« If you want to feel good about the Williams ruling... | Main | Has Illinois figured out "smart on crime"? »

May 19, 2008

Execution plans gearing up in various states

Though I am still not expecting a major rush of post-Baze executions, the news today from various states suggests that a number of death chambers are going to be a bit more active in the near future:

And, as detailed in this Washington Post article, the Supreme Court also today "allowed Virginia to set an execution date for a death row inmate challenging the state's method of lethal injection as painful and inhumane."  That case is still pending in the Fourth Circuit, however.

May 19, 2008 at 05:21 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e200e5523ef3028833

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Execution plans gearing up in various states:

Comments

Doug:

The odd thing is we are still seeing the same sort of traditional division that we have always seen with executions, this time through the lens of lethal injection. The only states setting serious x-dates post-Baze are those of the former CSA & Oklahoma (which, had it been a state at the time, I suspect would have been in the CSA). State specific developments outside of the former CSA states, such as LI litigation related developments, a lack of inmates who have run out of appeals, and/or diminishing political will for executions, will in the coming months further highlight the historical geographical disparity. Put another way, LI is saving to accentuate one of the peculiarities of the modern death penalty - the crime matters less than the locale when it comes to who lives and who dies.

Posted by: karl | May 19, 2008 10:06:31 PM

Gee, Karl, what a surprise, different areas of the country have different views on the death penalty. Additionally, of course, there's a difference between the circuits under which the states have to operate. There would be far more executions in the West if the Ninth Circuit didn't have such luminaries as Sidney Thomas, Richard Paez, Marsha Berzon and other assorted heavyweights.

It's also an accident that Ohio, given the timing of its death litigation, hasn't set any dates, although I suspect Cooey and Biros are at the end of the line.

One thing that's nice, Florida will put down Mark Schwab in about six weeks.

What is interesting is that Alabama and Tennessee have yet to set execution dates. I wonder why.

Posted by: federalist | May 19, 2008 10:57:36 PM

Ferging typos, my apologies, spell check didn't correct all the typos in my last post. That last post should have read:

Post-Baze we are still seeing the same sort of traditional division that we have always seen with executions, this time through the lens of lethal injection. The only states setting serious x-dates post-Baze are those of the former CSA & Oklahoma (which, had it been a state at the time, I suspect would have been in the CSA). State specific developments outside of the former CSA states, such as LI litigation related developments, a lack of inmates who have run out of appeals, and/or diminishing political will for executions, highlight the historical geographical disparity. Put another way, LI is serving to accentuate one of the peculiarities of the modern death penalty - the crime matters less than the locale when it comes to who lives and who dies.

Posted by: karl | May 19, 2008 11:07:39 PM

Karl:

Federalism contemplates that different states will have different laws and different legal priorities. It is therefore not remarkable, or even slightly surprising, that they do.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 19, 2008 11:09:58 PM

Bill & Fed:

No surprise that different states chose different courses, indeed, it is one of the things that makes America great. What is disappointing, however, is that the only serious x-dates seem to be those of the former-CSA. Perhaps the differences are cultural, but when the Green River Killer gets life and a guy who while drunk or high robs a liquor store and kills the teller gets death & executed, something needs to be fixed.

Posted by: karl | May 19, 2008 11:28:47 PM

Bill & Fed:

No surprise that different states chose different courses, indeed, it is one of the things that makes America great. What is disappointing, however, is that the only serious x-dates seem to be those of the former-CSA. Perhaps the differences are cultural, but when the Green River Killer gets life and a guy who while drunk or high robs a liquor store and kills the teller gets death & executed, something needs to be fixed.

Posted by: karl | May 19, 2008 11:29:42 PM

Karl:

"...when the Green River Killer gets life and a guy who while drunk or high robs a liquor store and kills the teller gets death & executed, something needs to be fixed."

I don't know the details of the Green River Killer case, but I was an Assistant US Attorney long enough to know that there are factors specific to each case that can make its outcome seem dubious from a distance, but make perfect sense for those on the inside.

There was, for example, the Unabomber case you might recall. This was a fellow (Ted Kaczynski) who, over a number of years, sent package bombs to business executives. He killed three people. Another 23 were maimed or injured.

Kaczynski's crimes were, to say the least, calculated and premeditated in the extreme (he wrote a letter to the New York Times offering to stop if it would publish his environmental "manifesto"). And of course Kaczynski didn't know, or care, who would actually open and thereby dentonate these packages. It could just as easily have been the business executive's wife or 10 year-old.

To make a long story short, the government initially sought the death penalty, but eventually settled for a plea bargain in which Kaczynski agreed to a life term. This was not because the government lost its nerve or thought Kaczynski was a candidate for rehabilitation. It was because the government could not be sure that Kaczynski's insanity defense wouldn't succeeed, or partially succeed, if the case went to trial.

Criminal law and litigation, like the rest of life, is full of trade-offs. It's easy to criticize them in handsight. But managing trade-offs is scarcely evidence that the system is broken.

My point here is that the same kind of trade-off, or a different but equally sensible one, could have been going on with the Green River Killer. I don't know. But the fact that someone who deserves the death penalty manages to escape it in one instance or another hardly constitutes a reason to believe that EVERYONE who deserves it should escape it. If I go in to a liquor store carrying a loaded gun and blow the clerk's head off because he was slow opening the cash drawer, or because I didn't want a witness, the fact that, for completely unrelated reasons, Ted Kaczynski is still with us says nothing about the moral quality of my behavior or the punishment I deserve.


Posted by: Bill Otis | May 20, 2008 9:05:26 AM

karl, why does something need to be fixed? Are you really arguing that if one heinous killer, for whatever reason, gets lenience, that all other less heinous killers should therefore be treated leniently. That's nonsense. There's a wonderful thing karl, it's called democracy, and it is fundamentally undemocratic to allow a wayward juror, abolitionist prosecutor or less than the strongest evidence to prevent a death sentence in other cases.

Now I know why you can take positions such as the one you took with Lonnie Johnson (i.e., self-defense when the victims were found a football field apart)--you are fundamentally disingenuous.

Posted by: federalist | May 20, 2008 10:26:41 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB