Clive Stafford Smith and his Reprieve organisation are at it again, lobbying on behalf of a convicted murderer on death row who claims he was denied consular assistance. Sound familiar?
If Clive Stafford Smith is to be believed, half the people on death row are innocent. Fortunately, he isn't. If you have not heard the name Ivan Teleguz, that is because he is simply one of a depressingly large number of convicted murderers in the United States, and one of a smaller number waiting for the ultimate punishment to be carried out.
As might be deduced from his name, he is a foreigner, not a cuddly butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth grandmother as Linda Carty was and is still being made out to be, but an immigrant from the Ukraine who was convicted of a particularly callous murder. Unlike Carty, he didn't actually carry out the murder himself, though he did hire a hit man to do it, which makes him as guilty as the killer in anyone's book, if not more so.
The appeal judgment of the District Court of Virginia in this case runs to 104 pages, and can be found on the Reprieve website. It remains to be seen if anyone at Reprieve has actually bothered to read it, otherwise they wouldn't have written such rubbish. On second thoughts, remembering Linda Carty and “innocent” Ed Johnson, they probably would.
It always helps to portray a perpetrator as not only a victim but as a member of an oppressed or persecuted minority; unlike that other Reprieve lost cause Troy Davis, Teleguz isn't black, but happily: “After suffering years of intense religious persecution for their Christian faith, Mr Teleguz’s family was forced to flee their homeland, ultimately settling in the USA.”
No, he didn't land at Plymouth Rock, and whether or not his family was persecuted in the Ukraine, that is no excuse or mitigation for hiring a hit man to murder the mother of his child. There is a great deal of blurb on the Reprieve website about the two key witnesses against him recanting their testimony, which they gave under duress, but as Clive Stafford Smith and his fellow lawyers know well, the law doesn't work like that, either in the UK or the US. Testimony given under oath carries far more weight that later recantations, however contrived, especially in a capital murder case.
In his appeal, Teleguz makes much of a receipt that provided him with an alibi - see page 63 for example of the above judgment. However, the State's case was never that he was present when the murder was committed, only that he contracted it, for the usual bargain basement price, proving yet again how cheap some people regard human life.
There is of course the old useless lawyer gambit, which was also used by Linda Carty, and as Teleguz never applied for US citizenship, the Vienna Convention is dragged in again. As with Carty though, lack of consular access is not a get out of jail free card, especially in a capital case. (Carty by the way was denied consular access because she lied both to her lawyer and the court about her British citizenship).
Besides, yesterday, the BBC reported that four bombs had been exploded in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk injuring 27 people, though fortunately there were no fatalities. Clearly the Ukrainian authorities have enough on their plate without taking up the cudgels for one of their own on the other side of the Atlantic, especially one they are better off without.
Also, yesterday, former Liberian leader Charles Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting war crimes, while at this moment in Norway, admitted mass killer Anders Breivik is on trial. Neither of these men will be sentenced to death. Stafford Smith and his gang should be able to make a compelling argument against capital punishment out of that anomaly, without resorting to lies and deceit, which at the end of the day totally undermine any good work they may actually do.
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