Death-Penalty News and Developments for the Week of August 5 – 11

NEWS—August 9: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld a California federal district court’s denial of Steven Livaditis’s habeas corpus petition challenging his capital conviction and death sentence. The court ruled that U.S. Supreme Court caselaw barred it from considering mitigating evidence presented to the federal district court in support of Livaditis’s claim that he had been provided ineffective representation in the penalty phase of his trial. After excluding this evidence, the federal appeals court held that the California Supreme Court had not unreasonably applied U.S. Supreme Court decisions on ineffective assistance of counsel when it summarily rejected Livaditis’s ineffective assistance claim without any discussion of counsel’s performance.


NEWS—August 8: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reversed the decision of a California federal district court and overturned the death sentence imposed on Carlos Avena. The court found that Avena’s trial lawyer provided ineffective representation when he failed to investigate available mitigating evidence relating to Avena’s background and upbringing, evidence of good character, and evidence rebutting the aggravating circumstances relied upon by the prosecution.


NEWS—August 7: The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Alan Matthew Champagne for the 2011 first-degree murder of one woman and the second-degree murder of another, and upheld the death sentence imposed for the first-degree murder. Champagne’s case now advances to the state post-conviction stage of the appeal process.


NEWS—August 1: A national poll by YouGuv reported that 46% of those responding said they supported the resumption of executions by the federal government. 38% said they opposed bringing back the federal death penalty. The poll reported sharp differences based on gender and party affiliation. Men favored restarting executions, 53%—35%; women narrowly opposed the restart, 40%—39%. 86% of Republicans said they favored the administration’s action, compared to 48% of Independents and 28% of Democrats.