Today, they filed an appeal with the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court, to try and stop the execution of John Richard Marek. With the Florida Supreme Court ruling that it will not hear anything further in this case, Marek is left with only the U.S. Supreme Court and the Governor of Florida between him and an otherwise certain execution. (Read docket notice of Marek’s Motion to Stay Execution here — Justice Thomas is assigned to this request. )
What arguments can Marek possibly make to the U.S. Supreme Court now — over 25 years after the crime occurred for which he was convicted, and within two weeks of his scheduled execution? Lots of people don’t understand the importance of the appellate process in death penalty matters, but Marek’s case gives us some idea of how vital appeals can be. When the government is about to kill one of its own citizens, then the courts must insure that the government is not violating any legal rights in doing so.
And it appears that Marek has some valid legal arguments to make, such as:
Evidence that Marek Was Not the Killer
It is not contested at this point that Marek was present at the scene where Adella Simmons was murdered one night on Dania Beach, back in 1983. However, there is evidence that Marek did not kill the woman that he and his buddy, Ray Wigley, picked up on the Turnpike where her car had broken down.
The evidence comes from Wigley himself. Seems he admitted to killing the woman to several folk while he was incarcerated. Those inmates have come forward with testimony that Ray Wigley — who was not sentenced to death, as Marek was — told people on several occasions that he murdered Ms. Simmons, not his pal Marek. Wigley himself cannot testify. Wigley is dead.
Past Appellate Arguments Regarding Recusal of Trial Court Judge
Part of Marek’s earlier arguments have been based upon the issue of when a judge should recuse himself. (For those interested, the Reply Brief filed by Marek’s counsel before the Florida Supreme Court is online for viewing.) This is an issue recently addressed by the US Supreme Court.
In a far-reaching decision released this past March, Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co. [08-22] (5-4 opinion), the high court recognizes that due process is violated when someone is before a trial court judge has “…had a significant and disproportionate influence in placing the judge on the case by raising funds or directing the judge’s election campaign when the case was pending or imminent….” and that judge does not recuse himself (withdraw from presiding over the matter). Caperton has been criticized for not giving enough direction on when a trial judge should and should not recuse himself (as the dissents themselves discuss), therefore judicial recusal is a topic in Marek’s appeal which may be of interest to the Justices.
What is Before the US Supreme Court Right Now Regarding John Marek
First things first. Justice Thomas is overseeing the Motion to Stay Execution. Of course, halting the killing scheduled in 12 days is the first priority. Afterwards, the Petition for Writ of Certiorari and Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis will be heard. The deadline for the State of Florida to respond is September 7, 2009. As of this posting, briefing was not available for review.