Log in

News

<< First  < Prev   1   2   Next >  Last >> 
  • 06 Jul 2016 7:33 AM | Anonymous

    Returning to ongoing disputes over the role of race in criminal punishment, the Supreme Court on Monday added a new case for decision at its next Term — one involving the death penalty in Texas.

    In another Texas capital punishment case, the Court agreed to try again to sort out when an individual is too disabled intellectually to be sentenced to death.  The Justices chose not to consider a second issue raised in that case: the constitutionality of prolonged stays on death row, especially on the theory that this treatment causes severe psychological harm.  A month ago, over Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s dissent, the Court refused to hear that question in a California case.  It appears that there are not four votes (the minimum number required) to grant review of that particular issue.

    In the newly granted case of Buck v. Stephens, the Court gave itself the option of weighing a death sentence that may have been influenced by a racist comment by an expert who had been called to the witness stand by a defense lawyer, not by prosecutors.  The expert had made similar comments in several other Texas cases, and the state had taken action to remedy those, but did not do so in the case of Duane Edward Buck of Houston.

    Buck’s new appeal focused on the same legal complaint that a divided Court refused to consider five years ago: that his defense lawyer failed in his constitutional duty by calling to the stand a psychologist, who told the jury that Buck would be likely to be dangerous in the future, if not put to death, because of his race; Buck is black.  The question of future dangerousness was a central issue for Texas juries in deciding for or against a death sentence.

    The witness, Dr. Walter Quijano, had been summoned by Buck’s trial lawyer to testify on the dangerousness issue.  He said flatly that his studies had shown that black people and males were more likely to be a danger to the public.  Under questioning by Buck’s lawyer, he reviewed the findings of his report.

    Buck was sentenced to death for murdering his girlfriend in front of her children, along with the murder of a man.  Both crimes occurred in 1995.  When Buck took an appeal to the Supreme Court in 2011, five Justices commented negatively about the witness’s comment, but three of those five said the blame lay with Buck’s lawyer for calling that witness and eliciting that testimony.   Two Justices would have granted review at that time.

    As Buck’s case returned to the Court this Term, it focused on whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had raised too high a barrier before Buck could raise anew the question about Dr. Quijano’s testimony.  Buck’s current lawyers have been attempting to reopen his case to raise the same racial discrimination issue.  That essentially procedural question may be at the center of the Court’s coming review, but the underlying race bias claim remains in the case.

    Lyle Denniston, Court reopens race and death penalty issues, SCOTUSBLOG (Jun. 6, 2016, 1:41 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/06/court-reopens- race-and- death-penalty- issues/

  • 04 Jun 2016 3:36 PM | Anonymous

    “The Newlywed Game” is on the television. Julia Rhoden, 53, is sitting on her bed, exhausted from another long day at the health care center where she works as a nurse’s aide. There is a loud boom and then another and another. She feels a sting as a bullet enters her back. “I been shot! I been shot!” she cries out to her children in the next room, as blood soaks through the summer dress she wears as a nightgown.

    That same night, 15-year-old Veronica Lopez is hit as she rides in a Jeep that is speeding along a waterfront drive. “Babe, they shot me in the stomach,” the girl tells a friend, who later says he covered her body with his own as the gunfire continued.

    “Help, I’ve been shot!” another teenager screams as he limps down a darkened street, a bullet having torn through his leg.

    It is Friday night in Chicago, and the Memorial Day weekend is just getting started. Police Department officials plan to deploy more than a thousand extra officers to deal with the violence they fear will intensify with the unofficial start of summer.

    There is no stopping the gunfire, which comes in bursts and waves, interrupting holiday barbecues, igniting gang rivalries, engulfing neighborhoods, blocks, families.

    From Friday evening to the end of Monday, 64 people will have been shot in this city of 2.7 million, six of them fatally. In a population made up of nearly equal numbers of whites, blacks and Hispanics, 52 of the shooting victims are black, 11 Hispanic and one white. Eight are women, the rest men. Some 12 people are shot in cars, 11 along city sidewalks, and at least four on home porches.

    It is a level of violence that has become the terrifying norm, particularly in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. With far fewer residents, Chicago has more homicides than Los Angeles or New York.

    In an effort to capture what is happening on Chicago’s streets, and why, The New York Times dispatched a team of reporters, photographers and videographers to virtually all of the shooting scenes across the city. Working around the clock through the three-day weekend, The Times interviewed relatives, witnesses, police officers and others, and captured how much violence has become a part of the city’s fabric. The Times intends to follow the cases throughout the year.

    This weekend, among the six killed are a father, Garvin Whitmore, who loved to travel but was scared of riding on roller coasters, and Mark Lindsey, whose outsize personality brought him his nickname, Lavish. The oldest person struck by a bullet is 57. The youngest person to die is Ms. Lopez, a high school student and former cheerleader.

    And so the logic of one Chicago mother, who watches another mother weep over her dead son in their South Side neighborhood, is this: She is glad her own son is in jail, because the alternative is unbearable.

    “He was bound to be shot this summer,” she says.

