Patterico's Pontifications

11/17/2009

More on Supreme Court Reversal of 9th Circuit on Death Penalty Case

Filed under: General — Jack Dunphy @ 10:06 pm



[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

Our host posted earlier (here and here) on Wong v. Belmontes, in which a unanimous Supreme Court overturned — for the third time — the 9th Circuit and upheld a death sentence imposed on Fernando Belmontes, who in 1981 murdered a woman in her home then sold her stereo for drug money. Yesterday on NRO’s The Corner, I addressed an aspect of the case I suspect most people, whatever their views on the death penalty, would find troubling, to wit, that the majority on the appellate panel had concluded that the Belmontes’s victim, Steacy McConnell, had not experienced “needless suffering” as she was beaten to death with a dumbbell. The Supreme Court disagreed:

We agree with the state court’s characterization of the murder, and simply cannot comprehend the assertion by the Court of Appeals that this case did not involve “needless suffering.” The jury saw autopsy photographs showing Steacy McConnell’s mangled head, her skull crushed by 15 to 20 blows from a steel dumbbell bar the jury found to have been wielded by Belmontes. McConnell’s corpse showed numerous “defensive bruises and contusions on . . . [her] hands, arms, and feet,” . . . which “plainly evidenced a desperate struggle for life at [Belmontes’] hands.” Belmontes left McConnell to die, but officers found her still fighting for her life before ultimately succumbing to the injuries caused by the blows from Belmontes. The jury also heard that this savage murder was committed solely to prevent interference with a burglary that netted Belmontes $100 he used to buy beer and drugs for the night. McConnell suffered, and it was clearly needless.

So zealous in their campaign against the death penalty were the majority on this 9th Circuit panel that they were willing to minimize the horrific death Belmontes inflicted on his helpless victim. Let death penalty opponents make their arguments, but not at the expense of the truth. Shame on those who would claim Steacy McConnell did not suffer needlessly.

–Jack Dunphy

34 Responses to “More on Supreme Court Reversal of 9th Circuit on Death Penalty Case”

  1. The Ninth Circuit has a history of doing this. I remember one time, maybe 15 years ago, when in the last hours before a scheduled execution, the Ninth Circuit issued a stay. The prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court, who lifted the stay.

    Then the Ninth Circuit issued another stay. The Supreme Court then lifted that stay. And the Ninth Circuit issued a third stay.

    At which point the Supreme Court lifted that stay, and issued an order saying there would be no further stays. The execution was then carried out.

    Steven Den Beste (99cfa1)

  2. showing Steacy McConnell’s mangled head, her skull crushed by 15 to 20 blows from a steel dumbbell bar the jury found to have been wielded by Belmontes. McConnell’s corpse showed numerous “defensive bruises and contusions on . . . [her] hands, arms, and feet,” . . . which “plainly evidenced a desperate struggle for life at [Belmontes’] hands.” Belmontes left McConnell to die, but officers found her still fighting for her life before ultimately succumbing to the injuries caused by the blows from Belmontes.

    If the 9th Circuit COA did not find this to be needless suffering, it makes one wonder what it would take for them to find needless suffering.

    JD (9769aa)

  3. If she had been waterboarded first.

    DRJ (dee47d)

  4. Now that was just plain old not right, DRJ. But prolly true.

    JD (9769aa)

  5. So zealous in their campaign against the death penalty were the majority on this 9th Circuit panel that they were willing to minimize the horrific death Belmontes inflicted on his helpless victim

    I wouldn’t mind it as much if idiots like Stephen Reinhardt at least considered themselves ruthless, diabolical, inhumane, heartless SOBs. But you know they see themselves as anything but that. And that’s what makes them both so disgusting and pathetic.

    Mark (411533)

  6. DRJ @ 3 – Well played. If she was a Republican, even that might not be enough.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  7. At which point the Supreme Court lifted that stay, and issued an order saying there would be no further stays. The execution was then carried out.

    Yep. That was Robert Alton Harris in 1992–the first execution in California since 1967. From the wiki:

    Harris’ execution was originally scheduled for 12:01 a.m. on the morning of April 21, but a series of four stays issued by individual federal judges delayed the execution until just after 6 a.m. In its order vacating the fourth stay of execution, the U.S. Supreme Court stated, “No further stays of Robert Alton Harris’ execution shall be entered by the federal courts except upon order of this court.”

    The whining from the legal left about the “lawlessness” of the Supreme Court’s slapping down of the dishonest stalling attempts by the lower court judges was memorable, but impotent.

    M. Scott Eiland (c552ec)

  8. One of these days, when the Republicans have 67 Senate votes, there needs to be a housecleaning.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  9. One of these days, when the Republicans have 67 Senate votes…

    I don’t think I’ll hold my breath for that one.

    Chuck Roast (6113d0)

  10. Personally, I’d like to amend the Constitution to no longer forbid “cruel and unusual” punishment, since nobody seems to understand what was meant. What was meant was either punishment that was horribly excessive, or not the usual thing—IOW, flogging someone half-to-death for a minor theft, or cutting a murderer slowly to pieces instead of hanging or electrocuting him. As long as a punishment is usual, it’s Constitutionally kosher, but nobody understands this point, so let’s get rid of the ambiguity.

    technomad (0b1234)

  11. Ah yes, needless suffering. Another reason courts and lawyers are held in such disdain.

    cedarhill (c4d91b)

  12. OT ……

    We need Gov.t Health Care to increase preventative care for the uninsured so that way they can stay healthy.

    Same Government says mammograms are not needed for women under 50, nor self check exams, because they don’t realllly help and are a waste of money.

    ….. too much ….. and only proves this Health Care debate is pure hypocrisy and not about health.

    As soon as you get Government Health they will dumb down the “selling point” they created when they passed the legislation.

    HeavenSent (01a566)

  13. In law enforcement circle, the 9th Circuit is commonly referred to as the 9th Circus.

    Stan Switek (eb6164)

  14. PATTERICO:

    Please provide the names of the 9th circuit judges and who appointed them for this and other insane decisions. Both the judges and those who appointed them deserve public shame.

    Tom R. (2b2ee8)

  15. Needless suffering is reserved for something like when the Justice’s turkey sandwich has unwanted alfalfa sprouts
    “I specifically ordered the sandwich without sprouts… they get stuck in my teeth and the suffering is unimaginable”

    I get really pissed off when I hear about how someone fought and fought to stay alive even after taking a horrendous beating, fighting for life down to her last shred of indominatabilty and some idiot who probably whines over a shaving cut decides that she’s just collateral damage.

    SteveG (97b6b9)

  16. Somehow “justice” got confused with “revenge.” Revenge is personal. I’m disinterested but want to see vicious killers get their due.

    Carol (ed2b65)

  17. Tom R. @ 14: You’ll find what you asked for here. Scroll down a bit.

    Old Coot (166f79)

  18. …(T)here needs to be a housecleaning.

    Would such a housecleaning entail the utilization of rails, tar and feathers?

    The Strategic MC (1aaf2a)

  19. Aren’t these the same assholes who said making a prisoner sleep on a mattress on the floor is cruel and unusual punishment?

    tmac (5559f7)

  20. What was done to Steacy McConnell wasn’t needless suffering, but these same judges will halt an execution because the perp “might” feel some pain if the anesthetic part of the “cocktail” doesn’t work properly and causes, in their minds, needless suffering?

    kimsch (2ce939)

  21. As usual, an excellent analysis Patterico. This is the story of the day on my blog.

    Robert Bryan (316bbc)

  22. #10 technomad: The problem is that there are still occasionally cases of corrupt judges who sentence defendants excessively. Google “Mark Ciavarella” for an example.

    Joshua (9ede0e)

  23. Comment by daleyrocks — 11/17/2009 @ 11:05 pm

    Beat me to it…that’s what I get for going to bed early.

