Monday, September 30, 2013
Ind. Courts - The Good Wife Gets Basic Indiana Appellate Procedure Doubly Wrong
Commentary by Joel Schumm, professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law
Last night’s season premiere of The Good Wife (CBS, Sundays 9:00 p.m.) sent the show’s Chicago lawyers to South Bend, Indiana, to help a fictitious Indiana death row inmate on the verge of execution. (Where else would Chicago lawyers go when Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan have no death penalty?)
Here’s how a post on TVLine describes the whirlwind of legal drama [Spoiler alert]:
CHEATING DEATH (ROW) | The week’s central court case is an intense one — and it begins with Diane and Alicia attending an execution that’s held up for 2 hours and 20 minutes while the on-call nurse tries to locate a suitable vein in the prisoner (a terrific Malik Yoba). By the time the guy’s arm starts dripping blood, Diane is doing what she does best, shutting s*** down by informing the warden, “This is the definition of torture!” Lockhart-Gardner piggybacks the innocent man’s case with a class-action suit fighting the death pentalty [sic] — arguing that Eddie is “evidence” regarding torture that must be “preserved.” Ultimately, with the unexpected/not-entirely-willing help of ADA Pine (who has history with the case), Diane and Will are able to refute the testimony of a jailhouse snitch who bought information on the case from a state typist moonlighting as a “prison broker.” When the judge (Jeffrey Tambor) reluctantly refuses to overturn, Will makes a final “Hail Mary” play — calling in the DEA to stop the execution on the grounds that the lethal injection was transported illegally via U.S. Postal Service. It works — and . . . the Indiana governor (where the case is occurrin’) suspends the sentence, thinking that “third time’s the charm” shouldn’t apply to sending a man to his death.Far-fetched? Others can debate that.
My complaint is an error at about the 6:12 point in the episode that even a tiny bit of research would have prevented. Viewers are shown an opinion from the “3rd District” of the Indiana Court of Appeals in this capital case.
The problem(s)? Death penalty appeals are and have always been heard by the Indiana Supreme Court. The “Appellate Process” page on the Court’s website begins: “The Indiana Supreme Court is the exclusive interpreter of disputed cases brought to appeal in criminal appeals involving the sentence of death . . . .” Appellate Rule 4(a)(1) is the governing rule.
Moreover, even if the case were to have run through the Court of Appeals ten years ago, the opinion would not reference the Third District. Captions no longer include districts, and the three-judge panels who are assigned from the various districts “have statewide jurisdiction and rotate three times per year.”
Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 30, 2013 03:20 PM
Posted to Schumm - Commentary