Wednesday, April 23, 2014
UPDATE: SCOTUS also has reversed a lower court's decision overturning the death sentence given to a Kentucky man for the kidnap, rape and murder of a teenager in 1997. The AP reports:
Woodall pleaded guilty to kidnapping Hansen on Jan. 25, 1997, from a convenience store in western Kentucky. Woodall acknowledged that he raped the girl and slit her throat twice before taking her body to Luzerne Lake and throwing it in the water. DNA evidence, fingerprints and footprints led to Woodall.
A jury imposed a death sentence, but more than a decade later, a federal court found the jury instructions were flawed and overturned that sentence. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling in 2012.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan joined Scalia's opinion reversing the appeals court.
To overturn a death sentence, Scalia said, Woodall had to show the decision involved an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law. But that standard can be met "only if the error alleged is so obvious that there could be no fairminded disagreement about its existence," Scalia said. In this case, the majority found the trial judge's decision was not unreasonable.
Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, said the "normal rule is that Fifth Amendment protections apply during trial and sentencing." Breyer said the high court's precedent was clear in requiring the no-adverse-inference instruction during a sentencing hearing.
SCOTUS has denied William Rousan's request for a stay of execution for the 1993 killing of a couple in Missouri by Rousan, his brother, and his son. After rehearsing the gory details of the crime, The Guardian reports:
Brent Rousan pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Robert Rousan co-operated with prosecutors and pleaded
guilty to second-degree murder. He served seven years in prison and was released in 2001.
Governor Jay Nixon declined William Rousan's clemency request Tuesday evening, clearing the way for the execution to proceed. In a statement explaining his decision, Nixon said he thought Rousan's sentence was appropriate for his alleged role as the mastermind behind the "cold-blooded plot" that led to the couple's slayings.
Earlier Tuesday, the US supreme court turned down Rousan's request to delay his execution.
Efforts to spare Rousan's life hinged an argument that has held little sway over the courts — concerns about the secrecy used to obtain the execution drug, and the possibility that a substandard drug could cause pain and suffering in the execution process.
Several states, including Missouri, now use compounded execution drugs purchased from unnamed pharmacies. Courts so far have allowed most executions to move forward. However, on Monday, the Oklahoma supreme court stayed the executions of two death row inmates who challenged the secrecy surrounding the process of procuring execution drugs.
Missouri has executed one death row inmate each month since November. Another Missouri inmate, Russell Bucklew, is scheduled for execution on May 21. Only Texas, with seven executions, has executed more inmates than Missouri's four so far in 2014. Florida has also executed four inmates this year.