Supreme Court Refuses to Block Execution of DC Sniper

"D.C. Sniper" John Muhammad will be executed in Virginia tomorrow unless Gov. Tim Kaine intervenes. The Supreme Court today refused to block the execution.

Justices Stevens, Ginsburg and Sotomayor issued this statement (pdf), expressing frustration with Virginia for rushing the process: [More...]

This case highlights once again the perversity of executing inmates before their appeals process has been fully concluded. Under our normal practice, Muhammad’stimely petition for certiorari would have been reviewed at our Conference on November 24, 2009. Virginia has scheduled his execution for November 10, however, so we must resolve the petition on an expedited basis unless we grant a temporary stay.

By denying Muhammad’s stay application, we have allowed Virginia to truncate our deliberative process on a matter — involving a death row inmate— that demands the most careful attention. This result is particularly unfortunate in light of the limited time Muhammad was given to make his case in the District Court.

Gov. Kaine is unlikely to intervene. Although he has expressed his personal opposition to the death penalty, Virginia is second in the nation, behind only Texas, in the number of executions.

Mr. Kaine has promised to review Mr. Muhammad’s request but has signaled that he is not inclined to intervene. “I know of nothing in this case now that would suggest that there is any credible claim of innocence or that there was anything procedurally wrong with the prosecution,” Mr. Kaine said several weeks ago during his monthly call-in radio show.

Muhammad's lawyer says he is mentally ill, as a result of his combat experience.

6 of the 10 sniper shootings occurred in Maryland, but then Attorney General John Ashcroft chose to try Muhammad in Virginia because of the greater likelihood of a death sentence. Muhammad had two good arguments on appeal, but both were rejected by the Virginia Supreme Court. I especially liked his "triggerman" argument. More here and here.

Here is the ACLU's report, Broken Justice: The Death Penalty in Virginia.

How anxious was Virginia to kill Muhammad? After he was tried in one VA county and got the death sentence, a prosecutor in a second county wanted to also try him, as an "insurance policy" he'd get death.

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    small correction (none / 0) (#1)
    by heineken1717 on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 07:40:08 PM EST
    Jeralyn, I think you mean Justice Stevens instead of Justice Kennedy.  Thanks!

    thanks, I fixed it (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:08:00 PM EST
    Much appreciated.

    you're welcome! (none / 0) (#3)
    by heineken1717 on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 08:11:45 PM EST
    does it matter? (none / 0) (#4)
    by nyrias on Mon Nov 09, 2009 at 11:06:44 PM EST
    This guy and his apprentice killed 10 people. Is there a person on the planet who would doubt his guilt?

    It has been 7 years. It has been quite long. The legal process moves at worse than a snail's pace and i appalled that some thinks that this is not slow enough.

    Which state he is going to be executed is just a technicality. I don't think there is a chance that he won't be executed. It is just a matter of which lawyer can make it happen more efficiently.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#5)
    by Slado on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 08:07:46 AM EST
    I am no fan of the death penalty but it is the law of the land.

    Change the law.  Don't try and find any possible reason to explain away the guilt of a cold hearted murderer.

    It has always been my opinion that the anti-death penalty crowd would be better served going after the law rather then defending defenseless criminals.

    There is no defense for someone who used a sniper rifle to kill people.  He did it over several weeks.  He had plenty of time to learn of the panic and fear he was causing and yet he still did it anyway.   Save the defense.  Fight the law.    


    Justice Steven's issue is about the process (none / 0) (#6)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 08:27:04 AM EST
    not the guy's guilt or innocence.  Stevens notes he is not dissenting from the denial of cert.  He objects to states being allowed to execute prisoners before a first habeus review can be properly considered.

    Process matters, never more so than in death row cases.


    "rushing the process"??? (none / 0) (#7)
    by diogenes on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 12:38:28 PM EST
    If Ginsberg, Stevens, and Sotomayor were so convinced that they needed to review this case in greater detail then couldn't they have chosen to grant a temporary stay?  Isn't the point of granting temporary stays to prevent gross miscarriages of justice, assuming any of these three judges really thinks that such a thing is occurring here.  Or is my nonlegal mind again missing the boat here?