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September 15, 2008

A capital punishment SCOTUS preview from DPIC

As highlighted by this post at SCOTUSblog, 'tis the season for Supreme Court previews. Helpfully, the Death Penalty information Center provides this case preview of the current SCOTUS capital docket:

To date, the Court has granted certiorari in three death penalty cases.  Bell v. Kelly will be argued on November 12, 2008. This case originated in Virginia and concerns the scope of federal review when the state court has failed to develop an issue.  Edward Bell claimed that his attorney failed to present important mitigating evidence at this sentence hearing, but this claim was not fully explored in state court.

In Cone v. Bell, which will be argued on December 9, 2008, the Court will review a case from Tennessee that has been before it on two previous occasions. In the present case, the issue is whether federal courts can consider matters that have been dismissed on state procedural grounds.  Gary Cone claimed that his prior drug use should have served as a mitigating factor at this sentencing hearing.  The state court dismissed the claim for lack of evidence....

Finally, the Court will hear Harbison v. Bell on a date to be determined.  This case also orginates in Tennessee and concerns a federal law providing for representation in capital cases.  The issue is whether this representation should extend to an inmate's state clemency petition.

All three of these cases involve technicalities that make blockbuster rulings unlikely.  Nevertheless, the clemency issue in Harbison gives it some extra interest at a time when state clemency is getting a bit more attention in capital cases.  Of course, as regular readers know, I am not a big fan of the Supreme Court taking up a lot of capital cases, as evidence by my recent article here at SSRN titled, "A Capital Waste of Time? Examining the Supreme Court's 'Culture of Death'."

September 15, 2008 at 02:28 PM | Permalink


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