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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It's a Matter of Life or Death, So Let's Be Honest About Jury Instructions

Brian Tamanaha

Thousands of courtroom scenes have been depicted on television and in movies, yet rarely--and perhaps never?--will you see one of the most critical moments in a trial: the reading of the jury instructions. There is a sound reason for this omission--jury instructions are long, boring, and often incomprehensible. A minute or so of listening to this would be enough to prompt almost every viewer to reach for the remote. Just raising the topic here, in this post, will send many readers clicking away. Please resist the impulse for a few moments while I provide a reality check about law that is literally a matter of life or death, and which played out as death in a US Supreme Court decision on Monday.

If you have ever wondered where or when or how law comes into play in an actual case, the answer is that the jury instructions are the law. In both civil and criminal cases, the jury is charged with deciding whether the evidence satisfies the legal requirements specified in the jury instructions. Lawyers, for this reason, spend hours fighting over which instructions should be read to the jury and over their precise wording. Appeals are often based on arguments that an instruction read to the jury was erroneous.

Now let's talk about the reality, a reality I observed first hand as a trial lawyer and as a clerk to a federal district judge. The only way to understand this reality is to actually get a taste of a jury instruction. Therefore, with an apology offered in advance, read this actual jury instruction from New York (and feel free to skip to the bottom when it becomes unbearable), setting out the liability of a landlord:

A lessor is required to disclose to the tenant any dangerous condition of the premises, existing when the tenant is given permission, of which the lessor knows or has reason to know and which is not discoverable by the tenant on reasonable inspection. If you find that the condition of the premises at the time plaintiff was given posession was dangerous, that defendant knew of the condition or of facts or circumstances from which a person of reasonable intelligence would believe that such dangerous condition existed, that the condition was not known to plaintiff or discoverable by (him, her) in the use of reasonable care, that defendant failed to warn plaintiff of the condition or advise (him, her) with the facts and circumstances of which defendant was aware, and that the condition was a substantial factor in producing plaintiff's injury, you will find for the plaintiff (on this issue). If, however, you find that no dangerous condition existed on the premises when plaintiff was given possession, or that although there was such a condition defendant did not know of it and did not have reason to be aware of it, or that plaintiff knew of the condition or could have discovered it had (he, she) made a reasonable inspection, or that the condition was not a substantial factor in causing plaintiff's injury, you will find for the defendant (on this issue).

Everyone got that, right?

This is typical of jury instructions in form, style and terminology.

Now imagine that, rather than reading it for yourself, these instructions are read to you by a judge, and imagine that this reading session goes on for one or two or more hours. When sitting through these truly painful sessions as a lawyer or clerk--struggling to concentrate on the instructions as a way to stave off boredom--I have seen jurors yawn repeatedly, close their eyes for a spell (to concentrate, I presume), or simply fix an unmoving gaze at a spot on the opposite ceiling.

You are getting the picture, but the situation is even worse. Although juries often have questions about the instructions, judges are extremely reluctant to elaborate or explain for a reason alluded to earlier: appeals are often based on claimed errors about the precise wording of the instructions. Any elaboration or explanation offered by the judge adds more words, words which can arguably improperly change the meaning of the instruction, generating further issues for appeal. To avoid this problem, many judges will simply re-read the instruction (which no one wants), or read another equally complicated pre-written clarification, or simply tell the jury to figure it out the best they can ("Good luck!").

This is the reality of jury instructions. Obviously, it is hazardous to make any assumptions or draw any conclusions about what a jury does or does not understand with respect to the instructions. As someone who believes in the jury system, I'm not bashing juries, nor denigrating their intelligence. No matter how intelligent, educated, and well-motivated, anyone would struggle to pay attention to and fully comprehend jury instructions in the system we have developed.

