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GoldieAV16's avatar

For people who are interested in the law, can you help me understand the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act?

Asked by GoldieAV16 (5384points) April 6th, 2012

Especially as it pertains to the case of Shirley Ree Smith, who was granted clemency by Governor Brown today. I am having a hard time understanding how this law worked (or didn’t work) in her case. Any additional thoughts on the case, the 9th Circuit Ruling, the Supreme Court decision, or the clemency are welcome.

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4 Answers

bkcunningham's avatar

The California Supreme Court refused to review the case after Smith was convicted. Smith turned to the federal courts for an appeal because she didn’t think there was really enough evidence to get a conviction. The AEDPA says that federal courts can’t overturn state court decisions except in certain limited circumstances.

Read this about the case from the Supreme Court and see if it helps: The opinion of the Court in Jackson v. Virginia, 443
U. S. 307 (1979), makes clear that it is the responsibility of the jury—not the court—to decide what conclusions should be drawn from evidence admitted at trial. A reviewing court may set aside the jury’s verdict on the ground ofinsufficient evidence only if no rational trier of fact couldhave agreed with the jury. What is more, a federal court may not overturn a state court decision rejecting a sufficiency
of the evidence challenge simply because the federal
court disagrees with the state court. The federal court instead may do so only if the state court decisionwas “objectively unreasonable.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 5) (internal quotation marksomitted).
Because rational people can sometimes disagree, theinevitable consequence of this settled law is that judgeswill sometimes encounter convictions that they believe tobe mistaken, but that they must nonetheless uphold. The Court of Appeals in this case substituted its judgment for that of a California jury on the question whether theprosecution’s or the defense’s expert witnesses more persuasively
explained the cause of a death. For this reason, certiorari is granted and the judgment of the Court ofAppeals is reversed.


GoldieAV16's avatar

Thank you, that does help me to understand.

Okay, perhaps this is only very remotely related, but if the Supreme Court has to assume that the jury heard all the evidence and “got it right,” and thus the 9th Circuit CoA had no standing to overturn their verdict – - – how can the Supreme Court overturn Congress when they make a law?

Is there something about that set of circumstances that makes it different?

Also, back to the original case and question, does this mean that a jury can NEVER be wrong under the current law?

I guess you can see that I’m still a little confused about this – I feel like there’s something I’m not quite wrapping my head around, so I’m not even sure what questions to ask! Thanks for your patience.

bkcunningham's avatar

@GoldieAV16, the US Supreme Court doesn’t really “overturn” what the Congress has done. The Supreme Court decides if what the Congress has done is Constitutional, within the Laws of the United States and/or within the Treaties.

Jurisdiction. According to the Constitution (Art. III, §2): “The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;-to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;-to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;-to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;-to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;-between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

“In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

Appellate jurisdiction has been conferred upon the Supreme Court by various statutes, under the authority given Congress by the Constitution. The basic statute effective at this time in conferring and controlling jurisdiction of the Supreme Court may be found in 28 U. S. C. §1251 et seq., and various special statutes.

GoldieAV16's avatar

Okay, thanks – that is helpful. Of course I know that SCOTUS does not overturn Congress, lol, but as I said I’m grappling a bit with the concepts. Your clarification and citations helped.

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