To say Judge Boyce Martin of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals loathes the death penalty process is a gross understatement. The court's vociferous liberal lion may be retiring, but he did anything but mince his words in Nicholas v. Heidle, his final capital case.
Martin, 77, who often sported a bow tie in his more than three decades on the bench, concurred with the majority denying a death-row inmate's habeas claim. But Martin said he would "continue to condemn the use of the death penalty as an arbitrary, biased, and broken criminal justice tool."
'It's Time to Go'
The liberal lion is slated to retire Friday (August 16), due largely in part to his wife and himself battling cancer, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
"It is time to go," Judge Martin told the Courier-Journal. "I want to go out at the top of my game rather than having to be carried up and down from the bench."
Despite having to bow out from court earlier than expected, his legacy in the court will surely remain -- that of a forceful voice against capital punishment.
A Final Call to (More Productive) Action
From quoting Homer Simpson to expounding on the history of bourbon ("All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon"), no one can quite capture Martin's spirit as he can in his own words.
So it only makes sense to leave you with a particularly poignant part of his final death penalty opinion concerning Nichols, who was convicted in 1990 and meant to be executed in 1994:
I have been on this bench since 1979, and for twenty-three of my thirty-four years as a judge on this Court this case has been moving through our justice system, consuming countless judicial hours, money, legal resources, and providing no closure for the families of the victims.
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has called for a dispassionate and impartial comparison of the enormous cost that death penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits it produces.
The time, money, and energy spent trying to secure the death of this defendant would have been better spent improving this country's mental-health and educational institutions, which may help prevent crimes such as the ones we are presented with today.
- 6th Circuit judge condemns death penalty as 'arbitrary, biased and broken' in parting opinion (ABA Journal)
- 6th Circuit Finds Prosecutorial Misconduct in Death Penalty Case (FindLaw's U.S. Sixth Circuit Blog)
- Federal Judge Denies Death Row Request for MRI (FindLaw's U.S. Sixth Circuit Blog)