Wednesday, March 7, 2012

James v. Ryan, 2012 WL 639292 (C.A. 9)

In an opinion decided by judges Berzon and Fletcher, the "usual suspects" in criminal cases, the 9th Circuit panel set aside a death penalty case on the usual grounds of "ineffective counsel."  The defendant was convicted in 1981 based on overwhelming evidence of a gruesome and vicious murder.  In 2012, twenty-three years later, and despite the repeated demands by the Supreme Court to conform to the Congressional act of AEDPA, this panel found ineffective counsel.
Apparently this defense did not occur to anyone else until this petition for habeas corpus was filed almost a quarter century after the trial.  James filed repeated duplicate petitions in Arizona state court and in federal court arguing innumerable grounds-all denied. Until the case arrived in the 9th Circuit.
Unless the State of Arizona seeks review in the Supreme Court, the ability to present evidence necessary to sentence James is almost impossible.  In the first place, one of the witnesses who testified against James was a juvenile, and sentenced to imprisonment until he turned eighteen.  The prospect of finding him, assuming  Arizona is able to subpoena him, and convincing him to testify, is slim.
The facts of this case warrant the death penalty regardless of James' childhood, his drug use and the usual psychiatric testimony. James was not under the influence of any drug at the time of the murder; denied any opportunity to relent from his decision to murder the victim, and showed no evidence of remorse.

The 9th Circuit record of death penalty cases reversed on collateral review continues.  With one exception (a case recently decided after the Supreme Court had thoroughly lashed the 9th Circuit for applying the wrong law for the last decde), the 9th Circuit has not affirmed a single death sentence in a decade. 

No comments:

Post a Comment