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End of the Long Road for Van Hook?

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The thrice-reversed panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has finally given up finding excuses to reverse the death sentence of Ohio murderer Robert Van Hook.  The Supreme Court described the crime in its reversal two years ago:

On February 18, 1985, Van Hook went to a Cincinnati bar that catered to homosexual men, hoping to find someone to rob. He approached David Self, and after the two spent several hours drinking together they left for Self's apartment. There Van Hook "lured Self into a vulnerable position" and attacked him, first strangling him until he was unconscious, then killing him with a kitchen knife and mutilating his body. State v. Van Hook, 39 Ohio St. 3d 256, 256-257, 530 N. E. 2d 883, 884 (1988). Before fleeing with Self's valuables, Van Hook attempted to cover his tracks, stuffing the knife and other items into the body and smearing fingerprints he had left behind. Six weeks later, police found him in Florida, where he confessed.
The Ohio courts finished with this case, affirming the conviction and sentence, 19 years ago.  It has been in the federal courts ever since.  The District Court rejected Van Hook's claims.  The Sixth Circuit panel reversed and was then reversed itself three times, twice by the en banc Sixth Circuit and once by the Supreme Court.  Today the panel finally rejected the remaining claims and upheld the judgment. 

This is why we needed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.  If this case had been subject to the act, and if the act had been properly applied, this case could have been resolved in a fraction of the time.  Of course, that second "if" is a big one.  Resistance to AEDPA by federal judges has largely frustrated its goals, but we are making progress.

Jonathan Adler has this post at VC.

1 Comment

That the case has been in the federal courts for that long is an outrage.

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