Whether, to convict a defendant of distribution of a controlled substance analogue - a substance with a chemical structure that is "substantially similar" to a schedule I or II drug and has a "substantially similar" effect on the user (or is believed or represented by the defendant to have such a similar effect) - the government must prove that the defendant knew that the substance constituted a controlled substance analogue, as held by the Second, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits, but rejected by the Fourth and Fifth Circuits.Kind of an interesting "mental state" question, but not a big case.
Recently in Mental State Category
The US Supreme Court subsequently denied a stay 7-2. Justices Breyer and Sotomayor would have granted the stay.
Seven years after the trial, the Supreme Court decided in Atkins v. Virginia that retardation would be a categorical exclusion after all. The high court did not apologize for its flip-flop. On state collateral review, the trial judge denied the petition on the basis of the trial record.
What to do on federal habeas? The deference standard of 28 U.S.C. §2254(d) allows a federal court to grant relief despite a state court's denial on the merits if the state court's "adjudication of the claim ... (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."
But what if the argument is that the state court's unreasonableness was in not allowing evidence, rather than assessment of evidence? Can a rule to deal with that issue be crafted without opening the door to federal micromanagement of state collateral review or the wholesale relitigation that the AEDPA reforms were enacted to prevent?
We STAY the execution pending further order of the court to allow us toSee also my prior posts here and here.
fully consider the late arriving and complex legal questions at issue in this
matter.1 An order setting a briefing schedule and oral argument will follow.
1. See 28 U.S.C. § 2251(a)(3); McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 858 (1994).
Nathan Koppel has this article in the WSJ. Dustin Volz has this article in the National Journal.
Panetti's previous competency determination was in 2008. The delay after that point was in litigating Panetti's claim that his "rights" under Indiana v. Edwards had been violated, i.e., that the Texas courts failed to anticipate the Supreme Court's correction of its own error and instead followed the precedents binding on them at the time. (See comment to the previous post.) Of course, Edwards didn't create any rights. It only put a sensible limit on the right created out of whole cloth in Faretta.
So the trial court set an execution date on October 16, 2014, and counsel for Panetti filed their motion nearly a month later, less than 20 days before the execution. Texas has an anti-last-minute statute limiting jurisdiction in the last 20 days. No dice, say the majority.
These kinds of time limit laws can be harsh, but the unscrupulous tactics of the defense side has made them necessary. Filing claims at the last minute that could have been made earlier and then demanding a stay to give the courts time to adjudicate them has long been a key tool in the obstructionist's toolbox. See, e.g., Gomez v. U.S. District Court (Harris), 503 U.S. 653 (1992).
During his capital murder trial, at which he was inexplicably allowed to represent himself, Mr. Panetti dressed in a cowboy suit and attempted to subpoena, among others, John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ. A standby lawyer said his behavior was "scary" and "trance-like," and called the trial "a judicial farce."The word "inexplicably" is just plain ignorant. There is no mystery at all as to why Panetti was allowed to represent himself or who was to blame. The blame lies squarely with the United States Supreme Court in the 1970s and its propensity at that time to make up rights that are not really in the Constitution.
In Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), the Supreme Court said that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to reject counsel and conduct their own defense. Justice Blackmun noted in dissent, "If there is any truth to the old proverb that 'one who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,' the Court by its opinion today now bestows a constitutional right on one to make a fool of himself." In Panetti's case, make that a crazy fool.
The Faretta rule was long understood to be absolute in most jurisdictions, including Texas and the Fifth Circuit. As long as the defendant was competent to stand trial, a very minimal standard, he had the constitutional right to represent himself, no matter how much of a farce he made of the trial. If the trial court denied him that dubious right, the judgment would be reversed on appeal or overturned on habeas corpus. The Texas trial judge was therefore correct, in the sense of following the precedents of both the state and federal courts, in allowing Panetti to represent himself. In Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164 (2008), we finally got the Court to modify Faretta and recognize that some people are competent to stand trial and assist counsel but not to be their own counsel, see CJLF brief, but 33 years had elapsed and a lot of water had passed under the bridge.
The issue in the courts now, though, is not Panetti's representation at trial but rather whether he is presently too crazy to execute.
The "Ambien Defense" has been getting a lot of press in 2014. Sometimes called the "Zombie Defense," it's the argument that someone charged with a crime--and the crimes have ranged from DWI to child sexual abuse to murder-- took Ambien (or generic zolpidem) beforehand and had no memory of the crime.
