The U.S. Supreme Court opened its October 2021 Term today, the First Monday in October. As usual, it released an orders list from last week’s conference containing many denials of certiorari, a number of “vacate and remand” orders for lower courts to reconsider judgments based on decisions from last term, a few individual opinions regarding denial of certiorari, and no grants for full briefing and argument. The latter were in the short list issued last Thursday.
Among the notable denials is Deck v. Blair, No. 20-8333, denying review of the Eighth Circuit’s reinstatement of the death sentence of Carman Deck for the 1996 murder of an elderly couple, James and Zelma Long. Deck had to be sentenced to death three times in this case because of erroneous decisions by the Supreme Court itself, one in Deck’s own initial case and another that caused his second sentence to be overturned in state court. CJLF filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Long family in the Eighth Circuit. The State of Missouri may now proceed with long-overdue justice, absent any extraordinary interventions by the courts.
Speaking of long-overdue justice, Justice Breyer made a “statement … respecting the denial of certiorari” in Buntion v. Lumpkin, No. 20-8043, a capital case from a 1991 murder. Once again, Justice Breyer reiterates his position that the long delays from sentence to execution violate the murderer’s rights, rather than society’s or the surviving victims’, and he once again writes not one blasted word about the Supreme Court’s own complicity in causing this deplorable situation. See, e.g., my 2019 OSJCL article, Tinkering with the Machinery of Death: Lessons from a Failure in Judicial Activism.
Also in the Opinions Relating to Orders section, Justice Sotomayor weighs in with individual opinions on three crime-related cases, one on the Armed Career Criminal Act, one on procedural default in habeas corpus, and one on qualified immunity for police officers in use of force cases.