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Old 01-24-2010, 01:49 AM
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What do you think of 8-7 decision in House v. Bell ?

There was a court decision 5 years ago I've never been able to forget. I'm curious if other Dopers were aware of the decision at the time, and what thoughts they have about it. A reason I'm astounded is the way the judges' decisions seemed to be determined by the Party identity of the President who appointed them. I did not "cherry-pick" this case; indeed I'm no legal scholar whatsoever and (except for noting certain consistencies in SCOTUS decisions) haven't examined judge affiliations in any other case.

1. Have you read of the case?
2. Were you aware of the peculiar Party correlation?
3. Do you think the Party correlation was just a coincidence?

The case Paul Gregory House v. Ricky Bell (Warden) was decided 6 October 2004, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The decision (http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions...4a0345p-06.pdf) is quite readable (it reads more like excerpts from a whodunit than a legal document!) Below (in a "spoiler") I've copied an excerpt from that document.

Paul Gregory House was convicted of a 1985 rape-murder and the death penalty was imposed. Eventual DNA testing showed that crime-scene semen was the victim's husband's, not House's; moreover the husband confessed to the crime. After awaiting execution for almost 19 years, House's claims of innocence were heard by the 15 judges of a federal Court of Appeals.

Judge Norris and seven concurring judges denied a writ of habeas corpus because "factual determinations are entitled to a presumption of correctness." Judge Morris and five concurring judges dissented, preferring to free House immediately due to actual innocence. Judge Gilman filed a separate dissent in which the State of Tennessee would be given the option of a new trial instead of freeing House.

(By the way, after more than 20 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, House has finally been freed by the Supreme Court. Right-wing cynics may say "See, the system works!" Left-wing cynics may reply that SCOTUS had more important "fish to fry" than the execution of an innocent man.)

The following table shows the individual judges, their opinion in this case, and which President appointed them.

Reagan / denied / Danny Julian Boggs
Reagan / denied / Alan Eugene Norris
Bush41 / denied / Eugene Edward Siler, Jr.
Bush41 / denied / Alice M. Batchelder
Bush43 / denied / Julia Smith Gibbons
Bush43 / denied / John M. Rogers
Bush43 / denied / Jeffrey Sutton
Bush43 / denied / Deborah L. Cook

Carter / free / Gilbert Stroud Merritt, Jr.
Carter / free / Boyce F. Martin, Jr.
Clinton / free / Martha Craig Daughtrey
Clinton / free / Karen Nelson Moore
Clinton / free / R. Guy Cole, Jr.
Clinton / free / Eric L. Clay
Clinton / retrial / Ronald Lee Gilman

The vote was 8-7 against House. The appointing Party was also split 8-7. To save you a trip to the calculator, if we suppose these two events to be uncorrelated, the chance that the 8-7 splits will coincide as in fact they did are 1 in 6435. Coincidence?

Excerpt from Merritt's dissenting opinion:
SPOILER:
In this case, however, I would go further and issue the writ of habeas corpus because the prisoner has affirmatively established a free-standing case of actual innocence. This is that rare and extraordinary case where petitioner has provided "a truly persuasive demonstration of 'actual innocence'" that should free the prisoner immediately. Herrera, 506 U.S. at 417. Through extremely persuasive and affirmative evidence that Mr. Muncey killed his wife, House has shown that it is highly probable that he is completely innocent of any wrongdoing whatever. There is no reasonable basis for disbelieving the six witnesses who now incriminate Mr. Muncey as the perpetrator of the crime. The most compelling part of this new testimony involves his confession to the murder in front of two witnesses who have no connection to House and no bias against Mr. Muncey. Furthermore, before his wife's body was even located, he solicited a neighbor to fabricate an alibi on his behalf. He was heard returning home around the time of the murder. And considering his history of domestic violence and his wife's plans to leave him he had a motive to kill. In contrast, there is no evidence of a motive for House. All of the state's physical evidence, both blood and semen, allegedly tying House to the murder, has been effectively rebutted. The new body of evidence as a whole so completely undermines the case against House and establishes a persuasive case against Muncey that, had it been presented at trial, no rational juror could have found evidence sufficient for conviction.

