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April 15, 2024

A couple of capital case dissents from denials of cert in latest SCOTUS order list

Though SCOTUS has a week full of criminal case oral arguments, it has been many months since the Justices granted cert in a criminal case.  Then again, it has been months since SCOTUS has granted cert in any case, and that trend did not change today with the release of this new order list.  But this latest order list did include a couple o dissents from the denial of cert in two capital cases.

In Michaels v. Davis, No. 23–5038, a capital case from California, Justice Jackson dissented from the denial of cert to complain about the harmfulness of the admission of a confession that was illegally obtained.  Here is a portion from the start of her four-page dissent:

In this capital case, the Ninth Circuit failed to exercise the required degree of caution. The divided panel assessed a 2-1⁄2-hour illegally obtained confession filled with disturbing details of a horrific crime like it was a compilation of factual information — no different from evidence introduced by other means.  That was legal error. Therefore, I would grant the petition and summarily reverse the Ninth Circuit’s decision as to the penalty phase, in order to facilitate a reassessment that involves the necessary rigor.

In Compton v. Texas, No. 23–5682, a capital case from Texas, Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Jackson, dissented from the denial of cert to complain about the way a Texas court reviewed the exercise of preemptory challenages in jury selection  Here is a portion from the start of her eight-page dissent:

In this capital case, prosecutors used 13 of their 15 peremptory strikes on women.  They offered only one justification in each case: the woman’s views on the death penalty. In reviewing the challenged jurors, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) failed to conduct a side-by-side comparison.  Instead, it tested the prosecution’s justification in the aggregate, looking to the women’s views on capital punishment as a group instead of individually.  That legal error hid the best indication of discriminatory purpose.  Under a side-by-side comparison, it is clear that at least one woman struck by the State had more favorable views on the death penalty than at least one man the State did not strike.  I would summarily vacate the decision below and remand for the TCCA to apply the proper comparative analysis.

April 15, 2024 at 09:57 AM | Permalink


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