A Very Busy Week

by Ed Whelan

Things sure weren’t quiet on the legal front while I was on vacation, and I’ll strive to catch up as quickly as I can.

One indication of how fast-moving things were: On Saturday, in Wood v. Ryan, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit preliminarily enjoined the state of Arizona from proceeding with the execution of an inmate who contended that the state’s failure to provide him specific information (e.g., lot numbers) about the drugs to be used in his execution violated his First Amendment rights. (Majority opinion by Judge Sidney Thomas; dissent by Judge Jay Bybee.) On Monday, over the dissent of eleven judges (including recent Obama appointee John Owens), the Ninth Circuit denied rehearing en banc. Then yesterday evening, the Supreme Court, without recorded dissent, vacated the Ninth Circuit panel ruling. The execution of the inmate, Joseph Wood, is scheduled to take place some time today.

By contrast: The murders that provided the basis for Wood’s death sentence—murders of his estranged girlfriend Debra Dietz and her father Eugene Dietz—occurred in 1989, and Wood’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal twenty years ago.

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