So here's the life or death case that rides on this reality. By a 5-4 vote, on Monday, the Supreme Court reinstated a death sentence that had twice been overturned by a federal court of appeals. The disputed issue focused on what a jury understood in connection with an instruction, as explained in a report in the New York Times on the case by Linda Greenhouse:

California's death penalty statute lists a number of mitigating factors that a defendant may invoke, concluding with a "catch all" factor that includes "any other circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime even though it is not a legal excuse for the crime."

While subsequent California Supreme Court and United States Supreme Court decisions made clear that this factor was more open ended than it appeared to be, permitting evidence that relates to the defendant's character rather than the crime itself, the question in the case was how Mr. Belmontes's jury understood the factor in its unadorned form.

Here is the basic issue: The defendant had undergone a religious conversion in prison, was a model prisoner, and would likely continue to be so, and wanted the jury to consider this as a mitigating factor against imposing the death sentence under the catch all provision. This was indeed permissible. The problem is that the provision is narrowly worded in a way that appears to refer to mitigating factors relating to the crime (not his life as a prisoner). Greenhouse continues:

In overturning his death sentence through a writ of habeas corpus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found there was a "reasonable probability" that the jury did not realize that it could take into account Mr. Belmontes's evidence of his likely behavior as a prisoner.

Justice Kennedy's majority opinion said the Ninth Circuit was mistaken. He said that various comments by the trial judge "made it clear that the jury was to take a broad view of mitigating evidence.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined in the opinion along with Justices Scalia and Thomas. [An aside interjected by Tamanaha: For whatever it's worth--and I think very little--this majority is made up exclusively of the so-called "Catholic Five" on an issue of major significance for Catholic teachings, and the Justices apparently went against the official Church position.]

In dissent, Justice Stevens said the record showed "that confusion pervaded every aspect" of the sentencing hearing, including the catch-all factor. All participants in the hearing were "addled," he added.

I haven't read the briefs in the case, but knowing the reality of jury instructions generally (as described above), and considering the narrow and potentially misleading wording of this particular instruction, it seems fair to conclude that there must be some doubt as to whether the jury in fact understood that they could consider Belmontes's subsequent behavior in mitigation. There is, furthermore, a great deal of evidence that juries systematically misunderstand the jury instructions in death penalty cases in California, as demonstrated in sobering detail in Craig Haney's book, Death by Design (2005).

Five Justices, based upon little more than reading the actual instruction and several comments by the trial judge, drew an inference that the jury in fact understood the instruction properly. Legally trained judges might well understand these words and comments in this way, but it is an altogether different matter when talking about the understandings of inexperienced lay people sitting for the first and only time as jurors on a death penalty panel. One would think that the benefit of the doubt should go against death--if for no other reason than basic respect for human life--but the Justices apparently were quite confident.

Now Mr. Belmontes is going to die.

Comments:

The instructions are read to the jury, then they are provided a transcript of the instructions, right? Please tell me they are provided a transcript!
 

Mo, it doesn't matter if they did have a transcript. The instructions say mitigating evidence extenuates the gravity of the crime, and good prison behavior just doesn't do that. A convicted murderer's being a model prisoner is a good reason not to kill them, but it certainly doesn't have anything to with the crime. Doesn't mean it's not mitigating.

Also, since Thomas and Scalia don't consider mitigating evidene claims (they think it's inconsistent with allowing juror discretion), in actuality 4 of 7 justices who considered the issue ruled in Mr. Belmontes' favor.
 

Brian, the Kansas v. Marsh majority consisted of the same 5 and also went against the Church's position on the death penalty. Written by Thomas instead of Kennedy. Interestingly Thomas didn't join Scalia's Marsh concurrence as he did in Belmontes.
 

The irony to me is that there's a substantial body of lawyers who are convinced that juries are easily confused and that jury instructions are often, even mostly, misread.

Personal-injury defense lawyers. I work with 'em. They're not far wrong about that, either.

Yet mysteriously, to judge by their politics & conversation, once the jury takes up a criminal case, the jury becomes wiser, smarter, and pretty much infallible.
 

