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December 4, 2004

SCOTUS concerns about capital justice in Texas

Adam Liptak and Ralph Blumenthal of the New York Times have produced this insightful article on the quality — or lack thereof — of appellate justice in capital cases coming from Texas. The article's opening paragraphs set the theme:

In the past year, the Supreme Court has heard three appeals from inmates on death row in Texas, and in each case the prosecutors and the lower courts suffered stinging reversals. In a case to be argued on Monday, the court appears poised to deliver another rebuke.

Lawyers for a Texas death row inmate, Thomas Miller-El, will appear before the justices for the second time in two years. To legal experts, the Supreme Court's decision to hear his case yet again is a sign of its growing impatience with two of the courts that handle death penalty cases from Texas: its highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans.

The rest of the (lengthy) article does a masterful job examining the composition and contextual influences of both the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Fifth Circuit to provide an explanation for why these courts seem almost systematically disinclined to reverse troublesome death sentences.

December 4, 2004 at 03:19 PM | Permalink


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