Sixth Circuit Denies Death Row Appeal; Points Inmate Towards Clemency

Sixth Circuit Says

Charles Krebs

Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals made a plea to the Governor to consider clemency for a death row inmate after denying his arguments for relief through the courts.

The unique aspect of this decision is the plea to the Governor that the court makes at the end of the opinion. The court systematically, in its analysis, denied relief to Gregory Esparza but in closing the court stated that “[t]oday’s decision is not necessarily the end of the road for Esparza. Among other things, he has the right to file a clemency application with the governor to reduce his sentence from death to life in prison. In light of the many uninvited difficulties in his childhood, this application may be worth a serious look.” [...]


How many judges are there on the Sixth Circuit bench?

Sixth Circuit Says

Charles Krebs

Today’s blog answers one deceivingly simple question: How many judges are there on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals?

The answer, equally simple and yet equally deceiving, is 23.

Why is that deceiving? Because technically there are only 16 spots on the court. The Sixth Circuit started with just two judgeships in 1891. Two increased to six over the next 50 years (by 1940). The number of judgeships held at six for 25 years but shot to 16 between 1966 and 1990. Sixteen is where it stands today. Fifteen of those 16 spots are currently filled. [...]


Equal Protection of Grocery Stores in the Sale of Alcoholic Beverages

Thomas E. Rutledge and Stacy C. Kula

ID-10012320The United States alcoholic beverage industry is unique as it is the only industry for which two amendments to the Federal Constitution have been passed. The first of those amendments, the ill-fated Eighteenth, enacted nationwide Prohibition. After the complete failure of that “Noble Experiment,” the Twenty-First Amendment was enacted, ending Prohibition and vesting in the various states the power to regulate the manufacture, purchase and sale of alcoholic beverages. [...]


Getting Jurors to Awesome

Cortney E. Lollar

ID-100212729A 2011 American Bar Association report on the death penalty in Kentucky revealed that a shocking two-thirds of the 78 people sentenced to death in Kentucky since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 have had their sentences overturned on appeal. Kentucky’s reversal rate is more than twice the national average, with a 31% reversal rate in capital cases and almost four times the 17% national reversal rate in all other case types. With a sentence as irreversible as death, troubling does not begin to describe the depth of concern many experience when viewing such a startling statistic. [...]


Who’s Quashing Who?: The Battle Between Scholars and Subpoenas

Julie Rosing

Last year the First Circuit’s decision in United States v. Moloney, requiring two scholars from ID-10048215Boston College to forcibly disclose their confidential research, shocked the academic world. This high-profile subpoena case brought the idea of a “scholar’s privilege” to the forefront of the legal arena once again. The outcome of the case—the forcible disclosure and the denial of the scholar’s motion to quash – was not, by itself, all that surprising. But the vague, general lack of analysis on which the First Circuit denied the assertion of a “scholar’s privilege” was indeed both shocking and inappropriate. [...]


“Friending” the NLRB: Applying Traditional Labor Rules to Social Media Cases

Lauren Weiner

FacebookDawnmarie Souza, an employee of American Medical Response of Connecticut, was terminated for referring to someone as a “17” in a Facebook status. While this may seem outlandish, the “someone” Souza was referring to was her boss and the “17” was company jargon for a mental patient. The status, wherein Souza also called her boss a “scumbag,” prompted numerous responses from other employees of the company who also shared their comments regarding the supervisor. Souza was suspended and subsequently terminated for her Facebook posts because they violated the Employer’s blogging and Internet policy. The Acting General Counsel (“AGC”) for the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), in turn, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Employer, finding that the discharge of the employee for the Facebook post was unlawful because it violated the employee’s right to engage in “concerted activity” under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). While the case was settled before it could be heard by the Board, it is only the tip of the iceberg in a slew of social media cases the Board will confront as a result of the popularity of networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. [...]


Life and Death in Kentucky: Past, Present, and Future

Roberta M. Harding

“All over the United States there is a
growing sentiment to do away with
capital punishment . . . . If their mood
is reflected in the letters they write me
daily, a large segment of the Kentucky people
want capital punishment abolished, too.”
-Former Kentucky Governor Edward
Breathitt, May 5, 1965

The first officially recorded execution in Kentucky was carried out in 1780, the year after Kentucky County became the District of Kentucky of the State of Virginia, when a man was hung for murder in Breckinridge County. The next four executions also were carried out during Kentucky’s tenure as the District of Kentucky. These condemned and their predecessor had an attribute in common that is extremely germane to how the death penalty has been administered in Kentucky: their gender, which is male. A prodigious gender bias, which disfavors male capital offenders, is evident in Kentucky’s historic and contemporary death penalty practice. Since the first execution in 1780and the last in 2008, the Commonwealth has executed 427 people.  415 males and 12 females. The latter account for a paltry 3% of those executed by the Commonwealth, while men account for a whopping 97%! Amazingly the last time Kentucky executed a female capital offender was in the 19th century; while male capital offenders were executed for the remainder of the 19th century and in the 20th and 21st centuries.  Contemporary capital sentencing statistics aptly convey how deeply entrenched this bias is in the operation of the death penalty. Since 1972, when the United States Supreme Court handed down its seminal decision in Furman v. Georgia, the Commonwealth has sentenced eighty-two people to death, 96% were male and 4% were female. Incredibly, these percentages are almost identical to those based on more than two centuries of execution data.  The existence of this bias, however, is not unique to Kentucky; nor has it gone unacknowledged. [...]

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