The basic definition of a homicide is the death of a human being due to the actions of another. By this definition, Clarence Thomas attempted homicide via the majority opinion he wrote in the Supreme Court case. Shinn vs. Ramirez May 23. I’m not saying this just because Thomas rejected the appeals of two death row inmates. Supreme Court justices deny final appeals by people on death row all the time, and while those denials have the effect of killing people, I wouldn’t call every denial a homicide. I call Thomas’ opinion a homicide because his reason for denying the appeal was so twisted and diabolical that his intent to kill was apparent through the legalese. He even added a footnote in which he harshly explained that he had discretion to save those lives, but chose not to use it.
People who follow the death penalty case law will know that the Supreme Court has engaged in something of a killing spree over the past few years. The elevation of alleged attempted rapist Brett Kavanaugh to court in 2018 gave conservatives five solid votes for refusing death row appeals, while the likes of Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch are unwilling to leave mere concerns constitutional or procedural impede the state’s ability to kill people.
But Thomas’ opinion in shinn is extreme even by the bloody standards set by his fellow conservatives. At issue in the case were the claims of two men on death row in Arizona, David Martinez Ramirez and Barry Lee Jones, that they had ineffective counsel during their trial and also during their post-sentence appeal, both before state courts. Essentially, the men argued — again on appeal, this time in federal court — that their first two sets of attorneys were bad and that their third set should be able to provide new evidence as part of the trial. competent defence.
Both men have good arguments. Ramirez was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and daughter, but his first lawyers never cited intellectual disability as a mitigating factor for his crimes – one that could have spared him a death sentence. Jones was convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter while she was in his custody, but his original lawyers never investigated the timeline of events. When her current lawyers finally investigated, they showed that the injuries that led to the child’s death were not sustained while she was in his care. Jones is likely innocent of the crime for which he is to be executed.
During oral argument, the State of Arizona repeatedly asserted that “innocence is not enough” to throw out Jones’ conviction and grant him a new trial, and the Supreme Court agreed. In his majority decision, Thomas argued that since Ramirez and Jones did not raise the issue of ineffective counsel in their initial appeal of their convictions in state court, they could not speak further about it. later, in federal court. He also ruled that federal courts could not reopen evidentiary hearings due to inadequate prior counsel. Of course, the reason the men didn’t bring up the ineffectiveness of their trial attorneys is that their appellate attorneys were also ineffective. But Thomas gives them no way out of this death spiral. According to Thomas, if your trial lawyer is bad and your appellate lawyer is bad, you can be put to death even if you are innocent. A federal court isn’t even allowed to consider new evidence of innocence if it comes to light after your first two attorneys failed to uncover it.
While keeping both men in this procedural death loop, Thomas touts his power to let prosecutors who want to kill them off the hook for their mistakes. Ramirez’s team argued that Arizona State lost the right to object to its new evidence because it didn’t when the team first presented it. in federal court. Thomas dismisses this argument in a chilling footnote: “Furthermore, because we have the discretion to pardon any forfeiture…we choose to pardon state forfeiture in district court.” And this happens in the same case where he holds against him the errors of the appeal lawyers of Ramirez, under penalty of death. Thomas flaunts his power to decide who lives and who dies, and decided that Ramirez and Jones should die.
Thomas seems to think these people deserve it. He places considerable emphasis in his view on grim descriptions of the crimes of which the men were convicted. It’s an unhealthy and unnecessary detour into murderous pornography, in which Thomas shows himself less concerned with the laws involved than with portraying these men as monsters, unworthy of the court’s pity. Again, while Ramirez does not deny that he committed a crime (and instead argues that his ability to tell right from wrong is diminished), Jones disputes – and has evidence disputing – the details recounted by Thomas. Not only does Thomas sentence a potentially innocent man to death; he daubs it on his way to the tomb.
In dissent, Sonia Sotomayor assaults Thomas for all of this. She says her opinion is “perverse” and “illogical” and “makes no sense”. She points out that Thomas and the majority are essentially reversing two Supreme Court precedents in their rush to authorize even more state killings. She calls out Thomas’ sick game of rehashing the crimes of which the men have been convicted, writing: ‘The majority exposes the horrific nature of the murders of which the respondents have been charged. Our Constitution, however, insists that no matter how serious the crime, any conviction must be obtained with due respect for all constitutional protections. In what is shaping up to be a career of biting divisiveness, this is one of Sotomayor’s best.
But nothing stops this Supreme Court. The Tories act like sharks that have caught the scent of blood in the water: they only violently scold anyone unfortunate enough to come within range of their murderous mouths.
Four federal judges, from the district court and the court of appeals, ruled that Barry Jones received ineffective counsel that led to a wrongful conviction. No one was asking Thomas to save this man; the system had already done that. But Thomas and the Tories will not allow the system to work. They don’t enforce the law; they kill this man. Deliberately.