Monday, August 15, 2016

People v. Nelson (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Aug. 15, 2016)

There's some sense from today's opinion that the California Supreme Court's approach to death penalty cases may be slowly shifting.

Five justices vote to vacate the death sentence.  Two justices -- Justices Corrigan and Chin -- dissent.  In an opinion that is only three pages long.

Every case is different, of course.  And one view of today's opinion would be to simply conclude that this particular case was a strong one for the defendant.

But my personal opinion is that there's something -- albeit maybe something marginal -- at stake as well.  That in part explains the 5-2 vote.

It's definitely not that the California Supreme Court is about to start vacating every single death sentence.  But I do think that the era of virtually every single death sentence being unanimously affirmed is pretty much over at this point.