Attorney: Client a ‘poster child’ for broken death penalty system

By , September 23, 2010 7:45 pm
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The only thing sustaining Jim Rocap III in the last few days, he said Tuesday, was the classic Winston Churchill admonition: “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Rocap, partner at Steptoe & Johnson in D.C. has represented Virginia death row inmate Teresa Lewis since 2004. But this week the final avenues of appeal were closing, one by one. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell refused to grant clemency twice, and late Tuesday the Supreme Court denied Lewis a stay of execution by a 7-2 vote and rejected Rocap’s petition for certiorari. Barring any unforeseen development, she will be executed Thursday night at 9 at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, the first woman put to death in nearly a century by Virginia.

“We are deeply disappointed,” Rocap said in a statement after the Court action was announced. “A good and decent person is about to lose her life because of a system that is badly broken.”

Earlier on Tuesday Rocap sounded optimistic, having filed with the Court a petition offering two seemingly plausible arguments for habeas relief: one, based on Apprendi v. New Jersey claiming a jury, not a judge should have decided if she should be sentenced to death, and the other a Strickland v. Washington claim about the trial lawyer’s failure to rebut aggravating factors raised during her sentencing.

“This was not an innocence case, but it is as good an example as you can find of someone who should not be put to death,” said Rocap. “Teresa is a poster child for why the death penalty process is broken.”

via Attorney: Client a ‘poster child’ for broken death penalty system.

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