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Lessons from crime lab scandal

Posted by James Alan Fox, Crime and Punishment September 25, 2012 12:00 PM

The third time will be anything but a charm for a 48-year-old Texas inmate who will return to the state’s execution chamber after twice before coming within hours of getting the needle. Cleve Foster, a former army recruiter who was convicted a decade ago of murdering a Ft. Worth woman, will repeat today a bizarre death ritual that has become all too familiar.

One again, Foster will be escorted by van the hour-long trip from his prison cell in West Livingston to the lethal injection chamber in Huntsville. Once again he will sit in silent solitude awaiting his fate and praying that the U.S. Supreme Court will intercede as it had twice before. Once again he will be served a last meal, whether or not justice will be served afterwards. Only this time, Foster will not have his choice of menu, as this long-practice gesture of mercy was banned last year by order of Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

If the death sentence is indeed carried out today, Foster will also be given his opportunity for some final words before poison is injected into his veins. Some condemned prisoners take this occasion to add insults to injury, while others invoke their right to remain silent. Sometimes inmates confess to their crimes, if only as a last gasp attempt to purge their conscience or offer some small measure of solace to the surviving victims. And, of course, many use the occasion to protest their innocence right down to the bitter end, as Foster will likely do.

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Romney's good failure

Posted by James Alan Fox, Crime and Punishment September 5, 2012 11:00 AM

On stage in front of thousands of delighted delegates to the DNC in Charlotte, Governor Deval Patrick detailed the many ways in which his predecessor in the corner office on Beacon Hill failed the citizens of Massachusetts. And there was much to Governor Mitt Romney's record for Patrick to work with.

Never mind Mitt Romney’s outrageous attempts to abuse the Commonwealth as the butt of his anti-liberal barbs, even while still holding the state’s highest elective office, as he toured the country garnering momentum for his eventual run for the Presidency. According to Patrick, Mitt Romney left the Commonwealth in worse shape than when he assumed the leadership post four years earlier. Not only did Romney raise fees and cut education, but Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation during his term as Governor.

There is, however, one failure to Romney’s administration -- and a significant one according to his own assessment -- for which we in Massachusetts are fortunate, at least financially. And that is Romney’s unsuccessful bid to restore capital punishment in Massachusetts.

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About the author

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University. He has written 18 books, including his newest, "Violence and Security on Campus: From Preschool through College." More »

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