Day: March 28, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court: How it works

march 26, 2012, source :

Washington (CNN) — Few Americans have any real idea how the Supreme Court operates, since cameras are barred, and the case arguments and opinions are often dry and confusing for nonlawyers.

That’s too bad because the high court’s impact on Americans is incalculable. When disputes arise, the nine justices serve as the final word for a nation built on the rule of law. They interpret the Constitution and all that it brings with it: how we conduct ourselves in society, boundaries for individuals and the government, questions literally of life and death.

As the late justice William Brennan once wrote, “The law is not an end in itself, nor does it provide ends. It is preeminently a means to serve what we think is right.” And whether right or wrong, when it came to deciding who won the 2000 presidential election, it was the court’s conclusions that ultimately ended the issue, but not the controversy.

Preview: ‘The implications … are impossible to overstate’

A similarly epic constitutional showdown is now before the court over challenges to the health care reform law promoted by congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama — and opposed by a coalition of 26 states.

Article Three of the Constitution says, “The Judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court … the judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior.”

Read a transcript of Monday’s court arguments on health care

Here’s a look at the history of the court, how it works and how you, the citizen, can interact with it:

Court goes back the late 1700s

The Supreme Court first met in 1790, as the ultimate part of the judicial branch of government. There are nine justices, led by the Chief Justice of the United States (that’s the official title). All justices — and all federal judges — are first nominated by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate. They serve for as long as they choose. The court has occupied its current building in Washington only since 1935. Previously, it borrowed space in Senate chambers in the Capitol Building.Explaining the health c

The Constitution’s framers envisioned the judiciary as the “weakest,” “least dangerous” branch of government. And while the court has often been accused over the years of being too timid in asserting its power, there is little doubt when the justices choose to flex their judicial muscle, the results can be far-reaching. Just look at how cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954 — integrating public schools), Roe v. Wade (1973 — legalizing abortion) and even Bush v. Gore (2000) have affected the lives of Americans.

Blockbuster decisions by the high court over the years

Traditionally, each term begins the first Monday in October, and final opinions are issued usually by late June. Justices divide their time between “sittings,” where they hear cases and issue decisions, and “recesses,” where they meet in private to write their decisions and consider other business before the court.

Court arguments are open to the public in the main courtroom, and visitors have the option of watching all the arguments or only a small portion. Tradition is very important. You will notice the justices wearing black robes, and quill pins still adorn the desks, as they have for more than two centuries.

Where to sit? Seniority counts

The justices are seated by seniority, with the chief justice in the middle. The two junior justices (currently Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan) occupy the opposite ends of the bench. Before public arguments and private conferences, where decisions are discussed, the nine members all shake hands as a show of harmony of purpose. In the past, all lawyers appearing before the court wore formal “morning clothes,” but today only federal government lawyers carry on the tradition. The solicitor general is the federal government’s principal lawyer before the federal bench.

As the gavel sounds and justices are seated, the marshal shouts the traditional welcome, which reads: “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”

Frequently asked questions about the court and the case

Arguments usually begin at 10 a.m. and since most cases involve appellate review of decisions by other courts, there are no juries or witnesses, just lawyers from both sides addressing the bench. The cases usually last about an hour, and lawyers from both sides very often have their prepared oral briefs interrupted by pointed questions from a justice.

This give-and-take, question-and-answer repartee can be entertaining, and it requires lawyers to think concisely and logically on their feet. And by the tone of their questioning, it often gives insight into a justice’s thinking, a barometer of his/her decision-making.

You can listen if you like

No cameras are allowed, but the public sessions are audio recorded, and are available for listening, usually several days later. The health care arguments — for this week — will be available only shortly after each of the four separate arguments end, at the court’s website.

After the arguments, conferences are scheduled, where justices discuss and vote on the cases. In these closed-door sessions, the nine members are alone. No clerks or staff are allowed. No transcripts of their remarks are kept, and it is the role of the junior justice (Elena Kagan for the past two years) to take notes and answer any inquiries from the outside.

Justices spend much of their time reviewing the cases and writing opinions. And they must decide which cases they will actually hear in open court. When asked just before her 2006 retirement what the jurists do most of the time, Sandra Day O’Connor said bluntly, “We read. We read on average 1,500 pages a day. We read. Sometimes we write.” Added Justice Antonin Scalia: “We try to squeeze in a little time for thinking.”

