March 24, 2007

The Legal, Political, & Social Implications of the Death Penalty

March 20, 2007: David McCormack did a wonderful job of synopsizing William Wilkins distinguished career: Davidson; USC; Veteran (Colonel); legal assistant to Senator Thurmond; youngest Solicitor (and first Republican in 100 years) in SC; President Reagan appointed and current Chief Judge of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (5 States).

In spite of his impressive resume and current position, Judge Wilkins was quick to win the Rotarians through his story about a Sullivan Island "Genie" that paid tribute to his wife Deborah and David McCormick and a promise to the audience attributed to Elizabeth Taylor on her wedding day to her 8th husband: "Don't worry, I won't keep you long":

After the opening levity, Judge Wilkins was all facts, experience, and business. He eloquently provided a US Supreme Court history on the "death penalty" and a statistically powerful snapshot of how Americans view the death penalty: 65 percent favor (today) versus 80 percent (10 years ago). It's interesting to note we're one of three democracies (the other two being South Korea and Japan) who still legally favor the death penalty.

As the judge, Wilkins said I'm going to entertain Q&A: I'll ask the questions and give the answers (..."I won't keep you long").

1. From the Proponents view, what purpose does it [death penalty] serve?
Retribution: just punishment; social expression of moral outrage
Deterrence: never again by that person; message to the general population

2. How has it evolved today?
Murder is an aggravated circumstance; crimes have narrowed
Juries are given unlimited authority after they answer the law:
Is there reasonable doubt?
Was it aggravated?
Fact: all 12 must agree

3. What are the political implications?
In SC, it's tough to win if you oppose
Most countries will not extradite to the US if the death penalty is involved

4. What are the social implications?
Cost: more to execute than it cost to spend life in prison
$2.2M in NC; $2.3M in TX; $114M per year in CA
SC averages 12 years of legal actions to achieve an execution

5. Does it work?
There's no way to tell how many have been deterred, they're not here to confirm the statistics

Judge Wilkins ended his presentation with a poignant presentation of a murder trial he prosecuted: "Yates, Davis, & Loftis ...Willie Wood and his Mom." If you missed this, ask someone in attendance to relate it to you. We have terrific speakers and this presentation is another example of why it's worth your time to attend.

Submitted by Bill Crowe, Keyway Committee

March 18, 2007

South Carolina Research Authority

March 13, 2007: Tom Sweeny introduced Bill Mahoney, who was appointed CEO of SCRA in August of 2005 and brought 30 years of applied systems and technology business experience to the organization. He is a graduate of Harvard University and has been instrumental in a number of technology start-ups in the 80's and 90's. He took one company to $125 million and number one in its market in the entire world. Under his leadership and guidance, SCRA is both collaborating to advance technology in the private and public sectors with emphasis on defense.

Mahoney shared many examples of the accomplishments of SCRA in its collaboration with research universities, industry organizations, government and private enterprises. It is a recognized leader in innovation and has helped in growing the knowledge economy here and throughout the State. SCRA started with a $500,000 grant and a Legislative Act in 1983. Today its revenue is approaching $95 to $100 million, and this is especially commendable in a period of relatively flat R&D investment.

SCRA serves many different constituents, including the Department of Defense, Justice, Energy, Transportation, as well as industry and corporate partners across the United States and around the globe. National Partners we would recognize include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and GM. South Carolina based partners include Reliance Electric, ESAB, Milliken, and SoPakCo.

As a not-for-profit organization, SCRA has been instrumental in using proceeds of their operations to assist the State in endeavors such as SC Launch! It leverages SCRA's dynamic resources, which drive development for high growth technology companies, and generates knowledge economy jobs and enhances the State's quality of life while providing strong employment prospects for South Carolinians in the knowledge economy. SC Launch!, a joint venture between SCRA and the Research Foundations at Clemson University, Medical University of SC, and the University of SC, is an example of that leverage in action.

A number of questions were focused on how SCRA was benefiting South Carolinians and Mahoney provided numerous examples, such as work in composites for our local Aerospace Cluster, as well as other projects with a broader reach, such as the Genetically Altered Crop Research that enables the development of alternative fuels without diverting traditional food; reducing our supply and increasing prices.

