As we near the end of the U.S. Supreme Court’s October 2017 term, the death penalty continues to occupy at least a small part of the high court’s mind.
It routinely declines to take up capital cases—to the consternation of a rotating mix of the court’s Democrat-appointees—but the justices recently agreed to hear an aging man with dementia’s claim that he shouldn’t be executed, and they’ve also been considering a petition that seeks to end the ultimate punishment once and for all.
But if, as analysts predict, the court passes on the petition’s attack on the constitutionality of capital punishment and continues to “tinker with the machinery of death,” that still leaves plenty of important and interesting tinkering to do.
Robert McCoy’s lawyer conceded at trial that his client killed three people, because he thought it was his best shot at sparing McCoy from a death sentence in a strong case against him.
McCoy vigorously protested that strategy. He not only wanted to put the prosecution to its proof—he also wanted to advance an alibi defense that his lawyer thought sounded like a conspiracy theory.
The lawyer did it his way and it didn’t work—the jury voted for death—leaving the justices to sort out the question of “who’s the boss” when lawyer and client are at loggerheads in a capital case.
A decision in McCoy is expected by late June.
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