Read the full article : click here

TEXAS – Jesse Joe Hernandez execution – march 28, EXECUTED 6.18 p.m

Jesse Joe Hernandez received lethal injection for the slaying of Karlos Borja (10 months old) 11 years ago.

“Tell my son I love him very much,” the 47-year-old Hernandez said before being put to death. “God bless everybody. Continue to walk with God.”

“Dile a mi hijo que  le quiero mucho”, dijo  Hernández de 47 años de edad, antes de ser condenado a muerte. “Dios bendiga a todo el mundo. Continúe caminando con Dios.”

As the drugs took effect, he repeated his appreciation for those he knew who had gathered to witness the execution. “Love y’all, man,” he said. “… Thank you. I can feel it, taste it. It’s not bad.”

He took about 10 deep breaths, which grew progressively weaker until he was no longer moving. Ten minutes later, at 6:18 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.


The U.S. Supreme Court this afternoon rejected Jesse Hernandez’s request for a stay of execution, a court spokesman said.

(Los EE.UU. Corte Suprema de Justicia rechazó esta tarde, Jesse Hernández solicitud de suspensión de la ejecución, comento un portavoz del tribunal.)
The high court ruling came about two hours before the 47-year-old Hernandez, who previously was convicted of a child sex offense, could be taken to the Texas death chamber for lethal injection. The justices’ order was brief and did not include an explanation for their decision.

The Texas attorney general’s office opposed any delay, questioning whether the high court even had jurisdiction in the case because constitutional claims weren’t raised earlier in state courts.

Thomas Jones, an assistant attorney general, said jurors who sent Hernandez to death row probably would not have approved of a trial strategy that attempted to shift blame for the child’s death to the doctors treating him.

“Such an argument smacks of chutzpah,” Jones told the Supreme Court.

The decision clears the way for Texas to put Hernandez to death by injecting him with a series of drugs, including one often used to euthanize family pets. It will be the fourth execution of the year in Texas, the 12th in the United States.

march, 28, 2012 source

HUNTSVILLE, TX — The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to block the scheduled execution of a convicted child sex offender condemned in the beating death of a 10-month-old boy he was babysitting at a home in Dallas.

Related Content

Forty-seven-year-old Jesse Joe Hernandez is set for lethal injection Wednesday evening in Huntsville for the slaying of Karlos Borjas 11 years ago.

The child was brought to a Dallas hospital in April 2001 with a skull fracture and bruises to his head, thigh and abdomen. A week later, he was taken off life support and died. Hernandez’s DNA was found in Karlos’ blood on a pillowcase and on the child’s clothing.

Hernandez denied beating the children but later acknowledged to a detective he may have hit the boy with a flashlight.

case and court old post  click here

traducion para los hispanicos

Huntsville, Texas (AP) – La Corte Suprema de EE.UU. está considerando la posibilidad de bloquear la ejecución programada de un delincuente sexual sobre menores  condenado a muerte , por golpear  un niño de 10 meses de edad, cuando estaba de  niñera en una casa en Dallas.

Cuarenta y siete años de edad, Jesse Joe Hernández está listo para la inyección letal la noche del miércoles en Huntsville por el asesinato de Karlos Borjas, hace 11 años.

El niño fue llevado a un hospital de Dallas en abril de 2001 con una fractura de cráneo y contusiones en la cabeza, el muslo y el abdomen. Una semana más tarde, se le retirara el respirador artificial y murió. El ADN de Hernández se encuentra en la sangre Karlos ‘en una funda de almohada y en la ropa del niño.

Hernández negó a golpear a los niños, pero más tarde reconoció a un detective que pudo haber golpeado al muchacho con una linterna.

No. 11-9486

Jesse Joe Hernandez v. Texas

from the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas

Docket Entries

on March 27, 2012

Reply of petitioner Jesse Joe Hernandez filed.

on March 27, 2012

Brief of respondent Texas in opposition filed.

on March 26, 2012

Application (11A904) for a stay of execution of sentence of death, submitted to Justice Scalia.

on March 26, 2012

Petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed. (Response due April 25, 2012)


Jesse Joe Hernandez, Petitioner, represented by Brad D. Levenson

Texas, Respondent, represented by Thomas M. Jones

Texas, Respondent, represented byFredericka Sargent

Last updated: March 28, 2012

from Us supreme Court :

