The First Circuit and the Death Penalty Tug of War

Yesterday the First Circuit heard argument about an ongoing life and death tussle between Gov. Chafee and the U.S.  U.S. v. Pleau, No. 11-1775. 

Rhode Island doesn't have the death penalty.  The U.S. does for certain crimes, including the murder for which Pleau is accused by both jurisdictions.  The defendant offered to plead guilty to the state crime in return for life without parole.  The U.S. asked Rhode Island to hand the defendant over under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, 18 U.S.C. ss. 1395 et seq..  Gov. Chafee said no because of Rhode Island's lack of capital punishment.  The U.S. then filed a writ.  The federal district court granted the writ, Pleau's lawyer sought a stay in the First Circuit, and the panel hearing the motion (Judges Torruella, Boudin and Thompson) granted the stay temporarily (Judge Boudin dissenting) and heard argument yesterday.  You can hear the argument on the Court's RSS feed.  []

The merits hinge on, among other things, the Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Moreau, 436 U.S. 340 (  In further machinations about standing, while the Governor appeared only as an amicus at the oral argument, he subsequentlly filed a motion to intervene, and I presume this matter will go marching up to the Supreme Court rapidly one way or the other.

Maine also has no death penalty, because of the Smuttynose murders.  As this example, shows, however, the death penalty could come to Maine via federal avenues.  In Vermont, another jurisdiction without capital punishment, much publicity and litigation surrounded a carjacking case prosecuted by the federal authorities in which the jury recommended a death penalty sentence.  



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