    AD - RtR/OS! (1397fe)

  24. Remember that Judge Richard Paez joined this opinion. He should get as much criticism as “Judge” Reinhardt.

    These “judges” probably give nary a thought to the suffering they inflict on the victim’s family and friends.

    sob (62ca0c)

  25. Somehow “justice” got confused with “revenge.” Revenge is personal. I’m disinterested but want to see vicious killers get their due.

    There is nothing wrong with revenge.

    Three years ago, a Danish newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, instigating a violent response from sand Nazis. One would think this violent response to avenge Mohammed’s honor would just bring more and more contempt for militant Islamist sand Nazis.

    Instead, Yale University Press refused to republish the cartoons for fear of revenge. Comedy Central censored an episode of South Park for those same reasons.

    Just recently, a 16-year-old girl was murdered near Wilson High School in Long Beach, a murder which police suspect was ordered by a gang. And yet, there was no violent reaction. Nobody has gone around to kill the members of the gang believed to be responsible.

    What happened to us? Why are we not avenging the murders of our innocents? People in other countries are willing to shed other people’s blood over a cartoon, and yet we are unwilling to shed other people’s blood to avenge murders? We need to emulate those Muslims who were willing to shed other people’s blood for their God. No wonder people are converting to Islam! Muslims are willing to fight to defend their honor and their families, while Christians just bend over.

    Michael Ejercito (6a1582)

  26. liberals and socialists lie like rugs. They lied about back alley abortions to get the Roe v Wade case through the Supreme Court. They will lie about the victims of terrorism and the perpetrators of terrorism to get our country to relax its defenses. They will lie about criminal murder suspects to ignore the will of the jury in death penalty cases (just like they ignore the will of the people in the health care debate). liberals and socialists always know better than the people they supposedly serve. aren’t we blessed to have them looking out for us, cause we couldn’t live our lives without their astute back seat driving.

    eaglewingz08 (1e4d33)

  27. BTW, God only knows who Obama is appointing to these courts. The press isn’t holding them up to any kind of light, like they did Bush’s picks. I guess press vigilance is having a well-deserved rest.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  28. I know this will be a shocker. Judge Reinhardt is a Jimmy Carter appointee.

    Stan Switek (eb6164)

  29. @2, @3: To the 9th circuit, needless suffering is what Belmontes might endure from the lethal injection he is sentenced to receive.

    W Krebs (29acbd)

  30. Kevin Murphy — 11/17/2009 @ 11:26 pm – from your typing fingers to the input pathways of the Deity of your choice !

    Actually, if the GOP could get the 67 Senators in 2010, as well as control of the House in 2010, as long as the person chosen as Speaker is a reasonable candidate, we could be rid of The One in 2011 …

    To maximise frosting of the Dems, how can we get Speaker Palin positioned for Jan, 2011 ??? (innocent grin)

    Alasdair (b07c14)

  31. The 9th circuit is only against the death penalty for criminals.

    Apogee (e2dc9b)

  32. Old Coot,
    I thought your link in response to Tom R’s comment was going to lead to a website where the complete names, photos, addresses of the justices, their daughters, their mothers etc. Pity really. I think they’ve found that sort of thing legal…

    Curtis (9c1526)

  33. Please post the names of the 9th Circuit judges who signed this perverse and deeply sick opinion. Their names please.

    Kevin Stafford (5d18a5)

  34. Truth? As you know JD, if you are looking for truth out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, keep on looking. If the ruling is illogical and there seem to be glaring versions of what was presented and what was ruled upon AND the ruling benefits a defendant or a left-leaning cause, you can bet your rear it’s from the Ninth Circus, I mean Circuit. Years and years of head scratching to continue with no recourse for those life-time appointees who are so blinded by liberalism and “causes” it boggles the mind. Break out the clown make-up and pass out the red noses! A freakin’ clown show is in progress! Didn’t suffer needlessly…WOW!

    I.M. Copper (365f1f)


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