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Execution Watch, KPTF 90.1 FM, Houston, Texas, is a Public Radio program that only broadcasts when the State of Texas is executing one of its death-row inmates. Hosted by a former prison inmate and providing live coverage at Huntsville Prison, Execution Watch promotes political accountability and responsible social change through legal and political commentary on each case.
On February 15, 2011, the author of this article appeared on Execution Watch to comment on the execution of Michael Wayne Hall. Hall’s case presented troubling issues of mental retardation and Texas standards and procedures for determining whether a defendant is mentally retarded. At the time of his crime—participation in the kidnapping, torture, and murder of a young girl—Hall’s IQ was 67, he had trouble reading the hands of a clock and making monetary change, and he exhibited marginal adaptive skills. The prosecution’s expert characterized Hall as “borderline” mentally retarded, but evidence was admitted showing that Hall could function in society, including a TV interview with Fox News that was shown during the sentencing phase of the case.
The unique nature of Execution Watch is, of course, the fact that the show airs simultaneously with the beginning of the execution process. The Execution Watch discussion of Michael Hall’s case began at 7:00 PM EST. When the author joined the discussion from his law school office in Boston, Massachusetts, the conversation turned to the status of Texas as the single greatest executing state in this country, in comparison to abolitionist states in the Northeast, like New York and Massachusetts. Participants were interested to hear that in relatively recent times a serious and sustained effort had been made to restore capital punishment as a sentencing option in Massachusetts.
This article tells the story behind Mitt Romney’s campaign to enact a “foolproof” capital punishment law in Massachusetts. It is told, however, in the shadow of Execution Watch. Although the author did not know it at the time, it was disclosed the next day that Michael Wayne Hall’s execution was started, by lethal injection, at almost the exact moment that the author began his commentary. Mr. Hall was dead by the time the show ended. . .
The emergence of social media, from Facebook to Myspace and Linkedin to Twitter—much like the earlier evolution of email, IM, and web 2.0—have changed the way people communicate, expanding the virtual horizons for social networking and business promotion on these popular communications platforms. Smartphones and other portable internet data generators such as iPads, and even internet hotspots incorporated into motor vehicles, have encouraged the blurring of work and personal time such that people are tethered to their devices, checking their work and personal messages wherever they are and whatever else they are doing.
In the first case of its kind, the National Labor Relations Board (Labor Board or NLRB) issued a complaint against an employer, American Medical Response of Connecticut (AMR), for the suspension and firing of an employee who posted negative comments about her supervisor on her Facebook page. The federal agency alleged that the employer retaliated against the terminated employee for her postings and for requesting the presence of her union representative at an investigatory interview that led to discipline. Most importantly, the Labor Board maintained that the employer’s rules on blogging and internet posting, which included social media use, standards of conduct relating to discussing co-workers and superiors, and solicitation and distribution, were overbroad, interfering with employees’ right to engage in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection under section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRB, as the federal agency that enforces the statutory rights of all employees covered by the NLRA—not just those who belong to unions—signaled that it is ready to prosecute companies with policies that unduly interfere with employee communication about work matters such as wages, hours, and working conditions, even on social media. The AMR case puts employers on notice that rules affecting employee communication, including the use of email and social media during nonwork time, should be reviewed to ensure that the rules do not violate the NLRA. This article outlines tips for employers and employees to stay within the boundaries of labor law. . .