Thinking!? What's he been smoking??? *
*our comment, not hers!
By Monica Hooper
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 12:14 PM CST
Just Wednesday the Jonesboro Sun reported that Burnett overturned the
death penalty against Robert Robbins for the gruesome 1997 murder of
his former girlfriend, 19-year old Bethany White. In the initial
trial, Robbins insisted upon defending himself, only allowing an
attorney to sit in on the trial. The then-18-year-old Robbins asked
for the death penalty, which he received the following year. At the
time of the trial, Robbins was declared mentally competent to stand
trial and was offered a plea bargain, which he turned down. He also
waived his right to appeals.
Nevertheless, Robbins was granted a post-conviction relief because a
juror didn’t correctly complete a death sentence form, and his mother
petitioned against the death penalty on his behalf.
Robbins’ new attorneys also argued that Robbins should not have been
sentenced to the death penalty because of his age and mental state at
the time of the trial. They also argued that the 18-year-old shouldn’t
have been allowed to waive his counsel. Even though Burnett struck
down arguments submitted by the defense, he reduced Robbins’ death
sentence to life in prison without parole.
If Burnett can find fault in a previous conviction that was based on
indisputable evidence for no real reason, it’s a wonder that he can
disregard mounting evidence that Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley and
Damien Echols deserve a new trial.
After all, the three defendants were 18 and 19 years old at the time
of their conviction. All three received inadequate counsel, there’s
still no physical evidence or motive tying the boys to the murder
scene and forensic scientists have come forth to dispute claims that
Christopher Byers, Steven Branch and Michael Moore were mutilated by
humans. Still yet, Burnett finds no fault with his prior ruling,
telling reporters that Misskelly’s allegedly coerced confession
“ignored the forest for the trees.”
It’s interesting that Burnett is comfortable letting men who may be
innocent rot in prison because they were convicted based on what many
see as questionable evidence while overturning a death sentence based
what looks like a paperwork error.
What would happen if Burnett would have ruled a mistrial for Misskelly
Does he feel that it would be an admission of his own deficiencies as
a judge? Or does this ruling prove that Burnett has a serious
prejudice when it comes to the handling of this 15-year-old case that
he’s admitted publicly to being “sick of”?
With a case like the West Memphis Three, which has garnered
international attention for what supporters see as a gross mishandling
of justice, Burnett’s run for the state Senate may be in jeopardy.
After all, the life or death situations passing Burnett’s desk will
reflect on the people of Arkansas, not just weird teenagers, if he’s
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