Articles Tagged with “Supreme Court”

Today marks the 56th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Hamilton v. Alabama[1]. Hamilton[2] stands for the simple proposition that the 14th amendment due process clause incorporates your sixth amendment right to counsel against the states, meaning you must be allowed to have a lawyer at your arraignment.

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The Case

The case behind the Hamilton decision is stunning for the nature of the crime at the center of the case. In the mid 1950’s Mr. Hamilton was arrested and charged with Burglary with intent to Ravish which at the time was a capital offense. Mr. Hamilton, being indigent was unable to afford an attorney. This case occurred before the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright[3][4] which guaranteed indigent people the right to counsel. As such, Mr. Hamilton was not given an attorney, and at his arraignment Mr. Hamilton plead not guilty.

Today marks the 27th Anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Perry v. Louisiana[1]. Perry stands for the proposition that you cannot forcibly medicate an individual so they are competent to be executed.

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The Case[2]

The case behind Perry is quite bizarre. Only the evening of July 17th, 1983 Michael Owen Perry entered the unlocked home of his cousins Randy Perry, and Brian LeBlane. Mr. Perry shot and killed both his cousins, before leaving the home, crossing the street and breaking into his parents’ home. Mr. Perry waited for his parents to return, and when they returned home along with their two-year-old grandson Anthony Bonin, Mr. Perry shot and killed all three. Mr. Perry then stole $3,000 worth of cash and fled. Oddly, police found a list of intended victims at the crime scene, with the list including Justice Sandra Day O’Conner[3] and musician Olivia Newton-John[4]. Neighbors and family members said that Mr. Perry had always been unstable, and he was obsessed with Oliva Newton-John’s performance in the movie Grease[5]. Two weeks later, Mr. Perry was arrested in Washington D.C just miles away from the Supreme Court[6].

Today marks the 98th anniversary of the controversial case of Abrams v. United States[1]. In Abrams[2], the Supreme Court upheld the convictions of five defendants under the Espionage Act of 1917. The Court expressly rejected the defendant’s argument that their first amendment rights had been violated by the Espionage Act. This case is particularly noteworthy because revered Justice Oliver Wendell Homes[3]; the author of the opinions which had originally upheld the Constitutionality of criminalizing free speech against the war effort in three prior Court cases, dissented against the majority.

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The Case

The case behind Abrams was a product of a different time in American culture and history. On August 12, 1918, just three months before the end of fighting in WWI, Hyman Rosansky was arrested for throwing flyers out of the 4th floor of a hat factory. The flyers, one in English and one in Yiddish called for a general strike by workers, a reduction in the production of munitions being sent to aid White Army soldiers fighting Soviet forces in the Russian Revolution. Police arrested Mr. Rosansky for violating the Sedition Act of 1917, which criminalized the “willfully utter, print, write, or publish, any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of the Government of the United States, or willfully urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of the production of things necessary to the war efforts.”. Police interrogated Mr. Rosansky for weeks. With Mr. Rosansky’s help, police also arrested Mollie Steimer[4], Jacob Abrams, Hyman Lachowsky, Jacob Schwartz, Gabriel Prober, and Samuel Lipman. The group was all Russian, Jewish immigrants to America and avowed anarchist.

Today marks the 109th anniversary of the devastating Supreme Court case of Twining v. New Jersey[1]. Twining[2] was a landmark case which established a clear path of incorporating Constitutional rights against the state via the 14th amendment, while simultaneously rejecting the incorporation of the 5th amendment right against self-incrimination.

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The Case[3]

The case behind this landmark decision was sadly all to common in this era of criminal justice. Mr. Albert C. Twining and Mr. David C. Cornell bank directors of the Monmouth Trust & Safe Deposit Company were both indicted on charges of bank fraud. At trial both men chose to not take the stand at trial. At that time in New Jersey the law allowed for a jury instruction which allowed the jury to make an adverse inference form a defendant choosing not to testify at trial[4]. This effectively meant that juries were instructed to find guilt from a defendant exercising their 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. New Jersey was one of the few states that didn’t have a state constitution that allowed for the right against self-incrimination. Both men were found guilty and both men appealed arguing their 5th amendment right against self-incrimination had been violated by the New Jersey law.

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Leocal v. Ashcroft[1]. Leocal[2] stands for the proposition that DWI crimes which lack mens rea, or only require proving negligence are not “crimes of violence” which trigger deportation.

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The Case

The case behind Leocal is relatively mundane. Josue Leocal a citizen of Haiti and lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1987 was arrested in November of 2000 for felony Driving Under the Influence (DUI)[3] and causing serious bodily injury. Mr. Leocal plead not guilty to both counts, but was found guilty of both offense and sentenced to two and a half years in jail. While in jail, in October 2001, Immigration and Naturalization Service began deportation proceedings began under section 237(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The judge held that Mr. Leocal’s DUI was a “crime of violence”, and thus an aggravated felony which opened Mr. Leocal to deportation, denied Mr. Leocal’s application for relief, and ordered him deported to Haiti. Mr. Leocal appealed the ruling, and in August 2002 the Board of Immigration Appeals sustained the judge’s ruling and ordered Mr. Leocal deported. In November 2002, Mr. Leocal was deported to Haiti. From Hatit, Mr. Leocal appealed the ruling. However, in a 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion had held that a DUI was an aggravated felony, and as such the court had no jurisdiction to review the lawfulness of the deportation order. The Supreme Court granted cert in 2004.

