March 1, 2017
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court struck down all existing states death penalty statutes in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238,313 (1972), finding the states provisions failed to meet constitutional safeguards.
Texas, with its blood lust for its killing machine to kill its citizens guilty or not, began drafting a new death penalty statute to provide the safeguards required by the 1972 Supreme court decision in Furman v. Georgia.
In Texas new death penalty scheme it came up with a two part trial process. The first part called the guilt and innocence phase, is where juries determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. If guilt is established, then the juries move to the second part of the trial which is called the punishment phase.
According to the safeguards in the new statutes, prosecutors must convince a jury that the defendant would commit violent acts in the future, because the death penalty is reserved only for the worst defendants. Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280,303-305 (1976), but many defendants charged with capital murders have “NO” prior history of violence or even a “criminal record”. So what these over zealous prosecutors, the like of Kelly Siegler did is to use the testimony of “Killer Shrinks”, psychiatrists to meet the statutory requirements for the death penalty.
In all honesty all the prosecutors did was rely on Doctor Death, the use of phony experts to fool the jury so a death sentence could be handed down. How many people would disbelieve the SWORN testimony of a DOCTOR?
In 1983 the Supreme Court upheld the use of psychiatric testimony, even though the American Psychiatric Association warned that accurate predictions of future dangerousness was beyond the psychiatrist ability. (see brief of Amicus Curiae American Psychiatric Association in Barefoot v. Estelle).
Actuarial prediction of future dangerousness is based on statistically derived probabilities, comparing an individual with certain traits to a group of persons with similar traits.
The Killer Shrink relies on gathered data, so that data is only as accurate as the underlying statistics. Is 75% accuracy beyond a reasonable doubt?
I will talk more about the white coat testimony and its influences on jurors in my next blog (White Coat Phenomenon).
Thank you for your time..