It was clear that the Legislative Act of 1983 and the $500,000 Grant have been developed into a "crowning jewel" for South Carolina. The investment continues to generate results with a return of $14.00 for every $1.00 invested, which is a return we all envy.

Submitted by Wayne Outlaw, Keyway Committee

March 11, 2007

The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour

March 6, 2007: Our Rotary Club was most fortunate today to have with us four major officers of The Concord Coalition, who are currently on a nation-wide tour to promote fiscal responsibility. They came to us from a feature presentation last Sunday on 60 Minutes.

The opening speaker was the Controller General of the United States, David Walker who challenged all voters to ask the many candidates running for the Presidency of the United States if they truly understand the magnitude of the fiscal problems facing the nation. The three big entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicade are currently taking 40% of the national budget and the "baby boomer" generation has yet to receive these services. To add to this burden, the cost of health care is exceeding the speed of growth of the economy. Our current pathway of fiscal spending is unsustainable. We cannot "grow out of" this situation. We need a true bi-partisan approach to the solution for it is more than a fiscal issue; it is a moral issue.

Robert Bixby, Executive Director of the Concord Coalition forcefully noted that our officials must seek TRUTH. He felt that we have a national deficit in leadership at this time. Our leadership generation is the first to be on the verge of leaving the country worse off than they found it. We are headed for an unprecedented deficit, a deficit fueled heavily by health care costs and entitlement spending, spending which has increased two and a half times in the past six years. We must start corrective action SOONER, not LATER for we are currently the world's largest debtor. The issue is stewardship and what we are doing to the future of our grandchildren.

Alison Fraser spoke of concern that we are borrowing so much from foreigners for we are living at their whims of investment, and they are reaping the profits. We can contain the problem in the short term, but overall the issue is getting worse and worse.

Doug Elmendorf warned that Federal spending is currently consuming 20% of the Gross National Product and headed for being 50%. We have three choices: Do nothing; Increase taxes [which currently amount to about 18%, but would have to go to 30% to pull us out, an amount that cannot be sustained]; Control spending. The solution rests in taking on all issues and bringing that out in the open for discussion. We need to broaden the tax rate, not simple raise it.

Submitted by Fred Sales, Keyway Committee

March 2, 2007

"Corridor of Shame"

February 27, 2007: President Amy introduced her law partner, Steve Morrison, as a highly accomplished professional who, among many other achievements, has taken over 240 cases to jury verdict and pleaded a case in front of the US Supreme Court. Mr. Morrison introduced himself as a teacher at the USC School of Law who was once critiqued by a student as "not only dull, but the cause of dullness in others." After listening to Steve Morrison, our Rotary Club would never believe the latter. He delivered a compelling discussion based on the theme: South Carolina has a constitutional covenant with every child to provide them an education ... "we're not doing it!"

Steve Morrison eloquently and quantitatively related the historical events leading up to his current litigation, Abbeville vs. the State of South Carolina, and then proceeded to illustrate why this landmark case is critical to the future of our State. He used three themes:
A cinder block church
Six dollars
The Dean of the Virginia Business School
The "cinder block church" was mentioned during trial testimony when a witness stated she read the following on the marquee of a church across the street from the courthouse: "To hold a man down, you must stay with him." Mr. Morrison went on to show statistics confirming that in the schools he represents, between 85-100 percent are: black, below the poverty line, have the worst paid teachers, are in isolated districts, and have below standard schools. That led him to discuss the "six dollars". In the districts mentioned the drop-out rate averages over 55 percent. Morrison stated that for every child that doesn't graduate from High School, 65 percent end up on welfare and 35 percent end up in jail. Most importantly, expert testimony stated for every one dollar invested in education, the state receives a six dollar return in taxes...he emphasized that's just state taxes and doesn't even include job revenue or the return on investment from eliminating the welfare or jail tax burden. Finally he quoted the Dean of the Business School, "There comes a time when you must give up hope of a better yesterday." He summarized by saying "genius (advanced and proficient) blossoms" if provided:
Great teachers
Decent facilities and good leadership
More exposure to the great teachers if they fall behind

Submitted by Bill Crowe, Keyway Committee