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United States v. Ofomata

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

March 28, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHUKWUDI OFOMATA

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is defendant Chukwudi Ofomata's (“Ofomata”) motion[1] to strike the government's notice of intent to seek the death penalty. Ofomata argues that the Federal Death Penalty Act (the “FDPA”) unconstitutionally violates the Tenth Amendment's anticommandeering principle. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

         I.

         On August 31, 2018, the government filed its notice of intent to seek the death penalty as to Ofomata.[2] Under the FDPA, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591-3598, “conviction of an offense punishable by death is followed by a separate sentencing hearing which involves both an eligibility and selection phase.” United States v. Ebron, 683 F.3d 105, 149 (5th Cir. 2012). If a death sentence is imposed, the FDPA provides for its implementation and the use of state facilities for execution:

A person who has been sentenced to death pursuant to this chapter shall be committed to the custody of the Attorney General until exhaustion of the procedures for appeal of the judgment of conviction and for review of the sentence. When the sentence is to be implemented, the Attorney General shall release the person sentenced to death to the custody of the United States marshal, who shall supervise the implementation of the sentence in the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed. If the law of the State does not provide for implementation of a sentence of death, the court shall designate another State, the law of which does provide for the implementation of a sentence of death, and the sentence shall be implemented in the latter State in the manner prescribed by such law.

18 U.S.C. § 3596(a).

A United States marshal charged with supervising the implementation of a sentence of death may use appropriate State or local facilities for the purpose, may use the services of an appropriate State or local official or of a person such an official employs for the purpose, and shall pay the costs thereof in an amount approved by the Attorney General.

18 U.S.C. § 3597(a).

         Ofomata argues that the FDPA requires that state officials and state facilities be enlisted to carry out federal executions and, consequently, the FDPA violates the anticommandeering principle of the Tenth Amendment.

         II.

         The Court must first address the government's contention that Ofomata's motion is not ripe for review.[3] “The ripeness doctrine's basic rationale is to prevent the courts, through avoidance of premature adjudication, from entangling themselves in abstract disagreements . . . . A court should dismiss a case for lack of ripeness when the case is abstract or hypothetical.” Choice Inc. of Tex. v. Greenstein, 691 F.3d 710, 715 (5th Cir. 2012) (internal quotations omitted).

It is true that constitutional challenges by defendants to a particular punishment “are generally not ripe until the imposition, or immediately impending imposition, of a challenged punishment or fine.” Cheffer v. Reno. 55 F.3d 1517, 1523 (8th Cir. 1995) (emphasis added). But, in addressing any and all ripeness challenges, courts are required to make a fact-specific determination as to whether a particular challenge is ripe by deciding whether (1) the issues are fit for judicial consideration, and (2) withholding of consideration will cause substantial hardship to the parties. Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 149 (1967).

United States v. Quinones, 313 F.3d 49, 58 (2d Cir. 2002). “A case is generally ripe if any remaining questions are purely legal ones; conversely, a case is not ripe if further factual development is required.” Choice Inc. of Tex, 691 F.3d at 715 (quoting New Orleans Pub. Serv. Inc. v. ...


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