Tag Archives: Death penalty

Monday roundup 8/18

In the area:

In the strange case of two brothers who disposed of a body of a person whom one of the brothers may or may not have killed, but definitely attacked, and whose death may have occurred in Allen or Nobel County, one brother has pleaded guilty to moving the body and has been sentenced to three years. As part of the deal, it has apparently been settled that she officially died in Noble County.

In the state:

Indiana officially has its first ever female Chief Justice

William Clyde Gibson has a second date with the executioner, although it’s also unlikely to be met, as appeals will push the date back.


SCOTUSblog has a repeatedly-updated post about movements on the Virginia same-sex marriage case at the end of the week. It seems that the deadline for responses to the request for a stay was about 20 minutes ago, so the justices may be looking those over as I type this. Perhaps a ruling tomorrow?

Michael Worthington executed

On Monday, I mentioned the Michael Worthington case. Pleading guilty to rape and murder, he was sentenced to death. The execution apparently went off without a hitch early this morning. Yesterday, the Court rejected his appeal for a stay on the standard 5-4 vote you see in this cases.

It’s not the most common thing in the world for someone to plead guilty and still receive a sentence of death. It’s also rare for someone to be executed based on factors determined by a judge rather than a jury, after Ring v. Arizona. Put simply, aggravating factors that would make someone eligible for execution must be examined by a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s actually kind of a mess state-by-state, so I might try to find time to go into how it’s applied in Indiana in more detail. It doesn’t really matter in this case, though. Worthington clearly and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial, so Ring didn’t apply.

Worthington was Missouri’s seventh executed prisoner of 2014, and 77th since the Court lifted the ban on executions in 1976 in Gregg v. Georgia. That ranks Missouri 5th overall (Missouri’s first post-Gregg execution wasn’t until 1989) and tied with Texas and Florida for the most so far this year.

Indiana has one execution technically scheduled for later this year, but the appeals process will end up pushing the date back, likely years. Thirteen other people have been sentenced to die in Indiana but do not currently have execution dates set.

Early Monday roundup 8/4

I took an early weekend, so I have a couple of things to catch up on. Most legally important news happens before Friday, but things do still happen. I might make it a regular habit to dump the stuff that slips through the cracks over the weekend on Monday morning.

First, same-sex marriage. The plaintiffs aren’t going to be given a lot of time in the Indiana/Wisconsin consolidated case to make their arguments. Meanwhile, a county clerk in Virginia is filing for cert with the Supreme Court on the marriage ban there.

With the Seventh Circuit case moving so quickly, it seems likely that the issue of same-sex marriage is going to be decided once and for all during the next Supreme Court term.

Next, health care. The issue of health subsidies for states using the federal exchange is also being pushed forward as fast as possible. Nothing new here, but I expect the Court to take this up right away, as well.

Looking ahead. Nothing much on the SCOTUS front, as the new term doesn’t start until the very end of September.  The Indiana Supreme Court starts hearing cases again just after Labor day.

However, there will be some interesting legal topics in the news this week. Definitely pay attention to the Toledo water crisis. As of this writing, the water was officially down to safe toxin levels(!), but mayor Collins wasn’t ready to lift the advisory on account of two “too close for comfort” results. We’re going to be talking a lot about the cause of the algal bloom, which is almost certainly directly related to farm fertilizer runoff (thanks to a heavy rain season). I suspect the end result on the legal front will be either 1) Ohio enacting new regulations and farmers suing or 2) Ohio not enacting many new regulations and environmental groups suing (or 3) both).

There is also one execution to watch for this week. There were three scheduled, but two have already been stayed. Michael Worthington is set to die Wednesday in Missouri. Worthington broke into his neighbor’s house while drunk and high, strangled her unconscious, raped her, and then beat her and strangled her to death when she woke up and tried to fight him off. Interestingly, he was sentenced to death despite pleading guilty, which is not something you see every day. After Joseph Wood appeared to suffer tremendously in a prolonged death in Arizona last month, all eyes will be on Missouri. I don’t think either the public or the Supreme Court has the political desire to ban executions outright, but if states prove that they are unable to kill people without torturing them (whether or not you blame it on the European Union), that sentiment might begin to shift in both cases.