Of particular importance to death penalty defense attorneys are the capital punishment issues pending before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). As we enter the new year, the capital defense bar watches and waits for SCOTUS to decide on four different matters, arising out of Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, and Virginia.
Questions Presented to SCOTUS
The core issues presented by these four cases are (hat tip to SCOTUSBlog for these summaries of the Questions Presented):
- Whether the Eighth and 14th Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense. (Kahler)
- Whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit erred in concluding—in direct conflict with Virginia’s highest court and other courts—that a decision of the Supreme Court, Montgomery v. Louisiana, addressing whether a new constitutional rule announced in an earlier decision, Miller v. Alabama, applies retroactively on collateral review may properly be interpreted as modifying and substantively expanding the very rule whose retroactivity was in question. (Mathena)
- Whether the Arizona Supreme Court was required to apply current law when weighing mitigating and aggravating evidence to determine whether a death sentence is warranted. (McKinney)
- Whether the correction of error under Eddings v. Oklahoma requires resentencing. (McKinney)
- Whether the 14th Amendment fully incorporates the Sixth Amendment guarantee of a unanimous verdict. (Ramos).
SCOTUS Docket Details (Links to Briefing, Orders, etc.)
For more detail on these four cases, read both the party briefing as well as the amici contributions, found on each case’s SCOTUS online docket:
- Mathena v. Malvo, No. 18-217
- McKinney v. Arizona, No. 18-1109
- Kahler v. Kansas, No. 18-6135.
- Ramos v. Louisiana, No. 18-5924.
ABA Analysis of the Four Death Penalty Cases Pending Before SCOTUS
The American Bar Association has compiled its annual year in review for capital punishment in this country. The ABA Death Penalty Representation Project’s 2019 Year in Review can be reviewed here, where topics include brief discussions of these four pending cases and their import, in “SCOTUS Fall 2019: Pending Cases.”
SCOTUS Blog: Additional Coverage
The public service SCOTUSBlog has even more discussion on these four matters, including expert analysis of each case provided by a variety of legal experts: