Wednesday, December 11, 2019

READ: Oral Argument On Arizona Death Penalty Case, Before the U.S. Supreme Court

Arizona's Solicitor General faced off with a former U.S. Solicitor General in front of the U.S. Supreme Court today on an Arizona death penalty case which could effect a number of other inmates currently on death row.

James McKinney is attempting to get a new sentencing, one that would take into greater account PTSD from abuse he suffered as a child. Neil Katyal, arguing on his behalf, also suggested that the sentencing needs to go back to the trial court (and a jury).

After the argument, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich noted that Mr. McKinney was convicted of "brutally murder(ing) two innocent people" nearly 30 years ago, and that "this is another attempt by a convicted killer to delay accepting responsibility for his heinous crimes. We must remember the victims and their families. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

AZ Solicitor General O.H. Skinner's argument in front of the Justices could not be as emotional, however. He attempted to convince the court that the sentencing does not have to go back to the trial court and countering McKinney's position that vacating the death sentence would somehow un-do the conviction for the murders.

The Arizona Republic/USA Today provided a very good article this afternoon on the oral arguments. And, this article from SCOTUSblog's Amy Howe has further detail. We would like to add the transcript from today's oral arguments, below.

As always, it is also interesting to try to interpret how the Justices are leaning in the case - especially by noting which Justices questioned which attorneys, etc. Without engaging in prognostications, we will simply note how active each of the Justices was.

Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Sonia Sotomayor were the most active, interjecting approximately 17 and 15 times, respectively. None of the other conservative Justices reached double digits, while Breyer (12) and Kagan (11) both spoke up more. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated three times, while - as is customary - Justice Clarence Thomas does not appear in the transcript.

If you would like us to highlight certain portions of the transcript, feel free to drop us a note, at Paul.Weich.AZlaw @

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