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More Martinez v. Ryan Damage Control

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On July 6, I noted the decision of the Fifth Circuit in Ibarra v. Thaler that the Supreme Court's decision in Martinez v. Ryan, described in the opinion itself as narrow, simply does not change anything in Texas.  Texas does not have the kind of rule that Arizona does, categorically precluding any ineffective assistance claims on direct appeal, which the Supreme Court said is what triggers Martinez's narrow exception to the general Coleman v. Thompson rule.

Last Friday, a panel of the Fifth Circuit invoked Ibarra in denying relief to a murderer scheduled for execution tomorrow, John Lezell Balentine.  Today, the full court denied rehearing en banc.  Here is the lineup:

Voting for en banc rehearing were: Judge James L. Dennis, Judge Leslie H. Southwick, Judge James E. Graves, and Judge Stephen A. Higginson. Voting against en banc rehearing were: Chief Judge Edith H. Jones, Judge Carolyn D. King; Judge E. Grady Jolly, Judge W. Eugene Davis, Judge Jerry E. Smith, Judge Carl E. Stewart, Judge Edith B. Clement, Judge Edward C. Prado, Judge Priscilla R. Owen, Judge Jennifer W. Elrod, Judge Catharina Haynes.
Next stop SCOTUS.

The facts of the case, according to the AG's media advisory, are:

In the early morning hours of January 21, 1998, Balentine armed himself with a .32 automatic pistol and walked several miles to the home he used to share with Misty Caylor. Once inside the home, Balentine shot and killed three teenagers--Misty Caylor's 17-year-old brother, Mark Caylor, Jr. and two 15-year-old boys, Kai Geyer and Steven Brady Watson. Each victim was shot in the head while asleep. Balentine was later arrested in Houston, where he confessed to murdering the three teens. Balentine told authorities that he knew Mark Caylor, Jr., but did not know the identity of the other two boys whom he shot and killed.
Michael Graczyk has this story for AP.

Update (8/22):  The Supreme Court has granted a stay pending its consideration of the petition for certiorari.

3 Comments

Am I missing something, or should Martinez even be an issue in this case? It looks like this guy had a full round of habeas review before the Martinez case. So that denial should be final even if Martinez would have given him relief. That federal courts of appeals are even entertaining the idea that Martinez can be used to rip open settled habeas judgments is problematic.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-rt-usa-executiontexas-update-1l2e8jmf9o-20120822,0,3072160.story?page=2

It seems of course that the Fifth Circuit actually entertaining this idea that Martinez allows settled habeas judgments to be ripped open has once again caused an injustice. Balentine's original habeas petition was denied by the Supreme Court in October of 2009. Three years later, after the Supreme Court denied a rehearing in the case, the Supreme Court sees fit to stay based on a Rule 60 denial. Utter garbage. This is clearly contrary to AEDPA.

The Supreme Court, once again, has conclusively shown that it is unable to follow its own rules about stays and executions. Neither the victims' families nor the state of Texas should be suffering this indignity. The Supreme Court embarrassed itself today. It has shown itself to be governed by caprice, rather than the rule of law, and it doesn't even have the decency to explain why it granted the stay. Surely, the family members of the victims of this horrible triple-murder deserve at least that, but the arrogant Justices cannot even give them that.

What's worse is that the Court passes on so many injustices because it doesn't have the time--yet it will intervene in a case like this, where the defendant is clearly guilty and where the defendant has had his full habeas review. Obviously, some priorities are seriously out of kilter.

The federal courts as a whole and the Supreme Court in particular have shown themselves to be utterly irresponsible when it comes to capital punishment. It is high time that Congress removed federal habeas power over state death sentences.

With the sole caveat that the stay might be dissolved tomorrow, federalist is on the mark. I thought this line particularly telling: "...the Court passes on so many injustices because it doesn't have the time--yet it will intervene in a case like this, where the defendant is clearly guilty and where the defendant has had his full habeas review. Obviously, some priorities are seriously out of kilter."

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