Congratulations to Jacqueline de Armas & Keisha Stanford on their Supreme Court Litigation Clinic Win in SCOTUS!
Jacqueline de Armas, a 2010 Ms. JD Fellowship winner, and Keisha Stanford, Vice President of Ms. JD's Board of Directors, have just won their first case. And not just any case - through Stanford Law School's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, Jacqueline and Keisha's first case was before the United States Supreme Court.
The clinic represented Billy Joe Magwood, a Vietnam veteran who developed schizophrenia upon returning home from his service, and who killed a local sheriff in the midst of a paranoid delusion. The State of Alabama convicted Magwood of murder and sentenced him to death. After Magwood obtained federal habeas relief from that sentence, the State obtained a new death sentence. Magwood again obtained federal habeas relief, this time on the ground that the circumstances of his crime did not render him eligible for the death penalty under Alabama law. The State appealed, and the Eleventh Circuit reinstated Magwood's death sentence on the procedural ground that Magwood could have, but did not, challenge his death eligibility during the habeas proceeding and, therefore, had defaulted the ability to do so now.
The clinic then got involved in the case. It filed a petition for certiorari challenging that procedural ruling, which the Supreme Court granted in the fall. And on Thursday, the Court reversed the Eleventh Circuit by a 5-4 vote (in an Opinion authored by Justice Thomas), holding that Magwood has a right to challenge his death-eligibility with respect to his new death sentence. The case now returns to the Eleventh Circuit, which will look at the merits of the district court's decision that Magwood simply did not commit a capital offense.
Clinic student Jacqueline de Armas ('11) assisted last summer with the cert petition. Students Anthony Dick ('10), Keisha Stanford ('10), and Elisabeth Oppenheimer ('10) did the merits briefing.
Congratulations to all.