View Full Version : Technicality of death sentence time limit

03-23-2010, 09:46 AM
The setting is 10 years from now where domestic terrorism cases are tried by a civilian 3 judge panel instead of juries for "national security" issues. Obviously if it's future any law can change, but does it sound feasible or reasonable that the sentence would have a time limit, such that if the defense can not bring new evidence, then the condemned will be executed by a certain specified date and time, As Well As, if the prison system or prosecutor fails to execute the condemned by that time, then the sentence will be commuted to life in prison.

03-23-2010, 10:08 AM
You would have to do something about the appeals process. That's the only reason the date for carrying out a sentence is disrupted now, and I believe the first appeal, at least, is automatic. I'm also not sure why the prison would fail to carry out the execution, so that seems kind of an odd addition, but nothing that couldn't be engineered of course.

03-23-2010, 06:40 PM
There are currently prisoners in death row in several prisons, who have been there for up to twenty years, pending appeals and court decisions that affected their trials.
In your case, you'd be dealing with Federal courts and laws, the process would probably move along faster, due to fewer courts between them and the US Supreme Court.

03-23-2010, 07:25 PM
There are already time limits in place. But you need to understand how they work.

Let's say I take an accused criminal to jury trial in New Hampshire and lose. I keep my client on the streets pending sentencing. With this scenario, unless my client is in a rush to go to prison, delay is to his/her advantage.

In New Hampshire, I have thirty days in which to request a new trial. On day twenty-nine, I file a request for indigent funds to prepare a transcript of the trial in order to prepare the motion for new trial. This automatically stays the thirty day time limit. Court waits ten business days to see whether the county attorney objects. He/she does. Now the court has to schedule a hearing. This usually takes two to three months.

Remember, my client is still footloose and fancy free. We do the hearing, where the judge decides my client has no money and orders the State to pay for the transcript. Stenographer is notified, and begins working on the transcript. Depending upon the length of the trial, this can take several months, as the State is not going to pay for a rush job.

Three months later (I've gained about five months), I receive the transcript, which starts the thirty day clock running again. So on day 29, I file a motion for new trial. Six months have gone by. County attorney has thirty days to respond, and will use all their time. Seven months down the toilet. A hearing is scheduled two to three months out.

Ten months later, we finally have the hearing on a new trial. Of course, that assumes that there are no conflict of schedules anywhere along the line. (Like that's going to happen.) And notice that until I lose the motion for new trial, probation won't start preparing a sentencing report. I can use a year without a whole lot of effort just waiting on sentencing.

This is the problem with the deadlines.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

03-24-2010, 01:45 AM
In California, a big part of the problem is having an appellate level lawyer assigned to a defendant. In a capital case, that can take years in itself. There aren't many lawyers who accept such cases because they're time consuming compared to the money they'll make. No way does execution happen within 10 years.

Bing Z
03-24-2010, 02:42 AM
I know nothing about the system. However, the 3 judge panel system sounds like a military court system, which I am not certain.

Assuming it is, and assuming your new panel system is inspired by the military court, can you copy the military's execution system to your future civilian system? That, IMHO, can add a layer of pressure or antagonism to the entire setting if needed.