A few similar examples follow.• August 19: A Montana man was sentenced to 100 years for murdering two sisters in their early 20s. He stabbed one victim over 130 times, including 34 times in the face, and beat, gagged, strangled, and stabbed the other. A judge called the killings "ritualistic" and "systematic." The man said he took Ambien before the killings and had no memory of them, but pleaded no contest to avoid a trial.
How do you prove intent? It's usually clear from the circumstances that an act is intentional.
Intent matters in politics as well. Aaron Blake at the WaPo's political blog, The Fix, is incredulous of Montana Sen. John Walsh's claim of accidental plagiarism at the Army War College.
It also takes a pretty big suspension of disbelief to think that Walsh lifted those passages without ill intent. Proving someone's intent is always difficult, but believing that this was anything other than an attempt to cheat takes some logical leaps that are pretty hard to make.We will be addressing intent in a Supreme Court case on threats in the coming term, Elonis v. United States.
Update: Bill's later post asks whether plagiarism can be a crime. Could be. "Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct." 10 U.S.C. § 933; see also Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733 (1974). The military is different. Funny the statute still says "gentleman." We've had women officers for a long, long time.
Every once in a while, a criminal case...reflects the immoral course of our current trajectory. Here is an ongoing local criminal case that pretty much sums up what is happening to our culture, laws, and society at large.
Perla Ibeth Vazquez, 27, is now on trial in these parts. On Oct. 21, 2011 (a mere two-and-a-half-years ago?), she was drunk, drove, and killed, according to the Fresno Bee, one "Frank Winslow, 54, a family man and truck driver for Foster Farms who was only a few miles from home when he was killed on Highway 168 near Ashlan Avenue."
The Bee added that the local prosecutor, Steven Wright:
[L]aid the groundwork by telling the jury that Vazquez had pleaded guilty to drunken driving in Tulare County in 2006 and again in Fresno County in 2010. Each time, a judge warned her that if she got drunk and killed someone, she could be charged with murder, Wright said.
Should we laugh or cry at those long-ago judicial "each time" warnings -- given that they assumed that two felony drunk driving convictions were not necessarily reason to think there would be a fated third or fourth? A judge warns her about her own murdering to come? Might he have warned all of us about being her murdered victims to come?
The DSM defines a delusion as a false belief based on an incorrect
inference about external reality that is firmly held. If a defendant commits a homicide based on a
delusion, can he avail himself of the defense of imperfect self-defense? As Kent mentioned on Wednesday, the
California Supreme Court recently held that the answer is "no" in the case of
People v. Elmore. The court bases it
conclusion largely on the idea that an imperfect self-defense requires that a person's
unreasonable beliefs must be caused by objective circumstances that he
misperceives negligently and that delusional self-defense is properly considered
in the realm of the insanity defense. My
sense is that this is mistaken and I want to show why.
A killing committed because of an unreasonable belief in the need for self-defense is voluntary manslaughter, not murder. "Unreasonable self-defense, also called imperfect self-defense, 'obviates malice because that most culpable of mental states "cannot coexist" with an actual belief that the lethal act was necessary to avoid one's own death or serious injury at the victim's hand.' (People v. Rios (2000) 23 Cal.4th 450, 461.)" (People v. Beltran (2013) 56 Cal.4th 935, 951.)
The question here is whether the doctrine of unreasonable self-defense is available when belief in the need to defend oneself is entirely delusional. We conclude it is not. No state, it appears, recognizes "delusional self-defense" as a theory of manslaughter. We have noted that unreasonable self-defense involves a mistake of fact. (In re Christian S. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 768, 779, fn. 3 (Christian S.).) A purely delusional belief in the need to act in self-defense may be raised as a defense, but that defense is insanity.
For what it's worth, CJLF submitted one of its rare briefs in support of a defendant in Christian S.
There are a couple of points to note here. First, it appears a prominent advocate for the other side implicitly agrees that Hall does not require reconsideration in cases where the inmate's test scores are above 75. My prior post and the comments to it discussed whether Hall might extend to murderers whose scores are consistently above 75. I don't think it does yet -- and apparently Blume agrees -- though the Court may still go there in the future.
Does everyone in the 71 to 75 twilight zone automatically get a new hearing? If that means evidentiary hearing, I don't think so. Hall himself, for example, put on the experts who testified to the same thing they would testify to after the Supreme Court's decision. I don't see any reason why the trial judge cannot enter a new decision on the same record, considering the margin of error as the Supreme Court directs. I expect his decision would be the same. The state might want a new evidentiary hearing to put on the evidence it didn't think was necessary before, but Hall has already had his shot.