Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Kipp v. Davis (9th Cir. - Aug. 19, 2020)

There's good news and bad news coming out of the Ninth Circuit today for Martin Kipp.

Here's the good news:  The Ninth Circuit, in a split opinion, reverses his conviction and death sentence for killing Antaya Yvette Howard.  The majority opinion, written by Judge Paez, concludes that the trial court wrongly permitted the prosecution to admit at that trial evidence that, three months earlier, Mr. Kipp had alleged also killed Tiffany Frizzell.  The circumstances of both murders simply weren't sufficiently similar to establish anything like a modus operandi, so the violation deprived Mr. Kipp of due process and the admission of this other alleged murder was almost certainly prejudicial.  Judge Nguyen dissents, but Judge Murguia joins the majority opinion, so it's a new trial for Mr. Kipp.

That's the good news.

Here's the bad news.  Remember that whole "murdering Tiffany Frizzell" thing?  Mr. Kipp also gets tried and convicted of that crime, and is also sentenced to death for that.  And today, simultaneously with the other opinion, the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirms that conviction and sentence.  In an opinion by Judge Nguyen -- the dissenting judge in Mr. Kipp's other death penalty case.

You can only kill a guy once.  So, yes, there's now only once death sentence instead of two.

But that doesn't practically much matter, now does it?

(Not that any of this likely practically matters much anyway since both sentences were in California.  But still.)