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May 30, 2000 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2000-05-30

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, May 30, 2000

students at the . Editor in Chief JOSH WICKERHAM
University of Michigan Editorial Page Editors
UtieUnless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials relect the opinion of the
420 Maynard Street majority of the Daily's editorial board. All ot er articles, letters and
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 cartoons do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Dail'.

Following the suspension of executions in
Illinois by the state's pro-death penalty
governor because of the large number of
innocent persons sentenced to death, nation-
al attention was focused on many of the
problems with how the death penalty is used
in this country. Since the death penalty was
reinstated in 1976, 87 people sentenced to
die have been later proven innocent and
released. The fact that the criminal justice
system has sentenced innocent people to die
at least 87 times is shocking and demands a
close examination of how death penalty
cases are handled in this country.
Despite prompting the nation's first real
evaluation of the death penalty in the last 24
years, the problems in Illinois, where 13 peo-
ple have been released from death row since
1976 and only 12 have been executed, are
only the tip of the iceberg. The prime exam-
ple of a poorly administered system for han-
dling capital cases is the state of Texas,
where 135 people have been executed in the
last five years alone. The situation in Texas
deserves special attention because of its
rapid pace of executions and the breathtak-
ing incompetence with which its death

Wrongful death
Death penalty needs evaluation

penalty cases are handled.
The inadequate provision of counsel for
those in capital cases is probably the biggest
problem in Texas' criminal justice system.
There are several reports of public defenders
in capital cases sleeping through trials. The
state provides no funding to lawyers for indi-
gents, leaving it to localities that are loath to
spend limited resources on lawyers for those
who can't afford them. Only three of Texas'
254 counties have full-time public defend-
The state has also limited the number of
appeals available for death row inmates and
reduced the amount of time between convic-
tion and execution.
Another glaring problem in Texas' system
is the almost total lack of review of death
penalty cases. Texas' governor, George W
Bush, has granted only one of the more than
100 clemency petitions he has received and

then only when he had been provided incon-
trovertible evidence of the man's innocence
by Texas' attorney general. Considering the
number of executions in Texas, Bush cannot
be seriously examining each clemency
request unless that is all he does. In addition,
Texas' Board of Pardons and Paroles, which
is supposed to review clemency petitions,
was recently found by a federal judge to not
have investigated or held a hearing on a
clemency appeal in the last 25 years.
Even when new evidence has surfaced
that has cast significant doubt on the guilt of
many death row inmates, Bush and the
Board of Pardons and Paroles have allowed
executions to go forward.
Bush often tries to weasel out of not com-
muting death sentences of people with
incredibly good chances of being innocent
by claiming that he does not have the power
to stop an execution without the Board of

Pardons and Paroles' authorization.
Considering he appointed the entire board
and that in the one case where a death sen-
tence was commuted, Bush told the board
what to do and they did it, the idea that hW
has no influence over it is absurd.
Bush's frightening and reckless fervor for
Texas' careless execution of legions of per-
sons of dubious guilt was further illustrated
by his veto of a bill last year, passed unani-
mously by the Texas legislature. That bill
would have provided more legal representa-
tion to indigent defendants in capital cases,
though still among the least representation in
the nation.
If one needs an example of why thi
country should take a serious look at ho
executions are carried out, just look at Texas.
The probability that innocent people have
already been executed is extremely high and
yet the rapid-fire executions continue
unabated. The horrifying possibility of exe-
cuting an innocent person should give any
decent human being pause. We should not be
allowing executions to go on in this country
when wrongful convictions have proven t*
be so common.

Boardroom bigotry
Exxon ends non-discrimination policies

Record woes
Napster's fall won't be end of MP3 swapping

F ollowing the merger of Exxon and
Mobil, two of the nations largest oil
companies, the new Exxon dominated man-
agement chose to rescind Mobil's provision
of domestic partner benefits and even ended
their sexual orientation non-discrimination
policy last December. At a time when a
majority of the nation's largest companies
have taken steps to prevent discrimination
against employees because of sexual orien-
tation, ExxonMobil's callous disregard for
the well-being of its gay and lesbian employ-
ees is deplorable.
This action has been met with anger by
many, including the New York City
Employee Retirement System (NYC-
ERS), a large ExxonMobil shareholder,
which is pushing a resolution at the May
31 stockholder meeting that calls on the
company to reinstate a non-discrimination
policy that includes sexual orientation.
It is difficult to see how ExxonMobil's
action could be good for business. The com-
pany now holds the ignominious distinction
of being the first major American company
to roll back a non-discrimination policy.
This will only damage the company's public
image and prevent the company from com-
peting as effectively for employees.
ExxonMobil claims it is now denying
benefits to same-sex partners because it
does not want to, "on its own, determine the
legitimacy of relationships." Considering
Mobil had recognized same-sex relation-
ships as legitimate, it would not be any great
or difficult feat for Exxon to do so. It would
only be following what is becoming the
norm throughout corporate America.
Denying benefits to its gay and lesbian
employees and refusing to protect them

