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Constitutionality of Judicial Canon Restricting Elections, Plus Habeas Proceedings

By FindLaw Staff on July 14, 2010 12:22 PM

Treesh v. Bagley, 07-3524, concerned a challenge to the district court's denial of defendant's petition for habeas relief for his capital murder conviction.  In affirming the denial, the court held that it was not unreasonable for the Ohio Supreme Court to conclude that defendant knowingly and intelligently waived his Miranda rights, and that defendant has forfeited the issue of voluntariness as he has not developed a legal argument regarding the issue.  The court rejected defendant's assertion that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel when trial counsel failed to challenge two jurors for cause.  Lastly, the court held that defendant has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right with respect to his claim that lethal injection as conducted in Ohio violates the Eighth Amendment.

Simpson v. Jackson, 08-3224, concerned a defendant's request for habeas relief from his convictions for murder and related crimes arising from a fatal arson.  The court held that, under the totality of the circumstances, habeas relief is denied as to a June 16th statement as he has not met his burden of showing circumstances so severe that there was a substantial risk that his will was overborne, and as such, the court held that defendant is not entitled to relief as to convictions for aggravated arson and five counts of felonious assault.. 

However, in granting the petition in part, the court held that the state court's admission of the June 20th statement was an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent, and that the April statements were admitted contrary to Supreme Court precedent as agents unaffiliated with the prison isolated defendant and questioned him about an unrelated incident without first giving Miranda warnings.  Therefore, in light of the strong role that the June 20th and April statements played in both the state's presentation of the case and the evidence against defendant, the court held that it is beyond question that the errors were not harmless as to the convictions that required as an essential element a specific intent to cause the death of another, and as such, his convictions for aggravated murder, murder, and attempted murder are void.  ;

Carey v. Wolnitzek, 08-6468, concerned a plaintiff's suit challenging certain clauses in the Kentucky Supreme Court's judicial canon related to judicial elections, claiming that the party affiliation, solicitation and commits clauses violated his speech and associational rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.  First, the court held that strict scrutiny applies to all three aspects of the First Amendment challenge in this case.  The court then went onto hold that the district court correctly concluded that the party affiliation clause violates the First Amendment on its face, as well as the conclusion that the solicitation clause is overbroad and thus invalid on its face.  However, the court vacated and remanded the district court's ruling on the commitment clause as it is not clear what the Commonwealth's position on the term "issues" is, and the district court has not yet explored these issues.

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