Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is the Court Ready to Revisit Crawford? Williams v. Illinois and the Confrontation Clause

On Monday June 18, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Williams v. Illinois that further clarified how to treat forensic evidence under the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause.  Under the Confrontation Clause, a defendant has the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”  In 2004, the Court issued Crawford v. Washington and held that the Confrontation Clause forbids the prosecution from introducing hearsay statements that are “testimonial” unless the person who made those statements is called to the stand.  Hearsay statements are statements made out of court that are introduced to prove the matter asserted.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Supreme Court Allows Lower Courts to Apply Fair Sentencing Act “Retroactively” in Crack Cocaine Cases

On Thursday, June 21, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that those who committed a crack cocaine offense prior to August 3, 2010, but were not sentenced until after, are eligible for the more lenient sentences outlined in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220).  In a 5-4 decision in the consolidated cases of Dorsey v. United States and Hill v. United States, the Court ruled that judges now have the option of levying lower sentences against those convicted of crack cocaine offenses.  The question going forward is, how will the Fair Sentencing Act and the Court’s ruling affect the landscape of sentences?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Policing the Digital Border?

Social-media has expanded rapidly over the past decade and now a truly world-wide network of correspondences and commercial transactions occur over the internet. Regular communications now occur between everyday people on opposite sides of international borders. Along with legitimate business transactions and innocent correspondences, the internet has become a chosen method of criminal and terrorist organizations. What is the most far reaching technique that law enforcement could use to combat international crime in the internet age? By looking at the law of border searches an easy line can be drawn to law enforcement legal authority to intercept, without suspicion, emails sent from overseas into the United States.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lock Them Up and Throw Away the Key, Is That Really the Solution?

On March 20, 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the cases of Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama.  Both cases involve juveniles that were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes that were committed when they were fourteen years old.  These cases address whether the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for a fourteen year old violates the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. While we wait for the Court to hand down its ruling, I wonder whether anyone else finds it disheartening that we put so much time and energy into the debate on how to punish a child after they have committed such a heinous act rather than focusing on how to save these children before they become entangled in our criminal justice system. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sandusky Case Judge Rejects Motions To Dismiss Charges, Trial Begins

On Friday, June 8, 2012, the judge overseeing former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse trial denied defense motions to dismiss the charges in the case.  This allowed for opening statements in the trial on Monday, June 11, 2012.  Sandusky is accused of fifty-two counts of sexual misconduct involving young boys. His lawyers had sought to have the charges dismissed arguing some were too vague and a lack of sufficient evidence on others.  Judge John Cleland's ruling came as Penn State put the finishing touches on a policy requiring all university employees to get training on reporting child abuse.  The failure to report was the source of controversy and had a direct impact on the accusations toward Sandusky. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Governor Kasich Grants Temporary Stay of Execution for Abdul Awkal

On Wednesday, June 6, 2012, Republican Governor John Kasich granted a temporary stay of execution for Abdul Awkal.  Throughout the post-conviction proceedings, there have been questions surrounding Awkal’s mental competency.  The stay of execution will allow a court to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine Awkal’s mental competency.  Because of one of the key witness’s availability, the trial was scheduled for after Awkal’s original execution date, on Wednesday morning.  Awkal was previously given a death sentence for the 1992 murders of his ex-wife and brother-in-law.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Maryland High Court Denies Reconsideration of King v. Maryland: Will SCOTUS Grant Cert to Resolve the Constitutionality of DNA Testing Upon Arrest?

On Friday, May 18,2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, denied a request to reconsider its decision in King v. Maryland.  On April 24, 2012, in a 5-2 opinion written by Judge Harrell, the Court found that collecting a DNA sample from an individual who had been arrested, but not convicted, of a violent crime was a violation of the individuals Fourth Amendment right.  In arguing for the reconsideration, or in the alternative a stay on the decision until the case could be considered by the United States Supreme Court, the Maryland attorney general stated that the decision could affect prosecutors’ use of evidence that could help solve 190 unsolved cases, as well as exonerate an unknown number of innocent individuals.