innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

High Court Upholds Alito

This article is republished in its entirety from the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania lost a Supreme Court appeal that sought to put a convicted killer back on death row.
The state wanted justices to overturn a ruling by the court's new member, Samuel Alito.

Chief Justice Alito had handled Antuan Bronshtein's case when he was still on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, writing a ruling last year that gave the Russian immigrant a chance to spare his life.

Justice Alito was elevated from the appeals court to the high court late last month, replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. He did not participate in the decision to reject Pennsylvania's appeal.

Mr. Bronshtein, who emigrated to the United States from Russia as a child, was convicted in the 1991 deaths of two Philadelphia-area jewelers. He claimed the victims were slain by a member of the Russian mafia known as Mr. X. He received the death sentence for one of the murders, that of store owner Alexander Gutmann, who was shot in the face and robbed of $60,000 worth of jewelry.

At issue in the case was a missed deadline.

Bruce Castor Jr., the Montgomery County district attorney, said that for the past decade the state has had a one-year deadline for appeals that "has been strictly applied, exactly as written, in both capital and non-capital cases."

Alito, writing for a three-judge panel of the 3rd Circuit, said that the deadline was not consistently enforced in death penalty cases. The decision upheld Bronshtein's conviction but said he was entitled to a new sentencing hearing.

A pro-death penalty group, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, said in a brief that Justice Alito's opinion was disturbing because of "its cavalier treatment of the Pennsylvania statute."

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