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Getsy Rehearing:

In August, in Getsy v. Mitchell, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that inconsistent jury verdicts for different defendants accused of the same crime were unconstitutionally arbitrary. I discussed the case here, and agreed with Orin's assessment that the case was a likely candidate for en banc review. It seems a majority of judges on the Sixth Circuit agree, as yesterday the court granted a petition for en banc review, vacating the initial panel decision. The order granting the petition was reported at Crime and Consequences and the Ohio Death Penalty Information blog. Thanks to a reader for the heads up.

Wintermute (mail) (www):
I should be a proud member of the VC, but I have a new gf so y'all hold the fort, plz. This is epochal.

Happy everything.

P.S. I have a friend on the 6th, and I see her hub all the time. Guessing game? I helped u out there a lot ;-)
11.23.2006 9:49pm
Bleepless (mail):
Getting back to the topic, there was a case some years ago wherein the defendant killed two children, one after the other with no appreciable gap in between. In a jury trial, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the first, guilty of first-degree murder with a recommendation of death for the second. When he was sentenced to death, the jurors were quite surprised. They believed that only the first verdict carried any legal weight, the second being empty wordage, and they believed him to be insane. The problem was that he had been in mental hospitals before, and they were afraid that he would hardly have enough time to lick the blood off of his hands before they jammed his release papers in his pocket and booted him out. They found him guilty and recommended death to bring to the attention of the authorities just how ill they thought he was. Oops!
11.23.2006 10:46pm
Hattio (mail):
I didn't read the whole case, but wouldnt' it be more correct to say the 6th Circuit rejected inconsistent Sentences for co-defendants when they participated in the same crime. I can't imagine if Santine had been able to convince a jury that he had never hired the guys, and had nothing to do with the murder, that Getsy's verdict or sentence would have been effected.
11.23.2006 11:06pm
Jay Myers:
Unless someone can come up with an objective test for what constitutes a "reasonable doubt", I don't see how a court can expect different juries to always agree on what elements of the crime have been sufficiently proven. Yes, there is always considerable subjectivity in a jury verdict, but a jury of one's peers is a right that can be waived in favor of a bench trial.
11.24.2006 1:05am
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
hey bleep, got a cite for that?
11.24.2006 3:40am
CynicPerry:
On the topic of unequal sentences, one thing I've always wanted to know is the legal definition of a month when used in sentencing. Though it seems that most courts treat it as a calendar month (from the X date of one month to the X date of the next) this would seem to set up a difference in amount of time served (jail, or probation, etc).

For instant, you have Adam and Bill. They both committed the same crime, and they both recieved a sentence of 2 months imprisonment.
Bill starts his time on Dec 1. Bill then gets out on Feb 1. Bill served a total of 62 days.
Adam is smarter. He askes the judge to allow him to postpone his entrance into prison till Feb. So he starts his time on Feb 1. Adam then gets out on Apr 1. Adam served a total of 59 days.

While a difference of three days may not seem like a lot, it would seem to me that it is legally significant. Has anyone seen anything in case law dealing with this?
11.24.2006 2:40pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
One reason why different juries may come to different conclusions regarding the same crime is that they may be presented with different evidence. Indeed, that is often why the defendants are tried separately. In particular, one defendant's statement will generally not be admissible against the other, especially after Crawford. An equally culpable or even more culpable defendant may get off with a life sentence because his jury had lingering doubt, while there is no doubt in the case of the defendant who makes a full confession. It is unfortunate that the former gets off with less than he deserves, but that is part of the price we pay for the self-incrimination privilege, and it is no reason whatever to let the other murderer off with less than he deserves.
11.24.2006 9:14pm
Bleepless (mail):
Beerslurpy, this was a Washington state case out of Vancouver, the defendant being one John William Hawkins. We picked it up after the State Supreme Court already had upheld the sentence; the USSC then denied cert. Mr. Hawkins later was the beneficiary of a USSC decision on jury selection so he never did get the hot squat. In any event, inconsistent verdicts are not, at the moment, a violation of due process for one defendant: if he can be charged and tried separately on each count, and receive inconsistent verdicts, the mere technicality of his counts being tried together is not a violation of due process. Good hunting!
11.25.2006 6:36pm