Supreme Court Hears Argument in Case, Death Penalty Clinic is Counsel for Amici
On December 6, 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in Thomas Miller-El v. Dretke, a case in which the Death Penalty Clinic and Sidley Austin Brown & Wood of Washington, D.C., are counsel for amici curiae, former judges and prosecutors. Amici include former federal appellate court judges, a former deputy U.S. attorney general, a former FBI director, former state attorneys general, former assistant U.S. attorneys, and the former district attorney of Boston. On behalf of their clients, the clinic and the Sidley firm have filed four briefs in the Court in support of Miller-El, who was sentenced to death by a Texas jury in 1986.
The Court will decide whether the prosecution intentionally struck African-Americans from Miller-El's trial jury in violation of the rule established in Batson v. Kentucky . The clinic has been involved in the case since 2002, when, weeks before Miller-El's scheduled execution, the clinic and the Sidley firm filed their first amicus brief in support of Miller-El's petition for a writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court. In 2003, by a vote of eight to one, the Supreme Court ruled that Miller-El's evidence of discriminatory jury selection required review by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had previously refused to hear the case. The Fifth Circuit then denied relief and Miller-El, supported by another brief authored by the clinic and Sidley Austin, again sought Supreme Court review.
The Court took the unusual action of agreeing to hear the case a second time, and the clinic and the Sidley firm filed their fourth brief of amici, urging that Miller-El's conviction and death sentence be reversed. Former Boalt students Portia Glassman '02, Rachael Turner '03, and Jessica (Goneau) Simbalenko '04 worked with Death Penalty Clinic Director Elisabeth Semel on the amicus briefs.
For more on the Miller-El case, please read The New York Times article and listen to NPR Morning Edition (Real Audio required). Please visit the Death Penalty Clinic's website to read the full story.