Capital Punishment

Convicted murderer Joseph Wood’s execution began at 1:52 p.m. yesterday. He was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., according to a statement from Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne. Some witnesses insist that Wood continued to gasp for air at least 600 times after he was supposedly fully sedated. Others argue that he was merely snoring. Everyone agrees that the lethal injection process took a lot longer than the expected. Death by lethal injection typically occurs within ten minutes or so.

America has grown accustomed to long delays in carrying out the death penalty. Inmates sit on death row for years, even decades. As Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, “Old age, not execution, is the most serious risk factor for inmates at the San Quentin death row.” We may be used to delays before denizens of death row get to the death chamber, but we have only recently started to see delays once an execution has actually begun….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is The Death Penalty Worth It?”

In my near 14 years on the bench, this is the first time I can recall this happening.

– Judge Kermit Bye of the Eighth Circuit, in a scathing dissent issued after Missouri executed a death row inmate before the court could finish reviewing his request for a stay. On Wednesday, Missouri executed another death row inmate, this time before the Supreme Court ruled on his request for a stay. The state has executed three inmates in as many months, all while appeals were still pending.

* President Obama defends Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act), saying that the dysfunctional HealthCare.gov website will get fixed. [Washington Post]

* “Calling All Unemployed Law Grads: Greenberg Traurig Is Hiring.” But there’s a catch. We’ll have more on this later today. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case regarding how to determine mental disability in death-penalty cases. [National Law Journal]

* If you’re thinking of selling legal services over Groupon, proceed with care. [ABA via WSJ Law Blog]

* Want to get out of jury duty? Try flipping the bird at the defendant (which is what this Biglaw partner allegedly did). [ABA Journal]

* Chris Geidner takes a closer look at Chris Christie’s decision not to keep fighting marriage equality in New Jersey. Is it all about 2016? [BuzzFeed]

* More details on the circumstances surrounding a Reed Smith partner’s profane and ill-advised tweet. Expect Steven Regan to be sent back to “Tweet School.” [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

Alan Dershowitz

It’s going to happen the way things always happen at the court. The court will appear to be leading, but it will be following.

– Professor Alan Dershowitz, offering a prediction about how the Supreme Court will eventually kill off the death penalty. The Court effectively suspended the death penalty in 1972 but brought it back in 1976, a story chronicled in a fascinating new book I’m currently reading, Evan Mandery’s A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America (affiliate link).

Several organizations filed a Complaint of Judicial Misconduct against Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones earlier this week. The complaint charges Judge Jones with a variety of offenses, but the headline-getter is the claim that she made racist remarks during her speech on February 20, 2013, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania’s chapter of the Federalist Society.

With no transcript or recording of the event, the 12-page complaint relies on the affidavits of a few individuals who attended the speech, including Marc Bookman, the Director of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation. Bookman’s affidavit serves as the primary account, with the other affiants agreeing and adding relatively few details. About a week before the Penn Fed Soc speech, Bookman published an essay in Mother Jones titled “How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?”, about Texas murderer Andre Thomas. Whether Bookman intended ahead of time to use his account of the Fed Soc event as the basis of a misconduct complaint or not, he was likely expecting to be offended when he attended a Federalist Society speech called “Federal Death Penalty Review” by a pro-death-penalty, Texas-based judge. Just a guess….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Tale of Sound & Fury (But No Transcript): In Defense of Judge Edith Jones”

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court released opinions in two habeas cases, McQuiggin v. Perkins and Trevino v. Thaler. The holdings reek of liberal judicial activism, however well-intentioned.

In Perkins, my least favorite of Tuesday’s cases, the Court held that a showing of “actual innocence” is sufficient to circumvent the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act’s (AEDPA) statute of limitations. In effect, a narrow majority decided to judicially amend a validly enacted statute, creating an exception that the majority admits that the statute itself does not contain. On top of that, this particular case may have been a pretty defective vehicle for addressing the limitations question anyway. There’s a pesky matter, discussed at oral argument, about the procedural posture of the case, making it pretty dubious whether the Court should have even gotten to the merits here.

(Cases like Perkins make me want to appropriate my own version of Dan Savage’s “DTMFA” — shorthand for “Dump the Mother-F*cker Already.” Too often, it would be useful to just be able to write “DTMFA” for “DIG the Mother-F*cker Already” for cases that I wish that SCOTUS would dismiss as improvidently granted. But, alas, you probably have to be a syndicated sex columnist for the privilege of coining long-but-useful acronyms.)

Dark days for the fair application of AEDPA….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Death Penalty Dilemma”

Jodi Arias

If it seems like the Jodi Arias murder trial has lasted for weeks, that’s because it has — the courtroom drama began on January 2, 2013, and the proceedings have dragged on until today. HLN legal commentator Nancy Grace has had a field day with all of the allegations in this “who-done-it” murder mystery, just as Grace did in the earlier murder trial of Casey Anthony.

Arias originally blamed the killing of her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, on masked intruders. Years later, she admitted that she killed him, but chalked it up to self-defense — in the form of 27 stab wounds, one gunshot wound to the head, and a slit throat.

Lo and behold, after more than 15 hours of deliberations, the jury has finally reached a verdict….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Breaking: The Jodi Arias Verdict Is In”

Yesterday, with hours to spare, the Mississippi Supreme Court stayed the execution of Willie Manning by a vote of 8-1. The stay was granted based on letters from the Department of Justice casting doubt on the scientific value of testimony from FBI experts at the trial almost 20 years ago.

The lone dissenter, Justice Mike Randolph, outlined his interest in putting someone to death immediately over the objections of the Department of Justice and its FBI experts. The decision reads like satire, making the case for the stay stronger than any majority opinion could. Oh, and then there’s some conspiracy rantings about the Obama Administration because, you know, Mississippi…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “You Stay Classy, Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph”

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski speaking at Yale Law School last year.

Perhaps this should be “benchslap of a few days ago,” since it happened last week. But it’s never too late to read about Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, right?

This latest benchslap involves the Ninth Circuit setting aside a murder conviction. So you might expect the benchslap to be coming from a unanimous Supreme Court in a summary reversal.

But no. The benchslap — actually, make that benchslaps, plural — come from the Ninth Circuit. On the receiving end: the police, prosecutors, a state judge, and a federal judge. Names are named.

And I wouldn’t hold my breath while waiting for SCOTUS to reverse. This decision looks pretty safe….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: Kozinski & Co. Overturn a Murder Conviction”

Trolls!

* If you swap out a menorah and put in a dreidel, does your Hanukkah display avoid violating the Establishment Clause? I know, I know, WAR ON HANUKKAH. [Huffington Post]

* I wonder why Martha Minow (law dean, HLS) or Robert Post (law dean, YLS) doesn’t write an op-ed defending the value proposition of going to law school? Wouldn’t you like to hear this argument from somebody who isn’t desperate to fill their class seats? [Constitutional Daily]

* Isn’t the concept of the “last meal” the best thing about death row? Granted, that’s a low bar, but still. Having a last meal sounds so civilized. No wonder Texas and Florida want to take it away. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Do patent trolls have a weakness to fire, just like videogame trolls? Because, I’d like for them to get burned. [Business Insider]

* The fact that voter suppression doesn’t work doesn’t make it right. [Election Law Blog]

* Ignoring losses until they go away sounds like the basis of any sound financial strategy. [Dealbreaker]

Page 1 of 3123