No. 11-9486      *** CAPITAL CASE ***
Jesse Joe Hernandez, Petitioner
Docketed: March 26, 2012
Linked with 11A904
Lower Ct: Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
  Case Nos.: (WR-62,840-02)
  Decision Date: March 21, 2012
~~~Date~~~ ~~~~~~~Proceedings  and  Orders~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Mar 26 2012 Petition for a writ of certiorari and motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis filed. (Response due April 25, 2012)
Mar 26 2012 Application (11A904) for a stay of execution of sentence of death, submitted to Justice Scalia.
Mar 27 2012 Brief of respondent Texas in opposition filed.
Mar 27 2012 Reply of petitioner Jesse Joe Hernandez filed.

~~Name~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~Address~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~Phone~~~
Attorneys for Petitioner:
Brad D. Levenson Director (512) 463-8502
Office of Capital Writs
Stephen F. Austin Building
1700 N. Congress Avenue, Suite 460
Austin, TX  78711
Party name: Jesse Joe Hernandez
Attorneys for Respondent:
Thomas M. Jones Assistant Attorney General (512) 936-1400
Office of the Attorney General of Texas
Post Office Box 12548
Capitol Station
Austin, TX  78711-2548
Party name: Texas

California – Death penalty costs – Death Penalty Can’t be Fixed, Time to Replace

march, 27, 2012   source

by Donald H. Heller, former Assistant U.S. Attorney & Ron Briggs, El Dorado County Supervisor

As two staunch conservatives, we write in response to SenJoelAndersons attempt to “fix the death penalty” with Senate Bill 1514. Together, the two of us supported California’s current death penalty law and helped enact it in 1978. Today, we agree with Sen. Anderson that the system we helped create is hopelessly broken. But far from tinkering with that system, we have both concluded the solution is to replace it with life without parole by passing the SAFECaliforniaAct on this November’s ballot.

We did not come to this decision lightly, and NO, we are not soft on crime. Just the opposite. SAFE California replaces the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison with absolutely no chance of parole as the maximum punishment for murder. This means convicted killers will remain behind bars forever – but without the exorbitant price tag, terrible toll on the family members of victims, or the risk of executing an innocent person. At over 720 inmates and with a $4 billion price tag, our state runs the nation’s costliest and most populous death row. Nonetheless California has carried out just 13 executions since 1978.

We were intimately involved in writing and promoting our current death penalty law in 1978. We believe that public safety is one of the primary purposes of a government predicated on the rule of law. Justice should be swift and certain. The structure that we helped create is legally sound, having withstood multiple appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. But, fiscallyspeaking, it has been disastrous. We never contemplated the staggering cost of implementing the death penalty: more than $4 billion to date and approximately $185 million projected per year in ongoing costs.

Source: ExecutingtheWilloftheVoters?” by Judge Arthur Alarcon and Paula Mitchell, 2011

We thought we would bring California savings and safety in dealing with convicted murderers. Instead, we contributed to a nightmarish system that coddles murderers and enriches lawyers. Like Senator Anderson, our effort was intended to bring about greater justice for murder victims. Never did we envision a multi-billion dollar industry that packs murderers onto death row for decades of extremely expensive incarceration. We thought we would empty death row, not triple its population.

Having 34 years of firsthand experiences in this matter we feel the bill proposed by Sen. Anderson will not fix these problems. First and foremost, shortcutting the appeals process means risking innocent lives. Appeals are the safety net that keeps us from executing innocent people. States that shortchange the justice process have executed innocent people, like CameronToddWillingham in Texas.

Beyond the risk of executing the innocent, SB 1514 would simply move appeals from one court to another. That doesn’t alleviate the delay or the expense, it will just move it to a different courthouse.

It won’t eliminate the $1 million each county pays per death penalty trial, or the extra housing costs on death row over the general population – on average $100,000 per inmate per year – and it won’t change the fact that 99% of death row inmates in California die of old age rather than execution. History tells us any change to the death penalty has only added life to criminals, enhanced lawyers paychecks costing taxpayers more and more while appellate dates or new trials continue to torture victims’ families and survivors.

We believe that life without parole protects victims’ families and survivors at a greater savings to taxpayers. California’s best path for safety and savings is life without the possibility of parole.

Please join us in supporting theSAFECaliforniaAct with a “YES” this November. California has another chance at real justice. We should embrace it.

Amnesty International publishes its annual review of death sentences and executions

Amnesty International publishes its annual review of death sentences and executions worldwide, let’s begin with the good news: the death penalty is on the retreat.

