Monday, November 22, 2010

Brewer v. Landrigan, 131 S.Ct. 445 200 (2010)

The most recent Supreme Court repudiation of the Ninth Circuit occurred in Brewer v. Landrigan, 131 S.Ct. 445 (2010). Landrigan was convicted in Oklahoma of second-degree murder in 1982. In 1986, while in custody for that crime, he repeatedly stabbed another inmate and was subsequently convicted of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. Three years later, Landrigan escaped from prison and murdered another man in Arizona. Convicted and sentenced to death in state court and affirmed on appeal, the Ninth Circuit granted his habeas corpus petition and reversed on its customary ground of "ineffective counsel." The Supreme Court reversed and remanded.
Shortly before the scheduled date of execution, Landrigan filed a 28 U.S.C. 1983 claim in U.S. District Court, contending the drug used in the execution was not approved by the FDA. The district court granted a temporary restraining order and, on appeal by the State of Arizona, a Ninth Circuit panel affirmed. The State sought to vacate the order in the Supreme Court. The Justices reversed the Ninth Circuit in a single paragraph, dismissive of the Ninth Circuit rationale of its decision, and citing the absence of any evidence to impugn the safety in using the drug.

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