Rothmatisseko, Thanks for the information about Marsh, and I agree with you (in your response to Muddy Mo) that the fundamental problem in this case is the misleading wording of the instruction.

Anderson, My sense is that juries generally get it right, mainly because when deliberating they answer broadly phrased questions: is the defendant guilty of the crime, should the plaintiff get some money. I highly doubt, however, that juries understand nuances attached to particular legal terms of art.

Brian
 

Prof. Tamanaha, two questions:

1. Why don't we see more special verdicts?

2. Is an instruction like this only read to the jury, or do they get a written copy during deliberation?

I'm a 1L now, and I feel confident in saying that if if I merely heard an instruction once, I would not be able to answer the question honestly, because I wouldn't know what the question was asking.
 

Is an instruction like this only read to the jury, or do they get a written copy during deliberation?

In CA instructions are ordinarily given to the jury both orally and in writing. I don't actually remember if that was the practice in 1982 (when this case was tried), but I believe it was.
 

The really odd thing about this case is that the jury heard (without apparent objection) several hours of testimony that, on one possible understanding of the jury instruction, they should not have heard at all. Without digging deeply into the record, it would be impossible to come to an informed view of whether what they disregarded was the evidence or the instruction.
 

a vitally interesting post, brian.

since i am a practicing attorney, who represents many landlords in personal injury cases in new york, i must admit to a good chuckle over the example jury instruction given. in my experience, about the only thing that keeps me awake and alert during jury instructions, which is by far and away the most boring part of any trial, is the fact that i usually have the jury instructions the jury is hearing in front of me at the time the judge is reading them. most of the instructions in a typical case come from the "pattern jury instructions", so i could probably recite them along with the judge from memory. the rest are usually submissions given to the judge by the attorneys at the charge conference, with copies to all attorneys. i know if i didn't have them in front of me at the time of the reading, i would probably nod off into space, which is where i am sure most jurors are during the charge.

to muddy mo, in new york, the charge is read to the jury. they do not get a copy of the charge to look at themselves.

jurors usually want to do the right thing, but you are right that when it comes down to it, the only questions they will really answer in their deliberations are whether the defendant is guilty in a criminal case, and liable in a civil case. how they get there is usually a mystery, although i can tell you that when i served on a jury a few years ago, several were of the opinion that we should throw money at the plaintiff "because he was hurt", regardless of the liability issues.

the bottom line, therefore, would seem to me that jurors want to do the right thing, but do not pay serious attention to the legalese thrown at them in instructions, because they do not understand most of what is said in the instructions in the first place, or like the jurors who wanted to throw money at the plaintiff "because he was hurt", they do not care to hear them anyway. if we are therefore to focus so much on the instructions given to the jurors on appeal, then we ought to ensure in one form or another at the trial level that the jurors truly understood the instructions in the first place, which is never done. in twenty-five years of doing this, i can't even recall a judge asking the jurors if they understood what he just said when he completed the charge. as a result, appellate judges end up having to devine the thoughts of the jury, which usually ends up simply mirroring their own political leanings in the first place, unless the instructions were outrageously improper, which considering the almost universal use of the pattern jury instructions, will almost never happen.
 

Brian:

It might help your argument if you posted the "offending" jury instruction so we can judge whether it is "confusing."

The concept of model behavior as a mitigator is not all that complicated and the defense had its shot in argument to the jury to make its case for life imprisonment.

This sounds like a standard death penalty appeal on a tangential issue to guilt or punishment.
 

what role for the rule of lenity in such a case? it seems to me, without having researched the case, that California's vague mitigation standards invite the invocation of that canon.
 

"Now Mr. Belmontes is going to die." So ends Brian Tamanaha's post calling for "honest[y]" about jury instructions.

As long as we're going to be honest, though, we might as well be honest about why Fernando Belmontes is going to die (if he is).

