The sentencing phase has begun in the Silver Comet Trail case, and this is a good opportunity to see the types of things that keep or get a killer off death row — not just now, during sentencing, but later, during the endless appeals that will inevitably follow.

Anti-death penalty activists always use the “evidence” presented during the sentencing phase to try to get their clients off death row, “evidence” in quotes because the types of things that get presented in court during sentencing are wildly subjective.  Nevertheless, if the defense says later that jurors did not consider these factors appropriately, there’s an appeal.  And if one defense lawyer says later that the defense lawyer at trial did not present this subjective “evidence” appropriately, there’s another appeal.

And this is how most convicts get off death row — not because they’re innocent, as activists would have you believe, but because the subjective story being told about their intentions, and feelings, and childhoods (not their actions) is being re-scrutinized at the behest of defense attorneys who have turned this process into a sickening series of extra bites at the apple — and an excruciating, decades-long ordeal for the victim’s family.

Do defense lawyers sometimes intentionally “mess up” during sentencing in order to lay the groundwork for future appeals?  Well, according to some who have chosen to brag about their trial techniques, they do.

But resorting to conspiratorial behavior is hardly necessary in the system we have now.  Convicts can appeal over the craziest things, and during sentencing itself, many crazy things are permitted to be called mitigating factors — factors, that is, that excuse the killer and keep him off death row.  Decades of pro-criminal jurisprudence has manufactured a system of allowable grounds for appeal that is so excessive it is a wonder that anyone goes to jail for anything at all.

Mitigating factors in Ledford’s case include arguments that he is less responsible for murdering Jennifer Ewing because he was drinking, and drinking makes him want to sexually assault women, so he’s less responsible for what he did to Ewing if he was drunk around the time that he did it.  Get it?

In other words, Jennifer Ewing’s suffering, her death, and the meaning of the loss of her life to those who loved her is being measured against a can of beer in Michael Ledford’s fist.

And remember, you’re paying for this.

I encourage you to watch the arguments for mitigating and aggravating factors in the Ledford sentencing very closely.  More tomorrow.

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