Last year, only 20 out of 198 countries carried out executions ― a figure down by more than a third from a decade ago. And 90 percent of U.N. member states were execution-free, while 140 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

march 27, 2012 source :

Each execution is one too many

By Salil Shetty

Working for an organization whose job is to stand up for justice and freedom, and to expose abuses and injustices, I am often forced to highlight problems rather than progress.

So, as Amnesty International publishes its annual review of death sentences and executions worldwide, let’s begin with the good news: the death penalty is on the retreat.

Last year, only 20 out of 198 countries carried out executions ― a figure down by more than a third from a decade ago. And 90 percent of U.N. member states were execution-free, while 140 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

It is worth pausing to consider these figures. When Amnesty International began its global campaign against the death penalty 35 years ago ― opposing it in all cases, regardless of the crime, offender, or method of execution ― the world’s 16 abolitionist countries were then the minority. Today, the poles are reversed and instead those states clinging to capital punishment are the exception.

In 2011, execution-free areas included all of Europe and the former Soviet Union, except Belarus; and all of the Americas, except the U.S. The Pacific region was death penalty free apart from five new sentences in Papua New Guinea.

This sea-change is testament to human rights campaigners with the courage to stand up to repression; to politicians and decision-makers with the courage to go against the political or popular grain; and to lawyers, journalists and academics with the courage to expose the truth.

They have shown that not only is the death penalty wrong ― a violation of the right to life ― but that once examined in any detail, the case for state-sanctioned murder collapses.

Does it deter violent crime? There is no convincing evidence for this. Countries that have abolished the death penalty often have lower murder rates than those that have not. State sanctioned killing endorses the use of force and can fuel cycles of violence and retribution.

What about popular support for executions? Such support is usually a mile wide and an inch deep. Once expedient reactions or a calculated desire by leaders and commentators to be “tough” on crime is replaced by considered discussion, and once alternative options are suggested, public support for execution recedes.

Don’t victims of crime deserve justice and closure? Yes, people who have suffered awful crimes deserve justice, but justice cannot be rooted in revenge. Murder is wrong, whether perpetrated by a person or by the state.

Some may find closure, but this is not self-evident ― sometimes victims of violent crimes oppose their attackers’ execution. In the U.S., Bangladeshi immigrant Rais Bhuiyan campaigned unsuccessfully for clemency for Mark Stroman, who had shot him during a series of violent crimes committed in reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Rais said: “My religion teaches that forgiveness is always better than vengeance.”

And of course there is no appeal from the grave. The U.S. state of Illinois abandoned the death penalty in 2011 following several wrongful convictions.

No wonder some argue that the true test of support for the death penalty isn’t a willingness to execute, but a willingness to accept the possibility of killing the innocent.

Others justify capital punishment for regional, religious or cultural reasons. But the abolitionist majority includes states from all major world regions, religions and cultures.

Yet a few states persist with capital punishment, and here we must address the bad news. A small group of isolated countries executed at an alarming rate last year. Whether by beheading, hanging, lethal injection or shooting, globally at least 676 people were executed and at least 18,750 people remained under sentence of death at the year’s end.

These figures exclude thousands of executions believed to have taken place in China, the world’s leading executioner. We no longer publish figures we collect from public sources on this country, as these are likely to grossly underestimate the true number. So far China has not accepted our challenge to publish the real figures, in order to confirm their claims that there has been a significant reduction in the use of the death penalty in the country over the last four years.

Neither do our figures include credible reports of large numbers of additional executions in Iran, which are not officially acknowledged. These would almost double the official tally there.

China and Iran were joined in their willingness to execute by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and ― alone in the Americas and in the G8 group of leading economies ― the U.S. Along with North Korea, Somalia and Yemen, these states are consistently among the highest executioners every year.

Regionally, the Middle East saw a sharp rise in recorded executions, up almost 50 percent on 2010. Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen accounted for 99 percent of these cases.

We should also note that in most countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, it was after unfair legal proceedings. And in Belarus, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Saudi Arabia death sentences sometimes followed “confessions” extracted through duress or even torture. As so often throughout history, capital punishment was used by repressive states to remove the troublesome or unwanted.

