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Sunday, August 18, 2002
More than a decade ago, one Wallace Fugate killed his ex-wife. Apparently, there was never any question that he killed her, just the circumstances under which he did so. Georgia arrested him, provided him with two lawyers, and tried him. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

Fugate was executed this past week after years of appeals and last minute stays. His current lawyer, Stephen Bright, issued a statement (which you can read in its entirety here), the gist of which was that this execution was not a result of the fact that he committed murder, it was a result of a seriously deficient legal system.

[A] Superior Court judge, assigned two court-appointed lawyers who represented him no better than a couple of plumbers would have.

His death penalty trial lasted a mere two days- much shorter than many trials for petty crimes. The trial of Sidney Dorsey went on for six weeks and the State was not even seeking the death penalty.

Wallace Fugate’s sentencing hearing lasted just 27 minutes, about the length of a TV sitcom. But this was not a comedy. It was a tragic farce. No person would buy a house or a car based on a 27-minute presentation, but a jury sentenced Wallace Fugate to death on such a presentation.

I came across the statement on Talk Left. Because the statement did contain a word about the crime of which Fugate was convicted, I did a google search and found that Fugate was accused and convicted of murdering his ex-wife by shooting her in the head at close range in the presence of their 15 year old son. According to Online Athens:

[T]he testimony of Fugate's son was damning to Fugate at trial. Mark Fugate said his father chased him around the house with a gun before dragging Pattie Fugate outside by her hair and shooting her in the forehead.

Bright doesn't think that those facts are relevant to the application of the death penalty. We know this because he refused to include them in his statement. The only relevant facts are that Fugate had a couple of plumbers for lawyers and neither the trial nor the sentencing hearing took very long. Case closed.

That's all I know about the entire case. I am not commenting on whether the death penalty was appropriately applied in this case. I am commenting on Stephen Bright's statement following Fugate's execution.

Lawyers are supposed to present one side of the case when representing a client. In issuing his statement after Fugate's execution, however, Bright was not representing Fugate. He couldn't have been representing Fugate. Fugate was dead, and that death terminated the lawyer/client relationship.

Bright was acting on his own. He had no client. He was criticizing Georgia's legal system as a private citizen. It is certainly his right to do so, but his argument would be far more convincing if he gave us all the facts. In the age of the Internet, it is ridiculously simple to look those up, so anyone trying to convince me had better deal with them. Because the son's testimony was "damning",
Bright needed (and failed) to deal with it. Was the testimony false? What facts indicate that it was false? Should the testimony not have been admitted into evidence? Was there evidence that was kept away from the jury that would have indicated that Fugate's son was lying (or just wrong)? I don't know. I don't know because Stephen Bright didn't tell me

Could I go look those facts up, just as I did to discover the testimony of Fugate's son? Sure. But I'm not the one trying to convince people that Fugate should not have been executed and that the decision to do so was a result of a "farce". Stephen Bright is. Until he deals with all the facts in the case, both pro and con, Bright's attempts to convince me will fail.
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