Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Daniels v. Woodford (9th Cir. - Nov. 2, 2005)

Sometimes you can tell how a case is going to come out by how the matter is characterized in the very first sentence of the opinion. Even when that sentence is incredibly short. Here's the first line of this one: "Jackson Chambers Daniels, Jr. is a sixty-six year old parapalegic on California's death row." That's a pretty strong clue regarding what the opinion is eventually going to decide, no? Especially when the panel consists of Judges Pregerson, Ferguson, and Betty Fletcher.

Anyway, as you might imagine, after this opinion, Jackson Daniels is no longer on death row. Indeed, this is a somewhat unusual case because the lower court had made the traditional anti-death penalty move -- affirming the conviction but reversing the death sentence -- but the Ninth Circuit here does something different (and more rare), and both affirms the reversal of the death sentence as well as reverses the underlying conviction. Not something that you see every day. Even from this panel. Especially in a case involving the murder of two police officers. So, for only for those reasons, the opinion is worth reading.