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Robert Mitchell Jennings won.

A federal district court granted habeas relief because Jennings' trial counsel failed to present evidence of his possible brain abnormalities and his disadvantaged background. The district court, however, didn't agree with his argument about his attorney's concessions during closing arguments.

The government appealed, the Fifth Circuit reversed, and refused to consider the capital concession argument, labeling it procedurally defaulted. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case earlier today.

Our least favorite thing in the world right now is the obsession with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's retirement. Seriously, pretty much every week, there's an article about how she should retire in time for President Obama to replace her, followed by her saying, "Nah," and dozens of other writers chiming in with "leave the lady alone."

But, the fact is, she's 81, Justice Antonin Scalia is 78, Justice Anthony Kennedy is 77, and Justice Stephen Breyer is 75. They're all probably headed for the exit in the near-term. This begs the question: Who are their likely replacements?

Speaking of soothsaying, there are a couple of interesting certiorari petitions that may, or may not, make the Court's docket -- one involving sex offender laws, and the other presenting the obvious Confrontation Clause issue with red-light cameras.

You go on vacation for a little more than a week and ... wait for it ... nothing happens.

Yep. You'd think, with the end of the October Term, that there'd be some titillating opinions, such as Noel Canning, McCutcheon, or Town of Greece, but um, there was a railroad right-of-way case and some notable denials.

Sorry about that. We'll tell RBG to speed things up a bit next time we're in D.C. (And no, Erwin Chemerinsky, she's still not retiring. Ever.) Until then, here are a few snippets of SCOTUS goodness to tide you over:

James Holmes, the Aurora, Colorado mass murderer, hasn't gone to trial yet, but his attorneys are already reaching out to the Supreme Court. Why?

The reporter's privilege (or "shield") and choice of law issues.

Shortly after the shooting, an unknown source(s) leaked word of a notebook, sent to a University of Colorado psychiatrist, that contained drawings and plans for the movie theater shooting. The notebook was under a gag order. Holmes' attorneys sought to compel testimony of reporter Jana Winter about her sources, but a New York court stepped in and applied that state's reporter's privilege.

The shooting, the notebook, the gag order, and the disclosure all happened in Colorado.

Somebody's been naughty. For the first time ever, there is video footage of the Supreme Court chambers and, well, they look the same as they did five years ago. It's not terribly exciting stuff, with fuzzy footage and audio of someone breathing, except they caught footage of a protestor who interrupted oral arguments and is now being charged with a felony.

Meanwhile, in more official business, the Ninth and Sixth Circuits continue their battle for "most reversed circuit" with a pair of reversals each. Who will win the battle of "least competent court" remains to be seen, but the Ninth just gave 110 percent with their anti-speech rulings.

You have the right to an attorney of your choosing, if you can afford one. Unfortunately, you can't, because your assets were just seized. Want to challenge the seizure? Not happening.

You also have the right to refuse to allow the police to search your home. Unfortunately, they may drag you away in cuffs and pressure your cohabitant into overriding your refusal. So, there's that. Just make sure you don't give them an "objectively reasonable" reason to slap on the iron bracelets.

Habeas corpus is all but dead, gun rights mean nothing (especially for 18 to 21-year-olds), the Feds will break up your neighborhood poker game, and the Supreme Court's rulings in the Washing Machine Cases were ignored completely.

Yes, these are all exaggerations of the effects of the most notable of today's many denials, found amongst a 46-page orders list. But in fact, the Court did not grant any new cases. Here are the ones that we were keeping an eye on:

Last minute requests for stays on executions are a common thing. Herbert Smulls' case, which grabbed our attention due to a temporary stay granted by the Supreme Court last week, was not unusual in that regard. What was unusual, was that he was executed before his final request was decided by the High Court.

Maybe his case wasn't all that egregious. After all, he had already been heard by the High Court, and the final request was likely a desperate rehashing of earlier issues. But here is another one: last August, Missouri executed Allen Nicklasson before the Eighth Circuit could finish their en banc rehearing denial, never mind a possible Supreme Court appeal.

Last night, shortly after the State of the Union address, Justice Samuel Alito spared Herbert Smulls' life. Unfortunately, the mercy was short-lived, and he will be executed, likely some time before midnight tonight.

Why was the stay granted initially, and what is so troubling about his execution? The issues are not novel: an all-white jury, plus execution drugs made in secret by a compounding pharmacy. The latter issue, though not dealt with today, is repeating itself across the country and raises important issues of cruel and unusual punishment.

The Crime: Distribution of a Schedule I or II drug, where "death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance." 21 U.S. C. 841 (b)(1)(C).

The Punishment: Twenty-year mandatory minimum.

The Elements: That's the question. Obviously, there has to be a drug deal. Here, that's not an issue. Everyone agrees: Burrage sold heroin to the deceased, Mr. Banka. The question is, did Banka's death, which was caused by a lengthy multi-drug bender, "result from" the purchase of heroin from Burrage?