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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 2006 / 25 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767

Reversal of 9th Circuit decisions never ends

By George Will


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | There should be two Supreme Courts, one to reverse the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the other to hear all other cases. Last term, more of the Supreme Court's caseload — 18 of 82 cases (22 percent) — came from the liberal 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, than from any other circuit, and the 9th was reversed in 15 of the 18. The 9th's winning percentage (.167) was worse than that of the 1962 Mets (.250). On Monday, in the first decision of this term, the Supreme Court reversed the 9th's fretfulness on behalf of Fernando Belmontes.


In order, as he explained to one of his accomplices, to "take out a witness," Belmontes used perhaps 20 blows with a metal dumbbell bar to bludgeon to death Steacy McConnell, whose home he had entered for a burglary. He emerged drenched with her blood and carrying her stereo that he sold for $100. She was 19. Belmontes killed her 25 years ago.


How did capital punishment jurisprudence reach its current baroque condition, in which cases live longer than did the murder victims? At the hands of judges such as Stephen Reinhardt, a residue of Jimmy Carter's Presidency, who says Belmontes' "robbery gone wrong" lacked "especially heinous elements."


Belmontes was convicted of murder "with special circumstances," making him eligible for the death penalty. In the trial's penalty phase, the jury heard about his previous crimes, which included severely beating his pregnant girlfriend a month before murdering McConnell. Belmontes argued that he had an abusive and alcoholic father and had become a Christian (before beating his girlfriend). He also stressed — this is called a "forward-looking mitigation" — that he had been well-behaved in a previous incarceration and would contribute to society if sentenced to life in a prison's structured environment.


Belmontes' attorney asked the trial judge to specifically instruct the jury to consider Belmontes' ability to live acceptably in prison. Instead, the judge used California's "catchall mitigation instruction," which was declared constitutional in 1990. It tells a jury weighing capital punishment that it can consider many things (e.g., the use of force or violence, the defendant's age, any extreme mental or emotional disturbance, prior felony convictions). Belmontes' case turned on whether the jury understood one provision of the catchall instruction — to consider "any other circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime" — to include the "forward-looking" consideration that life imprisonment might be a suitable punishment.


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Reinhardt, writing for the 9th's divided three-judge panel, overturned Belmontes' death sentence because the trial judge "failed to instruct the jury that it was required to consider" what Reinhardt considered Belmonte's "principal mitigation evidence" — his aptitude for prison life. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the 9th.


Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, argued that there was a reasonable probability that the jury weighed Belmontes' "future potential." Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, dissented, arguing that because the trial judge never explicitly told the jury that it must consider Belmontes' capacity to live satisfactorily in prison, there is a "reasonable probability" that the jury did not.


Courts have enveloped the administration of capital punishment in so many arcane procedures that judicial opponents of capital punishment have vast latitude to speculate that a jury perhaps did not fully fathom its rights and duties, and hence the punishment is impermissible. And Steacy McConnells become afterthoughts.


There is something grotesque about an execution a quarter of a century after a crime. But there is something repellent about the jurisprudential hairsplitting that consumes decades, defeats the conclusions of juries' deliberations, and denies society the implementation of a punishment it has endorsed.


Belmontes' lawyer calls Monday's decision "an unwelcome setback" but cites "other issues," such as the quality of Belmontes' trial lawyer, that the 9th Circuit did not address. Well, there is, it seems, always a next time.


The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in another death penalty case. The question at issue is: Jim Studer and his parents wore a button featuring a photograph at the San Jose trial of the man who murdered Studer's brother 12 years ago. A circuit court's three-judge panel, divided 2-1, reversed the conviction, arguing that the button interfered with the defendant receiving a fair trial because the button enunciated the "specific message" that the murdered man was "the innocent party" and that the defendant was "guilty."


The circuit court was the 9th. The author of that opinion was Reinhardt. Tidying up after it, and him, is steady work.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

George Will's latest book is "With a Happy Eye but: America and the World, 1997-2002" to purchase a copy, click here. Comment on this column by clicking here.

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