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Leavitt Executed in Idaho

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Judge Kozinski described the crime in his opinion last year affirming denial of federal habeas relief.

With fifteen strokes of his knife, Richard Leavitt slashed and stabbed Danette Elg to death in her bedroom. Then, as Ms. Elg lay dying on top of her punctured waterbed, Leavitt hacked out her womanhood--just as his ex-wife had seen him do to "play[ ] with the female sexual organs of a deer." State v. Leavitt (Leavitt I), 775 P.2d 599, 602 (Idaho 1989). We decide whether Leavitt's lawyer rendered ineffective assistance of counsel while trying to have him acquitted of the death penalty.
The crime was in 1984.  Leavitt's first death sentence was reversed on appeal, and he was resentenced to death in 1990.  That sentence was affirmed on appeal in 1991.  Localnews8.com, an Idaho television station, has this timeline.  The execution was completed at 10:25 MDT this morning, the Spokesman-Review reports.

Most of the time from 1991 to the present has been taken up in federal habeas proceedings relating only to sentence.  It is time to recognize that these proceedings are doing more harm than good and get rid of them.  Execution of a person who is, in fact, guilty of murder and legally eligible for the death penalty is never an injustice of a magnitude that justifies the resources we are spending on these reviews.  The delay in the execution of well-deserved death sentences, such as this one, is an injustice of far greater magnitude.

Federal habeas for state prisoners should be limited to issues relevant to the determination of guilt and legal eligibility for punishment.  Once we know the petitioner is guilty and the punishment was within the range of discretion of the sentencer, all other issues should be left for final determination by the state courts.

3 Comments

"Execution of a person who is, in fact, guilty of murder and legally eligible for the death penalty is never an injustice of a magnitude that justifies the resources we are spending on these reviews. The delay in the execution of well-deserved death sentences, such as this one, is an injustice of far greater magnitude."

Truer words have rarely been spoken.

Speaking of delayed justice--where are the warrants in Florida?

Federalist, I agree that the perpetual dithering by Florida governors in signing death warrants for those who've exhausted their appeals is outrageous--especially since some of these cases go back over 30 years. I just don't understand why the current governor can't just sign them all setting, say, one execution a week.

The following link lists Florida death-row inmates whose appeals have been exhausted as of June 10th: http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/showthread.php?3843-Update-on-Florida-Death-Row-Inmate-Status&highlight=poyck

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