Death penalty cases are political theater in which lefty lawyers and judges pull out all the stops to protect a murderer who has been sitting on death row for a generation. If the killer is being executed through an old method, lawyers will claim he’s mentally retarded. If he’s being executed through a new method, they’ll claim it’s untested and will cause suffering.
The United States Supreme Court ruled Thursday evening that the execution of 57-year-old Alan Miller can proceed.
Earlier this week, a U.S. judge blocked the state from executing Miller by any method other than nitrogen hypoxia. This decision came after Miller claimed the state lost paperwork requesting an alternative to lethal injection.
The state of Alabama appealed that order. The case was sent to the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday for a decision.
The state is prepared to go forward with the execution, if it can be performed before the death warrant expires at midnight.
Miller testified that he had turned in paperwork four years ago selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method, putting it in a slot in his cell door at the Holman Correctional Facility for a prison worker to collect.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state from killing Miller by any means other than nitrogen hypoxia, after finding it was “substantially likely” that Miller “submitted a timely election form even though the State says that it does not have any physical record of a form.”
Yes, death penalty cases are now an extended Marx Brothers routine.
Prosecutors said Miller, a delivery truck driver, killed co-workers Lee Holdbrooks and Scott Yancy at a business in suburban Birmingham and then drove off to shoot former supervisor Terry Jarvis at a business where Miller had previously worked. Each man was shot multiple times and Miller was captured after a highway chase.
The case wound up in the Supreme Court at short notice. And once again some lines were crossed. Previously Kavanaugh had defected to role against Yeshiva University, a religious Jewish institution, being forced to host a gay club. (I don’t even count Roberts as defecting at this late date. Just being himself.) This time around, Barrett defected making for an all-female bench. The conservative majority however still prevailed and Miller’s execution is on track.
The all-female dissent on the death penalty is interesting. While we have a good read on Kavanaugh and Gorsuch by now, Amy Coney Barrett is still somewhat of an enigma. There was some controversy over her possible position on the death penalty, but she has voted to allow the death penalty to move forward in the past. But it does potentially signal that she’s weak on the issue. But every one of the Trump appointees has areas of weakness.
While Thomas and Alito remain stalwart, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch have already proven to be unreliable and I don’t have especially high hopes for Barrett. There’s simply no comparison between Scalia, Alito, Thomas, towering scholars, passionate, fearsome and principled, and the more recent generation of appointees who are simply more mediocre in every area. It may be a generational issue.
But obviously leftists don’t have to worry about defections by their appointees. Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson will vote in lockstep, mindlessly, devoid of any principle except party agenda. They will dissent only on very rare occasions. And that too has shifted generationally. Lefty appointees like Sotomayor, Jackson and Kagan are strikingly mediocre compared to Breyer and Ginsburg. But they’re also much less likely to dissent, have no independent principles and can be counted on to vote with the party.
Even a heavily conservative court is never really conservative. Conservative justices can and do defect all the time. Lefty justices hardly ever. Generationally, younger conservative justices are more likely to defect, while younger lefty justices are less likely to.