Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Fourth Circuit affirms death penalty in Montgomery County murder case

In Reid v. True, the Fourth Circuit in a decision by Chief Judge Wilkins, joined by Judges Gregory and Shedd, affirmed the denial of habeas corpus in a murder case from Montgomery County, Virginia, in which the defendant was sentenced to be executed for stabbing to death an 80 year-old woman. The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the defendant's conviction and sentence on direct appeal in Reid v. Com, 256 Va. 561, 506 S.E.2d 787 (1998), in an opinion by Justice Kinser.

The opinion mostly deals with explaining the substance and purpose of the Fourth Circuit's new Local Rule 22(a), dealing with certificates of appealability in post-conviction appeals. I'm not sure that I have ever seen an opinion which deals at such length in explaining a local rule of court - should one set of three judges, even with the Chief Judge among them, be allowed to submit a lengthy advisory opinion on what a new rule means, in ways that might go beyond the requirements of the particular case, almost as if they were providing a commentary to the new rule?

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