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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Georgia Death Penalty Shame

The following editorial appeared this morning in the New York Times.:

"Robert Wayne Holsey, on death row in Georgia for killing a police officer, is seeking a new sentencing hearing because he received ineffective counsel. He should get one. His own lawyer told a Georgia trial court reviewing the case that he “probably shouldn’t have been allowed to represent anybody” while he was ostensibly providing a defense.

"The lawyer said that he drank a quart of vodka every night during the trial and that he was also preparing to defend himself against possible disbarment for stealing client funds. Not surprisingly, the trial court ordered a new sentencing hearing, saying that “no one can seriously believe that the petitioner received the constitutional guarantees of the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel.”

"Astonishingly, two other courts have since disagreed in rulings that seem equally contemptuous of defendants’ rights to effective counsel. The State Supreme Court said that Mr. Holsey failed to show that the trial would have come out differently if his lawyer had done his job properly. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled 2 to 1 that Mr. Holsey failed to prove the State Supreme Court’s decision was “unreasonable.”

"The dissent from that decision explains why both rulings are wrong. At Mr. Holsey’s trial, the defense made only cursory mention of the beatings he suffered as a child and the fact that he had been judged mentally retarded — mitigating circumstances that could have changed the outcome. Georgia requires a unanimous vote to impose the death penalty; given the evidence, one or more jurors might have voted otherwise.

"At the review hearing in the Georgia trial court, a new defense team presented evidence that neighbors called Mr. Holsey’s home the “Torture Chamber” and that his mother beat him as a boy so badly with belts, extension cords and broom handles that he sometimes slept outside to avoid her. His mental retardation (his I.Q. has been measured around 70) was “a catastrophic disability” and his “social adaptation” as an adult was judged to be equivalent to that of an 8-year-old.

"To the state and federal judges who ruled against Mr. Holsey, this powerful additional evidence was simply redundant: It would not have changed the case’s outcome even if his lawyer had been competent enough to present it at the initial trial. The dissent rightly disagreed; Mr. Holsey must be allowed a new hearing so a jury with all of the evidence can decide as the law and justice require."

Saturday, September 01, 2012


You do not have to be a member to take advantage of AARP's expertise about heath care. They have published many docs explaining the Affordable Health Care Act and how it affects or does not affect virtually every American. 

Here is what I found out. 
First, for current seniors, Medicare benefits are the same.  Second, you can keep your current doctor if you wish. Third, many preventive screenings, like colonoscopies and mammograms are FREE.  Fourth, prescription drugs costs will be gradually reduced as the gap known as the "doughnut hole" of Part D is closed by 2020. 

Taken together, the cumulative measures of the law will SAVE the average Medicare beneficiary $4,181 over 10 years, those with high drug costs even more, up to $16,000.

There will be more FOLLOW UP CARE post hospitalization. Hospitals will be monitored for excessive re-admissions which indicate incompetence or "churning" for profits. Post op follow ups with home nursing care will be increased.  (This is the provision that stirred the scare talk about "death panels" that decide to kill your grannie.) 

The costly  Medicare Advantage plan will be more costly and doctors and hospitals will have adjustments to their payments under that plan. Higher income beneficiaries will continue to have higher premiums. 

EMPLOYER COVERAGE PLANS stay the same. But consumers will have a choice to go to a different plan provided through an EXCHANGE set up in each state where companies will compete for participants, reducing costs. 

Low and middle income ($44, 680) people can receive SUBSIDIES as refundable tax credits to join an exchange. 

For people not covered by medicare, medicaid or other insurance plan, Failure to buy insurance by Jan. 1, 2014 means a tax imposed on tax return. EXEMPT are people with low income. The penalty in 2014 is $95 or 1% of income. It will increase over time, affecting tax refunds BUT NOT A CRIME. 

MEDICAID which is for low income people will depend on the states which defines eligibility rules. The intent was to add 16 million to the rolls but the Supreme Court ruled that states may opt out and at least 12 Republican governors have refused to join. 

State health insurance exchanges set up to provide cheaper plans plus refundable tax credits will help some low and middle income people get covered. 

If a state fails to set up an EXCHANGE the federal government may do so.

Insurance companies will no longer be permitted to deny coverage or charge more or reduce benefits for people with PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS. This will affect an estimated 129 million people.  They cannot any longer charge women with higher premiums than men. Premiums charged by  Insurance companies will be closely monitored and rebates will be required for excessive charges. 

High income people ($200,000 for one or $250,000for couple) will pay higher Medicare hospital insurance on income and earnings.