From the next edition:
Leading off this week is the Supreme Court’s decision in Henry Skinner v. Switzer. As most people know, the decision’s holding, “[a] convicted state prisoner seeking DNA testing of crime-scene evidence may assert that claim in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. 1983[,]” comes as a shock to almost no one. Notable in this matter, however, is the unusual line-up of Justices with both the Chief Justice and Justice Scalia “signing-on” to the majority opinion by Justice Ginsburg. What the opinion, in practical terms, means is that DNA testing, even if unavailable under a sec. 2254 or sec. 2255 proceeding, may nonetheless be sought in certain circumstances in a federal civil rights suit. Congrats to all involved.
In the lower courts, in addition to numerous noncapital decisions of note this week, there is one capital decision, Jason Michael Sharp v. State. In Sharp the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals grants a new trial as “the State exercised its peremptory strikes in a discriminatory manner against African-Americans, in violation of Batson.”
In the news, Illinois is expected Wednesday to join the rank of states who have repealed the death penalty. “If the governor signs the ban into law, he’ll end a capital punishment system beset by flaws and brought down by evidence that freed wrongfully convicted men who spent years on Death Row. The ban would come about 11 years after then-Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after 13 condemned inmates had been cleared since Illinois reinstated capital punishment in 1977. Ryan, a Republican, cited a Tribune investigative series that examined each of the state’s nearly 300 capital cases and exposed how bias, error and incompetence undermined many of them.”
Elsewhere in the news, California has had its 53rd death inmate die of natural causes during the modern era and yet no executions in the last five years. Barnes & Noble recently announced that David R. Dow is the 2010 nonfiction Discover Award Winner for his captivating “Autobiography of an Execution.” The New York Times looks at the cost of automating litigation versus its cost savings – better equipment and software equals markedly fewer lawyers. The SCOTUSBlog has a fairly good analysis of last week’s Confrontation Clause decision in Michigan v. Bryant. Apparently those who do federal indigent defense pursuant to CJA appointments may go without paychecks until October. If you a federal panel attorney thinking about taking on some extra work to cover this bills, however, he ABA has this cautionary tale. The British media is reporting “a third American prisoner died in agony after an anesthetic supplied by a British company failed to work properly, it has been claimed.”
Finally, for those not aware of the resource, I would strongly encourage you to check out the NLADA’s the Gideon Alert. The Alert has been focusing on rapid changes to the practice of indigent defense including issues of Public Defender independence in New Jersey and New Mexico, the scope of counsel in Michigan and Florida, as well as cost issues nationally and how one state, Massachusetts, has responded.
As always, thanks for reading. – k