CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Previewing the Coming Term (Part 2): Johnson v. United States

[This is the second in a series of posts by CrimProf’s graduate fellow, Peter Stockburger (University of San Diego Class of 2009), previewing the criminal law and procedure cases scheduled for argument in the U.S. Supreme Court this coming term. Peter excerpts and paraphrases the briefs of the parties to provide an overview of the cases and the advocates’ arguments. Links to the briefs of the parties appear at the end of the summary.]

Docket No: 08-6925
Case:  Johnson v. United States
Oral Argument Date:  October 6, 2009

Issue:  Whether a prior state conviction for battery is, in all cases, a “violent felony” under the federal Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) even when that offense does not have as an element the use or threatened use of physical force.

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August 25, 2009 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Previewing the Coming Term (Part 1): Maryland v. Shatzer

Stockburger [This is the first in a series of posts by CrimProf’s graduate fellow, Peter Stockburger (University of San Diego Class of 2009), previewing the criminal law and procedure cases scheduled for argument in the U.S. Supreme Court this coming term. Peter excerpts and paraphrases the briefs of the parties to provide an overview of the cases and the advocates’ arguments. Links to the briefs of the parties appear at the end of the summary.]

Docket No: 08-680
Case:  Maryland v. Shatzer
Oral Argument Date:  October 5, 2009

Issue:  Whether Edwards v. Arizona (1981), which bars police from initiating questioning with criminal suspects who have invoked their right to counsel, applies to interrogation that takes place nearly three years after the initial interrogation and invocation of right to counsel.

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August 24, 2009 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Last Term's Opinions

StockburgerPeter In a vital service to those of us who cannot remember what we had for lunch yesterday, and a useful service to many others, CrimProf's graduate fellow, Peter Stockburger (University of San Diego Class of 2009), pulls together the reporter's syllabi from last term's U.S. Supreme Court criminal law and procedure opinions. His future posts will preview cases scheduled for argument and decision next term.

OA:  10.7.08
DC:  1.14.09

Herring v. United States (07-513) – 4th Amendment, police error

No. 07–513. Argued October 7, 2008—Decided January 14, 2009

Facts and Procedural History:  Officers in Coffee County arrested petitioner Herring based on a warrant listed in neighboring Dale County’s database. A search incident to that arrest yielded drugs and a gun. It was then revealed that the warrant had been recalled months earlier, though this information had never been entered into the database. Herring was indicted on federal gun and drug possession charges and moved to suppress the evidence on the ground that his initial arrest had been illegal. Assuming that there was a Fourth Amendment violation, the District Court concluded that the exclusionary rule did not apply and denied the motion to suppress. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding that the arresting officers were innocent of any wrongdoing, and that Dale County’s failure to update the records was merely negligent. The court therefore concluded that the benefit of suppression would be marginal or nonexistent and that the evidence was admissible under the good-faith rule of United States v. Leon, 468 U. S. 897.

SCOTUS HOLDING: When police mistakes leading to an unlawful search are the result of isolated negligence attenuated from the search, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements, the exclusionary rule does not apply. Pp. 4–13.

(a) The fact that a search or arrest was unreasonable does not necessarily mean that the exclusionary rule applies. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U. S. 213, 223. The rule is not an individual right and applies only where its deterrent effect outweighs the substantial cost of letting guilty and possibly dangerous defendants go free. Leon, 468 U. S., at 908–909. For example, it does not apply if police acted “in objectively reasonable reliance” on an invalid warrant. Id., at 922. In applying Leon’s good-faith rule to police who reasonably relied on mistaken information in a court’s database that an arrest warrant was outstanding, Arizona v. Evans, 514 U. S. 1, 14–15, the Court left unresolved the issue confronted here: whether evidence should be suppressed if the police committed the error, id., at 16, n. 5. Pp. 4–7.

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August 19, 2009 in Supreme Court | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Supreme Court Rejects Peremptory Challenge Claim

The U.S. Supreme Court today decided Rivera v. Illinois, No. 07-9995, unanimously rejecting the defendant's claim that the state trial court's erroneous denial of his peremptory challenge required a new trial. Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court, and the introduction to her opinion summarizes the Court's holding:

This case concerns the consequences of a state trial court's erroneous denial of a defendant's peremptory challenge to the seating of a juror in a criminal case. If all seated jurors are qualified and unbiased, does the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment nonetheless require automatic reversal of the defendant's conviction?

Following a jury trial in an Illinois state court, defendant-petitioner Michael Rivera was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to a prison term of 85 years. On appeal, Rivera challenged the trial court's rejection of his peremptory challenge to venire member Deloris Gomez. Gomez sat on Rivera's jury and indeed served as the jury's foreperson. It is conceded that there was no basis to challenge Gomez for cause. She met the requirements for jury service, and Rivera does not contend that she was in fact biased against him. The Supreme Court of Illinois held that the peremptory challenge should have been allowed, but further held that the error was harmless and therefore did not warrant reversal of Rivera's conviction. We affirm the judgment of the Illinois Supreme Court.

