Suicide by Lethal Injection
Texas will execute a man tonight who has ordered that all his appeals be dropped. Douglas Roberts says he doesn't have a death wish, but that he is lonely, and this way he will get to go to the Lord. I'm very troubled by cases like this. Roberts admits guilt, so innocence is not an issue. But innocence is not the only issue in death penalty cases. Even in cases where the person is clearly guilty, the question is whether the death penalty is an appropriate punishment. I don't know enough about the facts of Mr. Roberts's case or what punishment evidence the state produced at trial. But, I have to wonder what the heck his defense attorneys were doing during his trial. The article says:
"Over the objections of his lawyer, Roberts at his trial demanded jurors who favored the death penalty and asked that no witnesses be called in his defense. A psychiatrist determined Roberts was competent to make those decisions."
I don't care what a psychiatrist says Mr. Roberts was competent to decide. The last time I looked, those aren't the defendant's decisions to make. Those are the lawyer's decisions. The only decisions the defendant has the right to make are whether he will plead guilty or not guilty and whether or not he will testify. That's it. Every other decision--including what jurors to challenge and what witnesses to call--is supposed to be made by the lawyer, using his sound legal judgment. There's nothing wrong with taking your client's wishes into consideration. But, the client's wishes aren't supposed to override your professional ethics. Here we have an individual who decided he wanted to die, and he enlisted his lawyer to help the state make it happen.