AFTER he was incarcerated as a juvenile, and AFTER he supposedly underwent a religious conversion during incareceration, and AFTER he was supposedly a model prisoner, Fernando Belmontes decided to commit a burglary in March 1981. Yes, 1981. He has lived more than a quarter-century since committing the crime for which he was sentenced to death.

During the burglary a 19-year-old young woman surprised Mr. Belmontes. His response? Fifteen to twenty blows in the head with a steel dumbbell bar, causing (of course) the innocent 19yo's death.

"Now Mr. Belmontes is going to die." Well, no. He got a trial -- arguably flawed -- and a jury sentenced him to death in 1982. ALL evidence of his religious "conversion" -- which, miraculously, happened AGAIN after he beat a defenseless 19-year-old 15 to 20 times in the head with a dumbbell bar while committing a burglary, and which conveniently occurred in the short period between his 1981 murder and his 1982 trial -- was admitted at the arguably flawed trial. The technical question the Supreme Court decided is whether a bad jury instruction did or didn't prevent the jury from giving sufficient consideration to that paper-thin mitigating evidence.

"Now Mr. Belmontes is going to die." Well, that depends on what the Ninth Circuit does on remand. Maybe Fernando Belmontes will have the same good fortune as John Harvey Adamson, a brutal contract killer let off of a death sentence by the Ninth Circuit in a decision that the Supreme Court reversed in 1987. The Ninth Circuit on remand found other grounds to set aside Adamson's death sentence.

"Now Mr. Belmontes is going to die." If he does, he will have lived six more years AFTER committing capital murder than his victim lived her whole life. And he will have done so after a trial in which he was permitted to argue that he should be spared because of his religious "conversion."

Am I arguing that the Supreme Court was right? No. That is a technical (and, in the end, not really all that interesting) legal issue that can be considered on its own merits. Perhaps the Kennedy opinion had the better of the argument, perhaps the Stevens opinion had the better of it. I take no position.

What I *do* object to is a presentation of this case -- from a law professor, no less -- that emotionalizes the issue while presenting the emotional arguments on one side and leaving out all the emotional arguments on the other side. To state, as fact, that Belmontes "had undergone a religious conversion in prison, was a model prisoner, and would likely to continue to be so" is to take embarrassingly thin evidence, which at most created factual issues for the jury to CONSIDER, and treat it as if it were uncontested. To omit all mention of the circumstances of the crime MIGHT be forgivable in a dry, technical legal discussion, but not one that ends, "Now Mr. Belmontes is going to die."

Making legal arguments is fine. Making emotional arguments is, up to a point, fine, especially in the blogosphere. But asking readers to accept emotional arguments, while telling only a misleading version of one side of the emotional story, is not honorable.
 

For Bart and others:

JUSTICE KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.
. . . . The trial court further instructed the jury to consider “[a]ny other circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime even though it is not a legal excuse for the crime.” App. 184. Under the then-applicable statutory scheme this general or catchall factor was codified at Cal.Penal Code Ann. § 190.3(k) (West 1988); and it is referred to as “factor (k).”

Belmontes contended, on direct review, in state collateral proceedings, and in the federal habeas proceedings giving rise to this case, that factor (k) and the trial court's other instructions barred the jury from considering his forward-looking mitigation evidence-specifically evidence that he likely would lead a constructive life if incarcerated instead of executed. The alleged limitation, in his view, prevented the jury from considering relevant mitigation evidence, in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to present all mitigating evidence in capital sentencing proceedings. See, e.g., Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 797, 121 S.Ct. 1910, 150 L.Ed.2d 9 (2001); Skipper v. South Carolina, 476 U.S. 1, 4-5, 8, 106 S.Ct. 1669, 90 L.Ed.2d 1 (1986); Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 112, 102 S.Ct. 869, 71 L.Ed.2d 1 (1982).

Ayers v. Belmontes, ___ U.S. ___, ___ S.Ct. ___, 2006 WL 3257143, *3 (Nov. 13, 2006), available at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/06pdf/05-493.pdf.
 

