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July 25, 2013

Notable federal death penalty developments from the Northeast

Federal death penalty news is relatively rare, and death penalty news from the northeastern part of the United States is even more rare. But, thanks to recent developments from high-profile capital cases from New York and Massachusetts, there are these news reports of notable developments in two federal death penalty cases from the Northeast:

Though notable, I am not sure any of this federal capital news is really all that consequential.  Both before and after these developments in this two high-profile federal multiple-murder cases, the smart money would be on a bet that both of the defendants in these cases ultimately end up serving functional LWOP sentences by at some point dying natural deaths after many decades of federal litigation concerning their fates.

July 25, 2013 at 06:49 PM | Permalink


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Use “Night and Fog” instead of executions.

Posted by: Just Plain Jim | Jul 25, 2013 7:02:50 PM

"... the smart money would be on a bet that both of the defendants in these cases ultimately end up serving functional LWOP sentences by at some point dying natural deaths after many decades of federal litigation concerning their fates."

Is that a quiet, subtle, mildly frustrated rejoinder to the criminal law system of the lawyer? If it is, welcome to spaceship earth, Prof. Berman.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 25, 2013 11:24:19 PM

Anybody know what the latest is with the federal lethal-injection litigation in DC District Court (ongoing since 2006)?

Posted by: alpino | Jul 26, 2013 3:17:15 AM

alpino --

Here is Kent's C&C entry from three days ago:

DC Circuit Vacates Order on Previously Imported Thiopental

July 23, 2013 10:01 AM | Posted by Kent Scheidegger | 1 Comment

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today decided Cook v. FDA, the lethal injection drug importation case. CJLF filed an amicus brief in this case. The point we briefed related to the portion of the order directing the FDA to recover the sodium thiopental previously imported and presently in the possession of the States. Agreeing with our brief, the court held that the District Court had no authority to issue this part of the order. By doing so, it adjudicated the interests of parties not before the court, the States, in violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19.

In the remainder of the opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the holding that the FDA was required by law to stop the importations at the border. This part will likely have no immediate practical effect, because no States are presently importing lethal injection drugs as far as we know. Even so, Congress should amend the statute. The baseline requirement for FDA approval of drugs is that they be "safe" and "effective," and for lethal injection those requirements are mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 26, 2013 4:06:15 AM

"Safe" for the purposes of executions would seem to mean in context meeting Baze standards.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 26, 2013 1:42:26 PM

Joe, you could shoehorn it into that meaning if you want, but really the whole standard is inapplicable. Congress enacted the "D" part of the FDCA to provide the American people with reliable drugs for medical treatment. The purpose of the act has nothing to do with capital punishment, and that application should be carved out. Inmates have all the protection they need from the Eighth Amendment/1983 litigation on this issue, and they have an army of lawyers from blue-chip law firms chomping at the bit to help them.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jul 26, 2013 6:24:14 PM

A law might have some unintended consequences, but if the ruling below is wrong, it is wrong. Still, inmates can be protected in various respects by general statutory protections as well as 8A/1983 litigation, such as some federal regulation that touches upon the quality of prison buildings that might have some 8A connotation. It is not what "I want," it is what the law reasonably requires.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 27, 2013 10:40:58 PM

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