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January 14, 2022

Supreme Court takes up procedural issues around challenging execution methods and habeas matters

Via this order list, the US Supreme Court this afternoon granted certiorari in five new cases, two of which involve criminal procedure.  This SCOTUSblog post reviews the high-profile religion case of the bunch and provides this very brief account of the two criminal matters:

Though there were less than a dozen executions throughout the US last year, the Supreme Court now will decided three notable death penalty cases this Term on jury and penalty phase procedures (Tsarnaev), on how executions can be carried out when the condemned seeks a spiritual advisor (Ramirez) and now on how condemned can proceed with challenges to execution methods (Nance).  So while less than .001% of incarcerated persons face execution in recent years, about 5% of the Supreme Court's docket this year involved death penalty matters.

January 14, 2022 at 11:58 PM | Permalink


I would rather have the present Supreme Court decide death penalty questions than any other Supreme Court in my lifetime.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 15, 2022 12:34:57 AM

the death penalty is dying, so to speak.

Posted by: anon | Jan 15, 2022 10:49:41 PM

anon --

Support for the death penalty was declining from the early Fifties to the mid-Sixties to a level markedly lower than it is today. And then, as we all know, it finally petered out.......oh...........wait.................


And while we're at it, capital punishment is doing lots better than..........Joe Biden!


Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 16, 2022 1:51:59 AM

But now we have life without parole as an option juries prefer particularly with the many exonerations, and the massive Brady violations. Unlike in the 50's I predict a continuing decline.

Posted by: anon | Jan 16, 2022 10:41:57 AM

When I was reading the issues in Shoop, I am a little shocked that the Supreme Court granted cert rather than holding it for Shinn.

While trying to read tea leaves is a good way to go wrong with confidence, granting cert rather than doing a grant, vacate, remand based on Shinn seems to imply that Shinn will allow some evidentiary hearings on some Martinez-type claims. (If Shinn were to say no evidentiary hearing, there would be no need for discovery on the claim.)

My hunch is that we will get some type of reversal in Shoop in terms of giving guidance to the lower court (in part based on Shinn) on when an inmate should get some types of discovery on a viable new claim. There is a chance, of course, that the Supreme Court will decide that the lower courts determined enough facts on the standard that Shoop adopts for the Supreme Court to conclude that Twyford should get his proposed discovery.

Posted by: tmm | Jan 16, 2022 11:03:43 AM

anon --

Life without parole is like Lucy with the football -- we get solemnly promised the killer will never, ever get released, but then -- guess what! -- some sort of release shows up anyway, because "imprisonment without hope is unconstitutionally cruel," LWOP is just a slow motion DP, we know more now about how to rehabilitate people, etc., etc. You can fool the electorate for a long time with this goal post moving, but not forever.

Over the last three generations or so, support for the DP has pretty much followed the murder rate with a lag time of six or seven years. The DP is harsh medicine, and the electorate's willingness to use it understandably depends on how severe and widespread the disease is. I expect this perfectly rational way of looking at things will continue.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 16, 2022 2:32:56 PM

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