Death penalty

  • March 4, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday in a case that centers on Florida’s rigid policy of determining whether it can move forward on executing a mentally disabled death row inmate. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog reviews Florida’s standard for evaluating intellectual disability in the death penalty case, Hall v. Florida. For more on this case, please see analysis by Diann Rust-Tierney and Prof. John H. Blume at ACSblog as well as Jeremy Leaming’s piece on the controversial execution of Herbert Smulls.

    Writing for The Boston Globe, Prof. Kent Greenfield argues why for-profit companies should not be exempt from regulatory controls because of religious belief. In the article, Greenfield—a faculty advisor to the ACS Student Chapter at Boston College Law School—comments on the grave implications of providing the commercial businesses, such as Hobby lobby, an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s policy on coverage of contraception. For more on the corporate challenges to the ACA’s contraception policy see the ACS Issue Briefs, “Corporate Religious Liberty: Why Corporations are not Entitled to Religious Exemptions” by Caroline Mala Corbin, a law professor at the University of Miami, and “With Religious Liberty for All: A Defense of the Affordable Care Act’s Contraception Coverage Mandate” by Frederick Mark Gedicks, a law professor at Brigham Young University.

    Despite efforts by lawmakers in Georgia and Ohio to create more hurdles to voting, Jennifer L. Clark and DeNora Getachew at the Brennan Center for Justice report on some of the “good news on voting rights.”

    Frank Pasquale at Balkinization briefly reviews Raul Carrillo and Rohan Grey’s The Cost of Justice, arguing that “law students need macroeconomics … and macroeconomics needs us."

    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund comments on President Obama’s landmark initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper.”

  • February 26, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Diann Rust-Tierney Esq., a member of the Supreme Court Bar, the District of Columbia Bar and a former member of the DC Bar Ethics Committee. She is also the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

    More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) that the eighth amendment categorically forbids people with intellectual disabilities from being sentenced to death and executed. States were charged with the appropriate role of setting procedures to enforce and give effect to this Constitutional protection.

    On March 3, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of Hall v. Florida.

    The question presented is narrow:

    Whether Florida’s statutory scheme for identifying defendants with “mental retardation," as interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court, violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against executing people with intellectual disabilities as articulated in Atkins?

    As a note of reference “intellectual disabilities,” adopted since the Court ruled in Atkins, is the preferred clinical term over “mental retardation.”

    At stake is whether Florida is obliged to honor the limits imposed by the eighth amendment and refrain from executing a man who falls within the class of people for whom the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment.  This inquiry goes to the heart of the deal struck in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976). In Gregg the Supreme Court held that the death penalty could be administered in a manner consistent with the Constitution.  The Court’s ruling was premised on the reasonable expectation that states will work within the framework created by the Court as the final arbiter of constitutional standards for the practice. This premise cannot hold, however, if states continuously seek to circumvent these standards by erecting barriers to the recognition of constitutional rights.

  • February 26, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    On Mar. 3, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a case that will decide whether Freddie Hall should be on death row.  In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Prof. Marc Tasse argues that Florida’s standard for evaluating intellectual disability in death penalty cases is “unscientific and a breach of Hall’s constitutional protection as mandated in Atkins v. Virginia.” For more on Hall v. Florida, please see analysis by Prof. John H. Blume at ACSblog.
     
    Consumers were victorious Monday when the high court rejected an appeal from washing machine manufacturers in a class-action lawsuit. Writing for Slate, Emily Bazelon explains why the decision is “surprising and good news.” 
     
    Republicans are calling for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers. ReutersDavid Schwartz reports on growing frustration in the Grand Canyon State.
     
    The Supreme Court heard oral argument this week on the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Adam Liptak at The New York Times reviews Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA.
     
    On the second anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death, Charles D. Ellison of The Root reflects on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. 
  • February 25, 2014
     
    The Supreme Court held yesterday that an Alabama death row inmate had “constitutionally deficient” counsel at trial. The Court agreed that Anthony Hinton, who was convicted of two 1985 murders, “is entitled to a new trial if he was prejudiced by his lawyer's deficient performance.” The Equal Justice Initiative reports on the case and includes the per curiam opinion.
     
    The New York Times editorial board calls on the Obama administration to address the lack of due process for federal immigrant detainees who are being held without bond hearings. The paper cites a plethora of cases involving the detention of immigrants without hearings or formal charges—evidence of a broken immigration system.
     
    The United Automobile Workers filed a formal objection with the National Labor Relations Board after Volkswagen workers at a Chattanooga, Tennessee plant decided not to join the UAW. Lydia DePillis at The Washington Post considers the possibility that the UAW “get a do-over in Chattanooga.”
     
    In an article for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin argues why Clarence Thomas’ behavior on the bench is “demeaning the Court.”
     
    The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund notes a significant victory for voting rights in Fayette County, Georgia.  
  • February 24, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    Federal District Court Judge William J. Martini dismissed a case against the New York Police Department for “engaging in blanket surveillance” of Arab Muslim communities after September 11, 2001. Adam Serwer of MSNBC exposes why the court’s decision shows that “religious profiling is okay, as long as you have a really good reason.”
     
    Christopher Sprigman of Just Security examines the public relations effort by the National Security Agency’s Director of Compliance John DeLong and the agency’s General Counsel Rajesh De concerning the NSA’s controversial surveillance activities. In the article, Sprigman reveals why these efforts “create the appearance but not the reality of lawfulness.”
     
    Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency. Robert Barnes at The Washington Post breaks down Utility Air Regulator Group v. Environmental Protection Agency. For more on this case, please visit the ACSblog.
     
    Writing for the Brennan Center for Justice, Andrew Cohen comments on the lack of media coverage on states’ secrecy laws concerning the types of lethal injections used in executions. Cohen discusses the implications of the media’s inaction.   
     
    At ACLU’s Blog of Rights, Nusrat Choudhury deconstructs Lee Daniels' The Butler and how its depiction of the arduous legal battles of the 1960s Civil Rights movement reminds viewers that “considerable distance remains on the path to true racial equality.”