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USA (Utah): death penalty / legal concern: John Taylor

, N° d'index: AMR 51/003/1996

John Taylor, white, is scehduled to be executed on 26 January 1996. He has decided to drop all his appeals and allow the state authorities to carry out the execution because of conditions for death row inmates in Utah and inadequate medical care. His trial was handled by two inexperienced attorneys who did not challenge eye witnesses and failed to prepare for the sentencing phase of the trial.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 51/03/96
EXTRA 03/96 Death Penalty / Legal concern 12 January 1996
John Taylor, white, is scheduled to be executed in Utah on 26 January 1996.
He was sentenced to death on 19 December 1989 for the rape and murder of
11-year-old Charla Nicole King on 23 June 1989. He was sentenced by a judge
after waiving his right to a trial by jury. He has decided to drop his appeals
and allow the state authorities to carry out his execution.
According to information, John Taylor's decision to drop his legal appeals
has been prompted by the conditions under which death row inmates are held
in Utah. Prisoners under sentence of death are reportedly held in a maximum
security unit that is also used as a punishment block for the general prison
population. Prisoners in the unit are locked in a cell for 23 hours a day and
can only communicate with other inmates by shouting through the cell door.
John Taylor, who has heart, lung and stomach complaints, has also reportedly
cited inadequate medical care as a reason for dropping his appeals. Amnesty
International has been told that prison inmates in Utah are charged $4 for
visits to the doctor. The fee is deducted from the inmate's prison account,
taking the account into debit if insufficient funds are available. Inmates
also use their prison accounts to hire televisions and buy goods from the prison
authorities. The general prison population can supplement their accounts by
working in the prison. However, work is not available to prisoners under sentence
of death.
John Taylor was represented at trial by two state-appointed attorneys who were
inexperienced in handling capital cases, and who failed to conduct an adequate
investigation of the case and gave John Taylor poor advice. The lead attorney,
who had never handled a capital case before and was reportedly confused by
the state's death penalty law, advised John Taylor to waive his right to a
jury trial. His advice was apparently based on discussions with others that
the community was hostile (making any jury hostile) and on unsubstantiated
rumours that the presiding judge would not impose the death penalty.
John Taylor's attorneys reportedly did not challenge eye witnesses or important
aggravating testimony, and failed to properly prepare for the sentencing phase
of the trial. The only mitigating evidence they presented was testimony from
John Taylor's aunt and uncle who testified about matters that took place nearly
30 years before, when John Taylor was two years old.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel and degrading
punishment as proclaimed in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. The execution of prisoners who have chosen to abandon their appeals,
in no less a gross human rights violation than any other execution. The fact
that an individual makes such a choice does not relieve the state of its
responsibility in taking the life of one of its citizens.
As of 31 August 1995 there were 11 prisoners under sentence of death in Utah.
The method of execution is firing squad or lethal injection. John Taylor has
decided to be executed by firing squad. The last person to be executed in
Utah was William Andrews on 30 July 1992 - by lethal injection. Utah is the
only US state that includes firing squad as a method of execution. No one
has been executed by firing squad in the USA since Gary Gilmore on 17 January
1977, who was the first person to be executed in the USA under present death
penalty statutes. There is reportedly no protocol for the procedure which
according to information involves a five man team, one of who will use a blank
bullet so that none of them knows who was the real executioner. In Utah the
state Board of Pardons and Paroles has the power to grant clemency.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send faxes, telegrams, express and airmail letters
in English, or your own language:
- expressing concern that John Taylor is scheduled to be executed in Utah on
26 January 1996;
- acknowledging the seriousness of the crime for which John Taylor has been
sentenced to death and expressing sympathy for the victims of violent crime
and their friends and families;
- urging the Board of Pardons to commute John Taylor's death sentence;
- expressing concern about reports that John Taylor was represented at trial
by lawyers who were inexperienced in handling capital cases which may have
prevented full presentation of mitigating circumstance in the sentencing
Michael R Sibbett, Chair
Utah Board of Pardons
448 East, 6400 South #300
Murray, UT 84107, USA
Telegrams: Board of Pardons, Murray, Utah, USA
Faxes: +1 801 261 6481
Salutation: Dear Mr Sibbett
Governor Mike Leavitt
Office of the Governor
210 state Capitol
Salt Lake City, UT 84114, USA
Faxes: +1 801 538 1528
The Letters Editor
Salt Lake City Tribune
400 Tribune Building
Salt Lake City, UT 84111, USA
Faxes: +1 801 521 9418
and to diplomatic representatives of the USA accredited to your country.

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