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Examiner
  • Ken Garten: Two decades of uncertainty in Death Row case

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  • I remember that day in 1989, when the headlines blared out about the brutal rape and murder of 15 year old Ann Harrison, who was abducted one morning while waiting for the school bus in front of her house just a few blocks from where I was living at the time.
    Two men, Michael Taylor and Roderick Nunley, were soon thereafter implicated in the crime.
    Both quickly confessed, each pointing the finger at the other as the primary culprit.
    Both pleaded guilty to first degree murder.
    Both were sentenced to death.
    Both have been awaiting execution for more than two decades now.
    Execution dates have come and gone, as stays have been issued to allow for years of legal challenges on behalf of the condemned.
    I cannot imagine the anguish and frustration that Ann Harrison's parents have suffered over these years of legal proceedings, as an execution date for one of the killers of their beloved daughter gets near, only to see it put off at the last minute, again and again.
    And I cannot help but wonder if they would have suffered less over these last 24 years if Taylor and Nunley had simply been sentenced to life without parole, and these many years of legal processes avoided.
    The long wait for justice may be near an end, however, with respect to Taylor, as he is currently scheduled to be executed on Feb. 26.
    Taylor's lawyers are feverishly engaged in a series of legal challenges to Missouri's execution protocol, and the combination, manner and source of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.
    This strategy has bought Taylor time in recent months.
    Time will tell if it does so again.
    My heart goes out to Ann Harrison's parents, as they continue to live the legal nightmare that has been ongoing since their daughter's brutal murder. I only hope that the judge or judges who are assigned to this latest legal maneuver have the guts to say “ENOUGH!” and let it happen.
    The Harrisons deserve as much.
    ---
    With all the talk about the legalization of marijuana by certain states, what many people seem to fail to realize is that it is still a federal crime to possess marijuana anywhere in the United States.
    It is only a matter of federal policy that the federal law is not being fully enforced under the current administration.
    But that may not always be the case in the future.
    And a change of enforcement policy by federal law enforcement officials could serve to reinstate the criminal prosecution of marijuana offenses in all 50 states.
    So, prudent investors might want to hold off on investing their life savings in a marijuana farming operation just yet.
    Page 2 of 2 - ---
    Six times a year I receive my copy of the Journal of the Missouri Bar. Its contents include a list of attorneys subject to professional discipline ranging from reprimand to disbarment.
    Oftentimes, the list includes the name of someone I have known or been acquainted with to some extent over my 29 years as a lawyer. More often than not, I am stunned by their inclusion. Occasionally, the opposite is true.
    And, I suppose, the discipline list represents something of a double edged sword.
    In all walks of life, including the profession that I hold so dear, people make mistakes, be it the grossly intentional victimization of those who deserved better to the careless failure to properly take care of matters to which they have been entrusted, sometimes the result of a moral or mental failing, or chemical dependency issue.
    The good side of the list is that there is oversight of our great profession on a systematic basis, whereby problems, be they the result of an overtly bad seed among the ranks, or a less culpable failing that needs to be rectified nonetheless, are addressed by our system of professional discipline of attorneys so as to protect the public we serve.
    And so it should be.
    Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at krgarten@yahoo.com
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