Tuesday, September 09, 2008

When Appellate Judges Attack

Dissenting judicial opinions are occasionally caustic, snarky, and downright testy (see any of the fine examples by Scalia, for instance, but few are this blunt (via Volokh). The case, from the Sixth Circuit, involved the federal court review of a state burglary conviction. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (a wonderful legacy of the Clinton years), federal courts in such situations have to pay so much deference to what occurred in the state court that the review is largely toothless.

In this case, two of the three judges, applying that very deferential standard, found in the state's favor. Judge Keith, verily, did not:

The majority's opinion flagrantly violates the Fourteenth Amendment. I therefore vehemently DISSENT. It is “[b]etter that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” 4 William Blackstone, Commentaries at 358. This powerful and wise axiom reveals that a court commits the ultimate injustice by convicting and imprisoning a person based on insufficient evidence. Such a judicial transgression contravenes the most important right our Constitution affords the accused: “the Due Process Clause [of the Fourteenth Amendment] protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.” In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970); U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, § 1. Apparently neither the state trial judge nor the majority ever read or understood the Constitution, for in the instant matter, they recklessly disregarded this fundamental requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt by convicting Defendant Raymond Tucker of home invasion without any evidence sufficient to prove his guilt.
Emphasis mine.

Damn, that's going to leave a mark. Not to mention make the next judicial conference a little awkward.

No comments: