Death penalty

  • July 23, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    Nicholas Bagley argues at The Incidental Economist that the method of statutory interpretation used by the majority in Halbig v. Burwell “leads to a result so manifestly at odds with what Congress actually meant.”

    In Politico, Abbe Gluck looks at Halbig and how the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit “bent over backwards” to interpret the statute in a way that “no one who followed the enactment of the Affordable Care Act actually thinks Congress intended.”

    Amanda Hess of Slate questions whether Johns Hopkins’ recent settlement in a class-action suit against an abusive gynecologist is trying to provide a quick-fix legal and financial solution in a case where there are far larger issues of class bias and institutional disenfranchisement at play.

    Orin Kerr mentions at The Volokh Conspiracy that the Supreme Court has reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision on Ryan v. Wood, the Arizona lethal injection case.

  • July 22, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    At Vox, Adrianna McIntyre explains today’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Halbig v. Burwell, the “greatest existential threat” to the Affordable Care Act since NFIB v. Sebelius. Abbe Gluck explains at Balkinization why the opinion in Halbig “does a disservice to textualism.”

    Katie McDonough takes to Salon and discusses the case of a nurse in Florida who is suing a Tampa-area medical center for religious discrimination after they told the nurse that her objections to prescribing birth control made her ineligible for a position with their reproductive health department.

    The Associated Press reports on Arizona’s decision to appeal to the Supreme Court a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which prohibited the execution of an Arizona death row inmate because the state refused to disclose the lethal injection drug cocktail it planned to use.

    Naureen Shah at Al Jazeera America discusses a report by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School which claims that not only are the FBI’s current counterterrorism stings violating basic rights, they are targeting the wrong people, sowing distrust of the government, and failing to stop legitimate threats.

  • July 14, 2014
    BookTalk
    The Wrong Carlos
    Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution
    By: 
    James S. Liebman

    by James S. Liebman, Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Law, Columbia Law School, and Shawn Crowley, Andrew Markquart, Lauren Rosenberg, Lauren Gallo White and Daniel Zharkovsky

    Do states with the death penalty execute innocent people? That is the fundamental question at the heart of The Wrong Carlos, a book I recently published with student coauthors.

    It is also the question facing the American public following a series of devastating developments for death penalty supporters. March brought news of the 144th death row exoneration. In April, we learned that Oklahoma had botched Clayton Lockett’s execution, leaving him awake during a massive drug-induced heart attack. The Supreme Court found in May that Florida remains hell bent on executing defendants too mentally disabled to be condemned. And in June—for the first time—a majority of Americans indicated in a poll that they prefer life without parole to capital punishment.

    Death penalty supporters are left clinging to a single promise often made but never substantiated—a promise repeated by Justice Scalia in a 2006 opinion: Whatever else we do, we don’t execute the innocent.

    I began thinking about this question between 2000 and 2003, when colleagues and I issued our Broken System studies documenting judicial findings of accuracy-impugning error in two-thirds of all U.S. capital cases reviewed between 1973 and 1995.

    Our studies sparked a heated debate over two competing interpretations. Did the courts’ discovery of so many errors prove the system worked? Or do high error rates mean it is almost certain that courts miss other errors, allowing the innocent to be executed?

  • July 11, 2014

    by Nicholas Alexiou

    Reginald Dwayne Betts tells his story of being in solitary confinement as a juvenile, before he was ever tried, in the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

    Florida executed Eddie Davis via lethal injection on Thursday evening for the 1994 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. Mark Berman at The Washington Post reports that Davis’ execution was the fourth in the U.S. since the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma.

    The New York TimesCharlie Savage reports on a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the government’s Suspicious Activity Reporting database.

    At MSNBC, Emma Margolin explores how the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. could negatively impact the LGBT community.

  • July 2, 2014
    Guest Post

    By David Menschel, Criminal Defense Lawyer; President, Vital Projects Fund

    As the Supreme Court ends its October Term 2013 and heads off for summer recess, it is worth taking a closer look at one of the sleeper cases of the term, Hall v. Florida, a case about intellectual disability and the death penalty. Though Hall received only moderate attention in the press and was depicted as having limited practical reach, it contains significant new avenues for those who oppose the death penalty. The opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, contains small but important analytical shifts that, considering Kennedy’s role not only as the Court’s swing justice but also as the Court’s most vocal interpreter of the Eighth Amendment, could ultimately make it far easier for death penalty opponents to abolish the death penalty entirely.

    On the surface at least, Hall strikes little new ground. It mostly clarifies the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision, Atkins v. Virginia, in which the Court ruled that the Constitution forbids the execution of the “mentally retarded” – people we now refer to as “intellectually disabled.” Atkins had largely left it to the states to determine which defendants fall into this category and therefore are exempt from the death penalty. Hall tells certain wayward states like Florida that in order to comply with Atkins, they must determine which defendants are intellectually disabled in a robust, less rigid way and in a manner that is consistent with medicine and science.

    Practically speaking, Hall will likely have a modest effect. In the opinion itself, Justice Kennedy estimated that “at most nine states” had laws similar to Florida’s. The New York Times suggested that “only a small number” of death row inmates would qualify for a new hearing as a result of Hall, and the Times cited death penalty expert John Blume, a law professor at Cornell University, who said that the ruling might apply to “10 to 20” inmates. Another Times piece estimated that the ruling “affects roughly 30 death row inmates” about “15 to 20” of whom are in Florida. While it is too soon to know how broad Hall’s practical effect will be – it remains to be seen how it will be applied by lower courts – these estimates suggest that only a tiny fraction of America’s approximately 3,000 death row inmates are likely to be exempted from the death penalty because of Hall.