Yesterday, in Hartman v. Bagley, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied capital defendant Brett Hartman's appeal of the denial of his habeas corpus petition. Hartman was convicted for the brutal murder Winda Snipes -- he tied her up, stabbed her over 130 times, and then cut off her hands, ostensibly to help cover his tracks. The jury found him guilty of aggravated murder, in addition to kidnapping and tampering with evidence, and he was sentenced to death.
The three judge panel rejected Hartman's appeal. That's not too unusual, nor is the fact that the panel was divided. What is more interesting was the line up. Judge Gilman wrote the majority opinion joined by Judge Daughtrey. Judge Clay dissented in part, on the grounds that the trial court gave "unconstitutional acquittal-first jury instructions" and Hartman received ineffective assistance of counsel at the sentencing phase. All three judges were Clinton nominees, and if Hartman's case was strong enough to convince Judge Clay, I would have thought it would at least have convinced Judge Daughtrey as well.
Yesterday the Court also issued a divided opinion in Brown v. Cassen Transport Co., involving claims that a company violated RICO by conspiring to deny worker's compensation benefits. Judge Gibbons wrote the opinion of the Court upholding dismissal of the case. Judge Moore concurred in part and dissented in part, and Judge Ackerman (sitting by designation) wrote a separate concurrence. Judge Ackerman, for his part, noted he was a "visiting fireman" who had to follow sixth Circuit precedent, even if he believes it is incorrect and should be reviewed en banc.