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SCOTUS Stays Missouri Execution

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Last night the U.S. Supreme Court acted on two petitions from Missouri rapist and triple murderer Mark Christeson.  See description of the crime here.  There is no doubt about the justice in this case.  Guilt is conclusively proved by DNA, and the crime clearly warrants the penalty.  The Court is apparently satisfied that the lawyers purporting to represent Christeson actually do.  See prior post here.

In Supreme Court case 14-6878, the Supreme Court denied review of Eighth Circuit case 14-2220.  That case has to do with disclosure and compounded pentobarbital.

In Supreme Court case 14-6873, the Supreme Court granted a stay to allow it to decide whether to review Christeson's habeas petition, denied as untimely by the district court.  The Eighth Circuit denied a stay in case 14-3389. 

This case presents issues of representation of prisoners.  The Supreme Court opened a can of worms in its Martinez and Trevino decisions when it said that ineffectiveness of state collateral review counsel can be "good cause" for a federal court to consider a claim defaulted in state court.  If the same lawyer represents the prisoner in both proceedings, can he be expected to argue his own ineffectiveness?  But how many new lawyers are we going to appoint for one defendant?  We already say that trial counsel can't continue into habeas for this reason.  Is every defendant going to get another new lawyer for federal habeas, and will justice be delayed and denied in every capital case while that lawyer gets up to speed?  That could be some time, given how complex capital cases can be.

Note that this problem is not entirely limited to capital cases.  Martinez was not a capital case.  The problem of justice being delayed while the case is litigated is limited to capital cases, but the underlying conflict issues are not.

The Christeson case involves the related issue of appointed counsel missing the deadline to file the federal habeas petition, as distinguished from the state-court procedural defaults in Martinez and Trevino.

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There really aren't any words to describe how despicable the Court's decision is here. This murderer's habeas case was dismissed over seven years ago. Seven years ago. Now, at this late date, we get yet another unexplained last-minute stay? What about the victims' family? Unanimous Supreme Court case law unequivocally states that murder victims' families have a timely interest in the enforcement of death sentences.

One truly annoying idea that seems to permeate this case is that Christeson somehow was cheated because his original habeas counsel dropped the ball. That is preposterous. Christeson has a panoply of constitutional rights--they don't include a right to counsel at a habeas proceeding. Moreover, the order granting dismissal is final.

And yet, six members of the Court cannot be bothered to even explain whether the requirements for a stay have been met. It's basically "I said so." Repulsive.

The mother, cruelly slain and knowing that her children were going to be slain points a finger of shame from the grave at Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Roberts, Kagan and Kennedy. This decision is beneath contempt.

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