The Idaho Supreme Court is deciding just how much of each death penalty case they must consider under Idaho's mandatory review law, and the ruling could dramatically change the landscape of capital punishment in Idaho.And:
The issues arose in the case of Timothy Dunlap, who is sentenced to death in both Idaho and Ohio for two murders committed during a 10-day span in 1991.
The Idaho Legislature created the mandatory review law in 1977, requiring the Idaho Supreme Court to review every death sentence whether the defendant wants them to or not.
The law was designed to do two things: First, meet federal requirements that the death penalty be imposed only on a narrow group of criminals whose crimes were worthy of such a severe sanction; and second, speed up the appeals process by ensuring there were no problems with the way the death penalty was imposed.
But Idaho Deputy Attorney General LaMont Anderson says the law has actually slowed death row cases because the Idaho Supreme Court has never defined the scope of the mandatory review.
That means that once the mandatory review is done, the federal appeals court assumes the Idaho Supreme Court justices have considered all the sentencing issues in a case, even if a particular issue was never mentioned before the lower court. Many types of appeals can't be brought before the federal courts until they've been considered by a state court, but since the federal courts have interpreted Idaho's mandatory review law as all-encompassing, virtually no sentencing appeal is off limits, Anderson contends.
But Shannon Romero, Dunlap's defense attorney with the state's appellate public defender's office, maintains that the Idaho Supreme Court has implemented the mandatory review rule correctly.