"Bart" DePalma shows his standard RepublicanVision® 'selective perception':

It might help your argument if you posted the "offending" jury instruction so we can judge whether it is "confusing."

The concept of model behavior as a mitigator is not all that complicated and the defense had its shot in argument to the jury to make its case for life imprisonment.


The question, as Brian explained, wasn't whether "model behavior" is a mitigator (and that's not per se as obvious as you make it out to be either). The question was whether the jury understood that model behaviour after the fact (or, for that matter, any behaviour or other circumstances after the fact) could be considered mitigating circumstances. As you should know, the laws on mitigating circumstances varies considerably from state to state, as various states have widely different ideas of what can be taken into account. It's not at all obvious that a jury, given this natural range of opinion on this subject, would understand what California has decided constitutes "mitigating circumstances" in this legal context, and that such behaviour post hoc can be taken into account. AFAIK, not many states would consider such. Hell, just look at what Karla Faye Tucker got from Dubya: sneers and mockery.

This sounds like a standard death penalty appeal on a tangential issue to guilt...

Why, yes, Captain Obvious, an appeal of a sentence is not an appeal of the verdict. I'm so comforted to know that you, in your practise, know enough to understand you can plead for leniency in sentencing even when the DUIs you're representing are dead to rights on the drunk driving charge.

Cheers,
 

mxyzptlk said:

AFTER he was incarcerated as a juvenile, and AFTER he supposedly underwent a religious conversion during incareceration, and AFTER he was supposedly a model prisoner, Fernando Belmontes decided to commit a burglary in March 1981. Yes, 1981. He has lived more than a quarter-century since committing the crime for which he was sentenced to death.

During the burglary a 19-year-old young woman surprised Mr. Belmontes. His response? Fifteen to twenty blows in the head with a steel dumbbell bar, causing (of course) the innocent 19yo's death.

"Now Mr. Belmontes is going to die." Well, no. He got a trial -- arguably flawed -- and a jury sentenced him to death in 1982. ALL evidence of his religious "conversion" -- which, miraculously, happened AGAIN after he beat a defenseless 19-year-old 15 to 20 times in the head with a dumbbell bar while committing a burglary, and which conveniently occurred in the short period between his 1981 murder and his 1982 trial -- was admitted at the arguably flawed trial.


Hey, we're all sinners, right? Just say the magic words, and Jesus takes your sins off you. And AFAIK, it's an all-you-can-eat buffet, and no rules about coming back for seconds even if you barf up the first serving.

I didn't make California's rules about post-crime behaviour, and I don't agree with them (on a further note, I think that "victim impact statements" are unjust as well). But the law's the law. If it's up to the jury to decide whether this makes a difference, the jury should know about it. You're not arguing the law here, you're arguing from emotion as well.

Cheers,
 

Trivia:

Anatomy of a Murder by John D. Voelker (MI Sct Justice) pen name: Robert Traver; is the only popular book and movie about a murder trial that actually mentions jury instructions.
 

If the circumstance that extenuates the severity of the crime does not have to be directly related to the crime, then I don't see what the problem is here. The jury was read improper instructions by, not only the prosecution, but the defense, as well. Based on the fact that the defendant is constitutionally entitled to have ALL mitigating evidence heard by the jury, he was given an unfair trial. Ladies and gentleman, this is a man's life, and, as much as we would like to hurt him for the hurt he caused, the law says that the jury may take into consideration ANY forward-looking mitigating circumstance that may, when balanced against the agravated circumstances, present a reason for punishment less than death. The jury cleary did not do this.
 

rothmatisseko said...

For Bart and others:

The trial court further instructed the jury to consider “[a]ny other circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime even though it is not a legal excuse for the crime.” App. 184. Under the then-applicable statutory scheme this general or catchall factor was codified at Cal.Penal Code Ann. § 190.3(k) (West 1988); and it is referred to as “factor (k).”

