"From beginning to end," the Supreme Court intoned Tuesday, "judicial proceedings conducted for the purpose of deciding whether a defendant shall be put to death must be conducted with dignity and respect."
And so a majority of the court decided that a trial in which jurors presented the judge with an "edible chocolate penis" and the bailiff with a pair of chocolate breasts deserved a closer look. It told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to examine more closely the trial in which Marcus Wellons received the death penalty for the rape and murder of 15-year-old India Roberts in suburban Atlanta in 1989. The appeals court upheld the death sentence the first time around.
Two amazing aspects of this case. First, the judge and the bailiff should never have accepted any gift from any juror. The judge should have declared a mistrial when the gift was proffered. Second, why would appellate courts ignore the ramifications of this exchange? It takes no great legal talent to recognize the impropriety of this act on the part of the judge and the jury.
Of course the fact that the defendant was black and the victim was white probably had nothing to do with the jury's verdict or the blind eye of the appellate courts.