Nationally, the biggest criminal law story of the week was the decision by a federal judge in California declaring the state’s death penalty unconstitutional. The case is Jones v. Chappell, and the essence of the Eighth Amendment argument is this:
Since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes. Of them, only 13 have been executed. For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death. As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.
Because long delays are a feature of the capital punishment system in nearly every death penalty state, advocates on both sides are interested in the potential application of this argument in other jurisdictions. Commentary on the decision is available here at Sentencing Law and Policy, here at the Volokh Conspiracy, and here at Crime and Consequences.
In other news:
Kraken convicted. Greg Hardy, a defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, was convicted this week in district court of assault on a female and communicating threats. The charges arose after Hardy had an altercation with a young woman in his apartment. He received a probationary sentence but has appealed for trial de novo in superior court. The Charlotte Observer has the story here. The Panthers haven’t commented publicly about the verdict but the Cat Crave blog notes that Hardy is likely to be suspended by the NFL, and this NBC story suggests that the Panthers might even cut ties with Hardy altogether. In light of Hardy’s prodigious on-field talent, I would be surprised. In the meantime, the story is giving a bit of new meaning to Hardy’s nickname, the Kraken. A kraken is a giant sea monster that terrorizes oceangoers. Originally, I think the idea was that Hardy was terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, but recent events have given the nickname a more menacing tone.
Friends at the Supreme Court. On a lighter note, the Wall Street Journal recently ran this article, observing that Chief Justice Roberts often refers to lawyers on opposite sides of a case as “friends.” For example, he might tell an attorney, “your friend [i.e., opposing counsel] says that your argument is incompatible with the legislative history.” Lawyers have jumped on the bandwagon, adopting locutions like “my friend’s position disregards the Jones case” or “my friend just conceded that section three is redundant.” But we can’t all be friends. Former Solicitor General Ted Olson says that all the bonhomie is “artificial” and he prefers to skip it.
Krispy Kreme [recently] celebrated its 77th birthday. The popular doughnut chain opened its doors on July 13, 1937, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. And what goes better with doughnuts than coffee? Cops. This week, On Remand looks back at Krispy Kreme’s history and a half-dozen cases involving doughnuts and cops, including the strange tale of a man who held a Krispy Kreme truck for ransom.