The new evidence so completely turns the case around that the proof is no longer constitutionally sufficient to warrant a conviction or imposition of the death penalty. Thus House should be immediately released.


Liberals sometimes say, sarcastically, that to right-wingers the death penalty is such an important "American value" that the executed person's innocence is not a drawback. Cases like House v. Bell make one wonder if they're right!

In some political debates, some argue for an abstract ideal while ignoring the "facts on the ground"; my "real agenda" here is to introduce some facts that may change some preconceptions. But let's not hijack this thread into reiterating smug abstract preconceptions; let's just agree on simple facts, starting with the vote in House v. Bell (warden).
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Old 01-24-2010, 02:09 AM
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While I do, of course, agree the end result is shocking, and while I'm absolutely nowhere near being a law scholar, I think the stated purpose of the Appeals Courts is to examine whether or not the original judicial proceeding fucked up in the process of issuing this or that verdict, not to question the validity or factuality of the verdict itself.

That is to say, if the evidence presented at the time of his trial was deemed conclusive, and the judicial arm didn't twist the law to convict, and due process was observed, etc.. etc.., then it doesn't matter if he's innocent or not, or if his innocence is proven post factum - his appeal will still fail, because the Appeals court is not in the business of examining whether or not the facts of the case are, well, factual. That's the job of the original prosecution, defense and jury.

Besides, even if that weren't the case, critically examining the facts of a given case after 5, 10, 19 years must prove problematic to say the least. Witnesses have long forgotten what they saw, or simply disappeared, same goes for the cops who investigated the case, the evidence itself can be misfiled, tampered with, lost etc... ; and a ruling that in this case the facts themselves should be re-examined would automatically force the Appeals Courts to do the same in every single case. That's a LOT of problematic work ahead.
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Old 01-24-2010, 07:45 AM
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I don't see what's wrong with reexamining the facts, especially when extraordinary circumstances demand it. Otherwise, how is anybody ever freed from prison? I hear about new DNA evidence exonerating people all the time; does the warden just set them free out of the goodness of his heart?
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Old 01-24-2010, 11:41 AM
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My understanding of the Appeals Courts role (which I freely admit could be wrong) lines up with Kobal's. However, I do feel that there should be some process in the higher court system for re-examining these things. It's a "human" system, and it can be as wrong as humans can ever be. When that results in the state-sponsored taking of life of the innocent, we don't have a Justice system, we have a bureacracy designed to serve itself, not the People, the socity, it was set up to defend and protect.

And the OP is spot on, and here's why:

[WARNING: BROAD BRUSH!]

Liberals tend to think, "This is the way things should be, and I'll work to make it so!"

Conservatives tend to reply: "That's all fine and dandy, but that's not the way things are right now; I'll not exceed my mandate and create precedent out of thin air."

[/BROAD BRUSH]

So in the case cited in the OP you have the Liberals exceeding their role (according to my understanding of the role of the Appeals Court system), and for what I think are good and noble reasons, ones even overall more beneficial to a fair and just Judicial system, and the Conservatives reluctant to exceed their role and create a precedent, for which there may be seriously screwed up unintended consequences.
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Old 01-24-2010, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
... while I'm absolutely nowhere near being a law scholar, I think the stated purpose of the Appeals Courts is to examine whether or not the original judicial proceeding fucked up ... not to question the validity or factuality of the verdict itself.
One reason the Merritt's opinion excerpt was so long is that I wanted to include "This is that rare and extraordinary case...".

But anyway, my question wasn't about House's innocence, or the correctness of any legal decision. It was simply whether anyone else found it remarkable that of 8 Republican appointees on that court, all 8 voted to keep an apparently innocent man on death row; of 7 Democrat appointees, all 7 voted to release him or give him a new trial.

