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SCOTUS's Roads Not Taken

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On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States denied a stay to Florida murderer Jerry Correll, who was an exemplar of why anything less than death is inadequate for some killers.  See prior post.  One thing about executions is that they force SCOTUS to a decision.  In most cases when the Supreme Court denies review it says little about the merits of the argument.  It may be that they are just waiting for a better vehicle.  When they say, in effect, "go ahead and fry him," it's a much stronger indication that a majority thinks his claim lacks merit.

Justices Breyer and Sotomayor dissented.  Justice Breyer, alone, reiterated his support for at least taking up what is known as the Lackey claim "whether nearly 30 years of incarceration under sentence of death is cruel and unusual punishment."  The oddity of that claim is that the long delay is over the vehement objection of the state and, in most cases, the victim's family, and the execution that the defendant seeks to have stayed brings an end to the supposedly cruel punishment he complains of.  The fact that no other justice joins this part is a good sign.

The other ground of dissent, which Justice Sotomayor does join, is that the case should be held for decision of an attack on Florida's capital sentencing system in Hurst v. Florida.  That attack is based on the Supreme Court's decision Ring v. Arizona (2002), which the Court held was not retroactive to cases final on direct appeal in Schriro v. Summerlin (2004).  In Correll, the Florida Supreme Court brushed off the Ring claim both on the merits and on nonretroactivity.  Whatever the Court may decide on the merits in Hurst, we can be confident that Summerlin is safe.  Seven Justices would not have let Florida go ahead and execute Correll if they thought otherwise.

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Justice Breyer would overturn a 30 year old verdict. He has no consideration for the victims' family. He is a profoundly evil man.

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