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Massachusetts Court Affirms Murder Conviction:  The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts today affirmed the conviction of Christopher McCowen, rejecting his claim that the jury's decision was tainted by racial bias.  McCowen, an African America trash collector, raped and fatally stabbed Christa Worthington, a white female, in 2002.  Worthington's two-year-old daughter was found unharmed clinging to her mother's body.  He claimed on appeal that several jurors made racially charged statements during deliberations, but the court found no violation of his right to due process.  Justice Roderick Ireland, who was recently appointed the court's first black chief justice, joined the court's opinion.  Denise Lavoie of the San Francisco Chronicle has more on the story here.

"A Want-to-be Vampire" Burns "V" on Teen's Forehead:
  Police in Alabama say 20-year-old Evan Francis Brown, a follower of Satanism, believes he's a vampire and is accused of burning a "V" into the forehead of another teenager.  After tricking a 17-year-old into thinking they were playing a game, Brown allegedly tied the teen up and used a heated fork or spoon to brand a "V" into his forehead.    Police also discovered cigarette burns on the teen's face and arms and further signs of beatings.  Brown is charged with second degree assault.  The San Francisco Chronicle has the story here.

Man Given Life With Possibility of Parole for Stomping Woman to Death:  Michael Kiefer of the Arizona Republic reports on the sentencing of Jose Preciliano Quintero, 18, for the stomping death of Helen Coulter, 39, in 2008.  Quintero, a gang member since the age of 14, approached Coulter and requested sexual acts from her.  When she allegedly responded with a racial epithet, Quintero dragged Coulter to a vacant lot, stripped her and stomped on her throat and face for 30-45 minutes.  Coulter's face was deformed beyond recognition.  Quintero confessed to the killing after bloody prints from his sneakers were found on Coulter's face.  Quintero was sentenced yesterday to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 25 years, plus an additional 23 and a half years for kidnapping and sexual abuse to be served thereafter.  The prosecutor elected not to seek a sentence of life without parole, in light of the pending litigation of such sentences for juveniles.

Where Will They Honeymoon?:  Emiley Morgan of the Deseret News reports Utah death row inmate Troy Kell was married yesterday.  Kell and his bride were not permitted any physical contact before, during, or after the ceremony, which took place in a small room with a physical barrier between the couple.  Kell was sent to death row for brutally stabbing a fellow inmate in a Utah state prison, where Kell was already serving a sentence of life without parole for shooting a man in the face six times.

7 Comments

I wonder what the evidence of the "alleged" racial slur was. Seems to me that the judge shouldn't have mentioned it as triggering the violence. The alleged racial slur didn't come out of nowhere. This reminds me of a Third Circuit case wherein a death sentence was tossed. It was the robbery of a liquor store, and the store owner, after being shot supposedly made a racial slur. Now of course being shot certainly mitigates any racial slurs uttered in response. The Third Circuit case was pretty egregious, as the only witnesses to the supposedly uttered racial slur were the robbers.

I don't understand why being shot 'mitigates any racial slur uttered in response'. Even if you only mean that we should forgive something said by a victim in the heat of the moment (which I would probably agree with) I doubt that was the issue. Presumably the prosecutor used the fact the victim said it to get the slur into evidence and the appeals court thought this inflamed the jury. If so then I couldn't say more without seeing what was said - what is the case name?

If someone shoots you in the course of a robbery, you get to call them whatever you damned well please without having someone like you judge them posthumously. In the case in NM, a woman responded after being approached crudely for sex. That's what set the chain in motion. It was unfair to the judge to smear her like that, in my opinion. If you really think that being shot doesn't mitigate a racial slur uttered in response, then you are the apotheosis of a politically correct ideologue. But I'd be willing to bet you supported the ascension of Justice "wise Latina" Sotomayor to the Supreme Court after she did her Al Campanis routine. Funny the double standards. Some blue-collar liquor store guy with balls of steel or a down and out woman though need your forgiveness posthumously. But a sitting federal judge can link race/ethnicity to the quality of judicial decisions and my guess is that you were an enthusiastic supporter.

The Third Circuit case is Riley v. Taylor, 277 F.3d 261 (3d Cir. 2001). Appalling that the judges there decided to smear the victim with an accusation that only could have come out of the murderer's mouths. And the Third Circuit took the murderers at their word. I'm sure the victims' family enjoyed reading that. Such class.

federalist, what part of:

Even if you only mean that we should forgive something said by a victim in the heat of the moment (which I would probably agree with)

did you not understand?

The decision you've linked to doesn't appear to actually say what you think it does. The en banc court granted relief on a Batson issue, this has nothing to do with comments made by the victim. Are you sure you don't mean the panel decision?

Oh good grief, bhaal, this is getting tedious. You started the whole thing with the idea that being shot doesn't mitigate the utterance of a racial slur in response. That makes you either (a) someone who doesn't know what the word "mitigate" means or (b) an ideologue. Then you riffed into some idea of "forgiveness". Whatever. I do notice that you had no response to my supposition about your views on Justice Sotomayor. Do you "forgive" her?

As for Riley v. Taylor, just read the opening part of the opinion. It states that the victim, after being shot, directed the n-word at his assailants. That gratuitous smear (which could only have come from the defendants) did not belong in the opinion. And the words of the judge in NM reminded me of that.

I think we agree on the first point.

Justice Sotomayor is utterly irrelevant to this post.

The comment by the Third Circuit formed no part of their reasoning. I also don't see how it can 'smear' the victim when they simply reported what the victim actually said, according to trial testimony. I'm sure the reader can make up their own mind about the reliability of this testimony. They can even go and read it if they really want to. The Court's of Appeal are not under a duty to make all victims seem like saints.

If we agreed on the first point, then why did you take issue with it in the first place?

"The Court's of Appeal are not under a duty to make all victims seem like saints."

No, they're not. But I don't see how criticizing them for adding surplusage is implying that they have such a duty. In this case, these judges, their tender sensibilities offended by the gunshot victim, went out of their way to smear the guy posthumously. After all, we can't have gunshot victims calling their assailants the n-word, and federal judges have to stamp this sort of thing out. No matter, of course, that they took the killers' word for it. Cf. Fed. R. Evid. 609(a)(1). And the victim's lips were sealed. Nice work.

As for Sotomayor, well, I guess you cannot answer.

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