Focus On The Supreme Court: The Innerworkings

How Supreme Court Proceedings Can Go

The proceedings of the United States Supreme Court are a blend of long-standing traditions and procedural rules that guide the highest form of legal deliberation in the country. The Supreme Court’s term begins on the first Monday in October and usually continues until late June or early July. The term is structured around “sittings,” where the Justices hear cases and deliver opinions, and “recesses,” where they consider pending matters and work on their opinions. This cyclical pattern of sittings and recesses, alternating at approximately two-week intervals, forms the backbone of the Court’s annual schedule.

Limited Time Limits

Each case presented before the Supreme Court is allotted a strict time frame for oral arguments, typically 30 minutes per side, with the Court usually hearing two arguments per day and occasional afternoon sessions if required. Since the majority of cases involve the review of a decision from another court, there are no juries or witness testimonies. Instead, the Court relies on a record of prior proceedings and printed briefs containing arguments from each side.

Time To Evaluate The Case

During recesses, the Justices study the argued and forthcoming cases and dedicate their time to writing opinions. A critical part of their role involves evaluating numerous petitions seeking review of judgments from state and federal courts. Each week, the Justices must sift through approximately 130 petitions to determine which cases merit a full review with oral arguments.

When the Court is in session, public sessions begin at 10 a.m. The Justices typically hear two oral arguments in the morning, with additional sessions scheduled as necessary. Public sessions are generally held on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. On Fridays during and preceding argument weeks, the Justices convene privately to discuss and vote on petitions for review.

Monday Mornings

Before hearing oral arguments, the Court transacts other business, which includes the release of an Order List on Monday mornings. This list is a public report of Court actions, including the acceptance and rejection of cases, and the admission of new members to the Supreme Court Bar. After the conclusion of oral arguments in April, the Court focuses on releasing orders and opinions for the remainder of the term.

Although the Court typically recesses at the end of June, the work of the Justices continues through the summer. They analyze new petitions for review, consider motions and applications, and prepare for cases scheduled for the fall argument session. This ongoing work reflects the continuous and demanding nature of the responsibilities shouldered by the members of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s procedures and traditions underscore its role as a cornerstone of the American legal system, where the rule of law is upheld, and pivotal legal issues are deliberated with the utmost seriousness and scholarship.

Who Richard Eugene Glossip?

Richard Eugene Glossip, born on February 9, 1963, is an American prisoner currently on death row at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. His case has garnered international attention due to its unusual nature and the controversies surrounding his conviction. Glossip was convicted for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, for which the primary perpetrator, Justin Sneed, received a life sentence without parole in exchange for testifying against Glossip. The conviction of Glossip largely relied on Sneed’s testimony, with little to no corroborating evidence, raising significant doubts about the fairness of the trial.

The case against Glossip was initially deemed “extremely weak” by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, which led to his first conviction being thrown out in 2001 due to ineffective assistance of counsel. However, he was re-convicted in 2004, and the death sentence was affirmed in 2007 despite Glossip’s consistent claims of innocence and issues raised regarding the conduct of the prosecution.

Glossip gained further prominence for his role in the 2015 Supreme Court case, Glossip v. Gross, which challenged the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol. This case was pivotal in the ongoing debate over lethal injection methods in the United States. His scheduled executions in September and October 2015 were stayed due to concerns about the state’s lethal injection drugs, particularly after the execution of Charles Frederick Warner using an incorrect drug.

The case continued to develop, with new evidence and witnesses coming forward, further complicating Glossip’s situation. His legal team pointed out that key evidence was destroyed and not provided during his trials, and new affidavits suggested that Sneed had acted alone and had lied in court. Despite these developments, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals voted to proceed with the execution in September 2015, though a last-minute stay was granted by the Governor due to lethal injection protocol discrepancies.

In 2022 and 2023, further developments occurred. Oklahoma State Representative Kevin McDugle became a vocal advocate for Glossip, criticizing the justice system and the role of district attorneys. McDugle worked with figures like Dr. Phil to bring attention to the case, highlighting its implications beyond just Glossip’s fate. Glossip’s execution was scheduled and stayed multiple times, with various legal and procedural challenges arising.

As of 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Glossip’s case, indicating the ongoing legal battles and the significance of his case in the broader context of the death penalty and criminal justice in the United States. The case of Richard Glossip remains a focal point in debates over the death penalty, legal ethics, and the possibility of wrongful conviction in capital cases.

What Crime Was He Originally Convicted For?

The crime for which Richard Glossip was convicted is a complex and controversial one, deeply entangled with issues of justice and the death penalty in the United States. On January 7, 1997, the murder of Barry Van Treese took place at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City. Van Treese was the owner of the inn, while Justin Sneed, then 19 years old and struggling with a methamphetamine addiction, was the maintenance man, and Richard Glossip was the manager.

