2011 Spring, Pg. 32. Thursday Afternoon, December 18, 2008.

Author:By Lawrence A. Vogelman
 
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New Hampshire Bar Journal

2011.

2011 Spring, Pg. 32.

Thursday Afternoon, December 18, 2008

New Hampshire Bar JournalVolume 52, No. 1Spring 2011Thursday Afternoon, December 18, 2008By Lawrence A. VogelmanThat Thursday morning, I waited in a courtroom in federal court in Atlanta, Georgia, for my client, Raymond Burgess. I have been representing Raymond, along with co-counsel, Gretchen Stork, for a little over ten years now. Raymond is black, in his mid-forties, and is retarded. He was convicted in 1991, along with a co-defendant, of killing a white man in a robbery at a motel. His co-defendant, who has admitted to being the actual shooter, received a sentence of life imprisonment, and later died in prison. Raymond was sentenced to death.

As we waited, Raymond was escorted into the courtroom by the marshals. Raymond, the marshals, court reporter, and court security officers were the only African- Americans in the courtroom. All the lawyers, clerks, and the judge, were white. Raymond, dressed in a spotless, white jumpsuit, shuffled to counsel table . . . his hands were shackled, as well as his feet. For the next hour-and-a-half he sat as lawyers "did their lawyer thing." He understood little, other than that two lawyers were fighting for his life. At the end of the hearing, we embraced, and he wished me a happy holiday. I started to reply, but stopped. What do you say to a man who has been on death row since 1992? Happy holidays? Merry Christmas? May next year be better than the last? I just nodded, and said nothing.

Gretchen and I took the elevator down, and left the courthouse. She drove me to the airport for my return to New Hampshire. I retrieved my cell phone that I had left in her car.

At the airport, I called my office. I was informed of the Michael Addison verdict. The jury had sentenced Michael Addison to death. I am not a very religious person, but my first thoughts were, "forgive them, for they know not what they do." I immediately flashed back to the first time I met Raymond. Georgia provides no counsel for condemned prisoners in their state court post-conviction proceedings. Like many states in the "death belt," they rely upon volunteers. I was one of those volunteers. I substituted for Raymond's prior lawyer, who had a "nervous breakdown" shortly before the state court habeas hearing.

I had just obtained...

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