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The case of death sentence of Jeffery Landrigan

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No one questions Landrigan's guilt. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the Supreme Court's conservative majority, laid out the facts. In 1989, Landrigan murdered Chester Dean Dyer in Arizona while Landrigan was committing a burglary. Earlier Landrigan had escaped from prison in Oklahoma. He had been imprisoned there for a different murder. While in prison he repeatedly stabbed another inmate. His victim was "just a guy I got into an argument with. I stabbed him 14 times. It was lucky he lived."

After the jury had returned its verdict in the Arizona case, Landrigan's court-appointed counsel tried to forestall a death sentence by presenting testimony from the defendant's mother and ex-wife. Landrigan would have none of it. When counsel tried to cite the defendant's favorable work record, he interrupted to say that he supported his family by "doing robberies." Counsel attempted to justify the earlier murder in Oklahoma as self-defense; again Landrigan broke into explain that "he didn't grab me. I stabbed him."

The trial judge ended the pre-sentencing hearing by agreeing with defense counsel on this mitigating factor: The defendant's mother loved him. Moreover, the murder was not premeditated. Otherwise, a death sentence was abundantly justified: The defendant is "a person who has no scruples and no regard for human life and human beings."

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