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November 7, 2009

Amicus filing in SCOTUS habeas cases creating controversy among death penalty crowd

This story from the Boston Globe, which is headlined "Death penalty foes rip Coakley for signing brief," highlights that the politics of the death penalty in Massachusetts in quite different than in other parts of the country.  Here is the start of the story:

Attorney General Martha Coakley, who says she is firmly against capital punishment, has drawn the ire of some death penalty opponents by urging the US Supreme Court to limit federal review of state court decisions, which opponents say could make it harder for defendants on death row to challenge their sentences.

Coakley, along with 18 other attorneys general, signed a friend-of-the-court brief in September asking that the nation’s highest court maintain restrictions on intervention by federal courts.  Death penalty opponents, who are watching the case closely, say if Coakley’s arguments prevail it could be more difficult for federal courts to overturn death sentences, as well as other criminal punishments, handed down in state courts.

The case, which comes as Coakley is battling for votes in the Democratic Senate primary, involves a convicted murderer from Alabama who has appealed his case to the Supreme Court, on the grounds that his state-assigned lawyer failed to introduce crucial evidence that he is mentally retarded.

“There’s no way this kid should be killed," said Stephen B. Bright, president and senior counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights, an organization that opposes the death penalty.  “It’s old-fashioned Southern states’ rights. I was shocked to see that she and the state of Massachusetts had joined that brief."

November 7, 2009 at 09:42 AM | Permalink


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It was Melendez-Diaz v *Massachusetts* after all that she argued herself.

Posted by: . | Nov 7, 2009 2:17:48 PM

This one is easy. It is the job of the state AG to safeguard the long-term interests of the state. Those long-term interests start with the state's having maximum independence to create its own law and policy over a whole range of issues. For the Massachusetts AG to file a brief supporting such independence is hardly surprising; indeed, any other position would have been surprising.

Nor does it make a difference that this is a DP case. First, Massachusetts doesn't have a death penalty, so no matter how the case turns out, no person over whom the Massachusetts AG has jurisdiction is going to wind up getting executed. Second, it is not the job of this or any state AG to be an ideologue for this cause or that; it is her job to advance the legal interests of her employer.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 7, 2009 2:30:41 PM

Mental retardation now has a more function based definition, and is no longer considered defined a score on an intelligence test. The Supreme Court let stand a Ninth Circuit decision ending the use of IQ test for special education placement because of racial bias (there is none). However, they are now enthusiasts when the test serves as a pretext to save a vicious black murderer. Not good enough for special ed. Good enough to close off justice for black murder victims, according to these racists on the Supreme Court.

Ironic. Mental cripples on the Supreme Court do not understand the modern definition of mental retardation. Then extend professional courtesy to mentally retarded murderers.

Funny. The murderer ran a lucrative drug business in a very tough business climate in the ghetto from age 9. His income was likely higher than that of the Justices of the Supreme Court. He performed poorly on IQ tests because school was a costly waste of time for him and because he intentional performed poorly.

Funnier. Now having a lot of time, since he less busy with his lucrative drug business, he is no longer mentally retarded. His verbal ability markedly improved from spending time with his lawyers.

Spending a lot time with verbose lawyers has qualified him for the death penalty by improving test performance.

This case indicates a new treatment for mental retardation. Spend a lot of time with lawyer mental cripples. All mentally retarded students should be sent to lawyers offices, instead of to useless special education classes.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Nov 7, 2009 5:18:15 PM

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