THOUGHTS ON THE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT

The verdict was correct. The jury weighed the evidence and found that the state had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This does not mean that Zimmerman was factually innocent. Nor does it mean that he did not murder Trayvon Martin. What it does mean is that the prosecution has a duty to present sufficient evidence for the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was guilty. It did not do so. The prosecution did […] Read more »

SUPREME COURT LIMITS ANTI-TERRORISM AND EFFECTIVE DEATH PENALY ACT

In McQuiggin v. Perkins the Supreme Court, last month, made a small hole in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), passed in the wake of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which practically abolished the writ of habeas corpus. In 2004 the Federal courts granted writs of habeas corpus in only 4 per cent of the writs filed in death penalty cases and in only 0.45 per cent of all […] Read more »

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS RETROACTIVE APPLICATION OF MICHIGAN DECISION

Burt Lancaster was convicted of first degree murder in Michigan for killing his girl friend. He plead diminished capacity but was convicted any way. At the time of the offense there were a number of Michigan appellate decisions upholding a defense of diminished-capacity but the Michigan Supreme Court had not acted on the matter. A diminished-capacity defense allows “a defendant . . . although he was legally sane, [to present] evidence of some mental abnormality to negate the specific intent […] Read more »

COURT REMANDS CASE FOR HEARING ON WHETHER COUNSEL PROVIDED EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL

Jose Gilberto Portillo, who does not speak English, was convicted along with two of his friends of the murder of an elderly couple during a residential burglary in Washington D. C. Prior to the trial the court appointed a lawyer to represent him and then appointed a second lawyer who spoke Spanish. Portillo wrote a letter to the judge complaining about his inability to communicate with his lawyers. The Sixth Amendment guarantees that indigent defendants receive competent legal representation. The […] Read more »

MARYLAND APPEALS THE DEATH PENALTY

Maryland became the eighteenth state to not have a death penalty. Under the leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley the legislature repealed the death penalty. Legislators gave four primary reasons for repealing the death penalty: It’s too expensive. You may assume that executing prisoners is more cost-effective than housing them for life. However, someone typically remains on death row for many years and will accrue massive legal bills in an effort to save his life. These costs can sometimes exceed the […] Read more »

U. S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE RECUSED IN MAJOR GANG/MURDER CASE

James J. Bulger was indicted on numerous gang charges in the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts including 19 murders and RICO charges. It is alleged that he led the Winter Hill Gang. He claims, with a significant amount of evidence to back him up that he was given immunity by the Justice Department in exchange for his assistance to the government as an informant. The charges were brought against Bulger by the New England Organized Crime Strike […] Read more »

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TO WAIVE STAND YOUR GROUND HEARING

George Zimmerman, the admitted killer of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager in Sanford Florida will forego his right to a “Stand Your Ground” hearing next month, his legal team announced, Tuesday. Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law a defendant who claims self defense is entitled to a pretrial hearing before a judge to determine the validity of a self defense claim. If the judge finds the self defense claim valid the case is terminated and the defendant is absolved of […] Read more »

FIFTH CIRCUIT RULES: NO RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN HABEAS CORPUS MATTER

Sunday we looked at the tremendous hurdle that petitioners have to jump to meet the burden of proof in habeas corpus cases. Today we shall look at some additional hurdles set by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). In In re: Christopher Sepulvado, Sepulvado who is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday for the 1992 murder of his step child challenges the Federal District Court’s transfer of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, […] Read more »

NINTH CIRCUIT UPHOLDS DENIAL OF HABEAS CORPUS DESPITE MIRANDA VIOLATION

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Dyer v. Hornbeck, decided last week demonstrates the importance of attempting to win a criminal case in the trial court or on direct appeal instead of relying on a writ of habeas corpus in Federal Court. The rules on habeas are set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). Where an issue has been decided by a state court, on its merits, a Federal Court cannot grant a […] Read more »

ANOTHER AFRICAN AMERICAN TEENAGER KILLED IN FLORIDA

An African American teenager is shot and killed in Florida by an older white man who later claims self defense. The police find no gun on the deceased. The victim is not Treyvon Martin. It is Jordan Davis, a Georgia native who lived with his father in Jacksonville. Seventeen year old Davis and several friends stopped at a Jacksonville gas station, last Friday, after doing some Black Friday shopping. He was a high school junior. Davis had an after school […] Read more »