Supreme Court Declines to Hear Soldier’s Death Row Case

Death Row Case Denied By Supreme Court

In July of 2018, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will not hear the case of a former soldier who has received a death sentence. After the Supreme Court denied the man’s petition, the man has been left with few options to have his death sentence overturned. Appeals in the man’s case have gained significant urgency since a federal judge removed a stay of execution in 2016, which makes it easier for the man to be executed.

Previous Appellate Efforts by the Defendant

Since his conviction, the man has filed numerous appeals including ones arguing that his appellate lawyers were ineffective, that his sentence was due to racial discrimination, and that military authorities failed to reveal evidence about the man’s competency.

Other courts that have denied appeals in the case include the United States District Court in Kansas, the 10th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

How the Murder Convictions Arose

The defendant was an Army specialist who was charged with several rapes and murders, which occurred in 1986 and 1987. After two trials, the man was convicted and sentenced to death.

The man’s petition to the United States Supreme Court sought to answer several questions related to a series of murders and rapes that occurred in the 1980s. Among these questions was whether civilian or military courts were the proper venue in which to hear the case.

The Basis for the Supreme Court’s Denial

In denying the man’s appeal, the Supreme Court did not list its reasons. The Supreme Court, however, did also decline to review the case in 2001.

Because the Supreme Court has such a full load of cases, however, it is wrong to assume that by denying a case, the Supreme Court disagrees with a lower court’s opinion. Instead, given its ability to hear a small number of cases, the Supreme Court must pick the cases that it deems most necessary to be heard.

If the man is executed, his death would represent the first death sentence committed by the United States military since 1961.

The Basis for a Criminal Appeal

There are four common grounds for federal criminal appeals – plain error, evidence that does not support the verdict, the court’s abuse of discretion in making a ruling, and ineffective assistance of counsel. In this case, the defendant is initiating an argument based on several arguments including ineffective assistance of counsel and plain error.

Ineffective assistance of counsel relies on the argument that the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to adequate legal representation has not been met. Claims based on plain error affect a defendant’s substantial rights even though the defendant did not raise these errors before the trial court.

Contact a Federal Criminal Appeal Lawyer

If you or a loved one needs assistance in creating a federal criminal appeal or navigating the appeal process, it is often a wise idea to contact an experienced attorney. Speak with legal counsel at the Federal Criminal Law Center today to make sure that your case resolves in the best possible manner.