified that in his opinion, based on interviews, tests, observations and a review of medical, juvenile, and other records, Robert Ladd had significantly sub-average intellectual functioning, that his IQ had been assessed at 67 when he was 13 years old, and that he had significant adaptive deficits, including in work, money, social and communication skill areas. Robert Ladd's sister testified about his developmental difficulties as a child. For the state, a psychologist agreed that Ladd had shown deficits in adaptive behavior in a number of areas, but concluded that he did not have intellectual disability.

The District Court judge found that "by a preponderance of the evidence", Robert Ladd has "significantly sub-average intellectual functioning' and that it had manifested before he was 18. However, the judge found that it had not been proven that his deficits in adaptive functioning were "significant". Both experts agreed that Robert Ladd had an anti-social personality disorder. The defense expert testified that the adaptive deficits should be attributed to the intellectual disability rather than this personality disorder. The state expert said the opposite. Although stating that the state expert's approach was "not beyond debate", the judge found it more persuasive than the defense expert's opinion and upheld the death sentence. The US Court of Appeals affirmed this decision in April 2014.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION Robert Ladd's trial lawyer, who was a former prosecutor, did no independent investigation of his client's records for the purposes of finding mitigating evidence to present at the sentencing phase, instead relying on the prosecution to share with him whatever medical, criminal and disciplinary records it obtained. However, the prosecution did not obtain Ladd's juvenile records and so his defense lawyer did not receive them either. The defense presented no evidence at the sentencing apart from to argue that because the disciplinary infractions Robert Ladd had committed while previously incarcerated were non-violent, he would not pose a risk of future violence if sentenced to imprisonment for the murder, rather than death. A jury's determination of "future dangerousness' is a prerequisite for a death sentence in Texas - the state expert who would later testify that Robert Ladd did not have intellectual disability had testified for the prosecution at trial that Ladd would likely pose a future danger.

View the full Urgent Action here.

Name: Robert Charles Ladd (m)

Issues: Death penalty, Imminent execution, Legal concern

UA: 13/15

Issue Date: 20 January 2015

Country: USA

Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact!

EITHER send a short email to:

uan@aiusa.org with "UA 13/15" in the subject line, and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent.

OR fill out this short online form to let us know how you took action.

Thank you for taking action! Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after the below date. If you receive a response from a government official, please forward it to us atu an@aiusa.org or to the Urgent Action Office address below.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Please write immediately in English or your own language, including reference to prisoner number #999237,

* Opposing the execution of Robert Ladd and calling for his sentence to be commuted;

* Expressing concern that the jury did not hear anything about his sub-average intellectual functioning, and that a federal judge found the question of whether he fell under the Atkins exemption to be a close call;

* Noting that the power of executive clemency is not constrained in the same way as courts can be;

* Acknowledging the seriousness of the crime and the suffering caused by violent crime.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 29 JANUARY 2015 TO:

Clemency Section, Board of Pardons and Paroles

8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.

Austin, Texas 78757-6814, USA

Fax: 011 1 512 467 0945

Email: bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us

Salutation: Dear Board members

Governor Greg Abbott

Office of the Governor

PO Box 12428

Austin, Texas, USA

Fax: 011 1 512 463 1849

Salutation: Dear Governor

And copies to:

Governor's Press office

Fax: 011 1 512 463 1847

Office of the General Counsel

Fax: 011 1 512 463 1932

Please share widely with your networks: http://bit.ly/1C5rEzm

We encourage you to share Urgent Actions with your friends and colleagues! When you share with your networks, instead of forwarding the original email, please use the "Forward this email to a friend" link found at the very bottom of this email. Thank you for your activism!

UA Network Office AIUSA

600 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington DC 20003

T. 202.509.8193

F. 202.509.8193

E. uan@aiusa.org

amnestyusa.org/urgent

UA: 71/14 Index: AMR 51/019/2014 USA Date: 24 March 2014

URGENT ACTION

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GEORGIA SET TO KILL INTELLECTUALLY DISABLED MAN For the third time in four years, the State of Georgia has set an execution date for Warren Hill, who has been on death row since 1991. All the experts who have assessed him, including those retained by the state, agree that he has intellectual disability, which would render his execution unconstitutional. He is due to be put to death on 27 January.

