Thursday, November 6, 2008

An Acknowledgment

David Kaczynski, director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty (NYADP), writes:

Many of us know Bill Babbitt, whose brother Manny was executed in 1999, 18 years after Bill turned him into the the Sacramento police department in the murder of Leah Shendel. Bill - an NYADP friend - is a passionate abolitionist and a founding board member of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights.

Manny - one of thirteen people executed by the state of California in the modern era - had a serious mental illness aggravated by PTSD acquired through his military service in Vietnam.

The Babbitt family was treated horrendously by a system that promised Manny help for his mental illness. Instead Manny got an incompetent defense attorney, an all-white jury, and an execution date. Bill went to San Quentin prison on May 3, 1999 - Manny's 50th birthday - and watched him be put to death by lethal injection.

This summer, Bill was given some vindication in a report by a commission of the California State Senate on the fair admission of justice. The full report can be found here. But in the excerpt below from Page 70 of the report, the Commission acknowledges that in a rational and just system, Manny would not have been executed.

This report cannot undo the injustice of Manny Babbitt's execution, but at least it acknowledges that injustice, which is something.

[from the report:]

"If California’s death penalty law were narrowed, it would be unwise to proceed with the execution of defendants whose death judgment was not based upon one of the identified special circumstances. With respect to the thirteen executions conducted by California since 1978, ten of them would have met the recommended special circumstance for multiple murders… the executions of Thomas M. Thompson, Manuel Babbitt and Stephen Wayne Anderson would not have resulted in a death sentence using the Mandatory Justice factors."

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