This week’s edition is here.
We’ve been gone a few weeks and there is more than a little catching up to do. Leading off is Terrell M. Johnson v. Secretary from the Eleventh Circuit. The Defense Newsletter’s Tim Cone notes that the court granted “federal habeas relief because counsel was ineffective in preparing a mitigation case at the sentencing phase.The Court found that defense counsel “waited until the eleventh hour” to begin preparing for the sentencing phase “and then, not surprisingly, failed to adequately do so.” Johnson had told counsel about his abusive alcoholic father and mother, and counsel failed to investigate. Counsel should have begun investigating mitigating evidence, because the evidence of culpability in the guilt phase was overwhelming.The Court found that Johnson was prejudiced by the failure to present the “horrible” physical and emotional he experienced as a child.”
In Evans v. McNeil, No. 2:08-cv-14402-JEM (S.D. Fla. June 20, 2011), a federal district court judge has declared that Florida’s method of imposing the death penalty is unconstitutional because jurors are not required to make specific findings on the aggravating factors that increase a sentence from life in prison to death. Doug Berman @ OSU Law has uploaded the opinion.
In the news, the Arkansas Supreme Court has stayed all executions in that state pending the outcome of a state constitutional claim involving lethal injection and improper delegation of the authority under the separation of powers doctrine. In Rhode Island, Governor Chafee has done the virtually unthinkable, refused to hand over a state detainee to federal prosecutors to face capital trial, choosing instead to try him in state court. In California, the LA Times notes that the the state is spending roughly $184 million a year on the death penalty above the cost of noncaloric murder and that “taxpayers have spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment in California since it was reinstated in 1978, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since then.” Iowa Law Professor David Baldus has died. DPIC has released Struck By Lightning: The Continuing Arbitrariness of the Death Penalty Thirty-Five Years After Its Re-instatement in 1976 covering a fair number of the “hot issues” in capital punishment. Texas has killed Milton Mathis despite unusually strong evidence that he was intellectually disabled. Nevada’s Governor has vetoed a cost study bill of the death penalty in that state. In Ohio, Governor Kasich has commuted to life in prison the death sentence of Shawn Hawkins. DPIC reports that the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation recently petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to ensure that lawyers appointed in death penalty cases in Philadelphia have adequate resources to defend their clients.
From the Supreme Court, in Balentine v. Texas the High Court granted a stay pending disposition of a cert petition. The Court has granted cert in Martel v. Clair on the issue of how much say should a condemned inmate have in the selection of federal habeas counsel. At the very end of this edition is the first of two “wrap-ups” of the SCOTUS term, this time looking at cert grants for next term with links to the SCOTUSBlog’s links to petition, briefs, and related materials. Term recap of all criminal cases will happen next week in the email edition and sooner on the blog.
This edition was unduly delayed when I got called out, very unexpectedly, to trial. The “two-three day” “back-up” trial ended up lasting much, much longer. As always a heartfelt thanks for reading and a special thank you to Steve Hall from which must of the news is drawn. – k