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Court puts death penalty case on hold

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an Indianapolis judge's decision on a death penalty case, putting a condemned convict's death penalty appeal on hold indefinitely because of his current mental state.

In the latest stage of a long-running federal appeal on Eric D. Holmes v. Mark E. Levenhagen, Nos. 04-3549 and 06-2905, the three-judge appellate panel reversed a decision from U.S. Judge Larry McKinney in the Southern District of Indiana. The case involves the man convicted of killing two of his managers at an Indianapolis Shoney's restaurant hours after his firing in 1989. A state judge sentenced him in 1993, and his federal appeals have been ongoing for nearly a decade. The 7th Circuit remanded the case to Judge McKinney to determine the competency issue, of which the appellate panel found his examination was inadequate.

In today's ruling, the 7th Circuit was again unpursuaded by Judge McKinney's examination of the competency issue as it relates to expert psychiatric reports received. In one instance, authoring U.S. Judge Richard Posner wrote about being "troubled" by the District judge's evaluation that seems to have given weight to one expert more than another. The accuracy of his decision that Holmes is competent for the proceedings is in question, Judge Posner wrote.

"The implication is profoundly unsatisfactory - that Holmes is to be consigned to habeas corpus limbo indefinitely - but we cannot come up with a satisfactory alternative," the appellate judge wrote.

Writing that it reluctantly reverses Judge McKinney's decision, the court reversed and remanded it to his court to put on hold until the state provides "substantial new evidence that Holmes' psychiatric illness has abated, or its symptoms are sufficiently controlled, to justify the resumption of the proceeding."

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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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