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April 19, 2005

A capital term for SCOTUS

This AP report about today Supreme Court argument in Bradshaw v. Stumpf (background here from SCOTUSblog) confirms my impression that the Justices were interested in this case primarily because it involves a death sentence:

The justices questioned both lawyers on whether it would have made a difference in Stumpf being sentenced to die if the Ohio court had known that he wasn't the shooter.  "The concern that I have is not with the guilty or innocence plea here, but it's with the sentencing," Justice David Souter said.  Justice Stephen G. Breyer said, "It could be that people don't want to impose capital punishment unless they know that someone killed a person.  So it could have made a difference."

The article also notes that Stumpf is just "one of nine death penalty cases that the Supreme Court plans to hear this spring."  Considering also that a number of capital cases occupied SCOTUS in the fall (while the Court's overall docket continues to shrink), I find it remarkable and noteworthy how much time and energy the Supreme Court is spending on death penalty litigation these days.  (Dare I call these developments evidence of a "legal culture of death" at the Supreme Court?)

I have noted before in this post my amazement with how much Supreme Court time (not to mention, of course, lower court time) gets consumed by the death penalty.  And in this post about the Deck case now before the Court, I noted how much work the Supreme Court created for itself once it started seriously regulating capital sentencing procedures three decades ago following its landmark rulings in Furman and Gregg. And since, as I noted here, there are some jurisprudential parallels between the developing Apprendi/Blakely line of non-capital sentencing regulations and the Furman/Gregg line of capital sentencing regulations, I cannot help but wonder if we might someday expect to see numerous non-capital sentencing cases before the Supreme Court each term.  Gosh know, as this blog documents, there are no shortage of post-Blakely and post-Booker legal questions that need to be answered.

Below are a few prior posts that have discussed the SCOTUS docket and related issues:

April 19, 2005 at 03:02 PM | Permalink

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