So there is no room for complacency. Each execution is one too many. But 2011 reinforced the overall trend firmly toward abolition, and it is clear that this cruel and irrevocable punishment, which makes victims of us all, is heading inevitably toward the history books.

Salil Shetty is secretary general of Amnesty International.

Amid tragedy, activists promote ‘Better Days Ahead’

march, 26, 2012  source :

Last year, the execution of Troy Davis execution sparked outrage around the world. Davis, who was wrongfully convicted of killing a police officer in 1989, became a symbol of worldwide artistic and political movements against racial injustice and wrongful convictions.

At the Wicker Park Arts Center Friday, Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Collective (OCRAC) hosted a tribute event called “Better DaysAhead.” The event was to pay remembrance to Davis and his sister, Martina Correia. Correia, who passed six months after Davis, was an advocate on Davis’ behalf and fought against the death penalty.

“We’ve learned quite a bit of how the legal system fails in the last few decades,” said Paul Cates, Innocence Project communications director. He explained that 25 percent of wrongfully convicted cases are due to misidentification. False confessions account for another 25 percent and 50 percent is attributed to invalidated forensic science. In Davis’ case, there was no DNA evidence, according to Cates.

OCRAC, a project of Occupy Chicago’s Arts & Recreation, hosts events like the Davis tribute to connect local artists and to highlight the human effect of unchanging laws and wrongful convictions.

“OCRAC exists for the purpose of connecting with artists of all stripes…and mobilizing the power of art in the name of a more just and equal world,” according to the OCRAC website.

Artists and attendees reflected on the tragedies and celebrated Davis’ and Correia’s lives at the “Better Days Ahead” event. Speakers from various local anti-racism organizations like Amnesty International, Occupy 4 Prisoners, and Campaign to End the Death Penalty attended the tribute.

FM Supreme, ‘Two-time Louder than A Bomb’ city-wide high school poetry competition winners, performed at the event. The group wrote a song last year, dedicated to Davis and Correia.

“FM Supreme in particular was active in trying to save Troy,” Alex Billet said, an OCRAC artist and Rebel Frequencies founder, a journalism website focused on political activism through music. “Word is that Supreme had the chance to perform the song for her (Correia) before she passed away.”

An additional memorial was held for Trayvon Martin, in which a local artist set up a framed photo of Martin along with candles, and placed iced tea and Skittles, which Martin was carrying in his pockets at the time of the shooting.

Billet felt the impromptu memorial was important.

“Troy Davis and Trayvon Martin are both victims of the same sick, violent and virulently racist system,” Billet said in an email statement.

Ed Yohnka, director of communications and public policy at ACLU Illinois, believes tributes like “Better Days Ahead” help to spread awareness about injustices in the legal system and inspire people to right those injustices in various ways.

“I think stories like Davis’ have a powerful impact on how people relate to policy issues, and how it could affect them,” said Yohnka. “For example, President Obama’s statement in regards to relating to Trayvon Martin as a son. Comments like that connect people to issues. It’s very, very powerful.”

OCRAC hosts several events a month to promote activism through art. The next

OCRAC-sponsored event is Chicago Spring, at the Chicago Board of Trade on April 7 at noon.


Freed death row inmate will speak at Penn State Beaver

march, 26, 2012 source :


the public is invited to attend a free presentation by Juan Melendez at 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 28 in the auditorium of the Penn State Beaver Student Union Building.

Melendez was imprisoned on death row in Florida for almost 18 years until his conviction was overturned and he was released in 2002. Upon his release, Melendez became the United States’ 99th death row inmate to be exonerated and released since 1973. 

In his presentation, Melendez will discuss his story of injustice and wrongful imprisonment on death row as one of many problems pervasive throughout the nation’s legal system and will describe the high rate of wrongful convictions based on poverty, race, and ethnicity.

Melendez will also share how he survived his experiences while imprisoned and how he maintained his spirit while he and others worked to free him.

Since his release, he has spoken here and abroad about the crisis of wrongful imprisonment, especially on death row, and his story has been reported in French, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic.

The administration of justice program and the Beaver campus Student Activity Fee are sponsoring the presentation as part of the Unique Perspectives for Selecting Your Career Path Speaker Series.

For information, contact Larissa Ciuca, student personal and career counselor, at or 724-773-3961 or LaVarr McBride, instructor in administration of justice at Beaver, Penn State New Kensington, and Penn State Shenango, or 724-773-3866.