Perhaps conservatives will side with the Republican appointees and treat the dissenters as well-intentioned "activists." But I doubt if "activism" vs strictness adequately sums up the partisan judiciary. (Didn't the Supreme Court's recent decision just actively overturn established law?)
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Old 01-24-2010, 01:20 PM
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Virtually all Republican appointees to the bench are members of The Federalist Society, which is a signal to anybody that they will vote party line if appointed to the bench. It is the most insidious assault on the US Constitution ever devised.
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Old 01-25-2010, 12:49 PM
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It looks like this thread can be summarized:
Quote:
Originally Posted by septimus
The federal judiciary has a partisan bias. Here's the proof ...
And Doper response (or lack thereof) was
Quote:
Welcome to the Real World, septimus! I suppose soon you'll be posting about your discovery that 2+2 = 4!
Well, maybe the bias was already too well-known for comment, but let me develop an argument:
1. Most Americans are centrist.
2. No one expects judges to be identical robots, but still one would hope that most would be, in some sense, "centrist."
3. Many legislators would like to be more-or-less centrist, if politics allowed it.
4. Despite these facts, the federal judiciary has a clear and undesirable partisan bias.

I claim this must be a symptom of severe dysfunction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Second Stone View Post
Virtually all Republican appointees to the bench are members of The Federalist Society, which is a signal to anybody that they will vote party line if appointed to the bench. It is the most insidious assault on the US Constitution ever devised.
Interesting.
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Old 01-25-2010, 12:55 PM
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Y'know what I find interesting? The fact that most people don't really have a clue what the Appelate court does. Including the Dope, it seems.
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Old 01-25-2010, 12:56 PM
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Quote:
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Virtually all Republican appointees to the bench are members of The Federalist Society, which is a signal to anybody that they will vote party line if appointed to the bench. It is the most insidious assault on the US Constitution ever devised.
Amen. We were told at law school to join up if we wanted any kind of governmental job. Even the ones that weren't politically appointed.
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Old 01-25-2010, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Kobal2 View Post
While I do, of course, agree the end result is shocking, and while I'm absolutely nowhere near being a law scholar, I think the stated purpose of the Appeals Courts is to examine whether or not the original judicial proceeding fucked up in the process of issuing this or that verdict, not to question the validity or factuality of the verdict itself.

That is to say, if the evidence presented at the time of his trial was deemed conclusive, and the judicial arm didn't twist the law to convict, and due process was observed, etc.. etc.., then it doesn't matter if he's innocent or not, or if his innocence is proven post factum - his appeal will still fail, because the Appeals court is not in the business of examining whether or not the facts of the case are, well, factual. That's the job of the original prosecution, defense and jury.

Besides, even if that weren't the case, critically examining the facts of a given case after 5, 10, 19 years must prove problematic to say the least. Witnesses have long forgotten what they saw, or simply disappeared, same goes for the cops who investigated the case, the evidence itself can be misfiled, tampered with, lost etc... ; and a ruling that in this case the facts themselves should be re-examined would automatically force the Appeals Courts to do the same in every single case. That's a LOT of problematic work ahead.
This isn't true. Someone with a criminal law background can come along and fill in the details, but it is quite possible for an appeals court to order a new trial based on new facts (like exculpatory DNA evidence). Suffuce it to say, if someone proves he is innocent, there are procedural mechanisms that can secure his release. In fact, it happened in this case (as the OP notes, House has been freed).

Last edited by whole bean; 01-25-2010 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 09-10-2018, 07:04 AM
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While Searching for the name of my very first thread, I came across the very second thread. I think it's as topical as ever.

I notice that almost no Doper deigned to actually answer any of the three questions I posed:
1. Have you read of the case?
2. Were you aware of the peculiar Party correlation?
3. Do you think the Party correlation was just a coincidence?

... so I'll try again.
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Old 09-10-2018, 02:12 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by septimus View Post
While Searching for the name of my very first thread, I came across the very second thread. I think it's as topical as ever.

I notice that almost no Doper deigned to actually answer any of the three questions I posed:
1. Have you read of the case?
2. Were you aware of the peculiar Party correlation?
3. Do you think the Party correlation was just a coincidence?

