June 1, 2008
Sunday (not-so) funnies concerning the death penalty
I saw a number of interesting stories in the Sunday papers around the nation dealing with various death penalty issues. Here are headlines and links:
- From Alaska, "Death-penalty decision delays trial"
- From Mississippi, "Death penalty: 2008 'banner' year?"
- From West Virginia, "A year later, no sentence in federal death penalty case"
June 1, 2008 at 10:20 AM | Permalink
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The West Virginia article talks about the length of delay expected even after a sentence of death as follows: "Even if Copenhaver denies the defense's motions, the executions of Lecco and Friend aren't exactly imminent. The appeals process - first to the state Supreme Court, then possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court - in death penalty cases typically lasts for years."
Not so slow. This is a federal case, so there can't be an appeal to the state suprme court. What in the world did the article mean by that?
Posted by: Jacob Berlove | Jun 1, 2008 1:02:23 PM
I suspect the guy who wrote the article messed up, or confused the Fourth Circuit with the WV Supreme Court. Without any state review, it will still have to work its way up to SCOTUS on direct review and then on habeas, tho'.
Posted by: JDB | Jun 1, 2008 5:55:27 PM
Chances are the reporter is not an attorney and as the "crime" reporter is more used to dealing with cases in state courts and not used to the federal procedure. Naturally, to West Virginians the entire death penalty procedure is likely not very familiar since that state has not had the death penalty for several years (I think since the early 1960s).
A more important question is what great federal interest is there in the Alaska case such that what is a local crime (a person killing their neighor) is federalized. I'm guessing it must be considered a carjacking, although the carjacking statute seems rather suspect under the Commerce Clause in cases where the stolen vehicle did not cross state lines (very difficult from Alaska where the only boundary is an international one which presumably would be much more patrolled than the boundary between two states). I guess if the prosecution could show that he planned on taking the car to drive to Canada, it might be okay under the Commerce Clause - but I find it worrisome on federalism grounds that a local crime in a non-death penalty state is being prosecuted by the feds when there appears to be little national interest in the crime and no rational reason to do so other than to be able to seek the death penalty. It seems to at best really push the commerce clause to federalize the crime of carjacking unless there is proven to be a specific intent to use the vehicle to cross a state or international boundary or otherwise ship the vehicle or parts in interstate or international commerce.
Posted by: Zack | Jun 2, 2008 11:12:58 AM