Wednesday, August 19, 2009

“Scalia,”Italian for “Fifteen Pounds of Shit in Ten-Pound Robe”

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.

If you're not already one of us bleeding hearts who's soft on crime, let me point out that Scalia is arguing that a murder conviction should stand even though seven of the nine witnesses against the convicted murderer have recanted their testimonies, even though it will mean the convicted murderer will be executed at the state of Georgia's convenience. Yeah, how shitty is that? You may now come on over to the soft on crime side with a clear conscience—unless, you know, you don't have one.

Which would make you a “Scalia.”

It might make you a Loman because on one level I agree with Justice Sack-o-shit, at least in one regard.

Before moving on, let's get something clear. I did not attend law school. In fact, everything I know about the law and its practice, I learned from watching Perry Mason and drinking my way through the DVDs of the first 10 seasons of Law & Order. I am a layman, ignorant of the ways of the law, and because I'm a layman, I will not let my ignorance get in the way of my voicing an opinion on a topic of which I know nothing.

God bless the USA.

Having duly issued my disclaimer, I'll proceed if I can remember what I was talking about. Oh, yeah, I agree with Scalia on this point.

If this Court thinks it possible that capital convictions obtained in full compliance with law can never be final, but are always subject to being set aside by federal courts for the reason of “actual innocence,” it should set this case on our own docket so that we can (if necessary) resolve that question.

In his dissent, he argues that the District Court is not in a position to grant the petitioner any relief even if they find his new evidence compelling. Justice Stevens disagrees, and points out several possibilities under which the District Court could act.

I think that's a sound political move, letting the state court take an action that will kick the case to the federal courts and eventually lead it back to the Supreme Court to decide the core issue of whether or not “actual innocence” is cause for action and relief under the Constitution. That's smart.

By delaying this fight until a time in the future when the makeup of the Court is more amenable to civil rights arguments, he's biding time until he can win this fight.

That certainly isn't now. If this case were held this year, it would be a “sure loser,” Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy almost certainly voting against it.

So, okay, Stevens, I agree with your politics, but, Scalia, I agree with your conclusion: the Supreme Court needs to stop passing the buck and decide the issue.

Of course, when I sober up, I may have a change of mind.


Blogger Antonio said...

I remember once coming across a case in the 7th circuit that said "mere innocence" was not a justification to review an untimely habeas petition.
Yea Justice!

12:29 PM  

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