Sunday, March 13, 2011

Robinson v. Ryan, 595 F.3d 1086 (9th Cir. 2010)

The Ninth Circuit continues its ideological ways in another context.  In a 2-1 decision written twenty three years after the conviction, Robinson v. Schriro/Ryan 595 F.3d 1086 (9th Cir. 2010, the evidence established that in 1987 Robinson and two cohorts loaded shotguns and shells into his truck, and all three drove from California to Arizona at his direction to locate a woman he sought.  The two men forcibly entered the house of two elderly relatives of Robinson's wife, ordered them to lie on the floor, bound their arms and legs, and shot both of them repeatedly in the back, killing the woman and seriously injuring the man who lost one eye.The jury convicted Robinson of murder and voted the death penalty.  The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, reciting significantly more evidence in its opinion than the Ninth  Circuit;  State v. Robinson, 796 P.2d 853 (1990).
The 9th Circuit panel engaged in a linguistic analysis over the definition of the words "cruel, heinous,and depraved, "aggravating factors required for imposition of the death penalty in Arizona state courts.  The court wrote "[Robinson] has argued the 'cruelty prong' of the aggravating factors did not apply because the prosecution produced no evidence that the two victims actually suffered significant pain or distress  The panel decided '[t]he cruelty prong of the aggravating factors relate to the physical and mental  suffering of the crime during the murder, and accordingly "there is no evidence of significant pain or distress' suffered by the two victims.
But one victim died while bound with tape on the floor and the other suffered serious injuries.  According to the Ninth Circuit,  forcibly entering a home, ordering the elderly occupants to lie on the floor, binding them, exhibiting shotguns, executing one and seriously injuring the other does not constitute "cruelty."

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