ILNews

Condemned man's appeals coming to end

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected one of the last appeals attempts by a man set to die Friday for the execution-style shooting death of a Muncie police officer in 1990.

A five-page unanimous decision by the three-judge panel in the federal appeals court in Chicago rejected Michael Allen Lambert's claims for relief in Lambert v. Edwin G. Buss, Nos. 03-1015 and 05-2610. The ruling upholds the judgment by U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney in Indianapolis.

In its opinion, the panel wrote per curiam that only the Supreme Court of the United States has the power to make a decision on Lambert's behalf, as previous attempts and rulings have nearly exhausted his relief possibilities.

While Lambert's requests are to file successive petitions for habeas relief under the federal Constitution, they are "actually masquerading as motions to recall mandates. While we certainly do not fault Mr. Lambert for leaving no stone unturned in his effort to stave off his execution, the relief he seeks is quite extraordinary."

The court can recall mandates but will only do so in extraordinary circumstances, it wrote. This case doesn't present those circumstances, according to the court.

"Any further relief must come from the (U.S.) Supreme Court," Circuit Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote in his concurrence.

Lambert's attorneys have filed a petition with SCOTUS to block the execution, but the high court hasn't ruled on that. In the petition, one issue cited is how at least two Indiana Supreme Court justices have disagreed on the imposition of death sentences, even during Lambert's appeals calling it "constitutionally infirm under both State and Federal constitutions."

When the Indiana Supreme Court denied post-conviction relief in May, Justices Theodore Boehm and Robert D. Rucker both dissented. Justice Boehm cited his dissent from Lambert's previous appeal in 2005 that said, "Without an error-free penalty phase, the death sentence could not stand under the current Indiana statute, and a new penalty phase was required."

Aside from court appeals, Gov. Mitch Daniels also has the authority to halt the execution despite a recommendation from the state parole board last week to deny clemency.

If Lambert is executed Friday as scheduled, he will be the second person put to death by lethal injection this year. David Leon Woods was executed in May for the 1984 killing of a 77-year-old neighbor in Fort Wayne. The January execution of Norman Timberlake was temporarily halted while the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a similar case. A ruling on that is expected later this year.
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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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