  • 23 May 2016 2:00 PM | Anonymous

    Analysis

    The Supreme Court made a new effort on Monday to restrict prosecutors’ power to strike black jurors in a racially sensitive case, but the result was so tightly focused on what happened at just one trial that it was doubtful that the new ruling would do much to end the practice.  What made the difference this time, it appeared, was defense lawyers’ discovery of telltale files obtained from prosecutors years after the trial was over.

    That may not happen again, but at least not often.  Even if prosecutors were deliberately trying to keep all blacks from serving on the jury in this specific Georgia murder case, as the Supreme Court found on Monday, they also have contended that they created the files as they were trying to figure out how to deal with race in jury selection under a then-recent Supreme Court ruling.  With that ruling condemning a racial motive, it is doubtful that prosecutors in many cases since then would create such revealing files, with clear markings next to the names of potential black jurors to be stricken from the jury pool.

    The decision in Foster v. Chatman dealt with the trial practice of “peremptory strikes” of members of a jury pool — that is, striking a pool member without giving a reason to do so.  Until the 1986 ruling in Batson v. Kentucky, the use of such strikes could not be challenged.

    The Batson decision, however, made it unconstitutional to do that intentionally, when race is the motive. In today’s decision, the Court ruled that the conviction and death sentence twenty-nine years ago of a young black man, Timothy Tyrone Foster of Rome, Ga., for murdering an elderly white woman was unconstitutional, based on the use of peremptory strikes to keep all blacks from serving on the jury.  The Justices voted seven to one for that conclusion.

    It was unclear, however, whether the decision will actually nullify Foster’s conviction or his death sentence.  That’s because two Justices suggested that state courts in Georgia may yet be able — when the case returns to them — to scuttle Foster’s challenge on a procedural point under state law.  That procedural point was not enough to keep the Court from hearing Foster’s challenge to the selection of his jury, but it conceivably could be used by prosecutors to sustain the guilty verdict and sentence after all. The procedural theory for such a result would be that Foster was not free to reopen the jury-selection issue after losing on it in an earlier challenge in state courts.

    Lyle Denniston, Opinion analysis: Telltale files on race-based jury selection, SCOTUSBLOG (May. 23, 2016, 2:22 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/05/opinion-analysis- telltale-files- on-race- based-jury-selection/

  • 19 May 2016 5:37 AM | Anonymous

    The price of unanimity on an ideologically divided Court is, as we are learning in Justice Antonin Scalia’s absence, narrow opinions that reserve difficult issues for future consideration. Today in Betterman v. Montana, the Court “confine[d]” its decision to the Sixth Amendment only, ruling that its Speedy Trial Clause “does not apply” to “delayed sentencing” after a defendant has been found guilty by trial or plea.

    After this short and simple ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinion for the eight-Justice court was littered with limiting footnotes, expressly leaving open a number of related questions that, while not unimportant, are “inside baseball” to the average SCOTUS fan. On the largest unresolved question — how and when courts should apply the Due Process Clauses to “inordinate” or “exorbitant” sentencing delays — Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Sonia Sotomayor each offered two-page concurring opinions expressing different preliminary thoughts.

    Brief facts

    As you may recall from my prior posts, it took the Butte County District Court fourteen months to sentence Brandon Betterman for bail jumping (after he failed to show up on prior domestic violence charges). After nine months, Betterman asked for a “speedy” sentencing, and claimed that he was suffering various adverse consequences from the delay and his consequent presentencing detention in the county jail, as opposed to the state prison where he would go once sentenced. (In a footnote, the Court is perhaps a bit too dismissive of this concern as “of no constitutional moment,” saying that “a convicted defendant has no right to serve his sentence in the penal institution he prefers.”). Betterman finally received a sentence of seven years, four of which were suspended.

    On appeal, the Montana Supreme Court joined a fifteen-court (state and federal) split, ruling that the Sixth Amendment speedy-trial right does not apply to sentencing. That court also ruled the delay in Betterman’s sentencing did not violate any due process norms.

    The Court’s Sixth Amendment ruling        

    Because Betterman “did not preserve a due process challenge” in his certiorari petition, the “sole question” before the U.S. Supreme Court (despite the Montana court’s additional due process ruling) was the Sixth Amendment issue. The Court concluded that all signs pointed toward not applying the speedy-trial guarantee to sentencing, largely because the “presumption of innocence protection,” which is “at the heart of the Speedy Trial Clause,” is extinguished once a defendant is convicted. (The Court quickly noted that “we do not mean to convey” that other provisions of the Sixth Amendment that protect other interests don’t apply to sentencing, for example, “the right to defense counsel” in “some postconviction proceedings.”)

    Rory Little, Opinion analysis: “Speedy trial” guarantee does not apply to sentencing, SCOTUSblog (May. 19, 2016, 8:30 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2016/05/opinion-analysis-speedy-trial-guarantee-does-not-apply-to-sentencing/


<< First  < Prev   1   2   Next >  Last >> 

Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association  |  P.O. Box 114  |  Wheaton, IL 60187  |  illinoispba@gmail.com

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software