March 24, 2008
SCOTUS To Hear Self Representation Case
From USATODAY.com: A shoe shoplifting incident that escalated into a lunchtime shooting in downtown Indianapolis nearly a decade ago is now the basis for the Supreme Court to decide how much latitude states have to determine if a defendant is capable of representing himself at trial.
The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Wednesday in an Indiana case in which a Marion County judge decided a defendant with a history of mental illness was competent to stand trial, but not to represent himself as he requested.
When Ahmad Edwards appealed his conviction of attempted murder and other charges, the Indiana Supreme Court agreed Edwards had the right to represent himself and reversed his conviction.
The Indiana attorney general's office appealed, arguing that allowing mentally impaired defendants to represent themselves undermines fair trials and erodes public confidence in the system.
"The consequences often are disastrous for both the defendants and the integrity — not to mention dignity — of the criminal justice system," the Indiana attorney general's office wrote in its brief to the court. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Missouri Governor Writes a Brief Supporting the Death Penalty for Child Rapists
From kansascity.com: Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the death penalty for child rapists.
The “friends of the court” brief supports the state of Louisiana, which is defending a law authorizing the death penalty for offenders who rape children younger than 12.
Blunt proposed a similar law for Missouri in December and encouraged lawmakers in his State of the State address in January to pass such legislation.
State lawmakers have introduced bills in the Senate and the House this year that would allow the death penalty in forcible rape and forcible sodomy cases involving children. Neither bill has made much progress.
Opponents have said such legislation could do more harm than good by encouraging rapists to kill their victims, since the penalties would be the same.
Blunt argues in the brief, filed Thursday, that the court “should not foreclose a national debate on appropriate punishment for child rape,” and that discussion at the state level is the best way to determine a national consensus. Rest of Article. . .[Mark Godsey]
Presidential Candidates' Platforms on Criminal Justice
Here. [Jack Chin]
Is Prison Food Punishment?
From boston.com: Savory it isn't: It's made of whole wheat bread, non-dairy cheese, raw carrots, spinach, seedless raisins, beans, vegetable oil, tomato paste, powdered milk and dehydrated potato flakes.
To prison officials, it's a complete meal. To inmates, it's a food so awful, they'd rather go hungry than eat it.
Now, in the latest legal battle over the prison cafeteria standard known as Nutraloaf, the Vermont Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether it's punishment or merely behavior modification.
On Monday, the court will hear arguments in a class action suit brought by prison inmates who say it's punishment and that anyone subjected to it should get a formal disciplinary process first.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Prosecutors Push Limits in Terrorism Probe Case
From NYSun.com: Federal prosecutors tracking a Saudi-backed American foundation accused of ties to terrorists are tightening the screws on their target, levying half a million dollars in contempt-of-court fines and moving to pierce the attorney-client privilege as a way of getting information from a lawyer who represented the foundation.
The case has the elements of an international thriller. The federal officials sprang into action after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, with an investigation code-named Operation Green Quest. They say the Saudi-backed Virginia charity spirited $22 million out of America and into a trust on the Isle of Man, a windswept tax haven in the Irish Sea. A Florida professor has become entangled in the investigation, as has a Georgia poultry processing plant that has vigorously defended itself against accusations of terrorist links, to the point of filing a libel lawsuit against CBS News.
Aspects of the investigation, which has been veiled in secrecy, emerged in public on Friday here before a panel of federal judges who ride the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The hearing related to a grand jury investigation into whether a network of Islamic organizations centered in Herndon, Va., funded a range of terrorist groups in the 1990s. Disclosures during the hearing included the fact that a once-prominent Muslim nonprofit, the SAAR Foundation, has been fined $500,000 for contempt of court.
Muslim leaders, including those connected with a group at the center of the probe, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, have complained that prosecutors have used tough tactics in their six-year probe and have little to show for it.
The government contends that the inquiry, part of a broader terror-financing investigation known as Operation Green Quest, has played a part in several serious convictions, including that of a prominent Islamic leader, Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was sentenced to 23 years for involvement in a Libyan plot to assassinate the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godey]
SCOTUS Reversed Death Penalty in Case Work on by Pierce Law Students
Franklin Pierce Law Center's Frederick Millett, a third-year
student from Grand Haven, MI, is celebrating this week after learning that the death penalty
case he worked on as an extern this past fall at the Southern Center
for Human Rights in Atlanta, GA was reversed by the United States
Supreme Court. On Wednesday, March 19, the Court issued an opinion,
authored by Alito, reversing, the conviction in the case of Snyder v.
Louisiana. Millett worked with Attorney Stephen Bright, president and
founder of the SCHR, to prepare the reply brief.
According to Millett, “In 1996, as in 1939, Allen Snyder, an African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death, this time in Jefferson Parish, LA. The prosecutor in his case struck all five potential black jurors using nearly half of his peremptory challenges to get an all-white jury.
The prosecutor then, both in the media and to the jury during the sentencing phase, compared Snyder's case to the O.J. Simpson case, decided just a year earlier, and urged the all-white jury to not let Snyder ‘get away with it’ like O.J. did. The jury sentenced Snyder to death and his conviction was upheld twice by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Snyder appealed to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that since the prosecutor peremptorily struck African-American jurors because of their race, his conviction and death sentence were unconstitutional based on the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. For this reason, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case and granted certiorari.”