Belmontes contended, on direct review, in state collateral proceedings, and in the federal habeas proceedings giving rise to this case, that factor (k) and the trial court's other instructions barred the jury from considering his forward-looking mitigation evidence-specifically evidence that he likely would lead a constructive life if incarcerated instead of executed.


Where exactly is the limitation in the above instruction to considering forward looking mitigation evidence?

Indeed, this appears to be a catchall provision which would allow the consideration of just about any extenuating circumstance and strongly favors the defendant.

Once again, I am presuming that the defense offered this forward looking mitigation evidence at length during arguments to the jury. I do not see any part of this instruction which bars the jury from considering this argument.

The reality is that this jury probably did not consider this mitigator to be sufficient to excuse the cold blooded murder.
 

BD:"This sounds like a standard death penalty appeal on a tangential issue to guilt or punishment."

If its such a run-of-the-mill appeal, why did the SCOTUS hear it?
 

Bart said "Where exactly is the limitation in the above instruction to considering forward looking mitigation evidence?"

Bart, conversion in prison after the fact doesn't having anything to do with how serious the underlying crime was. Just ask the victims' families, or yourself - would you give two cents if your family members' killer now professed faith? But some jurors may, and federal law requires that they be told that they can consider that evidence. Take a look at Justice Stevens' dissent (joined by three of the seven justices who didn't sign on to Scalia's concurrence that was based on contempt for all mitigating evidence claims):

In sum, both counsel agreed that none of the mitigating evidence could detract from the gravity of the crime, and defense counsel even insisted that it would “insult” the jury to suggest that the mitigating evidence “excuses in any way what happened.”

Ayers, Stevens opinion at *9-10.

Arne, the law on mitigating factors does NOT vary by state. While it is true, as you say, that "various states have widely different ideas of what can be taken into account," that's a problem on the ground, not a correct statement of the law. The Supreme Court ruled in Skipper that forward-looking mitigating evidence (ie good behavior in jail after crime, indeed after a first, reversed sentence) is admissable. The Supreme Court says what the law is in America. Justice Stevens again:

In Skipper v. South Carolina, 476 U. S. 1 (1986)—decided two years before the California Supreme Court affirmed respondent’s conviction and therefore fully applicable here, see Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U. S. 314, 322– 323 (1987)—we expressly rejected the argument, presented in Justice Powell’s separate opinion, [my note: and by Bart DePalma] that the States retained the authority to determine what mitigating evidence is relevant “as long as they do not foreclose consideration of factors that may tend to reduce the defendant’s culpability for his crime,” see Skipper, 476 U. S., at 11 (opinion concurring in judgment).

Id. at *4. Federal law required that this overly narrow mitigation instruction not be given in isolation.
 

bitswapper said...

BD:"This sounds like a standard death penalty appeal on a tangential issue to guilt or punishment."

If its such a run-of-the-mill appeal, why did the SCOTUS hear it?


Because they had to correct the 9th Circuit yet again. If I remember correctly, this is the third correction in this case alone...
 

rothmatisseko said...

Bart said "Where exactly is the limitation in the above instruction to considering forward looking mitigation evidence?"

Bart, conversion in prison after the fact doesn't having anything to do with how serious the underlying crime was.


Thank you. You are the first one here who even bothered to state the issue in this case.

However, prior courts had rejected this argument and Kennedy pretty handily disposes of it in the Court's opinion.

In their arguments, the prosecution and the defense both assumed this forward looking evidence was relevant. The prosecution admitted that the factor (k) was a "catchall" provision, as I did. There was no argument by the prosecution that (k) barred this evidence.

The bottom line is that the jury heard the evidence and rejected it as a sufficient reason to deny the death penalty in what was a vicious murder.
 