Today marks the 85th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case of Powell v. Alabama[1]. Powell[2] is one of the cases in which the Supreme Court laid out the basic due process requirements of a fair trial in state courts including right to effective appointed counsel in capital offenses, fair time to prepare for trial, and fair hearing. This case proved to be a monumental move for the Supreme Court, which signaled a progressive shift to expanding constitutional rights for defendants in criminal trials.

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The Case[3]

The case behind the monumental decision of the Supreme Court required a monumental remedy. On March 25th, 1931, a fight broke out aboard a freight train between a group of poor black and white youth who both had not paid for the ride. All but one of the white youths was thrown from the train just over the Alabama state line, and these boys promptly reported the incident to local law enforcement. The nine-black youths Charlie Weems, Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Haywood Patterson[4], Andrew (Andy) Wright, Leroy (Roy) Wright and Eugene Williams were detained when they reached the town of Scottsboro Alabama[5].

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the landmark decision of South Dakota v. Opperman[1][2] in which the Supreme Court laid out the basis for what would be known as the Inventory search exception to the warrant requirement of the fourth amendment. This decision has allowed for a dramatic expansion in the number of warrantless searches the State can conduct.

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The Case

The case that made up the basis of Opperman was surprisingly mundane, and yet indicative of the kind of cases that would be affected by this landmark ruling. In the early morning hours of December 10th, 1973, Mr. Opperman’s car was found illegally parked in downtown Vermillion, South Dakota. Pursuant to police procedures, the officers impounded the vehicle. However, as the officers impounded the car, they noticed a number of valuable items strewn about the interior of the vehicle. The officers, fearing that the items could be stolen opened the vehicle and inventoried the items inside of it. While searching the interior of the vehicle, the officers found a small amount of marijuana located in the glovebox. When Mr. Opperman came to the police station to retrieve his vehicle the following day, he was arrested on the spot for possession of marijuana.

Fotolia_62904321_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x300In April 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced it was reconsidering marijuana’s current list as a Schedule 1 Drug in the Controlled Substance Act. This announcement was met with skepticism and cautious optimism. The decision of the DEA to reclassify marijuana in the Controlled Substance List would allow national marijuana reform to circumvent the large hurdle of congressional action.

The State of Federal Marijuana Law

Currently, marijuana is illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substance Act which defines marijuana as a Schedule 1 Drug. These schedules are characterized as:

iStock_000006052358XSmall.jpgThe right to remain silent is a hot topic of Constitutional rights. In a brief nutshell, this is how the right to remain silent works. A defendant’s silence cannot be used in Court to show his or her guilt. When a defendant can invoke this right, however, is a little bit of a tricky concept. First and foremost, the defendant has to be under arrest to invoke his right to remain silent. If a police officer arrests a suspect, the officer must read the suspect his Miranda rights, which includes the right to remain silent. There are other areas where silence receives different Constitutional treatment, such as the right to remain silent and not testify during trial. A criminal defendant’s silence is usually protected by the Constitution and not allowed to be used by the prosecution to prove guilt.

However, a recent Supreme Court decision has created new limits and rules on the right to silence. This decision is based on a recent Texas criminal case involving Genovevo Salinas. The defendant in this case was at a party that got out of hand. Shots were fired at the party and two men were killed as a result. The police found Salinas at the party and brought him in for questioning. Salinas had a shotgun that he turned over to the police and he began answering their questions. He was being cooperative until the police asked him why the shotgun shells that were found at the crime scene matched Salinas’s shotgun. Salinas did not answer this question and instead remained silent. At this point, Salinas was not under a formal arrest and was not given his Miranda warnings as a result.

Salinas was eventually charged with murder. During his trial, the prosecution aggressively used his silence about the shotgun during closing arguments. Salinas was convicted and appealed his case. His case eventually made it to the Supreme Court. When it reached the Supreme Court Justices, the main issue was whether the defendant’s silence could be used during the closing argument. The Court held, in a 5-4 decision, that the silence was usable because it was pre-Miranda silence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals explained that “pre-arrest, pre-Miranda silence is not protected by the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and that prosecutors may comment on such silence regardless of whether a defendant testifies.” Justice Samuel Alito further explained “Salinas’ Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question. It has long been settled that the privilege ‘generally is not self-executing’ and that a witness who desires its protection must claim it.” So if you remain silent before you get arrested, that silence can be used to show your guilt unless you CLAIM your right to remain silent.