Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Farmer v. McDaniel (9th Cir. - Sept. 5, 2012)

Defendant commits multiple murders in 1982.  Defendant is sentenced to death. 

The Ninth Circuit issues an opinion on February 7, 2012.  Defendant loses.  Habeas petition denied.

Two months later.  Defendant finally gets what's coming to him for thirty years.

Justice, right?

Not quite.

Defendant died in prison.  Not in the execution chamber.

So the Ninth Circuit orders today that its opinion from February gets vacated.  Which is what happens when you die during the appellate process.

For those who might think that this just proves how utterly bonkers the Ninth Circuit is, you may have a point.  But consider two brief facts before you hold this case to be further evidence of such a view:

(1) During the nearly thirty years of continuous litigation, the Ninth Circuit never once vacated the defendant's death sentence.  Only the Nevada Supreme Court did so.

(2) The defendant wasn't even under a death sentence when he died.  Nevada had just indicated its desire to retry him to try again to sentence him to death.  He claimed double jeopardy and filed an habeas petition.  A petition both the district court and the Ninth Circuit dismissed.

All moot now.  Opinion vacated.