SCOTUS Splits 5-4 on Capital Case

Thursday evening saw the Supreme Court lift an injunction issued by the District Court. Hamm v. Reeves. The order authorized Matthew Reeves’ execution to continue. Five justices split the Court. The majority included Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch. Justice Barrett stated that she would deny the application without noting any dissent. Justice Kagan wrote three pages of dissent which Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Sotomayor joined.

This is my opinion, the first time that the Roberts Court has split 5-4 in a capital case. We need to explain Barrett’s voting. She is opposed to granting relief on the shadow docket, especially where the Supreme Court is valing an injunction from a lower court. Barrett made it very clear in John Does 1-3 v. Mills.

In the future, capital defendants may be eligible to obtain one additional vote for a favorable ruling.