Case Summary — State v. Richardson, No. 272A14 (N.C. Sept. 1, 2023).

Presented with an appalling set of facts, the North Carolina Supreme Court unanimously upheld the defendant’s convictions for murder, kidnapping, sex offense, and felony child abuse.  The majority affirmed a sentence of death.  Justice Berger’s concurring opinion, addressing only a Miranda issue, was joined by four other justices, making it “the supplemental opinion of the Court.”  Justice Earls dissented with regard to capital punishment, concluding the defendant was entitled to a new sentencing hearing.  This post summarizes the 225-page opinion in Richardson.

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United States Supreme Court Rejects Another Challenge to Another Method of Lethal Injection But Leaves the Door Open to Future Litigation

The Supreme Court decided Bucklew v. Precythe today, rejecting a death row inmate’s challenge to Missouri’s single-drug execution protocol. Challenges to lethal injection are now 0-for-3 in the Supreme Court, but the Court did not foreclose future litigation. To the contrary, it left the door open to further challenges, and so did nothing to break up the litigation logjam that has resulted in a de facto moratorium on executions in North Carolina.

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Capital Punishment Update

Later this week, a group of superior court judges will gather at the School of Government to participate in a course on handling capital cases. In preparation for my role as a facilitator of the course, I have been reading up on death penalty news. Both in North Carolina and nationally, data show clear trends toward fewer capital cases, fewer death sentences, and fewer executions. This post briefly explores those developments and considers whether they are likely to continue.

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The Death Penalty, Intellectual Disability, and Warrick Dunn

The United States Supreme Court just decided a capital case about intellectual disability, formerly known as mental retardation. In some ways, it’s an “error correction” case that doesn’t break new doctrinal ground. But it stands out for two reasons. First, it may be indicative of the current Court’s attitude towards the death penalty. And second, Justice Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion focused in large part on former professional football player Warrick Dunn.

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RJA Oral Argument

The state supreme court heard oral argument yesterday in two cases concerning the Racial Justice Act. In the first case, Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks struck down the death sentence imposed on Marcus Robinson under the RJA as enacted in 2009. In the second, Judge Weeks vacated the death sentences imposed on Quintel Augustine, Christina … Read more