Thursday, December 26, 2019

Carter v. Davis (9th Cir. - Dec. 26, 2019)

Reading this will definitely not keep you in holiday spirits.

It's got something for everyone to dislike.  A defendant who rapes and kills multiple people over a three-week crime spree, and for whom it's totally clear why multiple juries sentenced him to death.  Crimes that happen in 1984 yet the resulting legal proceedings take 35 years to reach the Ninth Circuit on habeas, notwithstanding the fact that there are no intermediate appellate reversals or grants of relief:  just your "standard" delay.  And a massive investment of resources that results in (1) two lengthy opinions by the California Supreme Court (in 2005 and 2006); (2) a 146-page opinion by the Central District on habeas, and (3) a 318-page opinion by the Southern District on habeas (in 2013).

And now, in 2019, another lengthy opinion.  Again denying relief.  All this to affirm a penalty that will never be imposed.

It's obvious that everyone's taking the issue seriously.  So that's good.  But still.  Those who support the death penalty will be irate that it's taken 35 years and counting and won't actually be imposed.  Those who oppose the death penalty will be irate that we sentence people to be killed and keep them on death row (with its corresponding limitations) forever.  Those who don't feel strongly either way will be irate that we're pouring so much money down the drain for no reason.

So something for everyone to dislike.