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September 29, 2008

First Monday Discussion: Capital Punishment & the Supreme Court, October 6, 2008

University of Texas law professors Rob Owen and Jordan Steiker, leading death penalty experts, will host a “First Monday Discussion” on capital punishment issues and the United States Supreme Court on Monday, October 6, 2008, from 2 to 3:20 p.m. in TNH 2.124 in the Law School.

The event, sponsored by the Capital Punishment Center, is open to the public. “First Monday” is held annually at law schools across the country on the first Monday in October to commemorate the opening day of the new Supreme Court term.

Professors Owen and Steiker co-direct the Capital Punishment Center which includes the Capital Punishment Clinic at UT Law.

Owen and Steiker will discuss capital punishment issues in the Supreme Court in both the last term and the coming term. Two cases that will receive particular attention are Kennedy v. Louisiana and Buntion v. Quarterman.

In Kennedy, the Supreme Court in June issued an opinion striking down a Louisiana statute that imposed the death penalty for non-homicidal child rape. That controversial decision is now under reconsideration, however, due to a factual error in the original opinion. If the Court reverses itself in Kennedy in the new Term, that could resurrect the portion of “Jessica’s Law,” adopted by the Texas Legislature in 2007, which made the death penalty a potential punishment in child sexual assault cases in Texas.

In the Buntion case, Texas death row prisoner Carl Buntion, convicted of murdering a Houston police officer, argues that he was tried before a biased judge. The trial judge made such outrageous statements during Buntion’s trial that he was later disciplined by judicial authorities for his intemperance. A federal district judge ordered a new trial for Buntion due to the trial judge’s behavior, but that decision was reversed by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to review the Fifth Circuit’s decision. The Capital Punishment Clinic has filed a brief in Buntion on behalf of an ad hoc group of prominent retired federal judges who, as amici curiae, are urging the Supreme Court to grant a new trial.

The Capital Punishment Clinic has enjoyed remarkable success in the Supreme Court in recent years, winning five consecutive victories there from 2004–2007.

Related links:

Professor Rob Owen

Professor Jordan Steiker

Capital Punishment Clinic

School of Law Capital Punishment Clinic wins three cases at the U.S. Supreme Court

Press contact: Kirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or kfortune@law.utexas.edu.