If Your Lawyer Wants You Executed

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Curtis Osborne

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It's too late to ask him about the n-word in Osborne's case — but this is not the first time Mostiler has been accused of using the word to describe a client. In another case, a defendant unsuccessfully tried to get a new lawyer because Mostiler was calling him hateful names. When the judge turned to the lawyer, Mostiler didn't deny it. "I honestly can't say whether I said it or not. I don't use those terms out in public," was as far as he would go.

But neither Mostiler nor the State of Georgia was ever pressed on the matter. State courts ruled that Osborne waited too long to raise the issue, and federal courts deferred to that decision. The 11th Circuit panel closed the matter in dry and technical terms: "The state trial court relied upon Georgia procedural rules in denying Osborne relief on this claim. As such, the claim is barred from federal review."

Of course, we are talking about a confessed killer of two people. Some Americans believe that all such aggravated murders should be punished by death. That's not the law, however: in 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional. Instead, each capital case must be individually scrutinized on its own merits.

But is this individual scrutiny possible when the prisoner's attorney slurs him and says he deserves to die? For Curtis Osborne, the ultimate insult is that such a crucial question is barred from review.

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