... so I'll try again.
What do you mean by "coincidence?"

The rationale given by the majority is a "conservative" approach to judicial review issues. One would expect judges who were appointed by "conservative" presidents to have "conservative" approaches. The rationales given by the dissenters are "liberal" approaches to judicial review issues. One would expect judges who were appointed by "liberal" presidents to have "liberal" approaches. So in this regard, it is not "coincidence" that the split happened along "party" lines.

(As an aside, we could engage in a discussion of the relative likelihood of a conservative president appointing an actually non-conservative judge vs. a liberal president appointing an actually non-liberal judge, but that seems to be a quite extensive discussion probably outside the scope of this thread.)

There is no indication, however, in the opinions, that the judges who wrote those opinions were simply practicing outcome-oriented jurisprudence. The three opinions appear to be well-reasoned. They simply start from different assumptions about what should be done about "finality" in determinations of fact by courts. So in that regard, I would assert it is indeed a "coincidence", because the alignment is not based upon presumed party beliefs about things like being tough on crime, etc.

Which meaning of "coincidence" did you intend for people to discuss?
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Old 09-10-2018, 04:09 PM
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Welcome to the modern world. Any thought that the courts are not just another partisan body has long since been exploded. Remember the 2000 election? Now SCOTUS splits along partisan lines is so familiar that it is not to be remarked upon.

Yes, I know that appellate courts are primarily to examine procedural questions. But I cannot believe they cannot also correct gross miscarriages of justice.
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Old 09-10-2018, 04:14 PM
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If I toss a nickel eight times and a dime seven times and the nickel comes up heads eight times, while the dime comes up tails seven times that could be a chance coincidence — a 16,000-to-1 odds-against long-shot will win the money one time in 16,000. Or the result could be non-coincidental — the coins could be "loaded" or even double-faced. Does that explain what I mean by "(chance) coincidence"?

I suppose there are two philosophies of jurisprudence. In one theory, people whom we know to be innocent should be set free. In another theory, finality is such a virtue that innocent convicts should remain in prison, Note that there was essentially no real doubt about Paul House's innocence at the time of the 8-7 decision.

Discussion needn't be limited to the three questions I asked. Further questions include:

4. Which policy of justice is preferred : the one that frees the innocent man who'd been wrongfully incarcerated for 19 years? Or the one that keeps him in prison awaiting the electric chair?
5. If the judge's party-decision correlation was not just chance, what does this tell us about the relative values of America's two political parties?
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Old 09-10-2018, 10:11 PM
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Can anybody even say with a straight face that the "justice" system has anything at all to do with justice? It's a tool like any other, and the people in control of that tool wield it for their own benefit. Abstract philosophical concepts don't really come into play.
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Old 09-11-2018, 03:14 AM
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Can anybody even say with a straight face that the "justice" system has anything at all to do with justice? It's a tool like any other, and the people in control of that tool wield it for their own benefit. Abstract philosophical concepts don't really come into play.
So "Justice isn't just" is akin to "Dog bites man"? Nothing new to see here; move along, folks.

I'm still waiting for someone to comment on the fact that seven out of 15 Judges did vote to free the innocent man ... and those 7 were precisely the seven who were appointed by Democratic Presidents.
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Old 09-11-2018, 05:15 PM
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So "Justice isn't just" is akin to "Dog bites man"? Nothing new to see here; move along, folks.

I'm still waiting for someone to comment on the fact that seven out of 15 Judges did vote to free the innocent man ... and those 7 were precisely the seven who were appointed by Democratic Presidents.
I've already commented on that. You have chosen not to respond to what I said about why it happened.

And your analogy still does not establish what you are about with this "debate". Are you asserting that judges in this case were outcome-oriented based upon who appointed them? Or are you asserting that judges are appointed by certain presidents because they have particular judicial philosophies?

