ORDER AND OPINION
JAMES E. SHADID, Chief District Judge.
Now before the Court is Defendant Brendt A. Christensen's Motion (Doc. 113) to Strike Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty on the Ground that Capital Punishment Violates the Eighth Amendment. The United States has filed a Response (Doc. 125), and this matter is fully briefed. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion (Doc. 113) is DENIED.
Defendant Brendt A. Christensen was arrested by federal agents on June 30, 2017, pursuant to a criminal complaint which charged him with the kidnapping of Yingying Zhang, a female Chinese national, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201. Doc. 1. Christensen was later indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in the Urbana Division of the Central District of Illinois. See Doc. 13 (Indictment), Doc. 26 (Superseding Indictment). The Superseding Indictment charges Christensen with kidnapping resulting in death, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1) (Count 1), and making false statements to FBI agents investigating Yingying Zhang's disappearance, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2) (Counts 2, 3). Doc. 26. The Superseding Indictment returned by the grand jury also included a notice of special findings regarding the nature of the offense charged in Count 1, including that the death of the victim was intentional, that it occurred during the commission of kidnapping, that it was committed in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner, and that Defendant committed the offense after substantial planning and premeditation. Id. The special findings alleged in the Superseding Indictment made the case eligible for capital punishment. See 18 U.S.C. § 3591 et seq. On January 19, 2018, the United States filed its Notice of Intent to Seek a Sentence of Death. Doc. 54; see also 18 U.S.C. § 3593(a).
In the instant Motion, Defendant asks this Court to strike the Notice of Intent to Seek a Sentence of Death on the basis that the death penalty constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Specifically, Defendant argues:
Doc. 113, at 2. Defendant goes on to assure the Court that it can discount binding precedent based on "special justifications" present in this case:
Doc. 113, at 37-38.
The United States responded to Defendant's Motion, arguing that the Supreme Court's decision in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 187 (1976), forecloses Defendant's challenge.
"[I]t is settled that capital punishment is constitutional." Glossip v. Gross, 135 S.Ct. 2726, 2732, (2015) (citing Baze v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 47 (2008)); see also Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 187 (1976).
Defendant opens his Motion by asserting that, "[o]n the last day of the  2014-2015 Term, Justices Breyer and Ginsberg issued a clarion call for reconsideration of the constitutionality of the death penalt. . . ." Doc. 113, at 1 (citing Glossip v. Gross, 135 S.Ct. 2726, 2760) (2015) (Breyer and Ginsburg, JJ., dissenting). He proceeds to argue that this Court can and should hold that the death penalty is so out of step with contemporary standards of decency as to violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The problem with Defendant's reference to Glossip is not its persuasiveness, but rather its pagination. It is true that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg authored a dissent in Glossip stating their belief that the Supreme Court should take another look at the constitutionality of the death penalty. Glossip, 135 S. Ct. at 2755. But the majority again reiterated that, following Gregg, the death penalty does not violate the Constitution. Glossip, 135 S. Ct. at 2732. The fact that Justices Breyer and Ginsburg disagreed with that proposition does not make Gregg any less binding on this Court. See Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203, 238 (1997) ("As we noted above, a judge's stated belief that a case should be overruled does not make it so.").
Defendant asserts that this Court may, under the so-called "doctrine of anticipatory overruling," disregard binding precedent so long as "special justifications" are present. Doc. 113, at 38. That assertion is a particularly egregious misstatement of the law.
Agostini, 521 U.S. at 237-38; see also United States v. Vaughn, 722 F.3d 918, 926 (7th Cir. 2013) (following Agostini's command to leave to the Supreme Court "the prerogative of overruling its own decisions"). Because Gregg and its progeny squarely foreclose Defendant's constitutional challenge to the death penalty, his Motion is denied.
For the reasons set forth above, Defendant's Motion (Doc. 113) to Strike Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty on the Ground that Capital Punishment Violates the Eighth Amendment is DENIED.