Following a long holiday weekend, here is the first look at cases from the next edition:
In favor of life or liberty:
- Sean Carter v. Bradshaw, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 10572 (6th Cir. 5/26/2011) (dissent) Petitioner incompetent to proceed in federal habeas proceedings. Note: this is an unusually complex decision not easily dissected.
In favor of the executioner
- Norberto Pietri v. Fl. Dep’t of Corr., 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 10573 (11th Cir 5/25/2011) Affirming “the denial of habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1988 murder. The Court rejected the argument that counsel were ineffective for failing to put on an “metabolic intoxication” defense. The Court noted that Pietri did not show that he was intoxicated at the time of the murder, and that “metabolic intoxication” was not a cognizable under Florida law at the time of Pietri’s trial. The Court also rejected the argument that counsel were ineffective at the penalty phase for failing to present mitigating evidence. The Court found that trial counsel strategically decided not to present some of the mental health experts they consulted.”
- Donald Edward Beaty v. Brewer, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 10562 (9th Cir 5/25/2011) “State inmate was not entitled to a stay of his execution based on the state’s intent to use a substitute drug in its lethal injection protocol; an Eighth Amendment claim had been found unlikely to succeed because a risk of severe pain was not shown, and the inmate did not have a Fourteenth Amendment due process right to review protocol changes.” [via Lexisone]
- Donald Edward Beaty v. Brewer, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 10878 (9th Cir 5/27/2011) (denial en banc)(concurrence)(dissent) In concurrence, C.J. Kozinski lays out how to and not to challenge pentobarbital.
- Ex parte State of Alabama; (In re: Thomas Robert Lane v. State of Alabama), 2011 Ala. LEXIS 82 (Ala 5/27/2011) Trial court removed trial counsel that Lane liked. “[T]he trial court’s erroneous removal of Lane’s court-appointed counsel was not [however] structural error, and the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in failing to determine whether the trial court committed plain error when it removed Lane’s court-appointed counsel. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and remand this case to the Court of Criminal Appeals for that court to determine whether the trial court committed plain error when it removed Jordan as Lane’s lead counsel.”
- People v. Sean Venyette Vines, 2011 Cal. LEXIS 4978 (Cal 5/19/2011) “ The issues raised by Vines’ attorneys address whether the death penalty is constitutional and relate to the admission of victim impact evidence at the sentencing stage of a capital case.. . . Defense attorneys attempted to assert that the death penalty was unconstitutional and that the long delay between the sentencing at the execution constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Defense attorneys also contested the trial court’s admission of victim impact evidence, namely a home video depicting the victim singing and rapping. Said the court in its opinion: “The medium itself may assist in creating an emotional impact upon the jury that goes beyond what the jury might experience by viewing still photographs of the victim or listening to the victim’s bereaved parents.” However, the court noted that such evidence could be introduced, provided the court monitored the jury’s reaction and provided that the evidence contained “nothing inflammatory that would divert the jury from [its] proper function.” In this case, the evidence was found to be properly admitted.The court unanimously rejected the arguments made by Vines’ counsel.” [via FindLaw]
- Zane Jack Fields, 2011 Ida. LEXIS 80 (Ida 5/25/2011) “This is an appeal from a judgment summarily dismissing an application for post-conviction relief based upon DNA test results and affidavits of trial witnesses. Because the DNA test results did not establish that petitioner did not commit the offense and the affidavits cannot support a claim for post-conviction relief….”
- David Lee Sanders v. Comm, 2011 Ky. LEXIS 82 (Ky 5/19/2011) In this exhaustion petition, relief denied “(1) that Special Judge Gary D. Payne, a Senior Status Judge, was unconstitutionally appointed to preside over his case, and, alternatively, he was not given proper notice of the appointment; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his claim of ineffective assistance of direct appeal counsel; (3) that the trial court erred in denying his claim of ineffective assistance of [postconviction] counsel….” IAC issues involved “(1) that Appellant’s trial was conducted in a prejudicial atmosphere which violated due process; (2) that Appellant’s constitutional rights were violated when the trial court failed to remove two prospective jurors for bias during voir dire; (3) that Appellant was incompetent to stand trial; (4) that the trial court violated due process by failing to hold a hearing to determine whether Appellant was competent to stand trial; (5) that the introduction of Appellant’s statements made while being evaluated at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center violated his constitutional rights; (6) that Appellant was deprived of his constitutional right to jury sentencing due to the prosecutor’s improper penalty phase statements; (7) that Appellant was incompetent at the time of his sentencing; and (8) that the trial court violated due process by failing to hold a competency hearing for Appellant at the time of his sentencing.”
- Billy Ray Irick, 2011 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 367 (Tenn. Crim. App. 5/23/2011) “[D]enial of the inmate’s petition for writ of error coram nobis was proper under Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-26-105(b) because his petition was time-barred and because, even if the claims were timely, he failed to show that if the later-arising evidence been admitted at the original trial that it might have changed the outcome.” [via LexisOne]
- State v. Derrick J. Powell, 2011 Del. Super. LEXIS 223 (Del Super 5/20/2011) Discussing why, on a 7-5 vote for death, the court finds aggavating circumstances preponderate over the mitigating factors.
- Comm. v. Ralph Birdsong, 2011 Pa. LEXIS 1160 (Penn 5/26/2011)
Noncapital of note:
- Tara Sheneva Williams v. Cavazos, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 10345 (9th Cir 5/23/2011) “A hung jury is never a desirable outcome in a criminal trial. When a mistrial results, the interest shared by the State, the defendant, the court, and the public in the efficient administration of justice is diminished. The sacrifice of efficiency for the preservation of liberty is central, however, [*72] to the safeguards the Constitution affords criminal defendants. If “[m]en must turn square corners when they deal with the Government,” it is even more true that the government, including the courts, may not cut corners when dealing with man’s freedom. Unfortunately, the trial court cut some corners here. In view of the reasonable possibility that Juror No. 6′s discharge was directly or indirectly the result of his position on the merits of the case, and in view of the lack of good cause to justify his dismissal, we hold that the removal of Juror No. 6 deprived Williams of her right to a fair trial by jury. We therefore reverse the judgment of the district court and remand with instructions to grant the writ.”