Beyond City Limits
Edited By Michael King, Fri., July 18, 2003
On July 11, American Bar Association President Alfred P. Carlton Jr. filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the justices to review ABA professional standards when considering the death penalty appeal of Texas inmate Delma Banks Jr. In March the high court stayed Banks' execution 10 minutes before he was slated to die, while considering whether to grant full review of Banks' appeal. On April 21 the court granted that review based on Banks' claims that his 1980 conviction in Bowie Co. was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of defense counsel. The ABA brief contends that the "actions" of both the prosecutors and Banks' defense attorney "departed from the [professional] standards and guidelines" established for attorneys by the ABA. Although the ABA standards "do not necessarily establish constitutional guidelines for counsel," Carlton wrote, "this Court previously has cited ... ABA [s]tandards when addressing constitutional claims." The court is expected to hear oral arguments on Banks' case in November. -- Jordan Smith
July 23 is the scheduled execution date for 29-year-old Cedric Ransom, who had just turned 18 when he was convicted of the 1991 Arlington murder of part-time gun dealer Herbert Primm. Authorities say Ransom shot Primm in the driveway of his home during a gun deal gone bad. At the time Ransom had three other capital-murder charges and two attempted-capital-murder charges pending against him. He denied killing Primm, asserting that his several co-defendants pegged him as the shooter in order to secure lighter sentences for themselves. In 1994 the Court of Criminal Appeals granted Ransom a new trial, ruling that the trial judge had mistakenly barred a prospective juror who told prosecutors he would not be able to answer, based only on the facts of the crime, whether Ransom would pose a continuing threat to society -- one of the three special questions jurors must answer before imposing a death sentence. The CCA ultimately revised its decision, affirming Ransom's conviction, but ordering a new sentencing hearing. Ransom was sentenced to death a second time in 1997. Ransom is one of nine inmates scheduled to die this summer. -- J.S.
Naked City recently discovered www.honku.org, a Web site that posts haikus about that staple of the American highway, road rage. Writer, transportation activist, and Brooklyn resident Aaron Naparstek founded honku in 2001 as a protest against incessant honking in his neighborhood, the proliferation of gigantic SUVs and other vehicles crowding city streets, and of the 3.9 billion hours Americans spend annually stuck in traffic. Examples of Naparstek's art: "There are only three / types of drivers -- the insane, / the morons, and me." "Oh, Jeezus Chrysler / what's all the damned honking Ford? / Please shut the truck up!" "The forest's burning / but don't worry -- we've still got / the Toyota Sequoia." Unlike the standard American roadway, on which cars and trucks rule, the site is democratic, allowing viewers to post honkus of their own. To entertain the poetically challenged, Naparstek has written Honku: The Zen Antidote to Road Rage, released last month by Villard Books. -- Lauri Apple