Arizona, Simmons, Supreme Court discussed on Bloomberg Law


Death penalty case at the Supreme Court, Arizona did end runs around Supreme Court precedent, leaving a procedural maze that blocked a death row inmate's relief at every turn, leading justice Elena Kagan to compare it to the works of Kafka. Mister canfield, that bad faith or not. I think Kafka would have loved this. Cruz loses his Simmons claims on direct appeal because the Arizona courts say point blank, Simmons has never applied in Arizona. And then he loses the next time around because the Arizona court say sim is always applied in California. I mean, tells you when, as I lose, whatever that expression is, I mean, how can you run a railroad that way? Arizona ignored Supreme Court precedent set in the Simmons case in 1994, which gave defendants the right to tell juries that their ineligible to get parole if their sentence to life in prison instead of death. And then Arizona ignored a case in 2016, the lynch case in which the Supreme Court said the state had to apply Simmons. An innate on Arizona's death row is asking for a new trial because he wasn't allowed to tell the jury that he couldn't get parole. Joining me is Jordan Rubin, Bloomberg law reporter. This appeal is not about the defendant's guilt, but about his scent and tell us a little about the case and what happened during the penalty phase. Sure. So John Cruz was convicted in Arizona state court, a first degree murder for shooting Tucson police officer Patrick Harvey in 2003, but it wasn't cruise as guilt by defendants that prompted the issue at the Supreme Court. So at the sentencing phase, Cruz wanted the jury to know that he would have been ineligible for parole if he was sentenced to life instead of death. And that actually wound up being a really important issue because we know that the jury foreman actually later said that they are looking for a reason to be lenient, but Arizona didn't allow that at the time. And that was despite an earlier U.S. Supreme Court precedent from 1994 called Simmons, which said that defendants have the right to inform juries of their parole ineligibility in that situation when their future danger is an issue. Arizona just refuses, they are not following this Supreme Court case, Simmons, and then in another case, the Supreme Court says basically you have to follow Simmons. That's right. So the Simmons case happened at the Supreme Court in 1994. Cruz was prosecuted in Arizona after that. But then there was an Arizona case that went to the Supreme Court after Cruz was sentenced called lynch against Arizona in 2016 where the U.S. Supreme Court basically told Arizona you have to apply this precedent simmonds. And so Cruz had previously raised a challenge before the lich case trying to argue that he should have been able to tell the jury about his parole and eligibility status based on Simmons, then after lynch, after the use of Supreme Court told Arizona, you have to apply our precedent, Cruz tried again, but he was rejected again in state court, and that's what prompted this U.S. Supreme Court appeal this kind of ping ponging back and forth and cruises repeated attempts and repeated rejections to try and get the benefit of this U.S. Supreme Court precedent in the sentence case. So that's why justice Elena Kagan said Kafka would have loved this case. Exactly. So the way she put it, she says, Costco would have loved this because Cruz loses his Simmons claim on direct appeal in the first instance before the lynch case. And then he tries again and the reason he loses according to the state is because no, Simmons is actually always applied. It was just that lynch told Arizona that it had to then apply the law. So it wasn't what's called a significant change in the law, according to Arizona, and that's super important for this case because it all comes down to this state procedural rule, which says that on post conviction, like what Cruz was trying to raise. He can only get the benefit if there was a significant change in law. And according to Arizona, the lynch holding wasn't a significant change. What was, I thought, odd, the state was still arguing in its briefs that those cases Simmons and lynch were wrongly decided. Here's justice Kagan. And then in this case, you're still saying my lynch is wrongly decided Simmons is wrongly decided we can't really we just really hate all this stuff. It sounds like your thumb and your nose at us. What did Arizona say about that? So Arizona takes this sort of hyper technical reading. They're saying it's just a state issue that in the first instance, it shouldn't even get to the U.S. Supreme Court because it's a state court dealing with the state procedural rule. And so there is this kind of threshold issue at the U.S. Supreme Court of whether the justices can even really take a look at this because it's a state issue. And so there's this initial argument of whether we're even getting into the territory of dealing with the type of federal issue that the U.S. Supreme Court can grapple with. And so that's one of Arizona's arguments that the U.S. Supreme Court really shouldn't even be getting involved. That's part of it. Another part is, according to this they procedural rule, they're saying it wasn't a significant change in law, despite how much that might seem to fly in the face of common sense as justice Kagan was pointing out during the argument. They're saying it's not a significant change. It's just now an application of the law. And so that's what brings up this situation where Kagan is pointing out that Cruz is blocked in this procedural maze, no matter in which direction he turns. Coming up next, I'll continue this conversation with Bloomberg law reporter Jordan Rubin and we'll talk about how the Supreme Court may come out in this case. I'm June grass when you're listening to Bloomberg

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