The right to exercise peremptory challenges in state court is determined by state law. This Court has "long recognized" that "peremptory challenges are not of federal constitutional dimension." United States v. Martinez-Salazar, 528 U. S. 304, 311 (2000). States may withhold peremptory challenges "altogether without impairing the constitutional guarantee of an impartial jury and a fair trial." Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U. S. 42, 57 (1992). Just as state law controls the existence and exercise of peremptory challenges, so state law determines the consequences of an erroneous denial of such a challenge. Accordingly, we have no cause to disturb the Illinois Supreme Court's determination that, in the circumstances Rivera's case presents, the trial court's error did not warrant reversal of his conviction.

[Brooks Holland]

March 31, 2009 in Criminal Law, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Liptak Previews Strip Search Case

Savana Redding still remembers the clothes she had on — black stretch pants with butterfly patches and a pink T-shirt — the day school officials here forced her to strip six years ago. She was 13 and in eighth grade.

An assistant principal, enforcing the school’s antidrug policies, suspected her of having brought prescription-strength ibuprofen pills to school. One of the pills is as strong as two Advils.

The search by two female school employees was methodical and humiliating, Ms. Redding said. After she had stripped to her underwear, “they asked me to pull out my bra and move it from side to side,” she said. “They made me open my legs and pull out my underwear.”

Ms. Redding, an honors student, had no pills. But she had a furious mother and a lawyer, and now her case has reached the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on April 21.

The case will require the justices to consider the thorny question of just how much leeway school officials should have in policing zero-tolerance policies for drugs and violence, and the court is likely to provide important guidance to schools around the nation.

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March 24, 2009 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Search and Seizure, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Heller "Firing Blanks?"

About nine months ago, the Supreme Court breathed new life into the Second Amendment, ruling for the first time that it protects an individual right to own guns. Since then, lower federal courts have decided more than 80 cases interpreting the decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, and it is now possible to make a preliminary assessment of its impact.

So far, Heller is firing blanks.

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March 16, 2009 in Civil Rights, Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (3)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

SCOTUS Decides Speedy Trial Clause Case

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Vermont v. Brillon.  At issue was whether delays in bringing a defendant to trial that are attributable to his court-appointed lawyers should be counted against the prosecution for purposes of the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment, as incorporated against the States by the Fourteenth Amendment.  By a vote of 7-2, the Court held that such delays generally cannot be charged to the prosecution. [Mike Mannheimer]

March 14, 2009 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Liptak Considers the Future of the Exclusionary Rule

In 1983, a young lawyer in the Reagan White House was hard at work on what he called in a memorandum “the campaign to amend or abolish the exclusionary rule” — the principle that evidence obtained by police misconduct cannot be used against a defendant.

The Reagan administration’s attacks on the exclusionary rule — a barrage of speeches, opinion articles, litigation and proposed legislation — never gained much traction. But now that young lawyer, John G. Roberts Jr., is chief justice of the United States.

This month, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority in Herring v. United States, a 5-to-4 decision, took a big step toward the goal he had discussed a quarter-century before. Taking aim at one of the towering legacies of the Warren Court, its landmark 1961 decision applying the exclusionary rule to the states, the chief justice’s majority opinion established for the first time that unlawful police conduct should not require the suppression of evidence if all that was involved was isolated carelessness. That was a significant step in itself. More important yet, it suggested that the exclusionary rule itself might be at risk.

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January 31, 2009 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Law Enforcement, Search and Seizure, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Supreme Court Narrows Exclusionary Rule

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of an Alabama man on drug and weapons charges, emphasizing that the exclusionary rule, which generally bars prosecutors from using evidence obtained by the police through improper searches, is far from absolute.

In a 5-to-4 opinion, the court upheld the federal conviction of Bennie Dean Herring, who from the court records appears to have been very unlucky as well as felonious in his conduct. In upholding the conviction, the court’s majority came to a conclusion that will most likely please those who complain about criminals going free on “technicalities.”

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January 14, 2009 in Criminal Law, Search and Seizure, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Speedy Trial Case Before Supreme Court This Week

After he was charged with hitting his girlfriend in the face, career criminal Michael Brillon sat in jail without bail for nearly three years, going through six public defenders before being tried for assault.

The delays paid off -- for Brillon, anyway: A Vermont court threw out his conviction and freed him from prison last spring, saying his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial had been violated.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up the case, trying to decide whether delays caused by public defenders can deprive a criminal defendant of that right. In particular: Whether governments can be blamed for such delays because they're the ones who assign and pay the lawyers for indigent defendants.

