Thursday, March 26, 2015

Medina v. Chappell (9th Cir. - March 26, 2015)

This is --  unintentionally -- hilarious.  (Okay, maybe not hilarious.  But pretty funny/ironic.)

Judge Wardlaw writes a 36-page, single-spaced opinion.  I read the whole thing, and was about to say something about it.

You can figure out what kind of case it is just by looking at the docket numbers.  The docket numbers in the district court begin with "94-" and "97-".  So, yes, the appeal arises out of petitions filed around two decades ago.  The Ninth Circuit has been similarly speedy.  Its docket numbers begin with 09-.  Which means that it has taken six years simply to resolve the appeal.

You guessed it.  It's a death penalty case.

So resolve it Judge Wardlaw does.  The opinion gets published today.

But, simultaneously, another order issues.  Here's what it says in full:

"We sent the accompanying opinion for filing on Friday, March 20, 2015. On Tuesday, March 24, 2015, we received from Mr. Medina’s counsel a filing entitled 'Suggestion of Death' informing us of a press release indicating that Mr. Medina had 'died on the evening of March 22, 2015 from natural causes . . . .'

Because at all times when we made our decision and sent it for filing, the case was not moot, we allowed it to be published in the ordinary course. However, we direct the parties to file letter briefs within 14 days hereof addressing how best to proceed with the opinion in light of Mr. Medina’s death."


Judge Wardlaw's opinion affirmed the two death sentences against Medina.  Little did she know that, two days later, death would indeed follow.