Until you actually step up and say which we are to discuss, it's hard to give much time to the thread.
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Old 09-11-2018, 05:52 PM
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It was my understanding that a criminal conviction could be appealed either on the basis of errors in process or on the basis of new evidence. How does that not apply here?

Last edited by Chronos; 09-11-2018 at 05:52 PM.
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Old 09-12-2018, 12:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by septimus View Post
TEventual DNA testing showed that crime-scene semen was the victim's husband's, not House's; moreover the husband confessed to the crime. After awaiting execution for almost 19 years, House's claims of innocence were heard by the 15 judges of a federal Court of Appeals.
IMHO, the reason why you are outraged by the judges in this case is because you see things like this in such black and white terms.

Simply because she had sex with her husband in the hours prior to her death does not mean that House did not kill her. Simply because two questionable witnesses came forward nearly ten to twenty years later with stories that the original judge looked upon with severe skepticism does not show House's actual innocence.

Even with the new evidence, the majority pointed out:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Majority Opinion
The following facts that implicate House are undisputed: he lied to investigators about his whereabouts on the night of the murder; he gave inconsistent versions of the origins of the scratches and bruises on his hands and arms; he was seen near where the body was discovered on the day after the murder;
he lied about what he was wearing on the night of the murder; blue jeans belonging to House, spattered with blood mixed with mud, were found at the bottom of Ms. Turner’s laundry hamper; House has a deep voice and Laura Muncey testified that the man who came to the trailer on the night of the murder had a deep voice; and, according to Ms. Sutton, the blood and mud found together on House’s blue jeans had been mixed together, which “certainly eliminates the possibility of any stains being created by contamination in an evidence container.” We note that the fact that mud may not have been present at the crime scene, and may have been scarce in the surrounding area, cannot be taken as proof that there was no mud anywhere
on the route between Ms. Turner’s trailer and the scene of the crime.
So, respectfully, your implication that the court was presented with evidence which conclusively proved House's innocence is overstated.
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Old 09-12-2018, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
It was my understanding that a criminal conviction could be appealed either on the basis of errors in process or on the basis of new evidence. How does that not apply here?
To be "new evidence", it is usually the case that the evidence has to have been undiscoverable with reasonable diligence at the time of the original proceeding. See, for example, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60

Last edited by DSYoungEsq; 09-12-2018 at 10:50 AM. Reason: Stupid tags
  #21  
Old 09-12-2018, 06:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by septimus View Post
While Searching for the name of my very first thread, I came across the very second thread. I think it's as topical as ever.

I notice that almost no Doper deigned to actually answer any of the three questions I posed:
1. Have you read of the case?
2. Were you aware of the peculiar Party correlation?
3. Do you think the Party correlation was just a coincidence?

... so I'll try again.
I have heard of it. I didn't know a lot about it.

I didn't realize the breakdown was so partisan.

That is very, very worrying.
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Old 09-12-2018, 06:56 PM
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And your analogy still does not establish what you are about with this "debate". Are you asserting that judges in this case were outcome-oriented based upon who appointed them? Or are you asserting that judges are appointed by certain presidents because they have particular judicial philosophies?
You're splitting a hair invisible to normal eyes, there.
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Old 09-13-2018, 03:20 AM
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DSYoungEsq's hair isn't quite invisible, and I'll hijack my thread slightly to give him a partial answer.

While it's true that right-wing Presidents tend to appoint judges with fine right-wing values like letting innocent people linger on death row, I think there are other right-wing values, like getting right-wingers elected, that may play a role in judges' rulings. I refer specifically to Bush v Gore 531 U.S. 98 (2000) where five judges appointed by Republicans decreed that ballot counting must be stopped while Bush was ahead.

I'm sure someone will be along to explain why stopping a recount was the "proper" thing to do, the "conservative" thing to do, and the "constitutional" thing to do, but if anyone thinks Scalia and Thomas would have stopped the recount had Gore been ahead — let me sell you a bridge! (Souter joined the dissenters in Bush v Gore, but he was appointed by a moderate Republican back when there was such a thing.)
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Old 09-14-2018, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
What do you mean by "coincidence?"

