Monday 16 July 2018

Execution gets go-ahead despite concerns over 'racist' US trial

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Harriet Alexander in New York

An AMERICAN man is due to be put to death this evening in Georgia despite serious concerns over his sentencing and Amnesty International saying that his trial was unfair and racist.

Kenneth Fults (48), who is black, admitted murdering his 19-year-old white neighbour Cathy Bounds.

He killed her in 1996 at the end of a week-long rampage, which he began with the intention of killing his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, and saw him stage a series of robberies before finally breaking into Ms Bounds's trailer to commit a burglary.

However, finding her unexpectedly at home, he bound her with electrical tape and shot her five times.

He pleaded guilty and was sent to trial to be sentenced.

However, human rights group Amnesty International argues that Fults should never have been handed the death penalty, because his overworked, court-appointed lawyer failed to do his job - repeatedly falling asleep in the courtroom - and because one of the jurors admitted after the trial that he wanted "that n*****" to be put to death, regardless of whether he had actually committed the crime.

Fults's lawyers obtained a signed statement from juror Thomas Buffington in which Mr Buffington - who is now dead - explained the reasoning behind why he handed Fults the death penalty.

"I don't know if he ever killed anybody, but that n***** got just what should have happened," he said.

"Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that's what the n***** deserved."

Another juror said following the trial that they were not told by lawyer Johnny Mostiler about the extent of Fults's mental problems.

Fults has the reading age of a nine-year-old and his IQ puts him in the bottom 3pc of the population.

"I don't believe he had a fair trial," the juror said, according to Amnesty International. "Mr Fults's current lawyers have told me about how Mr Fults was neglected and abandoned as a child and that he is mentally retarded.

"Mostiler didn't bring this up at trial and he should have, so that we would have known more about Mr Fults before we talked about whether to give him the death penalty."

International law bans the use of the death penalty on people with mental or intellectual disabilities.

Only the State Board of Pardons and Paroles can grant clemency, and petitions have been set up calling for the board to review the decision.

And the scheduled execution comes at a time of increasing international interest in America's legal system, thanks in part to television dramas such as the re-telling of the OJ Simpson case, Netflix's hit 'Making a Murderer', as well as the extremely popular justice podcast 'Serial'.

If he is put to death, Fults will be the fourth person Georgia has executed by lethal injection this year.

A fifth man, Daniel Anthony Lucas, was scheduled last week to be put to death on April 27 for killing a Jones County father and his two children, one by one, in 1998.

The only other time Georgia has executed as many as five people in a year was last year, and in 1987.

Irish Independent

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