Con’s Defense Was Flawed, But Death Penalty Stands


Defense lawyers in capital cases are often criticized for conducting superficial investigations of their clients' backgrounds, but Ferdinand Radolovich's performance in a Kentucky case, one that ended in a death sentence, may have set a new standard. “Apparently,” a federal judge wrote in 2001, “neither attorney Radolovich nor the prosecution knew of petitioner's actual identity until his case had been affirmed on appeal.”

This didn’t help the inmate, who was sent to death row as James Slaughter but whose real name is Jeffrey Leonard, reports the New York Times. Yesterday in Cincinnati, splitting 7 to 7, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit declined to rehear the case. A dissenting judge, R. Guy Cole Jr., said the decision to allow Mr. Leonard to be executed even though the jury did not even know his real name, much less his background, opens a “new chapter in our death penalty history.”


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