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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

SCOTUS rejects appeal by Alabama death row inmate convicted in pipe bombing that killed judge

US Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it won't review the case of Walter Leroy Moody Jr., the man on Alabama's death row for the 1989 pipe bombing death of federal appeals judge Robert S. Vance.

U.S. Supreme Court justices did not issue a written opinion on why it would not review Moody's case.

Moody, who at 82 is the oldest inmate on Alabama death row, was seeking to appeal an U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in March 2017. That appeal regards his decision to represent himself at his 1996 capital murder trial. After convicting him, the jury voted 11-1 to recommend a death sentence.

"We are disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision," Spencer Hahn, an assistant federal public defender who represents Moody, said in a statement to AL.com on Monday. "This non-unanimous death verdict resulted from a case in which the defendant represented himself, despite numerous requests for counsel. Our court system should be concerned about the obvious unfairness of such a situation."

Moody had asked to represent himself at his trial. But once jury selection began, he asked for a 12- to 18-month continuance so he could hire 2 lawyers. The judge refused to grant a continuance.

Last March the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed lower court rulings that stated Moody had "knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to counsel" and the denial of a continuance at his trial was not contrary to federal law as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In his direct appeal, Moody did not challenge the trial court's decision to permit him to represent himself at trial pursuant to a previous SCOTUS decision, the 11th Circuit stated in its opinion. "He did, however, argue that the trial court erred in refusing to grant him, after voir dire examination of the jurors had begun, a 12- to 18-month continuance so that he could obtain the services of two new attorneys who had expressed an interest in representing him."

According to the opinion the trial judge held 2 lengthy discussions with Moody--one on August 2, 1994, and another on May 7, 1996-- "during which it explicitly warned [Mr.] Moody of the perils of going forward without counsel," and made multiple inquiries over the course of the proceedings to determine whether Mr. Moody was "standing by his request to proceed pro se."

The trial judge noted that Moody had been a party in 63 other legal proceedings, both civil and criminal, and had represented himself for all or part of about 35 of those proceedings. The judge stated Moody was "not a novice."

The U.S. Supreme Court previously refused to deny another appeal by Moody.

Judge Vance was killed Dec. 16, 1989, and his wife, Helen, was seriously injured after the judge opened a package that had been sent to his home, detonating the pipe bomb. A similar pipe bomb killed a lawyer in Atlanta 2 days later.

Moody was linked to the crimes through a similar bomb nearly 2 decades earlier that had injured his wife when it exploded. His prosecution in that case led to his resentment of the courts leading up to the 1989 bombings.

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb murders of Vance and civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson.

Months later, an Alabama grand jury indicted Moody on 2 counts of capital murder and 1 count of assault in the 1st degree (for injuries suffered by Judge Vance's wife). Moody represented himself at his state trial, which took place in October of 1996.

The jury found him guilty and recommended a sentence of death for the murders. The trial judge followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Moody to death.

Source: al.com, January 9, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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