You're kidding me? A jailhouse snitch lied? Under oath? While being asked questions by a prosecutor? Who the 9th Circuit says KNEW that the snitch was lying? Huh.
That's what the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found today as it reversed the death penalty for Lacey Sivak, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for the killing of a convenience store clerk in 1981. The Idaho Statesman reports this story here.
What should we take away from this? First, it ain't over til' the fat lady sings! Criminal trials and their outcomes are unpredictable, and the "result" is often subject to further review - by the courts of appeal. Second, the jailhouse snitch testimony is always suspect because the snitch is always looking for a way out of jail! Trial lawyers need to work on that snitch cross-examination so that the jury understands the credibility issues that exist with the snitch.
Maybe most importantly - we are reminded again of the important work performed by death penalty trial, habeas and appellate attorneys. Klaus Wiebe, Rolf Kehne, David Nevin, Leo Griffard, Bruce Livingston and Colleen Ward deserve a big congrats on their hard work. Death penalty and habeas corpus work is so difficult and such precision is required that we can never thank these folks enough.
What will happen to Sivak? Likely, he will be re-sentenced (if the State chooses to seek the death penalty) or the case will be settled for a life sentence.
Remember this - no matter what crime is charged - you need to retain the best attorney you can afford. Your life may literally depend upon that choice.