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SCOTUS declines death row inmate's appeal

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The nation's highest court has declined to accept a death row inmate's case, leaving intact an Indiana judge's ruling that OK'd a federal prison policy banning face-to-face interviews with reporters.

In an order list issued today, the Supreme Court of the United States indicated that during its March 5 conference it denied certiorari in David Paul Hammer v. John D. Ashcroft, et al., No. 09-504, which involves the federal prison inmate being housed in Terre Haute. Even though a federal judge tossed David Paul Hammer's sentence in 2005, he remains on death row as the government is still deciding whether to re-seek execution.

The appeal involved Hammer's challenge to a policy adopted by the U.S. Attorney, which banned death row inmates from conducting in-person interviews with the media after Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2000 appeared on "60 Minutes." Hammer sued in 2004, and in February 2006 then-U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder in Indianapolis granted summary judgment against him. A 7th Circuit panel reversed that decision in 2008, but last summer the full court affirmed Judge Tinder - who by then was elevated to the appellate bench but didn't participate in this decision. Attorneys appealed to the SCOTUS in October, but justices declined to intervene in the prison free-speech case even though 23 news media organizations had urged them to hear the case.

Originally sentenced to die in 1998 for the April 1996 strangling death of his cellmate, Hammer has been appealing that death sentence for a decade. He's gotten national attention for not only his appeals but also his prison behavior through the years. An insulin-dependent diabetic, Hammer attempted suicide the night before McVeigh's execution in 2001 by injecting insulin directly into his veins; later that year he also went on a hunger strike and refused food and insulin because of visitation problems.

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  1. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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