The U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal justices on Monday criticized their colleagues and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for the handling of the long-running death-penalty case of Kristopher Love, who was convicted for killing a Dallas woman in 2015.
Love’s Dallas lawyer, John Tatum, petitioned the high court Love v. Texas, urging the justices to review the Court of Criminal Appeals judgment for allowing a racially prejudiced juror to be part of the jury in Love’s trial in 2018.
The Texas court’s action, Tatum wrote, was “thereby denying Petitioner his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial by an unconstitutionally selected jury and due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“The state court thus deprived Love of any meaningful review of his federal constitutional claim,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. She added, “I would summarily vacate the judgment below and remand for proper consideration.”
The three justices made their comments in a written dissent, but the other six justices were silent, as is common when the court denies certiorari. By tradition, the court needs the approval of four justices to grant review of a petition.
The Love v. Texas case was postponed on the court’s docket 10 times since last December, which may mean it was subject to a lengthy internal debate.
The topic of their discussion may not have been Love’s fate, however, but rather the ongoing debate over what role federal courts play when state-law rules are involved.
Assistant Dallas District Attorney Jaclyn Lambert, counsel of record in urging the Supreme Court to deny review, wrote, “This Court does not have jurisdiction to grant review. The state court below did not reach Love’s alleged constitutional issues. Rather, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals properly decided this claim against Love based solely on state-law grounds.”
After the high court’s cert denial Monday, Tatum issued a similar statement. “There is still the legal avenue of post-conviction writ of habeas corpus process [for Love,] especially since the issue is a constitutional one of great magnitude that is universal to all in our state and federal criminal justice systems.”