Edith Jones is a Justice and the former Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit – and as appellate lawyers will tell you, there’s so much power to be found in federal appellate courts.  Not many cases make it past that level of review to the United States Supreme Court; accordingly, in many situations, the federal appellate court is the last word in the federal appeals process.

Which sorta explains why last week Terry Lenamon asked "whattha??" after reading coverage of a complaint being filed against Justice Edith Jones for comments she made in a speech entitled “Federal Death Penalty Review” at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law on February 20, 2013.

That was six days ago, and the controversy continues.  

Seems that the former chief justice gave a speech for lots of lawyers and judges up at the University of Pennsylvania which was not recorded.  However, so many people were outraged at what she had to say from the podium that seven people drafted affidavits swearing to what they heard, and they’ve been attached to a formal complaint.

One of the allegations, as described in the Complaint, is that she said:

  • The United States system of justice provides a positive service to capital-case defendants by imposing a death sentence, because the defendants are likely to make peace with God only in the moment before imminent execution;
  • Certain “racial groups like African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime, are “‘prone’ to commit acts of violence,” and get involved in more violent and “heinous”crimes than people of other ethnicities;
  • Claims of racism, innocence, arbitrariness, and international standards are simply “red herrings” used by opponents of capital punishment;
  • Capital defendants who raise claims of “mental retardation” abuse the system;
  • The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia prohibiting execution of persons who are “mentally retarded” was ill-advised and created a “slippery slope";
  • Mexican Nationals would prefer to be on death row in the United States rather than in prison in Mexico;
  • The country of Mexico does not provide and would not provide the legal protections that a Mexican National facing a death sentence in the United States would receive.

Read the Complaint here.

Read Jonathan Turley’s take on things here.  

Meanwhile, today the news is spreading that a motion to keep Justice Edith Jones from reviewing a death penalty case has been granted.  Jones will not be a part of the three member panel that hears Texas Death Row inmate Elroy Chambers’ federal appellate arguments.