The rationale given by the majority is a "conservative" approach to judicial review issues. One would expect judges who were appointed by "conservative" presidents to have "conservative" approaches. The rationales given by the dissenters are "liberal" approaches to judicial review issues. One would expect judges who were appointed by "liberal" presidents to have "liberal" approaches. So in this regard, it is not "coincidence" that the split happened along "party" lines.
I've got a question: would you say both approaches are at least consistent with the law?

In another thread (see post 663 and followup posts), there's a discussion about the role that wisdom and judgment should play in a Supreme Court Justice's decisions, IOW, how far simply following the law and the facts gets you. This discussion seems relevant to that one.
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Old 09-15-2018, 02:52 AM
UltraVires UltraVires is online now
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I've got a question: would you say both approaches are at least consistent with the law?

In another thread (see post 663 and followup posts), there's a discussion about the role that wisdom and judgment should play in a Supreme Court Justice's decisions, IOW, how far simply following the law and the facts gets you. This discussion seems relevant to that one.
I know this wasn't asked to me, but IMHO this area of law is one where judges on both sides are faithfully attempting to apply history and precedent to come to the correct conclusion.

There are two competing interests/thoughts at play:

1) The "correct" or just result should always be continually pursued. A person should not be kept in prison for life, or God forbid executed, if he can show at any point in time different evidence that might possibly cast some doubt on his original conviction. The courts should be open to allow him to keep presenting evidence.

2) A criminal trial is not a warm up to the main event. It is the main event. Under the Constitution a person has a right to one jury trial, so bring your "A" game to that event. If the trial was fair and you lost, then the judicial system needs certainty to carry out your sentence, get your shit off the docket, and move on to new things. If the system says that you are getting a lethal injection or thirty years in prison, society needs to know that such a pronouncement means something certain or else the system becomes a farce.

Now, under both #1 and #2, if a person can prove their actual innocence (something that is disputed in the case in the OP) both sides agree that the person should be freed. The difference is the quantum of proof necessary for this demonstration. Those leaning towards #1 will see the facts in the OP's case as justifying a new trial while those leaning towards #2 will see the facts as not enough to disturb finality.

This case demonstrates that rift.
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Old 09-15-2018, 09:20 AM
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I know this wasn't asked to me, but IMHO this area of law is one where judges on both sides are faithfully attempting to apply history and precedent to come to the correct conclusion.
That's all I was really after: that there's more than one possible conclusion consistent with statute and precedent. And if it's a particular case, more than one possible conclusion consistent with statute, precedent, and the facts of the case.

In the linked thread, the question has come up of what sort of wisdom, judgment, and life experience a SCOTUS nominee might bring to bear to decide which of those possible conclusions is the right one in a given case. Bricker rejects the notion that the Senate should inquire into such things, because somehow in his mind it's either one or the other: either you follow the law and the facts to reach a conclusion, or you use wisdom and experience to reach a conclusion. He clearly dislikes the idea that there are instances where the law and the facts don't restrict the courts to a single decision (if they always did, we could replace the courts with legal software) and that *some* other factor is needed to reach a conclusion when the law and the facts don't get you all the way there. (I prefer wisdom/judgment/experience to, say, rolling a die. But to each his own.)

But I do feel a need to comment on this:
Quote:
2) A criminal trial is not a warm up to the main event. It is the main event. Under the Constitution a person has a right to one jury trial, so bring your "A" game to that event. If the trial was fair and you lost, then the judicial system needs certainty to carry out your sentence, get your shit off the docket, and move on to new things. If the system says that you are getting a lethal injection or thirty years in prison, society needs to know that such a pronouncement means something certain or else the system becomes a farce.
In a world where everyone had the resources to bring their 'A' game to any criminal trial, I'd agree with you completely. But that's rarely the case. Most people on trial for their lives, let alone merely terms of years, can't afford the best legal talent - many can't afford lawyers at all, and are dependent on whatever quality of representation the state is willing to pay for. People have been sentenced to death despite their court-appointed lawyers falling asleep during their trial.