Bart, I think the fact that the Supreme Court has rejected the idea that the phrase "any other factor that extenuates the gravity of the crime" would encompass good behavior during a previous incarceration is somewhat beside the point... This post is about the fact that real jurors are likely to have understood that phrase differently than the Justices did (if they weren't asleep by the time the judge got to it).

And to say that the prosecutor "admitted that the factor (k) was a 'catchall' provision" is also somewhat misleading. In fact, he specifically said that the good behavior evidence didn't fit within factor (k). Not all of his comments were so pointed, but he was clear on that point.
 

correction! I meant to say "the fact that the Supreme Court has rejected the idea that the phrase "any other factor that extenuates the gravity of the crime" would NOT encompass good behavior" blah blah.
 

rothmatisseka:

Arne, the law on mitigating factors does NOT vary by state. While it is true, as you say, that "various states have widely different ideas of what can be taken into account," that's a problem on the ground, not a correct statement of the law. The Supreme Court ruled in Skipper that forward-looking mitigating evidence (ie good behavior in jail after crime, indeed after a first, reversed sentence) is admissable. The Supreme Court says what the law is in America.

I stand corrected. But does that hold only for capital cases (albeit Belmontes here is such a case)?

I see from a brief look at Skipper that indeed such forward-looking mitigating factors as were present in Belmontes must indeed be presented to the jury (who, to make this not just a meaningless requirement, should also be told that they are to weigh it in their verdict/sentence).

Thanks for the information.

Cheers,
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

[rothmatisseko]: Bart, conversion in prison after the fact doesn't having anything to do with how serious the underlying crime was.

Thank you. You are the first one here who even bothered to state the issue in this case.


Huh? Who has said that it had any such bearing. As rothmatisseko pointed out, the Supreme Court said that mitigation must include any such forward-looking factors as can be presented in the sentencing proceedings, even though they have nothing to do with actual culpability for the crime itself (and how could they, having transpired after completion of the crime?).

No one has said that Belmontes is innocent or any less guilty of the crime he was charged with; that's your own "straw man". What you present in your comment above simply wasn't an issue, and no one said it was. rothmatisseko simply repeated what wasn't an issue, and you thank him for saying what the issue was.

Cheers,
 

"Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined in the opinion along with Justices Scalia and Thomas. [An aside interjected by Tamanaha: For whatever it's worth--and I think very little--this majority is made up exclusively of the so-called "Catholic Five" on an issue of major significance for Catholic teachings, and the Justices apparently went against the official Church position.]"

What do you think the "official Church position" is on the death penalty, and do you have any citation for that position?

The US Catholic Bishops oppose the death penalty, but that's not the "official Church position."

Pope John Paul II opposed the death penalty during his life, but that's not the "official Church position."

I don't know Ratzinger's position.

Scalia has both spoken and written on this issue. His understanding is that the "official Church position" is consistent with the death penalty (assuming due process, proportionality, etc.).

Of course, the problem is establishing and verifying the "official Church position." This is not easy, particularly for an outsider or casual observer.
 

Incidentally, I have tried a number of cases, in both federal and state court, throughout the Midwest, and written copies of jury instructions have never been permitted into deliberations.

This fact creates one obvious incentive for some litigants: make the instructions as long, as tedious, as complex, as possible, so their very oppressiveness renders them irrelevant.
 

It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.
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تتعدد اغراض الحاجة للعزل سواء العزل المائي او الحراري كالوقاية من الحرارة واثارها المضرة ايضا المياه والامطار وتسربات المياه واثارها في تخريب الابنية ويعد العزل البولي يورثين من احدث التقنيات المعمول بها في العزل وتعد هذة الصيحة موفرة لكثير من المواد والاموال المجهود وتعطي تناغم وتناسق بالسطح كما انها تتحمل درجات الحرارة والرطوبة المختلفة والمتتابعة مما يجعل فترة صلاحيتها طويلة كما نقدم اعمال العزل بالفوم المرشوش وغيرة من امور العزل المختلفة لاننا افض شركة عزل فوم بالرياض
.
 

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