In 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of inmate Kevan Brumfield, who was convicted of the fatal shooting of an off-duty police officer. A deeply divided Court held that Brumfield was entitled to have his claim that he could not be executed because he is intellectually disabled considered on the merits. As I reported in December of last year, on remand the Fifth Circuit upheld a federal district court’s ruling that Brumfield is indeed intellectually disabled. Brumfield’s case is now back at the Supreme Court again, but this time it is the state of Louisiana asking the Justices to weigh in.
The state urges the Court to reinstate Brumfield’s death sentence, arguing that he “is not intellectually disabled.” The most significant error in the case, it contends, is that the district court didn’t consider the entire record from Brumfield’s trial in state court. The state’s petition for review chronicles, at great length, the trial court evidence which suggested that Brumfield was not disabled, while also citing alleged flaws in the testimony supporting his argument that he is disabled. Because the district court’s decision was not “plausible in the light of the record as a whole,” it was – the state contends – clearly wrong.
Brumfield counters that there is no reason for the Court to grant review in his case, particularly when there is no division among the courts of appeals on any of the issues in the case. Instead, he suggests, the state is just seeking “an opportunity to relitigate its evidentiary case.” But in any event, he continues, although the state contends that the district court refused to allow the state trial court record to be introduced, that argument is “seriously misleading”: “Virtually all of the portions of trial evidence that the State identified and sought to admit were admitted.”
The Justices are slated to consider the case at their conference on Thursday.