from discrimination will only hurt
ExxonMobil. As large numbers of business-
es in every industry have implemented non-
discrimination policies and begun to provide
domestic partner benefits, it has become
clear that such policies have no adverse
effect on a company's bottom line and can
even help in attracting and retaining talented
employees. The cancellation of Mobil's poli-
cies shows nothing more than blatant dis-
crimination by ExxonMobil.
Those holding stock in ExxonMobil
should follow the lead of NYCERS and sup-
port the reinstatement of Mobil's non-dis-
crimination policies and domestic partner
benefits. Shareholders should vote in favor
of the NYCERS proposal. Those whose
mutual funds or pension funds hold
ExxonMobil stock should urge the man-
agers of those funds to back this proposal.
Those who are affiliated with institutional
investors in ExxonMobil, such as universi-
ties, public retirement systems, churches and
unions should urge those institutions to sup-
port the NYCERS proposal as well.
Shareholder pressure has been responsi-
ble for much of the progress that has been
made in convincing companies to protect
and support their gay and lesbian employees.
National legislation to prevent employment
discrimination has been stymied in
Congress and only one state currently gives
legal recognition to same-sex unions.
Because law does not yet mandate them,
making sure corporations extend these pro-
tections and benefits themselves is incredibly
important. Most large companies are coming
to understand that they benefit from these
policies and responsible shareholders should
help ExxonMobil understand that as well.

O h, Napster, we hardly knew ye. A little
over a year ago, you appeared as but a
blip on the record companies' radar. Now
you're their main objective in a multilateral
attack orchestrated by the Recording
Industry Association of America attempting
to rein in the rouges that prefer free MP3s to
overpriced CD's. And though the computers
that use your free service are acting indepen-
dently, so no pirated songs are stored on your
servers, the heavy hand of the law could
soon swiftly spell your demise. Whatever the
outcome of this lawsuit, which promises to
test the boundaries of the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, it's a
pity the recording companies don't realize
they are shooting themselves in the foot.
The recording industry came under
attack recently for price fixing. Five major
record companies, controlling 85% of the
market, settled with the FTC this month.
According to FTC, the result of this price
fixing cost consumers $480 million. Now
consumers can fight back.
Enter Napster.
Napster, the music swapping software of
choice for college students, acts as a search
engine, allowing users to locate and down-
load nearly any song in existence from other
users' computers. With no central server, the
system may have seemed invulnerable to
lawsuits and other restrictions. Before this
idea shot through the Internet, the availabili-
ty of MP3s was limited to FTP servers and
the occasional website. The recording indus-
try was able to shut down some of the largest
FTP sites, but Napster makes regulating
MP3 distribution trickier.
Metallica recently handed Napster a list
of some 300,000 users to be banned for

downloading their songs. Last week Dr. Dre
gave a list of another 230,000 suspect users.
Yet only established groups are threatened
by Napster. New artists, often locked in
contracts that give them few financial
rewards for individual record sales benefit
from the exposure afforded them by music
swapping. Though artists like Metallica and
Dr. Dre risk alienation and hostility from
angry fans on Napster, they fail to realize
these measures are temporary, and ignore the
fundamental shift in the music market. Even
commercial websites like ZDNet offer
banned users the info to get back on Napst*
The proliferation of Napster, along with
clones like Gnutella and iMesh, is now
unstoppable. Short of altering or legislating
the very protocols of the Internet itself, little
can be done to stop users from downloading
MP3s. And with viable digital watermarking
and encryption making only slight inroads to
the system of music distribution, MP3s
remain the most likely digital download.
When record companies understand this
fundamental shift, deals could be made wit
Napster or its counterparts to offer users
subscription-based payment plan or varia-
tion. For example, users could pay a month-
ly rate and download copyrighted songs in
the same manner as illegal MP3s. By piggy-
backing on established players in this new
distribution market, record companies could
also offer watermarked songs.
But the recording companies will proba-
bly make a martyr of Napster. By uniting tl
online community, they are only furtherisIr
their own demise. In a year dominated by
boy bands and pop princesses, that may not
be all bad. Users should keep downloading
MP3s and let the record companies bleed.

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