Weekly edition is out here:
Two favorable cases are noted since the last edition. In Ex parte Brian Edward Davis the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted penalty phase relief as “[t]he nullification instruction given to applicant’s jury was not a sufficient vehicle to allow jurors to give meaningful consideration and full effect to the mitigating evidence presented by applicant.” In Shonelle Andre Jackson v. State, a case missed in the last edition, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals remanded for “the circuit court to again consider Jackson’s juror-misconduct allegations” as the trial court improperly ruled the claims barred.DPIC notes that “Virginia has not had a death verdict from a jury since March 2008, the longest stretch of time without a death verdict since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s. Nationally, there has also been a decline in death sentences: according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 115 death sentences in 2007, 65% less than the 326 that were handed down in 1995.” In Texas “the number of death sentences is at a 35-year low as prosecutors have pushed for fewer death sentences and juries have become less willing to impose them”
The Criminal Justice Section of the American Bar Association in its member edition Fall 2009 issue focuses on Postconviction Practices: Priming Postconviction Representation (by Andrew E. Taslitz); Procedural Obstacles to Reviewing Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel Claims in State and Federal Postconviction Proceedings (by Eve Brensike Primus); Postconviction Claims of Innocence (by Myrna S. Raeder); Gubernatorial Clemency Powers: Justice or Mercy? (by Kathleen “Cookie” Ridolfi and Seth Gordon)’ and From Arrest to Reintegration: A Model for Mitigating Collateral Consequences of Criminal Proceedings (by J. McGregor Smyth, Jr.). John Blume, Sheri Lynn Johnson, and Christopher Seeds” recently published An Empirical Look at Atkins vs. Virginia and its Application in Capital Cases. Here’s the abstract:
In Atkins vs. Virginia, the Supreme Court declared that evolving standards of decency and the Eighth Amendment prohibit the death penalty for individuals with intellectual disability (formerly, “mental retardation”). Both supporters and opponents of the categorical exemption, however, have criticized the Atkins opinion. The Atkins dissent, for example, urged that the decision would open the gates of litigation to a flood of frivolous claims. Another prominent criticism, heard from those more supportive of the Court’s ruling, has been that the language the Court used communicating that states must “generally conform” to the clinical definitions of mental retardation is ambiguous enough to permit states to stray from the clinical definitions and, consequently, for death eligibility to vary depending upon the jurisdiction in which a defendant is charged. This Article presents preliminary data responsive to these issues, and reports three basic findings. First, Atkins has not opened floodgates of non-meritorious litigation. Second, the success rates for Atkins claims vary dramatically between states and state deviations from the clinical definitions appear to have a palpable impact. Third, as compared to their representation on death row, African-American defendants both file and win a disproportionately high number of Atkins claims.
Finally, Google scholar now has case law and law reviews. They look to be running about two months behind the most recent materials. Thanks as always for reading.. – k