[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----TENNESSEE
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jun 27 12:40:19 CDT 2005
High Court Rules Against Death Row Inmate
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a lower court improperly gave a
Tennessee death row inmate a 2nd chance, infringing on the state's right
to execute the man. But 4 justices said the judicial system failed the
Justices found that the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati
abused its discretion when it reopened Gregory Thompson's case. Thompson
had already lost an appeal there, and at the Supreme Court.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, said that the
appeals court's action was extraordinary, and that it infringed on the
state's right to execute Thompson.
Thompson was convicted of using a rusty butcher knife in 1985 to kill
Brenda Blanton Lane, a 28-year-old former newspaper reporter, whom he
abducted from a Wal-Mart parking lot in Shelbyville, Tenn., drove to a
remove area and killed.
"Tennessee expended considerable time and resources in seeking to enforce
a capital sentence rendered 20 years ago, a sentence that reflects the
judgment of the citizens of Tennessee that Thompson's crimes merit the
ultimate punishment," Kennedy wrote.
Thompson was to be executed last year, but that was called off after the
appeals court vacated an earlier ruling against him.
The change of heart stemmed from the research of appellate Judge Richard
F. Suhrheinrich, who found the opinion of an expert witness who believed
Thompson suffered from schizophrenia. The expert's opinion had not been
entered into the record.
Justice Stephen Breyer praised the judge and said that the expert's
opinion was important. "To consider the case without reference to it could
mean a miscarriage of justice," he wrote in a dissent, joined by Justices
John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Breyer also read part of his dissent from the bench and said he fears that
the message to lower courts is "they are not to act to cure serious
injustice in similar cases."
Tennessee's victory follows several state losses in death penalty cases.
In the past 2 weeks, the Supreme Court has thrown out the death sentences
of inmates in Pennsylvania and Texas. Earlier this year, the court ruled
5-4 that states could not execute juvenile killers.
The case is Bell v. Thompson, 04-514.
On the Net: Supreme Court: www.supremecourtus.gov/
(source: Associated Press)
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