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October 5, 2009

Noting some notable capital case cert denials

Both SCOTUSblog here and Crime & Consequences here have early post discussing some of the notable cases in which the Justices said "thanks, but no thanks" to requests for cert review.  One such case in which cert was denied, as noted by SCOTUSblog, was a "test of the constitutionality of the death penalty procedures in the state of Louisiana (Holmes v. Louisiana, 08-1358)."  And, as lamented by Kent here at C&C, some (but perhaps not all) Ninth Circuit capital rulings also evaded review:

"They can't reverse them all," the unofficial motto of the Ninth Circuit, is confirmed once again, as the Supreme Court denied certiorari of the Ninth's patently wrong reversal of yet another death sentence in Ryan v. Styers.  CJLF's amicus brief in that case is here.  Twenty years ago this December, James Styers told 5-year-old Christopher Milke, his girlfriend's son, that he would take him to a shopping mall to see Santa Claus.  Instead, he took little Christopher out into the Arizona desert and put three bullets in the back of his head.

On the brighter side, the Ninth's equally erroneous decision in the Belmontes case, a case in which its judgments have already been vacated twice by the Supreme Court (cites here), is not out of the woods yet.  Belmontes was on the conference list but is not on the orders list. That means (1) the state's petition will be considered again at another conference; or (2) the Court is preparing a summary reversal opinion.

Some related posts:

October 5, 2009 at 11:30 AM | Permalink


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Has Kent & Kent ever met a DP he didn't like?

Posted by: . | Oct 5, 2009 12:17:49 PM

Person who identifies himself with a punctuation mark: yes, as noted both here and at C&C, I was opposed to the Louisiana capital child rape statute as a matter of policy, although I thought the statute was constitutional. Ditto for the under-18 murderers.

It would help the discussion if you would adopt a screen name with letters.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Oct 5, 2009 12:37:36 PM

And the payoff for this brutal murder of a child--$5,000.
All of the Ninth Circuit's AEDPA caseload should be transfered to the Tenth Circuit.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 5, 2009 2:13:26 PM

On a reverse rationale, can we transfer the 11th and 5th circuits' capital/AEDPA dockets to, say, the 3rd and 7th circuits?

Here's an even better idea: How about federal court of appeals judges not being appointed to any particular circuit, but instead serving random 5-year rotations on one of the 12* geographic circuits? Sub-SCOTUS binding precedent would still be determined by geographic circuit, but the content of that precedent would emerge through the work of panels composed of a cross-section of the whole sub-SCOTUS appellate judiciary. Such a system would, one would hope, tend to harmonize the application of federal law across circuits over time, instead of encouraging outliers and pockets of resistance like the current system. The system we have now makes a mockery of equal protection of law by applying vastly different versions of federal law in different parts of the country.

*Or maybe 13 geographic circuits, as this proposal might make the administrative breakup of the 9th more feasible.

Posted by: Observer | Oct 5, 2009 3:11:08 PM

Neither the Fifth nor the Eleventh Circuit have anywhere close to the bad record that the Ninth has on AEDPA.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 5, 2009 3:31:07 PM

Observer, why not just get rid of federal habeas review of the penalty phase of capital cases altogether. Leave those issues to the state supreme court with review only via certiorari in the Supreme Court. Let the federal courts concentrate their review on the fairness of the determination that we got the right guy.

I would give up the AEDPA deference standard in trade for that.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Oct 5, 2009 4:39:25 PM

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