November 19, 2008


From the AP:

Ethics dilemma for lawyers when inmates seek death

John Delaney faced the toughest moment of his legal career - his condemned client wanted to drop his appeals and die by injection, an act Delaney opposed and had been trained to try to prevent. "What do you say?" asked Delaney, a public defender in northern Kentucky who represented Marco Allen Chapman.

It's a question that has arisen 131 times since states resumed executions in 1977, and each time it leaves defense lawyers struggling against their training to act in the best interest of their clients and justice...

Attorneys are required to follow the client's wishes or have themselves removed from the case, said Michael Mello, a Vermont Law School professor who teaches ethics and death penalty law. "Their hands are pretty well tied," Mello said. "These are the cases that haunt you. This is the most hideous of cases."

That's how Gus Cahill felt when his client, Keith Eugene Wells, told him he wanted to die. Wells was convicted of beating a couple to death in 1990 in Idaho. He went through the mandatory appeals, then decided to waive any remaining legal options and was lethally injected in 1994. "I really liked Keith," said Cahill, a public defender in Boise. "You're just thinking, 'Oh, my God, I feel so sorry for being part of what Keith wanted to do...'"

I knew Gus from my Ada County p.d. time, and look up to him still. Keith Wells' choice had to have put him in a horrible bind.

I wish John Delaney well. Marco Allen Chapman is set to die this Friday night.