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January 12, 2009 in Criminal Law, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2008

SCOTUS Grants Cert. in DNA Testing Case

In a case of obvious importance to the innocence movement, the U.S. Supreme Court today granted review in a case that raises the question whether 42 U.S.C. s. 1983 provides a cause of action to have DNA testing performed in order to prove actual innocence.  In District Attorney's Office v. Osborne, the respondent was convicted of rape, kidnapping, and related crimes.  He later attempted to have DNA testing performed on genetic materials found near the scene of the attack in order to prove his innocence but he was thwarted in his efforts in state court.  The question raised is whether section 1983 can be used essentially as a discovery device in order to support further litigation once the conviction has become final.  A subsidiary issue is the thorny question, likely to be dodged by the high Court once again, whether a freestanding innocence claim is cognizable under the Due Pocess Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  Courtesy of Scotus Blog, you can read the petition for certiorari here, the brief in opposition here, the reply brief here, and the Ninth Circuit decision here. [Mike Mannheimer]

November 3, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Supreme Court's Second Amendment Decision in D.C. v. Heller May Help Fight Against Gun Violence, Brady Center Report Finds

The U.S. Supreme Court's Second Amendment decision in D.C. v. Heller may have the "unintended consequence" of helping to enact stronger gun laws, according to a report issued today by the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
While the decision gives criminal defendants a legal tool to use to potentially avoid criminal convictions or mitigate their punishments and will inspire gun lobby challenges of gun laws, it may also clear some of the wedge politics that have blocked the nation from passing sensible gun laws in the future, the report says.

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October 22, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Supreme Court Rejects Obesity Appeal

ArtcooeyThe U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from an Ohio prisoner who argued he is too obese to be executed. Richard Cooey is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday.

The court denied his request for a stay without comment Monday. Cooey is 5-foot-7 and weighs 267 pounds.

State officials said prison staff examined Cooey's veins and found no problems that would interfere with the execution.

Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]

October 13, 2008 in Capital Punishment, Criminal Law, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

SCOTUS Saves Death Row Inmates' Appeal for Another Day

Scotus From  The United States Supreme Court says it needs more time to look at an appeal from Georgia death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis. Davis, 39, was convicted of the 1989 shooting death of off-duty officer Mark Allen McPhail, 27, in Savannah, Georgia.

In September, just 2 hours before his scheduled execution by way of lethal injection the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution.

Mr. Davis received thousands of calls and letters on his behalf including Pope Benedict XVI (wrote a letter to Georgia Governor Sonny Purdue), Nobel Peace Prize recipients Desmond Tutu and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; actor Mike Farrell, recording artists the Indigo Girls, the Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HHSAN) and Broadway star Don Quixote.

Davis wants the high court to order a judge to hear from the witnesses who recanted their testimony and others who say another man confessed to the crime.

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October 8, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

High court rebuffs Louisiana in child rape case

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court declined Wednesday to revisit its recent decision outlawing executions for people convicted of raping children.

The unusual request, from Louisiana and the Bush administration, was based on the failure of anyone involved in the case to take into account a federal law from 2006 that authorizes the death penalty for members of the military who are convicted of child rape.

The state argued that the case should be reopened because Justice Anthony Kennedy relied in part on what he called a "national consensus" against executing convicted rapists. The court split 5-4 in the June 25 ruling.

The justices, by a 7-2 vote, issued an amended opinion Wednesday that adds a footnote concerning military law, but otherwise leaves the essence of the decision untouched.

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October 1, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS Grants Cert. in Seven Criminal Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court today granted review in seven criminal cases.  Among the issues the Court will address are two Sixth Amendment issues:  whether a defendant whose Sixth Amendment right to counsel has attached and who has been appointed counsel must "accept" the appointment before he becomes unapproachable by the police; and whether the prosecution can use the fruit of a Massiah violation for impeachment purposes.

You can see the full list of cases, with links to related documents, here. [Mike Mannheimer].

October 1, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In the New Term, High Stakes for the High Court

Following a blockbuster term involving guns, Guantanamo Bay and the death penalty, the U.S. Supreme Court opens its doors to a new term with less drama, more cases initially and many challenges having potentially major implications for business, the environment, injured consumers, job bias victims and law enforcement.

If the docket thus far appears to lack possible landmark cases, the term's drama level could change quickly after the justices hold their summer conference meeting on Sept. 29 in which they generally add cases from more than a thousand filed during the summer months. They also continue to add cases to the term's argument docket until about mid-January.

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September 24, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

U.S. Supreme Court delays execution of Ga.

ATLANTA (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court gave a reprieve to a Georgia inmate less than two hours before his scheduled execution Tuesday for the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer.

Family and advocates of 39-year-old Troy Davis have long urged he deserves a new trial as seven of the nine witnesses who helped put him on death row have recanted their testimony. His supporters erupted into cheers and tears when the stay was announced at about 5:20 p.m. ET.

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September 23, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

U.S. Court Is Now Guiding Fewer Nations

WASHINGTON — Judges around the world have long looked to the decisions of the United States Supreme Court for guidance, citing and often following them in hundreds of their own rulings since the Second World War.

But now American legal influence is waning. Even as a debate continues in the court over whether its decisions should ever cite foreign law, a diminishing number of foreign courts seem to pay attention to the writings of American justices.

“One of our great exports used to be constitutional law,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “We are losing one of the greatest bully pulpits we have ever had.”

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September 20, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Supreme Court Requests Briefing on Motion for Rehearing in Kennedy v. Louisiana

You can view the order here. [Mike Mannheimer]

September 9, 2008 in Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)