The system is filled with people who can't muster any more than a 'D' game, and that's why you get all sorts of motions filed on behalf of those whose execution is imminent: the nonprofits that try to ensure that people aren't unjustly executed have the resources to show up at the relative handful of instances each year where a convict's execution date is imminent, but they don't have the resources to be present at more than a handful of the trials that might ultimately lead to such a moment.

We could ensure through our tax dollars that people being charged with serious felonies have decent-quality representation, but we don't. And until we do, you can tell people all you want that they need to bring their 'A' game to the trial, but that's about as reasonable as telling a paraplegic he needs to quit relying on crutches and wheelchairs, and stand up and walk.
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Old 09-15-2018, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by RTFiefly
In a world where everyone had the resources to bring their 'A' game to any criminal trial, I'd agree with you completely. But that's rarely the case. Most people on trial for their lives, let alone merely terms of years, can't afford the best legal talent - many can't afford lawyers at all, and are dependent on whatever quality of representation the state is willing to pay for. People have been sentenced to death despite their court-appointed lawyers falling asleep during their trial.
Yes.

House is not an isolated example of justice miscarriage.

I recall a New York man being convicted of murder because the public defender felt the budget was insufficient to interview his alibi witness. I Googled for it just now, but instead found two other similar stories. (I combined two news accounts for the Rosario excerpts, using italics to distinguish one source.)

Quote:
He was a thousand miles away when somebody he didn't even know was murdered. While that homicide was a tragedy, what makes the situation even more tragic is that Richard Rosario was convicted of the murder of Jorge Collazo, even though he was eight states away from the scene when the slaying took place.

That was 20 years ago, and Rosario has been behind bars ever since for the crime, even though he had more than a dozen witnesses, including two law enforcement officers, who could prove that he was far from the scene of the crime when it was committed.


Neither police nor his court-appointed defense lawyers talked to most of the alibi witnesses he listed. A judge OK’d a request for funding by his initial attorney to send a private investigator to Florida, but she never did so, a 2010 appellate decision noted. Subsequent defense counsel mistakenly thought funding for the PI had not been approved.

In June of 1996, Rosario had been picked out of a lineup of mug shots compiled by police after the murder of Collazo, 16, in the Soundview section of the borough. However, during all of the month of June that year, Rosario lived with family friends in Deltona, Florida — 1,063 miles away.

"I've been in prison for twenty years for a crime I didn't commit," said Rosario in court on Wednesday. "My family didn't deserve this, I didn't deserve this, nor the victim's family or the victim," he said in his statement to the judge.

After he'd gotten word that detectives were looking for him, Rosario voluntarily traveled by bus back to the Bronx and interviewed with police. He also provided them with a list of 13 witnesses, including two Florida law officers, who could prove he was in their state when the shots rang out.

However, Rosario's court appointed attorney didn't end up interviewing any but two of the alibi witnesses, despite the fact that the attorney had secured government funding to do so.

Prosecutors on Wednesday admitted that Rosario's situation was flawed, through no fault of his own.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More than 20 years ago, Fleming attempted to defend himself from homicide charges by telling jurors he was in Florida. According to CNN, he claimed to have made calls from a Florida hotel room on the night of the victim's murder, but the prosecution convinced a jury that the alibi was baseless.

However, the Brooklyn district attorney's Conviction Review Unit determined that police had found a receipt for Fleming's phone records and corroborating testimony from his ex-girlfriend supporting his Florida alibi. The prosecution is required to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense in a criminal case, so it seems fishy that police would not have revealed what they had found.

One of the prosecution's main witnesses in Fleming's case, who testified to seeing Fleming shoot the victim, later recanted weeks after his conviction. CNN reports that she said police had coaxed her into testifying against Fleming "to avoid going back to jail."
An on-going debate in America is whether people who weren't smart enough to buy Apple stock when it was cheap are worthy enough to receive health care. Is it the same people on respective sides of this debate, whether the indigent should be entitled to justice?
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