With the passing of Judge Blane Michael, many are wondering what will happen now in the MacDonald case before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judge Michael was the senior judge at the Fourth Circuit COA on March 23, 2011. The remaining two judges were Judge King, a male, and Judge Motz, a female.
Based on the Internal Operating Procedure 34.1, 36.2., an appeal may be heard and decided by two of the three judges assigned to a panel, when one judge becomes unavailable. If a panel is reduced to two and the two cannot agree, the case can be reargued before a new three-judge panel which may or may not include prior panel members.
Two of the three judges is considered a quorum of the panel. If those two judges are in agreement, they rule just like any other case.
If those two judges are split on whether to affirm the district court, I assume that that could mean the lower court's decision is affirmed by an equally divided court. So it really depends on what the vote is now. And of course we don't know either way.
It is not unusual for the Court of Appeals to take a year or two to decide a case. However, given the age of this case, I don't know what to make of the amount of time it is taking. There is an otherwise unrelated state case involving DNA testing that has been argued before the Supreme Court and is pending a decision. It is pure speculation on my part, but the Court of Appeals may be waiting to see what the Supreme Court say in that case about DNA testing before they rule in MacDonald case.
Today, March 31, marks the 29th anniversary that the Supreme Court reinstated MacDonald’s conviction and he was returned to prison. That was a happy day.
As information becomes available, it will be posted here.
Bob Stevenson and I thank all you for your support.
Our deepest thanks to Brian Murtagh, John DuPue, and John Bruce.