New Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has issued her first Supreme Court opinion, a short dissent Monday in support of a death row inmate from Ohio.
Jackson wrote that she would have thrown out lower court rulings in the case of inmate Davel Chinn, whose lawyers argued that the state suppressed evidence that might have altered the outcome of his trial.
Jackson, in a two-page opinion, wrote that she would have ordered a new look at Chinn’s case “because his life is on the line and given the substantial likelihood that the suppressed records would have changed the outcome at trial.”
The evidence at issue indicated that a key witness against Chinn has an intellectual disability that might have affected his memory and ability to testify accurately, she wrote.
Prosecutors are required to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense. In this case, lower courts determined that the outcome would not have been affected if the witness’ records had been provided to Chinn’s lawyers.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only other member of the court to join Jackson’s opinion. The two justices also were allies in dissent Monday in Sotomayor’s opinion that there was serious prosecutorial misconduct in the trial of a Louisiana man who was convicted of sex trafficking.
Jackson joined the high court on June 30, following the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, her onetime boss.
The court has yet to decide any of the cases argued in October or the first few days of this month. Jackson almost certainly will be writing a majority opinion in one of those cases.
Just three years ago, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, stood side by side, promising to push together for gun control proposals after a gunman killed nine people and wounded more than two dozen in the city’s nightclub district. It was a short-lived pledge.
Allies then, DeWine and Whaley are now facing each other in a partisan governor’s race defined by events that neither could have predicted at the time: the coronavirus pandemic and a U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
They no longer see eye-to-eye on guns either. Their gun control proposals never came about, and since the Dayton mass shooting DeWine signed legislation loosening gun restrictions — including a so-called stand your ground bill eliminating the duty to retreat before using force and another making concealed weapons permits optional for those legally allowed to carry a weapon.
“The politics got hard and Mike DeWine folded,” Whaley said this year.
Both candidates survived contested primaries to face each other in November. DeWine overcame two far-right opponents who criticized him for his aggressive decisions early in the pandemic, including a business shut-down order and a statewide mask mandate. Despite more than four decades in Ohio politics, DeWine failed to secure 50% of the primary vote.
Whaley easily defeated former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and is now trying to regain a seat last won by Democrats 16 years ago.
Since the primary, Whaley has hammered DeWine for signing those gun bills and for his anti-abortion positions, including his 2019 signing into law of Ohio’s anti-abortion “ fetal heartbeat bills.”
But despite criticism that DeWine took from members of his own party over his approach to the coronavirus and Democratic furor over the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, most polls show DeWine comfortably ahead. Ultimately, that still comes down to DeWine’s long years in Ohio politics, said Tom Sutton, a political science professor at Baldwin-Wallace University.
Sutton noted that a September Marist poll found that 42% of adults statewide had either never heard of Whaley — who also ran briefly for governor in 2018 — or didn’t know how to rate her. Meanwhile, DeWine has previously won statewide races for lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, attorney general and governor.
A federal judge told Alabama to stop being vague and give a firm answer by Thursday evening on if the prison system is ready to use the untested execution method of nitrogen hypoxia at an execution next week.
U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. gave the state the deadline to file an affidavit, or declaration, on whether the state could try to execute inmate Alan Miller by nitrogen hypoxia on Sept. 22 if the use of lethal injection is blocked. The order came after the state dangled the possibility during a Monday court hearing of being ready to become the first state to attempt an execution with nitrogen hypoxia.
Nitrogen hypoxia is a proposed execution method in which death would be caused by forcing the inmate to breathe only nitrogen, thereby depriving him or her of the oxygen needed to maintain bodily functions. It’s authorized as an execution method in three states — Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi — but has never been used.
The state provided “vague and imprecise statements regarding the readiness and intent to move forward with an execution on September 22, 2022, by nitrogen hypoxia,” Huffaker said.
The judge asked the state Monday whether it was ready to use the method at Miller’s execution. A state attorney replied that it was “very likely” it could use nitrogen hypoxia next week, but said the state prison commissioner has the final decision.
“On or before September 15, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. CDT, the defendants shall file an affidavit or declaration of Commissioner John Q. Hamm, Attorney General Steve Marshall, or other appropriate official with personal knowledge, definitively setting forth whether or not the Defendants can execute the Plaintiff by nitrogen hypoxia on September 22, 2022,” the judge wrote in a Tuesday order.
Miller is seeking to block his scheduled execution by lethal injection, claiming prison staff lost paperwork he returned in 2018 choosing nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method.
Miller testified Monday that he is scared of needles so he signed a form selecting nitrogen hypoxia as his execution method. He said he left the form in his cell door tray for an prison officer to pick up. The state said there is no evidence to corroborate his claim.
A sweeping abortion bill designed to protect access to the procedure in Massachusetts at a time when many other states are restricting or outlawing abortions was signed into law Friday by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.
The new law attempts in part to build a firewall around abortion services in the state after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned Roe v. Wade last month.
The law protects abortion providers and people seeking abortions from actions taken by other states, including blocking the governor from extraditing anyone charged in another state unless the acts for which extradition is sought would be punishable by Massachusetts law.
The bill also states that access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care services is a right protected by the Massachusetts Constitution; requires the state’s Medicaid program, known as MassHealth, to cover abortions; allows over-the-counter emergency contraception to be sold in vending machines; and requires public colleges and universities to create medication abortion readiness plans for students.
A unique Texas law banning most abortions after about six weeks is enforceable through lawsuits filed by private citizens against doctors or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion.