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SCOTUS Denies Stay in Valle Case

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The Supreme Court's orders are here and here.  No dissents are noted.

An earlier story by Brendan Farrington of AP is here.

Update:  Looks like Manuel Valle had a total of five petitions before the Court.  Two more denials were issued after the original post, here and here.

For the fifth one (actually the first, by docket number), Justice Breyer dissents, as federalist notes in the comments.  The order and dissenting opinion are here.  Breyer repeats the old Lackey claim, that it is cruel to execute someone after so many years on death row.  He includes these comments near the end (emphasis added):

It might be argued that Valle, not the State, is responsible for the long delay. But Valle replies that more than two decades of delay reflect the State's failure to provide the kind of trial and penalty procedures that the law requires. Regardless, one cannot realistically expect a defendant condemned to death to refrain from fighting for his life by seeking to use whatever procedures the law allows.

It might also be argued that it is not so much the State as it is the numerous procedures that the law demands that produce decades of delay. But this kind of an argument does not automatically justify execution in this case. Rather, the argument may point instead to a more basic difficulty, namely the difficulty of reconciling the imposition of the death penalty as currently administered with procedures necessary to assure that the wrong person is not executed.

The italicized phrases highlight two of the problems with Justice Breyer's argument.  First, the law does not demand the length of procedures that currently exist.  Quite the contrary, if the lower federal courts were implementing AEDPA the way it was written and intended, the procedures would be far shorter.  Second, very little of postconviction litigation in capital cases has anything to do with identity of the perpetrator.  The Davis case was very much the exception.

I will address the first paragraph in a later post.

Jackie Alexander has this report of the execution for the Gainesville Sun.

2 Comments

Breyer dissented.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/11-6029.pdf

It would be difficult to devise a better example of proposed judicial activism. Breyer doesn't like the death penalty, so the law must be bent to save a cop-killer.

Kent, are you sure that Breyer's choice of "wrong person" is a reference to innocence only? I agree that's the natural reading, but he could be slyly referring to the idea that the review process assures that capital punishment is not applied incorrectly to those who shouldn't get it. It's odder still that Breyer would talk in terms of the review process as getting the ultimate question of life or death right. Typically, that's a function of the trier of fact, and the review procedure looks at the process by which the decision is made.

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