Tuesday, April 19, 2005

All the Terri Schiavo you need to know, Part II

Patterico explains why the 11 Circuit got it wrong. He is absolutely right. My only criticism of his analysis is in the clarity of one point. Patterico writes:

"The courts’ fundamental error was brushing aside the Schindlers’ meritorious argument that the Due Process Clause of the Constitution requires a showing of clear and convincing evidence for the withdrawal of a feeding tube under these circumstances."

Well, not quite. This makes it sound like they totally ignored the issue, which is not the case. Patterico eventually gets around to explaining exactly what he means:

"The 11th Circuit completely skips over the issue of whether the “clear and convincing” standard is required [by the U.S. Constitution], by saying that it doesn’t matter – the state applied the standard, and the appellate courts are not required to second-guess the application of the standard.

"Wrong and wrong. First, the “clear and convincing” standard is unquestionably required in cases like the Schiavo case. Second, given that fact, the appellate court was required to determine (at a minimum) whether a rational factfinder could have decided that the standard was met. Arguably, the federal courts’ duty was more far-reaching: to determine for themselves whether they believed the evidence was clear and convincing."

This is correct, but again, doesn't quite hit the nail on the head. What Patterico means to say, in simple, understandible-to-a-4th-grader language (to paraphrase the movie Philadelphia), was this:
"The 11th Circuit's fundamental error was in determining that because the state of Florida said it applied a 'clear and convincing evidence' standard, it therefore must have applied that standard, and a review of the actual evidence adduced at trial to check whether the state is, well, lying is not required because, you know, the Federal courts have to trust state courts on matters of Federal law. Applying this same reasoning to habeas corpus petitions would mean that none would ever be granted because as long as the state said it applied the 'beyond a reasonable doubt' standard, no evidentiary review would ever take place."


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