October 11, 2005
Few clues on capital views of CJ Roberts
This AP report on today's argument in Brown v. Sanders, the first capital case of the new SCOTUS term, suggests that Chief Justice Roberts was an active (and opaque) participant: "The new chief justice, John Roberts, asked a handful of questions during the arguments, seeking to get the attorneys to clarify their positions but not indicating clearly how he was inclined to rule."
The closing paragraphs of the AP story also spotlight some of my major frustrations with the Supreme Court's work in this area. As revealed by the quotes below, the High Court has a habit taking up cases that seem likely to impact no more than a small number of death sentences and the Court's decisions rarely even clarify precisely what that impact should be:
If the court agrees with the 9th Circuit that Sanders' death sentence should be overturned, death row inmates in California and other states with questions about factors considered in their sentencing could have a new basis for appeals. Kent Scheidegger, director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said there could be, roughly, dozens of such people nationwide.
Justice Stephen Breyer suggested the court might want to clear up the differences that exist from one state to another in how aggravating factors are used in death penalty sentencing. "We would not have this crossword puzzle that only five people in the United States understand," he said.
October 11, 2005 at 02:08 PM | Permalink
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