Thursday, June 02, 2016

Alcala to SCOTUS: Overturn these two bad CCA decisions

On her Twitter feed, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala notes that she wrote dissenting opinions in two of the six petitions being considered in conference at SCOTUS today - Moore v. Texas and Buck v. Stephens - wondering aloud whether the high court would take these cases and potentially vindicate her views.

Here's her dissent in Moore, in which  she focused on the first of the two questions to be considered by the Supreme Court: "Whether it violates the Eighth Amendment and this Court’s decisions in Hall v. Florida and Atkins v. Virginia to prohibit the use of current medical standards on intellectual disability, and require the use of outdated medical standards, in determining whether an individual may be executed"? Alcala was the lone judge to answer "yes" to that question.

The Duane Buck case has received more attention (my neighbor Jordan Smith logged an good article at The Intercept about it) because of the culture war angle: E.g., the New Yorker called the use of disputed racist testimony by Dr. Walter Quijano at the death-penalty trial's sentencing phase "indefensible." Six Court of Criminal Appeals members defended it, though, based on what amounts to a technicality: Other capital cases in which Quijano testified about "future dangerousness" were all thrown out. But in this case, the racist testimony was solicited by defense counsel, not a prosecutor.  Only Judges Price and Johnson joined Alcala's dissent in that one. (See also the brief from William Stephens, director of the Institutional Division at TDCJ, as Respondent in the case, supporting the state's position and Buck's sentence.)

It's unusual to see a judge openly wishing for her colleagues to get reversed. But relationships on the CCA are frayed and tattered from bitter disputes and Judge Alcala is clearly fed up. Here's hoping SCOTUS does her a solid, she's dead right in both these cases.

MORE: Results from the conference are expected to be announced at 9:30 a.m. eastern time Monday morning.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Well, you got your wish, since Buck was granted by the Supreme Court. But I'm not sure I'd describe the whole thing in the CCA as a "technicality." Judge Alcala's view on the case is interesting, but (as even she admits) granting relief to Buck would require wholesale overruling of precedent in Texas. The simple fact is that this was Buck's third writ of habeas corpus in the state system, and he was unable to show why this Quijano claim couldn't have been brought in the first writ. Alcala's view (like Buck's) was that his first habeas lawyer was essentially ineffective. But that's not even a "thing" in Texas law. So, basically (she says), change the law.

I won't even rant about the Supreme Court's refusal to apply the contemporaneous objection rule (which they ignored in order to reverse those other Quijano cases).