Thursday, June 28, 2012

R.I.P. Samuel Lopez

On June 27, 2012, Arizona executed Samuel Lopez for the rape and murder of 59-year-old Estefana "Essie" Holmes.

Lopez's attorneys argued that his trial lawyers provided constitutionally ineffective assistance by failing to present any evidence of Lopez's  horrific childhood, which would have been critical to the jury's determination of whether he should be sentenced to life or death.  The jury never learned, for example, that Lopez's childhood was filled with poverty, neglect, abuse and periods of homelessness during which he often had to sleep in cemeteries. Lopez dropped out of school in the ninth grade and became addicted to sniffing paint.

Lopez was originally scheduled to be executed on May 16, 2012, but received a temporary stay of execution because of serious issues with regard to the fairness of the clemency process.  On May 7, 2012, defense attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry, walked out of the clemency hearing claiming the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency did not have the authority to hear the case.  Henry contended that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer violated several state statues when she appointed three new members to the five member clemency board.  Violations included that the new members had not completed training required by state statute, that their interviews violated open meeting laws by taking place behind closed doors, and that one new member is a lobbyist for a police association that advocates the death penalty. 

The Arizona Supreme Court ordered a temporary stay so that the board members could complete a mandatory four-week training course but then another stay was sought on the grounds that Governor Brewer had appointed "political cronies" to the board, making a fair hearing impossible.  That stay was rejected.  Clemency was denied on June 22nd.

This is the 23rd execution in the United States in 2012, the fourth in Arizona.


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