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February 11, 2009

Sixth Circuit panel reinstates federal death sentence

This afternoon, I begin the death penalty unit in my sentencing class, and the Sixth Circuit this morning has provided me with a new case to discuss.  In US v. Lawrence, No. 06-4105 (6th Cir. Feb. 11, 2009) (available here), the panel reverses a district judge's determination that a federal death sentence could not stand.  Here is the start of the Sixth Circuit's opinion:

Defendant Daryl Lawrence was convicted of armed bank robbery, attempted armed bank robbery, murder, and firearms charges. Two of the counts, Counts Seven and Eight, charged death-eligible offenses. The jury returned a verdict of life imprisonment on Count Seven and a verdict of death on Count Eight. Ruling on defendant’s motion for new trial, the district court held that the jury’s verdicts on Counts Seven and Eight were inconsistent.  The court vacated the verdict of death on Count Eight and ordered a new sentencing hearing.  The government appeals, contending the verdicts are not inconsistent.  Lawrence has moved for dismissal of the government’s appeal as premature.

For the reasons that follow, we deny Lawrence’s motion to dismiss the government’s appeal, vacate the district court’s order partially granting the motion for new trial, and thereby reinstate the sentence of death originally imposed by the district court on Count Eight.

Because few death sentences get resolved without lots and lots of litigation, I can safely predict that there will be en banc debate and cert petitions in the future of this case.

February 11, 2009 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Unfortunately, the Lawrence case has now become more political than ever. As a consequence Lawrence loses. The Sixth Circuit numbers (Republican appointees versus Democratic appointees) are against Lawrence for purposes of en banc review. For empirical proof, look at all the en banc death penalty cases the Republican majority has reversed in favor of the government. Likewise, I would not hold out much hope for the Supremes to step in. Bottom line is that if the solidly Republican panel does not grant review on direct appeal, Lawrence is done.

Posted by: Pragmatic in the Sixth | Feb 11, 2009 10:45:49 PM

Pragmatic--the Dems on the Sixth have eaten some summary reversals by per curiam opinion. Seems to me the issue is one of competence. Have you read Getsy?

Posted by: federalist | Feb 12, 2009 11:33:18 AM

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