View the full Urgent Action, including case information, addresses and sample messages, here. 

In 2002 a state judge found that Warren Hill – who was sentenced to death in 1991 for the 1990 murder of fellow prisoner Joseph Handspike – had "significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning", but that he had not, beyond a reasonable doubt, proved his "adaptive deficits". Georgia's 1988 law prohibiting the use of the death penalty against anyone found "beyond a reasonable doubt" to have "mental retardation", defined this as having "significantly sub-average general intellectual functioning" resulting in "impairments in adaptive behaviour". 

The US Supreme Court ruled in 2002 in Atkins v. Virginia that the execution of people with "mental retardation" (now usually known as intellectual disability) violates the US Constitution. Warren Hill's lawyers appealed in light of the Atkins ruling. This time the trial-level judge decided that the standard of proof should be "a preponderance of the evidence", and that under this lower standard, Warren Hill’s impairment did amount to intellectual disability. However, the state appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court which in 2003 ruled 4 to 3 that the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard was acceptable in this context. In 2011 the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled seven to four that, even if Georgia had "somehow inappropriately struck the balance" in its statute, US law prevented a federal court from acting, even if it considered the state Supreme Court's decision upholding that law to be "incorrect or unwise". 

In 2012, the state judge again found that Warren Hill had intellectual disability by a preponderance of the evidence, but did not meet Georgia's "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. The latter is not used anywhere else in the USA in such cases - most states use the preponderance of the evidence standard, under which Warren Hill has been found intellectually disabled. Accordingly, Warren Hill is being denied Atkins protection because of his geographical location. In such circumstances, Amnesty International considers that his execution would amount to the arbitrary deprivation of life in violation of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the USA is a state party. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION  International law and standards prohibit the use of the death penalty against people with mental and intellectual disabilities. Amnesty International believes that Warren Hill's execution would also amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life, as banned under article 6 of the International Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the USA ratified in 1992. The UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees compliance with the ICCPR, has stated, regarding the right to liberty, that 'arbitrariness' should not be equated to 'against the law', but interpreted more broadly, to include notions of inappropriateness, injustice and lack of predictability.

View the full Urgent Action here.

Name: Warren Hill (m)

Issues: Death penalty, Imminent execution, Legal concern 

UA: 15/15

Issue Date: 21 January 2015

Country: USA

Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact!

EITHER send a short email to uan@aiusa.org with "UA 15/15" in the subject line, and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent.

OR fill out this short online form to let us know how you took action.

Thank you for taking action! Please check with the AIUSA Urgent Action Office if sending appeals after the above date. If you receive a response from a government official, please forward it to us at uan@aiusa.org or to the Urgent Action Office address below. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Please write immediately in English or your own language:

* Expressing concern that once again the State of Georgia is set to execute Warren Hill;

* Calling for the execution to be stopped and for his death sentence to be commuted;

* Noting that all experts who have assessed him agree that he has intellectual disability;

* Arguing that his execution would violate international law and US treaty obligations.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 27 JANUARY 2015 TO: 

  Chairman, Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles

Terry Barnard, 

2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, SE Suite 458, Balcony Level, East Tower Atlanta, GA 30334-4909, USA

Fax: 011 1 404-651-6670

Email: laqsmith@pap.state.ga.us

Salutation: Dear Chairman Barnard

And copies to:

Governor of Georgia

Nathan Deal

Office of the Governor, 206 Washington Street, 111 State Capitol

Atlanta, Georgia 30334, USA

Fax: 011 1 404-657-7332

Email: http://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-international-form or http://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-domestic-form

Please share widely with your networks: http://bit.ly/1umytFQ

We encourage you to share Urgent Actions with your friends and colleagues! When you share with your networks, instead of forwarding the original email, please use the "Forward this email to a friend" link found at the very bottom of this email. Thank you for your activism!

UA Network Office AIUSA

600 Pennsylvania Ave SE

Washington DC 20003

T. 202.509.8193

F. 202.509.8193

E. uan@aiusa.org

amnestyusa.org/urgent

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