The crime itself was brutal, Sneed beat Van Treese to death with a baseball bat. Following his arrest, Sneed struck a deal with the authorities: in exchange for avoiding the death penalty, he confessed to the murder and claimed that Glossip had instructed him to commit the act. This testimony was the cornerstone of the case against Glossip, who was subsequently convicted of commissioning the murder. This conviction led to Glossip’s sentence to death row, despite his consistent insistence on his innocence and refusal to accept a plea bargain.

Hearsay, No Official Evidence

Glossip’s conviction has been shrouded in controversy, primarily due to the lack of corroborating evidence beyond Sneed’s testimony. The case was described as “extremely weak” by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and Glossip’s first conviction in 1998 was overturned in 2001 due to ineffective assistance of counsel. However, he was re-convicted in 2004, and the death sentence was reaffirmed in 2007, despite numerous appeals and increasing public scrutiny.

The case took on greater significance with Glossip’s involvement in the 2015 Supreme Court case, Glossip v. Gross, which centered around the constitutionality of lethal injection protocols. Furthermore, Glossip’s scheduled executions in 2015 were stayed multiple times due to concerns over Oklahoma’s execution drugs, bringing national attention to the case.

In the years following, new evidence and claims emerged, including assertions from Glossip’s legal team about Sneed’s methamphetamine addiction and habit of breaking into vehicles. Questions were raised about the destruction of evidence and the reliability of Sneed’s testimony, with some suggesting that Sneed acted alone. These developments led to further legal proceedings, stays of execution, and interventions by high-profile figures and organizations advocating for Glossip’s case to be re-examined.

The controversy around Richard Glossip’s conviction highlights significant issues in the criminal justice system, especially concerning the death penalty and the reliance on plea bargain testimonies. His case raises critical questions about the fairness of trials, the effectiveness of counsel, and the potential for wrongful convictions, particularly in capital cases.

What Was The Glossip V.S. Gross Case

Glossip v. Gross was a landmark case in the United States Supreme Court, where the central issue revolved around the use of the sedative midazolam in lethal injections and its constitutionality under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The case, decided on June 29, 2015, had far-reaching implications for the death penalty and lethal injection protocols across the United States.

The background of the case traces back to the murder of Barry Van Treese on January 7, 1997, at the Best Budget Inn in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Richard Glossip, the manager of the inn, was convicted of commissioning the murder, carried out by the maintenance man, Justin Sneed. Glossip’s conviction and subsequent death sentence became a focal point of the legal battle over lethal injection methods.

The controversy began after a three-justice plurality opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of the sedative sodium thiopental in lethal injections in Baze v. Rees (2008). This led pharmaceutical companies to stop supplying the drug, prompting Oklahoma to replace it with midazolam. The state kept the drug’s origin secret, which raised ethical and legal concerns. The botched execution of Clayton Lockett using midazolam, where he struggled and expressed distress, brought significant attention to the effectiveness and humanity of using midazolam in executions.

Glossip, along with other death row inmates, sued in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, arguing that Oklahoma’s use of midazolam violated the Eighth Amendment. Their case was initially dismissed, but the Supreme Court agreed to hear it, with Glossip as the lead petitioner.

Prisoners: Burden Of Proof

The Supreme Court’s decision in Glossip v. Gross was split 5-4. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. The majority held that the petitioners failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the use of midazolam violates the Eighth Amendment. The ruling stated that condemned prisoners can challenge their method of execution only after providing a known and available alternative method. The decision emphasized that the burden of proof was on the prisoners, not the state, to show that the challenged method of execution poses a demonstrated risk of severe pain.

The dissenting opinions, notably by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, criticized the majority for imposing an unprecedented obligation on condemned inmates to identify an available means for their execution. Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, argued that the death penalty likely violates the Eighth Amendment, citing concerns over its reliability, arbitrariness, excessive delays, and its diminishing use in the United States. Sotomayor, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Elena Kagan, attacked the credence given to Oklahoma’s expert witness and contended that the majority’s ruling was legally indefensible.

The Glossip v. Gross decision is significant for its impact on the future of the death penalty in the United States. It highlighted the ongoing debate about the methods of execution, the ethical implications of lethal injections, and the broader constitutional questions surrounding capital punishment. The ruling underscored the complex interplay between law, medicine, and morality in the context of the death penalty, and its aftermath continued to shape discussions and legal battles over capital punishment in America.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Do not forget that when you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge, you have us, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, by your side to help you build the best defense case for you. We will work and be in your best interest for you and we will obtain the best possible outcome that can benefit you. We can explain everything you need to know about your trial and how to defend your case best. We can help you step by step through the criminal process. 

Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know that is facing criminal charges unsure about the court system. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain the result of the charge to you and guide you in the best possible way.

Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable criminal law attorneys who are experienced in building a defense case for you that suits your needs for the best possible outcome that can benefit you.  

Also, here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, you are given a free consultation at your convenience. You may choose to have your appointment via Zoom, google meet, email, or an in-person appointment; and we will provide you with as much advice and information as possible so you can have the best possible result in your case. 

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