Attorney: Condemned SC man sealed his own fate

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Attorney: Condemned SC man sealed his own fate

Post  Jennie on Fri Jun 20, 2008 11:36 am

James Earl Reed, scheduled to die in South Carolina's electric chair Friday, made 2 fatal miscalculations: killing his ex-girlfriend's parents and representing himself at trial, one of his attorneys said.

"Had James not represented himself, he would not be on death row today, that's for certain," said Columbia attorney Joe Savitz, who represented Reed during his appeals.

Reed, 49, will be the first person electrocuted in South Carolina in more than 4 years. He has been on death row since 1996, when he was convicted of murdering Joseph and Barbara Lafayette in their Charleston County home two years earlier. Prosecutors said he was looking for an ex-girlfriend.

During his trial, Reed fired his attorney and represented himself, denying the killings despite a confession and arguing that no physical evidence placed him at the scene. Jurors found him guilty and decided he should die.

The attorney Reed fired, Ashley Pennington, stayed on as his legal adviser. He said his former client panicked and tried to rehire him for the penalty phase - a request the trial judge denied.

"There were compelling facts that suggested guilt, and there were compelling facts that suggested that he was a person who had a very, very, very difficult life," Pennington said.

"And those facts never were presented because he did not know how to present them."

Reed tried to argue in his appeal that the trial judge shouldn't have allowed him to defend himself, but the state Supreme Court said he had been warned.

Reed then tried to waive further appeals and have an execution date set. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Reed could not drop those appeals or continue to represent himself.

No one has been put to death in South Carolina's electric chair since 2004, when James Neil Tucker was executed for killing 2 women. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 8 other states electrocute inmates.

In South Carolina, anyone sentenced to death may choose the electric chair or lethal injection.

Reed would be the 1st man electrocuted in the U.S. in nearly a year. Daryl Holton, a 45-year-old Tennessee man, died in the electric chair in September 2007 for killing his 3 sons and their half-sister, according to the center.

Several of the Lafayettes' relatives planned to witness the execution, prisons spokesman Josh Gelinas said. As of Thursday, none of Reed's relatives had asked to be present.

(source: Associated Press)

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